The Ruins of Regina Theater

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Not long ago I was at the library sifting through back issues of The Advocate from the late 1970’s looking for information on an infamous Baton Rouge urban legend and was confronted with a large advertisement for a pornographic film starring John Holmes entitled The Jade Pussycat at a place called the Regina Theater. A poorly drawn portrait of a smirking Holmes with an Asian woman on each arm and the caption “Think of the Possibilities” scrolled down the middle column rubbing elbows with advertisements for bowling and Putt Putt. 

 

I stood at the computer in shock.  I couldn’t believe the newspaper was routinely running racy content without an uproar from the self-appointed Baton Rouge morality police who routinely express outrage directed at everything from Sunday alcohol sales to same sex marriage.  I couldn’t help but think if this ad had run in The Advocate of today, the church elders at all of those non-denominational worship halls that look more like gymnasiums than cathedrals would be dragging out their soapboxes and saying things like, “Think of the children!”

 

However, it wasn’t the thought of Johnny Wadd, his x-rated exploits or the imagery of a seedy sticky theater floor that disturbed me. It was the mention of the venue—The Regina Theater.  Up until recently, I had never heard of the place, but over the past few weeks it kept inserting itself into my life, and for some reason I felt I needed to know a little more about it. 

 

The Regina Theater opened in 1942 on the corner of Plank Road and Seneca Street.  Most neighborhoods had a single screen theater that lured in patrons with promises of watching adventures in far away lands and much needed air conditioning.  James Dean stood 10 feet high in Giant. The Day the Earth Stood Still gave teenagers an excuse to hold hands. Saturday nights were date night and people dressed to impress. Eventually megaplex theaters stole the fire of the independent theaters and most closed or became adult theaters like the Regina did in 1969.

 

The Regina enjoyed its second life showing skin flicks until the late 1990’s when pornography on VHS and multiple raids on the establishment put an end to its sinful ways.  Up until recently, the now unrecognizable-whitewashed building sat boarded up in a neighborhood where a lawyer like Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman might have a satellite office.  Today when I drove by I saw a bulldozer pushing chunks of concrete across an otherwise empty slab.

 

So how did a business with a dishonorable reputation that faded into obscurity almost 15 years ago stumble back into the news and into the minds of many longtime Baton Rouge residents?  A burglar alarm and a recent arrest. Back in July, police responded to a burglar alarm at the business of 63-year-old Albert Genius.  A routine identity check revealed that Genius had outstanding warrants for obscenity and crimes against nature stemming from his 1997 arrest at The Regina.  It was one of those stories every news outlet in town felt compelled to cover.  I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor bastard.  He was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it did give me the opportunity to conduct some interesting research and wonder how many people darkened the doors of The Regina to watch the cinematic classic Deep Throat.

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