Our Fading Erotic Heritage

Erotic Heritage Museum, Las Vegas

A number of years ago, during one of my numerous and brief jaunts to Sin City, one tall-standing sign caught my attention in a way that the others, overloaded with neon script and flashing lights, did not. “Las Vegas Erotic Heritage Museum,” it read, “SALE: Movies from $1.” As a devoted connoisseur of all things pornographic, I immediately pulled over, parked, and headed inside where I was not only met by a cavalcade of erotic memorabilia, ephemera, and, yes, discounted movies, but by a heavy-set woman (perhaps Mercedes Zavala) intent on showing me “the goods.” Hardly a come-on, thankfully, “the goods” were two shambolic boxes pulled from a rear store room and containing nothing but vintage 8mm and Super8 porn reels. Straight, gay, kink, and softcore – I bought all 40-odd titles for less than fifty bucks and headed back to California with the acquisition of an operating projector firmly planted in the front of my mind.

The reels I purchased, now running somewhat smoothly through a Goodwill-bought projector, provided the audio-visual entertainment for a handful of drunken late-night gatherings and were stored in a spare mini-fridge when not in use. (Why a refrigerator? See my recent blog about film restorers Vinegar Syndrome!) Although I eventually tossed the mini-fridge and sold the reels to a projectionist from San Francisco’s Castro Theatre, memories of my all-too-brief visit to the Erotic Heritage Museum lingered for years until I heard of the museum’s closing this week, apparently due to an unpaid rent dispute with landlord, Déjà Vu strip-club magnate Harry Mohoney who donated the land for museum use back in 2008. Speaking to the Las Vegas Weekly, Mohoney assured visitors that the museum would not be closing its doors for good, saying of his now-former tenants, “They have been asked to vacate the property so that the Erotic Heritage Museum can be given a fresh new look at erotic history and art.”

Museum operations manager Jerry Zientara, however, see things a bit differently, claiming the museum’s collection is under the stewardship of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, the nonprofit organization that opened and has been operating the museum since its inception. “We don’t know when we’ll be loading things out,” he told Las Vegas Weekly earlier this month, “but we do expect to be doing that.” And, true to his word, a call for volunteers to help with removal of exhibits and cleaning of the space came out from the museum’s Facebook account on February 16, followed three days later but this very sad notice:

Erotic Heritage Museum closes in Las Vegas

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