My son, America's most heavily tattooed law student, used to be a reporter for the Northside Neighbor. It's one of the weekly suburban papers owned by "Little Otis" Brumby of the Marietta Daily Journal.
One day, I went by my son's office on Roswell Road. A mild-mannered young sportswriter came up to me and nervously cleared his throat.
"Mr. Monroe, may I speak with you?" he said.
"Sure," I said. He was so polite that I felt like any minute he would say, "Golly, Mr. Cleaver!" like Eddie Haskell from "Leave it to Beaver."
The sportswriter's name was David Oblas. He had taken a picture of me at the Roxy Theatre the previous week. At the time, I was an inspector for the state Boxing Commission. In the picture, I'm standing beside the ring near a glaring heavyweight. Oblas gave me the photo. I have it framed on my wall today.
"Thank you, David," I said.
And he had a favor to ask. He wanted to know how he, too, could become a boxing inspector. A few weeks later, we had dinner at the old Rib Ranch on Irby Avenue (now the One Star Ranch) with Boxing Commissioner Tom Mishou, who explained what was expected of an inspector.
For one thing, you watch the trainers tape the boxers' hands to make sure the tape doesn't go over the edge of the knuckles. You also stand at ringside between rounds to make sure the fighters aren't using illegal chemicals on cuts. Oblas picked it up quickly and later went to California to learn more about boxing.
A few years ago, I got an e-mail from him. He had quit the Northside Neighbor and blossomed into a real-life boxing promoter.
I told him he was my hero.
Now he's president of Undisputed Productions and, every two months, puts on an evening of professional boxing along with two sports that allow kicking -- Muay Thai and no-holds-barred fighting. He's got Friday Night Fights coming up this week at EarthLink Live. Eight fights are on the card.
Oblas has done well. He's had some matches on ESPN. The other day, I got another e-mail from him. He was promoting something besides boxing -- a local talent show sort of like "American Idol." It's called "So You Wanna Be a Porn Star!"
I decided I'd better check out my protégé's latest undertaking.
I caught up with Oblas at the Sandy Springs Love Shack. I walked in and saw him with a Polaroid camera taking a picture of a middle-aged guy who was posing with a young Asian woman, who was naked. A sign taped to a table said "Photo $10."
"This is all my fault, isn't it?" I asked Oblas.
"Yes," he said. But he was grinning broadly. He said he enjoys his new line of work. "I'm doing what every Jewish mother wants her son to do -- boxing and porn!"
The middle-aged guy left. Oblas introduced me to the young woman, Sanny Aung, as she put her negligee back on. She had set up a table with her calendars and pictures in an alcove lined with dildos and other devices that appeared to have battery-powered motors.
Basically, Oblas explained, he got to know Love Shack owner John Cornetta after Oblas' dad sold Cornetta a Mercedes or two. Cornetta hired him to handle marketing and promotions for the chain of adult fantasy stores.
Oblas, who took on that job in addition to his boxing work, is putting his Auburn journalism degree and his experience with Little Otis to good use: He edits Cornetta's local adult magazine, Xcitement, and a national trade journal, Adult Store Buyer.
His first promotion -- "So You Wanna be a Porn Star!" -- will culminate with a big show around Valentine's Day at a venue to be named later. He's going to have a cruel British judge, like Simon on "American Idol." So far, more than 50 people have entered the contest by sending in photos of themselves, but most of them are guys. The winner gets $1,000, a three-day trip to Los Angeles and, yes, a feature role in an adult movie.
Oblas had to take a call so I started talking to Sanny. She was looking at the dildos on the wall and said she couldn't understand the obsession with big penises.
"Well, what kind of porn star says that?" I asked. She informed me that she doesn't do hard-core porn. I mentioned that I don't, either. When I was a young reporter in Charlotte, a photographer asked me to be in a porn movie and I bashfully declined.
Sanny gave me her card -- she's an exotic model -- and pointed out on the back her "limitations," which noted that she doesn't do "photography that involves sex, boy/girl scenes, toys, masturbation or any kind of penetration whatsoever." She was in a locally made X-rated movie, Captured, that was for sale on her table, but all she did was portray a dominatrix who whipped another woman.
Oblas came back and asked me, "Wouldn't you like to have your limitations on the back of your card?"
"I couldn't fit my limitations on one card," I said.
Sandy Springs is a sexy port of call, sort of the suburban answer to Atlanta's Cheshire Bridge Road. In addition to the Love Shack, there are three strip clubs and three more adult fantasy stores, and God knows how many "escorts."
But Sandy Springs is now a new city with a newly elected City Council composed of conservatives who want to pass new laws. The first thing they did upon becoming a city was declare a moratorium on licenses for strip clubs and other adult businesses. Later this month, they'll adopt new laws governing the licensing of such places.
Oblas' boss, Cornetta, says he's talked with other adult business owners in Sandy Springs about the Council's pending actions. "We're waiting with bated breath," Cornetta says. "The first move they make against me, I'll have a federal injunction so fast it'll make their heads spin."
Oblas had suggested that Cornetta run for mayor of Sandy Springs. Cornetta declined, but says he is moving into a home that will make him one of the new city's biggest taxpayers.
Atlanta lawyer Alan Begner, the legal columnist for Xcitement, says the Council's anticipated move against adult businesses will strike at the freedoms of the new city's residents.
"It's unfair to make the citizens of Sandy Springs have to drive longer distances for their adult shopping needs," says Begner, who successfully represented Maxim Cabaret of Sandy Springs in its fight against Fulton County's ordinances regulating nude clubs that serve alcohol. The case is now before the Georgia Supreme Court.
I asked Oblas what he thought of the controversies that go hand in hand with his chosen field. "The adult business is a cool business to be a part of -- everybody loves having sex, whether they admit it or not," he said.
I think the Sandy Springs Council falls into the "or not" category. I saw pictures of the Council members in the AJC. They look a little prudish and long in the tooth to be carting battery-powered devices into their bedrooms, but you never know.
As I drove away from the Love Shack, I thought about what had become of my protégé. I was grateful that at least he didn't stay in journalism and turn out like former New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
Senior Editor Doug Monroe, a former adjunct instructor of journalism at the University of Georgia, has several other protégés. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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