Disney tie to soft-core pornography recounted in recently released book

WASHINGTON (BP)--The Disney Company is a key partner in a cable television channel distributing soft-core pornography, a husband-and-wife team allege in a new book examining the Disney empire.

The allegation appears in "Disney: The Mouse Betrayed," recently released by Regnery Publishing. In a chapter titled, "Minnie Makes Room for Marilyn Chambers," Peter and Rochelle Schweizer detail Disney's involvement in Viewer's Choice, which they describe as a pioneer in pay-per-view television.

While the channel originally ran action films and comedies from various Hollywood studios, the president of Viewer’s Choice pursued distribution of pornography because of its profit potential, the authors write.

In 1989 Walt Disney Pictures and Television became the first motion picture studio to participate as a full-fledged partner in the venture, the Schweizers recount. While Viewer's Choice officials would not disclose Disney's ownership position, they told the Schweizers no other company held a larger stake.

Every time someone watches a Viewer’s Choice program, each partner in the company gets a cut, the Schweizers write, which makes Disney a partner in the largest player in the soft-core pornography business. According to figures cited in the book, Viewer's Choice serves more than 1,000 cable systems and 59 million pay-per-view channel subscribers in nearly 18 million homes.

Despite this success, Disney seems shy about sharing the news of this fortune, the authors say, with no mention of this partnership appearing in any annual reports.

"The company won't talk about its role as a partner in this company or the size of its profits," the Schweizers write, noting, "But at Viewer's Choice, Disney has not expressed any concern about its involvement in the soft-porn business.

"According to Rebecca Kramer, a spokesman at Viewer's Choice, none of the partners in the venture has expressed objections to any of its programming. 'Everyone seems pleased,' she told us."

Baptist Press contacted Disney's corporate communications department twice for a response, but those calls were not returned.

The authors write that the pay-per-view channel's soft-porn business developed so well the Playboy Channel hired Jim English, the executive in charge of adult programming, to become its president.

Peter Schweizer is a media fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a former network news consultant and published writer. He previously co-authored "The Next War" with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and several other books. His wife, Rochelle, is a media consultant with experience in radio and TV.

In February 1993, the Schweizers write, Viewer's Choice launched its adult entertainment service called “Hot Choice,” giving it a contemporary theme song and jazzy slogan to help in promoting its adult fare.

"Mickey was now in the soft-porn business," the Schweizers write. "Although it began by running sophomoric adult movies like 'Honey' and ‘Bikini Party,’ the core of their programming soon became original programs marketed as part of a 'sexy series.’”

To develop such programming, Viewer's Choice's partners hired porn star Becky LeBeau away from the Playboy Channel with a lucrative, seven-figure contract and a share of the profits, the Schweizers write.

LeBeau previously had developed a Playboy series called "Soft Bodies," an all-nude modeling program; Viewer's Choice bought the rights to the program, the most widely watched of its kind on TV, according to the book. The Schweizers quote a promotional spot for "Becky LeBeau's Party Girls," touting "five wild and willing nude models."

In addition, the authors write that the pay-per-view operation signed an exclusive agreement with Marilyn Chambers, a veteran of hard-core films who won a "Lifetime Achievement Award" in 1992 from the Adult Video Association.

Chambers has the most appearances of any performer on the channel, the authors claim, starring in such movies as "Marilyn Chambers' Desire," "Breakfast in Bed," "Marilyn Chambers' Party Incorporated" and "Garden of Erotic Delights."

Viewer’s Choice also features a series called "The New Video Vixens" and other "sexy" programming, the Schweizers write. The latter include a series filmed in striptease clubs around the nation and one about a woman who receives erotic letters from strangers, the authors recount.

When Disney bought into Viewer's Choice in 1989, it was billed as another venue for Disney films, but the Schweizers said few Disney films appear on the pay-per-view service.

For example, in October 1997 the channel only ran one Disney movie, "101 Dalmatians," the authors note. During that same month, the authors say Viewer's Choice offered 101 sexually explicit programs, including such films as "Erotic Nights," "Forbidden Games II," "Sexual Roulette" and "Super Natural."

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