For many today, Boston’s Combat Zone is the stuff of legends. Barely a trace of the former red-light district remains, which may account for the endless fascination with the topic. The West End Museum aims to help satisfy the public’s appetite for tales of the bygone adult playground.
On Tuesday, October 30, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., the Museum hosts an evening with Stephanie Schorow, author of Inside The Combat Zone: The Stripped Down Story of Boston’s Most Notorious Neighborhood.
This free event will feature a book talk and signing plus a Q&A session. Books will be available for purchase, and light refreshments will be served.
“While some may question spending two years researching Boston’s X-rated neighborhood, the Combat Zone is undeniably a part of the city’s history. Its emergence as a haven for adult entertainment is inextricably tied to the destruction of Scollay Square,” Schorow said. “My research uncovered a host of colorful characters, from the stripper who derailed a potential presidential candidate to a former nun-turned-lawyer who defended porn merchants. So many Bostonians have memories of the Combat Zone – if they are willing to admit it.”
Scollay Square, which neighbored the West End, was home to The Old Howard Theater. Once a leading playhouse, the theater turned to vaudeville and burlesque to reclaim dwindling audiences. Ultimately closed by criminal indecency charges, The Howard suffered a small fire, thwarting a plan to return it to its former glory. While the damage was contained, the city quickly tore down the building at height of urban renewal.
With Scollay Square converted into a business and government district, its adult entertainment constituency found a new home in the Combat Zone near Chinatown. Numerous strip clubs, peep shows, X-rated movie theaters, and adult bookstores populated the area. When the Massachusetts courts declared the state’s obscenity laws unconstitutional in 1974, officials feared Boston would become a magnet for pornography. In an effort to confine “red-light” activity, the Boston Redevelopment Authority designated the Combat Zone as the city’s official adult entertainment district. Today, however, just a few adult establishments remain.
“The West End Museum is delighted to host author Stephanie Schorow,” said Museum Board Member Lois Ascher. “Her presentation will stir memories among those who recall Boston’s more salacious side and will entertain those who never experienced the broad swath of the city that has been completely transformed.”