A few blocks from the San Diego Convention Center, where Republicans plan more “family values” rhetoric at their August convention, stands Pleasureland Adult Book and Video Center, one of the few downtown porn palaces. But don’t expect any GOP finger-wagging at the shop: Its landlord is convention chair Jack Ford.
Ford, middle son of President Gerald Ford and executive director of the convention host committee, owns the lot with business partner George Gorton, former consultant to Gov. Pete Wilson and onetime Nixon aide.
They bought the Gaslamp District building in 1980, when the area was run-down. For a time, they collected rent from Reuben Sturman, described later by the Department of Justice as the top world distributor of hard-core porn, with alleged mafia ties.
In 1984, City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez stumped outside the shop, vowing to shut it down if re-elected. Later he was embarrassed when local media reported that the Pleasureland building was owned by Martinez’s political consultants, Ford and Gorton, whose offices were then upstairs from the shop.
Beverly Schroeder, senior planner of San Diego’s Centre City Development, says an adult business couldn’t move into the newly upscale Gaslamp District today, adding that 11 X-rated stores have been evicted in the last decade.
So how come Pleasureland has stayed? Schroeder insists it has nothing to do with Ford and Gorton’s relationship with Republican Mayor Susan Golding (Gorton is Golding’s ex-boyfriend and managed most of her political campaigns. And Gorton, Ford, and Golding ran a newspaper, the Del Mar News, in the late 1970s).
“The city doesn’t feel compelled to intervene into Pleasureland’s business,” she says, though adds that Ford “could probably get [Pleasureland] out if he could find a tenant to pay higher rent.” Ford says only: “It is my personal preference that the tenant in question was not in our building.”
James Lambert, local director of the anti-porn group Enough is Enough, calls the Republicans’ stewardship of Pleasureland “totally hypocritical,” and says he plans, somehow, to get a message to former President Ford during the convention. “I just want to tell him what his son is up to.”