"Most of the people who were turning out porn back then are long dead and gone," explains Merkin. And the ones who are still around aren't much more talkative. "Due to the nature of the material, many people who were involved with porn way back when still don't feel comfortable talking about it--these people were underground for so many years, they're still looking over their shoulders.

"That's why what these men [Hall and Martinique] have done is so significant," continues Merkin, who makes his living as an artist. "They've done some magnificent legwork tracking down where those pictures were actually taken. In the old days, everyone would have you believe all the porn in the world came from Paris, New Orleans or Cuba. This proves that it was going on everywhere, even in Phoenix."
But as much as he admires Allison's work (after viewing portions of the collection last fall, the painter praised the photographs' "wonderful kind of crudity"), Merkin has serious doubts that the collection is the gold mine Hall and Martinique hope it is.

"These guys didn't find old pictures," says Merkin. "They found old negatives. From a collector's standpoint, that's a big difference--the difference between a marvelous old print made 50 years ago and something printed yesterday afternoon off an old negative. An old print has a wonderful patina to it that you simply cannot duplicate with a new print."
And according to Merkin, the stigma of hard-core will almost certainly queer plans to mount an Allison-themed book or photo exhibition.

"If these guys could find a reputable mainstream publisher that would let them print the really rough photographs, it'd be wonderful, really interesting and they'd really have something to see," says Merkin, author of Velvet Eden, a pictorial history of vintage erotica published in 1979. "But the book's never going to happen at all unless you're dealing with a scum-of-the-Earth publisher. And once you get away from the hard-core pictures, what are you left with? A lot of sad-looking pinup models posing on old cars and the continual reminder to the reader that--wink! wink!--you shoulda seen the one that got away.'

"That's exactly what happened to my book," sighs Merkin. "Sometimes, you just have to realize that you've got something very interesting but you can't do a damn thing with it."
@rule:
@body:If the Allison pictures prove too hot to handle for the commercial publishing world, heads of several Valley historical organizations--none of whom had actually seen the collection--indicate they'd happily don asbestos gloves in order to evaluate the historic curios.

"If these pictures are in fact attributable to Arizona, it gives them great historical value," says Michael Duchemin, museum department head of the Arizona Historical Society. Admitting that the sexual nature of the collection would make it a "controversial" acquisition, Duchemin nonetheless feels the pictures could be invaluable in documenting "an undercurrent of society in Phoenix that isn't often talked about."
"It sounds like a very interesting find," echoes Ed Oetting, head of the Department of Archives and Manuscripts at Arizona State University's Hayden Library. However, he adds, "If these are simply cheesecake pictures that could have been taken anywhere, this is not the type of collection we would probably be interested in. On the other hand, if there are identifiable indications in much of the photography that showed this was, in fact, Phoenix, it could be quite valuable from a historic standpoint. If there are interior shots, for example, we might be very interested--one of the things that's hardest to document is the insides of homes of earlier periods, simply because people didn't have flash cameras."
Dennis Madden, curator of the Arizona Historical Foundation in ASU's Hayden Library, agrees that something should be done with the pictures--although he's not sure just what. "This stuff should be retained somewhere and not just end up in a Dumpster," he says. But, "from the 'erotic' standpoint, we're not the appropriate repository to house something like this. However, we might be interested in terms of buildings, landscapes and the interiors that are visible."

Madden warns that no matter who winds up with the Allison photos, the sensitive nature of the photos demands that they be "handled in a most unusual way." "I really don't know how you'd go about handling a collection like this, given the fact that it's as recent as it is," says Madden. "I know that 65 years ago sounds like ancient history to most people. Still, there's a very good possibility that some of the individuals in these pictures are still alive, considering that some of the women may have only been 18 or 20 years old at the time."

"It's an interesting problem, but I really don't know the answer," concludes Madden. "This is one sticky wicket.

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