You can talk to Taggart Barron about sex, just don't show him -- or his kids -- any photographs of it. Barron has become a tireless anti-porn advocate ever since Castle Megastore opened in his Deer Valley neighborhood two months ago. Although the sex boutique is protected by city zoning laws, Barron and his ad hoc group, the Deer Valley Avalanche, have rallied to run porn peddler Taylor Coleman's naughty superstore out of town. Barron met me at Houston's, where he drank lemonade and shared his conspiracy theories.
New Times: Several laws have been discovered that, if enforced, could shut down Castle Megastore in your neighborhood. What about laws that protect commerce?
Taggart Barron: Well, there are very specific restrictions against adult-use businesses. Those restrictions were put in place to protect people, not pornographers.
NT: The store isn't a video arcade, cabaret, or adult theater, and doesn't fall under the Sexually Oriented Business Ordinance, which requires a special license.
Barron: Right. So Castle can say, "We're a clean-cut business, because we just have magazines and videos but no arcade or live dancing." We don't buy it. Pornography is offensive, it's harmful to families, and women and children are its victims.
NT: What about First Amendment rights?
Barron: We're grateful to them, because they've protected our voice in protesting this place. Pornography is less about free speech than it is about a few individuals making money at the expense of many.
NT: The City of Phoenix appears to have been deceived about the true nature of this store: Records show that the building was approved not as an adult-use store, but as a pinball arcade. Is the city run by dopes?
Barron: I'm not sure the city was duped. They may have been in on calling it Pinball Land. It was originally listed as Castle Boutique, then changed to Pinball Land on later documents.
NT: Wait. You think someone at the City of Phoenix was in on this?
Barron: Yes, although it's hard to substantiate, because they're really good at covering these things up. Or else the city was duped by the whole Pinball Land thing, and by the time they realized their mistake, they were afraid of being sued. The city has come across as weak and scared of Taylor Coleman and his expensive lawyers.
NT: What are you afraid will happen to your neighborhood?
Barron: Studies have shown that pornography increases sex crimes. It's not a stretch to link an abduction and rape with a man who owns a porn video about abducting and raping a girl. He goes [to Castle] and gets stimulated and then goes outside and there's a school down the street. Maybe it's a coincidence, but a week after this place opened, a nearby elementary school reported that a man flashed some of their female students.
NT: But is Castle inappropriate from outside? Are there signs outside advertising a sale on butt plugs?
Barron: No, but there's a sign outside that says, "Visit our Web site at www." whatever. And the only filter on the site is a button that says, "Yes, I'm 18."
NT: Maybe if Coleman built a moat? Or a drawbridge?
Barron: That might keep the kids out. Last Saturday I drove through the parking lot, and they had a bin of free pornography. Primers or something like the Penny Saver, only they're about sex. I would prefer that pornography didn't exist, but if it must exist, there must be a better place to put it than a huge megastore 350 feet away from a neighborhood and 1,500 feet from four schools. Build it out by a casino or in an industrial district.
NT: You just don't like pornography.
Barron: Pornography is harmful to the people who engage in it, and I don't think it's a victimless crime. I think it promotes rape, molestation, abuse -- all things that are bad for society. It negatively affects the way our society is evolving.
NT: But you don't want to be mistaken for someone who doesn't like sex.
Barron: Right. Sex is great. I'm the father of three children, with one on the way.
NT: So you've had sex at least four times.
Barron: Right. Sex is not a bad thing; it's a good thing between a husband and wife; it strengthens the emotional relationship. But it's wrong to publish it, to make it public; it's wrong to shove it down someone's throat.
NT: So to speak.
Barron: Exactly. And putting it in the hands of minors is just offensive.
NT: But this could be a learning opportunity for your kids: "This is a part of society. These places are out there."
Barron: So far the lesson our children have learned is, "If you have a lot of money and you build it really fast, you can break the law and no one will punish you." The lesson we hope they don't learn is, "Here's what it's like to be raped." We teach our children about the evils of pornography, but we don't need a huge store in our neighborhood to teach them that.
NT: Is it a good use of tax dollars to relocate a business to some other commercially zoned corner?
Barron: That's probably why the city is so afraid to stand up, because they're afraid to lose money on this. But I don't think it will take a lot of tax dollars to get this place taken down. The school district has contemplated buying the building and turning it into a storage facility. They have millions of dollars in bond money set aside for such a building.
NT: Everyone wants to buy this store! Sheriff Arpaio was talking about converting it into a police substation.
Barron: I think anybody looking at an alternative use for that property is on the right track. Anything would be more agreeable than a pornography megastore.
NT: Except maybe a titty bar. You've actually talked about photographing people entering the store, then posting the pictures on a Web site. Aren't you harassing people who just want to get their rocks off?
Barron: We're not going to yell at them or pick a fight with them as they go in. But many people who use porn do it in secret. Our hope is that by making their participation public, they'll be discouraged from shopping at that location. Hopefully we can put enough of a dent in Coleman's business that he'll think about selling.
NT: So, let's say you're on your Castle surveillance shift, and you see your mom go into Castle. Do you photograph her?
Barron: Yeah, I would. If I saw my pastor or some government official I admire visiting Castle, I'd photograph them. I'd probably talk to them and express my disapproval, too.
NT: City Council hired noted zoning attorney Grady Gammage to look for loopholes in a ruling that said Castle wasn't violating any laws.
Barron: Yes, and City Council has hurt us more than they've helped us. They've spent a lot of time telling us that everything is legal, so stop making a fuss. Grady Gammage works for the same firm that represents Coleman, so our hopes weren't very high.
NT: You enlisted the aid of City Councilman Siebert, then ended up threatening him with a recall.
Barron: He has been worse than useless in this whole process. He has never once come out and said he opposes this place. The farthest he's gone is to say, "Yes, it's distasteful, but it's perfectly legal." He knew this place was going in, years ago, and didn't tell the public. We dangled the recall over his head to get his attention, but since he's lied to us about the research he did, I think this will hurt him if he runs again.
NT: Siebert invited your group to pick up trash at Castle with Arpaio's chain gang, which was utterly baffling.
Barron: Exactly. Beautifying the site is not what we had in mind. He was just trying to get media coverage, but it backfired, because the handful of people who did show up were there to criticize him, and the news media was there to film it. He ended up looking really dumb.
NT: The bottom line is that you don't want a store in your neighborhood that sells dildos.
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Barron: I'm more concerned about the pornographic magazines and videos, of which there are thousands in these stores. The videos for sale on Castle's Web site are the most horrific things you have ever seen. Videos about teenaged girls being abducted and raped, or about a police force gang-raping someone; I hate to talk about it because it's so horrific.
NT: You're actually planning a wrecking ball party.
Barron: Absolutely. We'll do a barbecue, and a concert, and give away free balloons. And we'll all cheer as they knock the turrets down.