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November 01, 2016

Former Adult Theater Owner Habib Carouba Passes

DALY CITY, Calif.—Habib Carouba, who once owned the famous Market Street Cinema, one of the pioneers in showing hardcore movies, as well as the "all-male" Campus Theater, both in San Francisco, died of natural causes at his home in Daly City on October 19. "The Daly City resident was an important figure along the Mid-Market corridor and in the Tenderloin during the gritty, bygone days when XXX adult movies were still being shot on film and screened in theaters," noted David-Elijah Nahmod for Hoodline.com. "Carouba operated both gay and straight cinemas." Born in 1932, Carouba emigrated to the United States in 1948, and after a stint in the U.S. Army, he enrolled in night courses at a San Francisco business school while working as a busboy and waiter to pay for it and to support his growing family. "He learned English quickly, and studied Frank Sinatra for fashion tips," stated his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle. "He cut a dashing figure in what would become his signature look; a well-fitted suit, always a suit." Upon graduation, Carouba sold adult books and magazines until he had raised enough money to buy a restaurant, and once that proved successful, he bought several others located across the country, from Hawaii to New York, as well as several other adult theaters. "He and his partner, Harold Greenland, were running different bookstores, and moving into abandoned or run-down theaters and turning them into adult movie houses,"" explained filmmaker Michael Stabile, whose short documentary Smut Capital of America, about the growth of the SF porn industry, contains interview footage of Carouba. "First the nudist pictures, then slowly pushing the envelope to beaver films (where you could see pubic hair) and eventually hardcore." Carouba's adult businesses were frequent targets of the SF Vice Squad's raids, often at the instigation of the city's then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, and Stabile's film recounts the story of one such raid, where charges against Carouba had to be dropped when it was revealed that one of the theater's patrons at the time of the raid was a sitting Superior Court judge, whom Carouba announced that he would call as a witness at trial. "I think that he was one of the true pioneers of adult, not just in San Francisco, but nationally," Stabile told Hoodline.com. "At a time when there was next to no sex education, where even married couples didn't know what to do, and when sexuality of all types was filled with shame and fear, he took incredible risks to distribute it. People make fun of porn, or get embarrassed, but it really is an important cultural force, particularly for gay men, and a force for good." Carouba is survived by his wife Alice and a large extended family. Pictured: Habib Carouba as seen in Michael Stabile's documentary Smut Capital of America.

 
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