|The Pornographer's Daughter, Jan. - Feb. 2014|
In January/February 2014 Michael T. Weiss will direct the world premiere of "The Pornographer's Daughter", a one-woman-play with music, to be staged in San Francisco's "Z Space Below".
Artie and Jim Mitchell comprised one of San Francisco's most infamous duos, the Mitchell Brothers, pioneers in the pornography industry. Notorious for entertaining a stream of celebrities, politicians, and artists at their XXX movie theatre and strip club, The Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre, Artie and Jim capitalized on the "free love" movement of the 1970s. Their "Behind the Green Door," one of the first feature-length porn films ever made, earned a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and sparked a new wave of adult entertainment. The party ended in February 1991 when Jim shot and killed Artie.
Liberty Bradford Mitchell, daughter of Artie, tells the story of growing up on the fringes of an X-rated world in the World Premiere of "The Pornographer's Daughter". Joining her on stage will be San Francisco rock band The Fluffers.
The play is produced by San Francisco-based producer and designer Jeff Rowlings, with musical direction by Kevin Harding.
It will run from Jan 17 - Feb 16, 2014. Previews will be on Jan 17, 8:00pm; Jan 18, 8:00pm + 10:30pm; Jan 19, 5:00pm. Opening / Press night is on Wed, Jan 22.
Tickets (*Not advised for persons under the age of 18*) are already on sale @ OvationTix or through phone 866.811.4111 Tickets are $32 (general admission).
Performance location: Z Below, 470 Florida Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
More: Broadway World, Oct 14, 2013
More: Broadway World, Oct 29, 2013
Liberty Bradford Mitchell is working with Michael T. Weiss who is now the director for her show "The Pornographer's Daughter". It will be opening in San Francisco on January 17th and running through February 16th at Z Below located at 470 Florida Street.
Source: Ginger Coyote @ Punk Globe
Press release with downloadable photos of Liberty Bradford Mitchell and "The Fluffers" (Kevin Harding, Kevin Swartz, and Matt Eiseman).
Text of this press release from Carla Befera & Co. Public Relations
Corrected Show Times:
Fridays and Saturdays: 8:00pm + 10:30pm
Porn mogul's daughter confronts pain in 1-woman show
"The Pornographer's Daughter," a one-woman, multicharacter show Liberty Bradford Mitchell began writing years ago as a theater student at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. She performs its premiere Jan. 17 - Feb. 16 at San Francisco's Z Below, accompanied by a San Francisco rock band named the Fluffers. [...]
"It was really helpful for a long time to look at my family members as characters. It gave me some distance and objectivity," says Mitchell, whose show is directed by Michael T. Weiss, best known as an actor featured in the TV series "The Pretender." He signed on after seeing Mitchell workshop the piece in Venice last spring. [...]
"I can actually say I'm doing some real acting work," Mitchell says with a laugh. "It's exciting."
For more information, go to www.zspace.org.
Full article from Jesse Hamlin, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan 9, 2014
About the play after one of the previews:
Justin Pollard tweeted on 18. Jan.: "Just saw The Pornographer's Daughter. A really entertaining and heart wrenching piece! (at @ZSpaceSf)"
A couple of short, and mostly positive reviews of the play, from various paying audience members.
Some Opening Night Post-Show Party Pictures
'The Pornographer's Daughter' a legitimate, solo show of justice and liberation
Liberty “Lib” Bradford Mitchell, in her raucous new one-woman show “The Pornographer's Daughter” at Z Below in the Potrero District, sees the big picture. Bradford-Mitchell wrote a ballsy 80 minute monologue with no intermission about her life as the first child and daughter of the infamous Mitchell Brothers who filmed one of the first feature-length adult films, “The Green Door”. A $60,000 investment turned into fifty million dollars in the days before the internet, personal sex tapes and sexting.
Accordingly, Liberty Bradford Mitchell's ingenious set will be a green door and a chair, designed by Jeff Rowlings. The Fluffers join her on stage and play live music from the 60s to the 80s. Lib sports a rock star demeanor and a lovely, feminine singing voice, something Janis Joplinesque.
Warning, some plot spoilers ahead!
The brothers cast aspiring model Marilyn Chambers in the 60s when she had just arrived in San Francisco from Massachusetts, before her profile adorned an Ivory Snow box with her holding a baby. She responded to what she thought was a legitimate casting call.
This was after Bradford-Mitchell's parents met at San Francisco's “Summer of Love” and the era's burgeoning freedom of expression after the repressive 1950s. It was, during the Mitchell brothers' rebellion against The Man, i.e. traditional values including sexual hypocrisy and racism. Actually it started in the garage in Antioch, where the boys learned they could earn some easy coin by showing a short piece of a woman masturbating against a sheet hung for use as a screen.
The truth is rarely pure and never simple - Oscar Wilde
Thankfully, jaunty Michael T. Weiss, who lives in Los Angeles, directs “The Pornographers” daughter. The tall, lean man with a soft brown beard seems like a gentle soul. Weiss mingled at the reception in the lobby and seemed to have a casual and caring, soft spoken manner - definitely not a control freak or dominating but more like somebody there for guidance and who is just there for you.
Weiss said he and Lib get along very well with the collaboration. His toughest job was just cutting parts as it was so long. Lib had been working on it since college and the draft was almost a foot high she said. In the end it’s a succinct, powerfully written piece with a distinctive sense of humor and mirth, the black comedy propelled through the decades with dramatic foreshadowing.
The Obscenity or Art question
So Lib starts with a bang, her irreverent act opening with a quick paced slideshow of sex depicted in the arts throughout the ages. It's the kaleidoscopic videography of Skye Borgman. Indeed, Lib goes on to say, the Mitchell brothers had big dreams of becoming legitimate film makers. Lib begins by relating the story of how her parents met when Artie told the hot chick with brains, Lib's soon-to-be mother, that he was a film director. He invited her over to his pad in the Haight. Eventually “The Green Door” would be about a pure White girl who gets kidnapped and obligated to have a lot of sex including with a Mandingo, the film ending with her doing four men at once, one on a trapeze. The brothers submit it to the film festival in Cannes and the French audience gives it a standing ovation.
However Lib, at 42, a mother herself with a husband and a mini-van, seems more at peace than she ever has been as the spawn of Artie Mitchell, the revolutionary adult film maker behind the O’Farrell Theater in the Tenderloin. She even lived for a time in Lafayette when her parents divorced. The culture shock produced her first feelings of being a social outcast with a shameful secret, a dork. She began to lie about what her father did.
She would take her entire young life to deal with social conflict between reality and expectation and norms, finally “coming out” in college at USC at a party. She finally had the cajones to be honest but remained a virgin throughout her freshman year, which she spent dressing up and going to dance clubs but it seems always going home alone. She had found solace in Entenmann's bakery treats.
Family is as family does
Lib tells a great story about attending the adult film awards and joining the hefty drag queen emcee on stage dancing. Lib had found her inner fag hag she said and reveled in the experience. She shows a slide of the moment, Lib with her perky blond looks and a red party dress kicking up her heels in a chorus line of porn stars and drag queens on stage. The mafia was also in attendance. Nevertheless, Lib was finding herself at her own pace. The shy girl began expressing her newfound love for musical theater and it's group energy and sense of family.
Ultimate resolution comes with the sense of liberation she got after the death of the second Mitchell Brother, Jim. Jim died in Petaluma on his ranch of what was considered natural causes, although it was a heart attack, just in 2007.
Lib's father Brother Artie died in 1991 in Marin, shot to death by his brother and business partner Jim. Jim's attorney argued successfully it was an intervention gone wrong not an assassination. So, Lib not only felt traumatized repeatedly growing up but ultimately by Jim's attorney who was smooth as silk at the murder trial she said in the show.
Brother Artie had fired the family attorney over a personal matter, that was Lib's WASP flower child mother from East Coast society. Consequently the criminal attorney was able to force Lib to testify without giving her an opportunity to speak her mind and the truth. The man handling and manipulation, the staged and forced misrepresentation under the auspices of testimony, compounded Lib’s suffering and grief. Consumed by the need for revenge if not justice and the truth, Lib has fought a lifelong problem with anxiety, panic attacks and depression and just plain feeling awkward socially.
Feel the magic
Yet Lib Bradford Mitchell emerged on stage last night as “The Pornographer's Daughter” a gifted, strong young woman who has worked hard to get control of her own life. She pulls no punches, uses strong language and strong visual images and live music to punctuate her points, a commanding presence as a master of legitimate artistry. She earned her new found self-esteem and rebirth, her spiritual freedom, through painstaking soul searching and on the merits. Her father's daughter, she is no longer controlled by the man and lives up in triumph and defiance to the name he gave her.
Lib seems to have a lot of family support and that of friends, including Elisa Florez who appeared in the sequel to “The Green Door”. The film used rubber but not for bondage or S & M. The Mitchell Brothers knew of the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and created a porn film using safe sex - dental dams, condoms and rubber gloves.
Girl Power: It's all about the shoes
Elisa Florez as Missy Manners arrived about 7:30 with a bouquet of roses for Lib and the girls mugged for friends and media around the stage after the show. “It's all about shoes” and the girls posed like Rockettes with their platforms. Missy wore a black knit mini dress, long straight blond hair with bangs. Her silver sparkly platforms showed off her ankle tattoos.
Lib changed from her 1970s free spirit cotton top into rockin' see-through plastic platforms. She like Missy showed lots of leg as Lib emerged like a rock star in a short, sparkly silver dress.
The effect: The evening took on a cockatil party look with a lighthearted, girlish and playful feel, a girls' night out. Lib seemed jubilent and triumphant, her sense of relief after the raucous, no holds barred one-woman show seemed to mean the experience has been cathartic.
Band members of the live trio The Fluffers mingled. The young men looked like characters out of an X-rated Alice in Wonderland during the wine and champagne reception, one in a mad hatter top hat, with a feather in his cap. Geoff Knoop, guitar and vocals. Keith Stater, bass and vocals. Kevin Swartz, drums.
Rating: ***** (5 stars)
Photos from the Post-Show Party
Z Space specializes in hot new work. It's a little intimate theater and each seat is good. Tickets cost $32.
The show, a world premiere, runs to February 16, 2014.
Shows on Thursday at 8:00 p.m.; Friday/Saturday at 8 pm and 10:30 pm; Sunday at 5 pm.
Chuck Sperry designed the classic rock poster with Lib's face from when she was 16.
For more information on the play: www.PDtheplay.com
Source: Examiner, Jan 23, 20014
'Pornographer's Daughter': Good story could be better told
Musical autobiography. Written and performed by Liberty Bradford Mitchell. Directed by Michael T. Weiss. Through Feb. 16. $32. Z Below, 470 Florida St., S.F. 80 minutes. www.pdtheplay.com
Liberty Bradford Mitchell has a ready-for-prime-time story to tell about growing up on the X-rated fringes of the Mitchell brothers' San Francisco porn empire and the murder of her father, Artie, by his brother, Jim Mitchell. In "The Pornographer's Daughter," which opened Wednesday at Z Below, she just doesn't tell that story very well.
It may be that Bradford Mitchell is trying to cram one too many stories into one short show. The 80-minute "Daughter" - performed by the author, intermittently supported by a rock trio called (nudge-nudge) the Fluffers - covers both her childhood and coming of age at the porn core of the free-love 1970s and the murder, trial and its aftermath.
The growing up is the better story, less headline-grabbing but more original and evocative.
It starts promisingly enough, on a set - by Jeff Rowlings, who co-produced the show with PD Productions - filled with such porn iconography as a large green door. Director Michael T. Weiss opens and punctuates the narrative with video designer Skye Borgman's history of graphic erotic art, from the Stone Age to the present (yes, there will be clips from the Mitchell brothers' breakthrough "Behind the Green Door"), as well as family and news photos.
Bradford Mitchell grew up "half blue blood, half blue movie," the daughter of a mother from an old, prestigious New England family (just do a search for Mayflower Bradfords) and a father from "a long line of Okie grifters" - or, as she also puts it, "The Mayflower meets 'The Grapes of Wrath.'"
The script is full of such pithy coinages, many quite funny but delivered in a straightforward style, more lecture than nuanced performance, that makes the writing begin to seem wearyingly self-conscious. Substance trumps style as Bradford Mitchell's parents divorce when she's young and she grows up with her liberated lawyer mother, visiting her dad at the O'Farrell Theatre and becoming more conscious of the porn film rushes and live G-string-clad bodies.
The story of Marilyn Chambers' "Green Door" and Ivory Snow celebrity is particularly well told. The material about going through puberty with neither parent bothering to explain the facts of life is tellingly resonant.
By comparison, her father's murder, though the act is graphically described, is thinly told. Bradford Mitchell's account of the trial sounds as if she's paying a debt to herself, trying to make amends for her testimony at the time. This apparently was the focus of the play she started writing two decades ago, and it may have the makings of a potent family tragedy if properly filled out.
As told here, it's only a somewhat tedious appendage to the story of the little girl growing up in the family behind that tragedy. And that story is not only more unique and intriguing, but has a great deal to tell us about our own lives and times.
Robert Hurwitt is The San Francisco Chronicle's theater critic. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @RobertHurwitt
Source: SF Gate, Jan 23, 2014
'Pornographer's Daughter' a bawdy yet touching tale of life with Mitchell Brothers
Liberty Bradford Mitchell invites you to peek behind the green door in her saucy solo show "The Pornographer's Daughter."
Mitchell explores the thrills and torments of growing up in the sleaze business as her father Artie and her uncle Jim launched a porn empire at San Francisco's Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre in the 1970s. A cheeky 85-minute romp about coming of age amid the bodily fluids, vice raids and g-strings of the adult entertainment industry, the breezy one-woman show is making its world premiere through Feb. 16 at San Francisco's Z Space Below.
Directed by Michael T. Weiss, this is a poignant personal look at a notorious local legend that's become part of the colorful fabric of San Francisco history. If the show feels a little underdeveloped, there's no denying the operatic nature of the Mitchell family saga.
Liberty Bradford Mitchell invites you to peek behind the green door in her saucy solo show "The Pornographer's Daughter."
The 43-year-old mother of two certainly has a treasure trove of bizarre material to mine here, from her parent's Summer of Love-era romance to the tragedy of her uncle murdering her father in 1991. Accompanied by the San Francisco band the Fluffers, she regales us with what it was like to learn about the birds and the bees amid the swirl of booze and drugs that marked what Hunter S. Thompson dubbed "the Carnegie Hall of public sex" in America.
It's not an entirely tawdry tale of tittilation. Indeed, Mitchell notes that before they became porn kings, the brothers, who grew up in Antioch, actually had aesthetic aspirations. "Behind the Green Door," considered one of the earliest feature-length adult movies, which starred Marilyn Chambers, was arty enough to get them invited to the Cannes Film Festival. The 1972 picture earned the brothers 50 million dollars and forever changed their fates. Big business soon won out over more artistic considerations. Her parents divorced. Cocaine played a starring role in her father's X-rated lifestyle.
A witty and poised performer who writes vividly, Mitchell is at her most moving when she describes the way the family business shaped her childhood. She may not be as nimble an actor as she is a writer, but it's hard to resist her candor and vulnerability on stage.
She saw her first skin flick at age 4½. Torn between loving her daddy and feeling ashamed of the realm of stripper poles and pasties, she soon learned to hide who she was. Her Berkeley Montessori schoolteachers would have disdained her otherwise.
Her father may have been an unashamed huckster but she was always shy. The older she got, the more Mitchell gravitated to her mother's side of the family, the part that was more blue blood than blue movies. She escaped into summers on Cape Cod and the fantasy that she could get out from under the shadow of obscenity.
While the solo show loses steam after the slaying of her father, when Mitchell descended into rage and depression, her pluck is quite endearing. She is also fast on her feet. At a recent performance she ribbed two theatergoers who kept entering and exiting the theater in search of cocktails without losing her groove.
Still there are rough patches here. Mitchell can sing but the musical interludes don't yet seem to flow from the narrative. She also doesn't etch her journey to healing with as much nuance as she does her tainted past.
Eventually, it seems, she came to cherish parts of her family lore. She still feels the pain of her story but she also remembers Artie and Jim as anti-establishment entrepreneurs who were as proud of their Dust Bowl grifter roots as of their mob connections and mansions. Certainly she inherited some of their flair for showmanship, the lust for the spotlight.
By Karen D'Souza. Contact her at 408-271-3772. Read her at www.mercurynews.com/karen-dsouza and follow her at www.twitter.com/KarenDSouza4.
"The Pornographer's Daughter"
Written and performed by Liberty Bradford Mitchell
Through: Feb. 16
Where: Z Below, 470 Florida St., San Francisco
Running time: 85 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $32; www.zspace.org
Source: Mercury News, Jan 23, 2014
'The Pornographer's Daughter'
Liberty Bradford Mitchell has a pedigree, children. Actually, she has two. The first, from her mother's side of the family, takes her back to the Mayflower and Boston society. The second, from her father's side, gave her a close-up and personal ride into the great pageant of San Francisco porn. With a story like this, and a fine sense of how to hold an audience, Bradford Mitchell's "The Pornographer's Daughter" will rivet you to your seat --- the good way.
It's pretty graphic, folks, at least on the video screen above the stage. Bradford Mitchell was born in 1969, the year the Mitchell Brothers opened their O'Farrell Theater as an outlet to screen their home-made pornographic shorts. Her stories of how brothers Jim and Artie catapulted themselves into mainline cinema and a screening at the Cannes Film Festival with "Behind the Green Door," the first feature-length pornographic movie ever made, starring the Ivory-Snow girl Marilyn Chambers, is absolutely priceless. Bradford Mitchell's personal revelations are terrific too -- like how she hated being "named Liberty in a world of Heathers and Jennifers."
The dark side is there, and we get the sense we've only heard the half of it. Her father, Art Mitchell, was arrested 187 times and her uncle Jim 188. Of course, the last time was when her uncle murdered her father. Liberty's last words to her dad must haunt her to this day.
Music is provided on-stage by The Fluffers. Their finest moment is when they play riffs from '60s songs as the show is opening. We could definitely use some more interplay between Bradford Mitchell and the band. Also, she needs to get some of her facts straight -- USC is not in Watts, for example. She needs to check her dates about Francis Ford Coppola.
But these are quibbles. In the end this is the story of a woman who has been through a lot and come out on the other end unapologetic for the way her father and uncle made their living. As she says about her family: "We put the fun in dysfunction."
(And Marilyn Chambers was really beautiful. Just sayin.')
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ALMOST
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Pornographer's Daughter" Four Stars, ALMOST.
The show is definitely good enough for four stars, and will almost certainly soon grow into them. The ALMOST is for her tears at the end. They ring false for the character on the stage we have seen laughing everything off with a wave and a F-bomb. Liberty Bradford Mitchell is a tremendous talent. Who could be surprised if "The Pornographer's Daughter" still has a few kinks?
Source: SF Theater Blog, Jan 23, 2014
The PORNOGRAPHER'S DAUGHTER is entertaining and The Real McCoy
'The Pornographer's Daughter' lives up to its name. Liberty Bradford Mitchell is the real thing: daughter of Artie Mitchell, who with his brother won the Cannes Film Festival Award for the ground-breaking “Behind the Green Door,” and who ran the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Street theatre that earned a "must see" in Playboy Magazine back in the day.
Liberty is the survivor of a crazy-ass childhood, viewing porn when she was in grade school, in a world of reefer and coke and free love and loony people all around.
Her mismatched parents - her mom the black sheep of a Eastern Establishment family who ran away to the Summer of Love, and her infamous dad, the son of a Okie poker player - lead off her story of her upbringing in a wildly contradictory, counterculture universe.
The climax is the events and trial of the murder of Artie by his brother Jim. Her story is not unlike a distaff Hamlet, and invokes the lines, "I, the son of a dear father murder'd, / Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, / Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words, / And fall a-cursing, like a very drab, / A scullion!"
Video by Skye Borgman is used expertly in a blend of her childhood photos with her family and clips of X-rated movies including the famous one with the with Marilyn Chambers-- the girl on the Ivory Snow box turned porn star.
Producer/designer Jeff set has just enough to evoke the mood and for practical movement including the brilliant touch of a scarlet/purple plush seat encircling a round pillar onstage; stage right there a looming and provocative Green Door. His lights are the greatest. They follow her expertly, and transport you to the interior of that famous place at the corner of O'Farrell & Larkin - with which this reviewer was all-too-familiar in his younger days.
The band is named “The Fluffers” and the joke was not lost on the rowdy bourgeois/bohemian crowd (if you don't know what a “fluffer” is, maybe this show isn't for you - or maybe you need to see it to round out your cultural education - anyway): "Fluffer" They were perfect accompanists, getting the crowd in the mood, and providing emphasis for Liberty, and backing her on the one song she sang with a trained, talented, and heartbreaking voice.
Our star is a very pretty and wholesome 43-year old blonde mom who looks younger with sparkling blue eyes and rounded features. She is a graceful, compelling and sexy dancer, and we keep hoping for the next time she takes a turn. When she sings the one song, we hear a soulful and talented voice.
But she's not an actress. If this wasn't her show, you wouldn't want to see her up there. In this auto-biopic she pokes fun and nearly everything in her life while letting a little pain seep through, but still it is presentation in an overdone fashion. Which is probably good for us, because putting the gloss on this Cain and Abel family story with a seamy underbelly makes it good fun and palatable while the lascivious side seduces us into having a damn good time. The l'envoi about her work with women is misplaced and undoes the tone which needs an uplifting end rather than a moral about this seemingly amoral time and enterprise.
While Director Michael T. Weiss does an excellent job of staging, developing a non-actress into an off-handed and realistic delivery requires a diligent coaching that most directors aren't equipped to do which was not obvious in the final product.
In another incarnation, and I think this show “has legs,” we hope that the delivery gets more polished and more of her soulful singing is integrated.
No matter my picayune comments, it is a great story, a rousing good time chock full of Bay Area history and plenty of erotica and an fun weekend happening with shows at 8 and 10 pm, till Feb 16.
By John A. McMullen II
Z-Space (Z-Below Theatre) at 450 Florida @16th St., San Francisco, CA
For more information on the play: www.PDtheplay.com
- - -
From "The Pornographer's Daughter" facebook page, posted there last night after the final show:
"Our farewell performance of The PD in SF. Going out with a full house and flags flying. THANK YOU family, friends & fans (!) for your support on this amazing ride."
And they added a few hours later:
"Los Angeles will be our next run... Watch this space!"
"We hope to do a run in LA this fall!"
- - -
And this is how the project started:
From the late Artie Mitchell's daughter, a new one-woman show
Liberty Bradford Mitchell, 42, the daughter of the late porn king who with his brother, Jim, operated North Beach's Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre, has a new one-woman show premiering in Los Angeles in March at The Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, CA 90291. "The Pornographer's Daughter" deals with Jim Mitchell's infamous murder of her father when she was 20. This limited engagement (March 14-17, 2013) of The Pornographer's Daughter Los Angeles workshop production is a thought provoking, multi-media, live music experience not to be missed.
Ron Russell, Bay Area Observer, Jan 11, 2013
Growing up, moving on in porn's shadow
As a child, Liberty Bradford Mitchell sat through one of her dad's rough-cut porn movies. As an adolescent, she was given her first safe-sex talk by her dad's girlfriend - a porn star. Then, at age 20, on Feb. 27, 1991, she learned that her father, Artie Mitchell, had been slain by her uncle, Jim Mitchell. "Murder was a bigger stigma than pornography had ever been," she says. Such was the life of Bradford Mitchell, whose father and uncle operated the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre in San Francisco and produced one of the first feature-length porn movies, "Behind the Green Door," starring Ivory Snow model Marilyn Chambers. The 1972 film made the brothers tens of millions of dollars and got them invited to the Cannes Film Festival and minted as porn kings. Bradford Mitchell is now 42, living in Los Angeles and mother to two children, ages 11 and 7. She has a new one-woman show, "The Pornographer's Daughter," which will premiere in March at a theater in Venice (Los Angeles County). She is in talks with a major network television producer to write a miniseries and hopes that her multimedia show will find a home onstage in San Francisco, where the story takes place.
Pioneers of porn
In an opening line of the new production, which will incorporate music and video, Bradford Mitchell says, "I was born a Leo in the summer of 1970. My parents were hippies who dropped way too much acid before naming their children. They emerged as pioneers of the porn industry, became millionaires, and poured a lot of money into Mercedes, marijuana and cocaine, lap dances, poker games and high jinks." The theater was called "the Carnegie Hall of public sex in America" by writer Hunter S. Thompson, who worked as night manager at the strip club while researching a book he never completed. Bradford Mitchell has her dad's face and eyes and the mellow mien of her post-hippie upbringing. But her edge is sardonic, befitting a woman who grew up "with G-strings grazing my nose," who watched "Little House on the Prairie" at home and stopped by her dad's "office," the adult theater, after school. A woman whose father urged her to party and admonished her for being a "terminal square." Two days before her father was killed, Bradford Mitchell - a theater student at USC - came to San Francisco to organize an intervention. Her dad, whose nickname was "Party Artie," had gone on the wagon on his own and was not doing well. He had been banned from coming to work because of his erratic behavior, which included shooting up the office dart board with his pistol.
Father's struggle with drugs
Sitting in a cafe in North Beach, Bradford Mitchell recalls how her dad was trying to make changes in his life, and was working on opening a music club (which he had asked her to manage). He was talking about moving to Mexico to dry out for six months. Anytime a rock star or celebrity visited the Mitchell Brothers, Party Artie was expected to show them a good time. "My dad was tired of the business, and at that point, it kind of ran itself," she says. "He'd go and play golf and fish. But he was having a hard time with the drugs. I went to see Jim - it was the first time I'd ever sought his counsel, as he was always kind of a scary figure to us kids - and said, 'We need to do an intervention.' He said, 'We can't do it because of who we are. We are too well known.'" She thought the response was bizarre, but odd was the norm in her family. Bradford Mitchell's blue eyes well with tears remembering what happened next. "My mom called and told me my dad was murdered - and by my uncle," she says. "Jim had grabbed a rifle and a pistol, drove from his house at Ocean Beach to Corte Madera, where my dad was renting a house. He slashed my dad's tires and went in and just started shooting."
Her father always kept his doors unlocked and liked to say: "You never know when you'll want to get out." Her family was known to stockpile weapons, something Bradford Mitchell explains this way: "They were hippies who thought they would one day need to become revolutionaries. My dad hears gunshots, and walks into the hall," Bradford Mitchell continues. "His girlfriend (Julie) jumps in the closet and calls 911. A police car was nearby issuing a speeding ticket. Jim shoots my dad two times in the abdomen, my dad staggers to the bathroom, and Jim shoots him right in the eye." Artie Mitchell was dead at age 45. Jim Mitchell, who was apprehended at the scene, said he had gone there to do an intervention, insisting that if he shot his brother in the leg, he would have to go to the hospital and could then get treatment for his addictions. Jim Mitchell was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison. He was released from San Quentin in 1997, having served three years. He returned to run the O'Farrell Theatre, at one point offering Liberty a job working next to him. "I got a call from my grandmother - Jim's mom - who said, 'Jim wants you to know that Artie's office is empty and he wants you to fill it.'" Bradford Mitchell responded, "You've got to be kidding me."
Salvation in the theater
Sipping her latte at Caffe Trieste, she shakes her head. "There were situations like that where it was already surreal - your uncle kills your father - and then he offers you a job working with him. The sheer gall of it ..." Jim Mitchell died in 2007 from a heart attack, and his funeral was standing-room only. The theater is now managed by Jim Mitchell's oldest daughter, Meta Jane Johnson, and her brother, Justin Mitchell. Another brother, James Raphael Mitchell, served as the theater's director of film operations until he landed in prison in 2011 for murdering the mother of his child with a baseball bat. "People say to me, 'How are you so normal?'" Bradford Mitchell says with a wry laugh. "I got married. I have kids. A job. I have a sense of humor. Not everyone comes out of stuff like this. But the arts were always my salvation." Bradford Mitchell's new stage show began to take shape when she was a freshman at the University of Southern California. She worked on it for years, and her screenplay made it to the finals at Sundance. But the project was shelved for a long period after college, as Bradford Mitchell focused on her children and marriage. And from 2004 to 2010, she worked for California's first lady, Maria Shriver, producing her women's conferences. "I was humbled by the hundreds of women who shared their tales of survival - survivors of grief, addiction, rape, cancer and sex trafficking," she says. "It made my life look pretty damn manageable in comparison." It also made her realize that as passive as her exposure was to pornography, it was always there - and it was in fact a form of sexual abuse. "I remember one afternoon, I was maybe 6, when I was at the theater and I followed my dad into a screening room," she says of her exposure to rough-cut porn. "I sidled up in a chair and sat cross-armed like my dad, staring analytically at the screen just like my dad. I remember my dad's employee saying, 'Should she be watching this?' and my dad said, 'She doesn't know what she's seeing.'"
Covering up for father
In elementary school, when other children talked about what their fathers did for a living, Liberty told friends, "My dad makes movies with naked people." A teacher overheard her talking about it in the fourth grade and asked with disdain, "Is your dad a Mitchell brother?" "I went home and talked to my mom about it," says Bradford Mitchell, who was the oldest of three children. "I was living a suburban existence in Lafayette, coming to the city to see my dad. My mom said that people wouldn't understand, and that it was OK to say he was a fisherman, which was partly true." Liberty's parents had divorced when she was 6, and she lived with her mother, Meredith Bradford, a classic Protestant, East Coast WASP whose father was a surgeon and whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower. "I'm half blue blood, half blue movie," she says. As she grew older, she regularly lied to her friends and their parents about what her dad did. (Her mother became a lawyer and worked for the O'Farrell Theatre until Jim Mitchell fired her.) But in prep school - Liberty attended the Walnut Hill School in Massachusetts - and for a period in college, she discovered that her guy friends thought it was "truly awesome" that her dad had a strip club, and she and friends would hit the O'Farrell for nights of partying. "It was always a lot of fun until the sun went down and the men turned into dirtbags propelled by herd sexuality," she says. "I've never come to vilify pornography, but I'm not attracted to it. It's like a good friend of mine whose parents have a barbell company, and he is totally out of shape." As an adult, she was determined to have a "normal life," even dressing in Ann Taylor, she says, rolling her eyes. She met her future husband while studying at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, from which she graduated after leaving USC. The two are now going through a divorce. "I refuse to have my children grow up in the dark about what happened," she says. "When my daughter started passing milestones, I'd be struck by how much I'd been exposed to pornography at that incredibly young age. That despite my parents' love, there was much in our world that was unexplained and inappropriate."
Providing model to children
Looking out the window at the steady rain, she says she has forgiven her parents for what she was exposed to. "My parents were not out to harm us. They were counterculture. The theater was opened on July 4, 1969, in this era of free love. They thought we didn't understand what we were being exposed to, and that nudity can be considered art. Now, of course, that sounds ridiculous." "I felt like I had to tell my children about this story," she continues. "I want to model for my kids that you can always move on. You can't live in shame." Writing and talking about her life has started to feel good, she says. Then, with a laugh, she adds, "My family has a lot of skeletons, and I'm putting them all out there."
Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan 11, 2013