By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The brothers constantly pushed the envelope when it came to how much contact dancers could have with customers. It was one of the first clubs to offer live sex shows—without glass separating the dancers from the audience—and also nude lapdancing (until both were outlawed). The San Francisco mayor and district attorney repeatedly attempted to shut down the Mitchell Brothers, conducting stings, raids, and arrests. The two spent a fortune defending themselves and won more than they lost. By many accounts, Jim and Artie were both inseparable best friends and frequently warring siblings.
In 1991, Jim shot Artie to death. He claimed that Artie had threatened his family, and that he was only trying to scare Artie into getting clean from drugs and alcohol. With the help of important connections and a high-priced lawyer, Jim was convicted merely of voluntary manslaughter and served three years in San Quentin. The story has been told in two books—X-Rated and Bottom Feeders—but there has never been a firsthand account of the decade leading to Artie's murder by an insider who had intimate knowledge of the brothers, the club, and their world. In her new memoir, 9½ Years Behind the Green Door: A Mitchell Brothers Stripper Remembers Her Lover Artie Mitchell, Hunter S. Thompson, and the Killing That Rocked San Francisco (greendoorbook.com), Simone Corday shares her story of a decade with an infamous sex mogul.
She admits that she waited until Jim Mitchell died (of a heart attack in 2007) before self-publishing the book. "I had not felt comfortable publishing my story while he was still alive, because I was afraid of him," she admits. "After all, he had been convicted of killing his brother, and he had not been happy when I spoke out on TV and went to the prosecution during his murder case."
Corday's book is a delicious page-turner that captures her incredibly stormy relationship with Artie from 1981 to 1991, and the frenetic, rambunctious, rebellious world he built. Shortly after she began stripping at the theater, she met Artie and was immediately drawn to him. She writes: "If I ever get a chance to make love to that man, I will, I decided. I had never wanted anyone so much." She got her opportunity shortly thereafter, when they had sex on the floor of his office at the theater, then again a few hours later. She recently told me: "He had the assured style of an outlaw, a charming recklessness, an Oklahoma drawl. He had a warm sense of humor, sensuality, that bad-boy magnetism, plus a rare reverence for sex mixed with detachment that gave him a brilliant instinct for it."
Corday's life was enmeshed with the theater. Life at the O'Farrell was like living in another country, with its own distinct inhabitants, culture, rituals, and rules. With vivid stories based on her journals from the time, she paints the picture of a strip club like no other: one that nurtured her creative spirit, inspiring political and satirical performances. Corday was best known for two acts in particular: one where she portrayed then-mayor (and the brothers' nemesis) Dianne Feinstein and stripped to "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," and another where she fucked a girl with a strap-on while dressed in a full-body gorilla suit. Not only is her tale an important piece of sex-industry history, but it's refreshing to read a memoir of stripping in which sex work is neither romanticized nor demonized. She tells it like she saw it, period.
Especially juicy are the tales of being part of the sequel to Behind the Green Door. Since the original 1972 movie was one of the most successful and well-known porn films of all time, the brothers decided to shoot a follow-up in 1986, which would be a safe-sex extravaganza in response to the AIDS crisis. Corday gives an account from the set where, in an attempt to outshine Artie's current flame (and the film's leading lady), Corday gives a memorable mouth-numbing blowjob to a guy wearing a Nonoxynol-9 coated condom on his cock.