Last edited: March 29, 2004

Sexual Intolerance Is the Shame in Suicide

Hartford Courant, January 29, 2002
285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115
Fax: 860-241-3865

By Amy Pagnozzi

It’s been a long time since the desire to see a "dirty" movie on a big screen got me off the couch and out of the house, so I was surprised to find that X-rated theaters, like drive-in movies, are an endangered species.

Not that we’re lacking for other forms of "adult entertainment" in Connecticut—but the Fairmont in New Haven was the only such theater I managed to locate, having worked my way through the Yellow Pages and the Internet.

For $5 admission, the chairs are comfy, the clientele civil and pornography plays nonstop until closing time, 1 a.m. on most nights.

I felt quite comfortable sitting mid-row, mid-aisle—hearing soft noises indicative of masturbation, in sync with the action on screen.

Taking the odd stroll to and from the ladies’ loo and concession stand, I could see what I was hearing.

And, once again, I was taken over by outrage about Stu Denton’s needless death.

A shiver ran up my spine Sunday, when I learned he had hanged himself inside a shed in the backyard of his Plainfield home—after being charged with loitering for indecent purposes at an adult theater in Rhode Island.

One of seven collars Johnston, R.I., cops made on Jan. 16 at the Amazing Express video store’s theater, Stu Denton snuffed himself for shame.

Talk about easy—they posed as customers, cozying up to hapless patrons. Legally, I’m off base for saying this. But morally? I consider that entrapment.

A guy who walks into a theater where men in the audience are obviously engaged in mutual sex acts and plunks himself down by his lonesome knows full well that someone might sidle up to offer a helping hand, to which he can say, "No thanks."

A detective, who knows far more about local behaviors than any civilian, puts himself in the same situation—slapping handcuffs on the hapless soul for doing exactly as expected and releasing his name and address to the media to boot!

The shrinks say stable people who get arrested don’t kill themselves over it. I say baloney.

We’re talking about a well-liked, highly respected divorced man of 55, who raised his children, served his community as planning and zoning commissioner and worked as a nursing home supervisor.

But Denton may as well have been Public Enemy No. 1, they shamed him so!

People in Plainfield say Denton kept his personal life to himself, including his sexual identity. But clearly he got caught up in some kind of crackdown on an adult entertainment establishment that drew homosexual and bisexual men.

Several citizens purportedly called the police to report that patrons regularly exposed and/or fondled themselves at the theater, according to Johnston Police Chief Richard S. Tamburini.

Johnston Mayor William R. Macera referred to the behaviors there as "disgusting."

He’s entitled to his opinion. But since he wasn’t in on the raid, we don’t know whether he’s judging from experience.

I wasn’t a bit flapped by what I saw at the Fairmont in New Haven, nor by what I’ve seen in New York’s gay bars, which is quite a bit more.

It’s all about context and who’s invading whose space. Getting flashed unsolicited on the subway gives me hives, while the same sight at a gay space provokes my curiosity.

Though the men in Johnston behaved consensually and were bothering no one, such acts are illegal in public spaces, such as the theater, strictly speaking.

But isn’t forewarned forearmed if a place is clearly marked adult, its lobby adorned with triple Xs, and all minors strictly barred?

Amusement parks are public places—but you don’t hop onto a roller coaster when you’ve got hypertension and angina, knocking down warning signs that people in your condition should refrain.

"We’re not looking to bat down a door and go into a house to go after the activity," Tamburini says.

No ... but for some gays and bisexuals of a certain age, home may be where the heart is, but your erotic life takes place anywhere but.

I wonder about bias when I hear that the police force in Johnston also has conducted raids at local parks, which often serve as places where men meet for casual hookups.

These sorts of raids used to happen all the time on the lower West Side of New York City, precipitating the historic Stonewall Riots, which paved the way for the gay rights movement.

But you have to accept yourself before others will.

Stu Denton was 55—around the same age as those arrested with him and the guys I saw at the Fairmont, not coincidentally to my mind.

You don’t see many men of that era in gay bars that are increasingly packed with buff young boys, gay culture trending even more toward youth than society in general.

And although some have managed, many find it’s a bit late to latch onto the Internet—so wide and diverse so as to offer all manner of couplings, so chockablock with newsgroups and list-serves for every kink and fetish that one never has to feel alone.

It’s a pity, because we’re talking about a generation whose very being was defined by shame, with few public places to call its own, for whom coming together isn’t so easy.

But God bless Stu Denton, a hardworking, decent man, for trying. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Amy Pagnozzi is a regular columnist for the Courant. Send comments and news tips to or call her at 860-241-6753.

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