Perversion is defined as that which “deviates from orthodox or normal,” which is merely a fancy way to insult and confuse most of you. Just as porn was famously defined as “I know it when I see it,” what it means to be a pervert is inherently subjective. Whatever it might be, it’s enough of potential embarrassment that most of us keep our “perversions” to ourselves… except when we are brave enough to visit an adult establishment and reveal it. Someone like myself can even make it into a full time job. Yup, I’m a pervert.

I worked at one of those filthy joints circa 1999, when most adult materials were still purchased or consumed in smut shops. After a few weeks of training, I was finally allowed to work the midnight shift by myself, at one of Seattle’s oldest adult stores, Taboo Video, located downtown on First Avenue. They had me on the midnight to 8:30am shift. My work there was at times wild and often very educational. Sociologically speaking, all the freaks were hanging out 24/7 at Taboo!

But during the slow weeks or in extreme weather, it could be an incredibly boring and isolating job. You might not have anyone in the store for hours, so to pass the time I ended up watching tons of hardcore VHS movies. (Okay, “movies” might be a stretch, since most of them were gonzo porn, usually not scripted stories.)

I convinced myself I was familiarizing myself with the products so as to better serve the customers. In the late ’90s, we didn’t exactly have an easy way to locate a particular movie by its genre categories, title, actresses, companies, etc. There was basically no database. We had to work off our own and the customers’ memories, with hopefully a bit of help from the latest AVN Magazine reviews or porn rating books by Pat Riley. (Not the Lakers’ legendary coach, a much different “Showtime” Riley.) The market was saturated with product. I mean, there were way too many movies! You’d just have to watch a ton of smut to stay up to date, then hope for the best.

Anyhoo, it wasn’t a typical rainy Seattle night. It was an aggressively torrential rainy night, and a drenched customer walked in with a dazed and drizzled look. I thought he might be drunk or high. “Hi, and how are you, sir?” I said as he walked past and ignored me. I figured he might be shy and needed space.

It’s important to give customers privacy while they browse, so you don’t make them uncomfortable (especially important for women). They might know exactly what they want, but be reluctant to reveal their “pervert card” to strangers. This particular fella was a tall man around 6’3” or so, silver-haired and overdressed for a visit to Taboo. Really nice Ralph Lauren clothes with a Humphrey Bogart raincoat. He started methodically looking at every VHS tape (skipping the Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual sections), scrutinizing every inch of the entire box. His meticulous examination of pictures in the corners of porn cassette artwork reminded me of British archeologists studying hieroglyphics on ancient sarcophagi. I told him if he needed any assistance, please feel free to ask me. He didn’t reply.

Eventually he asked, “Can you help me find a movie?”

“Sure, what are you looking for?” I said, expecting a typical clue — a title, star’s name, production company, fetish, etc. 

“I’m looking for my daughter.”

I’m not going to lie, this revelation was both shocking… and pretty hot! Recovering from my surprise, I assumed he’d discovered that his daughter was doing porn and wanted to confront her with the evidence.

So I asked him for some vitals. “Does she have a stage name?” He replied, “I don’t think so.” As we spoke, the man had no helpful answers to any of my questions. He wasn’t being difficult. He seemed exasperated at his own lack of information. 

“Sir, it’s going to be very difficult to find it,” I counseled him. “We literally have thousands of tapes here, even assuming it’s one of them in the store.” Like a detective, I asked if he could think of anything that might be of help. Dad described a bachelorette party with male dancers stripping for a crowd of giggling younger and older ladies. “My daughter is one of the attendees.”

A porn star among civilian girls? No. According to her college roommate, she was just one of many observers. 

I was a bit confused, and told him I wasn’t sure where to start. (Part of me figured it would take all night to find it.) Seeing the unenthusiastic look on my face, he explained, “It’s the last live video footage of my daughter. She was killed in a car accident a few years back. Her roommate recently told me about it. I just want to have a copy so I can see the last images of her…” he continued, but I can’t remember what else he said.

I was stunned. This was not exactly your typical customer request. I decided I needed to help. With what little info there was, I used my educated “porn guesses” to begin sorting our store product by four categories (based on the NFL injury report system): “probable,” “questionable,” “doubtful,” or “out.” Then I checked the movies in the Probable pile first, fast-forwarding through every one of those tapes. I’d stop whenever there were new customers to assist. This went on until I realized there were only a couple of hours before the end of my shift. The poor bastard needed to leave for SeaTac that day — we were definitely pressed for time. Every minute that passed, I grew more frustrated and desperate.

And desperate times require desperate measures. I finally decided to consult our head honcho pervert, one of the store’s regular customer, for advice. Though it was still relatively early, I called him at home anyway. He was annoyed at the call — his wife could have answered the phone — but after I explained the situation, he was more accommodating. Based on the info I had, and the movies already eliminated, he told me to check out the Bisexual section. He thought it might be a genre of party tape featuring gay male dancers interacting with women. I’d completely missed that category! 

He told me to check a dozen or so movies there, and I immediately started fast-forwarding through them. Sure enough, the ninth or tenth tape in, we witnessed gay/bisexual male dancers before a female crowd. Some of the ladies were sucking dicks, male performers were licking titties, and some of the gay dancers even sucked each other off. (We were both uncomfortable watching that.) Finally, he saw her. Daddy’s little girl! There she was! Cheering and covering her mouth, laughing so hard and blushing.

It was not only a relief to find her, but also to find her not engaging in sex, so I was really happy for him. She looked so happy and joyful, so full of life. I remember seeing tears in her proud papa’s eyes. He paid for the cassette, and thanked me, and I never saw him again.

So what’s the pornographic moral of this story? I thank god for making me a pervert, and thank lord Jesus for our customer Mr. Mega Pervert’s compassionate help. That filthy fuck tape made one bereaved father very grateful.