Ex-songwriter for 'Captain Kangaroo' testifies against Mapplethorpe photos


CINCINNATI -- A former songwriter for "Captain Kangaroo" told jurors in the Robert Mapplethorpe obscenity trial yesterday that the photographer's sexually explicit works should not be displayed in museums because they promote sadomasochism and sexual abuse of children.

Mass media analyst Judith Reisman was permitted to testify in the case against the Contemporary Arts Center and director Dennis Barrie over the objections of defense attorneys, who challenged her ability to evaluate either art or obscenity.

"Being a songwriter for Captain Kangaroo does not qualify her for judging Robert Mapplethorpe," declared attorney H. Louis Sirkin.

To the satisfaction of Hamilton County Municipal Judge David Albanese, however, Mrs. Reisman cited credentials that he said qualified her as an expert witness.

Among them: a listing in "Who's Who of Sexology," membership in the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, a subscription to "Advertising Age," art classes in high school and a master's degree in speech communication. She has had less than 30 hours of schooling in the visual arts.

Mrs. Reisman was the only witness prosecutors presented who said the pictures lack artistic merit. The other three witnesses for the prosecution were police officers.

Jurors, scheduled to hear closing arguments today, heard earlier testimony from art experts that the homoerotic photographs have unparalleled artistic merit and represent the work of a brilliant photographer.

The Contemporary Arts Center and Mr. Barrie were indicted on misdemeanor charges of pandering obscenity and using children in nudity-related materials on the first day the traveling retrospective "Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment" opened here last spring.

Two of the photographs show a child with exposed genitals, images other witnesses have called "pure innocence" but which Mrs. Reisman called "very disturbing."

Because the pictures were hung in a museum, Mrs. Reisman testified, that would make it easier for sex offenders to seduce children.

"This is not concocted or drummed up," said Mrs. Reisman. "This is real, and I think a lot of us know it's real. . . . We are putting at risk additional children."

Mrs. Reisman -- who has researched child pornography for the U.S. Department of Justice and the conservative American Family Association -- conceded that she had never seen the controversial "XYZ Portfolio" in the exhibition. The portfolio of 39 photographs includes the five homoerotic pictures that form the basis of the obscenity charges.

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