Vincent Miranda, a one-time busboy and waiter who founded the controversial chain of Pussycat adult theaters nearly 25 years ago, died Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of cancer. He was 52.
Miranda, who bought his first theater in Huntington Park in 1961 to boost business at his adjacent restaurant, rapidly expanded his chain when he discovered that it cost no more to advertise several theaters than one.
He was arrested more than 60 times over the years on obscenity charges but was convicted only once, in 1977 in San Bernardino for a film called "Sex Freaks."
The man who first screened "Deep Throat" in Southern California was the son of a Portuguese fisherman. As a youth he had theatrical ambitions and hoped to become a dancer and singer. To support himself he became a soda jerk, busboy and waiter while in high school in Palo Alto and, by his 21st birthday, had accumulated enough money from those part-time jobs to buy 21 acres of land in his hometown of Los Banos.
He kept the land but moved to Los Angeles, where he bought a restaurant in Huntington Park. He acquired the theater next door thinking he could, with quality films, add to his dining clientele. But his opening pairing of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "The World of Suzie Wong" brought in only $70 on a Saturday night. He quickly replaced those films with "The Nudist Story."
The police arrived as quickly as the profits, he recalled in a 1979 interview with The Times.
Theater Chain Grows
By 1973, the year of "Deep Throat," he had added theaters in Buena Park, Canoga Park, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach and Escondido. He also had been arrested, released and involved in litigation stretching over 12 years and the 3,000 miles between Southern California and the U.S. Supreme Court.
At a social function he once ran into Sybil Brand, for whom Los Angeles County's Sybil Brand Institute for Women is named, and told her, "You know, Sybil, I've been in every jail in Southern California but yours."
When not involved in litigation and opening theaters, he was buying and renovating old hotels in San Diego through his Walnut Properties. In later years, as the furor over pornography subsided somewhat, he added to his theaters and at his death owned 50 (including about 15 family-oriented theaters) in such disparate locales as Sacramento, Fresno, San Francisco and National City.
$12 Million Plus
He said in 1979 that he could not estimate his personal wealth, but he did agree that it was in excess of $12 million. "I figure if you know exactly how much you are worth, you can't be worth too much," he said.
A spokesman for Walnut Properties said that since Miranda learned last year that he had cancer, he had effected a gradual change of ownership to a longtime associate, Jimmie Johnson.
Miranda's survivors include his mother, Belle Mida of Palo Alto, a brother and a sister.
In lieu of flowers, contributions are suggested to the Variety Club of Southern California, 6399 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 302, Los Angeles, 90048.