A home repair "fix-it" man, described by police and military investigators as the leader of a gay Marine porno production ring, said Sunday that more than 500 active-duty personnel at Camp Pendleton have been involved in his mail-order video operation.
"Bobby," 39, who agreed to an interview on the condition that his last name not be published, but whose identity was confirmed through law enforcement sources, said many more Marines nationwide have occasionally taken part in heterosexual and homosexual video pornography.
"They do it mainly for the money," he said, adding that Marines are frustrated over the corps' low pay, which "doesn't go very far" in such expensive areas as north San Diego County.
"Most Marines today are totally unappreciated," said Bobby, whose operation was based in a garage apartment overlooking the downtown area of this coastal city not far from Camp Pendleton.
"They're lonely, homesick and horribly underpaid," he said, "and most women don't want to have anything to do with them. It's not like World War II anymore. Women here want college guys who want to be attorneys and who can give them a nice car and nice family."
Now, saying he fears for his life, Bobby claimed during an interview Sunday that he had burned his erotic sex materials and is moving to San Francisco to "hide out" with friends.
The Oceanside man said he began his mail-order video operation three years ago, after having photographed Marines in private sessions since moving here from Los Angeles in 1974 just to be closer, in his words, to "these men I have a weakness for--Marines."
He said he also acted as the point man in an underground referral operation, whereby other makers of pornographic videos in the San Diego area would pay active-duty Marines upward of $250 for taping sessions that ranged from 20 to 90 minutes.
About 20%, or "every two in 10," of the Marines he videotaped or referred to other agencies were homosexual or bisexual, he said. But even heterosexual Marines were willing to be photographed with other men, he said, "for the money or just the thrill of it."
"A Marine, you give them a few beers, and of course, a few hundred bucks, and that's usually enough," Bobby said, adding that he had sold "thousands" of his videos to friends over the last three years, at prices starting at $25.
Child abuse investigators for the Oceanside Police Department announced last week that they were closing an inquiry into a gay male porno production ring because it did not involve underage boys, as detectives had feared.
Detectives turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service at Camp Pendleton a photograph album and business brochure passed from Bobby to one of his clients, who police say could implicate between two dozen and 200 active-duty Marines.
Although few civilian laws restrict homosexual or heterosexual pornography, the Uniform Code of Military Justice forbids personnel from engaging in sodomy, prostitution, pandering or distributing obscene material in the mail.
Oceanside Police Sgt. John Lamb said last week that the pornographic material, sold as graphic homosexual videos, was shipped by United Parcel Service, which Lamb said is not illegal.
Chief Warrant Officer Mike Hedlund, acting as the spokesman for Camp Pendleton, confirmed last week that the criminal investigative unit is "investigating allegations that Marines were involved in the production, manufacture and sale of pornographic material."
But base spokesman Col. Fred Peck, reached at home Sunday, said that "despite allegations that a large number of (active-duty) Marines may have been involved, at this point we have been unable to identify a single one."
Despite extensive news coverage, Bobby said, no one from the Oceanside Police Department or the Marine Corps has attempted to question him. He predicted that no Marines would be disciplined because the materials confiscated are "hardly incriminating."
He said he felt betrayed by the wife of a Camp Pendleton Marine, who learned of her husband's involvement with Bobby and who took from her spouse and gave to Oceanside police Bobby's photo album of Polaroids and a business brochure showing the faces of two dozen Camp Pendleton Marines.
"That's all they have," Bobby said, "and that's all they're going to get. But she betrayed me, because I set up that couple in an apartment. I gave them money. I'm a generous person. I would give a friend the shirt off my back."
He said he destroyed hundreds of videotapes by dousing them with gasoline and burning them in his back yard last week, setting others ablaze in his bathtub and mailing "a few others . . . the most precious ones" to a friend in New York City.
He said he also mailed the friend his file of Marines' phone numbers "so that no one will be able to get them, but in case I need them for some reason, I'll know where they are." He said he has no intention of identifying Marines whose names appear in the file.
He saw two Marines trying to break down the door of his apartment Saturday, and two others made threatening phone calls.
"I'm out of here," he said. "It's just too dangerous. It's crazy. I don't want to die over this. It's not worth it. But I'm off the hook (with civilian authorities), and the Marine Corps--they can't touch me."
He began photographing Marines as a hobby, he said, and it evolved into a videotape production business when a friend suggested that he explore it as an underground vocation and a way to supplement his income as a "fix-it repair man."
Inspired by the 1989 movie "sex, lies and videotape," in which a drifter takes women into his confidence and videotapes them talking about their sex lives, Bobby sought to do the same with active-duty Marines at Camp Pendleton.
What transpired, he said, were stories of "heartbreak and sadness," as dozens of men in their early 20s spoke of the loneliness and desperation of growing up poor in small towns across America.
Much of that emotion, he said, involved confusion over women and "changing sex roles." Eventually, he said, the taping also included sex--between him and Marines, or Marines and other men.
He said many of the Marines later expressed guilt. "Some would say: 'I got to go, man, I never done this . . . before. I got to get out of here, man.' But most seemed to enjoy it."
Less than 1% of the taping involved heterosexual pornography, he said, adding that the recent "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military is widely viewed "as a complete joke."
He said what concerned him most--in retrospect--is that most of the sexual activity in the videos was unprotected, meaning no one used condoms.