Steven Toushin, president of Bijou Video, has been involved in adult entertainment for nearly four decades. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native was passing through Chicago in 1968 when he joined the avant-garde Aardvark Theater group, sparking a career in adult that has spanned over the course of 8mm film, the release of hardcore content in movie theaters and adult on VHS and DVD and the Internet.
His latest book, “The Destruction of the Moral Fabric of America,” incorporates his experiences in the industry and his frequent battles with law enforcement and the court system.
Around noon on a crisp September day, 1977, Paul Gonsky was found lying on the ground in a parking lot near one of his theaters in Old Town, a three-block-long corridor of bars, arcades, head shops and strip joints. One or more of the seven bullets that had smashed into his body shattered Gonsky’s head.
The slaying was never solved, for among the problems investigators face with the violence and terrorism associated with commercial sex is the reluctance of victims and witnesses to talk. One of the first lessons learned by people who deal with the Mafia is to keep their mouths shut.
Suspects in the slaying include mob enforcer Frank Schweihs, pornographer Patrick “Patsy” Ricciardi (cousin of Mafia assassin Felix Alderisio) and Gonsky’s partner Steven Hal Toushin. Steve had been taken to court by Gonsky and his other partner Jeffrey Begun for funneling money from their business into his own pockets. Begun understood the Gonsky assassination as a message and fled to California. Bereft of partners, Toushin put the aborted partnership into receivership and took over the Chicago porn operation by default.
Toushin refused to cooperate with police investigating the Gonsky slaying, fueling their suspicion of him. In 1978, Steve switched from heterosexual to homosexual films. Three years later he established himself in San Francisco, leasing the Screening Room. He renamed it Savages, brought in gay films and turned the basement into a carpeted orgy room. Movie houses in San Francisco and Chicago became the first of what Toushin hoped would be a nationwide gay chain.
Chicago pornographer Steven Toushin rose to the top through murder. The shooting of his partner Paul Gonsky put Steve in charge of their porn operation in 1976, and the shooting of competitor Patrick Ricciardi on July 24, 1985, placed Toushin among the city’s most powerful pornographers.
Unable to tie Steve to the crimes, police and FBI agents huddled with IRS investigators to figure out how to get Toushin. Veteran investigator Dennis Czurylo tracked Steve’s spending and compared it to his reported earnings. The figures didn’t add up. During 1978 and 1979 for instance, Toushin reported earnings of $11,435 and $26,630 while paying $23,000 in cash for a Lake Shore Drive condo. He also bought a Rolls Royce for cash.
Investigators received help from Steve’s ex-wife Susan, who broke up with Toushin in 1980 after balking at signing their fraudulent tax return. She estimated her husband’s income at $75,000 per month.
Toushin spent the 1990s in prison for tax evasion and mailing “obscenity.”