Political attacks garner personal ones

Journal News Editorial
(Original Publication: March 30, 2007)

A "parent safety alert" sent to certain areas in Ramapo decries the use of a local day camp, Deerkill, as the site of a pornographic movie. It warns parents to "find out if this facility continues to be used as a children's camp and an adult movie set!" It asks, "Is this the only pornographic video Robert Rhodes has participated in?"

Pretty scary stuff, eh? Well facts are only as good as how they are used, and who claims them.

No one's signed this flier, apparently received by PTA presidents, local village and town officials and other camp directors in the area just as parents are in the midst of choosing summer camps. The owner of the well-known day camp, Robert Rhodes, doesn't dispute the fact that camp property was indeed used as the backdrop of "Young & Innocent," an X-rated vehicle for porn superstar Ron Jeremy. The movie was filmed at the camp property in the early 1970s. Irwin Rhodes, father of the current owner, allowed the use, but, his family says, didn't have any idea what was to be filmed.

Robert Rhodes now operates the family camp, but he's best (or worst, depending on your perspective) known as chairman of Preserve Ramapo. The local organization has actively protested town zoning, land use and just about anything else that looks like Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence has, could, or might touch. Preserve Ramapo is also lobbying hard to get the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act repealed, and has decried Ramapo's adoption of an Adult Student Housing zone, which officials have said will help the town control where yeshivas and other religious institutions locate. The organization was first to leak the "plans" for a rabbinical college in Pomona and begin lambasting a proposal that even village land-use boards haven't officially seen.

So, we have a "safety alert" about an activity more than 30 years ago from an anonymous source, aimed at a rabble rouser.

For his part, Rhodes has said his dad was duped by a local political leader who asked to film some scenes for a movie at the day camp after the season and when the family was on vacation. His dad didn't know it was a porn flick. The senior Rhodes was horrified, Rhodes has said. Since then, scores of families from around the region have used the camp. Rhodes says the literature's sole purpose is to destroy his family business and destroy Preserve Ramapo. The anonymous flyer is reprehensible, as Rhodes says, because it twists truth into accusation without claiming responsibility for that speech. Rhodes turns around and accuses those who profit and benefit from "overdevelopment."

So, there it is. At least Rhodes puts his name to his comments.