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From Red Stars to Red Lights in ‘Bangkok on the Danube’

July 16, 1990

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ The change from communism to democracy has made sex a growth industry in Hungary. Red lights now glitter where red stars once shone brightly.

Budapest kiosks feature at least a dozen sex magazines. A pornography shop joint venture with Austria opened downtown six months ago. In June, the city got its first peep show. A cab company ferries passengers exclusively to its massage salon.

The explosion in Hungary’s sex industry began after censorship laws were repealed last year as the nation moved from Communist rule to democracy. This paved the way for hardcore pornography, which remains unrestricted in the absence of any new press law.

King of Budapest’s new trade in bodily pleasures is Antal Laszlo Voeroes, a 37-year-old travel journalist turned nude photographer and now sex and porn entrepreneur.

Sitting in a swing chair in his garden, barking explicit instructions to a photographer over a cordless phone, Voeroes explained how he struck it rich.

Last summer, Voeroes launched ″Sexy Lady,″ a 24-page, explicitly pornographic magazine selling for 90 cents an issue. The initial print run of 60,000 has soared to 1 million copies a month.

A follow-up, ″Sexy Man,″ was a flop. But two new publications with lewd English and German language titles, designed to boost foreign sales and give the allure of the west to Hungarians, are doing well, Voeroes said.

He hopes to break into the new Yugoslav and Romanian markets this summer.

Voeroes’ starting capital of $16,700 came from profits on girlie calendars and what he calls a photo model school, where he says had trained some 1,400 girls by 1988.

Taking that capital and $585,000 raised from non-banking sources he refuses to reveal, Voeroes established his present company, Intermozaik, in May 1989. Besides the lucrative magazines, the company also makes pornographic videos that are also sold in Austria and Poland, and is an agent for girls to Italian and West German movie makers, Voeroes said.

Not everyone is happy with Voeroes’ new-found freedom.

Anti-porn campaigners have complained that Hungary is fast becoming the ″Thailand of central Europe.″

Roman Catholic church leaders, who are campaigning to get religion back into schools and restrict abortion, are pressing for restrictions on the growing sex industry.

But after 45 years of censorhip under Communist rule not even leading anti- pornography campaigner Pal Becker, head of the Catholic Youth Movement, wants pornography banned.

He has, however, argued that it should be restricted to the ″narrowest circles″ well outside the center of Budapest.

Like a good capitalist, Voeroes is constantly reinvesting and expanding his sex empire.

On June 15, his nudist cruise boat took its maiden voyage on Lake Balaton. Daytime trips, strictly for sunbathing, cost $8 and $5.50 for children.

Evening sex cruises, advertised as ″live show, sex games, video and nudist disco,″ cost $50 or $108 with a sex massage thrown in.

Business is so brisk that Voeroes plans to have a second boat cruising the lake, Hungary’s most popular foreign tourist spot.

In a country where the average wage is $135 a month, Voeroes doesn’t seem to have difficulty finding masseuses who earn $25 a client, or a couple to perform live sex for double that amount.

Parliament, which was democratically elected earlier this year, has not legalized prostitution, stalling Voeroes’ plans for two brothels, 50 cabs driven by girls available for more than a ride, and buses cruising round Lake Balaton with five girls aboard.

At Intermozaik headquarters, not everybody is as explicit as the magazines, calendars and posters surrounding them.

Both secretaries answering phones that constantly ring with demands for pornography declined to give their names, and said their families don’t know where they work.

″We take home a lot more than at our previous jobs,″ one said defensively. ″After all, filling out invoices for ‘Sexy Lady’ is no different than filling out invoices for anything else.″

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