The obsessions of Franklin Goodridge Jr He spent half his ife consumed by secret desires. Now he's possessed by a new passion: keping others from making the same mistakes he made.

November 16, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Franklin Valentine Goodridge Jr. will tell you he was a bad kid. A kid who hung out with the wrong crowd. Who made life rough for his single mother in Springfield, Mass. He will tell you he smoked pot and took LSD as a teen-ager in Virginia Beach, Va. That he was convicted there in 1989 for stealing a can of ravioli, a box of Cocoa Krispies and a gold necklace, among other things, from a friend's house.

He will tell you these things because that Franklin Goodridge Jr., he says, was a different guy. The Franklin Goodridge who now lives and works and crusades to save men's souls in Ellicott City will tell you because he wants you to know one thing about him: He has nothing more to hide.

Not even -- or perhaps especially -- the fact that for more than half his 30 years, Goodridge was what he now calls a pornography addict: a man with a consuming obsession with the explicit sex depicted in X-rated videos and hard-core magazines. A carnal obsession that developed when he was a boy and outlived his renunciation of drugs and crime and even his conversion experience as a born-again Christian.

Even for a man who says he has nothing to hide, it's a risky confession. Some men might joke about such an obsession with a co-worker, a friend, maybe even their wives, but few speak plainly about it. By its nature it's embarrassing, something polite society considers tawdry and repugnant.

But Franklin Goodridge Jr. has not just admitted his problem. He has made it public -- stand-in-the-street-and-shout-about-it public. He has become convinced, maybe even obsessed, with the notion that sharing his secret, and his disavowal of it, will make a difference in other lives. He will tell you that if you approach him at his regular post outside the Pack Shack, an adult video and magazine store less than a mile from his apartment.

The new Franklin Goodridge is the leader of a group he founded called Men Against Pornography. He and members of the group demonstrate almost daily on a grassy median across a service road next to the Pack Shack on U.S. 40. He has healed himself, Goodridge will tell you, and now he wants to heal others.

"I know what these men are going through," Goodridge says, referring to the guys who walk in and out of the store with baseball caps pulled low over their faces and eyes trained on their feet.

"Porn is poison, and it destroys the total man," he says. "I want to help them."

The nerve center of Franklin Goodridge's crusade is his two-bedroom apartment in the Town and Country apartment complex. It serves as official headquarters of Men Against Pornography, a group of about 150 men from around Maryland. One of the group's business cards is pasted on his mailbox.

Taped to his front door is a sheet of paper quoting the Bible, Proverbs 14: 9: "Fools make a mock at sin." More biblical verses and drawings of Bible scenes adorn the walls inside.

The apartment is religiously clean and orderly. Atop his dresser, cologne bottles are lined up in perfect rows. Pennies -- no nickels, dimes, or quarters -- are collected in two plastic cups. The sheets on his bed are firmly tucked beneath the mattress without a ripple to smooth down.

Goodridge himself is not always so under control. As he speaks with a visitor, he becomes a preacher, waving his upraised arms as if he's delivering a sermon. He is unapologetically dedicated and emotional about his cause -- to the point of alienating even some of those who support him. But he's articulate and polite, always ready to offer a lost soul outside the Pack Shack a few inspirational verses from the Bible he carries, or a visitor a mug of hot raspberry tea.

"I'm just trying to do what He wants me to do," says Goodridge, a member of the Trinity Assembly of God congregation in Lutherville. "The Lord has chosen me for this."

Doing the Lord's work has not always been easy. At his protest site outside the Pack Shack, he has been cursed at, threatened, had firecrackers and beer bottles thrown at him. Last month, a Howard County District Court judge ordered a Pack Shack employee to reimburse Goodridge after the employee was captured on videotape destroying two of Goodridge's signs.

He's also been confronted more than once by people who defend the store's right to operate. People like Joshua, a 25-year-old postal worker who stops to argue with Goodridge and about 10 other demonstrators brandishing homemade signs proclaiming "Jesus freed me" and "Porn insults women."

"You all are wasting your time!" shouts Joshua, stalking across the service road. "This store is not going to close. This is America!"

"This has nothing to do with the store, man. This has to do with you and your future!" Goodridge shouts back. "Pornography is a curse, and many people are addicted to this curse. It's not about closing the store, it's about setting people free, man!"

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