LED ZEPPELIN blared from tinny car stereos. Richard Nixon, jowls shaking, proclaimed: "I am not a crook." Archie Bunker's rants on "All in the Family" made Americans laugh through an oil crisis.
It was the mid-1970s, when many teenagers thought only of tuning in, turning on and dropping out.
Not Richard Cohen. He dreamed of greatness.
Cohen, son of a motel owner, was a bright and quiet Northeast High student with long, wavy brown hair and a peach-fuzz mustache.
He didn't join a single sports or school activity. He stayed within his own cocoon of friends.
"In his own way, he was really invisible," recalled Cohen's high school buddy Victor Kurtz.
Few would have predicted that he would become what he is today: CEO of a multimillion-dollar sex empire - Philadelphia's King of Porn.
Just one block from the Liberty Bell, Cohen runs HotMovies. com, one of the world's largest distributors of Internet pornography. Each day, more than two million people - the lustful and the lonely - visit HotMovies. com to watch a smorgasbord of smut.
"In the video-on-demand world, he's the biggest," porn star Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy said in a recent interview. "He's the king."
Cohen also runs a bustling phone-sex call center out of a grimy six-story office building on 7th Street near Chestnut, where a soot-smudged American flag sways above the glass-door entrance. Cohen pays dozens of women to sit in cubicles and talk dirty to callers who dial numbers like 1-800-WE-R-HORNY.
Another Cohen company, National A-1 Internet, hosts a slew of steamy websites, including Girls.com, Stripclubs.com, Spanking.com, KinkySingles.com and SexToys.com. Until recently, Cohen also ran Escorts.com, an online red-light district often used by prostitutes and johns.
Despite his success, Cohen, 53, remains pretty close to invisible - just like at Northeast High.
He abhors the spotlight. He goes to great lengths to keep his life and work secret.
"I think you'd have a better chance of having Jesus talk to you," said Paul Fishbein, founder of the Los Angeles-based AVN Media Network, the go-to spot for news about the porn industry.
Cohen's protective shield has grown thicker since October, when a swarm of FBI and IRS agents, and state and city police, carted out more than 80 boxes of evidence from his offices.
The raid sprouted from a State Police investigation that allegedly linked Cohen's Escorts.com to prostitution, according to authorities.
Cohen has not been charged with any crime.
He directed calls from reporters to his lawyer, Andrew Miller, who declined to comment. Cohen then built a wall of silence, telling friends, relatives, employees and porn-industry colleagues not to talk with the Daily News - a rich man's version of "Don't Snitch."
Cohen has created a corporate maze that masks how he makes his millions. He and his executive staff used pseudonyms like "Rick London," "James Cybert," "R.S. Duffy" and "Jennifer Luna" as their contact information and to register Internet-domain names. At least one of Cohen's business ventures lists a Massachusetts mailing address that doesn't exist.
After the Daily News emailed to women who advertised on Escorts.com, the newspaper's access to the site was blocked.
Cohen shut down Escorts.com on May 31. A note on the website read: "We thank you for all your support and wish you the best."
America's appetite for porn seems insatiable. No one knows exactly how much is spent each year on porn; estimates range from $1 billion to $10 billion, according to industry analysts.
Today's porn kings aren't hairy-chested, gold-chained, pot-bellied, Hawaiian-shirted smutmeisters who operate out of dingy, smoky backrooms.
They're well-educated computer geeks with the business savvy to harness sexual desires and make obscene amounts of money.
"People who run the adult-entertainment industry are very sharp business people, and they're extremely aware of the law that governs them," said Robert Richards, a Penn State professor who has studied the porn industry as co-director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment.
Cohen fits that profile to a tee.
As a teen, Cohen was cool and brainy all at once, his friends said.
"He was a natural [brain]," said Kurtz, now a senior vice president and wealth adviser at Morgan Stanley. "He didn't have to try. There were times I would say, 'Are you ready for that test tomorrow?' I was up until 2 in the morning studying and he went to the movies. He would get the 'A' and I would get the 'B.' "
Cohen also had his quirks.
In the family's Rhawnhurst 1950s-era stone twin, Cohen collected "all kinds of weird things," like moose figurines, Kurtz said. "He was a collector. He would buy things that he thought had value or would have value in the future."
Cohen later moved from moose to teddy bears, visitors to his home and office said.
Kurtz and Cohen went to Drexel University, where Cohen studied business administration.
In summer 1977, the two friends rented an apartment in Wildwood and planned to get summer jobs.
Two weeks in, Cohen's father, who owned a motel on Route 1 in Trevose, called to tell his son that the motel night clerk had quit and that he needed the younger Cohen to help run the business, Kurtz said.
Cohen dutifully returned home. About six months later, less than a week after his 20th birthday, his mother, Sylvia, died. His father later sold the motel and moved to South Florida. Cohen bought the family home on Napfle Street near Bustleton Avenue for $55,000.
As a businessman, Cohen was a risk-taker who thought outside the box, Kurtz said. He didn't adhere to any one formula in his ventures.
In his first big risk, Cohen dropped out in his junior year at Drexel to start a check-cashing business.
"After that, Richard just couldn't be stopped," Kurtz said. "He was a money machine . . .. He didn't waste time for nothing."
Cohen ran a successful pawn and loan shop on Jewelers Row. In 1990, he opened National Watch Exchange, buying and selling estate jewelry and Rolexes.
He was - and still is - an artful negotiator, Kurtz said.
He also had a knack for marrying technology and desire.
In the early 1990s, he tapped into the telephone-dating market before the Internet boom.
In 1995, he and his business partner, Sandra Kessler, created PrimeTel Communications to buy up 1-800 numbers. Today, it controls some 1.7 million 1-800 numbers - a virtual hot-line monopoly.
PrimeTel's business tactics are somewhat controversial. As soon as social-service agencies, businesses and government help-lines reliquish their 1-800 numbers, PrimeTel gobbles them up and often redirects callers to Cohen's erotic chat lines.
So, people who dial numbers like 1-800-WORSHIP or 1-800-CADILLAC are surprised to hear breathy women inviting them to hear "nasty talk" for a price.
As Cohen grew richer, he lived larger.
He left his more modest digs in Huntingdon Valley for a $431,000 condo in the Society Hill Towers. Cohen, an avid and talented Texas Hold'em player who has won thousands of dollars in poker tournaments, also purchased a $460,000 apartment on the Atlantic City boardwalk in 1997.
Six years later, Cohen hit his stride. He had it all - love and money.
On Jan. 7, 2003, Cohen, who had turned 45 a month earlier, married Jennifer Powell, 17 years his junior. They met when she worked at his watch business, according to the minister who married them, David Shaheen, of the Christ Lutheran Church, in Upper Darby.
Shaheen said that the couple seemed happy together, "a good match." The wedding was small and traditional.
"He's a very personable, good-hearted guy" who donated money to support church programs, Shaheen said of Cohen.
"Richard was the kind of guy that when he gets an idea, he's pretty focused and knows what he wants to do. When he decided to marry Jen, he made sure she knew what he wanted."
Shaheen knew Cohen only as a savvy, creative businessman. "I didn't know it was porn," he said.
The year that Cohen married Jennifer, he launched HotMovies.com, a pay-per-minute Internet porn site. It quickly became Cohen's most successful venture.
In 2006, HotMovies.com reportedly grossed at least $20 million. Today, the website offers more than 150,000 adult films made by top studios and amateurs alike. Customers can search for movies by category, like "group sex," "instructional," "plot oriented" and "lesbian," or by porn star. Cohen spins gold for movie producers - he pays video providers 20 percent of the proceeds each time their movies are viewed.
It was Cohen who came up with the idea of pay-as-you-go billing. HotMovies.com offers 10 minutes of porn for $2.45 or 1,000 minutes for $86.95. Cohen's slogan: "Get in, get off and get out."
"Think about it," Cohen told AVN, the adult-industry trade magazine, in 2006. "You go to the site for half an hour - let's say the average price is 10 cents per minute - it costs you three bucks. That's nothing. You can't even get a Starbucks coffee for that."
HotMovies.com also sponsors a porn convention called eXXXotica, which bills itself as "the largest event in the U.S.A. dedicated to love and sex." eXXXotica is slated to open at the New Jersey Expo Center, in Edison, this fall.
Porn star Jeremy, who has starred in more than 2,000 movies, has signed on to promote Cohen's website and to pose as his star attraction at the Hotmovies.com convention booth. Cohen, who is admired in porn-industry circles for his marketing skills, now runs Jeremy's site, ronjeremy.com.
Jeremy has met Cohen only twice, he said. "Most of the time you see his face buried in a computer. He'll look up and smile and then go back to his computer.
"He's very mellow," Jeremy said. "He's not showy, very quiet, very reserved."
Cohen's sprawling homes in Society Hill and at the Jersey Shore are anything but understated.
He owns a jaw-dropping $3.1 million beachfront Margate mansion with floor-to-ceiling windows and an in-ground pool. His primary residence is an elegant three-story home, spread over three lots, on Delancey Street, near 4th. The stone and brick home, which sits across from Three Bears Park, stands out for its whimsy. The front gate is an ornate work of art, decorated with metal animals frolicking in leafy branches.
The home, topped by a weather vane of a cat chasing two mice, appears to be a tribute to Jennifer, an animal-lover who rescues strays and works as a veterinary technician.
If so, the gesture didn't save their marriage. In July 2008, the Cohens divorced. She declined to comment.
In Society Hill's snobby and cliquish circles, Cohen strived to fit in, to bring his innovative thinking to a neighborhood of historic homes and narrow cobblestone streets.
In the early to mid-2000s, Cohen attended Society Hill Civic Association meetings, where he gladly offered his expertise and donated money to the group's many causes.
Association members described Cohen as an unassuming guy who often wore jeans and a T-shirt, with thick brown hair, a little long for his age, that frames his round face. He doesn't talk or dress like a Society Hill mover and shaker. He had more of a Philly "hardscrabble look," they said.
Cohen had hoped to get elected to a spot on the civic association's prestigious board, but the nominating committee was reluctant to approve his bid, recalled board member Lorna Katz-Lawson.
"Somebody made an off-side comment, giggling, 'I don't know if we would like to have our board represented by the porn king,' and everybody laughed," she said.
Despite the rebuff, Cohen still takes an interest in his neighborhood. He, along with several business partners, has amassed more than $10 million worth of real estate in and around Society Hill.
In January 2005, Cohen's group bought the old Salvation Army building on 3rd Street near Walnut for $4 million. About a year later, it bought a Greek Catholic church on Pine Street near 4th for $1.5 million.
Over two days in late October, an FBI-led raid on Cohen's corporate offices created a spectacle that drew the attention of tourists and TV news crews.
The elusive Cohen hunkered down, avoiding a gaggle of reporters outside his office building.
The raid grew out of a State Police investigation in central Pennsylvania, where a trooper uncovered a link between online prostitution in the Williamsport area and Escorts.com, according to Cpl. Ryan Maxwell, who declined to elaborate.
To post ads on the website, women paid Escorts.com $9.95 a day or $14.95 a week, depending on how much privacy they wanted the website to provide, she said.
Ashley Snider, 36, of Jacksonville, Fla., had been on the website for three years before it shut down. She said that she averaged seven "dates" a week through the site. Her rate: $175 an hour for what she calls "adult companionship." On a good week, she raked in $3,000.
Snider described a couple of her clients: "I have one who calls me 'Mommy.' He's 30 years old and there's no sex. He likes me to beat him with a wooden paddle . . . like a ping-pong paddle." She called him Mr. Spanky.
"Another one dresses up in diapers and he wants me to dress in his clothes. He wants me to stand there and yell at him and scold him." She called him Diaper Boy.
Law-enforcement agencies view sites like Escorts.com as a platform for prostitution, with businessmen who run the sites serving as pimps of the Internet age. By charging women to post ads, they get a cut of the money earned from prostitution, criminal investigators believe.
But federal courts have ruled that those who host the sites can't be held responsible for the content of the ads.
Cohen would be protected from prosecution under the Communications Decency Act as long as he and his staff didn't prescreen the Escorts.com posts, legal experts said.
"Let's say you call a buddy and say, 'Let's rob a bank' - should the telephone company be responsible for you robbing a bank?" said Peter Zollman, founder of Advanced Interactive Media Group, a Florida-based consulting company that tracks trends in online advertising. "That's the bottomline logic behind the law - that websites should not be held responsible for what people publish on those websites."
Victor Kurtz, Cohen's high-school buddy and close friend, said that Cohen "would never do anything illegal."
Why would he? "He makes so much money, there is no reason to go over the line," Kurtz said. "What he does is provide a service that is legal, for a fee."
He has used computer technology to transform the adult-entertainment industry, Kurtz said.