CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — In 1985, Richard Aldrich, under the pseudonym Damon Christian, produced the last of his 19 adult films and got out of the business.
Aldrich was done with adult films after the Los Angeles Police Department took the controversial step of arresting producers of sex films under the state's pandering law, which carried a mandatory three-year prison term.
"I'm not shooting anything," Aldrich told the Los Angeles Times in 1985. Aldrich had been producing adult films since 1965. "I don't know that I'll be shooting any more adult films. No way, shape or form do I consider myself a panderer."
But that wasn't the only reason he got out of the business, Aldrich told the Reformer during a visit to his homestead on Winchester Road in Chesterfield.
"I didn't like the way women were being treated by the industry," he said. "Some of the sex didn't appear to be consensual."
Aldrich got into the adult filmmaking business by accident, he said. He moved from Northboro, Mass., to California in 1965, taking a job with a film rejuvenation company, syncing pictures and sounds on film.
Later, he went to work on what the industry called "nudie cutie" films, B-movies that showed bare breasts, incredibly innocent compared to today's standards.
Later, he would go on to make more explicit movies, becoming a member of the Board of Directors of The Adult Film Association of America, where he helped craft a national advertising campaign stressing the importance of the First Amendment during the administration of President Richard Nixon's attempts to eliminate the adult film industry.
After getting out of the business, Aldrich moved to Washington state, where he learned carpentry, before returning to Southern California in pursuit of a BS in geology with a minor in art.
After he received his degree, he went on to teach high school math and science.
About a decade ago, Aldrich and his fifth wife, Jeanny, moved to Chesterfield to care for his mother, Betsy Merrill (of the eponymous Merrill Gas company in nearby Brattleboro), now deceased, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
He and his wife purchased The 1780 Farm on Winchester Road and were raising beef, chicken, pork and vegetables until Richard received a diagnosis of cancer.
They took some time off from the farm while Richard recovered and early this year, Jeanny Aldrich threw her hat in the ring as a candidate for a three-year seat on the Chesterfield Board of Selectmen.
That's when Richard's past came back to haunt him in anonymous letters to the Reformer and the community at large.
"While he wants everyone to think he is a simple farmer in a small town, Aldrich is a dangerous individual," reads one of the letters.
While the Aldriches have an idea who is circulating the letter, they declined to offer that information to the Reformer without solid proof.
"We were on vacation when we started getting calls and emails, people wanting to talk to us," said Jeanny, who has been married to Richard since 1998.
Upon their return, they learned from friends about the anonymous letters.
"I said 'You've got to be kidding me. This is so far in my past," said Richard, adding that he has never hidden his connection with the nascent adult-film industry and has a complete bio on IMDb, where he can be found under his real name and his pseudonym. "My past is not a secret."
Richard Aldrich was appointed by the Board of Selectmen as an alternate on Chesterfield's Planning Board, which the anonymous letter notes. "As a further insult to the town of Chesterfield," stated the letter, "Jeanny has filed to run for the selectman's seat ... Jeanny is not only complicit in Aldrich's career by association, she is an extremely volatile and profane individual in her own right."
The letter writer also expressed concern that Richard Alrdich "associates with young children on his farm under the guise of agricultural summer camps and outreach to the Chesterfield School."
In a second anonymous letter received by the Reformer, a letter writer states "I have read information that is very troubling to me. I have small children in our Chesterfield School."
The second letter also notes that school administrators and "local law enforcement has verified this information to be true ... yet we all sit in silence."
Police Chief Duane Chickering said he hadn't seen the letters nor been asked about Aldrich before the Reformer contacted him.
And Sharyn D'Eon, the principal of Chesterfield School, told the Reformer that she was unaware of Richard Aldrich's past until the past year and long after the Aldriches discontinued their relationship with the school due to Richard's cancer diagnosis.
D'Eon had not heard about the anonymous letters circulating in town until the Reformer reached out to her.
"The Aldriches were wonderful and very supportive of the school's curriculum," she said, adding that Richard passed a background check as a requirement for working with the school's children, both at the farm and as a mentor to a second-grade student, who no longer attends Chesterfield School, who was struggling in school.
"That little boy loved Richard," said D'Eon. One day, when the boy was having a hard day, Richard brought his tractor from the farm and rode him around the parking lot. "That kid was just beaming after the ride."
In addition to being a mentor, the Aldriches made their farm available to teachers to integrate into their lessons.
"We had no issues with the Aldriches," said D'Eon. "They were wonderful."
Richard Aldrich believes the anonymous attacks on him and his wife are probably linked to their "progressive politics" and the fact that he is a "non-theist."
According to nontheistfriends.org, a non-theist "may reject all understandings of God, may embrace certain non-theistic understandings of God, may find God language useful and rich in trying to describe their experience of the world but not true in a literal sense, may believe in certain non-material, transcendent realities that have little in common with the common understanding of the word 'God.'"
"Both Aldrichs are members of a group of non-elected elitists who are close friends of the chair of the Selectmen Jon McKeon and his wife Kristen, the latter of whom is the driving force behind the selectmen's drive to micromanage the town to fit her extremely liberal personal agenda," states the anonymous letter. "Like all liberal agendas, the McKeon's agenda cannot tolerate dissent, and therefore if one is in opposition to them life can be difficult."
The McKeons "and their gang of six or eight other confidantes ... is trying to impose their values and, unfortunately, wildly liberal political philosophy, on the town when their role should be to manage the town according to the wishes of the taxpayers. Politics has no place in town government."
But the way Richard Aldrich sees it, it's the anonymous letter writers who have introduced "politics" to town governance.
"It's the typical policy of the right wing," he said. "Assassinate the messenger when you can't address the message."
According to the anonymous letter, the liberal agenda of the McKeons and their "accomplices" includes: the sudden, unexpected and unexplained departure of the town administrator; the appointment of Kristen McKeon as assistant town clerk; the hiring of Jon McKeon's daughter-in-law in an administrative position with the town; the "almost complete turnover" of every major department head with replacements chosen "exclusively" by the board; the "continued championing" of a solar array on town-owned land and an internet expansion project to the tune of $100,000 to connect just 20 homes to the internet; the "difficulties" in establishing businesses in town; three private citizens, "close friends of the wife of the chairman" who are not much more than "spies for the board to monitor activities in the town"; and a recent fireworks ordinance that "panders to the rich friends of the board."
McKeon said he was astounded when he read the letters.
"I was provided a copy of a couple of letters that were sent to the Reformer and later to the Keene Sentinel by an anonymous author," Jon McKeon told the Reformer. "I was taken aback by these allegations. I have never seen anything like this in my experience in Chesterfield. It saddens me to think someone, I assume a resident, would do this to another resident. Again, this is not what I see as Chesterfield. This is very hurtful."
McKeon said he was disappointed in how he and his wife were portrayed in the letters.
"I think some of that is the authors' ignorance to how municipal government works," he said. "I think if the authors would come forward and ask questions they may have a better understanding of how the governmental system works. It may have taken less time to come forward and ask the questions than it took to write the letters."
The second anonymous letter notes that Richard Aldrich "wants to buy the old town office building within yards of our school and my children."
That's not exactly what's going on, said Richard.
"I am willing to put up $5,000 of my own money to maintain the building while the town finds a buyer," he told the Reformer.
Three of the articles on the Chesterfield Town Warrant to be voted on by the citizens on March 17 pertain to the old town office building.
One article, inserted by petition, asks if taxpayers would be willing to appropriate $30,000 to demolish the old building; a second article, also inserted by petition, asks if taxpayers would like to see the building sold; and the third article would give the board the authority to sell the building.
"The idea of selling it for '$1 and a plan' came up after the Selectmen discussed the possibility of demolishing the building," wrote Jeff Scott in a letter to editor. "Other towns have repurposed their old buildings with great success so why not Chesterfield? It saves a historic building, preserves the New England charm of our 'downtown' and adds to our tax base."
Scott Riddlemoser, who is also running for the three-year seat on the board, said he has no idea who might have written the letters.
"I don't respond to unsubstantiated rumors or innuendo," he said. "It's not part of my moral compass."
Bob Audette can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.