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Sunday, May 4, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Richard Sinnott was behind Boston bans

BOSTON — Richard Sinnott, the city censor who affixed the "banned in Boston" label on entertainment — including performances by the Jackson Five and the late Marvin Gaye — has died at age 76.

Mr. Sinnott, who died Wednesday at his home in Boston, was chief of the city's Licensing Division, where officially he was overseer of public health and safety at entertainment venues, but unofficially was city censor. He served from 1955 until 1982, when the position was eliminated.

Mr. Sinnott viewed movies, strip acts, rock concerts and other touring shows to determine if they met city standards or would be "banned in Boston," which would end the show's run in Boston. The label often boosted ticket sales elsewhere.

Some producers coveted the label, Mr. Sinnott recalled in a 1988 interview.

"A ballet came into the Wilbur Theater in the early 1960s and in the first act they removed their breast covers and pranced around the stage," Mr. Sinnott recalled.

The theme was African, and Mr. Sinnott decided the choreography was pertinent. When the producer asked hopefully if he planned to ban the ballet, Mr. Sinnott replied, "They do that in Nigeria."

Two weeks later a postcard arrived from New York. It said, "Thanks a lot. The show closed."

Mr. Sinnott prevented Gaye from performing during what he called "the forced-busing crisis" in the 1970s, when a federal judge's order to integrate Boston's schools led to violence.

"We didn't want black and white together, so they wouldn't kill each other," he said.

He once banned the Jackson Five because of violence associated with their fans, and also investigated the song "Louie, Louie," which some insisted was obscene, though the lyrics are largely unintelligible. Mr. Sinnott investigated "Louie, Louie" but couldn't understand it.

Mr. Sinnott also once worked as an Associated Press reporter and served as press secretary for Mayor John Collins.

He was a graduate of Bryant and Stratton Business College, the University of Wisconsin and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Mr. Sinnott served in the Navy during World War II.

He is survived by his wife, Una, four sons and six grandchildren.

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