But thanks to the Internet revolution of the 1990s and 2000s, Cambria's clientele now includes an abundance of adult webmasters along with many adult filmmakers and some adult magazine publishers. It now includes a new generation of technology- minded adult entrepreneurs who — in this digital era — distribute erotic material electronically, not physically.
Speaking with XBIZ, Cambria, who will turn 60 this year, discussed the importance and growth of the adult Internet, and what he believes the industry might be facing during the final two years of George W. Bush's presidency.
XBIZ: You have had many legal victories over the years. In retrospect, which ones would you say have been the most consequential for the adult industry?
PAUL J. CAMBRIA JR.: I don't think you can pick any single one. They all played their part in helping. Al Goldstein, Ruben Sturman, VCA, Video Team, Larry Flynt — all of those trials added a little stitch to the fabric, if you will, in strengthening the 1st Amendment. The last 10 years have been interesting because when the Clinton administration backed off from federal obscenity prosecutions, some of the states became more active in state prosecutions. For example, I defended a Max Hardcore tape in Manassas, Va. — and it wasn't for Max Hardcore, it was for a wholesaler-retailer I represented at the time.
XBIZ: Manassas is a very dark red part of Virginia. In fact, some of your victories in recent years have been in the type of conservative, heavily Republican jurisdictions that prosecutors tend to favor in obscenity cases.
CAMBRIA: We went into the courtroom in Manassas — one of the most conservative places in the South — and it was a very middle-of-the- road jury with schoolteachers and people who I would be worried about evaluating Max Hardcore material that definitely pushed the envelope. [In the video] Max started off with the camera on his shoulder; the girl comes up, and he says, "How old are you? About 14?" She goes, "No, I'm 16." It was obvious that she was really 19 or 20, but that's what Max does with that stuff. There was gagging and all the usual Max stuff, and I'm sitting there saying, "Oh, here we go. We are in Manassas with very rough material" — and the jury comes back and acquits. The next day, we get an editorial in the Washington Post basically criticizing the prosecutors for wasting taxpayers' money. That case really helped us put a damper on obscenity prosecutions in the South. And a few years after that, in St. Louis, we had a case with an all-woman jury. These were rough movies — these were gang-bang movies — and the prosecutors were high-fiving each other because they had gotten an all-woman jury. I think the average age was about 48 on that jury, and they found every film not guilty. The prosecutor turned to me and said, "If you can get an acquittal on this material with an all-woman jury, I'm done — we're not prosecuting this stuff." So each case has played a role.
XBIZ: In what respects have juries in obscenity cases evolved since the 1970s and 1980s? How do the juries on obscenity cases in the 2000s differ from the juries of 20 years ago?
CAMBRIA: Twenty years ago, jurors were afraid to be honest about their feelings regarding adult entertainment. They were afraid to express themselves. What would happen back then is that the younger male jurors would look around and say, "Hmmm, let's see. They think that because I'm young, I should be saying that this stuff is OK. I really do think it is OK, but I'm not about to tell them that." In the jury room, the men would feel this obligation to protect the women from adult material.
XBIZ: Is this the Sir Galahad syndrome?
CAMBRIA: Yes, male jurors often take a view that is very hypocritical because they would eat this stuff up if they had access to it. But instead they go into the jury room and put on their Galahad face and say, "Oh, this is terrible, ladies. We have to outlaw this." That's what we were facing back then. What happened in the interim is that with mass communications — computers, satellites, cable — you can now get adult material more easily in your home. More people are familiar with it. It's not shocking anymore. So now, when we pick juries, we see that people aren't afraid to be honest about adult material. I'll give you an example. In the St. Louis case, the prosecutor was asking everybody, "When was the last time anybody here saw an X-rated movie?" A lot of people raised their hands, and one of them was this really pretty young girl who said her name was Mrs. Bork. The prosecutor said, "Mrs. Bork, when did you last see one of these movies?" And she smiled and chuckled and said yesterday — and everybody laughed. She said: "You know, it was a rainy day. My husband and I got bored. So we decided to rent one of these movies." Now, I could not have paid for a better endorsement, and during my summation, I said, "The prosecutors want you to think that billions of dollars worth of adult entertainment is being purchased by a roving band of 1,000 perverts with billions of dollars to spend, but it doesn't work that way. It is purchased by average people like Mrs. Bork, who are married, who have a relationship and who are nice people." Even if Bush and the others try to prosecute the daylights out of people, they are going to get a rude awakening with jurors like the prosecutors did in Manassas and St. Louis.
XBIZ: You mentioned that the St. Louis jury was dominated by women in their late 40s, which is important because in the past, middle-aged women were people who prosecutors in obscenity cases expected to be socially conservative.
CAMBRIA: And the reality is counterintuitive because older women have seen it all. Older women have been in relationships a long time, and you need to know what switches to flick. In Manassas, I saw all these middle-aged ladies on my jury, and we were talking about the Miller test and how material has to have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. One of the expert witnesses testified that the material had scientific value because it helped ordinary couples work through sexual issues. I said things like, "Why wouldn't this material be acceptable if, for example, you and your mate could download one of these adult movies and use that material to strengthen your bond? Maybe you're getting older; maybe it helps you spice up your relationship. Maybe it will help a relationship in the sense that you and your husband will continue to be attracted to each other, and he won't feel he has to take off with the secretary at the desk outside his office." Well, let me tell you something, when I said that, I struck a chord with about two of those ladies. The jury has to be able to relate to what you have to say, and it has to make sense to them. They have to be able to say, "You know, he's right." If you can't get a "you know, he's right" out of your summation, you're gone.
In part two, we'll continue our discussion with Paul Cambria about the evolution of juries and obscenity cases.