The renowned free speech advocate was unable to attend because of a last-minute appearance on the "Larry King Show" last night to discuss Senator David Vitter's affair and other promised outings, but the audience was nonetheless treated to a fascinating and at times poignant evening.
In Flynt’s stead, Hustler Magazine Editorial Director Bruce David was introduced at the top of the meeting by FSC Executive Director Diane Duke and spoke for about 15 minutes, after which a panel of past and current Free Speech Coalition Board Presidents took questions from FSC federal lobbyist Robert Raben.
FSC Board Chair Jeffrey J. Douglas closed out the meeting with a brief but concise summation of the proposed changes to 2257 federal labeling and record-keeping laws that were introduced last week, with special note of the literally absurd nature of some of the specific proposals.
FSC Board presidents on the dais included Nick Boyias, Julie Stewart, Gloria Leonard, Jim Everett and Scott Tucker.
David recounted his history with Hustler and how influential Larry Flynt had been in the direction of his life and career.
“I have had the most exciting life possible because of Larry Flynt,” he said. “I did not have the nerve to do what he was able to do,” referring to Flynt’s lifelong fearlessness when it comes to letting other people, especially the government, tell him what he can say, do or publish.
Sending Flynt’s regrets that he was unable to attend the meeting, David recounted in detail how the Hustler staff became aware of the facts of Vitter’s involvement with the D.C. Madame and then brought it to the Senator’s attention.
“I have a good group of people working with me. Mark Johnson, the head of research, got quickly involved in this and we quickly made contact and negotiated with the D.C. Madame and her attorney,” David said. “So when the injunction on the phone list was lifted, we were one of four people to get an advance look at the list, which is not available on the D.C. Madame’s website and elsewhere.
“But we got a first look at that,” he continued, "and pulled out David Vitter’s name. Calls went back and forth from D.C to me to Mark Johnson; Mark and I running up to Larry; Larry literally playing [former-Washington Post editor] Ben Bradlee to us. We’re asking him what we should do. He’s telling us, ‘Get the sonofabitch.’ We’re nervous — like schoolgirls. We can’t believe how lucky we were. We know we have to act and yet we know we have to act with caution. We debate back and forth, and finally the decision is made to make the call to Vitter’s office.
“'This is Hustler magazine calling,”’ David said, recounting the call. “Dead silence on the other end of the line. The one phone call they don’t want to get. You can hear them whispering in the background. We told them why we were calling, and that we had Vitter’s name on the list. They did not put us through to David Vitter. They said they would call us back, but then as we all know now, they ran instead to the Associated Press, where Vitter put out his statement, which is fine. He admitted that he is a hypocrite and a liar.
“But Larry wants to make clear that we are not going after people because they have sex with prostitutes. We’re going after the people who demonize the people in this industry, who demonize people because they are different and don’t share the same values. And I am so thankful to Larry for having involved me in this and giving me the opportunity to help bring down this hypocrite.
“Of course, the investigation is ongoing, and we have other tips about Vitter and other people. Larry put an ad in the Washington Post and we are pursuing those leads; we have gotten about 200 responses so far by phone and email, and are looking seriously at 25 of them right now.”
Following David’s talk, Duke introduced Theresa Flynt, Larry’s daughter and Hustler VP of Licensing, who spoke about a new documentary about her father called “The Right to Be Left Alone,” which will be playing at the Los Angeles Arclight in August for a week-long test run.
“It’s the best documentary you will ever see on my father,” Flynt said. “It’s “The People versus Larry Flynt,” but it’s the real footage. I know we’ve all seen a lot [about my father], but this is the real deal.”
Duke then introduced each of the past FSC Board presidents and Robert Raben, who proceeded to ask each a question specifically designed to address their experience in the industry. First up was Nick Boyias of Marina Pacific Distributors and the producer of the 2005 independent hit “Quinceañera,” which won several top prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. Boyias was asked about the integration of adult and mainstream Hollywood.
After recounting the journey from concept to the screening at Sundance and the eventual purchase by Sony of the right to “Quinceañera,” which played the indie-theatre circuit but has yet to recoup its $900,000 budget, Boyias concluded, “My advice is stay in porn, because we have control. With Sony, we had none.”
Julie Stewart, VP of adult novelty retailer Sportsheets International, was asked about ways the adult entertainment industry could better harness its consumer base to help fight for its rights.
"It is difficult to mobilize a group that wants to remain anonymous,” Stewart said, but then suggested that perhaps she and Scott Tucker of Topco might want to consider getting some fact sheets [about the industry’s challenges] and “slipping them into out products,” an idea that was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Gloria Leonard, who traveled to the meeting courtesy of 86,000 air miles given her by FSC Board member Sid Grief, was asked about the big changes in the industry over the years.
“I am the oldest president up here,” she said. “Yes, there have been dramatic changes over the years, but while the technology has changed, the content is exactly the same as the 8-mm loops.”
She added that she was raised on comedian Lenny Bruce and Larry Flynt, in the days when they actually had to memorize dialogue, and that even though she had absolutely no problem with pure “suck and fuck” content, she did prefer the days of scripts, purpose and motivation in adult filmmaking, and she wished there was more of it today.
Current FSC Board president Jim Everett, who works for the Ohio-based Lion’s Den chain of adult retail stores, spoke next about the fight in Ohio to defeat state senate bill 16, which would place onerous limits on adult live entertainment in that state and throughout the country.
Everett described the fight being waged by the Buckeye Association of Club Executives, which he helped found, and how important that battle is for so many people in the room and in the industry.
Tucker, president of the adult novelty manufacturer Topco, was the last president to speak, and stated up front that the family business has been in the adult business for 65 years. He was asked what he thought the most important issue for the industry would be over the next several years.
Without a pause, Tucker said, “The politics out there and the people who support them. What concerns me is the fact that [sex] toys are illegal in seven states right now.” He ended the “Presidential Debate” with the challenge that the FSC and its supporters can make a difference, and that the job of those in the room was to leave the meeting and get other people involved.
The panelists then disbanded, leaving the floor to Jeffrey Douglas, who took 15 minutes to go over the newly proposed 257 regulations. Providing a fact sheet that people could follow, he pointed out some of the more burdensome changes, such as making websites put nonhyperlinked 2257 compliance statements on every page of a website that has sexually explicit content, including “lascivious exhibition of the genitals,” as under 2257 secondary producers are subject to inspection just as primary producers have been.
He added that the FSC would be providing guidance on its website in the coming weeks for industry members who wish to comment to the Justice Department about the proposed changes to the regulations.