FSC’s Bash Features Pres. Candidate Gravel; Honors Eddie Wedelstedt

Tom Hymes
UNIVERSAL CITY Calif. — History was made at the Free Speech Coalition’s Red, White and Blue Bash last night by former Senator Mike Gravel when he became the first U.S. presidential candidate to speak at an adult entertainment industry function during a campaign.

Eddie Wedelstedt, the founder of Goalie Entertainment and Eddie’s Kids, also was honored last night by the FSC and the many industry luminaries in attendance — and even by Gravel himself — during a classy affair at Universal Studios' Globe Theater that included a sit-down dinner and silent auctions ringing the beautifully lit room.

Hosted by adult entertainer and public advocate Nina Hartley, and featuring comedian Dante and comedian/singer Jackie Beat (both of whom entertained valiantly while dinner by Wolfgang Puck was being served), the highlights of the event were certainly the two memorable performances by elder statesmen Gravel and Wedelstedt.

But it was the former senator from Alaska running a dark-horse campaign to become the Democratic candidate for president who set the tone of the evening by engaging without any hesitation in a spirited defense of the adult entertainment industry.

In a move that, if nationally reported on, is sure to stir the ire of social conservatives everywhere, Gravel, who had been introduced to FSC Executive Director Diane Duke by Los Angeles-based attorney Gregory A. Piccionelli only a few weeks ago, spoke in passionate support of the industry, addressing directly and immediately the risk he himself was taking by attending such a “controversial” gathering.

“I’m not ashamed to stand up for your industry,” Gravel said, to one of many rounds of applause. “I’m very well aware of what I’m doing here, and it will be interesting. But if it’s handled well by me and by those around me, it will be a milestone in advancing the ball down the field.”

Of the industry itself, Gravel was blunt: “It’s an honest living, be proud of it.” Though he insisted also that it needs to hold its head up higher if it wants to effect change.

”You’re not proud enough of what you do. You need to get aggressive at the bottom line of what you do.” And he challenged the industry to do more to mobilize its customer base in support of free speech issues.

“Don’t come crying to me,” he said. “Get tough, and come out of the closet. Imagine what you could do!”

Gravel has other reasons for reaching out to the adult industry besides his love for the 1st Amendment. In addition to his campaign, he actively is promoting an ambitious piece of federal legislation called The National Initiative for Democracy. According to its website, the Initiative seeks to redefine the relationship between people and government by adding a constitutional amendment and a federal statute that combined would equip the people with direct lawmaking powers.

“The charge is yours to change the paradigm of human governance,” Gravel said, adding that it was more important to him that people support the Initiative than his candidacy. His promise to end the Iraq War if elected was greeted with sustained applause, however.

Next on the roster, Ron Braverman, the founder of Doc Johnson and one of the founders of the Free Speech Coalition, introduced Eddie Wedelstedt with heartfelt and moving words about Wedelstedt’s lifelong dedication to his family, his friends, his causes and his industry.

“He never stood so tall as when he stood to help people,” Braverman said of his longtime friend, who recently returned home after serving more than a year in federal prison on tax evasion charges. “He’s been there not only for causes, but for everything.”

Wedelstedt then took to the stage and engaged the audience in an impassioned rumination on the central themes of this life – the support of his family and friends, his love of children and his profound respect for those who have made real sacrifices for a business that is constantly under attack.

He also spoke of his rage and frustration over the fact that the federal government has expended so much time and so many resources over the years watching him, and expressed his hope that the industry will work together more effectively to protect its interests.

“United we stand, divided we fall,” he said. “It’s a cliché, but it’s true.”

Wedelstedt had particularly kind words for Joan Irvine, the Executive Director of the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP), and the work she, her staff and sponsors have been doing on behalf of protecting children and setting the record straight about the adult industry.

“When they came out and proved that 99% of the adult industry has nothing to do with child pornography, I had tears in my eyes,” he said. “It made me feel so good that they could prove this, thanks to Joan.”

To show his appreciation for the efforts of ASACP and FSC, Wedelstedt took the occasion to announce that he and his wife, Vivian, would be donating rent for the Free Speech Coalition for one year and also making a donation of $10,000 to ASACP.

The Red, White and Blue Bash was sponsored by AEBN, AVN, HotMovies.com, Marina Pacific Distributors, NakedSword.com, VGR Systems and XBIZ.

FSC has not yet determined how much money was raised during the Bash.