SHERMAN OAKS, Calif.—More than 100 adult studio heads, producers, performers and other industry members gathered at the Sportman's Lodge on Ventura Boulevard at noon today to show their solidarity in the fight against Los Angeles County Measure B, the so-called "safe sex" initiative that would force adult companies to buy expensive "public health permits" in order to shoot movies within the county, and require all performers to use condoms, dental dams, rubber gloves and goggles when acting in sex scenes.
The meeting was called by Vivid Entertainment Group president Steve Hirsch, but he quickly turned the podium over to James Lee, head of the No on Government Waste Committee, which was formed to fight Measure B.
"You guys are now officially in the big time," Lee began. "You are not just 'working in the adult film industry'; you are now considered no different than the oil industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, defense contractors, big tobacco—because now everybody out there thinks that they can go and get a piece of you. That's why we are now involved in this campaign, because it's no longer about small anti-free speech efforts or efforts to curb your work here or there; it is now going to a vote. Because now it's not about five legislators or a mayor or a governor you've got to convince; you now have to convince 4.2 million voters in LA County, of which 3.1 million actually vote, which means for this measure to be defeated, you have to convince 1.55 million people in this county."
So far, the campaign has had wide coverage by social media, and editorials and articles opposing Measure B have appeared in almost all of the county's major newspapers, including the LA Times, LA Daily News, Long Beach Press Telegram, Pasadena Star News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Torrance Daily News, Whittier Daily News and the Santa Clarita Signal, which together reach over 1.1 million people in LA County. But according to Lee, that's not enough.
"If you don't go out there and reach and talk to them in a meaningful way, you're going to lose this campaign," Lee warned, "and if you lose this campaign, what's going to happen? Because I tell you, after working for all these other companies and industries that have been attacked... what happens is that once they win here, they go after you everywhere. They will chase you across California, out of California, through Nevada, through Florida, through every state in the union. Why? Because they don't give a rat's ass about whether or not the issue is condoms. They give a rat's ass as to whether or not they can raise money off of your backs using you as an issue... That's what you guys are now: A poster child for Michael Weinstein to go ahead and raise money."
Lee noted that from the public's point of view, Measure B is about two things: Whether STDs in the adult community pose a public health threat to non-industry county residents, and how much will it cost taxpayers?
"That second question is an easy one: How much is it going to cost me as a taxpayer?" Lee explained. "And once we tell them that [it will cost the country money], people switch like a light; they go, 'No.' But it's an education process. Michael Weinstein is hoping that we will not have the resources to answer both of those questions, and that he can just go out there and talk about public health, public health, public health, that performers deserve the same kind of respect that anybody on the street ought to get, and hope that this gets over the finish line without anybody noticing."
According to public records, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, having already spent $2 million just to get Measure B on the ballot, has spent and will soon spend another million to get the measure passed.
"They're spending 35 cents on every single voter [in LA County] to get them to screw your business," Lee calculated. "That is cheap. They're getting away with selling something that is wrong, and they're doing it because you guys are letting them do it.
"The LA Times twice editorialized in favor of Michael," Lee added. "Why? Because you guys as an industry never walked through the front door of the LA Times and asked for a meeting. When we picked up the phone and called them and asked, 'Hey, have you guys ever talked to the adult industry?' they said no. The minute we got in there, the minute we talked to them, the minute we brought Steve [Hirsch] and Jeffrey Douglas and Nina Hartley and other people and we had that conversation, we told our story, we gave them the facts, what happened? They changed their minds! For a newspaper to do a 180 degree backflip and change their minds is huge."
But the main purpose of the meeting was to get industry members and supporters to kick in funds to allow Lee and his associates to counter the massive "Yes on Measure B" campaign that Weinstein has already begun, and will be ramping up even more in the 13 days left before the election.
"The only way you can reach 1.55 million voters is through television," Lee declared, "through pounding the message that we will put out in a TV ad that the LA Times thinks this is crap—and if you ran that every single day on those different channels, you will win this going away. And if you crush this thing by a respectable margin, not just 1 percent or 2 percent, but if you kill this by 10 or 15 percent, they're not going to come back here again."
"Michael Weinstein sees himself as the next Porn Czar," Hirsch warned the assemblage. "Is that what we want? Is that who we want to control our industry? That man who could give a shit about any of you sees himself as the next Porn Czar. If we lose, we will not be able to shoot in LA; it's as simple as that. For those of you who think, 'Well, I'll let someone else deal with it; we'll just sneak around and nobody's gonna find out and it'll be pretty simple,' it's not going to go down that way, not at all. If anybody talks about where they shot, when they shot, what movie they shot, that's good enough; that's all the evidence that they need. They will find out where every shoot takes place, and the point is, they can do it retroactively. They don't have to catch you in the act—and they will go after us; there's no question about it, because Michael Weinstein will make sure that they come after us, every single one of us."
A radio ad has already been prepared, and it is scheduled to debut on James Bartholet's Inside the Industry show this evening on LA Talk Radio. Bartholet's guests will include Sinn Sage and Amber Lynn, and the evening's topic will be Measure B. Also, Lee will appear with actress Rebecca Bardoux on KTLK 1150 AM Friday morning at 11 to discuss the issue, and Lee will follow that up with a 6pm Saturday appearance on KFI 640 AM along with actor/activist Steven St. Croix, who created his own public service announcements opposing Measure B.
But the campaign still needs financial support, even with nearly every major video company and several novelty companies chipping in. Donations can be made on the No on Government Waste Committee website, and rest assured, every dime counts!
Photo: No on Government Waste Committee head James Lee addresses a standing room-only meeting of adult entertainment industry members.