CANOGA PARK, Calif.—Thanks to the hard work of photographer Rick "IndustryByRick" Garcia, as well as of Ben Freeman of LA Porn Tours, about 50 adult industry performers, directors and other personnel and supporters gathered at the studio Garcia and Prince Yashua share in Canoga Park on Saturday in preparation for carrying the "No on Measure B" message to the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood, and several of those who would be affected by Measure B's passage spoke to the crowd to express their thoughts and feelings about the impending ballot measure.
"We've come here today," Freeman intoned, "as an industry of producers, photographers, directors, performers and business owners, unified together against a cause: A ballot measure that would destroy our industry community in Los Angeles forever. Today we are unified in solidarity towards an opposing force to be reckoned with."
With that, Freeman introduced attorney Michael Fattorosi, who laid out both legal and social arguments against the measure.
"On November 6," Fattorosi began, "the voters of Los Angeles County are going to be asked to decide a ballot measure about the sexual rights of a small inclusive community within its borders, a community that is often misunderstood and rarely given a voice, a community that is publicly shunned but privately enjoyed, a community that has fought for its right to exist through years of struggles, court battles and legislation. Those that make up this community only want one thing: The right to choose for themselves how to live and work."
"Michael Weinstein wants the voters to believe that the adult industry in Los Angeles is a cesspool of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases," he continued. "He is playing the fear mongering card, that somehow, if not stopped, the porn industry will infect the rest of Los Angeles. This is a familiar argument to the gay community; this is the argument that was used against them when the world first learned of HIV."
Noting that violations of Measure B could lead to criminal charges and prison time, even for couples and single women webcamming in their own homes, he opined as to what AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein's agenda was really about.
"Michael Weinstein... wants to use the industry and their products to send a message. He wants to use porn for nothing more than product placement. That message and that product are condoms. Yet he calls it a workers safety issue. Instead of government representatives, workplace safety experts, physicians and industry representatives working together to develop a comprehensive plan to protect performers without infringing on First Amendment rights, Mr. Weinstein is asking the voters of Los Angeles County to decide workers safety laws. This is unprecedented in California. The public does not and should not vote on the height of scaffolding or the guards on chainsaws. As an industry, we only want the right to decide this issue for ourselves and not have it forced upon us. Performers should have the right to choose. They want their sexual rights.... Measure B is an attack on the industry, it is an attack on performers, it is an attack on the Constitution, it is an attack on the sexual rights of all Americans that want—no, demand—that the government and those like Weinstein stay out of their bedroom."
Fattorosi's statement were met with resounding applause, and actress/producer Alia Janine followed that up with some thoughts of her own.
"Michael Weinstein, head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has told me, not directly, but through the full force of the Yes on B campaign, that I am not competent enough and that I am not intelligent enough to make my own decisions concerning my own health and what I and many other performers deem safe for ourselves," she stated. "This affects me because we are professional adult film performers and we know exactly what type of minute risks we take every day. If we feel the need to use some type of protection, we will do so because that is our choice and that is our right... What you the voters need to truly understand is that Measure B is not just about safe sex; it's about one of the many attempts to force a multi-billion dollar industry out of Los Angeles."
The fact that Measure B's passage would make it legally impossible to film adult movies within the county limits was a point touched on by several speakers, but it took Maddie Makeup, a tiny blonde who's been doing makeup in the industry for three years, to speak to its effects on those who have minimal or no skin-to-skin contact with performers.
"There are so many thousands of jobs that this would lose," she stated in off-the-cuff remarks. "I work every day in the adult industry, and what they want me to do, with this measure, is wear gloves in order to touch people that I see every day, people I hug every day... They want me to wear hazmat suits if I want to stay on set during touch-ups. It's completely ridiculous; no reason for it."
"Nobody in this industry wants to hurt anybody else," she noted. "We're all here to just work, and it doesn't just affect the performers; that's just a small percentage of the people. It affects the directors, it affects the producers, it affects the editors, it affects people like me who do makeup, who work every day in this industry. If they want to send thousands of jobs out of LA, well, that's just going to make the deficit we already have worse, and all the money that they want to spend on this new task force should be going to other things that are much more important than worrying about what we do in our bedrooms. It's ridiculous."
Actor/director Tee Reel also expressed his certainty that Measure B would destroy LA's adult industry.
"They would like you to believe this is a health measure, that this is an issue about health and safety, and it's not," he assessed. "This is an attempt to push this industry out of Los Angeles County. I've been talent, I've been a director, I understand every angle of this. I am asking you as talent to take this seriously. This is your job. They are trying to drive you out of having a job."
After encouraging everyone present to tweet the "No on B" message, post the same on Facebook and talk to their friends and neighbors about the issue, he added, "This [Measure B] is not something to help us. This is not something that looks out for our best interests. This is an agenda to stop the industry. This is another agenda to make money, another attempt to make us seem as if we're bad people and we're not responsible, and that's not the case."
When Freeman called on fetish director Dee Severe to speak, she was ready to explode some of the myths that Measure B's proponents have spread about the industry.
"People think all of us are rich," she claimed. "'You have a porn company, you can afford all this stuff; you're making millions of dollars,' and that is so not true. It might be true of Vivid and Hustler and a couple of other people, but for the most part, producers are people who make your basic middle-class living, and yet all of these little companies that comprise a lot of the work that you get, are going to get these giant permits. For instance, if Measure B passes, we would have to get a health permit that costs $60,000 a year. Sixty-thousand dollars a year is almost two-thirds of our yearly gross income. To put it in perspective, there's no way whatsoever that we would be able to afford that, so if this measure passes, we would essentially not be able to film in LA County anymore because I don't want to go to jail, and there's also a 60-day possible jail sentence for not abiding by the permit, and there's also, I believe, possible confiscation of your equipment and all kinds of other really dire things. So if this passes—you know, we love LA; we've been here for almost 20 years and... we would have to take road trips every time we want to shoot, and that's completely unfair. You know, a lot of people are saying, 'Well, the adult industry can just move someplace else.' Well, it's not that easy. People have houses, people have families, people have commitment to LA, and also, Michael Weinstein has indicated that he's going to follow the adult industry everywhere it goes with these stupid bills, so if everybody moves to, say, Vegas or something, in a couple of years, there's going to be one of these bills there and then everybody's going to have to move again.
"One of the other things people don't realize," she continued, "is that a lot of mainstream people also work in adult, so if we had to move, we would be losing that entire talent resource that helps make our movies better, and what's going to happen to those people? Those people have also taken a huge hit because of overregulation in the mainstream industry, which has largely gone to Canada and other states with more favorable tax rates, so there's another whole bunch of people who are out of business. And this is happening at a time when California is in really, really bad trouble financially, both the state and city. They're laying off people... and cutting down court schedules because they can't afford them, and yet they're going to be putting all this money into enforcing this. We're all small businesses; we pay taxes; we provide jobs; we're committed to our community, we spend money here, and it's so completely unfair that this is happening."
She also noted that some of those hardest hit would be the cam girls: "They don't have resources. They have absolutely no money to spend for permits. What are all of them going to do? They will have no way of paying their rent."
Returning performer Kurt Lockwood put some historical perspective on the fight.
"The reason we had these [stage] names was so the cops couldn't trace us when we shoot," he reminded the younger audience members, "and the Europeans aren't going to shoot with condoms and all that dental dam shit, so that's going to kill our industry here, and there's going to be a lot of illegal shoots going on, so unless everybody wants ducking from the fuzz every time you work..." he trailed off.
"As Americans, we're guaranteed by the Constitution 'pursuit of happiness,'" he added, "and part of what makes us happy is hot, dirty sex; am I right? [Applause] This is about our right to fuck the way we want to fuck and get the government out and they can't tell us 'You've got to do this and you've got to do that,' because anal sex, called sodomy in some states, used to be illegal; fellatio, giving head, used to be illegal. Where does it stop? If they tell us, no, we can't fuck without condoms and stuff like that, the next thing is we can't do anal scenes. The next thing is, no more blowjobs in scenes, so there's no porn industry left at all."
Also speaking were performers James Bartholet, Kyle Stone and Tara Lynn Foxx, but in short order, it was time to board what turned out to be Michael Jackson's old tour bus(!) that would take everyone to, first, Hollywood and Highland, where the group marched with "No on Measure B" signs, to the delight (or at least interest) of the many Saturday passers-by, and then later, the group traveled to the Hustler Hollywood store on Sunset to inform customers and others what they might actually be voting for.
The "mission" lasted most of the afternoon, and among the personalities we noted in attendance in addition to those mentioned above were performers Nina Hartley, Taylor Wane, Kylie Ireland, Lucky Starr, Alex Chance, Prince Yashua, Sean Michaels, Andy Appleton, documentary producer Michael Whiteacre, bloggers Tod Hunter and Steve Nelson... and a face we haven't seen for nearly a decade, Melissa Hill.
It was a terrific turnout, and hopefully, at least some LA County residents got the message: Vote No on Measure B!
A video of the event shot by veteran industry videographer Dr. X can be found here.