LOS ANGELES—Executive Director Diane Duke's first words at the Free Speech Coalition's annual fundraiser Saturday night were an acknowledgement that the industry has been through a very difficult year. It is the remaining challenges, she said, that make it so imperative that everyone work together, not only for the future prosperity of adult entertainment, but for the millions of people who enjoy its products. It is for their benefit also, she told the audience of industry professionals, that the FSC and its members continue their fight. She then wedded those sentiments with the ongoing struggle to secure marriage rights for all citizens, in a moving introduction that set the tone for the night's celebration of the contributions and sacrifices made by the evening's honorees. (photo gallery)
The "Bada-Bing Bailout Bash"—held at the Skirball Cultural Center atop the Sepulveda Pass—provided an elegantly rustic setting that all but rubbed out the "mobster" theme of the evening. A few celebrants came dressed to kill, but most opted for California chic to semi-formal. The stylish spherical room was ringed with silent auction items, mostly in the sports and movie memorabilia vein; there also was some light gambling, a raffle that featured two prizes—dinner with jessica drake or a business package valued at $7,000 (sorry, ad package; no competition there in terms of audience preference)—and 20 or so tables beautifully decorated with freshly cut flowers.
The peerless and still dangerous feminist porn star Nina Hartley served deftly as Mistress of Ceremonies, moving the evening along with ease as she lubricated with her distinctive wit a program that neatly intertwined personal introductions with video homage to four of the five individuals receiving 2009 FSC awards. (Positive Image Award recipient Stormy Daniels was not in attendance.)
Preceding the awards, as he did last year, Aaron Bloom, trial attorney and the son of industry vet Al Bloom, spoke ardently on behalf of same-sex marriage rights, asking the audience to "support, join, donate, do whatever you can" to spread the word about a new campaign to get one million signatures to qualify a new initiative to overturn Proposition 8 for next year's California ballot. More information is available on the Love Honor Cherish site.
Following was the elder Bloom, who in 1991 was one of the founders of the FSC and is currently director of marketing for Cal Exotics. Bloom recounted his many years of managing adult businesses while also trying to deal with federal, state and local indictments; at one point in his career he was even banned from entering Boston. He closed his remarks by listing ten significant achievements by the FSC in 2009.
After dinner and the live auction, the awards portion of the evening commenced. FSC Board Chair and First Amendment attorney Jeffrey Douglas introduced a fascinating video tribute to Larry Flynt that spliced interviews, depositions and other scenes through the years—one of Flynt graphically showing off his gunshot wound—to create a mesmerizing portrait of a man whose blatant, articulate determination even as a young man to drive his message home punctuated the room and set the stage, literally, for the great freedom fighter's acceptance remarks that followed.
"As you get older, do you mellow," Flynt asked rhetorically, answering definitively, "You do. I wonder how I fought the battles in my 20s and 30s." As he spoke, however, calling up William O. Douglas and Janis Joplin to illustrate various points in a narrative that called for the immediate separation of church and crotch, his iron will and incessant curiosity were in full evidence, and he had the room rapt and silent. A young man turned and whispered to his companion, "I'm only able to make my magazines because of him."
The next video featured the life and career of Peggy Oettinger, FSC's Woman of the Year and CEO of Sinclair Institute, which creates sexual health aid programs. Oettinger was also part of the Adam and Eve group that fought obscenity charges in North Carolina and won. A former kindergarten teacher, she said her hero is Phil Harvey.
The video homage for Free Speech Coalition Man of the Year John Stagliano, who is currently facing federal obscenity charges, adroitly offered a glimpse into the inner working of adult's "Renaissance Man," as his friend and general manager Christian Mann referred to him in a heartfelt introduction. Determined to stand firm against a government trying to take away his freedom, Stagliano spoke wryly about his indictment, expressing an almost naive wonderment at the absurdity of his predicament.
The judge in his case, he said, was very generous and at first allowed him to call in only once a week to verify his whereabouts and let them know that he was in town. "But I forgot to call," he said, "not once, but about four times, I think." The judge, not amused, and clearly unimpressed with Stagliano's rationale for why he forget, finally said in exasperation, "What do you think, this is funny?" The infamous Buttman shook his head in ironic resignation. "I'm in court for making a film that has women squirting milk out of their butts. Yes, that's funny!"
Adult's original Girl Next Door, Sunny Lane, introduced Ron Jeremy's video montage, which included an extraordinarily broad and at times hilarious collection of cultural and entertainment icons and personalities each mentioning "The Hedgehog" as if s/he knew him intimately, which many if not all of them did. It could not have provided a more fitting demonstration of why Ron Jeremy, as much as any previous winner, is deserving of the Positive Image Award. His remarks were uncharacteristically brief, but interesting.
During his 32-year career, Jeremy said, he was never charged with federal obscenity, but he did face state charges, and he wanted to make sure that producer and director Hal Freeman was not forgotten. Freeman's arrest in 1987 on pimping charges for hiring actors for a porn film began a legal journey that eventually resulted in adult productions becoming effectively legal in California.
"I just want to give special thanks to Hall Freeman and Larry Flynt," said Jeremy, in accepting his award.
The remaining awards went to companies for their contributions to the industry. XBIZ president Alec Helmy gave the Internet Company of the Year Award to Video Secrets, with co-founder Greg Clayman accepting on behalf of the company. Famed (and skinny!) director Chi Chi LaRue handed out the Production Company of the Year Award to Titan Media. Founder Bruce Cam accepted his trophy. FSC membership director Joanne Cachapero and Cousin Stevie gave the Novelty Company of the Year to The Screaming O. Partners Keith Caggiano and Justin Ross accepted the award.
After the raffle winners were announced and the silent auction winners gathered up their goodies, the crowd dispersed at around 11 p.m., the room thinning slowly as people lingered in conversation with colleagues and friends who had come together in a tough year to honor a tough industry. In signing off, Nina Hartley made sure to mention those industry members who are currently incarcerated, namely, the Kilbride Brothers, Max Hardcore, Rob Zicari and Janet Romano (aka Rob Black and Lizzy Borden).
Just a few of the luminaries in attence were Marci Hirsch, jessica drake and Brad Armstrong, Nina Hartley and Ira Levine, the Flynts, the Randalls (Suze and Holly), Ron Jeremy and a whole entourage of people including filmmaker Adam Rifkin, Angelina Armani and Monstar, Joanna Angel and James Deen, Kayden Kross, Tom Byron, Darryl Hanah, Jules Jordan, Stagliano and crew (including Joey Silvera and Christian Mann), Chi Chi LaRue, Sharon Kane, Jeff Mullen and Tanner Mayes, Bobbi Starr, Tony Batman, Roy Karch, Brian Street Team, and lots of company folk.
Sponsors of the FSC Bada-Bing Bailout Bash included AEBN, Topco Sales, Wicked Pictures, Cal Exotics, XBIZ, Deja Vu, HotMovies.com and The Screaming O.
Angelina Armani was excellent in the role of Trophy Girl.
For a photo gallery, click here.