UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – More than 300 adult industry members and supporters gathered Saturday night at the Globe Theater for the Free Speech Coalition's annual fundraiser. (photo gallery)
The gala event honored individuals and businesses that have fought to keep sexual expression free in America. Because it is an election year, the FSC emphasized the importance of voting to replace the current regime in Washington with one more attuned to the interests of the adult industry.
"We're celebrating the end to eight years of a presidential era that has sought to repress the adult entertainment industry," said FSC executive director Diane Duke. "We want to make sure everybody's paying attention and understands the importance of what's coming up in November, not only on the national level, but also what's happening locally and statewide."
One of the evening's first speakers was Aaron Bloom, the son of industry legend Al Bloom.
Bloom spoke about the importance of defeating proposition 8, which would remove the right of same-sex couples to marry. He traced the development of marriage equality, from the late '40s California case of Perez v. Sharp, the very first lawsuit to deal with interracial marriage, through Loving v. Virginia, which took the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bloom noted that same-sex marriage is currently banned in 44 states, and speculated that if Prop 8 passes, Californians could find themselves voting next year on whether interracial marriage should again be banned.
Emcee Chi-Chi LaRue then introduced the evening's auctioneer, who brought out several articles of sports memorabilia and high-fashion outerwear for bidding. The item that brought the most interest was a signed serigraph by Andy Warhol of Marilyn Monroe, which sold for $4,000. The auction grossed $16,500 for FSC, and the ongoing silent auction was expected to add several thousand more.
California Exotic Novelties head Susan Colvin introduced the first of this year's FSC honorees, presenting the Woman of the Year award to Rondee Kamins.
Colvin noted that Kamins, who now runs TransWorld News and Connection Distribution, had been a tireless fighter for freedom in her home state of Ohio, having spent 15 years fighting the 2257 regulations, and had contributed many thousands in an attempt to stop the passage of last year's SB 16, which instituted statewide restrictions on adult businesses.
"We sabotage ourselves," Kamins said, when we don't contribute to pro-speech causes and legal cases, and she noted that her father, Mel, was "part of a dying breed" that understood the importance of funding the fight against repressive legislation.
Webmaster Tim Valenti of Naked Sword presented FSC's Man of the Year award to his employer and friend, AEBN founder and president Scott Coffman.
Valenti noted that Coffman was one of the first entrepreneurs to begin selling adult videos online, a pioneer in the pay-per-minute streaming video field, and the creator of Pornotube, which he said is careful to avoid posting pirated material. Coffman's acceptance speech was brief, mainly lauding FSC for "giving our industry a voice."
Marina Pacific owner Nick Boyias presented the award for Business of the Year to Sureflix Digital Distribution, a Canadian Internet company.
Sureflix founder Eric Johnson accepted the award, calling the company's history "the story of two guys in a basement." Sureflix began producing content and posting it to the Internet in 2001, and now operates some of the largest pay-per-view and pay-per-minute gay sites in the world, as well as a gay erotic TV channel in its hometown of Toronto. The company was also instrumental in forming the Global Anti-Piracy Agency – GAPA – which has worked with FSC to reduce piracy, which Johnson described as "the biggest issue we have today."
The evening's final award brought two adult industry legends to the stage, as Goalie Entertainment and Eddie's Kids founder Eddie Wedelstedt presented the Legacy Award to Déjà Vu founder Harry Mohney.
Wedelstedt was reminded that he'd once attended a similar gathering of adult industry professionals, and at the time had asked how many of them had gone to jail for the industry? "You wouldn't believe how many hands went up," he chuckled – which led him to laud the industry's founders and some of its defenders, in particular veteran First Amendment attorney Brad Shafer.
After being introduced by Wedelstedt as "a true legend," Mohney said he'd made some notes for his speech, and proceeded to unfurl a 10-foot-long roll of paper, which brought a hearty laugh from the audience.
Mohney bristled slightly at being called a "legend," saying "I still really feel I'm just a kid."
"My legacy is really our legacy," he continued. "We've taken this industry from the back room to the boardroom, from the seedy side of the street to the main street, from pop culture to the culture, from a financial infant to a financial giant ... so take a minute to give yourselves a hand; you each deserve a piece of this award."
"We have judges now that follow the religious doctrine, not the legal doctrine," he warned. "They don't care about civil rights, your rights or the Bill of Rights, and if we don't put our money up, half of you guys will be in jail in two years."
As the evening concluded, both men encouraged the audience to visit Mohney's Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas. Opened to the public in August after years of planning, the museum showcases the history of modern erotic art and the legacy of the sexual revolution.
For more information on the Free Speech Coalition, visit freespeechcoalition.com.
Click here for Gia Jordan's photo gallery of the event.
Pictured: Joe Caruba, Joel Kaminsky, Rondee Kamins, Jim St. John and Jim Everett.