LOS ANGELES/DETROIT—Former New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff posted a segment on the MyFoxDetroit website that might leave members of LA's adult community scratching their heads—and wondering what this guy seems to have against people in the adult industry?
"[W]ith free porn available on the internet and a new Los Angeles County law requiring adult performers to put a condom on it, it could be the death of an iconic if not seedy Los Angeles industry," LeDuff begins. "Is this the porn apocalypse?"
But while that's not the general opinion inside the industry, LeDuff nevertheless managed to find one insider to opine that yes, the "smut industry" is on its last legs.
"Los Angeles was the capital of porn," veteran star Ron Jeremy told LeDuff in a "man on the street" interview. "It was—In the San Fernando Valley were the biggest producers of porn anywhere in the world. The business of porn is going out of business. How do you compete with free?"
As it turns out, Vivid Entertainment CEO Steve Hirsch had an answer—and was surprisingly civil to LeDuff, whose question to Hirsch was, "So you pimp smut?"
Ignoring the "pimp" epithet, Hirsch countered that he preferred to call the "smut" "adult films," though he allowed that "pornography" would be okay as well.
"To compete against free, you need to produce and distribute unique product," Hirsch continued, in response to LeDuff's suggestion that "small-town Scorseses [are] giving it away for free on the internet." "So whether it's celebrity sex tapes or our superhero parodies or our swinger tapes, I mean, that stuff is—can't be found on the free sites."
Then, after making a point about Hustler owner Larry Flynt's "gold-plated wheelchair" (and in another segment, asking Flynt if he [LeDuff] could "wheel you around your office?"—Flynt declined), LeDuff got Flynt to say, "We got gaming, casinos; we're a worldwide broadcasting content company ... because we've seen that that was the plan 20 years ago," which LeDuff summarized by stating, "Larry Flynt has told me they've moved on, the godfather of porn is moving on, right?" to which Flynt responded, "That's what you've gotta do, you know?"
LeDuff then brought up Measure B as being partly responsible for the "death" of porn in LA, and indeed, Hirsch told him, "There was like 600 adult film permits taken out two years ago. Last year, three." Had LeDuff looked a little deeper, he would have found that plenty of companies are still shooting in The Valley, but the segment could hardly be characterized as an investigative piece.
LeDuff did, however, record Flynt sayng, "People don't want to watch movies where the actors are using condoms," but when asked how he would know that, Flynt was right there with the answer: "Because we've done focus studies."
Then it was back to Jeremy: "So as it is now, we're going out of business because of the internet, and now we're not going to be able to compete with the Asian, Scandinavian, European films so they're going to put us out of business. So now we're outsourcing porn."
LeDuff couldn't find anyone to agree with Jeremy—or perhaps he didn't even try—but as long as he was on the subject of condoms, who better to comment than the industry outsider who wants them made mandatory?
"We want to protect the performers, number one," claimed AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein. "We have a rate of 10 times as much STDs among the performers as among the general population, and also we want to send a message that, you know, protection can be sexy too."
Again, LeDuff did no investigation to see if Weinstein's statement about STDs is true (it isn't), and also missed the boat in describing Measure B as something AHF "heavily backed," when in fact, it was entirely created by Weinstein and his crew.
However, in the next interview, Joanna Angel and Annie Cruz had Weinstein's/AHF's number.
"I feel like when it comes down to it, they're [AHF] just putting laws on us so they can make more money, and that's really what it comes down to," Angel charged. "It has nothing to do with anybody over there caring for any of our safety."
"Ten years of being in this business, I can safely say that I've only contracted one STD and that was early on in my career and it was just chlamydia, you know what I mean?" Cruz added.
Even Larry Flynt got into the act.
"This pervert that's pushed for these condom issues, he's trying to go through the back door to shut the industry down," Flynt stated.
But when LeDuff repeated the "pervert" epithet to Weinstein, the mogul responded, "Well, Larry Flynt is talking about the profits for Hustler and he feels that this is not profitable, but a federal court decided that this was not an infringement on the First Amendment, and Larry Flynt is supposed to be a big upholder of the First Amendment. It's now gone before an appeals court. Let's see what they say."
LeDuff's takeaway from all this? "Porn is everywhere and yet porn is dying in the porn capital, but as long as there's a buck in it, people will make it." Wow! Really?
To view the segment, and read the often-inaccurate quotes, click here. But Larry Flynt's best response isn't there; it's in a "sidebar" (found here) where Flynt answers LeDuff's impertinent (and self-revealing) question, "Did you wreck the country, sir?"
"You pay a price to live in a free society, and that price is toleration. You have to tolerate things that you don't necessarily like so you can be free, you know? I tolerate Fox News, you know."
Don't we all?
Pictured: Larry Flynt being interviewed by Charlie LeDuff.