Steven St. Croix writes on www.stevenstcroix.com – As most of you in the industry are aware, on Nov 6th 2012, the law known as Measure B was passed in Los Angeles County by a 55-44 percent vote.
After some months of many realizing that this was a serious issue, the momentum that the No on B supporters created in getting the public, media and businesses aware of this ridiculous law seemed to evaporate into thin air after the vote.
In a following summit meeting at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills sponsered by XBIZ, we sat there and took our bitter medicine. We learned what had happened and why. FSC strategist for the No on B campaign James Lee explained to the crowd present what the numbers meant.
I’ll give you the three takeaways from his address.
1. Our campaign was underfunded.
2. We were able to speak as a unified industry as never before.
3. If the industry (talent and companies) wants to take it’s rightful place among other traditional industries, we need to learn how the political game is played.
In an era where players unions, workers unions and various other industries have parties representing their respective business interests on Capitol Hill, albeit state or the federal level, we as an industry don’t have someone speaking out for us and representing our needs and agendas. Or do we? I’ll come back to that later.
Vivid founder and co-chairman Steven Hirsch sat in the audience patiently waiting for the right time to address the members of the audience. I could tell by the look on his face he was pissed. Because they had raised close to $100k in a fundraising event held by Vivid and they were still some, who even occupied the same building space, who felt they didn’t need to be involved or to support the efforts that would benefit them in the long run.
I’ve known Steven for as long as I’ve been in the business and he is a calm and collected guy. Until he is pressed. Until he is expected by the industry to save it. Without any help from others. On his dime. In fact, he and a few people are constantly looked to as being the “parents” of the industry. Larry Flynt, Steve Orenstein, Steven Hirsch and some newer company owners who have come into the industry recently.
Well, they are not our parents. We are responsible for ourselves. I don’t know if people look at them that way because they are successful at what they do. Maybe, because they have their shit together and have built companies up from nothing, all the while being fair in their business dealings and not treating people harshly.
I’ve known of numerous times where Steven has given performers the opportunity and platform to launch a successful career in the adult industry, only to have them shit on it because of drugs problems, booze problems, controlling boyfriend/husband/manager problems and sometimes a complete and utter contempt for people who see the potential in them and their own belief that the industry is only here to serve their needs. In other words, he’s invested more money in them than they have invested in themselves.
He had something to say and he said it. As he looked at everyone in the room, he went on to ask “Who are you?” I’ll paraphrase what he said as I don’t have a recording of his exact words. But this is the gist of it.
Whenever the industry has had to fight legal battles over the right to make adult films, or overzealous obscenity charges from proscecutors looking to make a name for themselves and secure political clout, the industry (performers, agents, producers, directors and small companies) have always assumed that Hustler, or Vivid or Wicked Pictures and even Manwin now, would step up and fight the battle.
More to the point, that they should be the ones that pay for the bulk of the legal fees; as if they had an unlimited source of money and they stood the most to lose.
Some say things like, “Well, they’re so rich and I’m just getting by; of course they should pay for the legal fees”, or “Hey, I get naked for the cameras and get paid a one time fee while they make money indefinitely, they can afford to pay” or “Fuck ‘em, what have they done for me? I never work for them” or whatever weak excuse they they can come up with.
Talent seems to forget (or maybe they didn’t know) that this industry was never just about just sex or money. It wasn’t the overall idea that we were willing to make adult entertainment for other peoples pleasure and our own as well, but it was the fact that while some may have a different value system to ours and do not agree with our ‘moral’ choices, we had a right to do what we feel we want to do as long as we didn’t hurt anyone and that sexual morality cannot be dictated or restricted by the government or administrations bent on pushing their own concept for what morality is and what it should mean to the citizens of this country.
Thus, people like Larry Flynt, Russell Hampshire, Steve Orenstein, Ruben Sturman, John Stagliano and many others have been charged with obscenity and gone to jail because they believed they had the right to make ‘fuck films’ because the public wants and watches them and as long as they were following the law and not hurting anyone, who was going to dictate what one can and cannot watch in the privacy of one’s home and between consenting adults?
The sad truth is these people spent much, if not all of their money on the legal fees incurred and while some did offer to contribute money for the legal fees, by and large, the majority of the industry stood on the sidelines and continued on with their lives. All the while believing that they were immune.
Well, here’s the wakeup call people. You are NOT immune. WE are NOT immune. One group, led by one individual, forced THEIR ridiculous agenda on a group of people they know nothing about, on an industry they have no intimate knowledge of and on a group of people they look down upon while at the same time making us appear to be the ‘bad people’. And they did this while out of the other corner of their mouths, they professed to the public that they were doing it to protect US.
They don’t even want to KNOW us. And some think that running off to Florida or Nevada is going to make this go away?? It won’t. All it takes is some douchebag to decide he or she wants to make a name for themselves in the conservative community. Trust me, doing that can bring riches and power to two faced hypocrites.
I’ll put it bluntly. If you are not willing to invest in yourself and your rights, why the fuck should anyone care about you then? How the fuck can you look someone in the eyes and say that they should fight for you when you won’t fight for yourself? That they should spend their money while you go off and not contribute?
And to be clear, I’m not saying that I’m better than anyone else. Because, I was one of those people who didn’t give a fuck either. I was having a good time, making money, taking vacations, buying toys, shopping endlessly for shit I didn’t need. Not acting like a business entity, not keeping receipts for my business expenditures, not filing my tax returns promptly until I was looking at a HUGE problem.
I was always responsible enough to get by but not by being very smart and proactive. I was essentially living only for myself. All the while, I didn’t contribute to anyone’s legal fund. I didn’t help anyone who was fighting for the rights of this industry and to make the films we make. I didn’t step up and help someone who was being unfairly targeted by the government. I was just a selfish ass-bag.
It wasn’t until I was in a meeting with someone years ago who had expressed interest in a non adult film project I was producing in which I was asking for them to fund the project. I realized they wouldn’t because I didn’t have any skin in the game. I realized that even with me doing the work on the film, it wasn’t enough.
This person was someone who observed peoples actions and whether they walked the walk. I had to put up cash myself. I couldn’t rightfully ask someone to invest in me if I wasn’t willing to invest in myself, in my own work and in my own future.
If you want to continue to work in this industry, you have to pay the freight. Period. There are no entitlements here. I know some are still going about their lives with a sense of entitlement because their beautiful, have a banging body, suck a great cock or have a big dick and washboard abs. You may feel that in your prime, you should be given a pass.
You may feel that you won’t be doing this for long and you will skate out unscathed and let the ones that are still in the industry work it out. “It’s their problem, not mine,” one may think. Wrong! It is very much your problem. You have skin in this game because, unbeknowst to many, there was one word left out on the ballot of who would be liable for criminal and civil penalties for breaking the law. “Performers”.
That’s right. From producers to distributors to directors; these are the people they are targeting. You can rest assured knowing that they wanted to punish everyone for breaking the law. The reason performers weren’t included was because of AHF’s argument that they were ‘looking out for performers safety’. There were those with deep pockets that wanted to include performers in the language of the law. So that, in the end, no one could feign ignorance or deny culpability. Either everybody participates or everybody loses, that was their thinking.
You barely escaped this time. But, maybe not next time. And that next time could happen in a matter of months.
Remember earlier when I said there is no one representing our interests as an industry? Well, that is not exactly true. There IS a group of people who are representing us as an industry. They are a group of civil, social and legal experts who have shouldered the seemingly unrewarding task of representing the industry.
They are doing it now as I write this. And they will be doing this while you sleep in your comfortable beds, do your cam shows, travel to attend award shows, buying new cars and dresses and shoes, taking your vacations to Hawaii or Brazil, going on the feature dance circuit, signing autographs and hawking toy lines, being a ‘companion’ for $1,000 a night because you’re a known name in the business and hosting parties in Vegas or Miami. While you will be playing the life, they will be working for you. For us.
It is the Free Speech Coalition. It is Dianne Duke, Joanne Cachapero, Christian Mann, Jeffrey Douglas and a slew of other hard working people. They are attorneys Paul Cambria and H. Louis Sirkin. These are the people fighting for you. Fighting for your right to do what you do. They’ve been in these fights before.
They know better than you and I how to effectively maintain and protect that we have the right to continue making films without undue government interference. They are fighting because they know that if condoms become mandatory, sales will drop, and viewers will buy product from other countries that don’t have the same rules. All talent will lose work because there are people willing to perform for less money and with no restrictions.
People who are forced to do films because of economic hardship and with no one looking out for them. Why do you think there is so much European product out there? Because the economy sucks ass over there and many supplement there income doing films just to live a decent life; the life we’ve been accustomed to living here in the U.S. And they work for a third of what we do. Many are supporting their families from their income, while we wander the malls looking for something to buy because we have money burning a hole in our pockets.
FSC needs our support and money. It’s not enough to just talk about it. We need to pay the freight. We need to help in anyway we can. Unless you want to put a lawyer on retainer and fight this by yourself, pay the freight. It’s such a small drop out of your pocket. I hear people saying they don’t agree with the politics or whatever. I don’t even know what that means. But I do know that there is NO OTHER trade group representing the adult industry’s concerns.
No one is asking for you you starve yourself, sell your car or sell a kidney. A regular contribution to the legal fund helps immensely. You know that guy sitting in the Oval office? His campaign fund was mainly made up of small contributions from every day working people. Contributions of $200, $100, $50 or even $20 can help us as an industry maintain our dignity as an industry and the right to work that we legally have while still protecting performer safety in the industry.
I myself am committed to contributing monthly to the litigation fund. For me there is no other option. I’ve never been one to walk away from a fight when it came to my rights. I”l be damned if I let someone who doesn’t know me tell me what I can or can’t do, especially when I know I’m a professional. How about you?
Like I’ve written before, they counting on you to be lazy and selfish and apathetic. I think there is enough of that in the world today. There are enough people in the world who will not make an effort and fight for themselves, for what they know is right. And the truth is, the politicians are scared of what we can do. They’re scared that our voice, when heard, will be supported by the public. When the public knows what lengths were taken to lie and deceive them in order to force an agenda on them and us, they will support us. Because we’re right.
Take a moment to really look around at the things you have. Can you really say you can’t contribute? I know it’s the holiday and we are in the midst of buying presents and rewarding ourselves after a year of long days, itchy assholes, grueling scenes, cumshots in the eyes and wasted time on set. But how long will you be able to do that? Maybe next year, you won’t have that luxury. Maybe next year , you will miss the smell of jizz in your hair or the that bad breath from the still cameraman. Maybe, just maybe, someone else has more fortitude to push their own agenda while you were turning your attention elsewhere and playing Angry Words With Friends Who Have Farms and Birds Who Are Assassins.
The great thing is that you don’t have to file motions and research law cases and precedents. You don’t have to be a law expert. All you have to do is contribute. Not one time but as often as you can. It will come back to you. It, again, will be something you will reflect on later and proudly say, “I did contribute!”.
Listen, I know we are selfish people. Hell, I’m as selfish as the next. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Just change the way you manifest it. Be selfish, contribute to the legal fund and you will be looking out for your own interests as an individual and as a group. But not to contribute makes you apethetic and boring. It’s such a simple principle that to not participate makes one uncompelling and banal.
Lastly, this is a long tail industry. There are others downstream that can help us as well. Novelty companies, gentleman’s club owners, bookstores can help us. As their business can be attributed, in small part, to what we do, we would welcome their help in this. They all know too well how government is always seeking to put them out of business. If they no longer have the product that people want to watch or buy, their business goes elsewhere.
As you can see we all have some skin in this game. Give, contribute, fight and may we all look at ourselves in the mirror and see the true people we are.
Who are YOU?
CONTRIBUTE TO THE LITIGATION FUND FIGHTING THE MEASURE B LAW