Porn News

Black Predicts He’ll Be the New Larry Flynt

Do writers rip themselves off? Compare the following article with the one Greg Beato wrote for reasononline especially when he compares Lizzie Borden’s smile to a slutty enigmatic Mona Lisa..

Porn Valley- Nearly 16,000 people paid $40 each for a ticket to the Adult Entertainment Expo, a bustling trade show for sexual entrepreneurs that took place in Las Vegas in January.

Sponsored by the adult-video trade magazine AVN, the event was a silicone- enhanced testament to the democratizing power of porn: Businessmen, bikers, aging hippies, people in wheelchairs, bespectacled lesbian hipsters, curious tourists and even Mike Tyson all came together to meet the stars of Weapons of Ass Destruction 2, the Incredible Gulp and other X-rated fare.

Inside the convention hall, it was one giant gang hug as grinning fans lined up for snapshots with their favorite performers. The biggest draw of all, however, was porn elder statesman Larry Flynt. Dressed in a crisp navy blazer, his head as big and waxy as any senator’s, he graciously signed copies of Hustler for an endless procession of admirers. For a man who claims to have lost his virginity to a chicken, he looked remarkably distinguished.

A few dozen yards away, in an exhibition space much smaller than Flynt’s, a pair of less beloved pornographers held court. Robert Zicari, known in the industry as Rob Black, is a stocky 30-year-old with an air of restless intelligence, always looking to stir things up. His wife, Janet, known in the industry as Lizzy Borden, has long, bleached-blond hair and the enigmatic smile of a slutty Mona Lisa.

Under the banner of their California company, Extreme Associates, the pair has a reputation for producing material that even fellow pornographers find objectionable: explicit sex scenes coupled with simulated rapes and killings, along with the sort of gross-out spectacles usually confined to reality TV.

In August, the Zicaris were indicted by Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, on 10 counts of violating federal obscenity laws. It’s a bellwether case, the most prominent indictment in the Department of Justice’s effort to resurrect the aggressive obscenity prosecutions of the ’70s and ’80s.

If it goes well for the government, dozens of similar prosecutions are sure to follow. The stakes are equally high for the Zicaris. While the maximum sentence for actual rape in Pennsylvania is 20 years, the Zicaris could each receive a maximum sentence of 50 years, along with a $2.5 million fine, for making movies that feature simulated rapes.

In an age of suicide jets and anthrax spam, obscenity cases feel faintly anachronistic — they are the comfort crimes of the legal system. After all, if prosecutors still have time to punish Americans for thought crimes, bad taste or simply a robust instinct for overexposure, the world can’t be that close to Armageddon.

So perhaps we should all take comfort in the fact that along with the Extreme Associates indictment, the federal government has approximately 50 similar cases under way.

And maybe we should breathe a sigh of relief that the Justice Department recently retained the services of anti-porn veteran Bruce Taylor, who has helped prosecute more than 700 obscenity courses in his career. Equally comforting is that in addition to Taylor, there are now dozens of other federal employees devoted to winning the War on Videotaped Sex. Even more reassuring: In President Bush’s 2005 budget proposal, $4 million is earmarked for hiring more full-time porn-fighters.

But why, in times like these, are President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft devoting even a portion of their attention, not to mention substantial government resources, to policing adult entertainment?

It seems they want to appease very vocal, very organized groups like Morality in Media and the American Family Association that blame pornography for rape and murder, child abuse, divorce, the dissolution of families, the debasement of sex and general spiritual dissolution.

Throughout most of the ’90s, the nation’s vice hunters were extremely frustrated, as President Bill Clinton declined to make obscenity-law enforcement a priority. According to Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, federal obscenity prosecutions peaked at 80 during 1989, then dwindled to six in 2000.

But a new administration promised change: While campaigning in 2000, Bush signed a “letter of commitment,” drafted by the American Family Association, to enforce the nation’s obscenity laws. And in the early days of the Bush Administration, Ashcroft met with leaders of more than a dozen similar groups to discuss his porn-fighting plans.

Then came Sept. 11, and briefly the terrors of the Code Orange Age were deemed a greater threat to the nation’s well-being than pornography. But while the vice hunters were sympathetic at first, they grew increasingly restless as the promised prosecutions failed to materialize in sufficient numbers. And now with the 2004 election looming, it’s apparently time to throw them some meat.

Zicari, however, has no desire to be anyone’s sacrificial lamb. A second- generation pornographer who, at the age of 18, started managing his father’s adult bookstore, he says current obscenity laws are hypocritical, vague and obsolete. Drafted in the late 1800s, the first federal obscenity laws criminalized material that had the power to “deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences.”

Since then, the definition continued to evolve, and in 1973, in Miller vs. California (which reaffirmed that the First Amendment does not protect obscenity), Chief Justice Warren Burger established a three-part test. To be considered obscene, Burger wrote, a work had to appeal to the prurient interest as determined by “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” — it had to depict or describe sexual conduct in a “patently offensive” way; and, taken as a whole, it had to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Burger also offered some advice on what material might qualify as obscene, but he ultimately left final determinations in the hands of jurors, so that individual communities could apply their own local standards on a case-by-case basis. In effect, then, the Miller test permits everything and nothing. A jury in California might decide a specific work is perfectly legal, while a jury in another state might say the same work is obscene.

Complicating matters further is the fact that while federal law makes it a crime to sell obscene materials, the Supreme Court, in the 1968 case Stanley vs. Georgia, concluded that “the mere private possession of obscene matter cannot constitutionally be made a crime.” In other words, it’s OK to own obscene materials — you just can’t buy them.

Now, thanks to the way technology has changed how pornography is distributed, Zicari and his attorney, First Amendment specialist Louis Sirkin, plan to argue that this state of affairs no longer makes sense. ”In 1973, the Miller test had merits,” says Zicari. “It gave people a way to control these seedy f — ing porno stores in their community. Now, a private citizen buys my s — from the privacy of his own home, and that’s where he watches it. Why is the community involved?”

Zicari has a lot of other questions, too. For example, why is pornography held to a higher standard of decorum than other genres of pop culture? Are the two amateurishly simulated murders in the Extreme Associates video ”Forced Entry” somehow more offensive than the dozens of expertly simulated killings in “Jason vs. Freddy” or “Gangs of New York”? “What’s the difference between us and Hollywood?” he asks pointedly. “We show explicit sex, and they don’t. And they make hundreds of millions of dollars, and we’re going to have to spend $300,000 (in legal fees) to keep from going to jail. And it’s a shame, because it makes me bitter about the United States, and I’m like the biggest f — ing patriot mother — in the world.”

So far, Zicari’s colleagues in the porn world haven’t exactly rallied to his defense. “There’s a lot of people in this industry who think it’s not them, it’s me,” says Zicari. And, indeed, Flynt himself echoed these sentiments in an interview with “I had a request from (Extreme for its) defense fund,” Flynt told the adult industry trade publication. “I spoke with (other producers) who just echoed my feelings, we’ve got a guy who’s bringing a lot of heat on the adult industry.”

Given Flynt’s own battlefield experiences in the Culture Wars, his perspective on Zicari’s situation seems surprisingly misguided. After all, if Extreme Associates didn’t exist, it’s not as if Ashcroft, Morality in Media and all the other professional vice-hunters out there would suddenly give their blessings to Hustler’s “Jail Babes” video line. Instead, Extreme just gives the Justice Department a starting point.

Zicari, however, thinks the government made a bad choice when it picked him. “Anybody else in this industry would have already copped a plea, and that’s just what the government wants,” he says. “They don’t want millions of people debating this issue. They don’t want a big firestorm of publicity. They want to do this quietly. But at the end of the day, when I beat this and I win, I’m gonna be the new Larry Flynt.



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