Monday, April 3, 2017

Groove (Part 15)

     Larry Bennett;s memorial service was on Saturday.  His actual funeral was a private, family-only affair.  The memorial service was open to all, but particularly to the adult film community.  The service would be another show of solidarity.  Our businesses may compete, but our personalities should not.  We're all in the same racket, and the world really doesn't understand us, so we must be able to lean on each other.

     A sufficient crowd was expected, so that the people from Vivid Video and Skin Scene Video who were organizing it twisted some arms, and the city of Los Angeles allowed them to use the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park, right in central LA.  Unlike the picket at the Crystal Chapel last year, the crowd wouldn't just be people directly working in the industry, but anyone who wanted to be there.  Fans, friends, voyeurs, drug connections, anyone.
     The Inana crew would be in attendance.  It didn't matter that me, Bekka, Angel, Small Steve, and Vinny were the only ones who had known Larry, again, it was a show of solidarity.  Larry was an old hand in the industry, going back to the days of 8mm, big mustaches, floppy tits, and guys who wore black socks on camera.  He had two convictions for Producing Obscene Material, and two not guilty verdicts for pandering.  This would be a Who's Who of adult entertainment, going back to the mid-Seventies.  (I told Bekka I was going to bring a box of donuts with me. "Why?"  So I can become Ron Jeremy's new best friend.)
     The death of Ron Haley was big news in Southern California.  He was a wanted murderer, and someone had saved the state loads of money by pre-empting his trial.  There were eleven witnesses to his shooting, all inside the Taco Bell across the lot.  When I heard the description police were working with, I relaxed a lot.  They weren't looking for a white guy with bleached hair in a late-model Fleetwood, they were on the hunt for a Mexican in a yellow hat, driving a black Chevy Caprice.  Just the same, I dyed my hair blue, the same shade as Jane's.
     The family was glad everything was wrapped up so nicely.  Haley was disposed of, by an associate of the family.  The problem was solved.  Angel briefly kicked himself for having cancelled the stakeout guys, but I reminded him that they would have left for the night by the time I was at the studio, anyway.  Their pigeons inside San Diego and Los Angeles County law enforcement told them that while Ron Haley's murder case was still open, nobody was working on it.  Someone had murdered a murderer, and big deal.
     Both studios opened again, everyone jumping right in.  Our executive production manager busted his nuts to arrange things so we'd stay on schedule after losing six days of time.  Me, Angel, Bekka, and Small Steve did a lot of stroking and cajoling with performers, convincing them that really, think about it, we're asking you to work a twenty-four hour week for a couple weeks, instead of your usual sixteen hours.  Now, where else in the world can you have a (legal) job with that few hours, but the money you'll be making.  We need you, we really do, we're all the same team, everyone will be busting ass.  The performers realized just how much pride they really did have in what they were doing, and accepted new schedules without a grumble.
     The next Wednesday, the funeral and service for Ron Haley was held.  Attendance was very, very sparse: they didn't have enough able-bodied men to carry his coffin to the grave, a groundskeeper was drafted into service.  Nine people showed up:  Ron's estranged alcoholic father, two ex-wives, their adult children (one each, both daughters), whoever got the short straw at Leisure Time Video, a "friend" (who turned out to be his China White dealer), a repo man who was still looking for Ron's BMW, and a woman who got all the way through the service, until it was time for the viewing.  (Actually a blown-up photo of Haley sitting on his closed casket.)  The woman walked up, stared at the photo, and announced, "That's not Wally!  What day is this?"  Wednesday, ma'am.  "Aw shit, I'm a day early!"  She took her flowers back and left.

     I found a parking space six blocks away from the Pavilion, next to Esperanza Elementary School.  We'd taken the Falcon, for the cachet it carried.  With me were Bekka, Feather, Trish, and Sue.  The three younger girls were all members of the Narrowbutt Clan, and fit nicely in the back seat of the Falcon.  We were a half hour early by design, but it was still obvious this would be a jam-packed event.  Marshall Weller of Vivid Video had asked me to say a few words during the memorial.  Fine with me.  Marshall wasn't a big fan of mine, for an odd reason: I'd given him a new nickname.  He was now known as OneDude.  When I'd first met him at Eroticon a couple years ago, for some reason my brain couldn't hold onto his name, so when talking to others, I just kept referring to him as "That One Dude."  Larry also helped kick-start the nickname.  He and I were talking, and Marshall was walking towards us.  I said something like, "Oh, here he is, that one dude."
     When Marshall got to us, Larry looked at him and said, "Hello, OneDude."
     "What?" asked Marshall.
     "That's what Lenny calls you.  That one dude, or just OneDude.  I think it sounds kinda catchy, I think we'll stick with it."
     "So what's shakin', OneDude?" I asked.
     "It's Marshall," he grumbled.
     "You were named after an amplifier?"
     So, Larry spent the entire weekend addressing Marshall as OneDude.  Larry outranked Marshall in the hierarchy at Vivid, so Marshall wasn't willing to say anything back.  Soon, everyone at Vivid's three booths were addressing him as OneDude, and continued to at work, where the rest of Vivid's employees also learned Marshall's new name.  And from there, it spread through the whole adult entertainment scene in Los Angeles.  Marshall was dead, long live OneDude.  He gave up fighting it after about six months, but it was surrender, not acceptance.
     The space in front of the pavilion was getting filled up.  Levitt Pavilion has no seating, bring your own chair, or a blanket.  Many people were treating the memorial like a company picnic, and good for them.  Just like at any rock concert, there was a large crowd standing right up front.  Bekka and I walked up the stairs on the right of the stage, looking for OneDude.  I decided to simply address him as "sir" all day, it seemed like the right thing to do.  He was standing with a couple guys in the back.  The stage lights were on, and I counted four video cameras on tripods, ready to immortalize the day's events.
     Seeing me, OneDude pointed me towards a chair, one of a dozen lined up in the back.  He explained that --- holy fucking shit --- Larry Flynt would be giving an invocation at the top, there would be music and a release of doves, a brief prayer (Larry had been an Episcopal), then the guest speakers would step up, in order, and say our spiel.  When we finished, we were to exit the stage.  When all this was over, there would be a bit more music, provided by a jazz quintet, local guys Larry had been a fan of.  After that, anyone who wanted to could get up and say anything they wanted to about Larry.... although OneDude quietly explained the volume for the PA would be turned down several notches at this point.
     There was a bit of a stir at the front of the stage.  There was no wheelchair ramp, so four volunteers were hefting Larry Flynt, chair and all, directly onto the stage from the front.  I walked over and helped guide and lift, easing Mr. Flynt down with scarcely a bump.  Everyone backed off once he was on the stage, I started to walk towards a rear exit to smoke.  Then I felt something tap my lower arm and a shallow Southern voice said, "'Scure me."
     I turned and found Flynt had rolled up next to me in silence. "Hello, Mr. Flynt," I said.
     "You're the fella that runs Inana Productions, correct?  Lenny Schneider?  You're the one that gave the world the gift of Becky Page."
     "Well, I lent a hand, at least," I smiled.  "Yeah, I'm the Big Cheese at Inana.  See?" I handed him one of my new business cards, which simply identified me as "Leonard Schneider -- Big Cheese," and had my phone and pager numbers on it.
     Flynt looked at the card and chuckled.  "Call yourself what you want.  You're the kid that firebombed the whole damn adult video industry.  You started makin' your features, and by God if you didn't set everyone else's asses on fire.  And it's a damn good thing you did."
     "Well, thank you, sir.  Um, why do you say that?  For a while, I had more than a few enemies."
     "The business was gettin' complacent!  Everybody had been doin' the same damn things, year after year, and nobody wondered why the hell the industry wasn't growin'.  You figured it out, people want entertainment, not just sex.  I can imagine you did piss some people off.  They'd been sittin' on their laurels, making decent money, and here comes Inana Productions, selling tapes by the millions.  And who's responsible for this?  Some damn kid, some punk rocker from San Diego!  Haw!  Wisdom from the mouths of babes!"
     Flynt tugged at my sleeve and said, "Tell ya what, though.  It's always the least damn likely people to shake things up.  Hell, look at me.  I'm a Tennessee cracker with an eighth grade education.  I didn't have anything to prove when I started Hustler, I just thought men's magazines should stop bein' so damn coy, and give men what they really wanted to see, you know?  I wasn't trying to change the world.  I just did it because nobody was sayin' I couldn't do it."
     I smiled widely.  "Thank you, sir.  That was the position I was in.  I found myself suddenly thrust into the position of being the COO of a porn studio, and my only real motivating factor was I wanted to make hardcore features I'd actually want to watch all the way through, not hit the Fast Forward button on the VCR once.  And, well, I guess I did an even better job than I thought."
     "You know how you changed the game, in a big way?" Flynt said loudly.  Soon he was emphasizing by pounding his fist into his other hand.  "It's so obvious, but nobody had ever bothered.  You inCORPorated the SEX with the damn PLOT so the two FLOW together, totally seamless!  And no suspension of disbelief, either, it never feels contrived.  It wouldn't have mattered how good of a script you had, if the damn sex felt tacked on, like in every other damn feature, nobody would have given a crap about your feature.  How did you come up with the idea?"
     This question flummoxed me a bit.  I had to shrug and say, "It just.... made sense, you know?  Okay, my plots don't really revolve around sex, but sex is life, so sex should be part of life, part of the natural flow as we go through our days and weeks and years.  So having the sex be an organic part of the script seemed like a no-brainer.  To paraphrase you, nobody said I couldn't do it, so I did it."  I let a moment go by, then said, "How is Lawrence Pelton doing?  I called him on Thursday and we spoke briefly, but he sounded weak.  Have you seen him?"
     Flynt stared into the middle distance.  "I have.  Last Tuesday I went to visit.  He was barely conscious, I don't think he knew I was even there.  I know he's gonna be on that ICU ward for a while, so I figured I'd try another visit on Monday."  Again, Flynt tugged my sleeve.  "He mentioned you."
     "He seemed like  he had no energy --- can't blame him --- but he managed to get out, 'How is Lenny?'  I didn't know who the hell he meant at first, so I said, 'Lenny who?'  'He gets out, 'Schneider. Is he alive?'  Okay, I know who Lenny Schneider is, but how the hell would I know if you're alive or dead?  So I just said, 'Yeah, he's fine,' so he wouldn't be bothered.  I asked him why he wanted to know, and he sorta mumbled somethin' about a phone call, and I just left it at that, it was obvious just the effort of tryin' to talk was exhausting for him. Any idea what he'd be talking about?"
     I frowned at the stage surface.  "Yes, I do.  I was on the phone with Lawrence when he was shot.  In fact, we were talking about Ron Haley.  I guess Haley had entered the offices and fired off a shell.  Lawrence told me to hang on, and --- I think --- he got a gun out of a file drawer.  Then I hear Haley curse at Lawrence, and another shotgun blast.  I started yelling into the phone  and after a couple moments I could hear Lawrence yelling for me, warning me to watch out for Haley, be careful, take care of Bekka.....  And, uh...."  I started to choke up.  "Then he went silent.  I thought I'd just heard him die.  And there was no more impotent feeling, listening to a friend get shot, but you're miles away and can't do anything about it, you can't even comfort them."  I took another moment to re-steady.  "It really kinda fucked me up for a little while.  Lawrence had contacted me, he'd paged me, which was unusual.  Usually when we talk, we're just shooting the shit, gossiping.  He'd never page me just to chat.  He was telling me what he knew.
     "Remember, Lawrence is the biggest altruist in the industry.  Because of that, people trust him, and they'll talk to him.  He learned that Ron Haley had come out of hiding that morning, and showed up at the Leisure Time business offices.  Lawrence knew Haley hated my guts, and that Haley was a man who would hold a grudge until he was six feet under.  I guess Haley was ranting and raving at Leisure Time, saying they were  the only people in the industry who weren't corrupt, everyone else was against him, especially that punk Lenny Schneider, and on and on.  He didn't have the shotgun with him at Leisure Time, he was just ranting and raving.  Then he took off....  And the next place he popped up was the Vivid studios in North Hollywood.  And we know how things went from there."
     Flynt looked up at me and said, "God damn, Lenny.  That musta been hell."
     "It was."  I chuckled.  "I keep telling myself that when I visit him, I'm gonna chew him out for scaring me like that."
     Several ticks went past, and Flynt commented, "I'm glad you and Inana didn't have any problems.... Although since Haley was killed in Oceanside, your turf, he probably had you lined up for it.  Jesus, boy, how many times have you been shot now?"
     "Four incidents, a total of nine rounds.  Twice at work.  Mr. Flynt, you caught an assassin's bullet, but you haven't been shot since.  Lemme tell you, it doesn't get easier with practice."
     Flynt snickered and said, "Lord son, you got more holes in you than a pasta strainer."
     OneDude came over and said it was time to get the ball rolling, everyone take your seats or your positions.  Flynt rolled himself up to one side of the podium, waiting to do his speech.  I sat down in my spot.  My location showed I was to be the seventh person to speak.  Lars Benson of Skin Scene Video was next to me, and frowned.  "Jesus Schneider, you couldn't be bothered to put on a fucking tie and jacket?"
     I frowned back and said, "No, I couldn't.  See, I like to think that all the church tales are true, and right now Larry is in heaven.  He's gonna be watching this little shindig today from heaven.  If I'd worn my suit, he'd get pissed off, because he wouldn't recognize me, he'd sit there on his cloud saying, 'That bastard Schneider ditched out!'  He'll see the denim and the boots and know I made it, and am ready for action."
     Benson glared briefly at me, then he grinned and chuckled.  "Okay, fair enough, Schneider.  Your point."
     The guy on my other side was a big-wig at Vivid Video, but I was blanking on his name.  He worked the business end of Vivid, he had nothing to do with production, performance, or creativity.  He poked me and said, "This probably isn't the right time to bring this up, but...."
    I sighed and cut him off.  "Let me guess, Vivid would just love to hire Leonard Schneider.  He'll get a massive salary, a place to live rent-free, carte blanche on feature budgets, and a month-long orgasm every year.  No.  Thank you, but no.  If you don't see why I'm loyal to Inana at this point, I'll start to question if you know what it is I do for a living at all."
     Apparently I'd guessed right, because the man sat back in his chair, saying, "Well, when you're in for a change, don't forget us."
     OneDude got on the microphone and said, "Good afternoon, fellow smut-peddlers, perverts, panders, sexual malcontents, and blasphemers."  The crowd cheered.  "I am Marshall Weller...." A large chunk of the crowd all yelled, "OneDude!" and laughed.  OneDude glared and said, ".... of Vivid Video.  A week and a half ago, our company, and the entire adult film industry, lost a good man.  Larry Bennett was my boss at Vivid, but he was also a friend.  I still haven't adjusted to walking past his office, looking in, and not see him scratching at where his beard used to be."  A chuckle from the crowd.  "Larry was a man who mentored me when I entered the industry, and kept me from following a few bad paths, if truth be told.  Both of us have families.  As our friendship grew, our entire families would socialize together, enjoying each other's company.
     "Vivid, and the entire industry, is now missing one of the most dynamic people in adult entertainment.  Larry's wife and children are missing a husband and a father.  And I am missing someone I can only describe as one hell of a guy.  At this point, my tears have passed --- I think --- and I believe Larry would be annoyed with us if we spent this memorial service wailing and gnashing our teeth at losing him.  I think Larry will be happier if we hear the speakers, listen to the music, then go across the street to the package store and buy s six-pack.  Drink a few, share a few, talk, laugh, share.  One of the things that Larry always stressed is that no matter how stressful or hectic things can get our industry, you should still have a percentage of your brain telling you, 'I'm having the time of my life right now.'  This business is all about providing a good time, and Larry believed those of us in the trenches, in front of the cameras, behind the cameras, or in the cubicles should be having some fun too.  Everyone, the best way to remember Larry Bennett today is to enjoy yourselves.  Are you with me?"  The crowd (my guess was about 1300 people) cheered.
     OneDude introduced Larry Flynt.  There was some cheering, some applause, and a few scattered boos.  OneDude handed over the microphone.  When the crowd had quieted, Flynt said, "You have no idea how happy I am to hear those boos.  It means two things to me.  First, we still live in a place where we can express ourselves without fear.  And second, it means that people will be open with me about how they feel.  Hiding how you feel is the worst thing you can do to your mind, you brood and obsess.  I'm in this damn chair because somebody didn't have the willpower to express himself to me directly, instead finding another means to communicate his displeasure.  Anyway, there's a few things I want to tell you about Larry Bennett, besides the fact that he has a really good first name..."
     Flynt's speech went for about eight minutes.  The paths of the two Larrys crossed on more than one occasion, well before Hustler was producing video.  Both of them were in the maelstrom of the "obscenity" debate, starting back in the 1970s, which ran all the way up to the Supreme Court.  The two had become friends after the Hustler Magazine Vs. Falwell case.  When Flynt won, Larry Bennett had sent him a rather odd publication.  It was a coffee table book titled "America's Greatest Outhouses," and it was photos of outhouses which the builders had added quite a bit of aesthetic flair, far more than usually was seen on these utilitarian structures.  Bennett had created and printed a fake dust cover for the book, re-titling it, "The Helen Virginia Beasley Honeymoon Guide!"  (Helen Beasley, nee Falwell, was Jerry Falwell's mother.)
     When Flynt finished, OneDude took the microphone and said, "Our next speakers are known and unknown.  These are the men behind the curtain in adult video, the ones who are calculating the cost of bulk videotape while the rest of us are staring at tits.  All of them knew Larry, perhaps through hearing their own feelings and experiences with him, we can all understand Larry a bit better."
     The line of speakers began to move.  Then it was my turn.  I hadn't the slightest clue what I was going to say, mostly just promising myself I wouldn't either ramble or commit slander.  OneDude took the mike from the previous speaker, announced, "Leonard Schneider," and handed off to me. There was applause, plus some enthusiastic cheering and whistling.
     I said, "I know what most of you are thinking right now.  You're thinking, 'What idiot decided handing that guy a microphone is a good idea?'"  There was laughter.  "Yeah, I'm Lenny Schneider, or as how most fans know me, Becky Page's husband.  It's been interesting hearing the war stories about Larry, going back to when I thought 'pornography' was something you played on a pornograph.  I've known Larry less than three years.  We met at Eroticon.  Since I have the personality of an abscessed wisdom tooth, Larry --- like a lot of other people --- didn't care for me, and didn't know what to think of me.  I thought I had Larry pegged: shit, another lifer in the industry, some bastard whose videos are as thrilling as a driver's license photo  Larry thought I was a psychotic brat, something unstable that you needed to keep an eye on.  Fine, Larry had me pegged.  I didn't have him pegged, though.  And showing just how goddamn patient Larry could be, he and I had several conversations over the course of the weekend, and exchanged information.
     "Larry called me a week after Eroticon to tell me he'd finally seen what was then Inana's latest release, 'Dangerous Desires.' "  (There was a sudden burst of cheering.)  "He had some questions about how certain aspects of the film were produced, particularly the car chase.  He wasn't happy with my answers.  Um....  Let's just say that the plotting, structuring, and filming of the chase wasn't one of the most legal things I've ever done, and leave it at that.  Larry reminded me that it's hard to produce video when you're in jail.  He advised me to stop thinking like the little thug I was at the time and play by the rules, one's life will go much smoother.  That was the first bit of mentoring I got from Larry Bennett, and it wouldn't be the last, not by a long shot.
     "At Inana, I had the title of 'producer,' but I didn't really grasp what the job entailed.  I'd been faking it for six features, I was proof that God takes care of fools and little children..... And I'm not a kid anymore.  Larry changed me from a clueless dingbat into someone with a solid grasp of how to produce quality adult film, like he'd been doing for years.  Given my reputation at the time, this was both an act of surprising generosity and one of possible social suicide.  Why is Larry Bennett, of all people, talking on the phone and having lunch with that asshole from San Diego?  The answer is, Larry Bennett had a heart big enough to take the time to help one of his direct competitors finally become a grown-up.  Well, he tried, anyway.
     "OneDude --- excuse me, I mean Mr. Weller --- advised us to enjoy ourselves both at work and while we're here today.  Since I'm not at work today I brought this with me...."  I opened two buttons of my jacket and extracted my flask, holding it up.  "One of the first things Larry and I actually had in common was a taste for Johnnie Walker Red.  I brought my flask today so I can pop the top and raise a toast to Larry Bennett."  I opened the flask, held it aloft, yelled "Cheers!" and chugged a few swallows.  Many people in the crowd held their beers and cups aloft, and drank with me, cheering when we were done.  "To paraphrase one of my fluff girls, Larry Bennett was one awesome motherfucker.  I'll miss you, Larry.  Now, time for fun."
     I set the microphone down on the podium, re-buttoned my jacket, then sprinted towards the edge of the stage, launching myself into a forward flip as I jumped.  The crowd roared, and the people at the front were hip enough to actually catch me, crowd-surfing me with laughter and cheering.  I was finally set down, and the entire crowd burst into applause and more cheering.  I gave the Nixon double-victory gesture, and walked to where Bekka and a few other Inana Girls were hanging out.  OneDude was announcing the next speaker, Mark Nines of Vivid Video.  Mark took the microphone and said, "Thanks a goddamn lot, Lenny.  How the hell am I supposed to follow that?"
     Inana had commandeered a picnic table, the closest one to the actual pavilion.  Performers and crew milled around, half-attentive to the speakers.  At the end of the table, Rhonda and Tina, two of our three recently-hired black girls, were smilingly operating a Whippets valve, keeping a couple balloons filled with nitrous oxide.  Tina handed me one, and I hit it, filling my lungs.  The world immediately turned into a sparkly kaleidoscope full of warped sounds, and stayed that way for about forty seconds, then dissolved back into reality.  "Thanks for the hippie crack," I told Tina.
     "Oh my God, that was totally killer!" Rhonda said to me.  (While Rhonda, Tina, and Gabrielle had liberal amounts of melanin, all three were Valley Girls, born and bred.  For God's sake, Tina was wearing a Violent Femmes t-shirt.)  "I've never seen anyone do that before!  Weren't you scared?"
     "No more than I was the last forty or fifty times I've done a stage dive," I answered.  "The only thing to remember is to try and not have your head pointed at the ground, you want to be horizontal as you fall.  If the crowd doesn't catch you, you'll hurt, but no big deal.  Going skill-first into the floor of a club really puts a damper on your month."
     "I like the blue," said Tina, gesturing at my hair. "I would totally love to have some color like that, but black girls are totally boned when it comes to hair dye.  There's, like, no good way to get your hair bleached out enough so you can put in a vivid color like that."
     "When you do your bleach mix, use a forty volume cream developer," I advised.  "Forty volume developer will turn Huey Newton blonde."
     "Never mind."  Seeing Feather standing there, I said, "So I hear you're making your first tentative steps into rock stardom with Fang."
     "We are!" Feather exclaimed.  "My little sister is gonna be our vocalist.  Glee finally outgrew the pop crap over the summer, now she's sitting around listening to my records.  She has awesome stage presence, and she writes the most twisted lyrics.  Like, if the Mentors were women, and had the same attitudes towards men as the Mentors have towards women, half of her lyrics are about sexually exploiting men, in a really violent manner."
     My eyebrows shot way up.  "Oooo-kay then.  Just how high will my balls recede if I read her lyrics?"
     "It's not quite that bad.  It's, like, she writes sexually objectifying lyrics, only the men are the ones being objectified.  One of her songs has the line, 'If you don't make me come, I'm taking your dick with me when I go home!'  Another song is about the right combination of drugs and alcohol to make a guy totally compliant, but still, you know, functional...."
     "Stop right there," I said.  "I'm really, really not in the mood for date rape to be made light of these days.  Jane's roommate just had that happen to her a week ago.  She went to a party, got slipped a Roofie or three, and the next twelve hours are a mystery.  But the bruising and vaginal bleeding are kind of a tip-off about what happened.  In a nutshell, that shit ain't funny, no matter who it's being done to."
     Feather first looked like she wanted to debate about it, then her eyes looked downwards and her face sagged a bit.  "Fair enough, good point," she murmured.  "I guess it's not funny when it happens to chicks, and.... Yeah, sexual violence is fucked up, no matter who the victim is.   Don't worry, not all her songs are like that.... But maybe you're right, she should tone down some of them.  You can finally meet her, she's here today."
     "She's down by the lake with Fang and Erica....  No, wait.  I see them, here they come."
     And here come two aggressively lesbian punk rock chicks, along with a girl who seems to be in mid-metamorphosis from fourteen year old non-entity into a punk.  Her hair is dyed fire engine red, but is still fairly long.  She's wearing an Adicts t-shirt and Levis, but with Adidas, not Doc Martens.  Erica is in her usual uniform, her leather jacket with DYKE across the back in ten inch high letters, a ruined t-shirt, and a miniskirt to show off her tattoos on her legs.  Fang is in a black wifebeater t-shirt with a big pink triangle in the center, tight Levis chopped off above the knee, and Chuck Taylors. She has six or eight spike bracelets around one wrist.
     I gave a hug to Erica and Fang, and introduced myself to Glee.  Erica gave me a snide grin and said, "I heard about this park when I was still in Minneapolis."
     "Oh yeah.  Um, Lenny?  Be on your guard if you visit the men's room here, any of them.  MacArthur Park is supposed to be a notorious cruise spot for closet cases and misfits.  Totally crass behavior, you know?  I waited until it was empty, and I went into one of the men's rooms, and.... Sure as shit, the graffiti is spot on.  Guys write down dates and times and interests, and also which stall they'll be waiting in.   And I've heard LAPD routinely does vice busts here.  The guys who cruise here wold be better served with a personal ad."
     Glee suddenly interrupted with, "Um, can I ask what might be a dumb question?"
     "There is no such thing, dear," said Bekka.  "Ask away."
    "Do all guys jack off?"
    First we all recovered from the whiplash of this non sequiteur.  Then there was a lot of ground-staring and lip-chewing, as everyone forced themselves to not laugh, that would be rude.  I said, "Honey, there's two kinds of people in the world: people who masturbate, and liars.  Get me?"
   "So.... you're saying yes, they do?"  (Correct, honey.)  "Okay.  Why?"
     There was now slightly uncomfortable silence, as we all glanced around at each other.  I noticed a lot of eyes were coming to rest on me: you're the male here, you'd be the expert.  I asked, "You're asking, why do guys jerk off at all?"
     I couldn't help but laugh a little.  "Glee, it's like this.  Guys have a genetic imperative --- basically, the biologically-determined programming in them --- that says, 'Ejaculate, spread seed, breed, reproduce.'  It doesn't go away, and it's so hard-wired into us it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, your body and head keep telling you to have sexual interaction and ejaculate.  When we do, the voice leaves us alone for a while, and we can go back to whatever we're doing.  We don't need another person to fool our genetic imperative, we can take care of it ourselves.  And I'm sure someone has told you it's really, really fun."
     "All right."  Glee frowned at me.  "But why do you do it so much?"
     "How much is 'so much' to you?"
     "I was kinda starting to date this guy, and he said he did it, like, five times a day!  To me, that sounds like guys are too busy jacking off to do anything else!"
     I couldn't help but start to laugh.  I asked Glee, "Am I safe in guessing this guy was your age?  Fourteen or fifteen?"
      Still chuckling, I said, "It's like this.  Guys who are just kicking into serious puberty, like they are at that age, find out they have this incredibly awesome toy they never knew about.  It's always with them, it doesn't need batteries, they don't have to buy equipment, and it's fun as hell to play with.  And best of all, the novelty never seems to wear off.  And their hormones are in overdrive, too, so the urge to play with this new toy is always on them.  Don't worry, guys slow down as they get older.  This boy is right on schedule.  Sorry, but them's the breaks, every guy your age is also gonna be having four or five or six 'personal moments' during the day.  And at that age, it doesn't really jam up your day, it takes maybe two or three minutes."
     Glee kept frowning at me.  It was obvious she wanted to say something else, and I had a hunch what.  Bekka rescued me by asking, "Glee, does this have anything to do with your father?"
    "Yeah.....  Hey, how do you know about that?"
     Feather said, "I've mentioned it a few times, when I was first trying to work for Inana.  Lenny and Bekka wanted to know why I was so eager to get the both of us out of the house, and I told them the truth."
     I added, "And I'd like to clarify something.  From what Feather has told me, I feel safe in saying your father is severely mentally ill.  How he spent his days was a symptom of his mental illness.  Guys aren't like your father, overall.  What he was doing was really fucking horrible, and everyone, guys and girls, would agree with that assessment.  Your dad was seriously twisted, he does not represent what guys are like."
     "Okay...." Glee said, but she still held her glare on me.  "Um, you're the guy that makes all of Inana's videos, right?  Do you ever think people get hurt watching them?  Like my dad?  Can't, um, adult video really hurt people?  My guidance counselor said it can last year, he was giving a lecture...."
     Around me, I heard a half-dozen voices say, "Ugh...."  Jolene was standing to one side of Glee, and looked ready to slap her.  I caught her eye and made a subtle gesture with my hand, telling her to cool down.  Addressing Glee, I said, "Your guidance counselor is mistaken.  He is mixing up cause and effect.  Yes, there are people who wreck their lives, because all they want to do is watch porn, to the exclusion of everything else.  But people also wreck their lives with drugs, and alcohol, and food, and Nintendo, and gambling, and stamp collecting....  See what I'm saying?  If you become obsessed with something, you can have it control you, and it wrecks your shit.  And it can be anything.
     "Look at beer.  There's a shitload of alcoholics in the world, wasting their lives over beer.  But it's rare to hear someone say that anyone who drinks beer will ruin their lives, period.  Most people drink beer in moderation, they don't do it obsessively.  They don't spend all day sitting in a recliner drinking beer, while their lives fall apart.  It's the same with porn.  The vast majority of people who watch porn will watch a video, say, 'Well, that was nice,' and go on with their lives.
     "Like I said, I believe your father's behavior was symptomatic of mental illness.  But porn didn't cause his obsessive behavior.  When your father became ill, he could have just as easily brought home one of those 500 piece jigsaw puzzles, became obsessed, and spent all day and night trying to assemble the puzzle.....  And when it was done, he would have immediately gone out and bought three more to solve, and the next thing you know every flat surface in the house is occupied by a half-complete jigsaw puzzle.  But jigsaw puzzles didn't cause your father to become obsessed with them, that came from your father."
     Bekka put in her own two cents.  "Glee honey, I understand obsession very well.  There are people in the world who are obsessed with Becky Page.  She takes up far too much space in their minds.  They write me three times a week, they watch my movies over and over, they have every magazine with every article about me....  And the thing is, I don't want people to do that.  I hate it.  It kills me that there are people, men and women, for whom Becky Page is the center of their worlds.  They obsess over a woman they've never even met.  If I knew how to break them of their obsession, I would.  But I don't understand why they're obsessed with me.  Like Lenny said, they could be obsessed with beer, or Nintendo.  They chose Becky Page, for whatever reason."
     Glee nodded.  She'd lost her frown, at least.  She noted, "I think what it is, is porn is, like, so mysterious to people."
     Erica responded, "Not a bad assessment.  Pornography is still considered a forbidden enjoyment, something taboo that you don't want your family or neighbors to know you look at.  Western culture has huge issues with sex anyway, and porn is explicitly about sex.  Literally."
     Feather said to her sister, "In a way, Inana, and some other studios, are trying to change that.  I know you've heard me talk about Smart Porn, and seen articles about it.  The idea is that porn can be entertaining for more than just the sex, a porno movie can also make you laugh or scare you, just like any good movie.  And people enjoy being entertained on more than one level.  You get the enjoyment humans take from seeing the sex, but your mind is entertained by the story and dialogue.  Smart Porn is bringing adult film to a new level, where it can be accepted as valid entertainment.  People can talk about Inana's movies like they do 'Star Wars,' or whatever, standing around and having a perfectly normal conversation about a tripe-X movie.  We'd like people to stop seeing porn as shameful, and admit that there is nothing wrong with enjoying the cathartic, gut-level thrill porn provides.  If we're lucky, and Inana keeps putting out good video, adult film will be normalized in society."
     I quipped, "Until some fuckin' idiot gets the brilliant idea of making a hardcore version of 'Dawn of the Dead.'  Then, we'll be herded into the seedy back-alley shops we came from."

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