Do the Hustler


AFRIEND writes:

Anyone who has watched the leaves in Central Park turn slowly through somber autumn shades to brown and finally, wrinkled and dark like an old man's face, drop spinning to the ground, knows something of that special feeling one gets at the changing of the seasons. I often regret that I don't visit New York in autumn very much nowadays--my workplace is a fiery 1000 miles away, straight down--but I always remember with fondness my trips there of the past.

It was not so long ago, in fact, that I was having lunch one fine autumnal afternoon with Donald Trump at the Four Seasons. The beige and russet of his handsomely cut tweed jacket seemed to echo, sartorially, the earth tones in the wind-swept, dying grass outside the window. "I will do anything for money," he confided. "But I must have money--huge, pointlessly huge amounts of it." I still grow nostalgic when I think of that afternoon. Someday, quite soon in fact, his eternal soul will be mine to torture for endless centuries above a pit of burning sulfer.

But I suppose I shall always remember this fall as the most pleasurable of all. Not because the leaves, yielding to the changeless natural circle of life, were decked in brighter hues than in years past. Not because the harvest moon shone higher in the September night. Not because dear old Harvard won any more triumphantly on the football field--though of course it did. No, this autumn will be most pleasurable to me because this autumn two evil men have irretrievably consigned their immortal souls to the burning perdition of Hell.

IAM speaking, of course, of Larry Flynt and Jerry Falwell. Those who are familiar with the gentlemen's reputation will no doubt recognize my interest in their eternal torment. Flynt is best known as the fat, wheelchairridden publisher of Hustler, a journal known in the obscure lexicon of the trade as a "magazine for men." "Whose souls will soon lie within Satan's dreaded clasp," the masthead should truthfully read, but no matter.

Falwell, of course, I find the more disgusting of the two, for no other reason than his professed dislike of me. Quite honestly the distinction is of minor import from my point of view; in my line of work you quickly learn to do without flattery.

The two gentlemen appeared two days ago in a front page New York Timesarticle about a case being heard in front of the United States Supreme Court. Hustler, it seems, ran a humor piece in which Falwell was intimated to have had sex with his mother, drunkenly, in the outhouse. Falwell was reading Hustleron an airplane one day, saw the piece, and became enraged. So now the question lies before the highest court of the land: are publishers liable for printing material which "intentionally causes emotional distress"?

The word "intentionally" is crucial. Jerry Falwell causes severe emotional distress to many people every day, but he's not liable, because he's just being himself.

REPORTS on the progress of the trial indicate that some of the participants are finding amusement at the goings-on. Laughter erupted when Flynt's attorney claimed that the intent of Hustler was simply to "Bring (Falwell) down to our level." And Flynt himself argued, "I think the First Amendment gives me the right to be offensive."

Unfortunately, Flynt did not enlighten the court as to why he felt it important to exercise that right. One could suppose it might have something to do with the unholy evil of his black, black soul. But that's just a guess.

The question that has yet to be asked or answered in this ungodly circus of sleaze is: why was Jerry Falwell reading Hustler on the airplane in the first place? Was he perusing its interesting and informative articles? Was he, as an amateur photographer, looking for lighting ideas? Or was he searching for authoritative news on his old friend, Jim Bakker?

Or was he, perhaps, adding yet another load to the burden of mortal sin which will soon damn his soul for all time to the place of darkness and the gnashing of teeth?

We'll have to wait and see.