I remind Finley of a statement she made at the beginning of the interview, about when she was a struggling actress, and the humiliation of the audition process. She had said that the only roles for which she qualified at 20 years old were as ingenue - the perennial object of so many men's desire. Totally unacceptable. Yet here she is, 20 years later, posing for Playboy. Go figure.
"I don't have a problem with the eroticism," she explains. "I think that's sometimes a problem with feminists. The problem back then was that I couldn't be looked at in any other way. But in Playboy I also have the interview. The point is, I think, that being a celebrity changes things. I'm 40 going in there - that's interesting in itself - talking about my work . . . I was interested in how they want my pussy to look. I found it all very tame. You know, they brushed my pussy."
(Actually, I didn't know.)
"I think it's funny that I'm the Ms. Magazine woman of the year, then I go right to Playboy," she adds. "I think that a lot of my thoughts about this are confused and hypocritical, and I feel totally comfortable with that. Playboy is so behind the First Amendment. The Whitney Museum cancels my show, and there's nobody from the art world calling me up [in support]. I think the porno magazines are the only ones standing behind the First Amendment."
Clearly, Finley still bristles from her Supreme Court defeat: "I'm looking at my NEA file, and I'm throwing it in the trash. Why should I save it? For history? I mean, who cares after a while?"
She's equally dismayed by charges that she speculated on the NEA debacle as a career move: "I really took the court case seriously, as a civic responsibility." She says she could easily have left the East Coast five years ago, but stayed to see the case through. Now, there's nothing keeping her there. She's planning a move to L.A. this month.
"I'm tired of being around old money," she says. "In Rockland County, where I live, they all try to make it look like 1750. But I don't think 1750 was a very good time!
"I'm an ambitious person," she repeats throughout the interview. "I'm very tired of that world I was in. I'm tired of institutions canceling on me. It became such a fight, so many cancellations. I'm not a masochist. I think I've gotten from New York everything that I can. If I can no longer perform at Lincoln Center or the Whitney Museum, I want to leave. I hope I can contaminate more people with my obscene art," she says. "As Larry Flynt says, 'Move to L.A., where all the perverts are.'"
The American Chestnut plays at Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sun., 8:30 p.m.; through Oct. 18. Call (323) 660-8587.