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Scientology, cont.

Our friends with the Church of Scientology scored a major legal victory last week in their ongoing campaign to suppress dissemination of internal church documents on the Internet. A federal jury in San Jose ordered Keith Henson of Palo Alto, an outspoken Scientology critic, to pay $75,000 in damages to the Scientology-affiliated Religious Technology Center. Henson had posted to the Internet a document called NOTs 34, which he claimed was essentially a manual for illegally practicing “medicine” using E-meters, auditing and other Scientology techniques. “The jury held that copyright laws are sacrosanct, even when they’re being used to conceal criminal conduct,” said Los Angeles attorney Graham Berry, who represented Henson and has often crossed swords with Scientology in the past. “That’s a disturbing decision, and one that lawyers for the Mafia might want to take note of.” (Scientology has denied any criminal conduct.)

But whatever jubilation the Scientology representatives on hand felt about the verdict was likely short-lived. Immediately after the verdict was announced, the court released the complete transcript of the trial — including a sealed portion of the transcript in which the offending document, its contents and alleged criminal components were discussed in great detail. The court immediately recalled the transcript, but too late: The very information the Religious Technology Center had fought to conceal was immediately posted to multiple Web sites. “And once something’s on the Net, there’s no way to recall it or get it back,” chuckled Henson, whose marginal financial situation makes recovery of damages unlikely. “That’s worth an imaginary $75,000 to me.”

—Zack Stentz

Hugh’s Your Daddy!

Hugh Hefner is fond of recalling his Playboy partying heyday as "the good old days." If you pick up the August issue of Hustler, you’ll see where Hef’s pleasant reflections are coming from. Hefner — the man who defined sexual cool for a generation — is about to join John DeLorean and Jackie Kennedy Onasis as luminaries who have been exposed by porn provocateur Larry Flynt. OffBeat has friends in high places at Flynt’s black-glass castle at the corner of Wilshire and La Cienega, friends who were kind enough to treat us to an advance peek at the goodies — five crisp, full-color XXX-rated photos of Mr. Playboy busy at work on a young blond. Looking part Caligula, part Harvey Keitel (of Bad Lieutenant fame), Hef’s unshaven, blown-out mug in the photos looks like it’s seen the back end of a three-day cola binge. As for action, in two of the pix Hef is playing finger pie with the woman, who is clad in knee-high black boots and garters. There’s one of Hef getting the Hugh Grant treatment, and another of him returning the favor. And finally, a shot of cowboy Hef riding high on the range. Even more interesting are the toys that can be glimpsed scattered across the bed, including a rather large-looking strap-on, a smaller white butt plug, and lots of lube bottles on the dresser . . . begging the question, who was on the receiving end? According to sources at Hustler, Flynt procured the purloined photos shortly after they were stolen from Hefner’s Chicago mansion back in the 1970s. He then tipped off Hefner’s people that he had them and was prepared to publish them. "Hefner called Flynt personally and said, ‘There aren’t a lot of people in a position to do me a favor, but you are,’" recalled one Flynt confidant. "Larry wanted respect from Hef. And he got it, at least temporarily." That respect came in the form of an invitation to the Playboy Mansion, where Flynt turned the photos back over to Hefner, though apparently not before duplicating them. The other shoe didn’t drop for more than two decades, and Hefner probably thought the photos would never see the light of a reader’s eyes. When we called Playboy for comment, communications director Bill Farley muttered, "Oh boy, oh boy . . ." several times as we explained what Flynt is about to unload on news racks everywhere. A few minutes later, Hefner himself was on the line, and taking it all like a good sport. Upon hearing a description of the images, Hef sighed, chuckled lightly and remarked, "Ahhhh, sounds like the good old days." About the screaming headline on the cover of Hustler ("Hugh Hefner’s Private Orgy"), Hef said, "I think Larry’s paying me a high compliment by describing me making love with one woman as a ‘private orgy.’" Hefner confirmed that Flynt had threatened to publish the photos back in the ’70s and that Flynt was subsequently invited out to the mansion, where he returned the pics. "I think he wanted me to be more appreciative of him," Hef said. He said he hasn’t spoken with Flynt since that day at the mansion. As for why he would publish the photos now, Hef believes Flynt is again looking for trouble. "Maybe he’s a little crazier now. I think Cincinnati indicates that," Hef mused, referring to Flynt’s recent bust in the city that loves to censor. Flynt may indeed find some trouble with these pics — not from Hef, but from the woman pictured, who’s identified by name in the caption and called a "fuck bunny." Hefner said the woman is now married with children. "She’s got grounds for a major invasion-of-privacy lawsuit," he said. Roger Diamond, a veteran adult-entertainment attorney, agreed that Flynt may be answering a lawsuit as a result of the spread. "She’s not a public figure. I think she has a good case," Diamond said. "But Flynt’s people must have already calculated that. Whatever she can get in damages is less than the value the photos have for the magazine. It’s totally mercenary." Lawsuits or not, Flynt has again demonstrated his wily, hell-raising flair as only he can. When we asked Hef what he thought of Flynt, he broke out in a hearty laugh, paused, then said, "Hey, I enjoyed the movie."

—Mark Cromer

Last Word on Buzz

"But not to worry. The nice thing about magazines is there’s always next month, and the one after that."

—From Marilyn Bethany’s editor’s note in the final issue of Buzz magazine, which filed for bankruptcy on April 28 and ceased operation after eight years in print.

Correction

In "All Talked Out," which was published in our May 8–14, 1998, issue, we mistakenly described John Birke as "a former Democratic state Assembly candidate who became a regular caller on [Peter Ford’s KIEV 870 radio show] during the 1996 election season." In fact, Mr. Birke is a former state Senate candidate, and he did not begin calling the radio program until December 1996, after the election season. The article also erroneously stated that Mr. Birke had "scuffled with Ford’s son at a [Voice of Citizens Together] rally in Westwood that turned ugly." In fact, Mr. Birke has never scuffled with Mr. Ford’s son. The article also erred in stating that Mr. Birke has a conviction for soliciting prostitution; rather, Mr. Birke pleaded no contest to a charge of disturbing the peace. The L.A. Weekly apologizes for the errors.