Could this be the first sign of millennium madness?
Larry Flynt, L.A.'s very own pornographer to the stars--OK, one of them--did the decent thing last weekend and made an honest woman out of longtime sweetie pie Liz Berrios.
"I didn't marry her," Flynt drawls. "She married me."
The hustler behind Hustler magazine is resplendent in a forest green tuxedo, a golden vest of chinoiserie and a cream silk shirt buttoned with emeralds and diamonds. Below the shirt is a tummy full of catered roast beef. Above it is a chandelier en plein air.
We are kicking back an orchestra of champagne flutes in Flynt's tastefully appointed Hollywood Hills backyard--OK, the chandelier is a bit much--and everywhere you look there are doppelgangers from Flynt-land.
Woody Harrelson is hanging with his favorite pornographer from "The People Vs. Larry Flynt"; Flynt's brother Jimmy is in a corner chatting with Harrelson's brother Brett, who played Jimmy in the film; and Flynt's attorney Alan Isaacman is deep in conversation with his cinematic alter ego, Ed Norton. (Norton is there with fellow cast member and love Courtney Love, who has dropped the sleek veneer of Oscars past for a nest of pink hair.) Art masticates with life.
As you might imagine, gooey sentiment fills the hearts of guests seated in the side patio below big, black marble cougars that prowl the eaves. In moments, the Flynts will say their vows before a justice of the peace. OK, Larry. Repeat after the JP: "I promise to be a loving and faithful husband."
Larry: "I promise to be a loving husband." For the fourth time. He thinks.
As one guest put it, "There wasn't a wet eye in the house."
Flyntiness aside, Mrs. Flynt, 38, has done a lot for the 55-year-old embattled publisher since she signed on as his nurse seven years ago.
"It's a fascinating union," says journalist Rudy Maxa, an old friend of Flynt's. "She really did clean him up. She's the one who checked him into a clinic and got him off the painkillers just in time for the movie to come along, and for him to become a champion of the 1st Amendment, and certainly more respectable than he was before.
"I took him to the White House Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner a year ago, and I was just amazed at the number of Capitol Hill staffers begging to be photographed with him."
Today, he is being photographed with his new best friends in Hollywood, including "Flynt" director Milos Forman and "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher, who is even Out & Abouter than we are. Ubiquitous political pundit Arianna Huffington is also there, as are Gail Zappa, porn star Ron Jeremy and four of Flynt's children. Absent is estranged daughter Tonya.
Did we forget to mention Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein? Flynt's colleague of long standing took a break from running his Florida gun shop, which offers a 10% discount to post office employees across the street. Goldstein duded up for the occasion in a gold-studded jacket and a T-shirt that says "marriage = death."
"I'm here to see the class and the sleaze," Goldstein chirps. "Larry is a mixture. He's a mutt."
Indeed, the dark interior of the Flynt manse resembles a cross between a bank and a bordello. Giant fake boulders enclosing fish tanks poke out of the walls; heavy dark-wood museum cases keep your paws off Flynt's treasures of jade and porcelain; black marble warriors patrol the living room and Hollywood-slim naked ladies lounge in paintings that rise to the ceiling.
It is, in a word, ongepotchket.
You know, "stuff gooped everywhere, layers and layers of things." That technical explanation comes courtesy of wedding guest Danna Sigal, one of the Yale-educated architects who is designing an upcoming Hustler store for adult videos, classic film videos, best-selling books, magazines of all stripes, sex toys, coffee cups and T-shirts with the Hustler logo, skimpy lingerie and bondage wear.
Oh, yes. And a coffee shop.
A little class. A lotta sleaze. And a latte to go. In short, a new concept in retailing: the all-American porn shop.
Ongepotchket? We don't think so.
"Everything has to be first class with him," says Sigal, who's designing the store at Sunset Boulevard and Hilldale Avenue with partner Ron Godfredsen. "We are hoping to capitalize on the sensuous parts without being overt, sophisticated rather than sensuous-slash-scummy."
Hmmmmm. "Scummy" would, in all probability, rule out "classy." By the way, does anyone have the number for the Yale alumni magazine? Anyway, the 6,000-square-foot retail mutt is planned to rise under the Hustler banner in early fall. Ta ta, Blockbuster.
As if that weren't fabulous enough, the Venice-based architects also are designing a $26-million casino in Gardena for supergambler Flynt, who won a touted $10 million in Las Vegas six months ago. Gamblers are already placing bets on the opening of his new palace for high-stakes card players. We'll tell you this much: January or February. Ante up.
Sigal says the seven-sided building will make a bold statement for the bold publisher.
"The building is going to be a great, big crown," Sigal says.
Does that have symbolic value?
"Of course, it does. It's Larry."
Meet Julie Marie's Dad: The last person we expected to see at a recent awards dinner benefiting California death penalty opponents was Bud Welch.
We could have bet on Joan Baez, as well as activist performers Mike Farrell, Steve Allen and Danny Glover. State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) was a natural, as were Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird.
But Bud Welch?
You probably haven't met him unless you've tanked up in Oklahoma City, where Bud has operated a Texaco station for 33 years. And you'd know who Bud was if you belonged to one of the heartsick families of bombing victims in Oklahoma City.
Then you'd know that Welch, 59, lost his only daughter, Julie Marie, in the federal building blast in 1995 when she was only 23.
"She was my sidekick, my confidant," Welch says amid a clutch of people on a Miramar Sheraton Hotel lawn. "We hung together all the time, we fought together. We did everything together. She was only a little bitty thing, only 5 feet tall, weighed 103 pounds."
So, of course, Welch would be relieved when convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh is executed, wouldn't he? A reporter asked Welch that question almost as a throwaway, something assumed on the first anniversary of the bombing. The reporter was shocked by his answer:
"How is it going to help me if McVeigh is executed? That's all about revenge, the death penalty is. And revenge is why Julie's dead today."
Welch began getting calls from journalists around the globe. He was invited to speak at universities, prisons and benefits, such as this one for Death Penalty Focus of California, which honored him with the Aline and Norman Felton Humanitarian Award.
The only speaking experience the former farm boy ever had was at the service station. "It's a January afternoon, some little old lady pulls in, she's 90 years old, and she's got her window cracked because it's cold. And the only speaking experience you have is convincing her to roll her damn window down so you can hear what she's saying."
But that turned out to be enough.
Welch figures that after the first year of healing, no more than 10% of the bombing victims' families opposed the death penalty. Now he estimates that 35% share his views. While the numbers speak for themselves, we asked Welch if his campaign against the death penalty had helped him personally.
"It's given me the opportunity to tell more people who my kid was. And I have this inner need, I want the whole world to know who my Julie Marie was. I want them to know the kid could speak Spanish and French and Italian and Portuguese and German, and that she was a brilliant kid I couldn't brag on when she was alive because she didn't allow that.
"And even when I get to bragging on her now--just like right now--I almost feel a pounding on the top of my head that says, 'Dad, just shut up.' "