Morals Wave Washing Over Florida
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ The crackdown on ribald rappers 2 Live Crew is part of a morals wave breaking across Florida’s land of sand, sun and fun.
″It’s a rising tide that is becoming increasingly difficult to contain,″ said Robyn Blumner, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida.
Those supporting the crackdown argue that a tide of bawdy activity needed containment. Among the targets of their wrath: cheeky thong swimsuits, X-rated videos, nude bars and TV advertising for phone-sex services.
U.S. District Judge Jose Gonzalez ruled here June 6 that the rap album ″As Nasty As They Wanna Be″ is obscene. That was followed by the arrest two days later of a record shop owner who sold the album and the arrests in the wee hours Sunday of two 2 Live Crew members for performing songs from the record in concert.
The crackdown has been attributed to politics, the influence of retirees and the increasing muscle of conservative groups. It has taken place mainly in tourist-driven beach areas associated with risque entertainment:
-Gonzalez’s ruling, which called the album with its graphic sexual content a violation of community standards in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, followed similar rulings by a local judge and grand juries in five counties.
-In a four-county area that includes Daytona Beach, two video store owners were arrested and X-rated videos disappeared from most shops after 100 store owners were warned by State Attorney John Tanner against tapes deemed obscene.
-In Sarasota, where charges earlier were dropped against a 19-year-old clerk accused of selling the 2 Live Crew album to a girl not yet in her teens, thong bikinis - which have only a narrow piece of material covering the buttocks - were banned. The state Cabinet on Tuesday approved a rule that swimsuits at state parks must cover at least half of a woman’s breasts and everyone’s buttocks.
-In the Fort Lauderdale area, bars featuring nude dancing were banned last year unless they serve only non-alcoholic drinks.
-In Palm Beach County, commissioner Ron Howard is seeking a ban on TV advertising for 900-number ″phone sex″ operations, in which callers are charged $10 or more to hear a woman talk dirty to them.
Gonzalez called the 2 Live Crew case part of the continuing confrontation between anything goes and enough is enough.
″And anybody who lives in the land of ‘Miami Vice’ as I do knows that just about anything goes down here,″ John Thompson, a Coral Gables lawyer who helped lead the fight against 2 Live Crew, said Monday on ABC’s ″Nightline.″
But the days of ″anything goes″ appear to be going.
″I haven’t seen anything like it down here. It reminds me of the McCarthy era. It shows that small minds aren’t limited to small towns,″ said Woody Graber, a Miami Beach publicist who represents the Gold Club, an adult entertainment lounge that had to close because of restrictions such as requiring covering of nipples. It is operating now in compliance with the law.
In not-too-distant days, Florida’s beach areas were better known for wet T- shirt contests, spring break revelry and showings of porno flicks such as ″Deep Throat.″
But first Fort Lauderdale three years ago, and then Daytona Beach this year, toughened spring break standards, making arrest sweeps against drugs, drunkenness and lewd behavior.
Ms. Blumner of the ACLU said such conservative organizations as the American Family Association have become well-organized in Florida in recent years. Ann Brittain, a University of Miami anthropology professor, noted that retirees make up nearly a fifth of Florida’s 12 million residents.
When they were raising their families, she said, they didn’t want their children to watch Elvis Presley’s undulating pelvis or listen to the Rolling Stones implore ″Let’s Spend The Night Together.″ They may be shocked to hear of 2 Live Crew’s raunchy lyrics, she said.
″The ones born in the 1905-1920 era, they see a L’eggs commercial, they get a little nervous,″ said Barry Freilich of Ormond Beach, a video store owner Tanner has charged with obscenity.
Serial killer Ted Bundy, executed in Florida’s electric chair in 1989, figures in some of the anti-pornography campaigning.
Tanner, a born-again Christian, prayed with Bundy on death row and recounts that Bundy partly blamed his rape-murder rampage on hard-core pornography. Bundy discussed the effects of hard-core porn in his final interview, with radio psychologist James Dobson.
Dobson’s group, Focus on the Family, led Thompson to go after 2 Live Crew after Focus on the Family sent out transcripts of the album’s lyrics.
Blumner said Bundy is a pawn for the anti-porn groups. ″The fact of the matter is there are more sicko murderers who say God told them to kill than those who read Playboy,″ she said.
She blames politics for the Florida push.
Republican Gov. Bob Martinez, facing a tough re-election battle, spoke out early against 2 Live Crew. Broward County Sheriff Nick Navarro, who ordered the 2 Live Crew arrests, has been accused by 2 Live Crew attorney Bruce Rogow and others of overzealousness.
Civil liberties-minded politicians may find it hard to rush to the defense in such cases, Ms. Blumner said.
″They’re hard issues for politicians to deal with in a constitutional way because the other side has commandeered the term pro-family,″ she said. ″They’re easy issues for politicians who don’t care about free expression rights.″
The governor defended his position this week, saying the 2 Live Crew album is ″audio pornography.″
″Communities have the right to set a standard,″ Martinez said.