In 1983 Hustler magazine printed a parody of a Campari advertisement. The real ad was based on the slogan, "You'll never forget your first time." Flynt's parody showed Jerry Falwell in a reflective pose being interviewed about his first time and included such lines as, "I never really expected to make it with Mom, but then after she showed all the other guys in town such a good time. . . ." The pseudo-interview continued in similar bad taste. Falwell, understandably, and having no sense of humor, was incensed when one of his staff showed him the Hustler advertisement (it's unclear if this was regular reading material for the staff or not.)In any case, Falwell decided to sue (and not coincidentally use the incident as the foundation for a major fund-raising campaign.) Flynt, one of America's more repugnant byproducts, rested his case basically on the premise, "Can't you take a joke, Jerry?"
Smolla, a professor of Constitutional Law at the College of William and Mary, has written a fascinating account of the case, which raised all sorts of fundamental freedom of speech and freedom of religion issues. The book is delightfully entertaining, while presenting a clear and concise accounting of the case and some background on the evangelical movement with biographical sketches of the main players.
The Supreme Court decided, in a unanimous decision that Flynt, had every right to make a fool out of Jerry Falwell (and himself.)
The best comment I read about the case came from a book by Lewis Grizzard Don't Bend Over in the Garden, Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes. It's too good not to quote:
"Who do yo pull for in something like that. It's like picking a favorite between cancer or heart attack, fat or ugly, Iraq or Iran.
It took me about three seconds to decide who I was for: Flynt.
Her's why: Give the book burners one little victory like Falwell over Flynt and those people can get red-eyed with determination to see everything but the Bible, Reader's Digest and Guns and Ammo flushed down the toilet. You've seen people like that. They have beady little eyes, the men wear Bermuda shorts and eat a lot of prunes and the women have mustaches and dowager's humps. They tend to speak partially through their noses.
They not only want to censor books and magazines, they would do away with anything that is fun, such as doing it with the lights on and drinking in the daytime.
These people have no sense of humor, keep plastic over their living room furniture, like Bob Barker, send money to television evangelists, buy velvet paintings of Jesus and/or bullfighters from people selling along the edge of the road, don;t like dogs, are pale, are still wearing polyester and haven't had a decent bowel movement in twenty years.
S.J. Perelman referred to such individuals as 'damp people.' I could add to that by saying they are the mushrooms of the human race.
Let them have a say in what we can read or watch or do and pretty soon, the rest of us will be just as bored as they are."