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Al Martinez

Forget Smoot of Ogden, Ut. Let's hear it for Hal, morality's pal. : Kicking Smut in the What?

March 28, 1985|AL MARTINEZ

Ever since Senator Smoot of Ogden, UT, smote smut with a secular boot, America has been blessed with a succession of urban smut soldiers who, for divine favor or political expediency, have gone to war against pornography. Most of them are radio preachers with Midwestern accents who summon God's cash to fall like paper rain on their heads in order to five-dollar the devil from the face of the earth.

Among the smut commandos have been those who, like the late Sen. Reed Smoot (hated obscenity, loved polygamy), have occupied legislative positions on one level or another across our favored land. I am pleased to report today that we have a Smoot disciple right here in our own sin-bloated Valley, a former Northridge T-shirt salesman named Hal Bernson.

Mr. Bernson is a city councilman, a conservative Republican and a bird colonel in the army of morality that is marching against adult bookstores, massage parlors and topless bars within his 12th District and possibly throughout the entire rotten, stinking Free World itself. A dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Two weeks ago I took notice of Mr. Bernson's efforts by initiating my own Kick Smut in the Butt crusade with a satirical effort that acknowledged a preference for smut. But, hey, it was only a ploy to unmask the porno-peddlers among us. Once exposed, they can be dealt with in a manner honoring the memory of Smoot himself.

Unfortunately, I have heard from only four who favored smut, among them two owners of a topless bar, a person who breathed heavily into my phone and a man known to have once merchandised pornographic party favors.

I did, however, hear from a grand number of those opposing smut who, unaware of my role as a double-agent, told me in so many words that I could go straight to hell.

Mr. Bernson Himself was one of them. He wrote that he found my column both insulting and offensive and went on to enumerate his many victories in the battle against filth. While graciously acknowledging my right to favor smut, he added: "You are not going to have the right to indulge in it near our homes, schools and churches." Fair enough.

As I understand it, he has suggested massing all of the Valley's lewdness (hard porn, soft porn and porn tartar) into a single industrial area, which would not only remove it from residential neighborhoods but also shorten the driving distance for blue-collar workers who gotta have their smut after work.

Mr. Bernson then mailed out about 50 letters (copies of my column attached) to members of his citizens' advisory committee suggesting that they "make their positions known."

They have. One, a real estate broker, wrote that I was illogical, puerile and paranoid. I didn't know real estate people knew words beyond assm ln, lw dwn and ownr wil crry.

Another sent me a miniature Bible and the comment, "If your eye is sinful, pluck it out." A little excessive, I thought. A third suggested that I ought to be nuclear-bombed. Definitely excessive.

Word around City Hall is that Mr. Bernson is thinking of running for Bobbi Fiedler's seat, so to speak, if she should abandon the House of Representatives to campaign for the U.S. Senate. An anti-smut crusade would be a perfect way to rattle the cages of the district's moralists.

As Ogden Nash, paraphrased earlier, once wrote: "Smite, Smoot, be rugged and tough/Smut if smitten is front page stuff."

I spoke with members of Mr. Bernson's staff who did not rule out a congressional campaign. When I asked about his letters, his press secretary said, "You should have seen what he wanted to write."

I do not believe that Mr. Bernson is fighting pornography for the sake of political expediency. He has been opposed to smut for years.

In 1982, he even took friends to a city-owned mountain lodge otherwise reserved for official business. Enemies complained it had nothing to do with city business, that it was a gathering of lobbyists and campaign contributors.

But I'm sure they must have been discussing ways to rid the county of those who traffic in obscenity. Millionaire campaign contributors and lobbyists hate smut too, you know.

For good reason. Smut is everywhere. In movies, books, magazines, airplane streamers, fortune cookies, baby blankies, skyrockets, rubber hula dolls, greeting cards, doilies, Christmas ornaments, neckties, stained glass windows, paper hats, place mats, designer chocolate bars and Easter eggs.

Mr. Bernson is right to be incensed over the proliferation of filth. I say to him today, let's kick smut in the butt together.

Forget a rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut. Let's hear it for Hal, morality's pal. I endorse what might become his campaign for Congress and offer a modest slogan: Make the Valley a better place to live. Send Bernson to Washington.

The smut will keep him busy for a lifetime.


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