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'Rap Jam '91' Show Called Off in Ohio : Concert: Cincinnati arena manager cites insufficient insurance, not police pressure, in cancellation.

March 09, 1991|CHUCK PHILIPS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Cincinnati rap concert targeted by police for possible obscenity prosecution was canceled late Thursday by the arena manager because of insufficient insurance coverage.

John Nath, vice president and general manager of the Cincinnati Riverfront Coliseum, blamed the promoter's failure to meet insurance requirements, not pressure from the police, for the cancellation of "Rap Jam '91," scheduled for tonight.

Jimmi Taite, head of Coast-to-Coast Productions, the Canoga Park-based promoter, said the concert will be moved to Monday.

As of Friday, the 12,000-seat facility had sold less than 3,000 tickets. "Rap Jam '91" dates scheduled in St. Louis, on Thursday, Kansas City, on Friday and Gary, Ind., on Sunday were also canceled because of inadequate insurance coverage.

The event--featuring three of the raunchiest rap acts--2 Live Crew, Too Short and BWP--has been the focus of a brewing obscenity battle in Cincinnati since February, when police threatened to lock up any performer who violated Ohio community standards.

"I realize that we may have become their best publicity agent in doing this," Lt. Col. Dale Menkhaus, assistant chief of the Cincinnati Police Division, said Thursday in a phone interview before the concert cancellation.

"But if 2 Live Crew performs the type of show that they've done in the past, in all likelihood they will be arrested."

Cincinnati drew national attention last spring after prosecuting the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Museum and its director on obscenity and child pornography charges stemming from the controversial Robert Mapplethorpe photo exhibit. They were acquitted by a jury last October.

According to police, the arena owner, promoter and each rap group scheduled to perform were provided with copies of liquor laws and state verbal and visual obscenity codes. Under Ohio's "harmful to minor" codes, the rappers could have faced 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine per misdemeanor offense, according to the prosecutor's office in Hamilton County, in which Cincinnati is located.

Before the concert was cancelled, 2 Live Crew leader Luther Campbell and other rap acts on the bill interviewed by The Times said that police warnings would not prevent them from delivering the profanity-laced performances their fans expect.

"You would think the Cincinnati police would have had enough after the museum got off in the Mapplethorpe case," Campbell said Thursday in a phone interview. His group was charged with performing obscene material last June in Florida and acquitted in October by a Ft. Lauderdale jury. "How many times do they want to look like fools in the eyes of America?"

The rap controversy in Ohio was ignited after Florida anti-obscenity crusader Jack Thompson contacted Cincinnati police last month. Thompson's previous complaints about 2 Live Crew indirectly led to the group's "As Nasty as They Wanna Be" album being declared obscene last June in a Ft. Lauderdale federal court.

Last April, Hamilton County law enforcement authorities ruled that 2 Live Crew's "Nasty" album violated state obscenity statutes. The decision was made by Sheriff Simon Leif and the vice squad. After police visited several record stores, retailers reportedly removed the album.

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