Senate Douses Hot Movie Fun at UMd
BY JOHN WAGNER AND SUSAN KINZIE
WASHINGTON POST STAFF WRITERS
During debate today over the state budget -- an exercise usually devoid of sex appeal -- a conservative senator focused his colleagues' attention on plans to show Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge, a hard-core porn film, at the state's flagship university.
The award-winning sequel is almost two and a half hours' worth of, uh, swashbuckling.
The cast is full of actors whose names are registered trademarks. The film is full of special effects. To say the least.
Legislators were not impressed.
Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) called it "shocking" and offered a budget amendment: Any public university that allowed the screening of a triple-X film would forfeit state funding -- about $424 million next year, in U-Md.'s case.
Administrators pulled out. They canceled the movie.
Operators of the mostly student-run Hoff Theater said they weren't trying to spark controversy when they selected Pirates II.
The 550-seat theater has found it increasingly difficult to compete with DVD rentals and illegal downloading and usually shows art and foreign films. Students have been wanting to show a triple-X movie for some time, said Lisa Cunningham, the theater's program director. She said she was waiting for the right one.
"I thought it would be something fun to program toward the end of the semester, to give a little stress break for students," Cunningham said. She also invited someone from Planned Parenthood to talk before the movie about safe sex. (The pirates don't wear condoms.)
It wouldn't be the first time; in the 1980s or '90s, she said, there was a soft-core series called "Take it Off at the Hoff." Several years ago, they showed "Deep Throat" to a sellout crowd. More recently, some doctoral candidates held a film series looking at ways that Elizabethan plays have been referenced in hard-core movies: They called it Shakesporn.
"Pornography is not fun. It's poison," said Harris, who told his colleagues that he is the father of three daughters, the eldest of whom is a college senior.
Debate over Harris's amendment unfolded in fits and starts, largely because a series of elementary school groups spent time watching the action from the Senate galleries.
Another senator was pressing Harris about why his amendment did not apply to double-X or single-X films, when Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) noticed a group of 3rd graders had arrived from his legislative district.
"Can we move to another amendment?" Miller said. And, then: "We welcome the students from Plum Point Elementary School."
As debate on another matter wrapped up, Miller sought to advise the youngsters on what they were seeing.
"We're waiting for you to leave the room," he said from the rostrum. "We've got to talk about bad stuff."
Later, another senator was reading from a study asserting that watching pornography increases men's anger at women who flirt but refuse to have sex. A group from Hollywood Elementary School in St. Mary's County then arrived.
Behind the scenes, conversations ensued between a university lobbyist, College Park President C.D. Mote Jr., University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan and other officials.
Before a vote was taken, Miller had one more announcement about the issue: "I've been informed that the University of Maryland has cancelled the peformance in question."
Harris withdrew his amendment, and Miller left the chamber to field questions from reporters. "Cooler heads prevailed," he said. "The university said, 'We're going to X-out this movie.'"
April 2, 2009; 4:52 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly , John Wagner
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