NL- This is part three of a report on the battle between the adult Industry & Aids Heathcare Foundation concerning mandatory condoms and so much more.
OP/ED by Michael Whiteacre.
On December 9, 2010, the day after AHF hosted Derrick Burts’ AIM-bashing press conference at its offices in Hollywood, the clinic was hit with an even harsher blow: a cease and desist order from L.A. County. The state of California had denied AIM’s ‘Community Clinic’ license application, and then the County Health Dept. stepped in to issue the order.
Under the county’s order, AIM could still operate as long as no samples were taken on the premises. Until this problem could be resolved, performers would instead have to visit one of AIM’s remote draw stations.
AIM had suddenly been informed back in June that it would need a “community clinic” permit in order to continue operating, and AIM had duly applied.
In a letter dated November 30, Travis Green of the state’s Licensing & Certification Program kicked the application back to AIM on the basis of an inconsistency in the paperwork:, while the name on AIM’s lease read “The Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation,” AIM had submitted its application as “AIM Medical Testing Center.”
Green’s the letter also clearly stated, “Please note that you will be allowed sixty (60) days from the date of this correction letter to submit the requested information.” Nonetheless, L.A. County Health served AIM with its cease-and-desist letter a mere ten days later.
AIM had been trounced in the press two days in a row; a one-two punch.
Although AHF (rather defensively) went out of its way to call the timing coincidental, many observers speculated that either AHF had been tipped in advance of the license denial and scheduled the Burts press conference for maximum effect, or that, once the group had Burts in hand, Weinstein exerted pressure on LA County to humiliate AIM.
As commentator Maggie McNeill wrote, “Can any reasonable person believe that it was due to mere happenstance that an application pending since June just happened to come up for review the day a patient accused the clinic of wrongdoing, and that it was somehow in the public interest for Los Angeles County to ostentatiously humiliate AIM with third-world dictatorship tactics rather than simply having a secretary call them to say, ‘Hey, we need one more document to complete your application; can you fax that over today?’ It’s pretty obvious that decisions are being made behind the scenes which will strongly affect the industry, yet as so often happens with sex workers those who have the ear of authorities (in this case, AHF) presume to speak for us yet never bother to consult us about what we might actually want.”
In a self-righteous press release accompanying the announcement of yet another news conference, Weinstein declared, “We are calling on Los Angeles County health officials to immediately shut down AIM’s clinic. No other businesses—restaurants with failing grades, for example—have the right or the chutzpah to defy County Health officials by remaining open and potentially endangering the public’s health. LA County officials should get out to Sherman Oaks and shut AIM down now!”
Weinstein was once again doing what he did best: grandstanding. As AVN’s Mark Kernes noted, “Apparently, according to Weinstein, performers’ health is endangered because AIM put the wrong name on an application!”
To even the most casual observer, something seemed rotten in Denmark. “Nothing that applies to any other clinic, apparently, in the state of California, and most particularly in the county of Los Angeles, applies to AIM,” AIM co-founder Sharon Mitchell charged. “AIM’s rules are different, and those rules get to be changed at a whim and at a moment’s notice, and it’s like we don’t know what rules to follow, because we have, up until this point, followed everything, but ever since Weinstein’s been in the picture, the heat’s been turned up on whatever this agenda is, whether it’s a condom law or to close down AIM or to get our records—all of this.”
“You’ve got this kid [Derrick Burts] saying that we’re ineffective and not good, and this gets piled onto all the other stuff that L.A. Times has been more than happy to print.”
Tim Tritch, whose contract with AHF had been terminated by mail eight months earlier, was fuming – this wasn’t what he’d wanted to happen. “[T]o attack the organization that assists the employees, in order to get at the employers, is bullshit”, he vented to the author. “I beleive [sic] that the performers [sic] rights to seek healthcare from the care giver of their choice has been violated.”
Immediately following AIM’s debasement, on December 10th, L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, a recipient of campaign contributions from Weinstein, moved that the council require the city attorney to report within 45 days on how to prevent non-condom adult productions from obtaining filming permits. AHF’s gloating press release read, in part: “That action came on the heels of explosive news that L.A. health officials closed the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM)… after California state officials denied AIM a community clinic license. The facility had been operating without a proper license for over a decade.”
On December 16, 2010 in an article in AVN entitled, “AIM To Be Fully Functional In One Week,” Mitchell stated, “we have been operating, actually, at the offices of a doctor for 13 years. We never needed a clinic license because we’ve been a doctor’s office. They forced us to sign this clinic license application this year, and we just didn’t want to sign it, and they wouldn’t let us check ‘other’ on the form; they kept saying we had a choice of being a ‘hospital facility,’ ‘clinic facility,’ ‘inpatient,’ ‘outpatient,’ ‘surgical,’ and they wouldn’t let us check ‘other.’ … And then they kept saying we needed to meet all these requirements, and so we got the Board to sign, and then the last thing was, they had a fire code [inspection] that they said wasn’t carried out yet, and they’re the ones that had to order that, not us! It’s just very odd. Nothing added up.”
“[W]hat we’re doing now is restructuring our corporate structure, so the county won’t be able to penetrate the boundaries of that. It will be like a private corporation. It won’t be a non-profit anymore, unfortunately, but fortunately, most of the people that use our services and who donate money to AIM utilize those services for production anyway, so they can still write off those expenses for taxes as business expenses.”
AIM would be able to operate outside the reach of LA County cease-and-desist orders “because we won’t be under their auspices anymore,” Mitchell explained.
“As a doctor’s offices, there won’t be a fucking thing they can do. They can’t come in and they have no authority over us. But if we stay as a non-profit, then they’re gonna come at us with some fucking thing every week, and I’ll never be able to stay open. But if we’re for-profit, they don’t have that power.”
When, on Friday, December 17th Weinstein was informed of Mitchell’s plan in an email from his lieutenant, Brian Chase, Weinstein‘s only question was: “Should we send a letter challenging this with the licensing people?”
On December 23rd, AHF announced the launch of an ad campaign in the LA Weekly addressed to LA County Director of Public Health, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, who had apparently not been compliant enough with regard to Weinstein’s demands. For his insolence, Fielding would be shamed in full-page ads that read, “What Else Are You Waiting For to Protect the Public’s Health?” and urged him to “Shut Down Non-Condom Porn Sets NOW.”
Leaked AHF emails now reveal that Weinstein had been busy leveraging the anti-AIM momentum he had stage-managed all over the place.
On Saturday afternoon, December 11, 2010, Weinstein emailed Cal-OSHA attorney Amy Martin:
“Dear Amy – I [am] following up on our discussion the other day. I am personally requesting a meeting with the department head for two purposes. First, we want to strongly advocate for new Cal/OSHA adult film regulations to go to the Standards Board promptly. Second, we are requesting an Order Prohibiting Use to be issued against Flynt Productions. Please let me know when this meeting will take place. Thanks.”
Martin responded, “Thanks Michael. I am looking into this. Did you get some records from us?”
To which Weinstein replied, “Hi Amy – We did get some records yesterday. Thanks.”
The troubling question is: precisely what kind of records were Cal-OSHA making available to AHF?
On Christmas Eve 2010, Shelley Lubben emailed Weinstein to break the bad news that a video created by the author questioning the wisdom and propriety of the AHF-Pink Cross alliance had been released on YouTube. The short video, which Lubben admitted, struck “at our weak parts,” featured Lubben recounting the “miracle” of “gays … turning straight”, and pointed out the hypocrisy of their association.
Ever focused on media attention, Lubben assured Weinstein, “If I get asked by media about his [sic], I am going to do what you taught me and say my beliefs are irrelevant to working with AIDS Healthcare or the health department or any other organization fighting to enforce safety and health laws within the adult film industry.”
Weinstein watched the video – and others I’d created about Lubben and himself. One can envision the look on his face when he composed his curt, businesslike reply to a woman he so despised, “Hi Shelley – Happy Holidays. Would you be available for a return engagement at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors possibly a week from Tuesday?”
He may have still felt a little raw about it on January 24th, 2011, when he was forwarded an email sent to AHF by erstwhile adult performer Monica Foster (most famous for being the escort who accepted a rubber check from Lenny Dykstra). The subject line of the email read: “The AHF’s affiliation with Shelley Lubben.”
Foster wrote, “I recently saw a video interview … (the exact link to the videos is: http://www.juliemeadows.com/blog/2011/01/23/a-chance-encounter-with-shelley-lubben-a-michael-whiteacre-exclusive%E2%80%93part-three/ ) in which Shelley Lubben not only references how much money Michael Weinstein is profiting via the AHF (which I hope is not true), but also references how being in porn and being a homosexual is one in the same.” [Lubben’s actual statement, made January 19th, was even more offensive than that: “[W]hat’s the difference between someone who’s a practicing homosexual and someone who’s watching pornography? In my eyes there’s no difference. God sees it all.”]
Weinstein felt compelled to reply to Foster personally, to distinguish AHF’s stance from Lubben’s: “I have had the opportunity to watch the encounter with Shelley Lubben and Michael Whitacre, [sic]” he wrote. “I obviously strongly disagree with Shelley’s views on homosexuality… we do not support Pink Cross in any other area than our common position in support of condoms in porn… Shelley and Pink Cross want to shut the entire porn industry down. We have agreed to disagree on this and Shelley has honored that by not addressing here [sic] overall opposition to porn at press conferences that we have attended together.”
He added that AHF’s position “on condoms in porn comes from our stand in favor of protecting the public health. We do not believe that the lives of the young people in porn are disposable…. “
But then Weinstein momentarily dropped the sham of “worker safety” in an extremely revealing aside:
“Additionally, we think that the porn industry is doing a terrible disservice to society in general, and young people in particular, by saying that the only kind of sex that is hot is unsafe.”
In other words, he disapproved of that message. Weinstein was admitting that which he had stated numerous times before: that he is a philosophical blood brother of LA County Dept. of Public Health’s Dr. Peter Kerndt; it was the message – the content – of the protected speech embodied in adult entertainment that needed to be altered.
Weinstein closed his response with what could be read as a boast or a warning: “People of goodwill can disagree on this issue but character assassination by the porn industry of AHF or myself will not succeed because AHF’s record of saving hundreds of thousands of lives is a matter of historical record.”
Sure. And Michael Weinstein profited off of each and every one of them.