Free porn!

Is this what dot-com hype has come to -- mass rallies on the street for adult entertainment?

Published October 24, 2000 7:56PM (EDT)

Some dot-com CEOs will do anything to get attention for their companies. Scott Bingham went so far as to convene a pack of gyrating strippers, a 15-piece marching band and a giant green pickle to storm San Francisco's downtown during afternoon rush hour Oct. 20.

The rallying cry: "Free porn!"

Organized by PicklePilot, a -- guess what? -- porn site, the mischievous march heralded the political candidacy of the company's CEO Scott Bingham, who is running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The self-styled "freedom-of-porn enthusiasts" handed out condoms to flabbergasted office workers, delighted shoppers and bemused tourists, several of whom caught the whole merry spectacle on camcorder for the folks back home. The skin activists waved signs declaring their ass-forward agenda: "Trust Porn," "Moms 4 Porn," "Vote Porn," "View Porn," "Justice 4 Porn" "Set Porn Free" and, most improbably, "Crist (sic) Loved Porn."

"We have 'free Mumia.' We have 'free Tibet.' Why not 'free porn'?" cheered one of the motley smut marchers. Why not?

A core crowd of about 25 porno propagandists plus members of the Extra-Action Marching Band rallied at the corner of First and Market streets to prepare for their amusing assault on mainstream morality. The event was part political rally, part dot-com marketing stunt and part parody of every earnest effort to change the world by taking to the streets.

The candidate, Bingham, attired in gray sweat pants, white Air Jordans, a straw hat, sunglasses and a 70's-retro striped and polka-dotted black rayon shirt, described his single-issue platform thus: "Free porn!"

One blazer-clad, graying heckler pointed out that porn already is free. Ever heard of the First Amendment? But Bingham emphasized that his free porn agenda isn't just about freedom of expression. He wants to free porn from social stigma. "Porn uncensored and with no shame. Unconditionally, it's OK ... If it becomes more free, then more people are likely to be satisfied," rhapsodized Bingham, dreamily envisioning a utopia of euphorically carnal citizens ogling away to their hearts' delight.

Things could even heat up around the water cooler. "Today, if 10 people in the office have a foot fetish, you'll never even know it," deadpans Bingham. And if the stigma around porn disappears? "Before you know it, people are going to be getting foot massages, and getting naked together in the lunch room." Ewwww.

In any case, does anyone really want porn to be free of all social stigma? Where's the naughty fun when there's no transgression involved?

But this lucid dialogue on "the issues" was interrupted by the arrival of the PicklePilot "girls," aka "gherkins," who proceeded to attach removable tattoos of the company's logo to each other's bare midriffs with their tongues. (Unsurprisingly, similar flesh-flaunting by guys was sorely lacking.)

Then, the march was underway, with the deafening beat of the marching band drowning out any need for further discussion. Four majorettes kicking up their knee-high boots led the brigade, with the musicians -- all, incidentally, on percussion -- following. One band member's job was to carry a portable wet bar, stocked with Chivas Regal.

From the gawking crowds, a few onlookers answered the call to "Help free porn! March on city hall!" One passing bicyclist who joined the marchers crowed: "Usually, I'm so apolitical. But finally I found a cause I can believe in."

Finally, on the steps of city hall, Bingham addressed his supporters, declaring himself victorious before the election even takes place: "My first act in office will be to enact legislation to free porn!" Cheers. "That's what I'm going to do. Then I'm going to quit!" A deafening roar. If there's anything that will get voters in this disaffected electorate more excited about a political candidate than pornography, it's promising to relinquish office.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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