| Freedom Fighter Penn - 5/18/01
Well, Penn & Teller have won the Hefner First Amendment Award. In the
Playboy Foundation's opinion we are the entertainers
who have done the most to work for the First Amendment.
Our buddy, Robert Corn-Revere, who is the real deal, who
lives, breathes, and even fights in the Supreme
Court for freedom, was there. He's a lawyer for Playboy, and
you can bet he was the one who nominated us. But, others
had to vote for us, and it's quite an honor. We were
recipients along with people who lost their jobs and money fighting
to give student editors the right to print what they
wanted and stuff like that, you know, the real deal.
There were two women that fought to keep Harry Potter in the
school library, stuff like that. And then there was
us - cheap carny trash, surrounded by lawyers,
professors, and militant librarians. It seems like there
should have been some scumbag pornographers there, but it
seemed it was heavy on the lawyers.
Now, when I was flying out, I was told to put
away my "Screw" magazine even though there was no one
around me. The flight attendant told me to put it away
and then yelled at me, insulted me, and
threatened me. I backed down and then wrote a letter to her
boss. I would think a REAL award winning freedom fighter
would have fought and been thrown out at a few thousand
feet. But, at least I wrote a letter.
So, the night before was the Playboy
Foundation dinner, and I got to hang out with Nadine Strossen, the
ACLU big cheesette, and I love her and that was
great. I told her about the airlines and she's ready to go to
war. I love her. Righteously indignant is her default
setting. I got to meet a bunch of the names you see all the
time in articles on freedom and I got to hang with my
date, Robert Corn-Revere. We agree on everything, but we
still manage to yell at each other. He's a smart cat, and
always an inspiration. After the dinner I hung in the
bar with the cats and we told stories, laughed, and got
appalled together. Robert says that the anti-flag
burning amendment may pass this time. He really thinks so. It
made me so sad. Just so sad. Of course, we won't be in
trouble, because we're doing art, and as Robert points
out, it's really good for us . . . if we don't care at
all about our country.
So, the next morning, we got up for soundcheck. Our Flag
bit is a complicated bit, and we were doing
it in the Waldorf ballroom. Krasher, Nate, Andre, and
Matt were working hard to make us look good without a
real stage, spotlights, or our usual sound. We ran it a
couple times, and it was cramped, and didn't look as good
as it would in our real show, but it would be fine.
Now, here's the problem, the award was from
the Playboy Foundation, but they had teamed up for this
shindig with the Creative Coalition. William Baldwin is president
of the Creative Coalition, I guess so his brother, Al, will
be ready to leave the country on an election
count's notice. Bill seemed really nice, we posed for
pictures with him and he was fine. Ronald Regan was there, and
I've known him for years, and he at least knew that my
politics were different from his (this is the younger
Reagan, you know Ronald W. Regan or whatever). The Creative
Coalition had membership applications on every seat and a
video team. "We're going to need you over here to talk
about the Creative Coalition."
"We're not members."
"We're not, we don't agree with a lot of your
"You're kidding right."
Now, before you decide that we're lunatics,
it was NOT the Creative Coalition giving this award, it was
the Playboy Foundation, and we DO agree with them. So,
while we waited for our spot, we were ducking Creative
Coalition people who were just assuming we were Hollywood
Liberals. Imagine everything Ron Silver lives, breaths,
believes, and does, now draw that as a Venn diagram; see the area
outside all the circles? Mark that "Penn Fraser
But, lunch was nice. My partner, Teller, has
had some very wise ideas in the time I've known him, but
none comes up more often for me than the observation that
ALL AWARDS are YMCA awards banquets, the ones we hated as
kids. No award show, not even the porno awards gets better
than that. Krasher knows how we get during awards shows,
so he brought us backstage before it started ostensibly, so
we wouldn't have to stand up in the middle of the show.
On the way back, I stopped to talk to Robert, and
started, just for kicks to yell, "Fire, Fire, oh jesus, there's
a fire!" I was really yelling. It got a bit of a laugh,
and then the show started with Christy Heffner explaining
Teller and I sat backstage and realized that
if we were real freedom of speech guys, we would heckle
and yell until we were thrown out. We didn't really do it,
but we did keep each other laughing. These were really
good people who had fought hard and sacrificed. Some of
them, we didn't agree with, but they all put it on the
line. I was proud to be associated with them, but we
still should have been heckling.
Finally Billy Baldwin introduced us, with a
joke about Teller getting the freedom "of expression"
award and not freedom "of speech" award. He then said we'd
been doing the Flag bit for 25 years and we hit the
stage. We were preaching to the choir about liberty, and the
bit went over well. Teller noticed that the huge applause
at the end, when the flag reappears, was a little weaker
than usual, even though the rest of the bit was
stronger. This was a group of people that would have been fine
with the Flag just ending up burned. Teller hoped they
didn't think that that was the kind of ending we had to put in
"for the masses." I don't know. I thought they loved
it, but it did seem it might have been a bit patriotic
for some of the tastes in the house, but that could have been
in our heads.
It was a great show. We got our award from
Billy and I must say, I was very proud. We were in great
company. I ran down and shook Robert's hand. We were
really there because of him, and it was great to see him.
We got to smile at each other and shake hands.
We had to take a few pictures, and then we changed and had a
proper tea at the Waldorf with our buddy, RRG. Now, I'm on
a plane to San Juan to do a corporate show.
I couldn't be prouder at having our magic tricks noticed for having
some content by the likes of the Playboy Foundation and the
ACLU. It's really wonderful to be around Robert, Nadine,
Christy, and all these librarians, teachers, professors,
lawyers, and business people who really care enough to
keep speech free. There were some wonderful people in that
room. But there should have been some strippers.
Fight the power. Fire! Fire! Fire!!!!!