Media Whores

Never at a loss for new tricks, the Wahls are now on a spiritual quest.

But, according to the jury's verdict, the Wahls are a couple of ho's, though clearly they aren't the usual hookers caught in police headlights. Part of the reason for the full-court press on this case is that authorities know the Wahls had wanted to put on a live performance at a larger venue -- say, a VFW hall or a theater. With this conviction, those plans are on hold. Tom says he plans to put on educational seminars about sex, but for now he'll avoid nudity or live demonstrations of sexual technique.

Sentencing in the St. Louis County case is set for May 18. The Wahls face a similar case in St. Charles County, but in that case the videotape didn't turn out. Two St. Charles County prosecutors sat through last week's trial, perhaps to catch what they missed as a result of their equipment's malfunction.

Tom Wahl is all hepped up about the appeals process, citing a First Amendment freedom-of-speech defense or contending that his Systematic beliefs form the basis for a religion. But the odds appear to be against him.

Jules Gerard, professor emeritus of law at Washington University, says that if the appellate court goes by a 1973 Supreme Court obscenity ruling, the Wahls "don't have a prayer" using a free-speech defense. Gerard taught First Amendment law for 30 years and is the author of the law book Local Regulation of Adult Businesses.

"If you take the Supreme Court obscenity decision literally, what they did is not going to be protected," Gerard says. "However, in recent years lower courts have tended to ignore that language of the Supreme Court and have granted protection to portrayals of sexual intercourse, at least when they've been in films. The courts always have distinguished between different media of expression and have said you can prohibit things when they take the form of an actual live performance that maybe would be protected if they were in a book or a magazine or on film."

When pressed, Wahl is serious about calling himself a Systematic because he believes in his system: "I advertise; I have a toll-free number; I maintain a Web site on this. That's the way you would start a new religion today. If Jesus were alive today, what would Jesus do today to start his new religion? He'd criticize government hypocrisy on issues, set up a Web site and shortly thereafter find himself arrested and brought before Pontius Pilate."

No, no, Tom doesn't have any messianic delusions, just bad analogies.

"I'm not Jesus. The analogy serves only in the sense that we challenged the religious thinking of the day and found ourselves hauled into court," Tom says, then launches into something sure to offend most Christians: "They say Jesus came to earth to experience what it's like to be a human being, to experience the temptations and know what we're dealing with down here. It seems to me you would not disregard the sexuality portion of the experience. Did Jesus ever take a leak? Did Jesus ever take a dump? Well, I would hope so if he was supposed to be understanding what goes on in the human body. Did Jesus ever get a hard-on? Did Jesus ever masturbate? Did Jesus ever have sex? Well, I hope so, because that's part of the experience you're supposed to get when you're here."

Does that mean if J.C. comes back, you can find him in the RFTclassifieds?

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