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“Leave the Tinky Winkies alone!”

Larry Flynt’s was the first eulogy of Jerry Falwell that I wanted to read, and it didn’t disappoint. In it, Flynt recounts the story of Falwell’s libel suit against him, which was unanimously decided in Flynt’s favor by the Supreme Court. Several years later, on Larry King Live they were scheduled to appear together, and to Flynt’s surprise, Falwell hugged him. Afterwards, conciliation:

Soon after that episode, I was in my office in Beverly Hills, and out of nowhere my secretary buzzes me, saying, “Jerry Falwell is here to see you.” I was shocked, but I said, “Send him in.” We talked for two hours, with the latest issues of Hustler neatly stacked on my desk in front of him. He suggested that we go around the country debating, and I agreed. We went to colleges, debating moral issues and 1st Amendment issues—what’s “proper,” what’s not and why.

In the years that followed and up until his death, he’d come to see me every time he was in California. We’d have interesting philosophical conversations. We’d exchange personal Christmas cards. He’d show me pictures of his grandchildren. I was with him in Florida once when he complained about his health and his weight, so I suggested that he go on a diet that had worked for me. I faxed a copy to his wife when I got back home.

The truth is, the reverend and I had a lot in common. He was from Virginia, and I was from Kentucky. His father had been a bootlegger, and I had been one too in my 20s before I went into the Navy. We steered our conversations away from politics, but religion was within bounds. He wanted to save me and was determined to get me out of “the business.”

My mother always told me that no matter how repugnant you find a person, when you meet them face to face you will always find something about them to like. The more I got to know Falwell, the more I began to see that his public portrayals were caricatures of himself. There was a dichotomy between the real Falwell and the one he showed the public.

He was definitely selling brimstone religion and would do anything to add another member to his mailing list. But in the end, I knew what he was selling, and he knew what I was selling, and we found a way to communicate.

Though their circles be larger and their hypocrisies greater, public figures are no less complex for being public. Flynt’s eulogy measures Falwell as both an enemy and a friend and in the process bestows grace upon a man who needed it as much as anyone. For that grace bestowed, God bless the pornographers!



It does seem to be true that the better you know a person, the harder it gets to condemn them.

Or, at least, to love them in spite of their damnable faults:

I’ll never admire him for his views or his opinions. To this day, I’m not sure if his television embrace was meant to mend fences, to show himself to the public as a generous and forgiving preacher or merely to make me uneasy, but the ultimate result was one I never expected and was just as shocking a turn to me as was winning that famous Supreme Court case: We became friends.

Next stop: Ann Coulter!

Now you’re just talking crazy.

re:3 uhh, i think you have to be a real person for that kind of complicated grace to be extended!

What? I’ve read in several different places that she’s very nice in person, even with liberals.

you most likely know better than i.

i just hadn’t commented in a while…so, i thought i’d say something rather inane and insulting.

I don’t give up so easily. Where’s the evidence that says she’s not a robot? I think the burden of proof is on JH to prove otherwise!

Hey, everyone round here knows I got more love for AC than OJ Simpson.

well, his comment does show that even atheists give the benefit of the doubt to other people, even atheists can be nice!

and since it was such a show a magnanimity on someone who mocks so much, i thought i wouldn’t press.

and I’m afraid I can’t prove she isn’t the T1000…Being in a dastardly mood, I just wanted to push G’s thesis (which I agree with) to its absolute limits.

oh for that you have to bring up

A Gonzalez and the Hammer… are they lovable?

and, of course, the arch-demon himself, dick-i-shoot-my-friends-in-the-face-and-run-the-country-as-if-watergate-had-never-happened-cheney

BG’s just picking at me because I revealed the truth: that his homeboy is behind the crime of the century.

What I like immensely about Flynt’s essay is the humanity of it. Flynt recognizes Falwell as a flawed man, one with whom he could speak—understand, even—if never agree with. (I love the anecdote of the two men commiserating about their weight.) Presumably Falwell discovered the same in Flynt, though we’ll likely never know that. I suspect (though obviously I do not know) that Falwell wouldn’t have as gracious had their places been reversed—silence might have been the best he could manage. There’s something terribly humbling about it for that reason.

hey, i was there to see the dj, not the rapper. the wife was there to see the hunk-a-caramel rapper.

put that in your airplane and try to fly it!

Touche. I’ve always been partial to Jazzy Jeff myself, the chocolate to Will Smith’s caramel.

Out of my way, I’m beating a path straight to hell.