Premiere of Larry Flynt

HARRELSON: HEMP'S CAPPED CRUSADER


Published: Friday, January 10, 1997
Section: Weekender
Page: 16

By Barbara Isaacs

Lexington Herald-Leader Staff Writer

CINCINNATI - Just like the character he plays in The People vs. Larry Flynt, Woody Harrelson knows how to draw attention to his cause.

He arrived at the Cincinnati premiere earlier this week in a Kentucky Hemp Museum van, wearing a tuxedo, a "100% hemp Kentucky" cap and a big grin. On his arm: none other than "the first lady of hemp," fur-clad Simpsonville schoolteacher Donna Cockrel, who brought Harrelson to her classroom for a talk on hemp last May. Not even a glitzy premiere could keep Harrelson's mind off his Kentucky crusade. "We don't want to get away from Kentucky. It's going to be the first state to make (hemp) legal." The push continued Wednesday night on David Letterman's show: He gave Letterman a hemp hat and Letterman asked: "So you're saying hemp won't get you goofy?" Harrelson: "That's a proven fact." Letterman quickly tossed the hat.

In like Flynt: Not to be outdone, Magoffin County native/Hustler publisher Larry Flynt arrived at the premiere a few minutes after Harrelson in a white stretch limo. Entering the Showcase Cinemas in his gold-plated wheelchair with red velvet seat cushions, the bejeweled man of the hour greeted the crowd - made up mostly of old friends, some media and a few fans. "This is where it all began," said Flynt, who wanted the premiere in Cincinnati to underscore the irony of the legal battles he fought over censorship at the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Home again: It was a homecoming of sorts for Harrelson, too, a native of nearby Lebanon, Ohio. "I got in my first car wreck in Hamilton County," he joked. His brother, Brett Harrelson, who plays Flynt's brother, Jimmy, in the movie, also attended the premiere. So did Woody's drama teacher at Hanover College in Indiana, Tom Evans. Did he know Woody would be a star? "No way. He was always late to rehearsal.... But he was funny and charming."

Woody's wit: On the prospect of winning an Oscar: "Cool."... On running for governor of Kentucky on the all-hemp ticket: Smirk.... On Larry Flynt: "He's a little flamboyant, a little out there, he's got a sense of bravado, he's honest and willing to stand up for what he believes."... On subscribing to Hustler: "Nope, but I've read it."

Censorship debate: What's a day in Cincinnati without some civil discourse concerning Larry Flynt? The local ACLU chapter and the national Media Coalition held a news conference on the courthouse steps before the premiere just to remind us censorship is alive and well. But "the battleground has shifted to the Internet."

Sign of the times: Security was heavy and bodyguards plentiful , but there wasn't any anti-Flynt activity. The only sign in the crowd read "Larry Flynt, Still Honorable After All These Years."

Media mix: Entertainment Tonight was there. So was the Salyersville paper. Even Jerry Springer, former mayor of Cincinnati, was there - sort of. His talk show sent a camera crew.

Culture clash: A post-premiere party at Plaza 600, former site of one of Flynt's Hustler clubs, created a juxtaposition sure to please the prolific pornographer: Flynt fans waiting outside the club rubbing elbows with fans leaving The Phantom of the Opera.