Flap flares at Torch Awards

As emcee Lee Masters exclaimed at night’s end: “Always a little controversy at an ACLU get-together.”

The attention on Wednesday surrounded Courtney Love and “The People vs. Larry Flynt” at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California’s Torch of Liberty Awards.

Following director Milos Forman’s acceptance of an honor, director Nick Broomfield made an unscheduled trip to the podium, where he chided the org for inviting Love. He charged that she had cajoled and even threatened members of the media who wrote unflattering reviews.

Soon Mercury Records chief Danny Goldberg grabbed him and whisked him off stage, saying: “Excuse me sir, you were not invited. You were not part of the program.”

Later, Broomfield said that he has been doing a documentary on the way in which the media has been controlled. “I am looking at the case of Courtney Love, who has been so abusive and threatening to journalists,” he said.

Said Love’s spokeswoman: “This person apparently has some sort of personal agenda. Courtney generally has a good relationship with the press.”Love was there to present the award to Forman, citing the controversy surrounding “The People vs. Larry Flynt” in her introduction. “Not since ‘Citizen Kane’ has a film suffered from the politics of the day,” she said.

Forman mentioned little of the film and instead talked of growing up in totalitarian regimes in Europe. “I learned that, in the hands of those in power, individual civil liberties are very fragile and can easily be crippled.”

Other awards were given to Hilary Rosen, president and chief operating officer of the Recording Industry Assn. of America and an advocate for the freedoms of recording artists, and John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead lyricist leading the fight against government intervention on the Internet.

It was Barlow who perhaps drew the most post-awards buzz for his acceptance speech, when he identified the business world’s vigorous attempts to protect copyright laws as a threat to freedom of speech on the Internet.

“The greatest threat to freedom of expression is not the government, it is commerce and copyright law,” he said.

He drew a few hisses from the crowd. Said Goldberg, president of the foundation: “We will defend your right to be wrong.”

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