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Flynt fires flare outside Shrine

Fans from as far as Bulgaria, Italy and Little Rock, Ark., who plotted their bleacher seats since early Satur-day morning, greeted Cuba Gooding Jr. with cheers of “Show us the money!”; hailed Billy Bob Thornton with rounds of “We love Billy Bob”; and shouted the loudest affirmations to boxing great Muhammad Ali.

With more than a billion people said to be watching, it’s probably no surprise that some take the opportunity to promote their cause.

And no cause prompted more response — or controversy — than Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.

Flying and complaining

As stars and film execs filed into the Shrine Auditorium, a plane circled the proceedings trailing a banner that read “Columbia sucks, L. Flynt”; and staffers of Hustler magazine, donning hats and T-shirts with the maga-zine’s logo, waved placards touting “People for Larry Flynt.”

“We’re just here for the freedom fight,” said one Hustler staffer.

Another said that they were gathered not because Flynt signs their paychecks, but “because Columbia went back on its word because some women feminists said it wasn’t right.”

While the Oscars are often threatened with interruptions by protests, there has rarely been anything resembling an organized protest either before or during the ceremony.

Protest grows

This year, the action really heated up when Milos Forman, director of “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” took the emcee stand with Army Archerd. Before Daily Variety’s senior columnist could get his first question out, a group of 80 protesters who had camped out in the bleachers since Friday evening ripped off their jackets and shirts to re-veal T-shirts that read “the Pure Love Alliance.” While the striptease and the name might imply support of Flynt, the group began chanting “No Hustler, no Flynt,” and held up signs that read “Take a hint Larry Flynt, no porno!”

Forman was drowned out and the security took some of the signs away and tried to get the protesters to sit or leave, but they continued chanting until Forman left the dais and Archerd shouted, “Would you people shut up!”

According to Tammi Behring, a member of the Pure Love Alliance, the group is a nonsectarian, non-religious group made up mainly of students from Berkeley and New York, promoting pure love and fidelity. “We don’t like pornography or the way he (Flynt) was portrayed. The film didn’t show the whole story. … It was irresponsible of the studio because a lot of people look to Hollywood for direction.”

Some in the Flynt contingent said they expected their boss to attend, as indeed he did, despite not being invited by Columbia Pictures. But they wouldn’t say whether it was Flynt who actually hired the plane flying the banner.

Other than the Flynt/Pure Love protesters, the arrivals were relatively protest-free, with a smattering of “Jesus Saves,” “Disney Kills Sweatshop Workers” and a group praising the film “Secrets & Lies” for its depiction of adoptees. The group Bastard Nation held what participants claim was a black tie rally in support of opening adop-tion records of adult adoptees.

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