The high court in Jacobellis v. Ohio found the film was not obscene, but there was little agreement on why.
The lasting wisdom came from Justice Potter Stewart who refused to try to define “hard-core pornography.”
“But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case it not that,” Stewart wrote in his opinion to the court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
So in 1969, when a case testing whether “bottomless” dances performed by Go-Go dancers at a Northern California beer bar were indecent it only made sense for Judge Earl Warren Jr. to take the jury to the club.
“It gave them a much better look than if they had just heard oral testimony,” Warren Jr. told reporters outside of Club Largo after presiding over a performance by Carol Doda, then one of the most provocative exotic performers in the county.
The 2016 US presidential election has led to much discussion of American values. Free expression is one value that the nation and the world should cherish. “Do the Dance” also explores themes of female empowerment and sexual exploitation.
At the height of the ‘60s sexual revolution, two Northern California dancers gave a jury a show in defense of free expression. Fifty years later, the documentary “Do the Dance” looks back that the bizarre trial and how this battle over the right to bare all plays out today through celebrity nudes on Instagram, the burlesque revival and Portland’s strip explosion.
Nineteen sixty-nine was a period of great cultural upheaval as counterculture forces battled with tradition. In the context of the Vietnam War, Woodstock and Lunar Landing, Do the Dance tells of a cultural touchstone of equal significance: The Pink Pussy Kat Trial.
Through the voice of an established Hollywood female performer, “Do the Dance” tells how a hole-in-the-wall “Go-go” bar in semi-rural Northern California became the epicenter of a Constitutional question over the limits to Free Expression.
The trial’s national appeal peaked as Judge Earl Warren Jr., son of the Supreme Court Justice, sanctioned a performance by San Francisco topless Legend Carol Doda.
“Do the Dance” also looks at how these “champions” of free speech compares with the present day practice of celebrities pushing social norms by going undressed on Instagram and asks whether they are fighting for free expression for self-promotion.
The case — which helped write the rules for exotic dance — is a story that needs to be told now as fresh events caused Americans to debate the merits of civil liberties.
Longtime journalist Ed Fletcher and filmmaker DQ Hayes team up to lead this project. The two have surrounded themselves with an outstanding team including distribution consultant Jon Reiss.
Perpetual F is more than just a film company it is a credo, a way of life and a call to action. It tells us never to be satisfied with others’ assessment of our position in life or better yet never be satisfied with your own assessment. There is alway room to improve, if not today tomorrow.
That’s what we strive for in film. We’re about striving for the purest form of the craft. The film that makes people laugh, cry, learn, grow and improve. That’s not easy. We know that. But we’ll keep trying until we get it right. Then we’ll try to do it better.
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