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Question: What do the Boston Red Sox, the Republican Party, and pimps have in common? Answer: They all had pretty good years in 2004. The Red Sox finally won a World Series. The Republican Party won everything else. And pimps? Well, pimps seem to have won a modicum of respect from the legal system. This is remarkable for pimps. I mean, they seldom do well in the courts. Granted, they haven’t been on as long and painful a losing streak as the Red Sox � nobody has � but they have gone a long time between drinks of water. So it was quite remarkable to see them get a couple of W’s � even qualified W’s. I mean, let’s face it, when you’re a pimp, you have to expand your definition of wins to include moral victories and exceptional performances. It’s kinda like being a Los Angeles Clippers fan or a public defender: You learn to value the little wins. WHO’S THEIR DADDY? And in 2004, my brethren and sistern gave them a couple of those. The first was a case called Hughes v. Hughes, in which the California courts held that filmmakers Allen and Albert Hughes Jr. did not defame their father by calling him a “pimp.” Hughes v. Hughes is an exceptional case on several levels. In the first place, it is a defamation suit by a father against his two adult sons. Let’s hope there aren’t too many of those floating around out there. In the second place, the lawsuit is based on an article in Vanity Fair magazine in which the sons were quoted as saying, “Our mother is a lesbian. Our dad’s a pimp. . . . We’re interested in the underclass.” Now that, I submit, is a remarkable statement. Quite apart from its qualities as a syllogism or as the gravamen of a defamation suit, it has a kind of train-wreck star power to it that whips your head around in midparagraph. No one can read that statement just once. Much as you want to avert your eyes, you find yourself going back to make sure you’re actually seeing all the blood and severed body parts. You read statements like that in an appellate opinion, and you feel like maybe you oughta give up novels and start reading nonfiction exclusively. I mean, how dull are the lives the rest of us are leading if there are people with lives like this? Tell the truth. If you got this scenario as a bar exam question, wouldn’t you object that there are just too many issues for the time allocated? And wouldn’t you walk out of the exam session muttering that if you’d taken the bar exam in Iowa or Vermont, they wouldn’t ask you questions like this, any more than they’d ask you questions about three-headed aliens from Saturn claiming riparian rights in your stream bed? And it gets better: The defense was truth. And part of the defense was to show that the plaintiff had years earlier admitted his pimphood to his sons, even going so far as to name some prostitutes for whom he had pimped. The boys then called the son of one of them as a witness, and he testified that yes, his mother was a prostitute, and the plaintiff was not only her pimp, but his father as well!!!!! Clearly, this is not your garden-variety defamation suit. SO SUE US What I really love about it is that the owner of the magazine that published the statement, Cond� Nast, settled. That’s right: The cold, heartless, impersonal corporate entity said, “We’re sorry. Here, take some money.” The man’s sons, on the other hand, said, “Pound sand, Dad. We’ll see ya in court.” (Actually, I made up this quote. I don’t know what they said. And since they accused Dad elsewhere of “dabbling in the pimptorial arts,” I suspect they could probably come up with something a lot more imaginative and colorful than “Pound sand.” But I think it conveys the essence of the defense.) What a pyrotechnic extravaganza this trial must have been! Doubtless dazzled by the fireworks, the deliberating jury sent out a note that said, “We the jury . . . would like to know whether the fact that we believe that Al Sr. told his sons and that they, the boys, truly believed he was a pimp is enough to negate the fact that there was defamation, even if we do not necessarily believe Al Sr. truly was a pimp.” Say what? You get that note as a bar exam question, you pull a gun and start shooting, don’t you? I mean, no one can make sense of that. What possible answer can there be, other than “Huh?” But after the judge answered that question, the jury found for the boys in 40 minutes. And Dad appealed. AN HONOR TO BE RECOGNIZED This is when it turned into a victory for the pimps of America. Dad argued that merely showing he had been a pimp in the past did not allow his sons to say, “Dad is a pimp.” It should only allow them to say, “Dad was a pimp.” The appeals court rejected this distinction, explaining, “The communication ‘[O]ur dad’s a pimp’ could reasonably be understood as meaning that he had at one time engaged in that activity. And a fact finder could reasonably conclude that the ‘gist or sting’ of the remark does not necessarily depend on when the plaintiff was a pimp.” So “pimp” is really an honorific. It’s one of those terms like “Mr. President” or “Senator” or “Your Honor” that you keep all your life, even after you’ve stopped doing the job. Just as Bill Clinton is still called “Mr. President,” John Kerry will be called “Senator” long after he leaves office, and I’ll be called “Your Honor” as long as people can keep a straight face, pimps retain their pimptorialness all their lives. Who knew? I suppose there’s some room for difference of opinion about whether moving into a category with politicians and judges is a step up or a step down. Nonetheless, I think pimps, on balance, will be pleased to be lumped in with ex-presidents and ambassadors. JUMPING THE SHARK And I think they’ll be especially pleased by a recent 9th Circuit ruling that expands the definition of “pimp” so much as to lump in everybody else. The case is Knievel v. ESPN, which sounds like a name you’d make up for a movie starring Will Ferrell. Seems ESPN (a subsidiary of Walt Disney) posted a picture on its Web site of Evel Knievel � the guy who spent way too much of his adult life jumping motorcycles over things � with one arm around his wife and the other around a young woman. The photo caption was “Evel Knievel proves you’re never too old to be a pimp.” Both Knievels sued, contending this exposed them to “hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy . . . with resulting damage to Evel Knievel’s reputation as a humanitarian . . . .” But the federal District Court in Montana and the 9th Circuit disagreed. As the district judge put it, “[The Web site] was obviously directed at a younger audience and contained loose, figurative, slang language such that a reasonable person would not believe ESPN was actually accusing Plaintiffs of being involved in criminal activity.” DON’T LET GRANDMA SURF It seems to me this can only mean the court has found that young people do not understand “pimp” as a term of opprobrium. To them it’s just loose, figurative slang not actually indicative of “living or deriving support or maintenance in whole or in part from the earnings or proceeds of a person’s prostitution.” They understand it to refer with loose, slangy accuracy to motorcycle riders who jump over buses and canyons and also do indeterminate humanitarian things when they aren’t in the hospital recuperating. And we older people who stumble across this Web site “obviously directed at a younger audience” should just go elsewhere and not think about things that weren’t intended for our tender eyes. What the hell are we doing surfing the Web, anyway? We should be reading Proust and playing mah-jongg. So between young people who don’t understand the term as obloquy, and old people who are admonished by the courts in unspoken subtext to recognize it as an honorific and get off the Internet before we scandalize ourselves, being a pimp has lost a lot of its fetor. Based on these precedents, it is probably less defamatory than “activist judge” or “Dan Rather.” Yep. Good year for pimps. Now who do you suppose is more likely to put together back-to-back good years � the Sox or the pimps? William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected]. This article previously appeared in The Recorder , an ALM publication in San Francisco.

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