Bob Guccione, Larry Flynt, and Al Goldstein fought for freedom of speech throughout the latter part of the 20th century. While not in vain, their efforts were merely the starting point for a never-ending battle involving censorship, First Amendment rights, the definition of erotic art, and sexual expression. The adult industry continues to fight for these virtues in direct opposition to established conservative institutions. The combat often gets heated, and the casualties are real people with families, employees, and dependents often suffering the greatest tolls. The 21st century has produced a number of crusaders to carry the torch that men like Bob Guccione carried nearly a half century ago. One such crusader is J. Handy, the owner and producer of EXXXOTICA Expo, a revolutionary sexually charged event. EXXXOTICA celebrates sex in an informative, educational, and fun way, as it was created for adults who are looking to start their own sexual revolution. What began as a fun idea for a trade show quickly developed into a platform of free speech for sexual education and adult content.
In an exclusive interview, J. Handy explains why he’s fighting the "good fight" for all of our First Amendment rights, and why EXXXOTICA has a right to showcase its event in any city. This stance comes on the heels of the City Council of Dallas, Texas voting to unconstitutionally ban Three Expo Events, LLC, producers of the EXXXOTICA Expo, from ever hosting an event at the Dallas Convention Center. An event, Handy emphasizes, that the city of Dallas successfully held in 2015.
Filthy: What is EXXXOTICA, in 10 words?J. Handy: I guess our tagline sums it up best…"The Largest Event in the USA Dedicated to Love & Sex."
How has EXXXOTICA changed from the first event in 2006 to today?(Laughs) A lot has changed. When we started EXXXOTICA in 2006, we were kids. I was 25 or 26 years old. We looked at EXXXOTICA like a fun and interesting event. It was part of an industry that had huge revenue—and we wanted a piece from it.
It wasn’t until the past three or four years that EXXXOTICA developed into what it is today. We’ve come to recognize the importance of the free speech aspect of course; but more importantly, instead of it just being a fun and entertaining event (and not like your boring trade show), we started to believe in the greater good that the event fosters. It opens a dialogue on sex, allowing it to be mainstream. It provides a safe place for people to celebrate sex.
After 27 shows—and aging quite a bit—we’ve realized how important it is for the general public to have an open conversation on sex. It’s unfortunate that sex isn’t a conversation people usually have. As a parent myself, I’ve found that it’s much easier to have a 30 second conversation with a six or seven year old than a 30 minute conversation with a 15 year old. EXXXOTICA is on the forefront of the First Amendment ability to talk about sex openly in a safe and comfortable environment.
Filthy has regularly attended the event and reported on what is quite frankly a much more innocent, community-oriented event than indicated by the aggressive behavior of conservative journalists. The images and the stories they tell from the EXXXOTICA Expo reveal the playful side of the annual erotic assembly in northern New Jersey.
What was your initial reaction to the Dallas council members and Mayor banning EXXXOTICA from the city?My initial reaction was nothing more than shock. When we began the approval process for the Dallas expo—after being previously approved for our successful Dallas event in 2015—we were halted by the conversation that occurred in the Dallas public forum about our event. That shock quickly turned to anger: seven or eight folks recognized our rights to be in Dallas, yet knowingly voted to take them away. That infuriated me. It plays perfectly into the idea of the 1 percent telling you how to live your lives behind closed doors. It’s asinine.
They tried to link our event to underage sex trafficking and utterly heinous crimes. An event, may I add, that none of these eight people have ever attended. Every idea the Dallas City Council members had about EXXXOTICA is complete imagination. It’s unfortunate that these elected officials set the basis of their votes on their moral beliefs. I was shocked and disappointed...no, it’s more of an outrage than anything.
Who are the "Hateful Eight" and how have they inhibited our First Amendment rights?The "Hateful Eight" consist of Mayor Mike Rawlings and his seven cronies on the city commission. They vote in line with anything that the Mayor wants to have happen. One of them is the daughter of a famous football player—Roger Staubach. When they gave the testimony about our event, it was completely without basis. Everything they claimed was wrong—not only with porn but with the entire adult entertainment industry.
We have never called ourselves a porn convention. Do we have adult materials? Yes. But the majority is educational and entertaining. Many of the "Hateful Eight" were advised by their own legal council that we have a First Amendment right to be in that building...and they completely ignored it.
We respect their ability to be able to stand up and say what they want about us. I don’t believe in it; I don’t think it’s correct. But, they have the right to do so.
Why is talking about sex frowned upon in society today—and specifically, in Dallas? Why should we embrace the topic of sex and sex education openly?
Religion. Religion is the problem in all of this. A lot of people won’t like that answer, but for hundreds—if not thousands—of years, people have been controlled by religion. The idea that you shouldn’t talk about sex in a general forum is unbelievable. There are very few things in the world that every person does: you eat, you sleep, and you have sex.
It’s unfortunate that people make you feel bad about sex; that it’s a dirty backroom shady thing. However, slowly, sex is finding itself into the mainstream conversation through entertainment.
But for some reason, if you talk about sex in an educational way, it’s still a dirty topic. We’re hoping to continually change that with EXXXOTICA by having an open and honest discussion about it.
The vocal minority will fight you tooth and nail with their religious beliefs on a non-religious topic. Dallas just happens to be in the heart of it...and it’s surprising. They have more strip clubs in their city than any I’ve ever gone to (34 within city limits). As long as it’s private, it’s fine. But the second it gets into public conversation, it’s wrong.
All in all, the citizens of Dallas have been outspoken in wanting to have EXXXOTICA there. The large majority of the Left is okay with it. Unfortunately, that’s not who makes these decisions.
How is it difficult to host an event that is inherently in an area of hazy "preconceived notions"?We’re definitely in the heart of it. You have to fight those preconceived notions and not get hung up on them. Fight the good fight! We’re on the right side of the First Amendment on all of this. 80 years ago, people said bikes were bad because they caused women to be loose and have extramarital experiences (laughs). It’s always darkest before the dawn.
But, this area sparks the conversation we want to have; even if it’s not the conversation we want to be in. We always try to bring EXXXOTICA into cities that are not overly exposed to this type of event. LA and South Florida didn’t work...you can see hot people on the beach, you know? Even in LA, you can see an adult star at Starbucks. Accessibility is easy. But Chicago, Dallas, and NJ, it’s a different story. Our event gives folks an opportunity to attend and celebrate sex in a way that they previously didn’t have access to.
- The Good News: because of these inaccessible areas, we receive a greater response from ravenous fans, and an exceptional attendance rate.
- The Bad News: You have to fight the battle against preconceived notions.
What inspired the "Open Letter" to be created?The City Council was scheduled to meet at an open hearing. The day before their meeting, we finalized all of our complaints and lawsuits. We were ready to file them in an instant; but once we were ready to hit "send," we all paused for a moment and had a conversation about what we wanted. And what we wanted was to do the event. So instead of hitting send, we created the open letter.
The open letter was a last chance life vest to the city. By filing a lawsuit, we’re hurting the citizens of Dallas and the taxpayers. The people are footing the bill, not those responsible and in charge. They’re not getting potholes fixed in the city because they’re spending lots of money on frivolous lawsuits like this. Our main goal isn’t to torture the city or cash out, but produce the event that we’ve already produced there in 2015.
The letter was our last hope to stop this all. It only took one person to notion for a re-vote on it, and make everything right again. [The letter] was an olive branch; and resoundingly, nothing happened. After that last meeting ended, we filed the lawsuit. The last thing we wanted to do was hurt the people of Dallas.
For the Mayor and City Council, this is soap-box fun—working towards a higher office. It’s a stand for them to gain publicity and exposure. We’re working hard to make sure that backfires on them.
Tell us about last year’s event in Dallas.It was interesting. We’ve produced events in six or seven new cities over the last seven years. We knew Dallas wasn’t going to be easy, based on our own preconceived notions of the city. The police presence was mind blowing. Most events we hire two or three police officers; at this one, we had 25.
The city refused to disallow protesters from protesting within the lobby...so they were five feet from our front door, with signs that said, "You deserve rape," and talking about HIV. People brought their kids to this too. At one point, they were all protesting a heterosexual trade show by saying, "God hates fags."
They were there because the city recognized their First Amendment rights to be there. Right? (laughs). They won’t allow us our rights, but them?
This show, we had 25 police officers. They were Vice, plain squad, uniformed, everything you could imagine, and there was a sea of them. The city had five or six standing at the front door of the event for the three day duration of the show.
At the end of the event, the police chief said that there were zero incidents, zero crimes, and a zero percent raise in prostitution. It’s not like we had two policemen who overlooked anything. If there was something illegal, those 25 police officers would have found it.
You couldn’t swing a stripper and not hit a police officer in that place (laughs).
What can we (the readers) do to help?It’s election year. You need to take this into consideration when you get ready to fill out your ballot in the voting booth. No matter what election, no matter how small, you need to spread your voice and contribute to who crafts your cities; especially with local politicians.
In this specific case, if you’re a member of the city of Dallas, you can write to the mayor and the City Council members with concerns. Please keep this case in mind for reelection season.
People need to recognize that we live in the United States, a government based on the people’s wants and needs. The younger folks take the local politicians for granted. A little bit of light reading and research makes for a great opportunity to stop these situations. It’s important to get involved, educated, and knowledgeable on who is being elected and who is speaking on your behalf. Pay attention. There’s an outdated view on what is right in society and it has a strong voice.
To all: recognize who you have running for local politics and government. Make sure you’re supporting folks who support what you believe. A little work ahead of time pays off.
Why should every town be open to hosting an EXXXOTICA event?Every citizen has, according to the First Amendment, the right to attend our events. Our track record proves its success: we’ve produced this show for 11 years, 27 times. Every single one of these events has been a success and without major incident. It’s morphing into a true-blue educational event. Is it entertaining? Of course! The best way to educate is through entertainment.
We bring $5 to 6 million a show into the local economy. EXXXOTICA is attended by mothers, fathers, doctors—you name it! Normal, average people.
If you don’t like EXXXOTICA, don’t go to it. It’s as simple as that. It’s not for everyone, but it has a right to be where it is; and the people have a right to attend.
It’s important to be able to celebrate these crucial rights today. If you do, you’ll be able to have a healthy understanding about what sex and EXXXOTICA is.