There is a crusty old pub in Madison, Wisconsin, called Bennett's Tap where on Sunday mornings curious people show up to be shocked: Order an item off the special "Smut 'n' Eggs" menu—I recommend the "smut muffin"—then settle in for some of the raunchiest human sex ever committed to celluloid. The bartender takes requests, and on the morning I was there, some sadistic bastard demanded the video of Ron Jeremy fellating himself.
At some point during the course of watching this grotesquely hirsute, freakishly endowed man conjure his own money shot, I felt a little better about America. Only a truly free society would allow such a revolting (but ultimately harmless) video to be shown in a public place.
It's the same reason I thought I'd have a soft spot for Mike Hunt TV, which is hands-down the trashiest, most patently offensive program on Seattle cable, not counting The 700 Club.
Launched by Mike Aivaz (who assumes the on-air persona Mike Hunt), the show airs Wednesday nights at 1:00 a.m. on public access. It's Aivaz's celebration of what he believes to be God's two greatest gifts to mankind: "Pussy and pot." It begins with Aivaz firing up a bowl and it ends, typically, with a man ejaculating on a woman's face.
On January 18, the Seattle Community Access Network (SCAN) Board of Directors is likely to revise its definition of what qualifies as obscenity—the category of speech that the Supreme Court says can be justifiably suppressed. The new definition will exclude "depictions of actual sexual intercourse, actual sodomy, actual masturbation... or lewd exhibition of the genitals." Removing these would shave about 50 minutes off the hour-long Mike Hunt TV show.
"Mr. Aivaz has been entitled to a program on the air," SCAN executive director Ann Suter told me. "He is not entitled to air obscenity."
Take away his porn, and Mike Hunt's pot-addled, profanity-laced diatribes are hardly worth staying up late to watch. That's why he is fighting like hell for his right to show smut. To that end, he has—rather predictably—styled himself as an embattled defender of the First Amendment.
Suter is the focal point of Aivaz's scorn. Much the way "Mike Hunt" can be pronounced to some (slight) comedic effect, Aivaz often refers to his SCAN adversary as "Ann's Cooter," an appellation that his fans have picked up, judging by their frequent use of the term on his voicemail, which he delights in playing amid the porn scenes.
Last April, the SCAN board ordered Aivaz to edit out exposed genitals. He did so—using a video clip from a SCAN meeting. Every time a penis or vagina came into view, Suter's face appeared over it saying the phrase, "camera shots of genitals." The clip repeated itself like a rabid parrot several dozen times during a single hardcore sex scene. During the same show, he reminded his viewers: "You can call Ann Suter's 24-hour voicemail and say, 'What is your major malfunction, you dumb-ass bitch?'"
Aivaz had at least one supporter on SCAN's content-review board—Harlan Snyder, now retired. Snyder voted to keep the show on the air last February, despite the other two members' intentions to cancel it. But even Snyder's praise is tepid. "I support it on principle—not because it's a good show," he says. "It's not a good show—but that's true of most of the programs on the channel. It's amateur programming. And if you give person A the right to a program, you have to give it to person B."
For her part, Suter has tried to stay above the fray, but it's clear she's been stung by the invective hurled at her by Aivaz and his supporters. "I had the police look into it," she says. "They told me I could get a restraining order, but he's never in the building, so what would that do? It's slander, but he has no money so how could I sue him? I choose to ignore him."
That probably should have been her strategy from the beginning. Like every other porn frontiersman who has come before, Aivaz thrives on conflict.
During his moments of coherence, Aivaz makes a few convincing—if obvious—points: That television makes little fuss about violence, the larger social ill. That he is showing a natural act between two a adults that might be instructive to couples who want to enhance their sex life. That all his videos are publicly available in adult-video stores. And that individuals ought to be left alone with their TV remotes to form their own tastes.
But just when he gets momentum, Aivaz's rhetoric weakens under the weight of his exaggerations. When I interviewed him last week, he argued that porn is "spiritual" because "it seems to transcend the normal human boundaries."
Later, he told me that on Wednesday night the rate of domestic violence in greater Seattle drops by 50 percent, thanks entirely to Mike Hunt TV. (As of press time, the Seattle Police Department was unable to confirm this statistic.)
Aivaz has plans to assemble hundreds of people at SCAN headquarters at 98th Street and Aurora Avenue, before the board meets on January 18.
"I wanted to call it a free speech rally to save Mike Hunt TV," he said on his program, "but really it's to save Seattle, to keep Seattle from becoming Mobile, Alabama." Aivaz asks the viewing audience if someone with a powerful car stereo system will volunteer their participation so that he can blast that Rage Against the Machine song with the refrain, "Fuck you/I won't do what you tell me."
During his most recent show, Aivaz admitted to depression, that after years of battling censorship he is up against overwhelming odds. "Now we're at the spot where it's going to end," he said morosely, "because these people are drunk with power." His bearded face is hovering in the screen's corner superimposed over a larger image of a Catholic schoolgirl being sodomized by her teacher. "They're fascists," he continues. "They think they can tell Seattle what free speech should look like."
I asked Aivaz whether he would do something special for these last two episodes of Mike Hunt TV. The question upset him. "People think I'm going to go out with a bang —like a woman fucking a dog, or a horse fucking a man to death," he fumed. "But people don't understand, that's not what this is about."
All the same, Aivaz can't resist making one last grandstand. Just before the SCAN board meets, he intends to shear off all his hair, which hasn't seen scissors since before Mike Hunt TV was born nine years ago.
Since his banishment from the media spectrum seems a foregone conclusion, Aivaz's thoughts seem to have turned to his legacy. "I believed I could make people smile," he told me. "And laugh. I believe that our community hurts."
Personally, I think as a social good, Mike Hunt ranks down there with a self-sucking Ron Jeremy. But ultimately, I'm rooting for the show to survive, for reasons aptly stated by Aivaz himself: "This is about freedom of speech, and as long as this show is on TV, freedom of speech is alive."
The final two uncensored episodes of Mike Hunt TV air Wed night/Thurs early morning, Jan 11 and Jan 18, at 1 am.