Attorney for "Hair" Irks Judge With Comments on Scopes Trial
by William K. Warren
The Chatanooga (Tennessee) Times - April 5, 1972

Southeast Tennessee "will no longer be known for the Scopes trial but for the Hair trial" if the controversial rock musical is ruled obscene, attorney John Alley said Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

The attorney for Southeastern Promotions Inc. in its suit against the auditorium board addressed his comments to Judge Frank Wilson after the second day of testimony before a jury asked to determine if the play is obscene.

Alley asked the federal judge for a directed verdict denying the obscenity defense put forth by the auditorium board in an effort to block presentation of hair at Memorial Auditorium on Sunday.

Noting that the panel is only an "advisory jury" and Wilson is not bound by its decision, Alley urged the judge not to allow the case to go to the 12 men.

"It's this court's decision, not an advisory jury's decision," Alley said.

He contended that testimony by defense witnesses does not support the obscenity charge, which he labeled an attempt to deny his client free speech guaranteed by the Constitution.

An obscenity ruling on the Broadway play, which has been presented in 240 cities and has received favorable rulings in four courts, Alley said, will create gaffaws across the nation.

Wilson was visibly angered by the attorneys comments, including Alley's referrence to the 1927 Dayton, Tenn., trial of a man (Scopes) charged with teaching evolution.

"What's the difference what goes on over the nation, Mr. Alley, as long as this court follows the law?" WIlson asked.

Alley said he would apologise if he had said anything that offended the court.  The incident ended with Wilson saying he would take Alley's motion for a direct verdict under advisement.

Both sides completed their cases late Tuesday afternoon and, barring a fvorable ruling on Alley's motion for a directed verdict, the jury will get the case sometime today after arguments are given by both sides and the charge is made by Wilson.

Two More Testify

City Atty. Eugene Collins and his associate, Randall Nelson, who represented the auditorium board, put three more witnesses on the stand Tuesday to testify to allegedly obscene acts in Hair.

Attorney Wilkes T. Thrasher Jr., testifying he attended the play in New York City three years ago without knowing what it was about, described the musical's theme as "sex, blasphemy and disregard for the flag."

Thrasher said he left at the intermission and "wouldn't want anyone to be subjected to Hair."

Dr. John Ellis, a Chattanooga physician who saw the play in London during 1970, said the play's message is "ignore parents, ignore the schools, ignore the church and come live in the streets with us."

He watched the play to its completion only because "I wanted the pleasure of standing up and booing it," Ellis said.

The final defense witness was Coyle Ricketts, an auditorium board member who traveled with Collins, Nelson and Comissioner Conrad last Saturday to see the play in Charleston, S.C.  Their expenses were paid by the city attorney's office.

Still Vote No

Having seen the play, Ricketts said he would still vote "no" on allowing its presentation at memorial Auditorium.  He said the play was  concerned primarily with an advocacy for sex and drugs.

Al Gresham, director of the Chatanooga Little Theater, led off the case for the plaintiff, giving a favorable analysis he wrote after reading the play.

"The theme of the play is the need for rebirth or change, in the Biblical sense, "Gresham said.  "In this sense the play is a revolutionary play.  It is a ceremony, not just a story, performed on stage."

On cross-examination. Gresham said he would consider presenting the simulated sex act on the stage of the Chatanooga Little Theater if it was "necessary to get across the idea."

"It's possible we would" he said.  "Probably unlikely, but possible.

Donald Kleinfelter, a philosophy teacher at UTC who saw the play in Boston during 1970, said the presentation does have social significance.

Robert Cherin of New York City, president of Southeastern Promotions Inc., took the stand to defend the play he hopes to present here Sunday.

The much-mentioned nude scene at the end of the first act, Cherin said, is done in dim light and "is the closest thing to a live nude painting I have ever seen."

He defended the four-letter language as "street language" native to the type of people depicted in the play.  To change the language, Cherin said, "would be as foolifh, I would think, as to place them in a play on construction workers and have them speak in the language of a Harvard Law School graduate."

The simulated sex acts, the promoter continued, are attempts at "poking fun" at the establishment's hypocracy on sex.

Cherin said his firm would make $10,000 to $11,000 if the play is allowed here and will lose about $14,000 if it is banned.

Lief Carter, a political science teacher at UTC, saw the play in 1970 in California.  He testified that he enjoyed "most of it" and felt it was trying "to say something about social issues."

Copyright The Chatanooga Times Corp.

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