Bilingual ed? What's that?
"I always remember watching Diff'rent Strokes, and shows like that, Happy Days, they made like, y'know, a two-part "to be continued' episode around the crew going to Los Angeles. Willis and Arnold were going to Los Angeles, they built this trip up to go to L.A., and I love it here, and that goes full circle as to why I'm running...I think L.A. has lost that luster. I guess I made a decision that I wanted to run for mayor and maybe try and bring back that vibe."
Rob Black, president of the Van Nuys-based adult video company Extreme Associates and the ultraviolent Xtreme Pro Wrestling, is struggling to explain his recent and unexpected announcement that he is planning to run a legitimate mayoral campaign. It's 1:30 a.m., and we're in the office adjoining the Birmingham High School locker room, following a high-energy wrestling show entitled Payback's a Bitch, during which Black, in his role as an evil and insane boss, was repeatedly struck in the head and elsewhere. He's winding down with a large pinch of tobacco in his lip that he spits periodically into a Perrier bottle. "We were sittin' around the house one day," he says, referring to himself and his fiancée, porn actress turned director Lizzy Borden, "and just a collection of things, from driving the traffic, and just being in L.A., [and] I said "You know what? You've got all these people: Riordan, people like that...You know what? Let's have a fresh face in the mix.'" Black cites Bill Clinton as a political hero, though at 27 the pornographer/promoter already has a past that would make the former president cry.
Kevin Kleinrock, vice president
of operations for the wrestling organization, remembers the exact moment that
Black decided to become that fresh face, following a futile attempt to obtain a
permit to put on a wrestling event in
But back to the locker room. It's not one of Black's most coherent moments, as he tries to explain his stance on bilingual education thusly: "I think it's good. I think it broadens a child's horizons, I think, you know, I took Spanish in, when I was in high school, we had a choice of Spanish, German, and I think Italian. I don't think it should be a mandatory, I think there should be an option. I think the kid should take a different language, but I think there should be a couple of 'em that they could take. Most people would take Spanish because we have a large Spanish population in L.A., so it would be nice to do it, but I think it's great, I think the children should, you know, it makes 'em smarter. I would love to be able to speak a different language. I took Spanish. I don't know how to speak it. I don't know what the hell to say." He laughs, recognizing that he hasn't made as much sense as he'd hoped. When it's pointed out to him that the term bilingual education generally refers to teaching Spanish-speaking children in Spanish, he clarifies: "They should be taught in English...There's nothing worse than going in line at a bank or somewhere, and they don't assimilate very well, so yeah, they have to be taught in English."
When a question about the LAPD leads to a similarly confused response, Black's PR guy quickly swoops in with the save, mumbling something about having to leave the building soon, and escorts New Times outside, explaining that the mayoral campaign is very new, and they haven't had time to fully "brief Rob on the issues."
When New Times finally catches up with Black again, he is coherent and charismatic, soliciting questions like a "babyface" wrestling champion accepting challenges. The tobacco and the Perrier bottle remain ever present. "I'm spitting my Kodiak out," he says at one point. "You can write that. I'm sure there's candidates that smoke." When the tobacco's out of the way, he guzzles down a packet of Gummi Savers, but not before carefully squeezing it first. "I have a phobia," he explains. "Tell him about my phobia, Kevin." Kleinrock explains that Black's afraid of being poisoned, so he won't eat anything that doesn't come from a sealed wrapper. "I'm not afraid someone's out to kill me, Rob Black, but just tampering with food in general."
So how does the producer and sometime director of such video classics as Ass Clowns, Slap 'Er in the Crapper, and Whack Attack #9: Spearing the Chocolate Starfish expect to get elected? He considers himself well prepared. "First and foremost, you're dealing with business. You're dealing with a product, whether it be wrestling, whether it be pornography, whether it be R-rated movies, you are creating, and then you need a people-driven response on that product, whether it's at a live wrestling show, thousands of people in attendance, buying tapes, selling tapes, buying your product, watching your movies, any of that stuff. Being in the political field, it's like...for some reason, when you get in there, you lose the sense of proper business. For some reason, the red tape and all the bureaucracy in politics bogs it down." Black adds that while he may not be a role model in any traditional sense, he thinks he is a good model for success as a businessman.
Black's platform includes a moratorium on all road construction during the day, an issue that was also dear to Howard Stern when he ran for governor of New York, though Black is quick to note that he's serious. "I don't understand logically why we cannot have night work.... We have so many crews, where you have one crew that tears stuff out, and you have another crew that fills everything in, but they never simultaneously coincide, so the crew that rips out, that gets ripped out in two days, and then five weeks later the other crew comes and fills it up, and they go and do it and they do it at 9:30 in the morning. ""Oh, let's do it like at 4:30, when everyone in the world's trying to get home.'" He insists this issue deserves more airtime than L.A.'s school problems. "Let's just say you don't have a child. That [school] issue is not very close to your heart. But everybody has to go to work; everybody has to drive."
Among other things, Black would like to see downtown get a Las Vegas-style makeover, with legalized casinos, shows, and the aforementioned sports arena to lure boxing promoters. "I'll tell you, that would stimulate the hell out of the economy." And to show that the first interview did not catch him at his best, he goes back to the issues of crime and education, stressing that he'd like to see more police officers on foot who could better interact with the community, and possibly patrol low-income housing areas to keep them from becoming slums.
As it turns out, he may not have a child, but he does have a personal stake in improving the schools after all. "My fiancée, her [little] brother goes to school in Hollywood. One of the things they do is, if you're bad, you go to Saturday detention. And what you do in Saturday detention doesn't matter. For eight hours you can sit there with your head down, but because you're there on Saturday, that's detention. They don't force you to learn. They're not saying, "All right, here you are, you have to do this, and at the end of study, at the end of detention, you're gonna be given a test on what you just read.' You just sit there. There's no incentive." Black favors bonus pay for teachers if a certain percentage of their students get good test scores.
So how many campaign volunteers does he have? After a long pause, Black finally admits, "Six. And they're mostly die-hard fans of the wrestling product." One of the six, a 30-year-old aspiring actress named Barrett Moore, concedes she doesn't even know what Black's political beliefs are, but that she volunteered "because I was asked, so why not? I'm all for somebody exercising their constitutional right to run for office." Oscar Pierce, the Web master for fan site StrictlyXPW.com, is similarly all for the campaign, and would even consider voting for Black, but says that "as of right now, I have no idea what he's thinking."
As the interview wraps up, Kleinrock takes a call from America Online, which is demanding that a bill be paid despite the fact that no one can remember which account it is. "Watch this," offers Black, who proceeds to call AOL back and start charming the receptionists ("You're in Florida? My parents live in Florida"), finally straightening the whole mess out after painstakingly buttering up two different technicians, calling one an angel sent down from heaven by God. Slamming the phone down in triumph, he declares: "That's two women who would've voted for me!"
His cajoling ability may no longer be in doubt, but Black is still about as likely to become mayor as Pat Buchanan is to become president. But his campaign should at least be unique, and he's hosting voter registration drives for fans at his wrestling shows. As Kleinrock puts it, "Rob's probably the first mayoral candidate to ever use the word cunt in public." Black, who has been conspicuously watching his language like never before, is stung: "When have I ever used the word cunt in public?"
Responds the VP: "Sooner or later, you will."