How many lawyers get to walk into a courtroom and say, “Judge, I’m here to fight for the right to party.”? That’s just what happened in 1987, when I represented the Beastie Boys in federal district court in Jacksonville. The Boys were touring the country with Run DMC as part of “Licensed to Ill” tour. One of the props on that tour was a 20 foot inflatable penis that, along, with the caged dancers, was a real crowd pleaser.
The morality police at City Hall got wind of the prop and decided the children of Jacksonville had to be protected from such a profane symbol and it was quickly decided that parental advisory warning labels would be required on all tickets. That’s when the Boys contacted me. We went to court and got a restraining order prohibiting the city from requiring the label.
Pioneers in the Music Industry (Geniuses in the Courtroom)
A lot of people know the Boys as musical geniuses, but they were geniuses, period. And, unlike some other performers, they really gave a damn about the Constitution. Now, I realize how young they were – the oldest couldn’t have been more than twenty-five – but they were adamant that their fans didn’t need big brother telling them what to see or hear. When one of them showed up for court in a t-shirt, we borrowed my dad’s tweed coat and off we went.
Our judge was a no-nonsense, practical guy, but he followed the law and ruled in our favor. After we won, the Boys gave me backstage passes to see the show. Backstage was a tame affair, with a basketball set-up for the members of Run DMC to blow off steam. No sex, drugs, but a lot of energy. My law partner was with me, three weeks away from delivering our now 24 year old son. To this day, she swears that concert made a serious imprint on him, as he is still fighting for the right to party.
When I read Adam Yauch had died, it brought a tear to my eye. In my mind, the Boys are all still in their twenties, raising hell. The fact that Adam went on to become an even greater musician and devote himself to the cause of peace doesn’t surprise me, because I knew those boys were going places.
Happy trails, Adam.