In a legal ethics seminar last week, I was talking about ethics codes and referenced Gene Autry’s version of The Cowboy Code as an example of how most ethics codes could be easily adapted to other professions. I noted that Gene had an amazing career for such an unimpressive looking and sounding performer, with five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the only individual with that many. (Live performance, radio, TV, movies, and recordings).
“He was also a big producer of pornography!” an elderly lawyer in the front row piped up.
“What?” I said. “Gene Autry? Where did you hear that?”
“Oh, it’s true,” he insisted. “Made him a lot of money. He covered it up pretty well, but the truth came out.”
“Well, I’ll check on that. If true, it’s disillusioning. Thanks.”
But it was not true. I have a lot of material–Gene was active in both show business and Westerns, as well as baseball, so his career was and is very interesting to me—and I searched it and the web for any hint of a pornography reference. I can’t even find a web hoax alleging it.
Not only did that unsolicited bit of false biographical information undermine the point I was making about ethics codes, it spread false information about, by every account, a very nice man and an idol to millions. Now almost a hundred people have it in their heads that the guy singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and “Back in the Saddle Again” left the studio and filmed orgies.
I don’t know who the guy was that did that to Gene, but it was an irresponsible, reckless thing to do. You can’t make a statement like that in public and smear a great man’s reputation unless you are absolutely certain of your facts. Obviously he wasn’t sure of them, because they are complete fiction. It’s the kind of thing Donald Trump would say.