Dear Guy In My Legal Ethics Seminar: No, Gene Autry Was NOT A Pornographer, And Shame On You

ORG XMIT: NY21 Singing cowboy star Gene Autry is shown in an undated file photo. Autry, who parlayed a $5 mail order guitar into a career as Hollywood's first singing cowboy, died Friday, Oct. 2, 1998. He was 91. His death came less than three months after the death of his great rival, Roy Rogers.

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.

Here’s Gene:

34 thoughts on “Dear Guy In My Legal Ethics Seminar: No, Gene Autry Was NOT A Pornographer, And Shame On You

  1. That ranks right up there with the stories that Fred Rogers was a former SEAL whose sweater covered tattooed arms and that John Denver told JWs to leave the audience.

  2. Jack,
    I’m sure you can find a way to pass on the information to everyone that was in the class that the Gene Autry claim was completely false; in fact I think it would be very wise of you to pass on that information on to everyone so the false claim doesn’t spread as a result of your class.

    That guy must be be a regular consumer of the readings from one of those off the beaten track conspiracy theory websites. There is all kinds of crap filled lies floating around those sites; my sister reads a bunch of that claptrap and is constantly telling me things she reads that turn out to be completely false; sometimes she’s quite gullible. “Their” standard argument is that it’s all covered up, that’s why we can’t find any proof to prove the theories wrong. Some of those wackos think that just because they can raise a theory with the use if questions laced with layer after layer of innuendo that cannot be proven false (no proof on either side) then the theory is fact.

    Ever heard of chem trails? Have you ever seen the blatantly doctored videos these wackos use to “prove” their nonsense?

    In the mind of the theorist if you can’t prove it false then it’s true; sometimes it seems that logic is their enemy. Endless questions and a lack of evidence to contradict their questions are all close personal friends of a conspiracy theorist. It’s pretty damn hard to argue with idiots, willful ignorance and a complete lack of logic, it’s a deep black hole of utter nonsense.

      • Yes, but the problem with that is that you “might” be wrong. Out of curiousity, I did 5 minutes of research on this myself and didn’t find anything, but this guy (even though a jerk) could be right.

        • Beth said, “I did 5 minutes of research on this myself and didn’t find anything, but this guy (even though a jerk) could be right.”

          Even though you haven’t found anything to support his claim, you say he “could be right”; really?

          Sure think whatever failed logic you like Beth. What could possibly go wrong with condemning someone without any facts to back it up; someone made a claim and that person must be believed regardless of facts or consequences? Guilty until proven innocent.

          You should be ashamed of yourself.

          • Suggestion: try to reverse-engineer it – assume that there was some confusion, and figure out what it was. Some other cowboy star? Someone else named Gene? You still have the proving of the negative problem, but the probabilities move way in your favor.

            • LoSonnambulo said, “Suggestion: try to reverse-engineer it – assume that there was some confusion, and figure out what it was. Some other cowboy star? Someone else named Gene?”

              You can assume all you want, that’s your choice; however, you telling me that I should assume is arrogant BS; I choose not to assume, he said what he said, period!

              Why the heck should I be forced to reverse-engineer what someone else claims? Their responsible for their own engineering and to prove their own claims; it’s also their responsibility to apologize if/when they figure out that they were mistaken or confused.

          • What? Look, my advice is meant to protect Jack’s reputation. Am I 99% sure that Gene Autry was not involved in pornography? Yes. Am I (or Jack) a Gene Autry expert? No. Informing his class that this jerk was wrong is: 1) not necessary (every CLE class has one asshole lawyer who the rest of us ignore); 2) possibly could open Jack to critique; and 3) might come off as petty.

            Plus, this was a class filled with lawyers. We LOVE research. A lot of them probably did the same thing I did — looked up Gene Autry, didn’t find anything, and immediately wrote off the comment made by this guy.

            • The problem is that it’s hard to prove a negative. For all I know, this guy has secret documents sent to him by an elderly porn star whistle-blower showing Gene’s horse in bed with Lola Montez and Gene holding the movie camera. It’s also completely out of context of my course…I bet most attendees forgot the exchange immediately. It bothered me more than anyone else. Also threw me off.

              The best proof that the porno charge is crap is that Gene owned a baseball team. MLB vets baseball team owners very, very carefully (Donald Trump would not be approved as a baseball owner), and any hint of scandal and a seamy background would be fatal. Also, Gene was a very savvy business man whose core audience was kids. He was already making money hand over fist—why would he jeopardize that by getting involved in porn in the 50s and 60s?

              Make that 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999, Beth.

                • Nah. Nothing was digital then — somebody would have to go to a lot of trouble to convert those tapes.

                  But, I’ll agree to a 99.9% certainty.

                  • “Nothing was digital then”

                    We aren’t talking about then. We’re talking about now, we’re talking about a lot of bored guys with a lot of time on their hands.

                    If it’s porn, it’s on the internet.

                    Can’t find it? Doesn’t exist.

              • He was also Vice President of the American League. Doubt he would have gotten that job without a thorough vetting, either. Certainly not if he was a pornographer, however well covered-up. For some reason, some people just can’t stand the idea that there are good guys out there.

            • Beth said, “Look, my advice is meant to protect Jack’s reputation.”, “Informing his class that this jerk was wrong is: 1) not necessary (every CLE class has one asshole lawyer who the rest of us ignore); 2) possibly could open Jack to critique; and 3) might come off as petty.”

              Beth, Beth, Beth,
              You might consider all aspects of Jacks reputation (see below) not just the narrow view that you’ve chosen where Jack “might” be wrong – by the way, how can Jack be wrong – Jack didn’t make the freaking claim, he’s just looking into it; also to ignore the claim would be morally wrong, this was a blatant smear on Gene Autry and the man is not here to protect himself, Jack can be his temporary advocate; and who gives a damn if Jack comes of as being petty when someone has made such an unsubstantiated claim.

              Jack told this guy and his class that “I’ll check on that”; not to do a follow up on such a smearing accusation after looking into it would not reflect the person that I believe Jack to be. Informing the class is fully appropriate considering the smear that was made and letting the whole class know that Jack did what he said he would do and check into it is also part of Jacks reputation. Doing what someone says they are going to do is a very important part of someone’s reputation.

              I simply don’t understand your logic; it seems to me that your logic is meant more to protect the guy making the claim and not to protect Jack’s reputation.

  3. I often wonder if those whose intent to besmirch heroes (and I think Gene Autry is definitely a hero) are not motivated by some sense of jealousy; that is “I’ll never be as good as he or she was, so I will have to pull them down to my level.”

    • There’s frequently a fine line between trying to tell the whole truth about a revered figure and looking to slime that revered figure. In this case there is no fine line because it’s an out-and-out lie.

    • Cynical John said, “I often wonder if those whose intent to besmirch heroes (and I think Gene Autry is definitely a hero) are not motivated by some sense of jealousy…”

      I don’t think jealousy of the “hero” has a damn thing to do with it, it’s more about I heard something that you don’t know therefore I’m better than you. It’s conceded one upmanship and it’s a personal character flaw.

      Some people clearly just regurgitating things they hear at their local gossip fence and their only justificationis that their gossip fence friends wouldn’t lie to them and the only reason for spewing it is conceded one upmanship.

  4. Could the estate of Autry track down and sue that blabbermouth for defamation? His question stinks the same as the cyber warriors’ whipped-up suspicions about Senator Harry Reid, a couple of years back. Notwithstanding that Reid might be “Dirty Harry,” in some ways, Reid did not deserve to be tarred with what some people were trying to make stick to him.

    Or would legal action best not be taken, for avoiding potential to foster an appearance of, or suspicion of, validity of the blabbermouth’s claim?

  5. As someone who is distantly related to Gene Autry by marriage, I am deeply insulted on behalf of my husband’s family. I think the “elderly lawyer” who spewed this slander might be a few guitar chords shy of a country western song.

  6. The elderly lawyer was just a butthurt loser. No, Gene did NOT produce Pornography.

    It may be interesting to note that not only did Gene have great moral compass in his movies but it was fluent throughout his live. I still have some of his commendation badges when he finally obtained Flight Officer status in 1944 and flew as a ferrier during WWII.

    You tell that lawyer if he would like defamation proceedings against him from the family, to just keep it up and let me obtain admissible evidence.

    • Thank you for weighing in here, Darin. That episode upset me greatly, as a long-time admirer of Autry, his talent, his versatility and his long career. I was stunned at the time, and the lawyer was so adamant that I had no way to categorically rebut him, as he held forth at length with what were completely fictional “facts.” My Dad was also a great admirer. I had a chance to do a tribute to Gene when I co-wrote and directed a Christmas Revue for my professional theater company in Arlington Virginia. There was segment devoted to his holiday compositions, and a medley.

      May I ask what your relationship to Gene is?

Leave a Reply to Beth Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.