You could imagine my surprise when on a sunny April day in 1969, I was served with a subpoena to appear before a State of New York grand jury. Actually it wasn’t me exactly, it was one of the three pseudonyms I used on the masthead of The New York Review of Sex (and Politics) also known by its partnership name, the New York Seed Company. My partners and I wanted to call it New York Feed Company – because New York Review of Sex could not be used as a “corporate” name – but Feed was already being used. Miraculously, Seed was available.
In any case, I was one of three co-publishers (and one art director – me) but I also held other jobs, including advertising, cartoon editor, etc. So, I used pseudonyms to avoid repeating my name too often. One of those names was Michele Leigh, an homage to my favorite actress at the time, Michelle Lee, a star on “Knots Landing,” yet spelled Leigh in honor of my oldest friend with that first name. Following so far?
The Manhattan District Attorney, Frank Hogan, convened a grand jury to investigate the play titled CHE!, which opened on March 22, 1969, after having given a series of public previews. Two days later, Judge Amos S. Basel of the Criminal Court of the City of New York attended a full performance of the play, and at its conclusion, he signed arrest warrants for the plaintiffs which were immediately executed. This was considered prior restraint and therefore unconstitutional. I was subpoenaed as Michele Leigh to provide testimony and any advertisements and editorial copy, including production photographs showing nudity and sexual acts that might provide evidence needed for an indictment. It was a fishing expedition.
We had published a story on CHE! Although none of us in the office (and I represented four people) had seen the play. Even if we did, those materials requested in the subpoena were protected and we were advised not to cooperate. I don’t recall whether I went to the grand jury session or not — but I recall the lawyer saying “they want Miss Leigh, not you.”
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