Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for December 2nd, 2022

Opposites Attract: The Jerry Falwell and Larry Flint Friendship

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Folks, I’ve been thinking a great deal about friendship. Must we always be just like our friends? (You know I’m going to say no.) Can’t we appreciate different things in different people? (I would assuredly hope so.) And have other people managed to find common ground despite their differences?

Too many people get caught up in their “tribes” of folks who say they believe every single thing down to the last jot and tittle as themselves. They don’t challenge themselves, or their assumptions; they aren’t strong enough, perhaps, or maybe they just see no need.

Yet Larry Flynt — the famous owner of Hustler magazine (a men’s magazine that, shall we say, specialized in raunchiness rather than photographic artistry) — and Jerry Falwell, the famous Protestant minister, ended up friends after fighting like cats and dogs for years due to their obvious differences. (To say that Falwell did not approve of pornography, much less graphic porn like Hustler, is a severe understatement.)

How did they become friends?

Well, there’s a story behind that, and it goes like this: After Jerry Falwell lost a big lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court, he went to Flynt and said, “I believe God wants us to be friends. Goodness knows we’ve tried everything else.” (This is my best paraphrase from several things I’ve read over the years.)

Flynt had some God-fearing friends, such as Ruth Carter Stapleton (former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s sister), and had converted, at least for a short time, to Christianity in the 1970s. (I think he made it about a year before he again proclaimed he was an atheist.) He respected them despite their differences. But no one, not him and probably not Falwell, would’ve believed that these two wildly disparate personalities would become friends.

Why? Well, to put it mildly, most people do not become friends after they lose such a high-profile lawsuit. (Or any lawsuit.)

Yet Falwell extended Christian charity to Flynt, and Flynt responded. Flynt once said (again, from my best paraphrase), “We had almost nothing in common, yet he was a great friend.”

These two were unafraid to discuss their differences, too. They knew in many ways they were diametrically opposed. Yet…they also had some things in common, such as beliefs in integrity and fair dealing. They also believed people should honestly confront themselves, plus both believed in the rights of people with disabilities to fair treatment and understanding. They also were both, adamantly, against the death penalty, and Flynt backed it up when the gunman who paralyzed him was on death row as Flynt asked for the death penalty not to be applied.

In writing circles, we have a few other “opposite attracts” friendships, including the professional collaboration and long friendship between David Weber and the late Eric Flint. I know from my own knowledge of reading various posts by both men at Baen’s Bar (find it by going to baen.com and look for the link) that both men were intelligent, spirited, and tough but fair when discussing their various differences. (The respect between the two men was never in doubt.) What they had in common was personal integrity, honesty, commitment, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to work together to write excellent fiction.

My late husband Michael was a major admirer of David Weber, years ago. He had all the Honor Harrington books, plus the Bahzell books, and several other ones. (I can’t remember all the names now, but I’d probably recognize the various covers.) Michael, like myself, believed in traditional small-l liberal values and tended to vote for centrist candidates. (This was quite right-wing for San Francisco, he proudly used to say. I think Michael loved being contrary. But I digress.)

See, it is possible to respect and admire someone no matter what providing people are of good will and no malice. Flint and Weber worked together, were great friends, and appreciated each other. And the oddest couple of all, Flynt and Falwell, certainly became great friends and appreciated each other.

Knowing of these friendships makes me believe that people in general can, still, become friends with folks who seemingly have nothing in common.

So, when you abhor the state of the world — and truly, there are very difficult things going on all over the place, including a ton of stupidity — remember this:

It is possible to be friends with someone of a different political party. It is possible to become friends with someone of a different gender or sexual expression. It is possible to become friends with someone who worships differently than yourself…and it definitely is possible to be friends even if all of these things are present, providing we are people of goodwill and do as much listening as we do talking.

(That’s hard for me, but I’m working on it.)

Anyway, what “opposites attract” friendship have you wondered about? Tell me about it in the comments!