Actor Stephen Baldwin is known for his roles on the big screen, but his latest project involves a cause that hits close to home. He's fighting to keep porn out of his neighborhood with camera in hand by catching people going near a porn shop and getting them on film.
Baldwin joined ‘Live and Direct’ to talk about the personal battle he is waging near his home town in Nyack, New York.
To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
RITA COSBY, HOST, ‘LIVE AND DIRECT’:Why are you doing this? This is a pretty aggressive tactic.
STEPHEN BALDWIN, ACTOR: Well really let me just state for the record, first and foremost, my beef here is really with the zoning realities that go on in and around these types of businesses. I know that I'm not going to win any battle against pornography. It's like drugs. It's here to stay. It's not going to go away. But certainly, when a town board like the one in Nyack, after we go to three town board meetings and the people that I'm representing in this conversation obviously voice their opposition, and the town board says, Hey, it's the zoning, we can't stop them, there's nothing we can do, the only way now, I've figured out, to stop this reality—because it's on a major thoroughfare.
Every time I take my two daughters to ballet class, four times a week, I'll have to pass the place twice a day. And so now what I've said is kind of—I'll be honest with you, kind of in a bit of a wiseguy kind of way, OK, well, what I'll do is, within my rights and, you know, all of that, I'll photograph the patrons of this place.
COSBY: And videotape them.
BALDWIN: And this is me just filming the construction workers who came out, berated me, cursed at me, yelled at me, all kinds of stuff like that. And I explained to these guys, I don't have a choice. If the only way I can shut this business down is to drive the business away, because that's the way the system works, well, then, that's what I'm going to do.
COSBY: I want to play what the city of Nyack said. This is in a quote. It says, “An adult bookstore in the village of Nyack requires a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The conditions are laid out in the village code. The location of this application fulfilled those conditions.” And what they essentially said is that you can't be within 200 feet of—it's a residential property. It's also a school, also a church, as you can see here. And they say, you know, even if it's close, it still fits within these codes.
Is there anything they can do?
BALDWIN: Well, I have some things cooking right now that are going to actually be brought to light about the situation very quickly.
COSBY: Like what? Like what kind of things?
BALDWIN: Well, just about how this group came in and actually what they said the business was going to be.
COSBY: There's no question there's questions. But for me, it's not only that, it's just interesting to me—think about this. Across the street from an elementary school, a porno shop can open. That's the way our zoning laws are set up.
Are you astounded, too, as a father—you've got two kids. You've got two daughters, two beautiful daughters. You know, how do you fight it? Because it is overwhelming. And this is obviously a first step, but are you hoping that this—maybe other folks are going to take camera in hand?
BALDWIN: I absolutely hope so. And let me make another point. I want my children to realize and recognize, through the actions of their dad, they don't have to back down. You can stand up for what you believe in and fight for what you believe in. And I believe the zoning laws for pornographic stores in America are wrong. They're ridiculous, and I'm not going to put up with it.
COSBY: Now, where does it stand with this? I know you've been showing the construction workers. We were just showing that. What's the sort of timetable for this actual—this location to get up?
BALDWIN: I have no idea. But I told the construction workers, and I'm telling everybody else who cares to hear what I have to say, I will personally or I will employ a photographer—I will have signage that lets the patrons know in advance when they are arriving at the store, You will be photographed. Your name will be made public knowledge, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, because that's the only choice I have in order to drive the business away in the hope that this business will close down.
COSBY: Are you going to post the names? Are you going to post the names in the newspaper, or how are you going to release that?
BALDWIN: Absolutely. I'll post names in the newspaper.
COSBY: Has the newspaper agreed to do that?
BALDWIN: I can do it—there's already Web sites that do this sort of thing that are very successful. Here's my—again, Rita, you want to do pornography, whoever is out there wants to do that stuff, God bless you. Good luck. That's between you and God. It's got not nothing to do with me. But I don't think I should have to lay down, throw my hands up and say, Oh, well, there's nothing I can do about this. That's ridiculous.
The laws that allowed this store to open where it's opening, half a mile from my house, I think are crazy. So now I'm going to do something a little crazy in order to drive the business away, if that's what I have to do.
COSBY: Now, you've done some sexually explicit films in the past. I know you're a born-again Christian. You did a film called “Threesome,” and now what do you say to folks who say, Is this the right guy to be doing this?
BALDWIN: Well, again, a whole bunch of the movies that I've done before we now classify in the film category of my life as BC. A lot of the films I've done in the past you wouldn't see me in the sequel to. Of course, I'm not the guy I used to be. There's a whole bunch of films that I wouldn't do today.
COSBY: Because you've become born-again Christian.
BALDWIN: Absolutely, because of my faith-based perception, there's a lot of things I wouldn't do. I just did a movie with Tom Selleck that was on CBS recently. The ratings were great. I played a tough guy, smoked cigarettes, had a gun, you know, said a bad word. Listen, I'm not sitting here going the other way, like, totally fanatically. That's not the point.
And again, my problem is with the zoning laws. People want to do things in the privacy—there's plenty of ways for people to do the pornographic thing.
Here's the other big issue with this particular location—peep shows within the store. These guys are going to have eight video booths. I mean, I have documentation of the kinds of people that will start to come to this area. Property values are going to go down. The duration of time it takes to sell a home located in this kind of an area takes longer and longer and longer. Sexual crimes go up. Rape goes up.
I mean, here's the thing. I'm not going to be one of those people in the Nyack area that when somebody tries to go after my kid, sits there and says, Oh, well, we should have had something about that porn store so close to my house.
COSBY: What kind of support are you getting in the community? I saw that you're getting the help of, what, even some students.
BALDWIN: Oh, absolutely.
COSBY: What's going to happen at opening day at the shop?
BALDWIN: Well, I've been talking to a couple of students from a couple of the local colleges. Particularly, Nyack College is a Christian college in the area, and some of the students there who have voiced their support for this reality. And then I hang out at a coffee shop called the Runcible Spoon in Nyack all the time. Listen, there's lot of liberal folks that live in Nyack, and I've had a dozen people come up to me and pat me on the back and say, Listen, I agree with you that I wish this place wasn't around.
Again, I'm not doing it for that. I'm not doing it for any other reason than to say I personally don't agree with the fact that I have to lay down and allow this place to open and see it every day and let my kids see it when I don't agree with it.
COSBY: How long do you plan on doing the filming? And I think it's interesting. You've already started doing that taping. How long—and do you feel you're invading some privacy?
BALDWIN: No, I don't think I'm going to be invading anybody's privacy because they will be forewarned. When they're pulling in, there'll be some kind of a person picketing with a sign that says this is what you're getting yourself into.
And listen, I'm not happy about having to take this action, but the owners of this building, three times at town board meetings, it was made available to their representation that there were local residents that were in opposition of this store. They had the choice to take their business somewhere else and chose not to do it.
COSBY: And how long will you fight this, Stephen, real quick?
BALDWIN: I'm not going to fight until it shuts down—I'm not going to stop fighting until it shuts down. But here's something else. They chose to take the position - the wife of the owner said in “The New York Post” newspaper, she said, Hey, it's a free country. Well, that's the way I feel, so I'm going do what I got to do.
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