WASHINGTON -- The earnest young men and women traipsed through the halls of Congress carrying their videotapes with them.
They had 535 cassettes, one for each Senator and one for each Representative (including the dead one from Michigan.)
The cassettes were being distributed by members of the Christian Action Network. Each cassette was in a plain white box, each was numbered and each contained 15 minutes of nudity, oral sex, masturbation and nipple piercing.
"My guess is that this videotape will be popped in all over Capitol Hill," Martin Mawyer, president of the CAN said proudly. "The VCRs will be running all over the place today!"
But only so that the lawmakers can get disgusted and appalled, of course.
Only so that the lawmakers can vote to cut off all funds to the National Endowment for the Arts, which granted $17,500 in taxpayer money to the lesbian and gay film festival in Pittsburgh that showed the films from which these 15 minutes were taken.
The Christian Action Network is the same group that a few weeks ago displayed photographs that had been shown at the Whitney Museum in New York, which receives NEA money.
The photographs featured a pile of simulated excrement, dead animals, rotting food and other unpleasant things.
But only one member of Congress showed up to view this nasty stuff, which really ticked off the CAN.
"I am very disappointed that members of Congress were reticent if not outright opposed to take a look at what we object to," Mawyer said yesterday.
Which is the problem: The CAN, which doesn't want anybody to see this filth, has become a big distributor of it and gets upset when people won't take a look at it.
But Mawyer feels that this videotape will be heavily viewed, though he considers it so disgusting he didn't think some reporters could take it.
"We've been torn as to whether to show this video to the media," Mawyer said at a press conference yesterday. "It is extremely graphic."
He then offered any reporter who felt he might throw up, pass out or not get to heaven if he watched the videotape the opportunity to leave the room.
A few minutes here and few minutes there of the film was graphic. But more of it was just silly: One man knocking his cigarette ash onto another man while "Deutschland Uber Alles" played in the background.
After the viewing was over, Mawyer said: "The FCC wouldn't let you show any of this on the air, but another agency of government funds it!"
Not quite. The NEA did not fund any of the films, nor is it true the FCC wouldn't allow any of it to be shown on the air.
One clip features performance artist Annie Sprinkle baring her breasts. And on the HBO show "Real Sex" you can see the same Annie Sprinkle baring the same breasts.
The NEA funded 4,000 artists and cultural organizations last year, including dance troupes, ballets, theater companies, and symphonies.
But the Christian Action Network wants the NEA abolished so that no taxpayer dollars will go to fund material it finds objectionable.
Why do away with all the good stuff, however, because a little bad stuff gets thrown in?
"A government agency is supposed to do 100 percent good for the American people," Mawyer said.
So by spending $17,500 on a lesbian and gay film festival out of an annual budget of $175 million, the NEA had devoted one one-hundredth of a percent of its money to bad stuff and, therefore, was doing only 99.99 percent good.
Which means, according to the CAN, it should be abolished. Because even if just a small amount of Annie Sprinkle gets shown, we should do away with funding for "Swan Lake" and "Death of a Salesman" and Beethoven.
"This is another nail in the coffin of the NEA," Mawyer said of his videotape. "I really think we are making inroads. I just wish more members of Congress would view this."
Many might. But Cinemax is showing "Lady Chatterly in Tokyo" tonight. And "Basic Instinct" is on The Movie Channel a week from tonight. And, well, there is just so much research a lawmaker can do.