Bad Taste: Three tales of how the porn industry creates its own problems

As a teen, I took a field trip in the Deep South, on the way to some historic bog, and noticed an establishment called “Bob’s Classy Lady” on the side of the road. I asked the bus driver what a classy lady was. He said, “That is what you would call Irony.”

Fast forward oh, 18 months, and I am America’s Beloved Porn Journalist. I know many women who are indeed elegant, sophisticated, well-read and, yes, classy who also happen to have sex for a living. But it says something about the perception of adult entertainment that terms like “gentlemen’s club” and “classy lady” are understood to mean the opposite.

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Here are three stories of how the porn industry creates its own uphill battle when trying to be taken seriously.

Vivid’s Sex Tape Strategy

While Vivid, like everyone, has made some bad business decisions, it has never made them lightly. That is why its hucksterish rescinded offer to acquitted accused child murderer Casey Anthony is so deplorable.

If you thought Vivid’s courting of Nadya Suleman was in poor taste, the company’s Casey Anthony campaign makes the Octomom endeavor seem downright wholesome.

A quick recap:

Last year Vivid issued press releases asking Suleman to star in a Vivid movie, offered her an office job, then offered to make her mortgage payments. Even Suleman’s terse rejections were marketing gold for the company which, just by virtue of issuing an offer that couldn’t possibly be accepted (even Octomom has a sense of shame), made Vivid the pornography company of record to thousands of TMZ viewers.

As Vivid is producing fewer original features (only the talented B. Skow is left of a contract director pool that once included Eon McKai and Paul Thomas) and concentrating on distributing others’ work and compiling from its vast archive, it has, since the demise of Red Light District (which released the Pamela Anderson And Tommy Lee, Paris Hilton, and Amy Fisher videos), become the premiere sex tape purveyor. You can thank Vivid for giving the entire Kardashian family work, for example; it was Kim Kardashian’s sex tape that first posed the question millions are asking: Why are you famous?

While it’s true that many so-called celebrities might ultimately regret having signed over to Vivid the rights to release their shadowy, infrared, self-conscious fumblings, make no mistake that nothing was “stolen” and a team of both parties’ lawyers combed over the “secret” footage before the participants agreed to payment, as well as the schedule of face-saving press releases indicating shock and embarrassment that such footage was ever made, much less sold.

But all this wheel-spinning showmanship has nothing on Vivid’s capitalization on the death of a child. Yesterday Vivid released a statement saying that it had “withdrawn an offer to Casey Anthony to star in a Vivid feature.”

“It has become obvious to us that Vivid fans, and people in general, want nothing to do with her and that includes a XXX movie. We want to make movies that people want to watch and we now believe that we underestimated the emotional response that people are having to the verdict. A movie starring Casey Anthony is not what people want to see,” said Hirsch.

Note how this news is below an ad for “Horrible Bosses”:

My assumption is that Vivid’s New York-based press agent, Jackie Markham, fires off such “offers” to gossip sites and other media outlets with no expectation of a reply. It’s not the reply that matters; it’s keeping Vivid’s name in search engines alongside highly-searched names.

But Hirsch who, by virtue of his media contacts, has become the de facto spokesperson for the adult industry (it could be worse), has clearly weighed the potential negative response to hitching Vivid’s wagon to Casey Anthony’s star and has determined it would be a positive.

What does that say about Vivid?

Classy.

UPDATE: Prior to writing this story, I contacted Steve Hirsch and Jackie Markham, Vivid’s publicist, and asked the following question:

What went into the conscious decision of suggesting, in public, that Vivid should capitalize on a tragedy involving the death of a child?

Steve Hirsch responds on July 8:

We were originally influenced by the many emails from fans throughout the trial asking if we were going to make an offer to Casey Anthony to make a movie with us if she was found not guilty. We contacted her attorney Jose Baez to explore an offer to her. In less than 24 hours it became clear that there was an overwhelmingly negative response to her verdict and people did not want to see her in a movie. We contacted Mr. Baez again and told him that we were no longer interested in discussing a movie with Ms. Anthony.

So the fans who wanted to know if Vivid would do a movie with Casey Anthony if she was acquitted decided they didn’t want to see a movie with Casey Anthony when she was acquitted?

While it is entirely plausible that no fan ever contacted Vivid about a Casey Anthony movie, much less added the caveat “if she’s found not guilty,” I can also see how her appeal pre-verdict was far greater than when she was acquitted. It seems that the internet feels Anthony got away with murder, but she hadn’t yet gotten away with murder before the ruling was handed down. So in Vivid’s version of the story, the company was just doing what you, the fans, wanted. How does that make you feel?

Classy.
Ashli Orion Is Still Doing Porn

I met Ashli Orion on her second day in porn and last year directed her as Young Mrs. Garrett in “The Facts of Life XXX.” She is very sweet and a Hollywood Party Girl of the first order and, well, maybe not someone I would have do my taxes but, let’s face it, you wouldn’t want me to paint your house, either.

That’s why it was sad to read she was leaving the adult business. I received the following email from her erstwhile booking agency, Big Love Talent:

Subject: Ashli is Leaving!….bummer

One of the best performers in the business and probably my favorite girl to rep in the last 5 years, Ashli Orion, has decided to pursue a new career path so BLT is sad to announce she will be retiring from the business.

It seemed odd to me that Big Love Talent, and not Orion herself, would be issuing this notice.

Cui bono?” I asked myself, fording the Rubicon and marching on Pompey.

I remembered a conversation I’d had about Sophia Santi years ago with Adella, Digital Playground’s former publicist, when the former left the company.

“Well, we don’t send out press releases when someone leaves,” Adella said. “It doesn’t benefit us.”

I contacted Orion for an exit interview, which is always a great read because, when someone leaves porn, she is no longer trying to make potential employers look good.

“No I’m not leaving,” Orion wrote me. “I moved to 101 modelling :)”

101 Modeling is a newer porn talent agency headed by Robert Moran and Bud Lee, themselves formerly of LA Direct Models.

Porn performers switch agents quite a bit (unless they work for Mark Spiegler, who seems to command more loyalty). It seemed a petty thing for Big Love Talent to do to issue a release stating Orion was leaving the business entirely if she was just jumping ship.

I contacted Chris of Big Love Talent about this. I had worked with him casting “Facts of Life XXX” and found him very helpful.

“Ashli made up elaborate lies about moving to San Diego and changing professions,” he said, adding that he felt silly now. “That’s all I have to say about the situation.”

I have been writing about the adult industry on and off for nearly a decade, and I have never received official news that a person is leaving the business from a third party; they either go without saying goodbye or, like Jenna Jameson’s famous “I am never opening my legs for this industry again” speech, say it themselves to as many people possible.

The truth is in there somewhere.

Goodbye Yellow Dick Load

I will close with an unedited press release from one of the most savvy and self-serving gentlemen I have met in the adult industry. Jeff Mullen started the recent wave of porn parodies with “Britney Rears” as the writer/director Will Ryder. After working in the adult industry as a musician and publicist, Mullen started his own PR company, All Media Play, with which he writes press releases referring to himself and his alias in the third person. He then launched X-Play with his partner, Scott David, as a production company.

In this press release Mullen/Ryder does/does not call on a cast of invisibles to announce/cancel the production of a “Wizard of Oz” porn parody.

Wizard of Oz XXX Porn Parody in Jeopardy

(Hollywood, CA) X-Play’s planned 3D mega parody production of The Wizard of Oz is in jeopardy due to another company’s quick plans to put out a cheap version of the classic 1939 MGM movie and beat X-Play’s release date.

“I guess there is no honor among pseudo thieves,” remarked director Will Ryder who has spent months in preproduction working with co-producer Scott David on everything from costumes, set design and music.

The planned $200,000 3D production would be the biggest movie that X-Play has ever undertaken prompting Ryder to lament the potential loss of cash already spent and the loss of what would have become an iconic classic adult movie the likes of which has rarely if ever before been seen.

“If a bandwagon parody company pretty much tells me there is nothing they can do and continues with their recent plans to shoot an inexpensive $15,000 version of the Wizard of Oz and rip off unsuspecting consumers with a glossy box cover and full page advertising I guess that is their right to do so but I have zero respect for them,” Ryder stated.

When asked what company he was referring to, Ryder declined to comment merely stating there will be plenty of time to let the world know who it is. Apparently the director has talked to a high level company official with no results and even left voicemails for the movie’s producer and director requesting a call back of which there have been none.

“Parody by the very nature is taking somebody’s work and embellishing on it and creating something new.  These guys are simply playing with no rules, no respect,” Ryder offered.

“The sad part is that they will make such an inferior version to what we have been planning that Judy Garland and the flying monkeys might role over in their graves.”

Another producer who requested to remain anonymous stated, “Yeah these guys will most likely use shitty Halloween type costumes so it will just make X-Play’s production look so much better.”

However, Ryder who announced his Oz plans last year knows how hard it is to sell movies these days and concedes it will be difficult to sell once an inferior production is released.  When adult movie distributors and stores purchase this lesser cheap version it limits the chances of X-Play to sell their incredible version so the entire production is now in jeopardy.

“I’m mad as hell and extremely pissed off and would hope they would respect the industry and respect what X-Play has accomplished as a modern parody pioneer to move onto a different project.” Ryder concluded.

Time will tell but the consumer could be the biggest loser.

To check out some high quality award-winning parodies visit www.sitcums.com

The consumer could be the biggest loser” almost made me shit myself.

This is why my mother is ashamed I work in the adult industry.

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Vivid sort of agrees to stop harassing Octomom; You can’t put a laugh track on genius; Jenna Jameson’s farewell speech at the 2008 AVN Awards; Meet Ashli Orion; Swallow the Yellow Thick Load—”The Simpsons” parody

"TMSleaze" is a sign of the times

If you like the show “TMZ,” then you will most likely also like 3rd Degree’s note-perfect parody of it, “TMSleaze.”

But what if you don’t like TMZ?

It doesn’t matter what you like. TMZ actually came to the set of “TMSleaze” and signed off on it, probably saying that it legitimized them.

  • Read my review of “TMSleaze” here

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Hustler’s Untrue Hollywood Stories – Lindsay Lohan; Shocker – some pornorazzi hated; Anatomy of an Oil Orgy
See also: 3rd Degree

Shocker: Some Pornorazzi hated

“They stand there. They get in the way. They gawk. You can hear them breathing.”

As Santa Ana winds and a tightening ring of fire drive adult casts, crews, and the media personnel that cover them closer together, both sides are chafing at the intrusion of new-school pornorazzi – people with disposables and camera phones itching to get close to their idols at porn parties and sets.

A veteran director told me that he used to demand closed sets, but the rise of viral media as well as increased competition between adult publications has forced him to consent to his company’s wishes to invite press on set.

“But you’re all right, Gram,” he said. “I’d invite you anyway.” (This is because I picked up and hid his old-tymey coke spoon when he had carelessly left it out in front of a TMZ crew recently.)

And among the handful of writers and photographers who have covered porn events for years is a genuine anger at the lack of decorum practiced by the interlopers. The appearance of guys with Mini DV cameras nosing in on their turf sparks cries of indignation similar to those uttered by “Golden Age” porn directors angry about being usurped by people who can find the Record button.

“They think that all they need is a camera and suddenly they’re media,” said Dominic X, owner of the EMM Agency, a standby in the porn world for high quality still images that is branching into mainstream red carpet events. “Did you see that guy in the wheelchair?”

Dominic and I worked an event recently that was especially lousy with cameras. A man in a wheelchair rolled back and forth and was often underfoot. That was fine, except:

“And I have video of him groping the girls,” Dominic said.

I have heard of two sets of people within the adult industry agitating for a media guild, in which members would have to be invited and might even get laminated press cards for their scrapbooks.

“That way the girls are protected and we don’t have to keep shoving people out of the shot,” Dominic said.

Adella O’Neal and Tim Williams, who handle various aspects of the AVN Convention and Awards press experience for different companies, both are overwhelmed by the number of people from dubious media outlets attempting to get into the events for free.

“I see the same people show up year after year,” Williams said, “and I have never seen any of their coverage in what you might call a legitimate publication.”

What I might call a legitimate publication changes every year as a business model that was based on pay-for-use photo services has blown up into viral images and videos taken without permission and posted on the cheap. For the performers who want it, it’s free publicity. For the media, it is a problem that gets worse at each event.

O’Neal said she regularly rejects at least 20 percent of the submissions, whether they are walk-ups or attempted pre-registers.

“A lot of them are just fans,” she said.

Certain fandom engenders a proprietary urge toward performers who are already vulnerable for having appeared so clinically naked in dozens of videos.

And, according to some performers, individual members of the media sometimes mask their insecurity by printing hateful things.

“They’re just jealous,” said performer Jack Lawrence.

For perspective, I found an interview I conducted with Harvey Levin, the developer and host of TMZ, a Hollywood gossip blog and basic cable show.

“We’re vultures,” he said in 2007. “But these people want us to catch them. That’s what they signed on for when they became famous.”

However much Levin believes his employees have the right to prey on celebrities, adult entertainment “news” culture is actually much more considerate of the talent, mostly keeping a respectful distance.

And, as Kayden Kross told me recently, “I like it when people take pictures” and she dresses, or doesn’t dress, accordingly.

Still, there seems to be a general consensus within the Porno-American community of driving The Other away. This might be difficult because some studios are getting addicted to viral press, even if it doesn’t lead to sales.

One of the factions hoping to put together a media guild even suggests telling companies they will receive no coverage from guild members if non-guild members are allowed on set.

Such an embargo is unlikely to be beneficial to anyone, but it does boil down to politeness.

I talked with Richard Montfort, studio photographer and porn director. He acknowledged that the growing pornorazzi issue concerned him.

“They eat all our craft services,” he said.

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Vicky Vette: when boobs are not enough; Columbia Journalism Review addresses porn megaconglomerates; Twilight of the Hustler studio