XBIZ Premiere's Top 50 Newsmakers of 2007
ADAM & EVE
This longtime industry player bucked the downward revenue trends experienced by many of its peers in the adult retail sector, posting record sales in both the first and second quarters of 2007. Exemplary of Adam & Eve's charitable efforts – for many years it has contributed to a variety of worthy causes – the company shared the benefit of its success with the community, launching a special October promotion to raise funds for breast cancer research. In November, the company sponsored the construction of a Habitat For Humanity home. On the video production side, Adam & Eve Pictures made a splash when it signed hot new starlet Bree Olson in July to an exclusive contract. The company enjoyed major mainstream exposure when it hosted a weekend full of parties at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas to celebrate the release of its big-budget island epic, "Eden."
ADULTDVD EMPIRE, GAMELINK
This year marked AdultDVDEmpire's 10th anniversary – and a major strategic shift for the company. In September, ADE and GameLink announced in a joint statement that both companies would no longer carry the DVDs of studios that cut exclusive VOD deals with other online providers, saying that such arrangements limit the purchasing options for potential customers. 2007 was a year of wheeling and dealing for GameLink, as the company struck new deals with Vivid- Alt, Kim Chambers, Teravision and VideoSecrets, to name a few. In October, the company announced that it had hired industry veteran Kevin Blatt to serve as the director of public relations.
ALL MEDIA PLAY/X-PLAY
Jeff Mullen and Scott David's publicity firm All Media Play and production arm X-Play might as well be a mainstay on this list. As a party promoter, Mullen has no equal. Guests at his events can rest assured that alcohol will flow like the Nile, plenty of flesh will be exposed and the ever-important guy-to-girl ratio will always be in the dudes' favor. The All Media Play-organized Spring Porn Bash generated $40,000 to help pay hospital expenses for cancer-stricken adult star Nicki Hunter. The company's Halloween party in Hollywood is talked about as the best adult industry party of the year. On the X-Play side the company in March agreed to a five-year co-production deal with Adam & Eve. Mullen, who also directs under the name Will Rider (with David co-producing), is working on a Jennifer Lopez spoof and also helms titles for A&E's gonzo imprint Bad Seed. A master of the adult comedy genre Mullen (as Rider) is the brain behind the "Britney Rears" series for LFP and this year's buzzworthy "Not The Bradys XXX." You could call Mullen a publicity whore, but that's the biggest compliment you could pay him.
They are no longer grouped in the same sentence like they once were, since gonzo studios Anabolic and Diabolic announced a split in May. Longtime business partners Anabolic owner Chris Alexander and Diabolic owner Gregg Alan enjoyed a 15-year business relationship. Alan ran Anabolic's sales department before Diabolic was created as a separate company in 1998. Addressing the split after what he called 15 fruitful years, Alan told XBIZ that he felt it was time to fully take control of the company and steer it in a different direction. Alan echoed Alexander's comments and said that the split was amicable. At first, the companies continued to share the same facility until Diabolic moved into temporary residence in the Zero Tolerance building. Both studios continue to pound out hard-edged gonzo fare that became synonymous with their respective names.
The dean of high-end adult filmmakers, Blake, who is known for his lush cinematography, has been shooting on 16mm film for 38 years. His trademark use of high fashion-style models, little dialogue and elaborate sets and costumes has defined a unique niche. Still looked up to by scads of directors, Blake enjoyed an active 2007. He kicked it off by appearing at the XBIZ Hollywood Conference where attendees enjoyed an hour-long seminar by Blake about how he creates his signature style. Blake also appeared on the Erotica Today panel at the L.A. Erotica Film Fest to discuss his craft with other directors. On the business side, Blake signed VOD deals with HotMovies, AEBN and Hustler TV. "X" and "X2" are is his latest works.
BRYAN KOCIS, HARLOW CUADRA, JOSEPH KEREKES
Unquestionably one of the most tragic news items to stem from the adult industry in 2007, the murder of Cobra Video owner Bryan Kocis has been pinned onto fellow gay producers Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes. It's alleged that the murder plan was hatched in order to "steal" Kocis's exclusive performer, Brent Corrigan. How the facts will play out remains to be seen, but even at this early stage, the sad saga has seen strange twists and turns – like Kerekes' claim that a potentially damaging conversation was captured by an electronic bug planted in a pair of Kocis' sunglasses. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty and Cuadra and Kerekes both maintain their innocence.
After remaining quiet since it levied fines against T.T. Boy and Evasive Angles after the HIV outbreak in 2004, the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration unexpectedly visited a Naughty America set in October – a move that could signal increased vigilance of on-set working conditions. Adult industry attorney Michael Fattorosi told XBIZ that if the "Doe 43" case – involving adult performer Brooke Ashley's alleged HIV contraction from a bareback anal gangbang – determines that adult performers are considered employees rather than independent contractors, Cal-OSHA inspections could mean trouble for uninsured adult studios. "Everyone wants to worry about 2257 because obviously that's looming, but the more relevant issue that could hit us at a moment's notice, like we saw with Naughty America, is the issue of workers compensation and employee safety," Fattorosi said. A Naughty America representative said the company was not expecting the visit, but that it was prepared.
CHI CHI LARUE
Gay porn icon Chi Chi LaRue looms as large as ever after an active 2007 that saw her named No. 36 in Out Magazine's list of the Power 50: The Most Powerful Gays in America. LaRue's big business splash came in April when Topco Sales launched a new Rascal toy line and held a party to celebrate at the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood, Calif. This month LaRue (along with publisher Bruno Gmunder) released a book, "Smut," featuring high-gloss photographs of nude male models and adult stars. LaRue was featured in an extensive Q&A in the October issue of XBIZ Video.
COLT STUDIO GROUP
Few adult companies got more attention from the press – adult and mainstream alike – in 2007 than COLT. In recognition of the studio's 40th anniversary, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome started a firestorm by issuing a proclamation celebrating the milestone, only to be pilloried by critics, especially from the far right of the political spectrum. "COLT Studio Day" was far from the only reason COLT was in the news this year, but the incident underlined in emphatic fashion how far mainstream acceptance of the adult industry has come – and just what the limits of that acceptance may be.
CONNECTION DISTRIBUTING/MIKE MURRAY/RONDEE KAMINS
Prior to October, much of the adult industry likely had never even heard of attorney Mike Murray or his client Connection Distributing, owned by GVA-Cleveland, which ran a now-defunct swingers publication. All that changed following a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling declaring 18 U.S.C. 2257 unconstitutional as the result of a lawsuit filed by Connection in 1995. Murray's tireless work on the case and Connection's commitment to keep the fight funded benefited an entire industry in selfless and exemplary fashion.
Teravision made a huge mainstream splash in August when it announced that rock starDave Navarro directed an adult movie for the company. Navarro's directorial debut, "Broken," is part of Teravision's new "Celebrity Series" line that will feature a different celebrity director for each installment. "I got into this because I have a lot of friends in the business," Navarro told XBIZ in an onset interview. "I've been around the music business for years and years and I watched it spiral into absolute bullshit and nothingness and become the same old safe, regurgitated things that the corporate world is trying to shove down the public's throat. But in terms of edge and the taboo factor, it doesn't seem to exist anymore [in music] – and to me, [porn] seems like the only art form out there that's exciting, shocking and taboo, yet there's a huge market for it." The statuesque Patrick is as popular as ever. She starred in Hustler's fastest-selling title "InTERActive," attended events and conventions across the country; feature danced, hosted the XRCO and XBIZ Awards and made numerous mainstream appearances, including Spike TV's Guys Choice Awards. She was named to FHM Online's 100 Sexiest Women list.
Recognized for its filmmaking excellence by numerous organizations, Digital Playground continues to lead the way as an early adopter of communications and video technology. DP was among the first to announce the availability of content specifically geared for the iPhone, and in October the company announced its first release to be carried on dual-layer, 30GB HD DVD disc. Of course, none of that would matter if DP didn't also make porn that fans want to see – but if the reported sales of titles like "Pirates" and "Babysitters" are any indication, DP's pornographic appeal is every bit as strong as its technical excellence.
If it seemed like you couldn't turn around without this leading adult novelty company releasing a new product in 2007, you are not alone. From waterproof vibrators designed for girls on the go to anatomically exact pussy and ass molds based on stars like Jesse Capelli and McKenzie Lee, Doc Johnson issued new products at a frenzied pace in 2007. On top of the new products, the company announced that it would be incorporating its proprietary antibacterial agent 'Sil-A-Gel' into its entire product line.
Vociferous proponents of female ejaculation, Elegant Angel kept it wet and wild in 2007. This year marked the return of Mason to the directing fold, and the company crowned a new Slutwoman and Buttwoman – Annette Schwarz and Brianna Love, respectively. In September the company partnered with Braincash to release PornStarSquirt.com, a site devoted to – you guessed it – gushing female ejaculations. In April the studio, helmed by Patrick Collins, launched a European distribution arm so new Elegant Angel releases will be available to European vendors on the U.S. date of release. "Over the last year or so we've had a lot of success in our domestic sales," General Manager Graham Travis told XBIZ. "We really think there's an ability to do the same thing worldwide, working directly with distributors in Europe. We pride ourselves on our customer service. We develop good working relationships with our customers; we provide great promotional items. We think doing the same thing in Europe will be very successful for us."
In February Empire Video Distributors and Triplex Distribution finalized plans to join their sales forces and support staffs under one roof. Under the terms of the plan, Triplex will move its operations into Empire's 13,000-square-foot Chatsworth, Calif., facility, and titles will be shipped and invoiced under the Empire name, which will allow both companies to control costs and increase productivity. "The chance to bring more than two dozen veteran salespeople under one roof was too good to resist," Empire's Roy Karch told XBIZ. "It's an all-star team the likes of which this industry may never see again. The staff will represent over 450 years of combined experience – 4 ½ centuries of knowledge and expertise that we'll be bringing to our customers."
FIVE STAR VIDEO/JEFFREY DOUGLAS/RICHARD HERTZBERG
One of the year's most significant legal stories turned out to be almost anticlimactic – in a good way. A combination of errors on the part of the prosecution and expert argumentation on the part of Five Star's attorneys Douglas and Hertzberg led to the dismissal of all charges against Five Star co-owners Ken Graham and Chris Ankeney, leaving just the two corporate entities (Five Star Video and Five Star Video Outlet) facing charges. The jury ultimately found one of the four DVDs they reviewed to be obscene (JM Production's "Gag Factor 18"). As of press time, the amount of the fine faced by Five Star had yet to be determined, and it was not yet clear whether the defense will appeal the verdict.
FREE SPEECH COALITION/DIANE DUKE
While Duke's tenure at the FSC began in late-2006, 2007 was her first full year at the helm of the adult industry's premier trade association – and a topsy-turvy year it was. While FSC lobbying efforts have begun to bear fruit and the organization is being heard within the legislative halls as never before, Judge Walker D. Miller's administrative closing of the FSC's lawsuit challenging 2257 – paired with the 6th Circuit's ruling in the Connection case – contributed to a perception by some that the FSC has "failed" in its fight against 2257. As Duke and others at FSC have noted, the battle over 2257 is far from over, and the FSC most likely will head into court again relatively soon to take up that fight on the industry's behalf. All criticism aside – valid or otherwise – the FSC remains the industry's most viable representative on such issues, and the affable, even-keel Duke has amply demonstrated that she is well-suited for the difficult job of piloting the FSC ship. Also in 2007, FSC announced that it has formed an anti-piracy committee to address the growing threat.
After more than two years of absurdly difficult tribulations, Fred Salaff finally got his trial – and ultimately – his freedom. The American producer was jailed in Panama in 2005 on a set of dubious charges stemming from an adult video shoot for Devil's Film for which Salaff believed he had secured all the necessary permission to conduct. After months of delays, governmental stalling and assorted forms of continual harassment, Salaff, who is in failing health, finally got his day in court in June, during which he was found not guilty. "It has been 2½ half years of a nightmare, gross travesty of justice, loss of reason, separation from family and all the rest. But it's finally over," Salaff said.
It wasn't long after SFGate.com surprised the retail sector with its September report that sex-positive retailer Good Vibrations was in dire financial straights that GVACleveland swooped in and bought the chain, rescuing it from financial hardship. "Good Vibrations' success in cultivating a women/couples-friendly adult shopping environment along with their commitment to extensive staff training, quality products, community outreach programs and sex-positive stances makes them a perfect fit for GVATWN's Midwestern retail operation, which is sorely in need of the deep training methodologies that Good Vibrations has developed," GVA CEO Rondee Kamins said. In April, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors swore in Good Vibes CEO Theresa Sparks to serve a second four-year term as a member of the Police Commission after a unanimous vote.
Did she or didn't she? That was the question on many fans' lips after porn's queen bee declared in US Weekly that she was done performing in front of the camera. Not to worry, Jameson has plenty of movies in the can to satiate fans' desire for more Jenna. Making headlines (and heads turn) wherever she goes, Jameson has enjoyed a high-profile romance with UFC fighter Tito Ortiz and unfortunately, has been the subject of meanspirited comments in the tabloids about her alleged plastic surgery and weight loss. Jameson maintains an active role in her company, Club Jenna, and cohosts a show on Playboy Radio. She was named in FHM Online's list of the 100 Sexiest Women in the World.
JM PRODUCTIONS/H. LOUIS SIRKIN
The lead-up to the trial was immensely longer than the trial itself in the JM Productions obscenity case. After months of anticipation and preparation, the government simply failed to make a credible case against JM and its owner Jeff Steward. Once all the evidence had been put on the table, the government had to acknowledge that it simply had insufficient evidence to show that JM had sold the videos in question to Five Star, who shipped copies of the indicted DVDs to FBI agents posing as customers. "We did what we were supposed to do as lawyers," JM's lawyer H. Louis Sirkin told XBIZ. "We knew more about the law than the government did." On the production side, JM inked DVD distribution deals with Max Hardcore, Brandon Iron Productions and FuckYouCash.com.
JOHN STAGLIANO/EVIL ANGEL
After nearly two years in the making, John Stagliano completed the final installment in the "Fashionistas" epic trilogy, "Fashionistas Safado: Berlin." In a year of personal and professional accomplishments – Stagliano was profiled in Billboard magazine and his Las Vegas Fashionistas stage show still garners high praise – the completion of his ambitious trilogy stands out. Stagliano's unabashed success carried over into the courtroom where Evil Angel won a piracy suit to the tune of $11.2 million in awarded damages. "I'm really proud of John and Jules [Jordan] because we didn't settle," publicist Karen Stagliano told XBIZ. "We were so confident that the evidence would see us through and I think it sends an important message to other adult studios and would-be piraters and copyright infringers that they can't get away with ripping us off." In September, Evil Angel created the Prime Evil label to appropriately identify, brand and market feature-style movies from its roster of directors.
Never one to rest on his already considerable laurels, Jules Jordan and Jules Jordan Video enjoyed a banner year in 2007. Jordan kicked off the year with eight AVN Award wins in January and then, in February, won the XBIZ Award for Emerging Studio of the Year. Later that month, Jordan launched a series of niche-based sites in partnership with Premium Cash, powered by Braincash. His big victory came in August when a Los Angeles jury awarded him slightly more than $5 million in a piracy and copyright infringement case against Canadian distributor Kaytel and others. The jury determined that the defendants illegally pirated 31 Evil Angel movies and 13 movies from Jordan, when he was a member of the Evil Angel directing roster. Evil Angel's Karen Stagliano told XBIZ that Jordan deserved a lot of the credit for uncovering the piracy ring because he took the initial trips to New York to investigate.
Porn's most notable provocateur was at it again in 2007, outing more hypocritical congressmen for their extramarital affairs by offering up millions in reward money for people to come forward with evidence showing they'd engaged in hanky-panky with a high-ranking government official. Flynt's offer resulted in two congressmens' resignations after owning up to affairs. Flynt also made the media rounds after the death of friend and one-time courtroom foe Jerry Falwell, delivering thoughtful, forthright and at times touching commentary on the deceased preacher. After decades of industry leadership, Flynt remains at the forefront of the battle for acceptance of adult entertainment, putting his endearing audacity to good use at every opportunity. In other company news, LFP broke borders by establishing Hustler Europe in Barcelona. The Hustler brand remains a strong international symbol of sexual freedom.
LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS
For a week in June, Los Angelenos picked up their morning newspaper to find a series about the San Fernando Valley adult entertainment industry plastered on the front page. In its six-part expose on the biz, "Exposed: Porn in the Valley," the Daily News examined what it called the Valley's "secret industry" (have they ever been to Chatsworth?). The series addressed porn and the law, the financial implications of the business on the local economy, the future of porn and porn in the mainstream media, among other topics. Many familiar faces were profiled or quoted, including Evan Seinfeld, Tera Patrick, TightFit's Oren Cohen, Vivid's Steve Hirsh, Nautica Thorn, Digital Playground's Samantha Lewis, Wicked's Brad Armstrong and XBIZ's Tom Hymes.
LOS ANGELES EROTICA FILM FEST
XFANZ made a splash in September when it hosted the firstever L.A. Erotica Film Fest at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, Calif. The two-day fest celebrated the history of erotic cinema in all its forms and it succeeded in elevating and presenting pornography as a true art form. A mix of entertaining panel discussions and screenings in three different rooms inside the venue kept festival-goers thoroughly entertained. Not to mention the celebratory party that after the first day of the fest rocked the house. Some of the legendary directors who spoke about their craft included Andrew Blake and John Stagliano. One of the highlights was the panel that spoke about the Golden Age of porn. It featured Ron Jeremy, Roy Karch, Seka, Marilyn Chambers and Henri Pachard. Other panelists included Stormy Daniels, Joanna Angel, Sunny Lane, Eon McKai, Holly Randall and Kylie Ireland. More than 70 original works were screened during the film fest.
Love him or hate him (there are few in-between), this year may have been the last in which adult gossipmongers will see frequent blogging on adult-industry related subjects by the dean of porn bloggers, Luke Ford. Ford announced in October that he was selling his LukeIsBack.com domain and distancing himself from the adult industry, saying that he wished to get married and that his life was stuck in a rut. Earlier in the year, Ford was credited with breaking the scandal of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's extramarital affair. Ford talked blogging with the L.A. Times and was profiled by the Jewish Journal.
Paul Little, aka Max Hardcore, again found himself in the crosshairs of government prosecutors in 2007, which entered a 10- count indictment against the adult producer in May. The government has made it clear they're out for blood in the case and are seeking forfeiture of a variety of Little's assets and property. Little was unflinching in decrying the indictment, asserting that "all Americans, whether they watch adult material or not, can rely upon our vigorous defense in this case, fighting for the rights of all adults to view material they so choose."
The irrepressible and always opinionated gay adult star was at his audacious best in 2007, even as he faced trademark and copyright infringement claims from International Media Films over his movie "Michael Lucas' La Dolce Vita." Anyone comparing his "La Dolce Vita" with the 1960 Federico Fellini film "would hardly confuse me with Marcello Mastroianni," Lucas said, and the "half-naked guys kissing in my image also might provide a clue that the film is not a mainstream production." Always a master at garnering headlines, the New York-based Lucas caused a tizzy in the gay community in October when a PR stunt showed him as being dead. In November, he engaged in a heated war of words with Raging Stallion over his aforementioned lawsuit, with Lucas alleging that the gay studio was feeding information to opposing lawyers.
One of several high-profile obscenity indictments to occur this year, MoviesByMail.com was indicted just days after Max Hardcore was indicted on obscenity charges in relation to some of the same videos. The Cleveland, Ohio-based owners of the site find themselves facing charges in Utah, where according to court documents, MoviesByMail delivered some 683 packages in 2006. Those deliveries, said MoviesByMail co-owner Sami Harb, "tells me somebody [in Utah] wanted them … I guess the people who want to buy [adult movies] don't count."
At first it might have seemed like an unlikely pairing, but the more you thought about it, the Spearmint Rhino merging with Ninn Worx in July created a great synergy. With the Rhino founder John Gray's deep pockets and Ninn's high-quality, glossy adult fare, the possibilities are undeniable. Under the new arrangement, Ninn Worx will produce and distribute Spearmint Rhino-branded titles while also consulting on how to revamp the look of the company's chain of clubs. Spearmint Rhino will make its network of clubs available to Ninn Worx contract stars to feature dance at. Later in the year, Ninn Worx_SR added four contract stars (Brea Bennett, Renee Perez, Cassidey and Nikki Kane) to a roster that already housed Jana Jordan. Ninn now is planning his ambitious warrior epic, "The Four," rumored to cost several hundred thousand dollars. In other production news, NWSR added Otto and Audrey Hollander's "Filth Factory" gonzo line and inked European director Pierre Woodman to an exclusive distribution deal.
PRIVATE MEDIA GROUP
Europe's best-known adult brand continued to do what it does best in 2007 – make great movies featuring some of the hottest women in porn and sell them all over the world. Private struck deals to increase the scope of its mobile distribution, bolster its VOD presence in the U.S. and improve its IPTV development prospects in Europe. All the while, Private continued to report strong revenue performance, despite a drop in its DVD and magazine sales. In one of the largest exclusive content deals of the year reported in August, New Frontier Media said it will broadcast Private's entire library for its video-on-demand, pay-per-view and IPTV properties. In November, Private CEO Berth Milton surprised the management of Swedish soccer team AIK, first revealing he had bought a 10 percent stake in the club and then declaring his intention to buy more.
PURE PLAY MEDIA
The last bit of major news out of Pure Play in 2006 related to a 2257 inspection conducted of the company by the FBI late that year, an audit which the company said went very well. The outlook for Pure Play continued to be sunny in 2007, as the company struck distribution deals with SilverCash's Silver Sinema, Homegrown Video, Score and HellHouse Media. Pure Play was recognized as Best U.S. Distributor at Berlin's Venus Fair Awards in October.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT
The acquisition of new celebrity sex tapes and the launch of a new affiliate program marked the highlights of 2007 for Red Light District. In late October, RLD announced that it would distribute a sex tape featuring the infamous Amy Fisher, dubbed the "Long Island Lolita" by the mainstream press. In business news, RLD sold sister companies Platinum X Pictures, The Candy Shop and Amateur District. It also settled a lawsuit with Scott Stapp who sued the company over an alleged sex tape that was filmed on Kid Rock's tour bus. The company maintains an ambitious release schedule and employs a cadre of directors including Mark Wood, Michael Stefano and Mr. Pete, among others.
ROB BLACK/EXTREME ASSOCIATES
Although there was little development in its potentially momentous federal obscenity case, Extreme Associates still made plenty of waves in 2007. Owner Rob Black's announcement in September that the company would henceforth discontinue production of DVDs in favor of producing content strictly for online distribution via its partnership with HotMovies, was both a surprise and a bold move. In its still-pending obscenity case, Extreme met with disappointment when Judge Gary Lancaster (who had previously dismissed the case only to be overturned on appeal) declined to dismiss the case again in August.
The ubiquitous and peripatetic Hedgehog serves as the de facto industry mascot to the mainstream. Easily recognizable by his (now graying) long hair, moustache and paunch, Jeremy remains an enduring and endearing figure to the masses. Jeremy headlined a national series of debates discussing the merits of pornography with a pastor from the XXXChurch. Jeremy published an autobiography, "The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz," and made the gossip pages after he lent his apartment during a shoot to the cast and crew of the HBO hit series, "Entourage." The New York-bred Jeremy caused a stir late in the year when a video spoof he created of himself playing a hirsute Britney Spears went viral on YouTube and generated tens of thousands of hits.
SEXZ PICTURES/ELI CROSS
It can be said that no company got off to a better start to 2007 than SexZ Pictures. The year began with its movie "Corruption," directed by Eli Cross, taking home a gaggle of AVN Awards in most of the major categories. Cross was named SexZ's director of production and his significant other, Kylie Ireland, signed a distribution deal with SexZ for her line, SlutWerkz. In February, the company signed star Hillary Scott to a reported five-year $1 million deal and then later signed up-and-comer Paulina James, as well. Scott won five trophies at this year's XRCO Awards. "Upload," Cross's latest release, cost $370,000 to make and the expense seemed to have paid off – the movie sold out its first run. The buzz already is building around the movie for awards season. Can SexZ pull it off two years in a row?
2007 was a huge year for Shane's World in the DVD distribution arena. The company, long known for its reality-style, college party series "College Invasion," expanded its offerings and struck distro deals with Frat House Films, amateur producer Lightspeed Media, Bone Digital, Voodoo House and Freaky Deaky Entertainment, the home of "Blackzilla." The company trudged through a high-profile split with director/performer Penny Flame and briefly added Devon as a contract performer. Its effervescent contract star Casey Parker has become the face of the company and Shane's World is poised for big things in 2008, including the re-launch of the brand new Shane's World Cash webmaster affiliate program.
While it had to be disappointing to be ruled against by the 11th Circuit, and to have her case denied certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court, Williams remains undeterred in her long-running battle for the right to sell sex toys in her Alabama stores. In October, Williams told XBIZ that she would continue to sell sex toys in violation of the law, as a form of continued protest, and she hopes that when she begins her next round of litigation, some of her Alabama adult store peers will chip in on the effort. "[They] basically have been riding my shirttails for 9½ years," she said. "It depends on them."
STEVE ORENSTEIN/WICKED PICTURES
One of the adult video world's best-known brands, Wicked made headlines regularly throughout 2007, starting in January when the company became the 10th adult producer to have its 2257 records inspected by the FBI. In March, the company made its long anticipated plunge into the affiliate-driven online market with the launch of WickedBucks, offering sites built on exclusive content featuring Wicked's popular contract stars. In April, Wicked made news on the media technology front, when "Curse Eternal" became the first 1080p HD DVD adult title to hit the market. The ubiquitous Wicked Girls were seemingly everywhere in 2007 – on the cover of magazines, on mainstream TV, Hollywood red carpets, on the radio and of course, feature dancing all across the country. Wicked's two big-budget releases, "Operation: Desert Stormy" and "Coming Home," received stellar marks from critics and the company held memorable release parties for each.
Online sex toy retailer Stockroom.com expanded its reach significantly in 2007, both by advertising in non-adult publications like the satirical newspaper The Onion and through strategic acquisitions. In April, it was announced that Stockroom had acquired the San Francisco-based fetish clothing and toy store Stormy Leather, and later the company opened a Stockroom/Syren storefront on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The L.A. store kicked off in impressive fashion, with a grand opening gala featuring a latex couture show put on by burlesque performer Diamondback Annie and fetish model Courtney Cruz. Stockroom.com has been selling bondage gear on the Internet since 1987. Its catalog features 3,000- plus adult products.
If any adult star is pegged to supplant Jenna Jameson's popularity, we're hedging our bets with Wicked Girl Stormy Daniels. A writer, director and performer par excellence, Daniels is a dynamo. The Louisiana-born bombshell is a regular on Hollywood red carpets and director Judd Apatow has taken a liking to her – after appearing in his "40-Year-Old Virgin," Daniels graced the screen in this year's "Knocked Up." Extending her vivacious personality and insightful intellect to the mainstream, Daniels spoke in an interview on AMC, appeared on a panel at the L.A. Erotica Film Fest, filmed her own PPV specials for iN DEMAND, signed a greeting card deal, attended the Grammy Awards and landed a recurring role on FX's "Dirt." Not to mention she wrote, directed and starred in one of the biggest (and funniest) blockbusters of the year with "Operation: Desert Stormy." If you think 2007 was huge for Daniels, just wait for '08.
2007 was all about celebrities for SugarDVD, as the company bid on multiple celebrity sex tapes and even generously offered to assist one rapper to win his wager with a rival emcee. The Kim Kardashian tape was the first that SugarDVD bid on this year, ultimately losing out to Vivid, who snared the tape for a reported $1 million. Next up was the company's attempt to acquire a tape created by "Laguna Beach" reality show participants Lauren Conrad and Jason Wahler (SugarDVD later withdrew its bid for the tape), followed by the company issuing a lifetime membership to Flava Flav. Finally, in September, the company offered to buy 250,000 copies of rapper 50 Cent's album "Curtis," to assist 50 Cent in his bet with rival rapper Kanye West, if 50 in return would agree to wear a SugarDVD T-shirt (at all times) for a year.
2007 was a monster year for Sunny Lane because, frankly, she wouldn't have it any other way. At first, we were convinced that some mad scientist cloned the sugary-sweet Southern babe, because Lane is everywhere – and then some. A staple at industry events and parties, the ambitious Lane inked a deal with the Déjà Vu chain of gentlemen’s clubs and became its first-ever contract dancer. Lane will represent the club in print advertising, live appearances at various events and store signings, as well as onstage. Lane will dance exclusively for the Déjà Vu chain and also will participate in competitions and at various adult awards shows. Ever since she appeared on ABC's "Primetime" in March, Lane has parlayed that into appearances on CNN, FOX Reality Channel, FOX News and CNN Headline News. Lane has her eye on career longevity and we expect her to be a regular on this list.
In a move that TightFit's owner Oren Cohen called a "moral decision," the company announced that it instituted a new company policy and would shoot performers 21-and-over only. "Certainly, morality comes into play in this decision," TightFit's Vice President Joanie Lee told XBIZ. "Oren and I came up with this idea during a production meeting while we were having a discussion about MILF lines and saw performers who weren't even 30 years old. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground between teens and MILFs these days. The bottom line is, it just didn't feel right for us to shoot young girls." A third-generation pornographer, Cohen was profiled in the Village Voice by Tristan Taormino. He also was featured in the L.A. Daily News in its six-part series on the adult industry and was featured in Italian GQ.
Between the continuation of 2257 inspections conducted by the FBI, the FTC's enforcement of the CANSPAM Act and the Bush administration's behind-the-scenes meddling in ICANN's review of the proposed .XXX top-level domain, 2007 saw a level of interaction between the U.S.-based segment of the adult industry and the U.S. government on a level unlike any since the Reagan administration. Despite the victory for Connection Distributing in their 2257 battle before the 6th Circuit, all indications are that the larger 2257 battle is far from over, and 2008 is shaping up to be another year in which the industry and the government become better acquainted – whether we like it or not.
The old met the new for VCX in 2007, as the company continued its acquisition of classic adult titles, including a deal struck in January in which the company obtained the rights to NuTech Digital's Cal-Vista line, covering 63 classic adult titles. In July, the company officially launched its affiliate program, VCXCash, kicking things off with a bikini contest at the XBIZ Summer Forum. In September, the company took its classic titles to the pay-per-view market, launching VCXLive.com in conjunction with the Evotum video platform.
VIVID ENTERTAINMENT/STEVE HIRSCH
For more than two decades, Vivid Entertainment and Steve Hirsch have been industry leaders. That continued in 2007 when Hirsch was named to Time magazine's "Alt Time 100" at No. 58. The company scored a huge publicity coup when Showtime aired a six-part reality miniseries on the making of Paul Thomas' "Debbie Does Dallas…Again" and Eon McKai's "Debbie Loves Dallas" spinoffs. The company also made a splash by acquiring bootylicious socialite Kim Kardashian's sex tape. On the tech front, Vivid entered the Blu-ray DVD market with the release of "Debbie Does Dallas…Again." The DVD was the first adult Blu-ray disc to be stamped at a licensed replication facility and also the first to include full copyright protection. On the branding front, just in time for the Holiday season, Times Square visitors can look up and view a massive billboard of the world-famous Vivid Girls.
WANKER WANG/HAILEY PAIGE/BRIAN SUREWOOD
As the saying goes, bad things usually come in threes and unfortunately, the porn world came to grips with a sad string of events in October. First it was discovered that adult star Haley Paige was murdered in August and that her boyfriend, adult director Inkyo Volt Hwang, aka Chico "Wanker" Wang, was implicated in her death. Then came reports in early October that Hwang himself was found dead in a California motel room, the victim of an apparent suicide. At press time, no official causes of death have been determined. Finally, male performer Brian Surewood was booked on charges of murder and vehicular manslaughter after an alleged road-rage incident resulted in a fatal crash, killing a 5- year-old boy. Surewood has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed in protective custody with a $1.2 million bail.
ZERO TOLERANCE/3RD DEGREE/BLACK ICE
This three-headed monster rules the gonzo roost. Pumping out high-quality, all-sex fare is the name of the game here and Zero Tolerance has perfected it. In August, ZT entered the next-generation format battle with the release of signature all-girl series "Girlvana 3" on HD DVD. All three sister studios inked deals with Hustler TV and ZT and 3rd Degree entered the specialty market with BBW and hairy releases, respectively. Zero Tolerance contract star Courtney Cummz had a super busy schedule in 2007 directing movies, performing, feature dancing, hosting her own KSEX Radio show and even found the time to appear on CBS's "The Unit." In October, 3rd Degree inked Amy Ried to an exclusive, multiyear performing deal. The future looks bright for Zero Tolerance, et al.