The Birth of Porn Valley: 2
In a way, the adult industry was a latecomer to the Valley.
"Hollywood hasn't been in Hollywood since the 1940s," Douglas said. "[By then], most of the big studios were in the Valley."
To make films or videos, the adult industry needed the same infrastructure as Hollywood, and there was plenty of it available.
"Even when Hollywood was at its peak, there was an enormous amount of underutilized infrastructure," Douglas said.
Unionized grips, electricians and camera operators, who normally made their living working on big-budget Hollywood movies, picked up extra cash moonlighting on the non-union porn productions.
"We used the same facilities, the same people, the same everything," recalled Raymond Pistol, of Las Vegas-based Arrow Video, who got his start in the adult industry in Hollywood in the 1970s. "That's why we never went to Branson, Mo., or some place like that. We needed everything Hollywood had."
"There was an enormous amount of crossover, as there is now," Epstein said. "My crews were often mainstream crews, and it usually worked to everybody's advantage."
But there was another, sadder reality that drew the industry to the Valley, some say.
"The Valley was where everybody went who didn't make it in Hollywood," said one industry insider who requested anonymity. "If you were an actress and you weren't cutting it in Hollywood, you went to the Valley. That's where you lived. That's where you worked. And the industry — I don't want to use the word 'exploit,' but that's what it was — the industry exploited that."
California Here They Come
"California is where people come to be stars," Margold said. "My line was, 'I'll start you off as hamburger, and I'll work you up to filet mignon.'"
World Modeling's South denies that the industry preyed on hungry, failed actresses.
"You always had a very, very small amount of failed movie stars," he said. "Most of the girls had never worked in movies; they just saw our ads [in newspapers] for figure models and it piqued their curiosity.
"We used to get 30 or 40 girls a week," South added.
In the late 1970s and early '80s, World Modeling ran ads in most of the local newspapers, including the Daily News and the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. The Internet thinned the talent pool, South said.
"Now, we get maybe 10 or 15 [girls] a week," South said.
The first porn films produced in the Valley were shot in Van Nuys and Reseda, just over the hill from Beverly Hills. But as the Valley's population increased and the industry grew, adult film companies were forced to move farther from Hollywood and Beverly Hills. And while dozens of companies are scattered across the Valley, most of the biggest settled in Chatsworth.
"We were looking for the maximum amount of space for the minimum amount of money," Margold said. "I've always said, if we could figure out how to use an eradicative field, we would. Who knows, we may invade Simi Valley next."
At the time, Valley residents were known to be white Republicans. Those who didn't work in the movie industry, worked in Southern California's huge aerospace industry. But adult industry pioneers said they never clashed with their neighbors.
"We used the same argument on them that we make to our legislators in Sacramento now," Epstein said. "Dollars and cents."
Douglas added that the industry's rootless past makes it very agile.
"One of the things that is striking about the adult industry, then and now, is that although it is a significant fraction of the entertainment industry in the United States — it's the size of the recording industry — it's a bunch of small businesses," he said. "I don't think there are more than one or two $200 million players. When they went to the Valley, relocating involved next to nothing. The adult industry really has no center."
Many industry insiders believe the industry is undergoing another major shift, and some wonder how much longer they will need massive warehouses to store product and production equipment. Digitized content requires a fraction of the space of videotapes.
Sex toy manufacturers, one of the most space-demanding parts of the business, already have started to look for much cheaper facilities outside of the Valley.
California Exotic Novelties, one of the biggest sex toy manufactures, is now located in the Inland Empire, California's fastest-growing region. Arrow Video's business now is centered on transferring content from VHS format to DVD. Pistol, Arrow's owner, moved the company to Las Vegas, another fast-growing region, because he no longer needed the legal protections California law provides porn producers.
"The dynamics will change," Epstein predicted. "We'll have fiber optics, we'll take up less space and the business will evolve."