In Full Bloom

Ariana Rodriguez
California Exotic Novelties Director of Marketing Al Bloom recently surpassed his sixth anniversary with the Chino, Calif.-based adult toy manufacturer, however after 40 years in the adult industry, Bloom is credited as being instrumental in establishing the adult home video industry and its legal protection by a unified entity — the Free Speech Coalition.

Bloom graduated from Kent State University with a BBA in marketing and supplemented his education with advanced legal courses at the USC School of Law in the areas of licensing, home video and pay television.

“Fresh out of college I was working in a department store in Cleveland 80 hours a week, for $105 back in 1970,” Bloom said. “My father-in-law was working for Reuben Sturman, who needed a salesman for a distribution company he had just purchased — Capitol News. He offered me $300 a week, plus a car...I was on the next plane! I loved it from the start. So much intrigue, so much danger, and such interesting people back then — real pioneers, willing to risk arrest for doing something they believed in. I just loved it, and still do.”

Capitol News is the largest adult distributor in the Midwest still in operation today. From 1970 to 1976 Bloom served as its general manager.

In 1985, Bloom and his partner Howie Klein purchased Caballero Home Video, which was then the largest film producer in the adult industry. From 1987-1993, he continued on the adult video side of the industry as vice president and co-owner of Vidco Entertainment, for which he also was a producer.

“We really looked forward to building those companies into the biggest production companies the industry had ever seen — and we did,” Bloom said. “The biggest challenge we faced was the very medium of video itself. While Caballero and Vidco were built on big-budget 35mm features for the then thriving theatrical business, video was just a byproduct.”

The growing home video revolution eventually killed off the theaters, and shooting porn on video became an accepted medium by consumers. Movies were quickly shot on video, with much lower budgets.

“The door was quickly opened for many new companies, all of which did not have the overhead we did,” Bloom said. “That was the challenge, and eventually we bowed out. It just didn’t fit with our sensibilities of quality, storyline and actual storyline. I am glad to see that the business did recover, and several big houses have emerged, but in the early ‘90s, faced with yet another federal indictment, and prices for video falling quickly, it wasn’t in the cards [for me] to continue.”

Bloom said despite having some legal education background, it was his personal experiences fighting the law that provided him with valuable knowledge. “John Weston, the attorney who represented me in the MIPORN case out of Miami, once told me I was probably the only client he ever represented who actually read all the motions both from him and the government,” he said. “I never went to law school — which is something I may still do some day — but working so closely over the years with the best and brightest attorneys our industry has ever seen, has given me a keen sense of the law.

One could say it was out of desperation that I felt compelled to really get involved with my defense, but having been indicted three separate times on the federal level, as well as state and local prosecutions, I wanted to understand everything that was happening. It almost became an obsession for me — one that I do not regret — and the lessons of which I carry with me to this day.”

After spending millions to protect his companies, Bloom said there was a need for an organization that could unite the industry with one voice and help everyone that came under attack.

“The industry was fragmented, and not speaking with one voice,” he said. “The U.S. government was attacking us on several fronts, and each individual company was defending itself on its own.”

Having served on the Board of Directors of the Adult Film Association and the Adult Video Association, Bloom said an industry apathy regarding an organization that would represent everybody had set in.

“I, along with several other industry leaders felt that an organization was needed that could effectively address the broad legal spectrum of attacks by the government against our business,” he said. “All of the organizational meetings for the Free Speech Coalition took place at our offices at Caballero. In fact, we had donated space to an executive director on our premises for many years.

“It was our original hope to be in a position to address the government’s charges as a united industry. While we never would be able to raise the funds to fight a specific company case, we felt we could challenge any issues that affected the entire industry. I think everyone knows of the 2257 ongoing challenges, which have effectively put the implementation on hold for many years.”

In 2003, Bloom was honored with the Industry Founder’s Award by the FSC. At the 2009 FSC Awards, Bloom’s son, Aaron, gave the opening speech in which he credited his father’s experiences as inspiring his career as an attorney.

“My son has inherited his father’s stubborn streak, and the willingness to stand up to fight anyone who challenges my fundamental rights,” Bloom said. “He has learned the lesson well. As a tireless litigator, he has chosen to support not only his clients, but also many pro bono causes such as defeating Prop. 8, and now attempting to get the challenge again before the voters. My son saw what I had to do to survive in an industry under attack, and he has developed the ability and passion to fight for what he truly believes in. I am proud of both my son and daughter, as they both have become professionals with a keen sense of right and wrong.”

Bloom began in the adult novelty business with a stint as marketing manager at Doc Johnson Enterprises from 1993-1998.

“Good marketing principles transcend the widget you are selling,” he said. “My major was marketing, and the simple principles I was taught have served me well. When I made the decision to leave the video industry, and enter the toy side, my experience and industry knowledge served me well. It was a learning curve to educate myself with the novelty industry, but once that was accomplished, the same skills that I used in video applied.”

Now at CalExotics, Bloom handles day-to-day duties based on his title and also handles most legal affairs, licensing and other troubleshooting projects for the company he said.

“CalExotics is a culture that rewards innovative thinking, and that’s what I like best,” Bloom added. “[CalExotics President and founder] Susan [Colvin] heads a huge company, yet it feels like home — a home I am happy to be a part of, and able to contribute to daily.

“The exciting prospect of reaching a much broader audience is my motivation. Over 40 years I have seen the attitude change, the industry change to a woman-driven consumer base, to a mainstream acceptance of what we do. I see myself as a person who has learned from the past, and possesses a clear vision for the future as a fully accepted fact of life.”