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XBIZ Premiere: Top 10 Stories of 2014

Dan Miller

Porn-Condom Bill AB 1576 Stalls

The state Senate Appropriations Committee did not act on AB 1576 on Aug. 14, halting the bill from moving forward. Porn-condom bill AB 1576, sponsored by Assemblyman Isadore Hall of Compton, Calif., was tabled — placed in the “suspense file” — by California’s Senate Appropriations Committee a week earlier. But on Aug. 14 the committee shelved the bill, which would have required the use of condoms in adult film productions, as well as STI and HIV testing for performers. Diane Duke told XBIZ that the Free Speech Coalition was “grateful” to members of the Senate “who saw this bill for what it was — a bald-faced attempt to exploit performers for political gain.” Adult entertainment attorney Allan Gelbard of Tarzana, Calif., told XBIZ that it appears that the Senate Appropriations Committee has “seen through all the smoke and mirrors and has decided that AB 1576 is not good for California.” The legislative process worked exactly as it should, said Jeffrey Douglas, the Free Speech Coalition’s board chair and Santa Monica, Calif., adult entertainment industry attorney. “A bad bill died,” Douglas said.

XBIZ Premiere runs down the top 10 news stories of 2014.

Belle Knox: The Duke Porn Star

Belle Knox experienced a whirlwind year as both a mainstream media darling and breakout star in adult entertainment. The then-18-year-old student grabbed national headlines after being exposed as an adult performer by a fellow Duke University student in February. The resulting controversy led Knox to write an article for XOJane.com in which she detailed the drama surrounding being “outed.” That chain of events set off a media frenzy that lasted well into the spring and summer months. Knox fielded numerous media requests, appearing on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live,” ABC’s “The View,” the “Howard Stern Show,” penning a column for the New York Times and being profiled by Rolling Stone. She also did a New York City media tour that included appearing on Headline News’ Dr Drew “On Call” show. Porn Valley capitalized with a handful of Knox-driven titles, the first of which was the Adam & Eve-produced “Real College Girl: Belle Knox.” In addition, the brunette graced the pages of Penthouse and Hustler, embarked on a Pornhub internship and was the subject of a docu-series on Conde Nast Entertainment (CNE) called “Becoming Belle Knox” on TheScene.com. Veteran star Lisa Ann took Knox under her wing in the fall and not long after that Knox’s incredible run was recognized with seven nominations for the 2015 XBIZ Awards, including Best New Starlet and Crossover Star of the Year.

War Machine Charged With Attempted Murder Of Christy Mack

War Machine in November pled “not guilty” in Nevada to charges that he tried to kill his ex-girlfriend Christy Mack and her friend Corey Thomas in an alleged assault in August. A Clark County judge set Feb. 17 as the trial day for Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver on 34 felony charges including attempted murder, sexual assault, battery and coercion. The mixed-martial-arts fighter and former porn performer remains in jail and could get life in prison if he’s convicted. War Machine was accused of brutally beating Mack, the 2014 XBIZ Best New Starlet, and Thomas at her Las Vegas home on Aug. 8. Mack said that she suffered 18 broken bones, including a broken nose, missing teeth, a fractured rib and a ruptured liver in the assault.

Christian Mann Passes Away

Christian Mann, one of the most beloved figures in industry history, died July 30 after a long bout with cancer. The 53-year-old had been the general manager at Evil Angel and president of the Free Speech Coalition during a prolific run that also included heading the ethnic porn pioneer, Video Team, for 12 years and holding executive roles at Metro Media, California Publishers Liquidating Corp (CPLC) and Catalina Video. Mann had been ill since January 2013, when he first was diagnosed with bile duct/pancreatic cancer. The adult community came out in force on Aug. 8 for what became a moving “Celebration of the Life” for Mann at the Airtel Plaza Hotel. He joined Evil Angel in July 2008 after two years as VP and general manager of Metro Interactive, which had acquired Video Team’s library in 2006. Mann for the past six years at Evil Angel endeavored to further the company’s marketing and brand position with a special emphasis on both subscriber and advertiser-funded new media. An astute media observer who was one of the best quotes in the business, Mann also was a gifted speaker, talented writer and tireless industry advocate who in 1989 was indicted, withstood a federal obscenity trial in Texas and ultimately was acquitted of all charges.

9th Circuit Affirms Ira Isaacs Obscenity Conviction

A federal appeals court in Pasadena on March 25 affirmed a lower court ruling over fetish filmmaker Ira Isaacs’ obscenity conviction. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was based on several arguments made by Isaacs’ attorney Roger Jon Diamond, both in his appeal made last year and at oral arguments in early March. Isaacs was convicted in 2012 over the mail distribution of “Mako’s First Time Scat, “ “Hollywood Scat Amateurs #7,” “Hollywood Scat Amateurs #10” and “Japanese Doggie 3 Way” — all deemed obscene by a jury. The 63-year-old fetish filmmaker turned himself in to federal authorities in mid-July to begin a four-year sentence at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Then at press time, Isaacs was transferred to a federal penitentiary in Victorville, Calif.

Falcon Studios Group Forms

Chris Ward, president of Falcon Studios, Raging Stallion Studios and Hot House Entertainment, on Aug. 1 announced the creation of Falcon Studios Group. The new umbrella organization is home to three leading brands in gay adult entertainment, a true porn powerhouse. Falcon Studios Group and sister company NakedSword comprise the gay division of AEBN (the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network). Falcon/Raging Stallion Studios had announced in July it was acquiring the assets of Hot House Entertainment, creating what it called the “world’s largest gay erotic company.” “With the addition of Hot House to the Falcon and Raging Stallion family of brands and the growth that we’re experiencing, we thought it was appropriate to establish an umbrella organization where fans can find the most superior gay porn in the market,” Ward said. Hot House president Steven Scarborough also announced his retirement from the industry after a 27-year career.

Moose Takes Ownership Of Girlfriends Films

In the most high-profile leadership change of 2014, Girlfriends Films founder Dan O’Connell announced on New Year’s Day that he had sold his company to Moose, his vice president and right-hand man. Moose immediately took the reins as president, while O’Connell remained on board as a producer/director. O’Connell also retained ownership of Groundwork Visions, the company that produces all the movies he shoots for Girlfriends Films. “Running Girlfriends Films is a very complex operation that includes movie production and post-production, sales and marketing, internet sites, our new GFF cable channel, and everything else that happens in our 37,000 square foot building here in Valencia,” O’Connell said. “I’m very fortunate to have someone of Moose’s caliber to take over the operation. For the past several years Moose has been doing most everything except for making the movies. He’s kept me informed of what he’s doing but he’s been the person running Girlfriends Films.” A recipient of the XBIZ Executive Leadership Award in February 2011, Moose is a former firefighter and EMT who originally joined the company as director of domestic sales in 2007. By 2010, Moose had quietly transitioned into the role of vice president of the company and had been running the day-to-day operations for more than three years. Girlfriends Films has the deepest library of lesbian-themed product in the industry.

LA Times’ Front Page Spotlights XBIZ Awards

The Los Angeles Times published a lively recap of the 2014 XBIZ Awards on Feb. 1 on the front page of its daily newspaper, marking the first time in history a major daily newspaper has ever given an adult awards show front-page treatment. Introduced in Column One with the headline, “An uninhibited affair,” the story detailed everything from the festive atmosphere during the red-carpet arrivals to the goings-on both on the stage and behind the scenes at the Century Plaza Hotel, where the 12th annual ceremony unfolded on Jan. 24. The Times shared anecdotes from the 2014 XBIZ Female Performer of the Year, Riley Reid, Ron Jeremy, agent Mark Spiegler and the founder of XBIZ, Alec Helmy, among others in the piece. The Times’ online subhead read, “Mixing red-carpet propriety and porno prurience, the XBIZ Awards in L.A. celebrate both the performances and infrastructure that have made adult entertainment a $10-billion industry.” Meanwhile, the Times also photographed the event, posting a 12-picture gallery online.

Pipedream’s Parent Company Acquires Jimmyjane

Diamond Products, in conjunction with a New York private equity firm, in February completed its second acquisition in the adult pleasure products industry in less than a year when it acquired Jimmyjane. Together as part of Diamond, Jimmyjane and Pipedream said they aimed to shape the future of the category as the world’s leading manufacturer of pleasure products. Jimmyjane will continue to operate separately, maintaining its product development, creative, online, and sales team at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco. “Jimmyjane is an exceptionally rare brand,” said Nick Orlandino, CEO of Diamond Products. “Rare in the unique quality and design of its products, but also in the vision that has been executed over the last decade. I am very pleased that Ethan [Imboden] and the Jimmyjane team believe that our group is best able to ensure the continuity of this vision and the ongoing growth of the brand.” Imboden, an award-winning designer, founded the company in 2004 with the mission of reshaping the sex products market with Jimmyjane’s unprecedented design, engineering and marketing. Jimmyjane is credited for its leading role in reorienting the global conversation around pleasure products and has become known in the media as “the Apple of sex toys.”

Kink Announces Rebranding

After almost two decades in business, Kink.com, a world leader in BDSM and fetish entertainment, in October announced that it would be shifting direction away from some of its more extreme shoots to focus on a broader audience. In the past year, the company has expanded beyond traditional recorded porn to live events like tours, workshops and parties. “We’ve been moving in this direction over the past year, and we’ve had many discussions about our company and its mission,” said Peter Acworth, founder of Kink.com. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in our workshops and educational elements, as well as our bar, and thought that it was time for us to refocus our priorities.” Two of the company’s sites, Public Disgrace and Bound in Public, halted production; and HardCoreGangBangs was rebranded as FantasyGangBangs. “These changes are taking effect because we aim to refocus on our mission statement of demystifying and celebrating alternative sexualities.” Acworth said he envisions Kink.com becoming a lifestyle brand.

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