Q&A: BearManor Returns Classic Adult Stars to Pantheon of Nostalgia

Lila Gray

ALBANY, Georgia — Ben Ohmart, whose publishing company BearManor Media is responsible for launching the autobiographies of John Holmes, Seka, Howie Gordon and other true “blue” royalty, didn’t get into the business with smutty intentions.

In fact, BearManor was birthed as an homage to a far more marginalized niche — voice acting and Ohmart’s desire to self-publish his books on the subject, which he didn’t think had a rat’s chance at seeing the light of day at Random House or other established publishing houses.  

Ohmart, who also revels in and peddles general nostalgia (just look at the non-adult books BearManor offers), found that many of the minor and past-their-prime celebs he interviewed had also written books that they shelved because they didn’t know of a suitable publishing platform. And Voila! — BearManor launched to fill the dusty void.    

It was only through the coincidental pitch of a non-fiction title about porn’s first star — now available as “John Holmes: a Life Measure in Inches” — that Ohmart realized that vintage XXX celebs and their erstwhile narratives have an important function in preserving an all-encompassing picture of the good ol’ days.      

Following the book’s success, Ohmart has become a full-fledged convert, insisting, “Anyone who says you can't write a masterpiece in the adult arena is an igit.”

In anticipation of BearManor’s two forthcoming adult titles, Porsche Lynn and Rebecca Lord's yet-untitled memoirs, XBIZ caught up with Ohmart to discuss his publishing company and what’s next.  

What was the impetus for BearManor’s series of XXX memoirs and “blue” books, since it appears that BearManor is not expressly adult-oriented?

It all started when Jill Nelson contacted me about her fantastic John Holmes book. I'm pretty open minded, but I wondered what my wife and customers would think. Well, I talked it over with my wife and she had no problem with it. Nor did the few select people I asked. But I should've asked more of my authors because I've only just recently learned that some of them aren't crazy about the idea and never were!

Therefore, I'm on the verge of separating the adult titles from the classic film/radio/TV titles, into two websites, two catalogs. I want everyone to be happy and there are more adult titles coming.  

And, more generally, what is BearManor all about? What types of literature does the company gravitate to? How long has it been around?  

I began BearManor as a way of self-publishing some books about voice actors that I had written. Though the business officially began in 2000 with the publication of a few old-time radio titles (radio still being my favorite medium), I was writing books on Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, Daws Butler and Walter Tetley — all voice actors. I knew I'd have little chance of placing these at Random House, so I put them out myself. This was a little before the mainstream use of the print-on-demand model, which I embrace fully now, and long before e-books were legitimate.

I had interviewed a lot of "minor" celebrities (or at least, out of the limelight celebs) for my books and had discovered a few of them had written books, like Jane Kean (‘Honeymooners,’ ‘Pete's Dragon’), who had not done anything with their books because they thought there was no market for them. I started liking the publishing side more than the writing side, so I offered to publish some of their books. From there it snowballed, and now, 14 years later, I have close to 700 titles in print, with more coming monthly. 

What was the first XXX memoir or book you guys put out? How did you conceive of the idea — were you approached by an ex-star/let or did you approach him/her? What has the critical reception been like?

As stated, Jill's Holmes [book] was the first, and it turns out, the most popular and best-selling. It's still our best selling e-book I'd say. She was a delight to work with and told some of the people she was in touch with, so soon I was publishing Bob Chinn's wonderful Johnny Wadd novel, then Jasmin St. Claire's book (she's finishing up the audio book version now), then John Holmes' autobiography via his widow, Laurie Holmes.

Then I started getting into the fiction side, with “The Mrs.,” a very funny writer who seems to have a different way of looking at erotica. The critical success of Jill Nelson's two books, Holmes and 'Golden Goddesses,' and Howie Gordon's autobiography have been great. Anyone who says you can't write a masterpiece in the adult arena is an igit. There are some excellent writers here in this genre.

How do you feel these memoirs contribute to and/or support the adult industry? Why are you focusing especially on classic stars?

The focus stems more from my own focus on nostalgia. For one thing, I believe that a story helps erotica and adult subjects, and the John Holmes and Ashlyn Gere eras had this. For another thing, because of TV the way is now (ignoring old stuff wholesale), and the fact that there are so many things to wade through these days in order to find anything, I feel that giving attention to a past era that deserves attention is only right. Let's not forget what happened yesterday just because today is so easy and clickable!

Can you tell me a little bit about the newest additions to the line, from Porsche Lynn and Rebecca Lord? What can readers expect from those titles?  

Without claiming to love any one of my children more than another, I do have to say that Rebecca Lord is my personal favorite porn star. She's lovely, she can act, and it is an honor to be publishing her autobiography. As I was typing up her contract, I kept shaking my head, unbelieving that I am the one who gets to publish this.

Porsche is also a favorite and hers is a well-written book, co-authored by the very ambitious Brian Whitney. There should be more people like him to make things happen.You're going to love both books.

How did the lit mag “The Act Itself” come about and what types of content does it feature?

Because I'm now putting out a lot of fiction by The Mrs., I wanted a format to showcase her that would gain attention, and to the other adult titles I'm putting out. Ads in Penthouse and Playboy are a bit beyond me, but a solid magazine of content by my authors and others I felt would bridge the gap between our fiction and non-fiction wings of adult goodies. In the premiere issue there are book excerpts from Seka, fiction and poetry from Lisa Kopel, The Mrs., Serena and photos from Joseph Giblin and Lilah Rose and others. We welcome more submissions — Peter North, where are you?

Where can people buy BearManor books and mags? Are there any brick-and-mortar stores that carry your stuff right now?

Due to the horrendous returns policy of the average chain bookstore, we keep out of those and prefer to target straight to the customer, and of course online via Amazon and the like. E-books too. Always e-books!