LOS ANGELES — Christian Mann, the general manager at Evil Angel, longtime board member of the Free Speech Coalition and beloved adult industry leader, died Wednesday evening after a long bout with cancer. He was 53.
"Up until March of this year he thought he was going to beat this whole thing," John Stagliano, owner of Evil Angel, told XBIZ Wednesday night. "It was a tough thing. I have heard people talk about how bad cancer is, but I had never experienced it up close like this."
Mann had been ill since January 2013, when he first was diagnosed with bile duct/pancreatic cancer. He fought the disease all the way through this month, when his wife Melissa indicated that he made the decision to engage hospice care after his body was not responding to the most recent series of treatments.
“Since I know so many of you are thinking about us, I want to share what is happening now,” Melissa wrote in a Facebook post on July 7. “Christian and I, along with his oncological team, have done our best to deal with his growing cancer through surgery, chemotherapy, traditional and stereotactic radiation, cannabis, and more chemotherapy — and still the tumors continue to grow.
“The two pyloric stents, which were placed in June, no longer appear to be working. Christian is unable to eat and is barely able to keep down tiny amounts of fluid. What he is able to ingest is not enough to sustain life without IV hydration and nutrients, and he is experiencing constant pain and extreme nausea."
Melissa continued, “Over the weekend, Christian made the decision to engage hospice. As of this evening, we have started comfort medications that will ease his pain, but he will not continue to receive artificial IV hydration or nutrition. He will be increasingly sedated, free from the pain that has dominated the last eighteen months of his life. With no nutrients or fluids, the body and brain do not survive long.
“Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. Christian is the love of my life, and watching him suffer is more painful than I can articulate. It is time to let him go.”
A 34-year veteran of the adult business, Mann was widely regarded among the most prolific and passionate executives in industry history.
"He was a real renaissance man," Stagliano said. "He knew a little bit about a lot of stuff and a fair amount about a lot of stuff too. He was a great wealth of experience and information.
"Before I hired him, we were just friends. I just really enjoyed talking to him a few times. I respected his business acumen."
Paul Fishbein, the founder of AVN who knew Mann for 30 years, told XBIZ that he was like a brother to him and that Mann considered him his best friend.
"Even though I knew this was coming I was not prepared," Fishbein said Thursday. "You cannot prepare yourself for it. He was just a major part of my life for 30 years. We went through marriages together, divorces together, travel together, football trips together — we did everything. We saw each other more than some guys see their wives."
Fishbein continued, 'It’s a big hole. It’s just a big hole in my life and everyone else’s. There’s a group of friends and we were all really close and it’s not going to ever be the same."
Vivid Entertainment co-chairman Steven Hirsch had been one of Mann's closest friends for more than three decades after meeting him during a plane flight to Chicago for a CES show.
“Christian was the best friend anyone could ask for,” Hirsch told XBIZ Thursday. “He was a smart guy, very generous, and the first one to offer his time. Christian was the kind of guy that would pick you up at the airport at 2 a.m or drive you to the airport at 5 a.m. He didn’t care, that was just the type of guy he was.
“We traveled many miles together and we went though a lot. He was a lifelong friend never to be forgotten. Now he is no longer in pain — he’s in peace, finally. It was a long 19 months.”
Evil Angel director Kevin Moore considered Mann “a massive figure in the industry.”
“Christian had his hands in so many things in this business,” Moore told XBIZ Wednesday night. “From working so hard for the Free Speech Coalition, to trying to come up with a system with the vacuum that [AIM Healthcare] had when it closed. He was always trying to come up with ways of bringing people together and he was so good at getting people to come together.”
Moore continued, “I can tell you there’s many times that I was fired up about something and Christian was always the guy who could talk me off the cliff. He had this very rational thought process. He had a big influence on me."
Veteran studio owner and director Jules Jordan agreed.
“My term for him was 'The Ambassador of Good Will,'" Jordan told XBIZ Wednesday night. "He was always trying to squash beefs between people and always trying to help everyone.”
Jordan remembered meeting Mann in 1997 at an East Coast Video Show before he had even moved to Los Angeles to try to make it in porn.
"He was kind of a friend to everybody," Jordan said. "He was crucial in the whole interracial genre. He really helped ethnic performers probably more than anybody in the business when Video Team was around. Video Team was like the ethnic company. It really brought the ethnic genres to a more mainstream light. I definitely considered him a mentor-type guy for me."
Mann worked in numerous capacities during his career, including magazine publication, mail-order, production, sales and marketing. As the CEO of Video Team for 12 years, he pioneered niche marketing with the popular all-girl series “No Man’s Land” and the ethnic series "My Baby Got Back."
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.
"He did a great job getting my company through really difficult times — from my trial to the reorganization we had to do to stay ahead in today’s competitive market," Stagliano said. "He was good at making deals. He would love to negotiate. He was a dealmaker and a peacemaker. He wasn’t the kind of person that would be vindictive or anything. He was very introspective about his motivations."
But Mann never solely focused on his day job overseeing operations for various companies. He also for the past several years served on the FSC Board of Directors as he did once before in the mid-90’s. In 2000, Mann received the Free Speech Coalition’s “Good Guy Award.”
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.
Mann courageously shared details of his illness almost from the beginning, releasing an open letter to the industry dated Jan. 30, 2013, that was published on various news websites. In it, he wrote about how he was ready to meet his cancer battle head-on.
“If you know anything about me, you know that I have a long history of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat,” Mann wrote. “My attitude is one of arrogance and audacity, tempered by a humility that mandates an acknowledgement that everything I bring to this fight has been given to me in the form of love and support from my family, friends, co-workers, recovery fellows and a personal relationship with that force that I call my Higher Power.”
He went on to say, “I’m proud of my sons, my family and especially my better half Melissa, who has been my emotional hostage and a fountain of strength. I intend to make them proud of me.”
Mann early last year also created a blog where he wrote updates about his medical condition at ChristianMann.com.
In his free time, Mann enjoyed playing tennis and golf as well as assisting families and addicts in recovery or hanging out with his three adult sons. He had been clean and sober for the past 26 years, surpassing another one-year milestone on July 23.
Howard Levine, president of sales at Exile Distribution, said he also knew Mann for close to 30 years.
"He has been a good friend for all that time," Levine said. "I remember the first time I met Chris, he was stepping out of a limo to visit the sales people at General Video West. He was working for the gay movie company, Catalina, and I knew for sure he was gay. I was wrong. I was so impressed. The limo, the crisp clothes, he looked successful. I wanted that. He was inspiring."
Levine continued, "Christian is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met in my life. He has always been a great advisor. His even temper and quick wit was always a great refresher in a tense conversation. He seemed to do what was logical, he made good decisions.
"When I became clean and sober over eight years ago, he was the first person I called. He was very supportive and gave me a direction that I have followed ever since. Once again he was an inspiration. But this time it was for living, not success.
"I am so grateful that I was able to call him my friend. I will never understand how such a great guy, someone who is of service to so many, someone who is so caring, gets dealt a hand like this. No one said life is fair, and this proves it to be so. This world was a better place with him here. I know I will miss him terribly. My condolences go out to his wife and kids. He will be missed. I know I will see him further down the road."
Stagliano's wife Karen worked closely with Mann at Evil Angel, telling XBIZ Thursday, "I adored Christian more than anyone who has ever been a part of Evil. I considered him a friend and an inspiration in life in general."
In recent weeks as news of Mann's condition circulated, scores of industry professionals expressed their respect and support for him on social media.
Manuel Ferrara, one of Evil Angel’s longest tenured directors, called Mann “one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
Nate Glass, owner of Takedown Piracy, said, "We should all aspire to be as funny, brilliant, respected, respectful, loved and loving as Christian."
Veteran director Luc Wylder said, "Christian was a true friend, a caring human being, and an impeccable warrior in life. He stands as a scintillating example of sobriety and spirituality for all of us."
Wicked Girl jessica drake remembered Mann on her Facebook page Wednesday night, saying, "In all my years in this business, I've certainly met a lot of people. Christian Mann was one of the first and throughout the years he didn't change. He was good people. He had an awesome sense of humor and he was kind. He will be missed by the entire industry.
"My heart goes out to his amazing wife Melissa Mann."
For more remembrances, click here.