LOS ANGELES — XBIZ is pleased to announce its 2015 Industry Pioneer Award recipients, who will be honored on Jan. 15 at the highly anticipated XBIZ Awards show in downtown Los Angeles.
Paying tribute to visionary pioneers from the four major sectors of the adult industry, the 2015 class consists of: Frank and Michael Koretsky, who head International Video Distributors and East Coast News (Retail & Distribution); Brian Shuster, CEO of Utherverse (Web & Technology); Teddy Rothstein and Elliot Schwartz, founders of Nasstoys (Pleasure Products); and the late Christian Mann, former general manager of Evil Angel and president of Free Speech Coalition (Movies & Production).
One of XBIZ’s highest honors, the Industry Pioneer Award is bestowed upon those rare individuals who have demonstrated a remarkable ability to see ahead of the curve and turn their ideas into reality, igniting new and exciting business ventures.
With trailblazing gusto and unbridled entrepreneurial spirit, these movers and shakers have helped to shape the multibillion-dollar adult industry and have inspired a whole generation of business leaders who are now reaping rewards thanks to their stalwart resolve.
Every visionary leader has met adversity and immense challenges head on, persevering against all odds while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity and corporate social responsibility. Their steadfast abilities and courage are exemplary of the mettle found deep in the DNA of all true pioneers.
The 2015 Industry Pioneer Award recipients are:
Frank & Michael Koretsky, IVD/ECN — Retail & Distribution
Far from the traditional West Coast home of adult products, Frank Koretsky and his brother, Michael, have created an empire that rivals anything from Porn Valley. Today their enterprise includes major online retail and wholesale operations, film studios, pleasure products, intimate apparel and more.
True pioneers, the brothers saw the opportunity to sell and distribute DVDs early on in the heyday of the hot medium, launching IVD — International Video Distributors — in 1985, now a mammoth DVD supplier for nearly every major adult title. And the Koretsky’s sister company, East Coast News, is hands down one of the top distributors of sex products in the industry carrying nearly every major brand. The companies collectively boast three nationwide locations with a combined employee roster of more than 200 professionals.
Never resting on their laurels, the native “Jersey Boys” saw the opportunity to jump into the video production game with Pleasure Productions, a premiere brand that encompassed every major niche and has since launched studios such as Dreamzone Entertainment and Airerose Entertainment, among other production brands.
More recently, the burgeoning pleasure products industry, fueled in part by the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomena, not only buoyed the adult novelty market by fostering a newfound interest in intimacy products by couples and women, but also offered another business opportunity for the Koretskys. The pair embraced providence and entered the pleasure products business with three high-profile holdings: Germany-based-OVO Lifestyle Toys, the ultra-chic Baci brand of lingerie and Pennsylvania-based crossover distributor and manufacturer, XGEN Products.
But it’s not all about profit. The brothers also give back to the industry that has afforded them so much success. Frank Koretsky is well known for his philanthropic Koretsky Family Foundation, contributing time and money to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, the Fox Chase Cancer Center, The Eileen Stein Jacoby Fund, as well as the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami.
"Thank you so much for this award and recognition for my 30 years in this industry," Frank Koretsky said. "It's been a long strange trip but a fantastic ride. What a great 30 years it has been. Being one of the few originals left in the industry is tough.
"The business has changed through the years and I have had the luxury of being involved with Beta, VHS and now DVD. Michael and I have worked hard to set the bar high on not only our video distribution but setting the stage 20 years ago starting East Coast News.
"We are very active with our companies and still will continue to grow our different areas of business. We will continue to change and continue to evolve and come up with new exciting ideas and sales tools. We always want to be the leaders in the adult distribution business."
Teddy Rothstein and Elliot Schwartz, Nasstoys — Pleasure Products
Teddy Rothstein and Elliot Schwartz founded Nasstoys almost 40 years ago with the manufacturing and distribution of Spanish Fly, Sta-Hard cream and Anal-Ese, which have remained bestsellers among Nasstoys’ offerings to this very day. The company’s current catalog features more than 1,000 items.
Nasstoys has seen several major expansions in its history, including leaving its lower Manhattan location to move to Brooklyn’s waterfront and, finally, to their current location in New Jersey, located directly across the Hudson River.
A native New Yorker, Rothstein’s roots in the adult industry started many years before Nasstoys’ origins in 1975.
“We are grateful for the recognition,” Schwartz and Rothstein said in a joint statement. “We've come a long way since 1975 when the industry was a small close knit community. This was a great business then and it is a great business now.”
Rothstein’s long history in the adult industry began with humble beginnings in the early ’60s, starting in the printing and publishing industry in Manhattan. The company was Star Distributors. The books and magazines Rothstein distributed were considered pornographic and often times illegal, resulting in these “flesh peddlers” paying stiff penalties for publishing images that today barely get noticed. Back then, even publishing a picture of a naked woman meant jail time for those involved, which required Rothstein to fight for every word of the First Amendment that so many people in the adult industry take for granted today.
Schwartz and Rothstein go as far back to the days when Rothstein would babysit young Elliot Schwartz on Nasswalk Street in Brooklyn, where they both grew up. The street became the first name of their company in 1975.
Today, Schwartz often serves as the face of the company on the road while Rothstein keeps the warehouse buzzing.
Brian Shuster, Utherverse Digital Inc. — Web & Technology
In a market segment that is as constantly evolving as the online adult entertainment industry, words such as “pioneer” are often tossed about — but rarely is the term so aptly applied as when it is used to describe technologist and visionary Brian Shuster, the founder and CEO of Utherverse Digital Inc.
No stranger to the world of online adult entertainment, Shuster traces his roots in porn back to 1996 with XPics.com, which reportedly attracted more than 60,000 webmaster affiliates who promoted the site and helped it achieve a stunning 2 million paying subscribers.
Perhaps best known for his 2003 founding of Utherverse and the RedLightCenter.com virtual world, Shuster is an influential leader whose aggressive moves to promote a 3D web include developing Curio, the world’s first 3D Internet browser. This application is only one of Shuster’s creations — innovative creations for which he received more than 35 patents, covering many technologies in use by virtually all websites today.
The largest adult virtual world, RedLightCenter.com is the flagship of the Virtual World Web (VWW), which contains more than 145,000 independently operated virtual businesses — transforming the virtual space by enabling every business, both adult and mainstream, to become a part of the 3D web.
These new business opportunities include the next generation of trade events, exemplified by the annual Adult Entertainment Virtual Convention, which unites businesses and fans around the world, in a comfortable, safe and profitable fantasyland that in its latest incarnation is becoming ever more lifelike.
"Stepping into the adult entertainment business 20 years ago seemed like a big personal risk, but it turned out to be a wonderful decision," Shuster said. "This business is filled with the most heartfelt, fascinating and amazing people I've ever encountered, and I'm proud to have contributed to the growth and success of so many."
Not content to sit on his laurels, Shuster is at the forefront of integrating the latest VR technologies, such as Oculus Rift, into the virtual realm. He will also deliver the Visionary Keynote address at the 2015 XBIZ 360 Digital Media Conference on Jan. 14.
Christian Mann (posthumous), Evil Angel and Free Speech Coalition — Movies & Production
Christian Mann, who died July 30 after a long bout with cancer at 53, was one of the most beloved figures in adult entertainment.
A 34-year veteran of the business, Mann was widely regarded among the most prolific and passionate executives in industry history. He 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 vice president 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.
Mann was uniquely qualified to be an FSC board member, not only because of his close bond with so many in the industry but because of his rare insight into every different aspect of the industry — from movie production, to retail, to distribution and pleasure products.
The FSC says Mann was particularly proud of his invaluable help in creating the PASS (Performer Availability Scheduling Services) system. Mann jumped straight in the fire when AIM was destroyed, recognizing the threat to performer safety, and his goal was to make the system even better than it had been for the future.