LOS ANGELES — If doing business in Porn Valley is like doing battle, it’s no wonder why Kevin Beechum is still standing after all these years.
“I’ve been fighting since I was a kid, since I moved from the east side to the west side,” Beechum said. “I wrestled in high school. Then I boxed, and then I came out here and used to fight for money — 100 bucks a fight.”
Those fights weren’t sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission. They were on the street.
That gritty background and blue-collar attitude has served Beechum well. He’s done more than survive three-plus decades of wheeling and dealing in adult entertainment.
The native of Bay City, Mich., navigated the politics of porn’s back rooms in the ’80s, hustling product with adult video pioneers and negotiating with old-school kingpins that called the shots in the early days.
“I kind of grew up on the street. I was always a hustler and always made my own money,” said Beechum, the 6-foot-2 ass-kicker who at one point was both a bodyguard and a sales manager.
“I should write a book,” he joked. “Everybody’s dead now so I can talk.”
Beechum, who got his start in the early ’80s at Visual Entertainment, still recalls the days when he sold the classic “Taboo 2” on Beta. Then when he moved on to Arrow Productions and the company shipped 20,000 pieces of “Deep Throat 2” around the dawn of VHS, Beechum was slinging tapes like he was born to do it.
But even though the money was good working the phones, he had bigger things in mind. Like having something to call his own. He picked his spot and ascended to ownership with K-Beech Video in 1987, evolved with the times and always adapted his company to the changing marketplace.
That’s why three decades later he said it really comes down to a simple philosophy that keeps his lean and mean operation moving forward.
“It’s about just staying the course man, and teamwork,” Beechum said. “All my guys have been with me 15 to 25 years, so it’s a good team. You have to have a good team to be successful.”
It’s a team that has weathered whatever storm has come its way en route to turning K-Beech into one of the leading content production and distribution companies in the history of adult entertainment.
Multi-faceted and diverse, K-Beech bankrolls numerous well-known studio brands. He started Midnight Film and Video in 1992, the first of what would be more than 15 studio launches during Beechum’s prolific run. In 2003, he created perhaps his most well-known video line, Cherry Boxxx Pictures, in a joint venture with former porn exec Allen Gold, who was the VP of VCA Pictures.
Over the years K-Beech has also produced content through BabyDoll Pictures, Sex Line Sinema and Erotic Angel. Last year he introduced new labels Sinful Entertainment and Lipstick Lesbian.
The company’s library also includes scores of titles from 818 XXX Productions, Baby Doll Hardcore, Backend Productions, Cherry Boxxx Explicit, Cherry Boxxx Black, Cherry X Productions, Dreamland Video, Erotic Men, Midnight Mayhem and Midnight Men. It’s a treasure trove of porn that exceeds 3000 titles ranging from gonzo, amateur and transsexual to big-budget features shot exclusively for cable TV.
K-Beech also owns more than 200 general titles, ranging from B-movies to action/horror flicks. It not only distributes hundreds of its own movies, but also hundreds of other studio's titles as well.
It all starts with the nerve center at K-Beech, which is comprised of General Manager Jeff Snyder and a trio of dedicated sales professionals — Ray Burke, Carolyn Ward and Dave Wyne — who keep the operation running with laser-like efficiency.
“It’s about keeping the customers supplied with the right product on a steady basis and giving the customers what they need,” Beechum said, noting that one of K-Beech’s strengths is how organized it is.
“My General Manager Jeff Snyder runs a numbers sheet every day so we know what goes out of here and what comes back. In the old days you had to keep track of what was going out and what was coming in. Nobody gets anything unless it goes through Jeff.”
Snyder is also from Bay City, Mich., just over 100 miles north of Detroit, and in his 24th year in adult entertainment he said in short “it’s been an adventure.”
“We’ve got a good team that’s been together for 25 years and the other thing is we have a good business plan,” Snyder told XBIZ. “That’s really what it is. We’ve been able to make it through the tough times. We’ve been very consistent with our release and production schedule, which has benefited us throughout the years.”
Snyder revealed his pre-porn background was as an AS400 consultant for IBM, where he became an expert in midrange computer systems.
“We keep track of everything daily. That’s another part of being successful in this business,” Snyder said. “A lot of companies over the years were disorganized and that was their demise.”
Snyder works closely with Burke, Ward and Wyne; Burke sells CherryBoxxx, Sexline Sinema and Sinful Entertainment; Ward handles Babydoll Pictures and Lipstick Lesbian; and Wyne sells the stores.
“I do all the productions and the accounting. I meet with all those guys and talk about what they want to put out and then I put them into the schedule and make sure they’re out in time,” Snyder said.
Ward, who worked at Essex for three years before they went out of business, arrived at K-Beech in 1989 after a lunch meeting with Beechum.
“I was doing sales from Day One here,” Ward, a native of Santa Monica who was raised in the Valley, told XBIZ. “I was sales manager for maybe five years. At one point, there were 25 sales guys under me and I managed them. But after a while Kevin and I both thought it’d be better if I was selling full time.”
A sign-language interpreter in college with a degree in Speech Communication from Cal State Northridge, Ward is also a published author with two novels on Amazon.com.
“I’ve never had another regular job,” she said.
Burke, another 25-year veteran salesman, told XBIZ K-Beech’s rapport with other companies has been key to their longevity.
“Our continued relationships with all the other manufacturers has been important,” Burke said. “I think Kevin’s always had good relationships with all the people he’s dealt with throughout the years.”
Burke continued, “Everybody here now has been here forever. It became pretty much a family-type setting. We went through the UPS strike [in '97], the [Northridge] earthquake [in '94], and we lost a few people over the years. We’ve been through all that stuff together. And I think that’s probably kind of rare these days. Everybody is always thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence."
Born and raised in Quincy, Ill., Burke said he originally gravitated to Los Angeles because of his background as a musician.
“That’s what drove me out here," he recalled. "Then I just got involved with selling movies and the only jobs I’ve had have been in the movie industry.”
Now he focuses on selling Sinful, CherryBoxxx and Sexline for a company that is as steady as they come in porn. Going forward, Burke said it’s about continuing to do what they do best.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Burke reasoned. “This is kind of a rare situation. I’m a buyer and a seller and handle all the distribution for this account. I have good working relationships with everybody, all the other studios.”
Beechum said the secret to maintaining staff morale is “all about just keeping ’em laughing. Cheer them up.”
Always pushing his brand forward, Beechum even got into the pleasure products side of the industry last year, merging with Joy Hollywood for sex toy distribution.
“We buy from all the major toy makers,” Beechum said. “So far, so good.”
Beechum started working when he was in seventh grade, stocking refrigerators in a grocery store.
“Then I worked construction, building basements in Michigan and doing hot-tar roofs in Michigan. I also worked at General Motors — in the foundry.”
The son of a professional poker player, Beechum also had a stint making water pipes in Clearwater, Fla. He spent a couple of years as a roofer in LA for $600 a week before he started selling porn.
As he pauses to reflect on all the friends and colleagues who have come and gone as the seasons changed, Beechum gets nostalgic.
“I still have a few buddies that are still trying to make it. When everybody was in it, it was fun. Everybody was making money and life was good — it was really good. You couldn’t ask for a better job,” Beechum said. “It’s kind of sad when you look back at all those big companies that are gone.”
He continued, “There was a lot of money in the first 15 years. The atmosphere and the people that were in it the first 15 years I’d say was the most fun and dangerous time I ever had, because it was action.
“The last 10 years it just isn’t what it was.”
Of all the movies he’s sold over the years, perhaps the most enduring standout was the “PornoMation” series, an explicit, animated trilogy which debuted in 2005 and still sells to this day.
“It’s the only line that’s held its value,” Beechum said. “We still get [the same] distribution cost and royalty on it. It’s still going and still our prime No. 1 seller.”