NEW YORK — It was 10 years ago this month that Vivid Entertainment released “Kim Kardashian, Superstar,” a 41-minute sex tape video starring Kim Kardashian and Ray J.
For its distributor, Vivid Entertainment, Kardashian and Ray J’s performance translated to more than $50 million in sales. Kardashian initially had sued to prevent it from being released, but she ultimately settled litigation.
“Superstar” was much more than just a big-dollar hit when it was released 10 years ago; the sex tape, which was viewed more than 150 million times, helped transform American culture, opening the doors for scores of other similar releases.
The New York Post today published an article titled, “The Kardashian Sex Tape: An Oral History,” offering a 10-years-later look at the “Superstar" deal by asking some of the top names inside and outside the adult entertainment industry about the months leading up to the release.
The Post’s piece included the words of Steven Hirsch, the founder and co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment, on how the studio got the deal done; Jim McBride, aka Mr Skin, whose website has chronicled celebrity nudity for nearly two decades; and Clyde DeWitt, an attorney who has been representing the adult biz for 35 years.
Marketing a sex tape like Kardashian’s is one thing, but getting waivers and having the ability to distribute it is a whole other matter, Hirsch told the Post.
“It was a very difficult deal to get done,” he said. “Probably [the hardest deal we’ve done]. [Kardashian] did not want it to happen. I know people have speculated on [whether she planned the release of tape from the beginning], but the facts are the facts. A lot of nonsense has been reported over the years .… [The persistent rumors about Kris Jenner, Kardashian’s mother, being involved in selling the tape are] such nonsense. I don’t know who started that. [People don’t want] the truth to get in the way of a good story."
Hirsch told the Post that he had no contact with Kardashian over the deal, which was reportedly made for $5 million. He said that the deal was made after he was cold-called.
“Someone just called the office one day and said, ‘We have some footage of a celebrity.’ Somebody took the call and we set up a time to talk,” Hirsch said. “The person brought it in and they had the footage on this computer and they came in with this big, like, rolling suitcase and they unpacked all of it. It was a production. I remember thinking, ‘Oh wow. This person’s prepared.’
“Usually you just get the footage and we’d put it into one of our edit bays, but it in this case it was very much compact and all together. I think they just wanted to be in control the whole time .… It wasn’t that they were representing the people in the video. It definitely wasn’t. Because Kim was not involved in it. It was that these people had the footage and were looking to sell it.”
“They had guaranteed that we would be able to distribute it,” he said. “I questioned that as time went on …. I think we announced we had the footage, and that’s when we started getting legal letters from Kim’s attorney.”
DeWitt said that making a deal for a sex tape like Kardashian’s is tricky, particularly since one of the principals of the movie aren’t participating in negotiations.
“[Imagine for example that] somebody finds a DVD in somebody’s garbage and it’s got a [sexually explicit] movie recorded on it,” DeWitt said. “They couldn’t sell it because they don’t have releases [signed by the performers], they don’t have 2257 records and they don’t have a release from the copyright owner."
In order to sell the video, “they would have to find both the people who are in the movie and find the photographer, which might be one of the two of them. Then they would need to get a release and identification documents and some other information from the performers and you need to get [permission] from the copyright owner.”
“Believe me, Vivid wouldn’t [have made the deal] unless they had all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed. And Steve Hirsch, too: He’s fastidious about making sure everything is done the right way — to his credit.”
Kardashian was the last one to have a truly successful celebrity sex tape, McBride said.
“I don’t think a company like Vivid could any longer market a sex tape and have it be such a huge hit as the Kim K. tape,” he said.
The New York Post piece can be read here.