Pleasure Products Industry Remembers Pioneer Jane Liszewski

Pleasure Products Industry Remembers Pioneer Jane Liszewski

LOS ANGELES — Jane Liszewski, who passed away late last month, retired in 2016 after a multifaceted career spanning over three decades that earned her a reputation among her colleagues of being remarkably creative, driven and noble.

Before leaving the pleasure products industry, Liszewski served as Classic Brands VP of sales and marketing. When she joined the company 14 years prior, the company was just starting to form. By then, the challenge of establishing a new brand was nothing new to Liszewski, who worked her way up from serving as a receptionist at Topco to playing an integral role in establishing it as an industry pioneer.

“Jane was a veteran in the business, and we were so lucky to have her after she left Topco — we were a small business then,” Classic Brands CEO Loren Levy told XBIZ. “She took a chance on us — not the other way around. I didn’t feel like we were taking a chance at all when we hired her.”

According to Levy, Liszewski’s skills ranged from product development to copywriting and art. She excelled at creating products for couples, which was reflected by the romance-driven brand that she helped to establish.

“She was so instrumental in our foundation and who we are. We built [Classic Brands] together — the two of us,” Levy said. “Jane’s work ethic was positive, which made it easy to have her as a partner. She always had a great attitude and was always ready and so on-board.

“What I remember the most is that she was so creative, and she had so many different skill sets, and she was also great at sales — everybody loved her. It was interesting that when she passed, we got so many calls from people who wanted to share their sadness. She was always welcomed and will be missed by all.”

Prior to landing her role at Classic Brands, Liszewski spent 20 years at Topco as one of the few women in the early days of the male-dominated pleasure products industry. CalExotics founder and CEO Susan Colvin and Executive VP Jackie White reminisced about banding together with Liszewski, Nasstoys’ Kathryn Hartman and Mary Fried Fenton, who worked for Doc Johnson, to go on business trips.

“She was at Topco while I was at CLC,” Colvin told XBIZ. “Back then, even though sales wasn’t her primary function, Jane was very well-liked. She was always very helpful, very forthright and very neutral. It was commendable how much she respected brands.”

As one of the only women at the time in manufacturing, and in an executive role, Liszewski was able to put her product development skills to use, boldly offering her input on product design and marketing.

“Jane was vivacious — she had no problem speaking her opinion,” Colvin said. “With Jane as Marty [Tucker]’s right hand, [Topco] became a huge success that was unmatched.”

Tucker told XBIZ that he hired Liszewski within minutes of first meeting her, when she arrived at Topco Sales in the 1980s looking for a job.

“I did not realize at the time what a gem I had found,” he said. “Jane was an extremely enthusiastic worker.  She began at Topco doing office work; she did it with passion and was liked by every other worker. She wanted to do more for the company, and soon was in sales. She was great; when a customer called to order one item, she sold them 10. She was very passionate about her job; in fact, one could say she had a special talent for sales. She also assumed a role of leadership at company events and participated in all the corporate activities. Not only was she a great salesperson, but she wrote copy for products, helped design packaging, and even worked with the guys in the art department to create the most exciting merchandise. Our sales grew rapidly with Jane at the helm.”

Liszewski also lent her manufacturing expertise to help CalExotics develop products of their own. White told XBIZ that Liszewski was a “true visionary” and her creativity was reflected in the many products that she helped to bring to life.

“She’s an icon; she really developed a lot of toys in the 30-plus years she was in the industry,” White said. “Even though we were competitors, we were friends. She will be missed.”

According to Colvin and White, Liszewski always made an effort to support her colleagues and build community within the pleasure products industry.

“She was a great person, and she helped a lot of people,” White said, noting that Liszewski was among the first people to embrace and encourage the idea of establishing an expo exclusively for pleasure product manufacturers and their clientele — aka, ANME, the Adult Novelty Manufacturers Expo.

Founded in 1996, ANME was the brainchild of Nick Orlandino, who befriended Liszewski in his teens before becoming the CEO of Pipedream Products for over two decades. Orlandino told XBIZ that Liszewski was one of ANME’s first supporters, as well as one of his close friends.

“She saw the value in ANME like I did,” Orlandino said, recalling Liszewski’s efforts to get the event organized. On Facebook, Orlandino also reflected on the loss of his friend, saying: "I am so heartbroken, one of my closest friends in the biz has passed... Jane Liszewski! She was a monster in the biz and should be remembered for her amazing contributions."

Colvin also recalls Liszewski trying to get all of the “Founders” together. “She was the representative for Topco and she did push people [within the organization], and I could tell that it helped to unify the companies, and to create ANME.”

“[Jane] worked hard to get us together — all of the companies — she wanted us to come together for the betterment of the industry,” Colvin said. “She wanted us to put our egos aside and work together.”

Throughout her career, Liszewski often took it upon herself to make her colleagues feel welcomed and a part of the team.

“Jane Liszewski was my mentor and took me under her wing when I first started in the industry, and I honestly don’t know that I would have stayed without her support,” Holiday Products’ Molly Romeo told XBIZ. “I remember the first ILS I ever did, I was sort of left on my own in the evenings, and that’s when she tucked me into her side, and I kind of never left until she retired. Nobody has ever believed in me the way Jane did, and her level of soul support was unmatched. My heart is broken at the news of her passing.”

Liszewski’s infectious enthusiasm continually inspired those that she worked alongside. Fellow industry vet Lynn Swanson says it was a privilege to work alongside her.

“When I think of Jane and my years working with her at Classic Brands, I cannot help but smile,” Swanson told XBIZ. “Jane brought her great personality and positive attitude to work each day. She was a wonderful co-worker and team player. Jane loved creating original products and packaging. Her excitement was contagious when she was working on something new. When I was a new employee at Classic Brands, Jane helped me fit in and be successful in my new role. I miss Jane.”

Tucker remembers Liszewski as a fan of rock music who frequented the Sunset Strip to see bands like Guns N’ Roses in their early years; as well as a dedicated mother to her children, Tommy, Jennifer and Janie.

“Like everyone else, I was proud to be part of Jane’s life for so many years,” Tucker said. “I am saddened beyond any words that I can write as to her passing. It seems so unreal, especially as she was in the prime of her life living her dreams. I have truly been walking in a daze since I heard the news of her passing.

“Jane will be missed by literally hundreds of people she influenced in her life,” he added. “She was the best! She was a best friend, a warm person who cared for everyone, and she loved life. I will always remember you Jane, and always will have that special place in my heart and my soul for your smile, your laughter, and just you.”

In a 2012 WIA profile, Liszewski in her own words described climbing up the ladder in a male-driven industry.

“My first challenge was trying to play the game of sales in a man’s world,” she said. “After some frustration, I decided it was time to just let people know who I am and what I am made of.”  

With the mantra “Good, better, best. Never let it rest! Till the good is better and the better is best!” Jane Liszewski walked the talk. She leaves behind a legacy as a trailblazer who helped pave the way for future outspoken female execs of the pleasure products industry.

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