New Beginnings Owner Lenny Friedlander Dies

SYLMAR, Calif. — New Beginnings owner and former Free Speech Coalition President Lenny Friedlander passed away at his home in Louisiana on Sunday. He was 50 years old.

The industry veteran began his adult career in 1978, in collections at Marlan Distributors, eventually moving into sales.

A statement issued by distribution company New Beginnings Vice President Bryan Berber said, “It is with great sadness and regret that I must tell you all of the passing of Lenny Friedlander, owner of New Beginnings. Lenny died Sunday at his home in Louisiana.

"Funeral arrangements are pending. We ask that out of respect for Lenny and his family, that everyone will take a moment and say a prayer for him. Thank you all for your consideration in this difficult time."

As news of his passing spread, industry veterans offered their commentary on Friedlander.

“It’s a huge loss. Lenny had a giant personality and an even bigger heart,” FSC Board member Mara Epstein told XBIZ. “It’s a shock.”

Epstein remembered Friedlander as a larger-than-life character. At the Adult Entertainment Expo every year, New Beginnings hosted breakfasts for their clients that soon became known as “Lenny’s breakfasts,” according to Epstein.

“I was on the board of directors with Lenny Friedlander during his presidency, and Lenny made a lot of noise but he had a heart of gold,” Epstein said. “He’d treat everyone like family, and when you knew Lenny you knew a good friend. He moved to Louisiana when he got married and he was thrilled when his wife had a baby.”

Industry legend and former FSC President Gloria Leonard was also shocked and saddened by the news.

“I’ve known him for 25 years. He preceded me in [the FSC],” Leonard told XBIZ. “I knew him socially. He has a great company that I hope will continue on without him, New Beginnings. He built it into a multimillion-dollar empire and he was rather young. He was tall, funny, good-looking and smart, and we used to kibbitz with each other. He was just delightful, charming and generous. I’m really almost speechless.”

A panel discussion featuring past presidents of the FSC recently was held at the Adult Novelty Expo in Los Angeles. Friedlander was FSC President for six years. Leonard, who attended, noted Friedlander’s absence and missed seeing him there.

“He was one of the real, truly good guys in the industry,” Leonard said. “He was just a doll.”

“I am shattered by this,” adult industry veteran and former FSC Board member Bill Margold told XBIZ. “Lenny and I were confrontational throughout our career at the Free Speech Coalition, but he was incredibly important to the organization and to this industry. We've lost one of the true giants, in more ways than one.”

Current FSC Board chair Jeffrey Douglas voiced his dismay at the passing and recalled the remarkable contribution to the industry that distinguished Friedlander’s long career.

“I've known Lenny for almost 25 years,” Douglas told XBIZ. “He was — is — one the most influential people in my life: as a friend, as an entrepreneur in the industry and as someone who was an extraordinary leader in the development of the modern industry through his commitment to the Free Speech Coalition.

“He was essential in the development of the organization, as we know it now, like the initiation of the litigation that resulted in our Supreme Court win in Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition, which could not have happened without Lenny. Under his leadership, the organization went from a budget of less than $100,000 a year to substantially over $1 million. The transition from an all-volunteer organization to one that had a professional staff — that all happened under his watch.

"New Beginnings was a named plaintiff in the challenge to 2257 in a time when no other business was willing to take the risk and the burden of being a named plaintiff. He spent hours in depositions, sacrificing his personal peace of mind and putting the business at risk because it was the right thing to do,” Douglas said.

”He understood that being in this industry means substantially more than just making money. You're affecting the private lives of the majority of Americans and we are in the vanguard of liberty in the U.S.,” Douglas said. “He understood that intellectually and emotionally. That was why he was willing to put his financial success, his liberty, everything on the line. He was a brilliant entrepreneur. There are things that are essentially universal now in the industry in terms of the mechanics of distribution and sales, and he was in the leadership of all of it.

”In terms of a human being, no one could ask for a better friend. Charming, a great raconteur, a great sense of humor, spontaneous; the best friend a person could have,” Douglas said. “His loss is incomprehensible.”

Friedlander is survived by his wife, son and two daughters.

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