LAST EDITED ON 28-Oct-02 AT 10:14 PM (PST)
As the warmongers scowl and Ashcroft twitches, one very sticky and prurient
industry quietly rakes in the billions.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- In the vast, suburban expanse of the San Fernando
Valley, one of the largest industries thrives quietly inside unmarked
warehouses, walled estates and hidden studios.
The valley is home to some of the biggest names in the movie business:
Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers and Universal Studios. But the 354
square miles of tract homes, strip malls and freeways on the north side of the
Hollywood Hills also host Vivid Entertainment, VCA, Wicked Pictures and
dozens of other studios churning out X-rated DVDs and videos.
The region is home to most of America's pornography industry -- videos, Web
sites, phone sex businesses, adult toys and even the old-fashioned dirty
magazine. It's an industry estimated to be worth between $4 billion and $10
A longshot proposal on Los Angeles' November ballot would make the San
Fernando Valley its own city. While most polls give it little chance of passing,
the initiative has given rise to debate over what a new city would be called.
"San Pornando Valley" is one popular, tongue-in cheek suggestion.
On a set in Chatsworth recently, porn actresses named Dee and Jordan
Haze, a married mother from Long Beach, killed time tossing around possible
names of a separate valley city.
"What about Pornopolis?" Haze said. "Or Babylon?"
Dee (there are no real names in the porn industry) shook her long, black hair.
"It has to be Pornoville," she said. "That's what everybody calls it already."
While many parts of the nation's economy are suffering, the past five years
have been good for the adult industry as new video and computer
technologies open the doors to hundreds of millions of potential customers
around the world.
"The adult industry doesn't follow the same ups and downs that other
businesses do," said Paul Fishbein, publisher of Adult Video News, the
industry's trade paper. "It still grows every year in terms of sales and rental
"Twenty years ago, you had people sneaking into those little theaters. That's
all changed with technology," said Bill Asher, president of Vivid Entertainment.
"We've gone from a market of hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions."
The film, television and Web-based products produced by Vivid alone grossed
$1 billion in retail sales last year, he said. A 1998 study by Forrester
Research in Cambridge, Mass., estimated that the industry generates $10
billion a year.
But in a business where few companies are public and new providers blossom
like wildflowers, real numbers are hard to come by.
"We don't see many hard revenue numbers," said Michael Goodman, an
entertainment industry analyst at the Yankee Group in Boston. "But it is a very
profitable business and pretty recession-proof."
The sale and rental of adult videos produced by American companies was a
$4 billion business last year, Fishbein said, based on a survey of thousands of
video stores and overall sales figures from the Video Software Dealers
Dozens of studios produce hundreds of new titles each year and have created
star-making machinery much like that of the old Hollywood studios.
Actresses like Jenna Jameson, the reigning star of adult films, have big-dollar
contracts with filmmakers who promote them on Web sites, movie display
boxes and in public appearances.
A top "contract girl" can command thousands of dollars for dancing at an adult
club, licensing products and starring on her own Web sites, such as
Jameson's "Club Jenna," said Jay Grdina, who runs her businesses.
Adult filmmakers and actresses aren't the only ones making money. Cable
companies, satellite providers and hotel chains that offer in-room adult movies
are cashing in, too, but like to keep their involvement low-profile.
"We really can't characterize how popular adult programming is," said Robert
Mercer, a spokesman for Direct TV, which offers adult channels and
pay-per-view films. "We don't break out viewership for any of our channels."
Production of the valley's X-rated movies also is low-profile. Most are filmed in
unmarked industrial buildings that border churches, schools and
In large gated warehouses, hundreds of workers at Topco Sales stand at
tables assembling Centerfold Fantasy Love Dolls and other novelties that will
be shipped around the world.
The business was spread between Los Angeles, San Francisco and New
York but migrated to the valley over the past 20 years because of low rents
and access to the mainstream movie business, Fishbein said.
A chance to see adult films at home helped sell millions of VCRs in the 1980s.
Now the industry is experimenting with interactive DVDs in which the viewer
can see the same sex scene from various angles, said John Virata, senior
editor of Digital Media Net, a trade magazine for the digital industry.
"They are always the first movers in everything," he said.
In the valley, the business means thousands of jobs for actors, editors,
directors, camera operators and set dressers, such as the people working on
"The Alley," a new video being shot at a Vivid warehouse in Chatsworth.
The one-story, sand-colored building has been cut into small sets -- a
dungeon, a gynecologist's office, a lobby, a suburban bedroom and a
graffiti-covered wall that passes for an alley.
As the crew prepared to shoot, actors TJ Hart, Violet Blue and Brad Taylor
passed around Altoids and discussed the do's and don'ts for their upcoming
"Don't pull my earlobes," Hart, a veteran porn star, told Taylor. "Not much
bothers me, but pull my earlobes and I'll slug you."
In a small makeup trailer out back, Dee waited for her scene.
"For anyone looking for work, you have to be (in the valley)," she said, as she
strolled the trailer wearing only a pair of black sweat pants