«

»

Oct 02 2010

Exclusive: Steven Morowitz of Video-X-Pix on the First Classic HD Porn Transfer

Inside Little Oral Annie

Inside Little Oral Annie

Interview by Timothy Snarr

“New porn!” I exclaimed rather jubilantly.

Moments earlier, my co-worker Robert, an experienced filmmaker and Video Production Specialist here at AEBN, had wandered into my office to discuss some of the details surrounding an upcoming project. Almost immediately, his eyes drifted to the non-descript white box sitting on my desk. The flaps of the reinforced cardboard container pointed skyward, its jagged edges and severed strands of still-attached packing tape the remnants of an epic struggle.

“What is it?” he replied curiously, inching closer to grab a quick peek at the contents.

Without hesitation, I reached inside, carefully wedging my fingers between the box and the merchandise, and pulled out a stack of classic DVDs. On top was the Joe Sarno-directed Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle. Underneath sat the Amero Brothers’ wonderfully crafted Blonde Ambition. In the center, bookended by both films, was Radley Metzger’s Sexploitation masterpiece Maraschino Cherry. Having seen Annie assume the bottom position so many times throughout her film career the image of her smiling face and large, bare breasts on top of anything, even a diminutive pile of DVDs, was a pleasant irony not lost on either of us.

All three movies were part of a care package that had arrived the previous day, a very generous ‘thank you’ from Steven Morowitz, Head of Production for Video-X-Pix. Steven had graciously agreed to an interview a few days earlier to discuss his company’s latest undertaking: a High Definition DVD transfer of the XXX classic, Inside Little Oral Annie. The first HD transfer of its kind, he and his current staff of two were feverishly putting the final touches on the project when I caught up with him. Somehow I didn’t feel as if my hour-and-a-half intrusion into his tight schedule merited any kind of reward, let alone a gift of this magnitude. After all, it was he who should be thanked for spearheading the preservation of an important legacy, one seemingly glossed over and forgotten by all but the most cliquish legion of die-hard retro porn fans and film historians. But, somewhere down the line, Steven had discovered that I shared his affinity for history and he insisted that I see first-hand some of the amazing reissues that his company had already released.

The company’s own history stretches back to 1965 when Steven’s father, Arthur Morowitz, a pioneer in both the video rental and home video markets, started Video-X-Pix. Originally called Distribpix, the company produced and distributed adult-themed features to premier movie houses coast-to-coast, during the height of the Exploitation and Sexploitation film eras. At the time, their roll call boasted a who’s who of future porn royalty. Ron Jeremy, Vanessa Del Rio, John Holmes, Seka and others called the label home. Their stable of pre-eminent filmmakers was no less formidable, housing such directorial visionaries as Joe Sarno, Ron Sullivan, Radley Metzger and The Amero Brothers. It was a neatly assembled entertainment collective unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Together, their vast output of films pushed the boundaries of good taste and irreversibly altered society’s perceptions of sex during the decade of free love. Their early forays into implicit soft-core skin flicks and well-timed bouts of pre-meditated rebellion also laid the foundation for the Golden Age of porn, clearing the way for movies like Deep Throat nearly a decade later.

Though film production at the company ceased in 1989, the lure of new technology and the growing demand for classic porn films spurred a Video-X-Pix renaissance in 2002. The recent discovery of a vault containing original 35mm Distribpix negatives certainly helped fuel their inevitable rebirth. By hitching the immediate fortunes of the company to Blu-Ray, HD and Video On Demand formats, Steven hopes to share the Distribpix legacy with a whole new generation of film lovers.

It is impossible to put a numerical value on hope, but Steven readily admits to spending way too much on a few of his releases. He’ll be quick tell you it’s a labor of love, and throughout our interview, as he recalled his father’s and grandfather’s stories of drugs and guns, of mob rule and public relations shakedowns, and of sitting of Seka’s lap as a young child, unaware of who she was at the time, the tone in his voice did not betray that sentiment. Yet, in a time when adult video producers and retailers are scratching and clawing just to survive thanks to the glut of free porn and Tube sites that permeate the internet, many might wonder why any business savvy entrepreneur would chance running a company from the red, even for art’s sake, for history’s sake…for goodness’ sake.

“Holy shit!” blurted Robert, a look of utter amazement crossing his face as I removed the semi-glossy slipcover from the Annie Sprinkle film, cracked open the heavy-duty case and let the 24-page booklet and Annie Sprinkle finger puppet spill out onto my desk.

Wonder no more.

TS: I’ve got a ton of questions prepared, so if you have other important things that you need to do…

SM: Nah, we’ve got nothing really going on. I’m thinking it might be easier to…I’m just thinking if I should sit down here and call you back from a landline. Let me check this…let me see something. I’m just going to put the phone down and make sure I can hear it. Let me check this out. Go ahead…hello?

TS: I’m here.

SM: Go for it, man. I can hear you fine.

TS: Okay. Well, I guess I just want to start from the beginning. I’m kind of a history buff, so I like knowing about the history of different things. I figured, before we get to the Little Oral Annie film, which is the crux of why I’m talking to you today, I wanted to go back through the history of Video-X-Pix and all that stuff.

SM: Sure. You’re the writer. Ask me whatever and I’ll try to keep the answers somewhat short-winded, because I can babble like a mother and I don’t want to do that.

TS: No, please do.

SM: I can go on for…I can go on and on and on. But, yeah. I’ll try to keep my answers somewhat short…but sure, whatever you want to establish I’ll do my best.

TS: Okay, let’s start back where it all began. I know that your dad, Arthur [Morowitz], who I should throw in there that he’s a member of the Founder’s Branch of the AVN Hall Of Fame, he started the company back in 1965.

SM: That’s right.

TS: I read something about he was one of the first ones to start renting videos, is that correct?

SM: Yeah. He was definitely one of the pioneers in the home video…you know, for home video entertainment. In a nutshell, soon after starting Distribpix and being in the industry…Sexploitation, Adult… he also went on to start a chain of video stores called Video Shack, which was a pretty large chain of stores in the northeastern United States. I think it was the first chain of video stores and he went on to become the president of the Video Software Dealers Association, which was a pretty esteemed position back then, and I think he held it for about a decade or so until he gave it up because of other things. But, yeah, he was very important in the home video market…video sales and rental, VHS and Beta. You know, I guess the two things at that point were somewhat separated, but I do remember being younger and, growing up, I remember being at the grand opening of some of the stores. And I remember when my grandfather…he was so old and he was actually let go from his job in the garment industry in New York City and there was a store…my dad had a flagship store on 49th Street and Broadway. It was huge – two floors with big escalators and stairwells. I remember they had an adult room upstairs with a curtain and I remember my grandfather used to stand in front of the curtain to make sure no one, who was under 18, got in the neon lights stuff [laughs]. It was pretty cool. So, yeah, [my dad] was pretty involved with the home video market and he was, you know, growing up that’s all I have memories and all I have pictures of. There were always pictures in his office of him in those white suits [like] at the Sony factory, always on the cusp of stuff. He was always involved. Then he went on to have an exclusive contract with Vince McMahon from the WWF for about ten years as well, maybe a little bit less. That was Coliseum Video, which was his company and they did all the exclusive…all the licensing of all the video footage. They made all the video tapes for the WWF at that time, until they went back in-house to Titan Sports. So, he was definitely an important figure. You know, we still get calls every now and then from people who still think we’re Coliseum Video and stuff like that [laughs]. It’s pretty cool. He’s not too involved anymore, you know, due to his age and his involvement with his own career, but real important…real important. I can get you better recollections of things if you need it, but yeah I actually think you’re right. Video Shack may have been the first United States rental outfit for VHS.

TS: Well, I read it on the internet, so it has got to be factual, right? [laughs]

SM: [laughs] Exactly! No, but as you can tell I’m pretty leisurely, a pretty mellow guy and I’m pretty sure that is true. I have about six historians that I work with. One of them is probably the premier in the country for his age and his knowledge, mostly for film, but particularly Golden Age adult stuff. I tend to get together with all these old-school guys that made these movies, the ones that are still alive, and I somewhat associate with them during the week for interviews or drinks or whatnot, and I do remember talking to a guy who did interview my father for this really long interview a few years back. I remember him interviewing him about being the first guy to do the rentals and stuff like that. There’s always a little bit of truth, obviously, you know, but like you said: if it’s on the internet it’s true. [laughs]

TS: [laughs] Absolutely. It’s so cool that you talk to all those historians, because I find that taking little bits of information in written form is often out of context and I think that if you can put that in the context of what’s going on in society at the time and what’s popular, you get a much more vivid picture of why things happen the way they did. I’m sure that’s the same for your video company.

SM: Yeah. Did you by any chance, and I’m sure the answer is going to be “no”, but did you actually see the last three movies that our company did before this HD one? Did you happen to see the packages, not the actual movies?

TS: I haven’t seen any of the packages. I know they are all…

SM: Okay. Hold on one sec. I’m not getting off the phone by any means. This is our headquarters here and I’m looking at your emails, because I want to make sure I have your address. I want to send you these three samples. The reason why I’m bringing it up…it’s not even necessarily talking about what we were able to do with the video and all that stuff and just going back to 35mm negatives and doing HD transfers and stuff like that, but what’s more important to us than, I think, any other company that does adult if you will: the old stuff. Most people are just fly-by-nighters. They don’t care about the history. I’m the only guy pretty much in America, except a couple other guys that have a legacy, a direct lineage to this stuff, who grew up around it and I’m fascinated with the historical aspects such as you. For example, anything from all the stock footage we have of old ’70s New York City, from the Checker Cabs to the Twin Tower fly-bys. We’ve got unbelievable architectural outdoor shots putting these movies into the proper historical context, whereas when they were made they were incredibly important whether they were made for the mob, whether they were made for this guy, whether they were made for that guy. We have impeccable records. We’ve actually had our records in museums and we’ve had them looked at by people in the Smithsonian and so forth. Not to be exhibited, but just because they’re historical people who want to look at old documents or old things that they are amazed they are still around, like copyright certificates from 25 years ago, and old headshots from 30 or 40 years ago. Anyway, what we do is the movies were made, and then they went on to do whatever they did, which in most cases, served as a moneymaking…you know, in the ”80s and 90’s there weren’t nearly as many movies as there are now, so everyone who had a movie, they put it in a VHS box, put a hot chick on the cover and they were selling them by the thousands and that’s what it was all about. Obviously, things have changed, so what we’ve done is we’ve taken the backwards approach which is…forget it. I mean, it is pathetic. [laughs] It’s a labor of love. You don’t make the kind of money [you would like to make]. Basically, we take all the experts around us, we get a film that has been treated poorly or a great film that had a lot of footage cut out of it and we go ahead and do the whole thing from negative again. If the director is alive, we get the director involved. If the actors are alive, we get them involved. The historian does interviews and we do onscreen documentaries. My point is: we take the film and we take every part of it and put it into its proper historical context, which actually makes it a much more legitimate project. But, what it’s also doing is we’re trying to get our films, as much as it sounds ridiculous, and of course AEBN and all the other VOD (Video-On-Demand) sites are adult oriented and of course our stuff is XXX. We love all that, but we’ve sort of been looked over by the adult industry. We’re realizing our stuff is accepted more by a cult audience. You know, if you take the sex out of a lot of these movies, you’ve got wonderful b-movies by directors and producers who were cutting trailers for Ingmar Bergman at the time. These are guys, like Radley Metzger and Gerard Damiano and Ron Sullivan that were real filmmakers. My point is: the reason why I asked you if you had those three issues is because those are the three last ones we did that actually included beautifully bonused packages with the extra discs with all the stuff, but more so for historical buffs, we were putting liner note books in that are written by, I think, what would be the greatest…one of the greatest historically-minded guys who knows the genre better than anyone. He writes the books for us and we illustrate them. The last one we did had a 24-page book. Then there was a 20-page book, and the first one had only an 8-page book, but nonetheless you would love them. It would answer so many questions, not about necessarily anything specific that you have, but you would be able to be just like, ‘Wow! I see what these guys are doing.’ It’s kind of like the Criterion approach, but for classics.

TS: Right. I was born in ’71, so a lot of the Sexploitation era stuff I didn’t get to actually see or experience.

SM: We’re about the same age, so I’m with you. A lot of the stuff I see and that goes on here, we get to see again second-hand. One thing I do enjoy is looking at the old contact sheets from all the slides and stuff that we’re taking in shots. I love…like, I’d see my old man on set back in ’67 and his partner and some of these directors that have already died, but they’re so young. I grew up and they were like my uncles. It’s really cool, you know. I have memories like that, but of course I wasn’t around during the ’60s or even a kid during that time. Like you, I’m a child of the early ’70s, so my recollection of the late ’70s and early ’80s…that’s what I can remember greatly.

Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle

Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle

TS: You also get the stories directly from the horse’s mouth so to speak, so you probably have a lot of background just from talking to your old man.

SM: That’s right. It’s just doing it every day.

TS: Maybe you can elaborate on that because I wanted to ask you about Distribpix. That was the name of the company when it first started and they were responsible for producing and distributing adult films to adult theaters throughout the country.

SM: That’s right.

TS: So, I was going to ask you what the scene was like from talking with your dad about [the time] when theaters were on every corner?

SM: It was a totally different time. I actually have some of the…again, I don’t know that it’s illustrated. The press releases were text-wise, but we’ve got some great…dozens and dozens of particular theater photos. We have thousands, by the way, of scans and archival photos, and so many that haven’t even been digitized because it’s just a time consuming thing. But, we’ve got some wonderful ones of the theaters he used to own. It’s like a different time. To my benefit, after I get off the phone with you I’ll send you a picture. You can actually see some of the theaters on 42nd Street and this is more…I’m talking about maybe ’70…’68…’69…before [the movie] Deep Throat. They were action shots, so you could see vans parked in the front, people walking across the theater. It actually looked kind of decent. It wasn’t really XXX crazy smutty yet, you know what I’m saying? But, the atmosphere was hopping. It was New York City. It was Times Square. The theaters…again, there are pictures and we have them where it’s just theater house after theater house after theater house, and it was hopping. I definitely have a lot of interviews, a lot of hours of people that we’ve interviewed on camera that could first-hand attest to the conditions and what it was like, especially during the mid-to-later ’70s when, you know, the XXX really started to take effect after Deep Throat. We have Vanessa Del Rio and Ron Jeremy, people like that telling us because they were totally New York City-based, [and] Annie Sprinkle telling us what it was like to live here. Vanessa would tell us what it was like to come down from The Bronx and stop at 42nd Street and how everybody would get high and they would pass around joints and how it was the place to go. Then she would start talking about how she would start street walking. Stuff like that. Everyone would talk about the Hellfire Club and what they used to do. The scene was really happening. Obviously, it’s night and day for today. When I grew up, I definitely have first-hand accounts of what I could remember it being like, but there were more late ’70s accounts and I was five or six years old and I would go into the city and I would go to these places. As I got a little bit older, my recollections get better, but those are not until the mid-’80s, which of course Times Square was still kind of seedy back then, but it’s just started to get kind of cleaned up. It was a very real, you know, raw environment. I think a great thing for me to do…I might even have it on the computer right here. I’m going to send you a couple of those pictures. You know how pictures are so descriptive you can get so much of a picture from it?

TS: Absolutely.

SM: It’s funny because there is a place in the city called Tad’s…T-A-D-S. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Manhattan, but it’s called Tad’s Steaks. It’s like a joint, you know, it’s like a real steak joint. It’s been there forever and there’s this one picture…you see these guys, with, like, a briefcase, walking to work and another guy making a delivery and the Tad’s Steaks sign, and you’d see this theater and it says: “Skin Deep in Love” and it was very black and white, but I think you can get a good feeling from them. It was certainly a real business from what I understand and the way my old man would tell me things, especially back in the day. You know, it was a business. They were doing it as a business. They weren’t trying to…this was a new thing for a lot of people. Remember: it was the beginning. There wasn’t even sex. It was Sexploitation. There were artistic filmmakers who tried to push the bounds of decency with every film. And every film they got a little bit more skin, you know, they showed a bit more skin with every film and that’s what got my father to…he’s  got a quote that we always say is that “Distribpix built the porn industry one pubic hair at a time.” What that really means is that, basically, in ’68 or ’65 there might have been movies that, you know, they showed a little chest. Then, in ’66, there might have been a nipple. Then, in ’67, there might have been a butt. Then, before you knew it, you were reaching this environment where all of a sudden it became Deep Throat. There were, of course, other movies before Deep Throat that did have penetration, but that became the most famous. It’s pretty amazing.

TS: Let me ask you about that, then, because I was reading some stuff on the whole Sexploitation scene and I read that there was a lot of backlash that came from the Motion Picture Association of America and a lot of mainstream America frowned on that whole thing. I mean, you just came out of the era of free love and it seems like it should have been more accepted, but cultural values were a lot different at that time. So, how much did the backlash play towards making that whole Sexploitation scene successful or maybe even more successful?

SM: I really have to tell you I try my best to do a lot of reading. I have three little kids at home and it’s not part of the story, but they’re young and they get crazy, so I don’t sleep much. Between TV and reading I try to…a lot of the historians I look up to and that have kind of mentored me, they give me readings and they give me books that would be appropriate for what I’m going through. So, between the books that I’ve read and what I’ve understood, actually, and this is a fact, everything that the government…and this is not maybe not just what we’re talking about, but in a nutshell, everything that the government tried to do from MIPORN or the Meese Commission, all the things over the years that they tried to do to fight pornography, and besides the fact that you and I both know porn is the biggest thing in the world, if you will, pretty much from the internet searches to “Tube” sites and “Torrent” sites will come up before Microsoft in some cases, we all know how rampant it is. But, the point is, with all the things that they all did and all the money that the FBI and everybody always spent to try to clean things up, inevitably all they did [was] they just helped to make it more popular. I say that based on the fact that I read a book recently…again, like you said, not everything in writing and the internet is true, and I’m smart enough to know that, but I kind of put one and one together and I realize that, after I was reading the whole book…you may have read it, I believe it was called The Other Hollywood.  I loved it. It was definitely tabloid-ish and I read a lot of the other books of people who were interviewed for this book, so you don’t know if a lot of it is true or not, but basically they were saying is that after all was said and done, that’s what the whole book was about…going after the mafia and going after organized crime and porn, and yada, yada, yada. Of course, they were trying to find child pornography people, but pornographers are not child pornographers. You’ll never find a child pornographer in this business. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t like to say that, but that’s not what we are. We’re pornographers, if you will. We’re not even [pornographers]. We’re more historians, but the people in the business are pornographers. What they were saying at the end of the book, after all they did, the $4 billion they spent to fight the industry for all those years, after all was said and done, whoever they put in jail and whoever they indicted, the industry went from…again, don’t quote me because the numbers aren’t right, but it went from something like a $20 million industry to a $100 million industry. As far as you mean like when you’re watching the movies about the old Mitchell Brothers and the O’Farrell Theater and everyone used to picket everywhere, even in the city, my father, all those guys were always brought to jail. They called them the “tombs”, which were down in New York City, down on Wall Street by the precinct. They had these downtown, these underground jail cells and they would bring all the bookers there and the people in the theaters. There were always busts and there were probably always people here or there who would want to get rid of that stuff, but as far as I can remember, it was part of life. As a young kid, I had two brothers that were all brought up around the same thing. As a young kid I was in the theaters. I was in the projection booths. I kind of knew what was going on, but I didn’t care because I was so desensitized. I guess my point is: I never saw too much of that, let’s call it ticketing, or arguing the sex aspect. Inevitably, you know, my father does have more hands-on stuff. He did tell me lots of stories and he’s been interviewed where I’ve listened in and he’s talked about where he’s in court several times and he’d have to pay a lot of money to people in the press. Not in the press, but, you know, his P.R. people. For example, someone like you. He would pay a lot of money to keep his name out of the news as opposed to being in the news. So, he was always a low profile. There always will be, by the way, there are always people coming out of the woodwork even today. You have to have an attorney and you have to have that stuff, but I guess the answer to…I’m swaying from your question, but I guess the answer is I think any of the majority of the…besides someone who is a stool pigeon or besides someone they are looking to make an example of…other than that I don’t see that anyone has been really successful, if you will. I mean, if they’re successful in fighting porn, it’s so rampant, it’s more than anything else out there. I only think that the fight helps to promote, if you kind of know where I’m coming from.

TS: I do. They always say that bad press is still press. If you talk about something negatively, you’re still keeping it out in the public view.

SM: That’s it! And that’s a very big part of it. I can’t personally…because of my age…I’m just coming up to 40, I don’t have the same experiences hands-on. They would be more second accounts, but there was definitely…everybody spent, you know, did their jail time. I know a guy who had a story not that long ago from one of the directors who was a famous guy, John Amero. Him and his brother Lem Amero did a lot of wonderful movies back in the day, gay and straight, and he was telling this story about how one day he was asked to be the theater manager for one night for the opening of High Rise, which is another movie that we own, which happens to have been shot by Friday the 13th director Danny Steinmann, which is very cool. I happen to know all of that stuff because we have a very historical library. Most other people will never be able to give you this kind of information, but nonetheless he was telling me that the second the credits started rolling, cops came in, took him, took the lady, took everybody down to the jail. Then they got their bologna sandwich and they had to try to make bail and they got their mug shots. This is just a poor, old, nice lady who is accepting money at the ticket booth. [laughs] You can’t take that away from history, but I think the entertainment of, you know, adult entertainment, if you will, the free urge to be able to watch what you want and to be able to be in a free country, I think that has prevailed over anything else.

TS: I agree with you completely. Let me go back a little bit. You mentioned Deep Throat a couple times. I know that is often cited as where adult film really started, but obviously you and I both know that the Sexploitation came well before that and was the precursor.

SM: Sure.

TS: So I wanted to ask you: If you could…I don’t think a lot of people really know what Sexploitation is. So, I wanted to see if you could give everybody who is going to read this an idea of what the era was all about and why it’s important in the historical context of film.

SM: Sure. Oh, easily. I could do that real easily actually, because I do it quite often and I can do it pretty simply in a simple way. It’s actually been done before, if for example you want to look up a couple of things I tell you, you might be able to get a better-worded description. In a nutshell, and this will cover everything you just asked, Distribpix was started, you know, as I said, in the mid-’60s when the environment was, like you said, getting out of Vietnam…the whole thing, the sexual society and will of America was changing, you know what I’m saying? Bra-burning was happening…just like you said everything was changing. So, in that time of free love, if you will, came along a group of filmmakers who I guess, in a way, wanted to push the envelope. To do that they started to make artistic films, which they liked to make. They all made artistic films and that was really exploitation – black and white, artistic-style films.  Then, and again I’m being very broad-stroked here, but I’m kind of giving you a picture. Then, when those films became…they were artistic, if you will, so they were kind of exploitation. They were maybe artistic with horror, maybe artistic with some force, maybe the subject or content was a little bit risqué. And I think you know what I’m talking about. They were exploitation.  They were exploitative films. And then, when those films got a little bit risqué, maybe they got a little bit more sexually-oriented. Maybe they, you know, showed women and men engaging in sexual hugs or sexual poses. You know, they became more…maybe the content became more sexual-oriented like taboo stuff. We have a lot of movies in our Distribpix library like Mother Knows Best and My Swedish Cousin. You know, hints of taboo, but without the actual sex. If you’re following me, now you get into Sexploitation. The movies are…they’re still lower budget, black and white-type flicks. Of course with the Sexploitation thing there were many in color, but the earlier ones [were] black and white, low-budgeted, artsy-type flicks with a sexual nature. That, to me, is Sexploitation, a perfect way to explain it. Artsy, fartsy films, if you will, with a sex twist to it. Sexploitation became a genre that’s widely trampled on. You have everybody from Dave Friedman and Harry Novak and guys like that all the way up through my father and Distribpix and stuff like that. But nonetheless, that created the environment, the Sexploitation films is what really created the environment, created the volcano, which became, you know… me? I don’t really care much for Deep Throat. I think it’s a phenomenon, but the film itself is really…it’s cool, but there’s not much going on there except that it’s incredibly, historically important. But all this Sexploitation built up to this volcano, which inevitably burst into the pre-“white coaters”. They call them white coaters. We have some of them in our collection because they were films like The Post Graduate or The Young Starlet, which are not very sexy films, but they would take a professor and put him in a classroom and they would explain sex and it would show a penetration scene. You know, they would do it in an educational environment to justify a theatrical release, you know what I’m saying? As long as they had some kind of educational value then it was okay. So, what I’m trying to create for you is the bubble that burst, which then became Deep Throat. Of course, there were movies like Time For Love in 1970 and many we have, which were full-on, hardcore Amsterdam Dutch girls that came before Deep Throat. But nonetheless, that was really the calling out, ‘Here’s what’s going on. Here’s what’s happening.’ And everything after that kind of opened the doors and people said, ‘Wow! They’re doing it. Let’s not cut the film soft anymore. Let’s not leave people’s clothes on. Let’s take them off.’  You understand all that, right?

TS: Absolutely.  That’s a great description.

SM:  And the one thing that ties it all together, which is what you asked about, how it’s sort of important and how Sexploitation is important or why it’s important, I’ll tell you why. The biggest separation between Sexploitation and XXX is you had, in the Sexploitation and Exploitation…when you say Exploitation, I think of Exploitation movies as Spaghetti Westerns and Horror and all that kind of stuff. Then you add Sexploitation into it. Those movies, some of them, if not many of them, during that time period, you had a lot of prolific filmmaking going on in America. The same guys that were double-lighters or directors of photography or production assistants or camera men, these same guys were moonlighting for, you know, these Sexploitation directors. These guys were producers and directors, but they still needed film crews, they still needed whole sets and everything like that, so you basically…what I’m trying to say is between mainstream Hollywood and mainstream filmmaking, you actually had a lot of spillage toward the Sexploitation. We have a new site that is being launched. It’s a historical site that brings together everything from our company. And if you look through it, you’ll see that our filmography is filled with the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma. He’s in there in one of the films we own called Murder a la Mode. Again, in Exploitation films we really haven’t done that kind of stuff, but my point is: a lot of mainstream people were working on these films that worked on mainstream films. So, you had all of a sudden this great sense of legitimacy now on these films because the same guys that are working on…I’m just using terms out of my butt, but the same guys who worked on A Street Car Named Desire with Marlon Brando, is making $100 on the side by helping out with the lighting on this so-and-so Ron Sullivan Lust Weekend movie. The beauty about that is you actually had wonderful film equipment, wonderful film crews, real budgets on some of the Distribpix films. Why that’s important and why that ties in is that it gave these Sexploitation movies legitimacy, but then what it also did is it created a whole new wave of fans that were able to follow the same people through their mainstream work and then into their Sexploitation work. Then, of course, why it’s so important is that a lot of these guys that went on to shoot Sexploitation movies, for example, under their real name, like Joe Sarno shot under his real name [and] Radley Metzger. Once porn came and took over, all those guys shot under pseudonyms.

Blonde Ambition

Blonde Ambition

TS: I counted 22 different names that Sarno used. I don’t know if he has more.

SM: I think he’s got 40 or something like that. There’s so many. It’s like, a lot of the guys, not because it was necessary or because of partial embarrassment, it was because it became a money-making thing. Even though Radley Metzger made some wonderful pictures, like The Opening of Misty Beethoven…the same thing with Joe Sarno…we knew who the directors were. The people that shot the films knew, but these guys didn’t want it out there, so they gave themselves a silly pseudonym. Sometimes the directors did it for many reasons. Sometimes there was a lady director and they didn’t think the movies would sell well because it was shot by a lady, so she would make a man’s name. Sometimes it was reversed. Shaun Costello thought his movies would be more acceptable under Amanda Barton. Other films he called himself Warren Evans. Other films he called himself Oscar Tripe. On a Swedish film, Joe Sarno would make up all Swedish pseudonyms. On American films he’d call himself Monica Fitta or some crazy name. I guess my point is: you could certainly see these guys were more proud of their legitimate Sexploitation-type work and some of them were…not less proud, but less wanting to be known as that person and so I think the importance lies within the fact that these movies were very historically important because they branch the decade or so before Deep Throat, ten years back to when the first nipple might have been shown.  Of course, you and I both know there was nudity back in the ’20s and before, but I’m talking modern contemporary Sexploitation days. There was a good decade or so of films that were well before any hardcore blowjobs or penetration that were so important that made hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars across the country in many theaters. So, that has to be looked at as a really important time in history…who made those films and why they were important. That’s sort of what we’re kind of doing. Granted, to us it’s about history and that labor of preservation, so the Distribpix stuff is a little bit less known to most of the people. Obviously, what’s more known is the popular XXX-type movies like Inside Little Oral Annie, which is one that we’re proud of because it sold well and whatnot. Still, the market is terrible and sales have virtually gone…dropped off. We’re still continuing to do what we do. So, as far as someone who likes history and wants to always have a finger in this, we’ll always be able to supply them with information and old movies that have never been seen before and stuff like that.

TS: Let’s touch on that. You talked about how sales have kind of declined. I know it’s a “labor of love” and I know that’s important to you and to people like me who enjoy the history, but I remember reading something that said it cost $25,000 to reissue [Radley Metzger’s] Maraschino Cherry video…

SM: That was the Blonde Ambition project I think you are talking about.

TS: Okay, I’m sorry. I got them mixed up.

SM: No problem. They’re both Platinum Elite collections.

TS: Right. So, at what point does it…because I know you had to spend money on new equipment and the server space for HD films is insane. At what point does money not buy you love, if you will?

SM: Tim, great question. Real easy answer. It’s not just us, it’s all entertainment. Not just adult, but the whole video industry has taken a hit, mostly from piracy and the torrent sites. And there’s a lot of free internet porn, so people don’t really need to necessarily buy it. I understand all this stuff. There are certain ways to combat it and other ways to work with it and go with it. We were very successful…or not very, but we were just a couple people here. We used to be six guys and now it’s just me and my partner and one editor. Of course, you know, historians, attorneys, web people…that’s all consultant work, but we had a good game plan. We would release four or five movies a month back when we started in ’03. We had good cash flow and we had good lists of our clients and whatnot. Over the years, with the industry getting hit so hard, many distributors have gone out of business, so stores go out of business. It’s a chain, a domino effect. We found it a lot harder to collect money and it just goes through the whole thing. As far as the budgets go, one way we…again, I don’t know if it’s for the shits or for the store or not, we do protect our assets like nobody else. We’ve won quite a bit of money in legal settlements. Believe it or not, I’ve gone to support some of our projects. Other than that, films like the three Platinum Elite films we did…the reason why those films…just to clarify why it cost so much money is I was giving you the example about what goes into those movies. We have multiple disc sets. We have a 24-page liner note book. We have interviews with Jamie Gillis, full-length commentary of Jamie Gillis on his death bed, full-length commentary of John Amaro, an interview with Suzie Mandell. You have to pay for that stuff. Those are more labor of love. Now, those type of projects are shelved temporarily, exactly for that reason. Really, as far as the way things used to work out, in a nutshell, we would just take a movie off a shitty master and put it out. We don’t do that anymore. Our movies have to be all in the proper historical context, so whether it’s a liner note book, whether it’s an interview, whether it’s a commentary, whether it’s multiple disc sets…like with Annie Sprinkle it’s a three disc set. It’s an interview, the real movie and then a movie with the picture-in-picture commentary. We think it’s our best work. We’re surprised we didn’t get any awards with it, but it’s so well done and not to mention we’re using heavy-duty cases. I’m spending $3,000 just on the gold card alone, which I don’t do anymore. I was going crazy. I was making these beautiful projects starting in ’09 and it sort of rolled off at the end. The last one was Blonde Ambition, which when all was said and done was about $20,000. And that’s low compared to what an HD restoration in a mainstream movie would cost. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have contracts with people who license some of my mainstream stuff and the money they spend on restoration is just mind-boggling. As far as the film restoration, taking the 35mm…that’s our expertise…taking our 35mm negatives to the lab and now we’re doing all HD transfers, which doesn’t mean everything will be in HD, it just means it will be HD quality because not everyone out there can stream HD or can sell a Blu-Ray.

TS: That’s the full 1080p [resolution], right?

SM: That’s correct. And to be honest with you, we’re doing 2k transfers which are 2,000 pixels, so it’s even greater. But, to do Blu-Ray it is 1080p, so we actually down-convert the signal. The film part of it…we are sort of experts and we work with experts, so that part of it has actually become a lot more affordable for us. Believe it or not, we probably have the most affordable film transfers. The people we work with so love working with us because all of our transfers come off negatives and not prints or nothing beat up, which most people would never transfer a print to HD anyway because you get all the splices and all the shitty stuff that’s in it. So, we’re using original camera negatives. They’re pristine. So, to answer your question: no. We are not able to spend that kind of money anymore on projects. We’ve decided to take a new approach, since the market has just been so negative to us. The bottom line is we have changed the way that we’re doing our projects by finding out what is most important. The truth of the matter is, like many people out there, I think most of what you can fit on a DVD is better as far as extras.

TS: I did see the stills on your blog and those looked fantastic.

SM: Right now they are working in the other room. We’re finalizing the centering and we’re doing our final color correction, anything that would need to be done. It’s phenomenal. We’ve never seen anything like it. It’s on an HD monitor right now. We’re still dealing with our own technical issues to try to get the system down right, but those Platinum crazy projects…when you see these, when you open up your DVDs, you’re going to see how much shit is in it. There are cut film cells, there are finger puppets, there are photo inserts, 24-page liner note book, three discs. You’re going to be like, ‘Oh, my God! How do these guys stay in business?’ We took a bath on that stuff, you know? And [many of the VOD companies] didn’t do much to promote us either. We’re proud little guys; we don’t complain, but we decided it’s time to work with guys like [AEBN]. Inevitably, we are cutting down on projects like that and the ways we’re doing it is to transfer these films, but we’re not worrying so much about a hard, good release right off the bat. We’re seeing if we can earn some money back VOD first to pay for some of the transfers. We’re upgrading the picture quality of all of our shitty movies that are…you know, we only have really one or two VOD agreements. We’re not all over the place. We’re not on any “torrents” or any “tubes”. We don’t believe in any of that stuff.  Our stuff is kind of rare out there, but we can get it to look better by doing these new transfers. Again, we’re going to release it as a litmus test to see if there is a demand for classic Blu-Ray material. Now, [Inside Little Oral Annie] will be, from my understanding , the only classic ever released as a Blu-Ray so far in the country. Again, it’s a good-selling movie. It’s not an artistic movie. It’s a good blow job movie. She’s famous at giving head and it’s about the transfer. There are not going to be any liner notes. There are not going to be any extras except the trailer. We’re not going to throw 10-15 thousand dollars into interviewing tons of people and doing a major project for 100 sales. It was different back in the day. That’s a great question that you asked. Because of the industry and because of the market we’ve had to cut back. You know, it doesn’t mean these aren’t expensive. They still cost thousands of dollars to do these transfers and whatnot, but the point is that if you could spend that money without all the other stuff it makes the bottom line a little easier to digest. Little Oral Annie is going to be more the bare-bones-type of movie. We’re taking pride in the transfer and the beautiful filmwork as opposed to all the extras because, quite frankly, for that movie, it wouldn’t qualify as a Platinum Elite Collection, meaning there aren’t too many extras and it’s not a very artistic movie. Some of our movies perfectly connote themselves to be historically preserved; others are just fine as sex films.

TS: Let me ask you this: In reading up about your company, I remember reading up on the whole VHS thing back in the ’80s and I remember one of the things your dad did. He made the originals very scarce because he didn’t want to water all that stuff down, since movies were getting really cheap. Some of this is “labor of love” as you established, but are you doing these because there were some companies that were bootlegging the material before you got a chance to do anything with it?

SM: The bootlegging thing is rampant. We’ve been involved with lawsuits since we started and we’ve always won whether it be a settlement or whether it is in court. We’re five for five on our lawsuits based on copyright infringement of our intellectual property. One of the things we have going for us is that most of our stuff is copyrighted. Usually, we don’t like to get involved in major litigation, so you just ask somebody to stop. Stuff goes on all over the world and sometimes people are just willing to stop, but people who aren’t willing to stop you take it a step further. The Blu-Ray or the HD stuff really doesn’t necessarily have to do with the bootleggers. There are tons of companies…that put out crappy stuff off of super-VHS and terrible loops and that’s fine. Our versions are much better than that, and obviously being able to put something out in HD you know we have the negatives and we’re the owner of the film. It’s a nice thing to do, but as far as my father’s take on it, he always wanted to keep things less cheap and less cheesy. Back in the day, for movies such as Inside Seka, he paid Seka ten thousand dollars for that movie, which was unheard of. We interviewed her recently. It was unheard of back then, but the reason why he did it is because he wanted her not to work for anyone cheap anymore. In a way it was good, but it was also bad because it sets precedents for other people. She was different. She knew what she was worth. As far as the Blu-Ray thing and as far as the labor of love, basically the way we transfer in our transfer house, the HD telecine costs as much as a standard telecine, so there is no reason for us to take our negatives and transfer them standard. Even if we don’t release them as HD, you’re still getting a crisper, much better transfer. So, the idea for putting them out is really a litmus test. Like I said, we want to see if they’ll sell. If they’ll sell, we’ll put out our better-selling XXX movies on Blu-Ray or whatever the format is. Maybe that’s enough to get a gimmick. Maybe it’s not. You know, I don’t have a lot of confidence about it because the industry is so bad right now. I have a lot of people telling me they can’t even get rid of their Blu-Ray stuff, so it’s one of those things we’re just kind of trying. I’m always trying to top the bootleggers and the pirates, but it’s so easy to top them, so I don’t let it get that much to me. Really, it’s not even so much for the labor of love. We’re really excited to see if it’s going to be commercially viable.

TS: There’s obviously a demand. Your company had its renaissance around 2002, but did you know the demand was as big as it is? I know retro is back in. Did you know the extent of the demand for these films or is that something that snuck up on you?

SM: Yes. I knew…like, I was born around this stuff, literally. When I was a little kid, I would hang out with Seka, not knowing it was Seka until after I was older. So, I’ve always been around it. It was a huge money-maker back in the day. Of course, it kind of got mothballed. In a nutshell, it was just my buddy, his brother and me because they were digital guys and I was the guy who had the stuff in his legacy and his lineage. We just kind of got together and said, ‘Let’s try to put this stuff out.’ There is a ton of interest. If we could get all the people to stop stealing it and bootlegging it, everyone would do well again. Other than that, yeah, I think it took a lot of people by surprise. It is vintage. It is retro. One thing is it’s always in. As much as our demographic is older guys, guys who saw this in the theater, maybe people in their mid-40s and 50s, you do find young people all the time who do find an incredible amount of interest to this stuff from the film education environment…film students.  I was definitely surprised, in the beginning especially. A lot of people knew of this and know of this, so in the last five years at least two dozen classic-style compilation companies show up and they all put out the same stuff, so it really dilutes the market, if you will. I was kind of surprised. I knew a lot of these films, our films, sold by competitors were great films, but I didn’t know they were still selling to the capacity that they did, so the first few years we were definitely surprised. But, retro is in. It never goes away. Our phone rings every day and our fax rings every day. Even if it is for one piece, there is always somebody out there looking for something.

TS: Or if it’s some guy trying to get an interview out of somebody, right? [laughs]

SM: [laughs] Yeah. That’s more rare, believe me, but this I like. Yeah, it’s all good stuff, but I was surprised a little bit, I was. I was especially surprised with some of the VOD companies. In the beginning, they were really excited to jump in with us on stuff that wasn’t necessarily proven because I think they knew that content is king, so it’s just about having it. But, yeah, the classics were a surprise for sure. I didn’t know they would take off again so quickly after they were mothballed for 15 years.

TS: Why do you think some of those movies are still so popular? I have some of my own ideas, but I’d like to get your take on it. I mean, you have some huge names that have been in your films. You mentioned Ron Jeremy earlier, and Seka and Annie Sprinkle. So, why are their movies still popular? Is it because they were the first to do it or is there something else?

SM: They were not only the first, but they were the chosen ones. It could have been anybody. Let’s say it was that group of people, Veronica Hart, Jerry Butler, Ron Jeremy, John Holmes, all the guys, the 30, 40, 50, 60…all the old school ones, they were there. Why they chose to make the films and why they’re still important and so sought after is for many reasons. Again, you just said it. You’ve got your celebrity appeal now. I mean, Ron Jeremy is as mainstream as much as he is a porn guy. He’s recognized everywhere.

TS: I actually got to meet him. He actually came to our building a couple years ago to do a little promo for us. I got to hang out with him a little bit. He’s an interesting dude.

SM: Yeah. He’s a fucking character. He’s very friendly. He was always very friendly with my old man. I mean, we gave him his first picture. The first movie he was ever in was Tigresses [and Other Man Eaters]. My father produced it. You basically just see his dick. He was getting a blow job in it, but long story short you have your celebrity appeal. Some of these people are still very much involved in the industry. They’re still very much writing books, going on talk shows, so of course you have that. But, you have to understand that retro is back. A lot of these movies, I’m not just talking about mine I’m talking across the board, besides filmmaking value and sex you’ve got some really hokey, funny stories. For our movies, if you take the sex out of them…we have a lot of soft versions of all our movies…you have these crazy, ridiculously hokey-pokey dramas, comedies, mysteries, horrors, you know, some cheaply shot, some very well shot. There is a certain amount of…and I’m trying to think of the right word…historical value to them. A lot of these films you have fly-bys of the Twin Towers in them. I mean, the Twin Towers are gone. You cannot re-produce a Checker Cab. I don’t want to say you can’t, but you’ll never see them really again. There is a cultural value to them. They’re retro. There is a crossover celebrity value to a lot of these people who were making them just as kids. You know, Ron Jeremy was a school teacher when he first got into doing this. And there’s, I think, a phenomenon with that. I think that there is also a phenomenon with forgetting about people who knew who Ron Jeremy was and all that…just the retro vibe. People like natural as opposed to all the silicone they see. People like natural bush as opposed to shaved bush. There is still natural that is out there. There are people that still want to see porn without the Cialis and without the Viagra. I think that the classics lend themselves toward that, if you will.

TS: It’s funny. I was talking with my wife and I joked with her how I actually enjoy going to the mall again because I can buy Vans and drink an Orange Julius.

High Rise

High Rise

SM: [laughs] Dude, you just got it! That was brilliantly said. What you just said, I am with you 100%. That’s just it. I think it’s the coolest thing. You’re right on! I’m a little biased because, with editing a lot of the stuff here and with looking at color correction we constantly see, the…you know, we look at the content and we see what it is and I could send you some samples of my movies and tell you what time to go to. Like, go to thirty-three minutes and it’s going to be one of the funniest scenes you’ve ever seen. We have a movie called High Rise. Again, it was a one porn wonder from Danny Steinmann, who was known as Danny Stone, who shot Friday the 13th Part 2. A really interesting guy, but there’s a scene in it where Harry Reems is playing with his train sets. Of course you have to see the scene and I could probably even send it to you as a clip, but it’s one of the funniest scenes I have ever fucking seen. Basically, when this girl comes in she’s like, ‘What are you doing? Don’t you like girls?’ It’s Tamie Trevor and she’s like, ‘Don’t you like girls?’ and he’s like, (in a whiny voice) ‘Girls?’ and he’s got his conductor cap on. He’s like, ‘Who needs girls? I have my toys! I have my trains!’ And she’s like, ‘A girl is a boy’s best toy’ or something like that and he’s like, ‘Why?’ and she whips out her boobs and you hear these sound effects (makes a repetitive whooping noise.) It’s so hokey and funny I could watch it over and over and over and over again. It’s stuff like that you can make volumes of reasons why they still work and I don’t know whether some people online, for example, on VOD would want to try out a classic. Is it because they’re so sick and tired of seeing all the wonderful stuff? Maybe some people want shittier stuff. I don’t think that is the case because [you] and I are both well-aware that the quality classic stuff, like Alpha France, would retain a lot more than the shittier quality stuff. Obviously, that is not always the case because [other companies] have done very well on VOD too and their stuff is the worst quality out there. It really is kind of like a crap shoot, but I think, definitely, without it you’d be missing a hell of a genre.

TS: What do you think of today’s porn? I mean, I get to see a lot of it doing movie reviews and stuff for our company. I have my own opinions about it, but how does new stuff compare? I know guys like Joe Sarno just died this year and a couple of other guys in your stable, like Jamie Gillis passed away too. What would guys like them…or do you have an idea of what they would think about the current crop of adult movies?

SM: It’s funny you asked that. I have Annie Sprinkle, during the Annie Sprinkle interview, it’s a very good question, because we asked her that exact question and she answers it on film. You’ll hear her answer on the tape. We also asked Gloria Leonard. She answered it. And we also asked Seka, so we have a lot of hands-on personal…you know…what other people think. I talked to Jamie about it. That’s a very common question. Joe was much older. I knew Joe from a young boy. I know that I don’t think he had too much of an opinion. He was very old and 89 and wasn’t very…you know, I didn’t see him being on the Tube sites at night and stuff. [laughs] As far as my take on it, I’ve seen it come a long way. I’ve been involved in it and I have a friend who is actually here right now who has been in the business for, I’d say, 20 years plus on the sales and on the production side. He has seen it go from when there was no such thing as a shaved bush or implants to full-blown everything. As far as me, I’m desensitized to a degree. Like you said, you see this stuff, you review it all the time. I go out to Chatsworth. I grew up with it. It’s not the sex part of it. I like a lot of stuff…but I think that the well-done spoofs are very entertaining. I think that the generic aspect of making parodies is a wonderful way to keep people and get more people involved in porn. For example, it might be hard to get your wife to watch Lex the Impaler 6 or Whitezilla Fucked My Daughter or Blackzilla Broke My Daughter’s Pussy, but it might be a lot easier to get them to watch Rosanne XXX or Sex in the City or Not the Cosby’s, you know what I’m saying. I’m saying the same stuff that I’ve read, but I totally agree with those points of view. Just my wife alone, who is not a fan and most of the time thinks this stuff is disgusting, but could care less that I’m involved in any of it, but she also knows that I’m much more involved in the historical aspect as much as, you know, the other generations were more smut-peddling because I’m not really selling much of the stuff. But, I do enjoy that part of it. I like some of the things that they do and, of course, I have my own collection and I get screeners from people, so I have my pirates and some of the remakes that people have done, like Vivid and Wicked and Digital Playground and I think that it’s amazing. I do have a lot of respect for those companies, quite frankly. Who wouldn’t want to be doing stuff…you know, today it’s very hard to make things happen, so to be in a situation like Zero Tolerance or Digital Playground or one of the bigger-type production companies that is actually involved in toys, novelties and DVDs, that’s a wonderful thing. As far as everything else, I’m very…I have a very sour taste about it. We’ve seen a lot of companies do nothing but put out compilations and market them as new releases year in and year out.

TS: I’ve seen tons of those, like a clip from eight years ago they’ve just recycled.

SM: [One particular company] used to do it all the time and there are a lot of people who would do it and it turns people off. And again, I’m not really a big porn buyer, if you will, I’m so busy. So, I don’t really have an opinion here nor there, but I’m not a fan of that. I think a lot of stuff is way too cookie cutter. That’s a second criticism, but I think that’s common in any industry, but with adult…because everyone and their uncle can have a camera, you really start to see the cream…the cream rises to the top and there is a lot of shit at the bottom is what I’m saying. For example, my friend showed me, you know, I went on YouTube not that long ago and I looked up…I don’t know if you saw the Big Lebowski trailer with Tom Byron, but I actually thought it was incredibly fucking entertaining. I’m also a fan of Tom Byron. I like it. I like that kind of stuff. I never saw the movie, but I thought it was really entertaining. They shot it in HD and it looks great. I think the people who are on the cusp, out on the forefront of what we’re doing are spending the money because they have it to spend. I’m not trying to sound like someone who jumps on the bandwagon, but I’m more apt to accept that stuff as opposed to the stuff that’s recycled. You know what I mean. It’s enough. We saw it five years ago. And then, at the same time, there are still some companies that are trying to find out where they belong, whether they’re spoofs or parodies or where they want to go and they’re trying new things. My take on…like Jamie, when I spoke to him several times, I think he’s always been a fan of the genre. Throughout the years, his cohorts over at Evil Empire, which stayed in touch with him, or Elegant or whatever he used to work for, sent him movies…you know, screeners to keep him involved and seeing what was going on. He would have had more of an opinion, a personal opinion if you had asked him that question as opposed to someone like Joe Sarno, who was maybe out of it for so long. Jamie was still and always will be a sexual deviant, you know, even up in heaven or hell, wherever he resides. And girls, for example like Seka, and Annie and Gloria Leonard, those were people…they speak very highly of their day in the industry. They have very little to regret, if nothing. As a matter of fact, a lot of the stories you hear about Linda Lovelace and being tied up against her will, it’s all bullshit.

TS: Do you think this or do you know?

SM: I’m pretty sure it’s all bullshit. I think she was beaten up by her husband all the time. I think he was abusive. Chuck Traynor was an abusive scumbag, but I don’t think she was forced by any means. I’ve spoken to so many people who were alive and I don’t think she was forced to do anything with an animal…anything. She was a kook. She was a zany woman. And she regretted what she did years later. A couple other people did that. To give you the flip side, I have on tape…I have on camera, which I’ve released, you know, Annie Sprinkle, one of these feminist queens, who is a poet…Sharon Mitchell, Gloria Leonard, Seka…all these people, all on film, I would ask them ‘What do you think of girls today? What did you think of porn back then compared to porn today?’ At first a lot of people would say, for example Gloria Leonard would say that a lot of women looked up to Seka. She was very, very genuine…very sweet. There wasn’t a lot of infighting. If you didn’t respect them you didn’t respect them and that was it. You moved on. These women went on to remain friends and to this day Annie Sprinkle is very close…I forget they had a name for it. It’s called the Feminine Triangle or some shit like that. Veronica Vera, Candide Royale, Veronica Hart, Annie Sprinkle, Gloria Leonard…they’re still part of their whole thing. When we asked them about porn today, I do remember her bringing up stuff like [how it’s a] totally different industry, [and how] we didn’t have the type of enhancements that they have today with film, with silicone, with Viagra, with erections, with all that kind of stuff. I think they were saying that…I remember…you’re making me think…I remember Annie saying…and I think Vanessa [Del Rio] saying too that back then you had…everybody was, in a way, if you will, I’m talking about more the Golden Years, everybody was a little different. Vanessa Del Rio, for example was this big, voluptuous Latin woman with this body-building-type body. Seka was a platinum blonde. Sharon Mitchell was the skinny, gawky, biker-looking chick, if you will, at certain times. Gloria Leonard was elder. Jennifer Welles was an older-type woman, a lady. They exuded their own personalities, whereas today…and I’m not saying…of course, today you have your version of Seka and you have your versions of all these stars, but if you turn them around you wouldn’t know the difference between their hair color or their silicone breasts. They look the same. They’re very ditzy a lot of them. It’s not the same. There was more education. I think for the most part, some of the women might have said that they respect some of the effort that Jenna Jameson and girls like that have been able to do within the industry, but I think for the most part they’re somewhat indifferent and not too impressed with the acting and all that other stuff that they do. I’m not either, quite honestly. I try my best to think that [a current porn star] and all of these girls can act, but I have a hard time seeing it. But it doesn’t matter.

TS: I actually got to interview her awhile back. She’s super-opinionated. Anything you say, if it doesn’t jibe, you’re way off.

SM: I’m not even talking about that so much. I’m just going by the acting. You know, I talk to, similar to how you interview all these people and you hear about them, I’m friendly with a guy, his name is Nate. I don’t know if you know Nate from Hush Hush. He’s a real cool guy. He went around the country for a couple of years in an R.V. visiting all these stores. He writes a column…he’s very opinionated, strong-willed and he would even tell me these stories about how he would go on a Shane’s World trip with six really hot, young porn stars and by the second day he wanted to hang himself. You would think it would be the dream situation, in an R.V. with six porn stars, you know what I mean? And even that has its major downfalls. So, I guess what I’m saying is that definitely spills over to porn of today.

TS: Yeah. I think that’s my appeal for some of the older stuff, to be honest. Part of it, I guess is that I’m a little bit older than the current crop of tatted up kids that are running around today, but I think the fantasy, at least for me and maybe for you and for other people who are our age is that these people were a reflection of us, other than the fact that maybe a guy had a big dick or a girl had extremely large breasts that put her in porn. They had that appeal that, ‘Hey! I could be that guy’ or ‘There’s no difference between this person and me,’ whereas today I can’t identify with any of the young stars. I don’t understand all the silicone and all that stuff.

SM: Totally. I’m with you. There is a certain amount of relativity. You can relate to it.

TS: Okay, well let’s get back to Little Oral Annie because that is the crux of why I called, but I wanted to ask you one more question about Joe Sarno. Obviously, he passed away back in April and we talked about how Jamie passed away earlier this year, so I wanted to ask you how that affects how you go about your work. Does that give you extra incentive or impetus to put these things out? How does that affect you when you go about your work?

SM: Great fucking…we need you working for us, man! I wish we had the money. You’ve got some good-ass fucking questions, man! Really, actually Tim, in a nutshell , it’s a very good question and it rings very true. For Jamie, we actually had plans with him. We had plans with Joe. We know that the most important thing is to get people, so thankfully we interviewed Joe about a year-and-a-half ago. And the interview that we did…it’s a short interview…again, we interviewed with him and his wife Peggy, who was also very involved in the movies and the making of the movies. We’re going to be releasing a Joe Sarno…and it’s not really because the market wants it…of course, the market definitely wants it, but what we’re doing is we’ve gotten involved in an Anthology Film Festival. The Anthology in New York is a theater that does a lot of historical work and they’re doing the Joe Sarno festival at the end of October. Two of our films are going to be included in that and we’re going to put out a movie soon thereafter, which is going to be a double-feature of two of Joe Sarno’s earlier movies. Actually, the first one has never before been seen – ever. We transferred it and the other one is being transferred next week. We’re going to put them out, which of course it will be a tribute to Joe with the extras. The same thing with Jamie. We did, for the Blonde Ambition that I’m going to send you, we did, you know, again, very  small, but the fact that he passed, we were glad we were still allowed to put the interview on that you’ll hear. Again, he was sort of on a death bed for the interview and so it was informative as much as the other ones we do, but it was just the fact that we wanted to include it. We also did a little Jamie Gillis tribute, you know, which is a bunch of scenes that he was in. We did, like, a five-minute little mini-tribute of his one-liners and stuff like that, which we put on the DVD. But, yes, it does change the way that we do things. Sometimes we have plans because of our historical context that we’re putting this stuff in. We have plans to interview people. Of course, these guys are unfortunately dropping dead so quickly these days and so one thing that we are doing is we’re archiving. What we try to do is archive all the time, which means we are always transferring negatives and we’re also always doing some sort of interviewing. Last week I had dinner with Larry Revine. He shot some of the greatest classics ever. I go out for drinks with John Amaro…everybody. Anybody I can get together. I’m always trying to keep that part of it alive, but it has changed the way we do things because if we want to interview somebody for a special release and they’re no longer around sometimes we look for old footage someone else might have. It gives you the incentive to get fans together who want to get a commemorative issue out and you can do a number of commemorative issues, so it gives us some good ideas and some memorial film festival stuff of that nature.

TS: But do you feel like you have to put a little extra “oomph” into it, for lack of a better term just to honor that person?

SM: Absolutely. Absolutely. And to be honest with you, we’re straightforward. We’ve been doing that with all our products. On a simple movie like a compilation it’s still a good quality movie and we go above and beyond any other company because we have the encoding expertise and everything here. But, you’re right as far as that we’re doing HD transfers as opposed to standard def to get a crisper picture. It’s a little bit more money, but it’s going to make a much better thing in the end. We’re going to have professionally-written liner notes to make sure they’re really factual and I’m going to work with a Joe Sarno biographer on it. So, yes, the answer is: absolutely. And you want to do that for many reasons. You want to do it because you want to do it for the legacy and for the legion of fans that might buy it. I want to do it for ourselves. I want to do it for his wife. You know, there are a lot of…and it’s not going to be a real expensive project because, like I said, these are labor of love projects. The historian I work with I don’t really pay him. He’s my good buddy and so a lot of the work you barter. You do this. They do that. But, the answer to your question is “yes”. When somebody passes, or is no longer there, there is a certain incentive and “oomph” to want to get behind the product and a little bit more of a hardcore demeanor. I wish more people had interest, but that’s part of what we’re doing. We’re trying to build new communities of people interested in the stuff.

TS: Well, let’s go back to the Little Oral Annie movie. I’ve read several places and I think you even mentioned it today a couple times that that was your…is still your best-selling film. I assuming that is why you chose to do that in HD first?

SM: Yeah. We chose to do it because again, like I said, everything we do really has become more artistic and non-sex oriented…you know, more historically oriented. And we’re not doing too good with the sales on that stuff, but I don’t think it’s because…you know, when the market was better we were selling more. It has to do I think a lot with the market. This is a less artistic film. There is not a lot of artistic, artsy-fartsy hoopla to get confused with. There is not any need for long interviews or long liner note things. It’s all about the fact that it’s a great-selling sex film. It was shot in 1984 as a movie with the star vehicle being Inside Little Oral Annie and it’s one of the original “Inside” [titles] that was ever made. My father and Joe Sarno made the first “Insides” ever. You’ll see a ton of “Inside This” and “Deep Inside That”, but Inside Little Oral Annie, Inside Seka, Inside Jennifer Welles, Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle and All About Gloria Leonard were the first five vehicles of “All About Inside” that weren’t compilations, that were actually getting the star…giving the star a lot of money and saying, ‘We’re going to make this movie about you.’ So, Inside Little Oral Annie happened to be one of those.  It wasn’t really one of those movies we had to conflict with a bunch of extras and things that just aren’t important, quite frankly. Even people tell us in the cult environment that, even though the extras you do are wonderful, what is more important is a wonderfully transferred movie because that is the most important thing…taking care of the movie, putting it in the right aspect ratio the way it was shot. People today…the fans hate it when somebody takes a regular 4:3 aspect…a full screen and make it wide-screen, or do things of that nature, or change color, or change content. People like to be natural and keep it natural, so this movie was just a…we just said, ‘Listen, what movie do we have in our arsenal that sells best for us?’ and my partner Jamie did a search in QuickBooks and we came up with…which we already knew which one it was anyway, but we came up with…it was like, you know, five, six, eight, 10-to-1 compared to almost all of our titles.  It’s just a really great, fun movie like a Taboo or Devil in Miss Jones or Deep Throat or Debbie Does Dallas. For whatever the reason, it has caught on. It has got its appeal.

Inside Seka

Inside Seka

TS: I was going to ask you that. Obviously, other than [Little Oral Annie’s] natural talents, I was wondering why it would stand out to people?

SM: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but the way she sucks dick and she sucks cock was probably…I’ve always said that she makes Linda Lovelace look like a school girl because even though Linda Lovelace was that star vehicle role in Deep Throat…sort of had to orgasm in her throat, the reality of it is Little Oral Annie did it all day long and she loved it. She used to take Albolene and put it on the back of her throat. It would help the cock slide right down into her fucking mouth and she does it all throughout the movie. [laughs] So, it’s a real erotic, you know, way of giving head. She really went ahead…she was one of those giving head pioneers. She really loved to suck dick, hence the name Little Oral Annie. You know, you have women who specialize in anal and, you know, the Anal Queen and this and that, but she was really good at it and it was a wonderfully done movie. So we transferred it thinking that if we’re going to try a movie for the adult industry, why not try a sex movie as opposed to an artistic movie that we already have plenty of, which are still sex-oriented, of course. So, we did this and the results have been outstanding. There is still some technical stuff we need to work out, but it has nothing to do with it being able to go live on AEBN. It would be more for our hard goods. We’re working on the file as we speak. It’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s really, really beautiful. And my whole thoughts were that we were one of the first companies up on VOD for AEBN and [for others]. We’ve kind of fallen and I’ve complained a lot about the fact that not a lot of our movies are up and we’ve fallen by the wayside by all these compilation-based companies. Their stuff is everywhere and you have to go ten pages deep just to find movies. I know [AEBN] is a fan, so I’m really trying to work hard with you to try to give our movies more exposure and hopefully this will do it. The key is: retention, I think, is part of quality. So, if you can give someone good quality…I personally don’t know how [some] companies even survive because the stuff is unwatchable in my opinion. I guess I’m spoiled. I’m looking at HD classic transfers from 30 years ago. But, I find that shit unwatchable, yet it converts, so I understand that. That’s why these [VOD] sites have this stuff up. I think that, like, Alpha France is a company that has very good quality transfers and that’s kind of where we’re at. So, I think when people start to, you know, there’s like you said…there’s so much shit out there I agree that things get boring and we do a lot a work and spend a lot of money. If you put this Inside Little Oral Annie, HD classic, 1080p, on your fucking front page or it just says, ‘Yo! Hit here for the only classic ever in 1080p’ I don’t know if people aren’t going to want to sit on there because I’ve watched it and even Jamie, even my fucking partner who was editing it last night goes, ‘I never thought say this, [but] this is actually a little bit erotic.’ It’s such good quality and it’s kind of a movie that was made in the ’80s, so it’s not so dull. It’s pretty sexy! It’s a sexy fuck movie. So, we like that aspect and we think that a lot of people are going to think the same way we think.