Class of 2016: The AVN Hall of Fame Inductees
CHATSWORTH, Calif.—Each year at AVN Awards Show, AVN Media Network salutes a handpicked group of individuals who have made their mark in the adult industry and inducts them into the AVN Hall of Fame. Performers and directors enter AVN’s original video-based Hall of Fame, and there are other branches in the AVN Hall of Fame as well: a Founders Branch, for those who created companies back in the day; an Internet Founders Branch, for those who built the online sector; a Pleasure Products Branch, for manufacturers, distributors and retailers of sex toys; and the Executive Branch, for key members of the industry who work behind the scenes in the C-suite or excelled in other capacities—for example, in sales, marketing or education.
In all branches, a minimum of 10 years in the industry is required for consideration. Every year, Hall of Fame committee members survey a list of deserving candidates and choose individuals have made valuable contributions to the various sectors of our industry.
Below you’ll find some information on the Class of 2016. We invite members of the adult industry to join us at a celebratory cocktail party the night before the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo to salute these accomplished individuals. The celebration will take place January 19 at the newly revamped Circle Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. We’ll offer special cocktails so we can all raise a toast to the inductees. The bash is open to all AEE and ANE trade attendees.
For information on AEE, go to AVNShow.com.
For information on the AVN Awards Show, go to AVNAwards.AVN.com.
AVN HALL OF FAME—FOUNDERS BRANCH
To call Fred Hirsch a “founder” is putting it mildly. After leaving his job as a stockbroker, Hirsch went to work for Reuben Sturman's General Video of America in 1972. Soon after, Hirsch convinced Sturman to distribute hardcore 8mm loops and was sent to Los Angeles to make it happen. Once established in L.A., Hirsch began producing the loops himself, as Sunrise Distributors, and later full-length features, signing on directors such as Gerard Damiano of Deep Throat fame. Within a few years, however, the video revolution took place, and Hirsch headed up several video production companies including Adult Video Corporation, which released the Nina Hartley classic comedy Debbie Duz Dishes, and Executive Video, well-remembered for its Butts Motel series. Hirsch is also the father of Vivid Entertainment moguls Steve and Marci Hirsch.
Rudy Sutton sort of fell into the adult video business. According to son David, Rudy was the cousin of VCX owner Norman Arno, and when Arno was convicted of obscenity charges in 1986, he asked Sutton, who had been an industrial engineer, to take over the running of the company, giving Sutton pointers on adult production and distribution when Sutton visited Arno in federal prison. Eventually, Sutton bought out Arno's remaining interest in the company, and spent most of the next 20 years growing the country's interest in VCX's 400 classic adult films such as Debbie Does Dallas, Devil In Miss Jones and Little Girls Blue, as well as producing new films, several directed by classic star Ginger Lynn. However, Sutton became ill with COPD in the early 2000s, and moved the company from North Hollywood to Las Vegas in part to escape Southern California's smog. He died in December of 2006.
Eddie Wedelstedt (no one calls him Edward) is one of the founders of the modern adult industry, sharing a place with such stalwarts as Reuben Sturman, Mel Kamins, Mike Thevis and several others. Wedelstedt, through his holding company Goalie Entertainment, was the co-owner of M&M Sales, an adult distribution company, as well as owner of the Romantix chain of adult stores until he was forced out of the adult industry by the U.S. Department of Justice, which indicted Wedelstedt and six others in 2005, charging them with interstate transportation of obscene material and other offenses. In order to prevent the DOJ's threatened indictment of his wife, Wedelstedt pled guilty to one of the 23 counts with which he had been charged and spent 13 months in a federal prison camp in Colorado, his home state. Wedelstedt was well known for sponsoring adult industry “retreats,” where store owners, video producers, attorneys and others would gather from around the country in Denver for a long weekend of seminars and strategy sessions. Wedelstedt continues to be involved in charity work, notably his Eddie's Kids Foundation, which supplies sports equipment and tickets to sporting events to underprivileged children.
A trailblazer in every sense, Joanna Angel has etched out one of the most singular identities the business has ever seen since launching her flagship website, BurningAngel.com, in 2002 with fellow Rutgers University student Mitch Fontaine. Known as much for her bitingly funny wit as her head-to-toe mosaic of tattoos, the writer/director/producer/performer has continuously served up groundbreaking, indelible fare from Re-Penetrator to her most recent offering, How the Grinch Gaped Christmas. She’s also enjoyed extensive mainstream exposure, from being named one of New York Post’s “25 Sexiest New Yorkers” to her speaking role in the indie drama Scrapper. In addition, she’s made her mark in the sex toy world by becoming a Fleshlight Girl in 2013 and creating a line of BDSM toys with Stockroom. And this year she joins the select group of performers who have served as hosts of the annual AVN Awards Show.
The 2011 Penthouse Pet of the Year got her start in adult entertainment as an exclusive contract girl for Pleasure Productions in 2002. A native of Toronto, Benz is one of the most successful porn stars to ever come out of Canada with close to 300 titles on her porn résumé. Known for her loyal fan base that has taken on the moniker of “The Benz Mafia” on social media, Benz has also built her national profile from continued mainstream crossover success. She received notoriety for several appearances on the FoxSports.com show Cubed in 2010, when she played a wise-cracking, sports-savvy cleaning lady. She also was featured in a video game, Saints Row: The Third - Penthouse Pack, in 2012. In 2013, she appeared briefly in the film Pain and Gain. After finishing her one-year contract with Penthouse for her Pet of the Year duties, Nikki made her anticipated return to hardcore sex scenes in the three-part series The Benz Mafia, which debuted on Brazzers’ PornStarsLikeItBig.com in October 2012. Nikki gained more media exposure in 2014 when she ran for mayor of Toronto.
A man who has worn nearly every hat conceivable in the adult industry, Devan Cypher—or DCypher, as he is most commonly known—got his start in 1997 as head of production for Zane Entertainment. He has since ticked everything off the proverbial porn bucket list from performing to directing to producing and more. He has established himself most prominently, however, as a writer, both of scripts and for such esteemed adult outlets as Club, High Society, Penthouse, AVN and Fleshbot. His script for Wicked Pictures’ 2002 feature Breathless (co-written with director Michael Raven) took home the AVN Award for Best Screenplay – Video, and he has continued to pick up nominations, including this year for Bonnie Rotten’s Sisters of Anarchy (Digital Playground). In 2008, DCypher founded Rising Star PR with partner and former AVN editor Acme Andersson, handling publicity for some of the biggest names in the biz.
Director Jonni Darkko headed west from the Windy City to Porn Valley in 1998, first starting out as a still photographer. But before long he pushed his talents toward videography, which led him to direct movies for Scott Taylor of New Sensations. After making a name for himself there with stylish titles including the blockbuster 50 Cent porn excursion Groupie Love, Darkko moved on to John Stagliano’s Evil Angel empire in 2004. For his Darkko Productions titles, the director has ranged across the pornoverse but has shown a marked predilection for the oral, POV and Asian niches. And there’s also his alphabet soup of star showcases, including the AVN Award-winning V for Vicki, starring Vicki Chase. His oeuvre has been complemented by his own original electronica scoring, which earned him a Best Soundtrack AVN nod this year for the slurpfest Suck Balls 4.
She’s confident enough to have dubbed herself “The Internet’s Girlfriend” and intriguing enough to make good on the claim. Even surfers who don’t watch porn (there must be some out there) may be familiar with Dana DeArmond from her appearances on FunnyOrDie.com and G4’s Attack of the Show, as well as her ever-peppy presence interviewing the stars on the AVN Awards red carpet. In spite of her maniacally hilarious, almost Joan Rivers-esque persona off the porn set, though, DeArmond is no joke when it comes to getting down to business in front of the camera, exhibiting one of the most fierce, take-no-prisoners styles of any performer working. She also has a number of standout acting roles to her credit, among them Dana Vespoli’s Hollywood Babylon (Evil Angel), Sal Genoa’s Twisted Fate (Girl Co./Black Market), and the one that earned her an AVN Best Actress nod this year, B. Skow’s Mother’s Little Helper (Girlfriends Films).
Czech-born Nikita Denise, the 2002 AVN Female Performer of the Year, got into the adult industry at the turn of the century and has appeared in more than 300 adult movies, though since 2004, she's spent most of her time traveling ... and learning to be a makeup artist, a skill she's finding incredibly useful now that she's returned to shooting. Fans of the throaty-voiced actress have eagerly searched out the two or three movies she's appeared in per year since 2009, but will be happy to learn of her new interactive website, NikitaDenise.com. Her dream? To open a day spa where women, glasses of champagne in hand, can get properly pampered—and to have her own branded makeup line. And why has she returned to XXX? "It's an addiction; you miss it when you're away. I miss the attention, I miss the good times and I miss the people, and I'm happy to be back."
Tommy Gunn is one of the most prolific and versatile male performers of his generation. A seven-time AVN Award-winner who won Best Male Newcomer in 2005 and Male Performer of the Year in 2007, Gunn has appeared in more than 1400 adult films. He won the 2006 Best Supporting Actor honor for his role in the original blockbuster Pirates and co-produced and starred in Spartacus MMXII The Beginning in 2012. That epic went on to win Best Parody - Drama at the 2013 AVN Awards. Known for his rugged good looks and chiseled frame, Gunn had a cameo on HBO's Entourage in 2010, landed a part in the mainstream horror film Wolves in 2014 and also was on a 2014 episode of Pawn Stars, when he sold his zombie apocalypse vehicle.
A porn Everywoman, Kimberly Kane has done it all: performer, director, screenwriter, photographer, radio show host. She’s even had the distinction of being a cover model for one of Dian Hansen’s photo tomes for Taschen: The Big Book of Pussy. She got her start in porn in 2003, at the age of 20, signing on with the ultra selective Spiegler Girls agency, where she has remained ever since. In addition to multiple AVN Awards for her sexual performances, Kane also became known for her acting abilities, winning an award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Scully in New Sensations’ The Sex Files: A Dark XXX Parody. Since her jaw-dropping directorial debut in 2006, Naked and Famous, she’s been honing her craft behind the camera as well, with two AVN Award-nominated titles this year: Family Secrets and Pink Velvet (both for Vivid).
Sascha Koch has performed in more than 2800 sex scenes since making his debut in his native Germany in 2002, laying down the lumber in primarily gonzo-themed movies for nearly every major company. His made his U.S. debut in 2004 and became one of porn’s most prolific studs, performing in 400-plus sex scenes a year between 2005-07—and sometimes two or three scenes a day. The entrepreneurial performer also owned and operated Studio 8033, which became a go-to location for porn producers in the San Fernando Valley, averaging 60 adult bookings per month before he sold it in 2012. Earlier this year Koch launched a new studio venture called Number 1 Locations. Koch also ran the talent agency Number 1 Models—which had more than 65 performers under contract at its height—for three years before selling it. He plans to relaunch his site MyTattooGirls.com in January and return to performing.
Widely considered one of the top cinematographers in adult entertainment, Alex Ladd has worked as either the director of photography or lead videographer on more than a thousand adult films since getting his start in the mid-1990s. In addition, the three-time AVN Award-winner has produced and directed more than 150 titles for studios such as Elegant Angel, Sin City and DVSX, the production company he co-founded in 2002. Ladd has done cinematography for numerous AVN Award-winning films, including the 2014 and 2013 AVN Best Drama winners, Underworld (Wicked Pictures) and Wasteland (Elegant Angel), respectively, and the 2012 Best Feature, Portrait of a Call Girl (Elegant Angel). Ladd most recently did the cinematography for the 2016 AVN Award-nominated film, Marriage 2.0, from LionReach/Adam & Eve.
Teagan Presley had just turned 18 when she entered the field of hardcore acting in 2003. Within two years, she had been signed as a contract player for Digital Playground, where she remained for two years before moving over to Adam & Eve, for whom she has served as an exclusive model and representative ever since. Teagan grabbed headlines in 2008 when she auctioned off her breast implants for charity, and has since appeared in such mainstream productions as the HBO series Entourage and the teen comedy Superbad. In 2009, Teagan created the Skinworxxx production company with husband Josh, and helped design the first Blu-ray XXX review site AdultBluReview. In recent years, she has toured the U.S. adult nightclub circuit and was named NightMoves' Best Feature Dancer in 2008. Teagan began to wind down her acting career in 2012, appearing in just three movies that year, and in 2013 retired from performing.
John Strong entered the biz in 1998 as a performer and began directing for Anabolic/Diabolic in 2002. He also helmed many series for Red Light District and Platinum X, including Overflowing Assholes, One Dick Two Chicks, Cream my Crack and 100% Natural. As a performer, the muscular Russian-born stud estimates that he has done more than 6,000 scenes. Strong won his first award from XRCO in 2003 for Best Group Sex Scene and has since been nominated for numerous honors, including many AVN Awards. The reliable woodsman currently performs for many top companies, including Evil Angel, Brazzers, Kink.com, Jules Jordan Video, Elegant Angel, Reality Junkies and Airerose Entertainment.
When it comes to busty blonde bombshells, they don’t get more explosive than Shyla Stylez. A native of British Columbia, the Canadian beauty hit Porn Valley in 2001 at the age of 19. Her 15 years in the business brought her a number of highlights, including an AVN Awards nomination for Best New Starlet in 2003 and a stint as an exclusive with Jill Kelly Productions, as well as mainstream exposure in the 2011 comedy Hollywood Sex Wars and a spot on Maxim U.K.’s Top 12 Porn Stars list in 2010. Along the way she acquired an upgraded double-D bustline and launched a site with the Puba Network. The stunning blonde stays active on Twitter, to the delight of her fans.
Exotic beauty Dana Vespoli is one of the few adult performers who seems as at home behind the camera as in front of it. Over the course of a career that is now in its thirteenth year, she's appeared in more than 300 movies and web scenes for a variety of top-named producers, and is as comfortable with dialog in features as she is with all-sex productions. In 2006, New Sensations brought her on as a director for its Cock Starved series, and she's since directed more than 115 features, mostly for Filly Films, Evil Angel and Mile High Media’s all-girl studio, Sweetheart Video, and has been continually nominated for directing awards by AVN and others. In fact, she's been so busy, it's surprising she found the time launch a new website, TwistedVisual.com, which she bills as a platform to “access adult content that doesn't discriminate in sexual taste or preference.”
Vicky Vette made her adult industry debut in 2003 less than two weeks before her 38th birthday, after winning Hustler magazine’s “Beaver Hunt” contest. Even though the Norwegian-born performer went on to rack up more than 200 porn movie credits, what Vette is best known for is her remarkable web presence powered by her Vette Nation Army (VNA) network of websites—now up to a whopping 22—that she runs from her headquarters in Florida. Vette’s lineup of VNA Girls features a parade of superstar performers, including fellow AVN Hall of Famers Julia Ann and Nikki Benz. Vette’s flagship site, VickyatHome.com, won the AVN Award for Best Solo Girl Website in 2014. Vette has an exclusive line of adult toys called Vicky Quickie released worldwide through Doc Johnson.
Jon Blitt got his start in adult at age 18, working in the family business. From the shipping department at Mile High Media (founded by father Ted Blitt, an AVN Hall of Famer), Blitt rose to become vice president of the company, which has changed immeasurably over the past two decades. Mile High made its first foray into production with the Doghouse Digital and Reality Junkies gonzo studios. With the Sweet Sinner studio, Mile High moved into romantic erotica—launching an empire of couples porn that now encompasses lesbian studio Sweetheart Video, gay studio Icon Male and TS studio TransSensual. In 2013 Blitt added a new hat: head of production at O.L. Entertainment, the parent company of the “X” studios, producing high-end content with director Mason and other prominent directors for Hard X, Erotica X and O.L.’s newest venture, Dark X.
Currently the general manager for Adam & Eve Pictures, Bob Christian has been with Adam & Eve/PHE Inc. for 20 years. A member of Adam & Eve’s senior management/marketing team, Christian has played a role in the creation of the Adam & Eve Retail Stores company, which encompasses 62 franchised stores, and also the development of Temptations Parties, Adam & Eve’s home party company. A true gentleman and a scholar (a Duke University grad with an MBA from the University of North Carolina), he has also served on the Board of Directors of the Free Speech Coalition. Prior to Adam & Eve, Christian was the GM at General Vitamin, one of PHE founder Phil Harvey’s non-adult businesses.
Last year director Will Ryder entered the video branch of the AVN Hall of Fame; this year, his producing partner joins the ranks of the executive branch. Since 2002, Scott David has partnered with Ryder on some 200 movies for various studios, including their own company, X-Play. As anyone who’s been on set with him knows, David brings a keen eye for period apparel and hairstyles to his productions. And if his many porn parodies were not enough to lift the spirits of fellow industry members, David and producing partner Ryder also have had a hand in throwing many landmark industry parties, including the annual Heaven & Hell Halloween bash in Hollywood. David is on to a new project this year, but he won’t be sharing details until later in January.
Born in New York, Eric Gutterman moved to Porn Valley with his family at the tender age of 6, but it wasn’t until 1982 that he entered the adult industry, running a one-stop called California Video Distributors for Caballero owner Noel Bloom. He went on to work for VCA Pictures in 1985 and shifted to Leisure Time in 1987, where he stayed for two decades, serving as VP of sales and marketing. In 2008, the sales vet signed on as operations manager for Devil's Film. In 2013, when Giant Media Group took over Devil’s, new owner Nick Orlandino promoted Gutterman to vice president of operations.
Steve Volponi has spent the past decade in the sales trenches at Devil’s Film, where he was promoted to vice president of sales and production after the company was purchased by Giant Media in 2013. But Devil’s is far from the only place he’s made his mark in the adult industry. Before coming there, Volponi worked at Wildlife Productions, where he headed the sales force and also was president of his own production company, Reel Interactive. A Philadelphia native, the charismatic sales dynamo got his start in the industry at Excitement Video and then Whippet Video. In 1996 he joined Legend Video, where he spent seven years before jumping to Kick Ass Pictures.
Nelson X has held various positions in the adult film industry, from publicist to creator to screenwriter. He first delved into adult with Legend Video/JM Productions in the company’s public relations department. After seven years with Legend, he left and started his own company, Chatsworth Pictures (formally SkinTight Pictures), under the name Grip Johnson. Nelson, who jointly owned the company with Cram Johnson, directed and produced more than 100 titles during the 2000s. He and his partner produced dozens of cuckold and MILF-themed videos. The company was the first to produce a cuckold series exclusively on DVD, leading to the subgenres Cuckold MILFs, Cuckold POV, Mandinka Parties (gangbang cuckold) and more. Among his creations for Chatsworth Pictures was Donkey Punch, which helped to usher in rougher sex scenes in the industry and was called “one of the most morally repugnant pornographic movies” by comedy website SomethingAwful.com. He also spearheaded Chunky On The Fourth Of July, which won the AVN Award for Best Specialty-Other Genre in 2004. Since then, Nelson has primarily focused on writing, first as an editor for AVN and most recently for the public relations department of New Sensations, Digital Sin and NS Novelties. (He also held the high score on “Time Crisis 2” at Yankee Doodles in Woodland Hills, Calif.)
PLEASURE PRODUCTS BRANCH
Ralph Caplan, founder of Nalpac Distribution in Ferndale, Mich., created the company almost 45 years ago. The company originally distributed paraphernalia, including pipes, papers, clips and more. In 1979, however, the federal government stepped in, charging Caplan with selling illegal items. “Try explaining to someone who robbed 80 banks that you’re in for selling a bong,” he said. As part of an agreement, Caplan agreed to stop selling paraphernalia and instead started carrying adult novelties and pleasure products. Nalpac—which is Caplan’s name backwards—has since become one of the largest and most trusted names in adult distribution. “I’ve been very lucky my whole life,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to be in such a good business with such good people. The best part of this industry is the people. I’ve made a lot of good friends through the years.”
Rina Valan, who refers to herself as a “Romance Specialist and Sextoyologist,” is the founder and president of Fantasia Home Parties. Frustrated by the limits placed on women in the business world, Valan created Fantasia Home Parties in the early 1980s with a $10,000 loan from her mother and all the cash she could advance from her credit cards. More than 30 years later, Fantasia Home Parties is considered a pioneer and leader in romance home parties. “What a great validation this is for me!” Valan told AVN. “It’s been a quite a journey since I started back in 1981, and it’s good to see much progress was made in the industry for women and our partners.”
In the late 1990s, when Steve Shubin’s wife was expecting twins, her doctor recommended the couple abstain from intercourse until after the delivery. Rather than rely on old-fashioned methods of self-satisfaction, Shubin took matters into his own hands, so to speak, and created the Fleshlight, which has become one of the world’s best-selling male sex toys. The key to the Fleshlight's appeal is the feel: The combination of Fleshlight's proprietary life-like Real Feel Super Skin material formed into different textures provides the stimulation. Fleshlight’s product offering has expended through the years, and more than 4 million units have been sold to date. It has been reviewed, written about and mentioned in countless mainstream media, including popular movies and TV shows.
INTERNET FOUNDERS BRANCH
Charles Berrebbi and John Albright
Charles Berrebbi and John Albright own Too Much Media, the New Jersey-based digital media company that is best known for creating the software package known as NATS in 2003. An acronym for Next-generation Administration & Tracking System, the innovative software is now used by thousands of website owners to power the back-end tasks of affiliate programs. The pair developed the system while they were trying to ramp up a pay site and affiliate program but weren’t satisfied with the technology available at the time. As NATS continued gaining traction Berrebbi and Albright moved into the software business full time and now their program is used by thousands of clients who’ve come to rely upon the stable, progressive platform that tracks sales, paysites, media buys and more.
The founder of Gamelink.com, Ilan Bunimovitz was there at the very beginning of the e-commerce revolution when in 1993 he started one of the earliest online stores. In its current incarnation managed by Bunimovitz's development company, eLine.com, Gamelink.com offers a huge adult content catalog, available in multiple media formats, including video on demand, pay-per-minute, mobile platforms, download, adult DVDs, Blu-ray, sex toys and apparel. In 2009, Bunimovitz merged with Private and served as the European porn giant’s CEO for a time, but in 2012 he and his partners separated from Private Media Group. In 2014 they started a new page with content production under the name of Lion Reach and launched a state of the art membership platform to manage top industry brands, such as AdamAndEveTV.com and TitanMen.com. Today, Bunimovitz continues to make an impact as an investment banker and through eLine’s operations of top networks.