By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
* This story was modified on Feb. 11, 2011.
Steve Hirsch just can't seem to wrap his arms around Octomom.Not that the co-chairman of porn powerhouse Vivid Entertainment hasn't relentlessly tried to recruit La Habra resident Nadya Suleman to his company. A few months after Suleman popped out eight kids in January 2009, Hirsch e-mailed her an offer of $1 million to star in a Vivid film; she declined. Since then, Hirsch has offered everything from buying the note on Suleman's home and offering her a position on Vivid's production set to hiring her to host Vivid parties.
But, so far, Nadya has said nada.
"She's just a very interesting character, and whether people love her or hate her, many are interested in her," says Hirsch, who co-founded Vivid 26 years ago. (Contrary to published accounts, Hirsch never lived in Orange County; he was born in Cleveland and grew up in Woodland Hills.) "She's extremely interesting, and the thought from the beginning has been there was something we could do for her. She's a mother of 14 children who doesn't seem to have any real means to support them."
Hirsch's interest isn't purely altruistic, of course. Suleman is a tabloid sensation, for better or worse, one of the most recognized personalities in contemporary American culture. And, let's face it, with 14 kids and looks that aren't too bad, she's the ultimate MILF. But even without her productive vagina on camera, Hirsch thinks associating Vivid with a personality such as Octomom's would benefit both parties.
"We feel it would be very positive for us to have an association with her. People are very interested in anything she does, and the feeling was [through offering her a job as a Vivid representative] that if she were hosting a party and introducing new Vivid Girls or trailers for new movies, that people would come to the parties," he says. "She'd get money to support her family, and we'd have a relationship with a very famous personality. It's a win-win for both of us."
Hirsch's last overture, in January, was offering to buy the balloon payment on Octomom's home so that she wouldn't be foreclosed upon. She nixed that deal. "We'd had several discussions, but ultimately, it didn't make sense," Hirsch says. "We offered to pay her mortgage for a month and even sent a check to her. But she said we could keep our money. At that point, I said enough is enough and backed away."
So, is Hirsch done?
"I don't have a crystal ball," he says. "She obviously knows who we are, and it seems that the fetish tape she did [which surfaced online last month and featured Suleman at her home, dressed in bondage gear and whipping a diaper-clad man] was sort of her comic response to us making her an offer. But she is aware of who we are, and we do feel there is a value for us to working with her, but she had made it clear from turning down all our offers that she isn't interested. And we're fine with that."
At this point, it seems Suleman won't follow the path of other current or former porn stars with Orange County ties, such as porn superstar Jenna Jameson, Fullerton native Jenna Haze, Huntington Beach resident Monique Alexander, Janine Lindemulder (the former wife of Jesse James), and former county resident Sunny Leone. Vivid doesn't keep a complete roster of talent from Orange County, but Hirsch says it's one of the company's primary markets, due to its proximity to the San Fernando Valley, the epicenter of the porn business. Nor does he know if any Orange County starlets are in the pipeline.
But this much is for sure: Relying on a nonstop infusion of talented new performers is a thing of the past for a company such as Vivid. It's actually looking more toward celebrities such as Suleman.
"One of the ways we have managed to stay relevant in this very competitive industry is our ability to reinvent ourselves," Hirsch says. "That's why our focus is changing. Right now, it's celebrity sex tapes; super-hero parodies, which are doing great business; and the big tent-pole adult features that everyone wants to see. The days of just hiring girls to churn out movies are done for us."
Vivid makes about 60 films per year, Hirsch says, with budgets ranging from $50,000 to $400,000 and taking anywhere from three days to months to shoot. Hirsch says that while the business is constantly evolving as it transitions into the mainstream, "The girls still control the business, and a girl who is really well-known and popular can make about as much as she wants depending on how much she wants to work." On average, according to Hirsch, top performers get a minimum of $2,000 per day, while a typical girl can make between $800 and $1,000.
Though affected greatly by the rise of online piracy and free porn Internet sites, Hirsch says the porn industry's success at adapting to new technologies—from VHS in the 1980s to online streaming in the 2000s—has helped its transformation from an underground culture into an estimated $50 billion worldwide industry. And he hopes jumping onto the TMZ whirlwinds will keep Vivid at the forefront of porn.
"I remember 30 years ago, the only way you could watch an adult movie was to go into an adult theater or adult book store or buy an 8mm film," he says. "And there was a limited amount of people who wanted to do that. Now, you can watch tens and thousands of adult movies 24 hours a day. The access has increased and, with it, the acceptance. Now, it's just another entertainment option.