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Load Warriors 

The A-Team meets Boogie Nights on the Colorado River

Wednesday, Nov 7 2001
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Photos by Ted Soqui

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.

--Rutger Hauer, in Blade Runner

"LOOK AT THAT SHOT, YOU GUYS. YOU SEE THAT?"

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A girl in heroin shades and a bemused stupor is being physically lifted into the camera as a giant hand with a death's-head ring rakes aside the crotch of her tiger-striped bikini bottoms.

"All these people can joke about GM Video," says a much younger voice, "but we're here. Fucking Lake Havasu, GM Video, fucking Garvey . . . Kid Vegas . . . Johnny Toxic . . . George Martin."

The girl leans back into the well of a speedboat, her red Mardi Gras beads pooling on her chest. She alternately fellates the man to her left and then the man curved over the top of her -- bald pate, goatee, bathed in tattoos -- who probes her with a studded tongue. It's hard to tell how much the girl is into all of this, though she does manage to smile for the camera -- or at least to revel momentarily in its attention.

"Leave a spot for us," says the first voice in an offstage whisper, as the camera jockeys for a better angle. Various lookouts can be glimpsed through the tangle of bodies. "Colorado River," says the man to her left as he ejaculates into her hair. The bald tattooed man whispers something in her ear, then disengages and masturbates onto her stomach.

"Load warriors! Another cum-soaked holiday weekend, brought to you by GM Video."

THIS SCENE APPEARS IN SOMETHING CALLED GIRLS GONE WILD/TOTALLY Exposed: Uncensored and Beyond, Vol. I. What separates it from your garden-variety porno is that it occurs roughly in real time, in a real place -- Lake Havasu's Copper Canyon, on the California-Arizona border -- and, at least by implication, involves a hapless stray from a recent Labor Day Weekend celebration. Over the course of 20 years, the long weekend has evolved from a family boating holiday into a flotilla-based bacchanal and open-air orgy, where women from all walks of life, for reasons known only to themselves, come to engage in public sex, spontaneous nudity and competitive abandon. If they are aided in this process by copious amounts of alcohol, the blistering high-desert sun, the magnetic gaze of the camera lens and the forced party-girl camaraderie, then so much the better. And, perhaps not incidentally, they have reconfigured the pornography business in the process.

Girls Gone Wild was launched four years ago as a series of specialty adult videos -- part war footage, part nature documentary -- filmed in public and without permission at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, spring break in south Florida, and Lake Havasu over Memorial and Labor Day weekends. Originally sold by mail order through cheesy late-night TV ads with signature Caribbean steel-drum music and good-natured frat-house complicity, it began as a spontaneous compilation of young women flashing their breasts for the camera and, as brand awareness spread, quickly became a record of something more akin to soccer riots or sexual anarchy. The commercials also include a prominent Web-site address, where alongside "College Girls Exposed" and "Sexy Sorority Sweethearts," special "Deluxe" editions feature explicit hardcore inserts and interior sex scenes -- cleverly establishing an alt-porn beachhead on network TV, much like those K-TEL collections of Slim Whitman or Boxcar Willie that once challenged the music industry's chokehold on commercial product. “Kristen” works the pole

The series is the brainchild of 27-year-old Joe Francis, the reality guru behind Banned From Television, a three-volume "true gore" clips collection of public executions and people being hit by trains, for which he was ä successfully sued for $3.5 million for stealing the concept from the man who had pitched it to him. (Francis terms the lawsuit "frivolous," and claims he settled for "pennies.")But even more than that earlier experiment in reality TV, Girls Gone Wild has become a marketing juggernaut. According to an inside source, the series provides an estimated 100-to-1 return on its meager investment and frequently shows up in the list of Billboard Top 30 retail sellers. Yet much of that footage comes in over the transom, purchased from private vendors. And one vendor in particular supplies virtually all of the Lake Havasu footage -- GM Video.

GM Video is the province of George Martin, a 58-year-old entrepreneur, family man and former nuclear Research and Development man, who, in the middle of a career slump shooting wedding videos, stumbled onto the party scene at Arizona's Lake Martinez and inadvertently pioneered the amateur porn market. He launched GM in 1981, a year before Homegrown Video, the acknowledged market leader. GM currently offers over 200 specialty titles. A few years ago, George discovered that Francis' Girls Gone Wild team would gladly recycle his footage, often with his spirited GM Video tags intact -- Load Warriors! As a result, his sales skyrocketed. He now moves approximately 8,000 tapes per month, most of it through retail distributors (as opposed to mail order), and is currently building a warehouse on his 10-acre property in Fallbrook, near San Diego, to handle the ramp-up in business. His wife minds the store while he's away on shoots, his younger sister designs the box covers, and his only daughter, 32, oversees shipping and packaging when she's not raising his three grandkids. He tries to produce six titles a month, but claims his distributors could easily handle two and a half times that.

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