Vivid Entertainment Celebrates 25th Anniversary: Co-Founder Steven Hirsch Talks All-American Porn


View a full gallery of teaser photos from the exhibit in the Vivid Entertainment cover art slideshow.

Vivid Entertainment Celebrates 25th Anniversary: Co-Founder Steven Hirsch Talks All-American Porn
Vivid Entertainment

Back East I'd had more than a few glimpses of what was considered pornography by the time I was nine. There were the nudist rags I found in ditches on the way to school and rolled-up copies of Slip and Garter discovered in birch groves. But one day, as an old handyman in our neighborhood attached a set of book baskets to my bicycle, I gazed at something different in centerfold flesh -- The Past. On a wall of the old man's musty garage hung an ancient sepia photo of some Roaring Twenties flapper from 40 years before. The woman was flat-chested, had short hair and a crotch that seemed to somehow disappear right where it should have broken the law. "Probably dead," I thought of the model, in the worldly way I judged performing animals I'd see in old movies.

Today the past is, if not prologue, then certainly foreplay to our imaginings of sex. This week Vivid Entertainment, the Warner Brothers of porn, is celebrating 25 years in the cineskin trade with an exhibition of video and DVD box art, plus stills, from the company's films. The show, at Hollywood's World of Wonder Gallery, is no a tedious travelogue of erotic female poses, but a virtual timeline of fashion and big hair. When I spoke to Vivid co-founder Steven Hirsch, a storm had knocked out power to several blocks in the Cahuenga Pass, and Hirsch's headquarters remained in darkness while he communicated to the world by cell phone.

I asked Hirsch about the thinking behind the images for Vivid's PR. How was it that in an entertainment whose actresses don't wear a lot

of clothes, people can view the video boxes as style time capsules?

"The girls were beautiful," Hirsch said, "but hairstyles and

clothing and lingerie have changed. Our style of art direction has

changed. When we did some of these boxes years ago they were cutting

edge for their time. Looking back, though, some of the photography

could have been better. We don't really airbrush any more."

Vivid Entertainment Celebrates 25th Anniversary: Co-Founder Steven Hirsch Talks All-American Porn
Vivid Entertainment

Hirsch said he supervised his first shoot in his parents' back yard

in 1984, when he directed the porn starlet Ginger Lynn to pose upon the

diving board of the family pool. What happened, I wondered, to that

Boogie Nights aesthetics of big blonde hair and seamless tan lines?

"The problem," Hirsch reflected, "is that it became obvious, and the

girls didn't look real -- they looked like mannequins, too perfect.

What's really changed is that the girls don't seem as posed as years

ago. We use shots taken on the set, there are no more studio

backgrounds. We certainly have makeup artists, though."

Even the tyranny of The Blonde has given way,

Hirsch said, to a more diversified look, thanks to niche tastes fanned

by the Internet. Sadly, however, we seen to be on the verge of an era

when video on demand will mean the end of porn-film posters and box

art, although Hirsch thought eternal and redemptive forces were at play

even here.

"It's still the same thing," Hirsh said. "Beautiful girls sell

movies." There would, in other words, always be a place for a woman to

sell Vivid's product outside the product.

All-American Porn: 25 Years of Erotic Photography from Vivid Entertainment

World of Wonder Storefront Gallery, 6650 Hollywood Blvd.; opening

Valentine's Day reception Saturday, February 14, 7-11 p.m.; exhibit

runs February 15-March 13; related panel Thursday, February 19, 7 p.m.

(323) 603-6300.


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