Category Archives: Style and Fashion

Sex Entertainment Across America: Saluting Tod Hunter

Tod Hunter

Photo courtesy of Tod-Hunter.net

A guy.  There’s always a guy.  The point guy.  The go-to guy.  The guy with the skinny.  The guy behind the scenes who knows where all the skeletons are stashed.  The guy–well, you get the idea.

For the past 20-plus years in the adult entertainment industry, that guy has been Tod Hunter.  Perhaps the name doesn’t strike you along the likes of a Flynt or Hefner, but that shouldn’t diminish his place as a prime mover and shaker in the business.  As one of the industry’s preeminent film critics, his influence–both on producers as well as audiences–is legendary, well earned and merits his place as a key thought leader.

The fact that he’s also an eclectically great guy probably doesn’t hurt either.  Politically, he’s solidly duct-taped to the left wing, but you really have to love a guy who quotes Reagan and Jefferson in support of liberals–and makes sense doing it.  Personally, his lifelong love of show business manifests itself today with his membership in Hollywood’s renowned Magic Castle, where he’s also a docent.  Professionally, his gritty work ethic is balanced by the soul of a poet.

Hunter got his start writing for a popular TV game show and for the L.A. International Film Expo.  In 1997, he came across an Adult Video News (AVN) advertisement seeking film reviewers.  Hunter recalled, “The ad asked, ‘Can you write?’  Check.  ‘Can you meet deadlines?’  Check.  ‘Can you be a smartass?’  Oh yeah.  That’s me.  Actually, I just thought it would be a great gig because it offered an inside look at what goes on in adult entertainment, but it turned into much more.”

What it turned into was becoming a competent, activist voice in an industry poised on the verge of significant change at that time.  With the internet still in its relative infancy and its potential only beginning to emerge, Hunter became a proactive advocate for quality adult entertainment in America, acting as a positive force throughout its integration into the mainstream zeitgeist.  “It’s been an interesting time because the internet has really helped take away a lot of the stigma that used to be there,” he stated.  “It’s much more accepted now.  People know who Ron Jeremy is when he walks down the street.  But it’s also created an entitlement attitude because of the proliferation of free material out there.  It’s just like any other form of art or entertainment.  You get what you pay for and usually the cheaper it is, the crappier it is.”

His eye for quality genuinely set him above the crowd right out of the gate as he went about the business of finding the gems in the pile.  For example, in 1999, he was sorting through a stack of screeners one late night in his office when he came upon a production that had captured little interest entitled, “Double Feature.”  “A bunch of people had passed on this one,” Hunter recounted, “but about 20 minutes into it, I knew it was great.  I was completely blown away by it.”  Double Feature went on to capture 10 awards at the 2000 AVN Awards (the industry’s version of the Oscars) and another at the X-Rated Critics’ Organization Awards that year.  Today the film is widely regarded as a classic.  “I love those kinds of moments where you just know you’re onto something special–where you just want to tell everyone to get their own, this one’s mine!” Hunter related.

We first got to know Tod as he tooled around with us in a massive, golden SUV nicknamed “Vanzilla” during the San Francisco episode of Sex Across America in 2000.  Rather than just review completed screeners like most critics, his approach was to invest the time necessary to see the whole process from start to finish.  He did this to get a better perspective of production challenges, but also to gain a firsthand appreciation of the performers and crew involved.  The result was developing a unique, signature style featuring the ability to remain professionally positioned on the periphery yet able to build a sincere, personal rapport across the board.  In a field where it’s easy (and perhaps even beneficial) to be cynical and jaded, Hunter is one of a kind in the sense that he fully immerses himself until becoming a subject matter expert while maintaining the integrity necessary to critique that subject objectively.

Taking that a step further, he doesn’t limit his engagement to the set or the screening room.  He actively follows his subject wherever it goes and in whatever form it takes.  For example, besides being one of the foremost non-resident connoisseurs of all things adult in Las Vegas, he’s also a ground floor supporter of the long-standing phenomenon known as Porn Star Karaoke (PSK).  Billed as the “Longest running ongoing weekly adult industry event,” PSK has been going for over 10 years and has become a weekly staple every Tuesday night at Sardo’s in Burbank, CA.  “It’s the only ongoing gathering of the adult industry,” Hunter noted, “and it’s a great, fun way to keep up with who and what is going on.”  Keeping up with all of that, especially these days, is a monster task.  He makes it look easy–a trait common among those few who are world-class at what they do.

So, if you’re ever in the Southland and have nothing to do on a Tuesday evening, now you have something to consider–and you might just run into The Guy–the guy with his finger solidly on the pulse of all that’s going on in sex entertainment in America–our good friend, Tod Hunter.

(You can follow Tod through his website at Tod-Hunter.net or on Twitter @TTodHunter)

Couples from Cyberspace

No, it’s not the title for an upcoming sci-fi spoof but rather an interesting, non-fiction trend that could easily spell doom for singles’ bars around the country:  The number of people hooking up through online coupling platforms is shooting up dramatically.  With the ever-increasing pace of technological advance, the trend itself probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the rapid snowballing does seem to suggest a significant cultural shift when it comes to relationships and intimacy.  Are the likes of Match, eHarmony and AdultFriendFinder about to surpass the more old-school methods for finding happily ever after?

The basic numbers look like this:  A report released on January 1st by the online trending service, Statistic Brain, claims that over 41 million Americans have tried some form of online dating service as of the end of 2013, almost doubling the approximately 25 million reported to have used such sites in 2011.  The report also puts the current annual revenue of online dating services at just over $1.2 billion (though other industry analysts have put it closer to $2 billion with 4-5% annual growth forecasted through 2015) and claims that the current average length of courtships-to-marriages for those meeting online is just over 18 months, compared to 42 months for couples who met offline.  Interestingly, the gender split for online dating site users is fairly even (52% male/48% female).

The sharp up-spike could be explained by any number of factors ranging from tech-convenience to economic conditions during the past few years to outright laziness in some cases, but it’s certainly not a trend without pitfalls.  Although most online dating sites boast fairly extensive screening processes as a core part of their services, the nature of connecting by the web is still such that there’s plenty of room for, um, shall we say, misrepresentation.  Yeah, okay, fine:  Lying.  The report states that both genders are inclined to lie about age, with men also lying most about height while women lie most about weight.  Perhaps it’s not the best strategy in the world to begin a potential relationship with a “maybe they won’t notice” approach, but people are indeed funny animals.

In any event, as with most collisions between personal intimacy and technological enablement, it will probably be a while before this all sorts itself out–or morphs further into something even more likely to sound like a sci-fi spoof today.  The question is:  What do you think it will be?

Think Kink!

Photo credit: FallenAngelTV.com

Photo credit: FallenAngelTV.com

(1/1/16)  It wasn’t really all that long ago that kink was considered uber-taboo.  Fortunately though, the masses appear to be finally waking up and smelling the 21st century.  What was once strictly confined behind tightly sealed doors or within close-knit underground communities has garnered much more sunlight in recent years and even become rather fashionable.

To be sure, kinky lifestyles are nothing new, but there does seem to be a new, more positive trend emerging when it comes to exploring them.  With the advent of the interwebs, access to lifestyle information became much easier.  Additionally, for those trying to keep their exploration under the radar, the anonymity offered on the net afforded reasonably safe access.  The flipside, however, is that it also enabled a lot of misinformation and, in many cases, unnecessary confusion.  That said, the upside is that more and more people feel less alone and isolated in discovering and acknowledging their feelings and sexuality.

While there are way too many factors to list involved with how things got from there to here, suffice it to say that various forms of media played a large role.  In the 80s and 90s, authors such as Anne Rice, John Warren, Jay Wiseman, Jon Jacobs, Will and Gloria Brame, Philip Miller and Molly Devon were instrumental in capturing a wide range of concepts and making them understandable to the masses while pioneering filmmakers such as Bruce Seven, Ernest Greene and Luc Wylder (who directed the widely acclaimed The Master’s Choice series) helped pave the way with kink-lifestyle portrayals on the screen.  As these efforts gained increasing interest, more widespread attention built through such mainstream projects as 9 1/2 weeks, The Story of O, Secretary and Stanley Kubrick’s epic, Eyes Wide Shut among others, culminating with the recent 50 Shades frenzy.  Whether reality or fantasy based, as these works expanded imagination and understanding, they inspired a new generation with willingness and confidence to push their own perceived boundaries in safe and fun ways.

Ironically, with all of the wonderful information out there now, the trick today when you think kink is that there’s no singularly universal way to go about it.  Even the word itself means something different to different people.  Therein lies the beauty–and the challenge.  Pushing yourself to find the unique things that really turn you on beyond the common and mundane is a highly personal and intimate experience–and one that’s unique to each person.  As long as the activities involved are among consenting adults and reasonable precautions are employed to ensure that no harm occurs, just be yourself and resist any temptation to have to justify yourself.  It’s your life and you have every right to seek out experiences that bring you joy and fulfillment in whatever way works best for you.  People, being funny animals, tend to prefer putting things (and occasionally, other people, for that matter) into neat little categorized bins, but that’s counterproductive for both creativity and confidence.  Forget the labels.  They’re generally useful as a common frame of reference in communicating, but beyond that, they belong on jars, not on people.

So, confidently shake off the imagined shackles of Boringville and start heading towards the growing understanding–and acceptance–found on the road to Kinkytown.  The time has never been better to Think Kink.

Valentines Across America

SAAgraphic021014(2/10/14)  It’s coming.  Some love it.  Some hate it.  Some are completely ambivalent about it.  It produces emotional responses ranging from high anxiety to outright giddiness.  Greeting card suppliers, jewelers, lingerie outlets, chocolatiers and florists from sea to shining sea are gearing up for it like an invading fleet of Cupids closing in on the coast.   You can fight it, you can blow it off, but you’re not going to stop it.  It’s coming.  Sound the ‘Red Alert’ as that one day of the year especially devoted to romance and matters of the heart is drawing neigh: St. Valentine’s Day.

Almost no one can tell you the actual basis for why the day is celebrated with any degree of certainty, but that’s okay.  While there are all sorts of myths and legends with varying degrees of plausibility, the ambiguity behind the alleged origins just makes it easier to attach any convenient meaning.  It’s probably somewhat intentional that it evolved that way–and fairly certain that it was molded for entrepreneurial purposes (at least in the U.S.) by an enterprising woman named Ester Howland in the 1800s.  Accordingly, many see it as an ultimate ploy in marketing and consumer manipulation, second only to the commercialization of Christmas.  Boiling it down to its lowest common denominator these days–a designated time for expressing love and affection–it hardly seems that anyone could rationally argue against it regardless of how it got started, but therein lies the proverbial sticky wicket:  Shouldn’t that happen every day?  Why wait for one, dictated day each year specifically for expressing affection?  Hmm.

Yes, yes, the notion of making an annual hubbub out of it does serve the supposed purpose of ensuring that we do at least take some time out of our busy-bee lives to show our significant others that we care, but even that tends to create more friction than it solves–especially when it comes to placing a monetary value on determining ‘how much’ we care.  Last year, CNN reported that the average person’s Valentine’s spend was estimated at about $130.  What do you want to bet that somewhere, someone spent about fifty bucks and got hammered for being ‘below average’?  Of course, it’s probably equally so that someone who spent over $200 got bonus love-points for demonstrating ‘above average’ caring.  Ah yes.  Love and capitalism.  What a combo!

Supposedly, it’s the thought that should count most and no price can be put on sincere affection.  We have nothing against celebrating the day, but the sentiment behind it certainly shouldn’t be reserved for just once a year.  Ultimately, the real value is not in what’s bought, but rather in what’s done–every day–to show genuine love. True caring doesn’t cost a dime.  Just something to think about.

Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter.