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)