Sex Entertainment Across America: Saluting Tod Hunter

Tod Hunter
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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 or on Twitter @TTodHunter)

Porrrn in the U.S.A.

We take a lot for granted these days when it comes to technology trends, but when you consider that Windows 95 is now older than most college freshmen, it doesn’t take much to recognize how far the world has actually come in a relatively brief period of time.  Oh sure, for some more seasoned types, there may be a certain degree of nostalgic yen for times that current froshes will never know, like that ubersatisfying blooop-brrrrrp-screeeeech of a dial-up connection, for example.  (Come on, you know you loved it when it worked.  Admit it.  It made you happier than Gumby at a yoga class.)  In any event, it seems that for the most part, people just roll with the changes regardless of age–and regardless of the disruptions caused by advancing technologies.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the adult entertainment industry, at least from the consumer side.

To get to the eventual point quickly, let’s look at this in eighteen year blocks.  In 1995, the year that most of today’s college freshmen were born, the primary means of enjoying adult entertainment at home was by VHS video tape, either rented from the back room of a local mom & pop video store or purchased by mail order.  Eighteen years earlier, in 1977, the accepted medium for the same entertainment was film-based.  Full length feature presentations were usually limited to theaters and, as the first viable video players were just hitting the market back then, prevailing home entertainment options were either in short form reels that were played on 8mm projectors or film-strip loops requiring a specialized cartridge player.  There was certainly an upheaval in the adult entertainment industry when the disruptiveness of video tape over film occurred, but the disruption ultimately ushered in what many considered to be the golden age of adult entertainment from a business perspective.

In the eighteen years since our current college newbies were born, VHS gave way to DVDs which gave way to file sharing, digital downloads and real-time streaming as the most commonly desired delivery forms.  With rapidly improving bandwidth, wireless delivery systems, increased file storage capacity and various ‘smart-devices’ (which, themselves, are now usually obsolete as they roll off their assembly lines), not to mention an incredibly wide variety of do-it-yourself platforms, adult entertainment production and consumption has never been more convenient or cost effective.

As you might imagine, this pace of disruptive change has caused rapidly increasing upheavals and shifts throughout the adult entertainment industry, significantly shrinking the business value of professional performers and first-rate content creators in favor of an emerging model where lower-quality providers can thrive.  In other words, no more ‘golden age’ as it was, and while that’s certainly not good news for the existing industry, consumer trends indicate that most people are indeed just rolling with it–and rolling in a big way.  Most of the world’s top adult content providers reported record years in 2013, with the U.S. leading the way in per capita porn consumption across the board.  (Yay, we’re number 1!)  In fact, every major country measured increased consumption in the 2012-13 year-over-year analysis, but here’s the twist:  Very little (if any) of the content provided through these systems is actually produced directly or even purchased by today’s largest suppliers.

As is the case these days with most forms of social-based new media, content is often provided by the user base; either DIY produced, technologically stolen from other producers and repurposed into clips to prod a viewer to another site or, in fewer cases, just for fun if the creator has an exhibitionist streak or fancies themselves an amateur porn star and doesn’t really care about revenues or intellectual property rights.  Anyway, since the platform suppliers aren’t enduring content costs for the most part, much of their fare is given away free in order to encourage maximum consumer traffic which enables commanding higher advertising prices, all resulting in a very clean and significant revenue stream which is highly efficient based on today’s technocapabilities.

Indeed, the past business model has been disrupted to the point where an entire industry will have to either adapt or die, but that’s not really all that dissimilar from previous disruptions which have been endured.  The thing is, those pesky college freshmen are-a-comin’ and very soon will be the industrial brains and muscle, both on the business side as well as the consumer end.  Eighteen years from now, they’ll be the ones nostalgically looking back on today with a fond view of how ‘technologically primitive life was in 2014′, but it’s also likely that they’ll be responsible for whatever the next big thing will be.  That is, unless some more seasoned types beat ’em to it.

What do you think that will look like?

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Casting Across America: “Sex Sent Me to the E.R.”

It happens all the time.  You’ve done the wine and dine thing, got the old scratchy Barry White tunes looping in the background, the mojo’s hitting on all cylinders and some happynekkidpagandancin’ is imminent.  Life is good.  Then suddenly: WHAM!  The next thing you know, you’re trying to explain a cruel twist of fate to Nurse Ratchet who’s lightly tapping her stubby little foot, rolling her squinty, condescending eyes and pushing a clipboarded stack of forms in your face.  Yep.  It happens all the time.

The thing is, as serious as something like that might be, there are certain occasions where it’s just one of those silly things you hysterically laugh about later.  If that’s the case with you, here’s your chance to share the laughter–and maybe even become a T.V. star in the process.

The award-winning producers at MysticArt Pictures are currently casting a new program featuring fun, real-life couples with a funny story to share about a time when a romantic encounter turned into a trip to the E.R.  According to the casting department at MysticArt, the producers are conducting a nationwide search for couples between the ages of 20-50 who are dating, married or broken up and comfortable with sharing this kind of personal experience.  They also noted that compensation may be provided for selected stories and selected couples may be flown to Los Angeles as part of the program.

So, if you and your significant other are ready for your fifteen minutes but don’t know anything about crab fishing, gold mining or duck decoy retailing, drop the casting department at MysticArt a direct email or visit the show’s casting site for more details.  Please feel free to share this far and wide if you think someone else in your social network might enjoy this opportunity as well.

Ready?  Action!

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Celebrating Mapplethorpe

A great new resource capturing the life and work of the late Robert Mapplethorpe was recently unveiled by the art-via-internet access project, Artsy.  At Sex Across America, we are honored to support their mission of helping to make all art accessible to everyone through the web—and in particular by highlighting such an innovative pioneer for both the art world as well as for positive sexuality: Robert Mapplethorpe.

The online Mapplethorpe gallery can be viewed here.  We highly recommend sharing the resource far and wide throughout your social circles. Thank You.

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