"Agents Pornographeurs: The Men Behind The Muff "
Like mainstream movie actresses, adult-film starlets employ agents and managers to jump-start their careers. Some hard-core handlers expect a lot more than a 10% cut from their clients. Hustler investigates the world of porn-model representation.
by Dan Kapelovitz and Giddle Partridge
Photography by Richard Kern
Eager beavers, hoping to be porn stars or at least make some quick cash, wander frantically from one seedy room to another in search of their next sex-work opportunity. World Modeling, the nation's largest XXX-talent agency, is hosting one of its industry-infamous talent calls, where porn producers, directors and photographers assemble to meet and greet up-and-coming, blue-screen starlets.
Located on the second floor of a two-story, no-frills, Sherman Oaks, California, office building, World Modeling is owned and operated by Jim South, a tall, Southern, fatherly fellow with a dark-brown mustache, black, slicked-back hair, Wrangler bluejeans, a striped western shirt and cowboy boots. "She's 18, very young," says South, describing a new girl to a producer over the telephone. "I even burped her when she came in."
Torn pieces of paper with the names of video companies written on them in red Magic Marker are secured with Scotch tape to doors on both sides of World Modeling's hallway. Inside each room, five to ten porn hopefuls undress and pose for revealing Polaroids. The girls lean against nicotine-stained walls and cheap, plywood desks. One curvaceous, raven-haired tanning-bed victim displays her goods in front of the refrigerator in World Modeling's kitchen, which has been transformed for the day into Extreme Associates' casting office. A tall redhead pulls her J-Lo-style pants down around her ankles for a cameraman. "Now turn around," the shutterbug instructs, snapping a mug shot of her ass. Meanwhile, another panty-free chick wiggles back into her skintight stretch skirt.
Porn producers and directors hold court from behind makeshift desks, prompting the anxiety-riddled sex-objects to fill out questionnaires that ask which of their holes can be fucked on film and by whom. A young, fresh blonde with erect nipples popping through a sheer, cloud-printed tank top dangles her dainty paw in front of director Ray Anderson's face. "My name is Brittney Skye," she squeaks. "I just don't do anal, hee hee."
After completing a few forms, another aspiring XXX-actress, who originally claimed to "only do girl/girl," adds ass-to-mouth, double penetration and interracial copulation to her repertoire.
Former woodsman Steve Austin, Jim South's talent coordinator, patrols the scene with a hawk-eye trained on naive chicks who defy his instructions and give their phone numbers directly to producers who are trying to bypass World Modeling's fees. "Did that guy downstairs ask for your number?" Austin demands of a slut-in-training. Some videographers are so bold as to clandestinely tape single-girl videos right on the premises. "I just shot a masturbation scene out on the balcony," enthuses Max Hardcore fave Catalina.
As long as there is a demand to see recorded sex acts, porn-talent agents and managers--whether they represent hundreds of clients or only a few girls--will exist to supply XXX-filmmakers with the female tools of their trade.
Two weeks before the talent call, South sits at his desk by a window overlooking Van Nuys Boulevard in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. The phones ring every few minutes. South, his son, Jim South Jr., and Austin field the calls. "There's absolutely no fee or obligation whatsoever on your part," says South over the phone to a girl who has answered one of the agency's numerous talent-seeking ads. "You can make an appointment, come in for an interview and make a decision. Now you do understand most of it is nude?" South gives the perhaps-future porn queen directions to his office and hangs up the phone.
"We don't get into the movies over the phone, because that would scare a lot of people," says South. "Plus, it's not something they have to do to be with us."
A former insurance salesman, South moved from Texas to California in 1968. "I ended up running a chain of modeling schools after a couple of years, but it wasn't nudity. Then I went to a little place called Fashion Models. [The owner] wanted me to handle nudity on the side. Either I was going to do it, or they would get a manager who would. I ran that for about three years and came here and started World Modeling."
South estimates that his company currently represents 800 performers. "We've had everything from judges' daughters to policemen's wives. We started everybody: Ginger Lynn, Ashlyn Gere, Jill Kelly." South also represented Traci Lords who, unbeknown to him, was 15 years old at the time, a fact that caused both the state of California and the federal government to indict him. "The only reason that it was dropped was that the federal government that saw the very same ID I saw gave Traci a passport to go to Europe to make an X-rated movie."
A starlet walks up to South to inform him that she is changing her porn name to Noire. "French for 'black,' " she explains. South tries to talk her out of her latest pseudonym, arguing that there are already too many girls in the business with the name "Black." "We've never had a Frieda Fuddpucker," he suggests, but Noire is adamant about her new nom de porn. "Every time they change their name," says South, "we have to change about six different files."
A tall, slender girl with long, wavy, pulled-back brown hair is waiting to speak with South. She is dressed in sneakers, an oversized Budweiser freebie T-shirt and olive-colored stretch pants with an extremely visible panty line. The girl becomes frantic and irritated, jumping into a seat in front of South's desk and begging for work. "I have to get a job today, or I'm going to lose all of my things in storage. I'll do anything."
South tries to calm the agitated strumpet down. He explains that she is no longer in World Modeling's files because her phone was disconnected. "We shredded your photos; so we need to take a couple Polaroids of you in the nude," says South in a soothing voice. The high-strung waif starts babbling total nonsense. South responds, "I'm sorry, sweetheart, but I don't understand what you are trying to say. Are you okay?" She bursts into tears and explains that she was just released from a mental institution. South tells her he'll try to find her work.
"The only job I can think of that's worse than my job would be being a [exotic] dancer's agent," says South. "I tried that once--somebody's in Milwaukee at 2 o'clock in the morning, and no one's picking them up at the airport, and they have nowhere to go; that's a nightmare. If I was much younger, I think I would do very well as an attorney."
On the other side of the Hollywood Hills is Reb Sawitz's Pretty Girl International, the world's longest-running porn agency. "I've worked 35 years in this god-awful business," says Reb, a grandfather of eight and an ex-biker who has toned down his tough-guy image. Longtime friend and client Alexandra Silk describes the stocky, gray-bearded agent as "a big teddy bear."
Sawitz's office, located on the second floor of a building owned by a recently busted West Hollywood cannabis club, is decorated with softball awards, a still of Sawitz from a '60s film and photographs of his Chihuahua, Reba, who he cradles like an infant, cuddles, talks baby-talk to and lets run around on his desk.
"I've been in the business almost 15 years longer than Jim South," boasts Sawitz, "and our attitudes are totally different. I don't have the girls hanging out here; my girls have a life." Sawitz is correct; there are no women in his headquarters, which consists of many rooms, including a photo studio equipped with a bed, lights and a gargantuan dildo.
"I'm a real agent," says Sawitz. "I make telephone calls. I am the only one, basically, who does that. You come in here, and you want this girl, this girl and this girl; I'm not going to hand you phone numbers. I'm going to see if they're even interested before I talk to you about them. I don't get anything from [my models]; I charge the companies. By law, I could charge [the models]. I don't want the resentment; I'd rather be known as a nice guy than a pimp."
Sawitz first became involved in the porn industry in the mid-60s. "I was running an apartment building, and some of the girls in there were models, and they weren't getting paid. At the time, I was riding with a motorcycle club, which I will not say the name of. I collected for the girls so they could pay their rent, which made the owner of the building happy. Their agent asked me to go to work for him." After his new employer stiffed him, Sawitz bought a license and started his own agency.
Sawitz takes pride in booking talent for mainstream films. "We did a Goldie Hawn and Warren Beatty movie called Town and Country, and we've done Johnny Depp [films] and music videos."
"My first assignment was to go out on a casting call for a Cinemax movie, and I got the part," remembers Silk. "I think Reb's quite different from Jim South, because he does have more mainstream clients. If a movie needs a naked hippie chick, they'll call Reb." (South occasionally books mainstream films as well, including Boogie Nights.)
Sawitz says he hasn't watched more than a half-dozen porn videos during his 35 years in the industry; his true passion is sports, especially softball. He coaches a team and holds home-run exhibitions at Dodger Stadium.
As licensed agents who must obtain a business permit and pay the state a fee, South and Sawitz are not too fond of porn managers. "Pimps. That's all they are, because they aren't legal," says Sawitz. "They take 20% from the girls, and they take from the companies too."
One of the most notorious adult-entertainment managers is Sex Symbols Talent Management's Roy Garcia. Garcia's residence resembles a porn sorority house. Two girls take a shower together, another surfs the Internet while yapping into her cell phone, and yet another gal is doing Garcia's laundry. Starlets pay Garcia $150 a week to stay at his Granada Hills home. "People say, 'I can't believe Roy charges people to stay at his house.' Fine, we'll take them over to your house," says the 37-year-old manager. "They're going to mess up your kitchen, leave dirty underwear all over the place, use up all of your toilet paper, throw parties in your house when you're not around and invite their boyfriends over who are going to bug you for work."
Unlike agents, who wait for girls to come to them from ads and referrals, Garcia actively seeks new meat for the business. "I find the talent before the talent knows that it's talent," says Garcia. "The best way to do that--before their head is full of garbage--is to go out and look for them, to discover them."
While strip clubs are Roy's favorite places to scout models, if he thinks a gal has the qualities necessary to make money, he'll approach her wherever she happens to be: porn conventions, hotel elevators, casinos, swingers parties or on the beach. "I can pick up on a girl anywhere," says Garcia. "It just depends on the odds. If I walk up to some girl in the street, I'll probably have to ask 40 or 50 people before I would get one who would do this, whereas I can go into a strip club with 15 girls working there, and I could maybe find three of them that would work.
"I found this girl going into Office Depot, applying for a job," recalls Garcia. "The first thing I asked her is, 'How old are you?' She said, '18.' 'Have you thought of modeling?' 'Yeah, but I never knew how to get into that.' " Roy brought her back to his house and took pictures of her, but he hasn't heard from her since. He says that the would-be starlet was an exception. "Usually if they come in and take a couple Polaroids, they shoot something, because it's the fastest, easiest, legal money in the world. You don't need experience. In fact, the less experience you have, the better. This is the only business in the world where you start out at the top and you go down from there."
Garcia became a talent manager after first being talent himself. Although he has gained weight since his days as a male model, Garcia was once a lean, muscular Chippendales dancer. "That was a few cheeseburgers ago," he jokes.
"I hustled so much that, as a male performer, I was making $8,000 to $12,000 a month, because I was also scouting girls. I got so good at scouting girls to work with that I couldn't work with them all; so I just started looking for girls to work with everybody. I'm the only guy who came into this business to make money; I didn't get into the business for sex, but I didn't want to leave the business because it was a lot of fun sex."
While South and Sawitz say they don't sleep with the talent, Garcia has no qualms about the practice. "Whoever wants to sleep with me, I'll probably sleep with them," admits Garcia. "Why wouldn't I fuck all of these hot, young centerfolds?"
Although Garcia says he doesn't force his models to screw him for jobs, he will hire girls to have sex with him on camera for his Web site. Porn starlet Violet Blue, who Garcia recruited in a Utah strip club, says Garcia paid her $300 to fuck him for some "point-of-view" pictures. Blue left Garcia's compound on amiable terms. "If you treat him like a 12-year-old, then it's a lot easier to deal with him," says Blue of her former manager, who still finds her occasional work.
Other starlets haven't had such healthy relationships with Garcia. "Roy Garcia is a pig; he's a fucking pig," says Swan, who was represented by Garcia for four months. "He's a dirtball. If you don't fuck him, he won't get you work, and if you're a girl/girl kind of chick like I am, he will try to force you into doing boys. He's a control freak. We stopped working together because he was acting like my psychotic boyfriend. He was trying to tell me what I could or could not do. For example, no one could drive me to my shoots except for him or me. He took 10% of whatever I got but, if he drove me around, he charged me 20%."
Garcia says that he was the victim in his and Swan's relationship, citing her as the reason he no longer dates his clients (although he will still fuck them). He also asserts that Swan, and many of his ex-models, owe him money.
"I ripped him off. I'll be honest about it," admits Swan. "If Roy would have treated me with respect, I would have paid him the money, but I don't feel that I owe him, because he put me through so much grief. I had to go to the doctor because they thought I had an ulcer.
"He called me on the phone, called me everything under the sun: bitch, ho, cunt, slut, whore, and then he told me that he better get his fucking money or he was going to send pictures to my mom and go to my old high school with my pictures and put them up on the bulletin board. I called him up and said I was going to chop him up into little fucking pieces and send them back to his mom."
Sharon Wild also left Garcia's management with a bad taste in her mouth. "Roy is a scumbag," says the blond porn actress. "He was threatening me with immigration, just because I left him after three weeks," says Wild, who is from the Czech Republic. "He was showing up on sets where I was working, threatening the producers that he would call the IRS if they don't pay him his fee, even though I was not with him anymore."
"Usually girls that bounce from one [agent] to another really aren't worth keeping," says agent Mike Sullivan, who claims he worked as a Merrill Lynch stockbroker before creating Top Models two years ago. "If they don't work out with somebody, it's usually because of the girls. That's my philosophy."
Wild went to Jim South and worked every day for two months. Now, Wild acts as her own agent, spending an hour each day on the phone and the computer looking for jobs. "I get much more work than with any agent," she says.
Wild is still signed up with some agents, but only those who don't charge her a percentage of her income, including Beautiful Models International CEO Regan Senter. Even so, Senter has an even worse reputation in the porn industry than Garcia, mainly because he requires his clients to fuck him on video before he will find them work. These "promotional" or "demo" tapes are then shown to prospective producers.
Although Wild claims she didn't fall for Senter's quid-pro-blow methods, there are pictures of Wild fucking and sucking Senter on his private Web site. Still, Wild has little bad to say about the man.
Senter doesn't deny his controversial, auditioning technique. "If a girl has a problem with a few minutes of sex, how is she really going to get into the business?" asks Senter. "If I think a girl has the quality to do stand-alone magazine work, and she doesn't want to have any sex with anybody, I will sign her up, but understand, she's not working as an adult actress." In the year 2000, Senter estimates that he successfully "auditioned" 300 actresses.
"That's one way to see if the girl's going to make you money or not," says Violet Blue of Senter's tactics. "Honestly, I don't think there's anything wrong with it; that's how the porn industry is. Everybody does shit like that."
Even given her past difficulties and current freelance status, Sharon Wild believes that agents do serve a purpose, especially for new girls. "The girl can call the agent and say, "They're trying to make me do extra [sex acts]; I'm not sure this is what I should do.' He can tell her, 'Yes, you should do this,' or 'No, this is not okay. Let me talk to them.' "
Garcia sees himself as doing even more for his clients. "I like the fact that I can take someone who has nothing, and I can make them a ton of money, and all of a sudden their life is different. I've changed their life."
(This article first appeared in the September 2002 issue of Hustler Magazine)
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