The Year in Review Continues: The Michael Ninn-John Gray Legal Fracas; Crazy Cabbie Tape Fiasco

X-Play’s sitcum Not Three’s Company XXX basked in the glow of a national television audience when TV’s Entertainment Tonight interviewed cast members for a story that aired nationwide.

Cast members Brynn Tyler and Penny Flame along with X-Play co-producer Scott David spent the morning on the sprawling Studio City, California soundstage of the former Mary Tyler Moore studios and were interviewed about the hardcore spoof of the beloved Three’s Company.

“Three’s Company is still a very steamy show. Each episode was loaded with sexual innuendo and we felt it would make a great comedy in which to create a porn parody and I’m really happy that ET and The Insider wanted to do a feature story on it,” stated X-Play’s David.

“This is so cool being here on the ET soundstage and being a part of the production of all of these mainstream stories,” added first year starlet Brynn Tyler who plays the ditzy blond Chrissy Snow.

Now out of the business, Penny Flame who stars as Janet the level-headed brunette said, “I was really happy that I was cast in this movie and now to be here on ET and The Insider is really cool.”

But it’s not the first time that an X-Play sitcum was profiled on national television. Past exposure helped thrust the company into the media spotlight and kicked production into high gear resulting in a string of smash hits including the 2009 best comedy Not Bewitched XXX and an XBiz and CAVR 2009 director of the year award for Will Ryder.

Sunny Lane was also the beneficiary of some national coverage via ABC News which did a feature on her along with Moonlite Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof. The ABC broadcast provided an in-depth look at Hof’s plans should the state of Nevada ease restrictions on legalized forms of prostitution.

“I think it would be a great idea because as the economy continues to falter, more and more people are going to need a good time and a way to relax,” Lane contended.

A porn chick concocting a bullshit story for attention? Hard to believe. But Andy Phillips, accused by Demi Delia of impersonating fellow baseballers Gregg Dobbs, Carl Pavano, agent Jordan Kapler, and wrestler John Cena, to get to her, went on the offense and denied Delia’s claims, Phillips coming up with an alibi. According to his agent, Phillips wasn’t even in Manhattan the night Delia said he was. Which, if that’s true, means… someone was impersonating Andy Phillips. Meanwhile, Phillips, according to ex-girlfriend Alyssa Milano has a small dick.

As Michael Ninn planned the release of Celluloid Addiction’s “Solamente,” he was also gearing up for a battle being waged in federal court over the use of his stage name and related Internet properties, according to a story reported on by XBiz.

The director got hit with a claim by Ninn Worx_SR, which was originally owned by Ninn, over the use of his pseudonym. Ah, the Tera Patrick scenario all over again.

The suit, filed at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleged that Ninn was using a trademark he doesn’t own to direct and produce movies, thereby creating confusion in the marketplace and harming Ninn Worx_SR, which is majority owned by the operator of gentlemen’s club chain Spearmint Rhino, John Gray.

Ninn, both parties agreed, sold 100 percent of N Worx (his company’s fictitious business name at the time) in exchange for 49 percent interest to Ninn Worx_SR, plus $1,000. In addition, Ninn Worx_SR paid off N Worx accounts payable of about $221,000.

Further, Ninn claimed in the suit that he was to receive $300,000 per year and would become Ninn Worx_SR’s CEO.

The deal also included domain names MichaelNinn.com, MichaelNinn.tv, MichaeleNinn.net, NinnWorx.com, NinnWorx.net, NinnWorx.tv and NinnWorxCnema.com.

In the suit, Ninn Worx_SR claimed that a year after the sale, Ninn began competing against the company, advertising the “Michael Ninn” mark and variations for competing products.

Ninn Worx_SR officials were particularly incensed, according to the suit, after Ninn distributed “Nymphetamine,” in which he represented the film as “directed by Michael Ninn.”

They claimed that Ninn marketed “Nymphetamine” using the pseudonym at ImNinn.com and promoted it at the AEE show last January. In the suit, Ninn Worx_SR counsel were also asking for a temporary restraining order over the use of his pseudonym, which was never registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office until this past year. Ninn Worx_SR filed for the mark on Jan. 20, just nine days before the federal suit was filed.

Ninn, who has directed more than 60 adult films in 18 years, mounted 18 points of defense, according to court documents, including ones of fair use, fraud upon the trademark office, copyright preemption and failure to comply with trademark law requirements.

Ninn’s attorney, Tim Riley, also lashed out in a preliminary statement to the court that the real party behind plaintiff Ninn Worx_SR was John Gray who locked Ninn out of his office, fired him as CEO of Ninn Worx and ceased all payments under the agreement,” according to a court filing.

Ninn, according to the filing, said Gray initially promised him “to grow N Worx from a $2 million company to a $20 million company.” But that would not be the case.

In the ongoing suit filed at Los Angeles Superior Court, Ninn brought counterclaims against Gray alleging fraud, misrepresentation, rescission of an agreement and breach of fiduciary duty.

Spearmint Rhino COO Kathy Vercher told XBIZ that Ninn Worx_SR “invested in Michael’s vision.”

“We were to put the money in and we did that,” she said at the time. “We just could not fuel his fantasies anymore, making movies with no end to the budget in sight or whatever it was; it no longer made business sense. More money was going in than what was coming out.”

But wait. In US District Court Central District of California, Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank later denied claims by Ninn Worx SR in its case against Ninn. In making the ruling Judge Baker Fairbank said that Ninn Worx did not make an adequate showing of either probable success on the merits or the existence of serious question going to the merits. On common law trademark infringement grounds, according to Judge Baker Fairbank, Ninn Worx provided insufficient support for their argument that the Ninn Marks are valid protectable trademarks.

Ninn Worx did not sufficiently show that they now own the Marks, continued JudgerBaker Fairbank. It was also ruled that Ninn Worx’s briefing on unfair competition grounds was also inadequate particularly in light of the above concerns to support a preliminary injunction. The court also denied Ninn’s request for sanctions saying that Ninn did not make an adequate showing to support sanctions.

Basically, with a lot of who-sa, what-sa and wherefores, we walk away with a tie-game.

Staunton, Virginia- After fighting a year and a half court battle which cost him at least $150,000, After Hours Video adult store owner Rick Krial closed up shop and called it quits. Krial said it wasn’t worth it any more.

Staunton Prosecutor Raymond C. Robertson won a conviction against Krial and his company in August, 2008 on two misdemeanor obscenity charges. The week-long trial pitted Robertson against two of the nation’s top obscenity trial lawyers. The porn shop closed after the trial. Krial said that if his store stayed open, “They were going to come at me with all the charges they could. Nobody needs this kind of aggravation.”

Tampa- For a mere $5,000, Edmond Vardanyan, aka gay porn star Nikolay Petrov, brutally attacked an elderly couple three times, hitting them with a hammer and fracturing their skulls. The man who ordered the attacks wanted money from the couple, his in-laws. Vardanyan needed money, too, he told a federal judge.

“I was trying to prove something, I guess,” said Vardanyan, 24, an Armenian immigrant who made his home in Tampa. Saying his actions demonstrated a depraved mind, Chief U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich sentenced Vardanyan to 20 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. He will be deported after his sentence. Vardanyan was also on probation for credit card fraud when he carried out three separate attacks, two in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one in Sarasota, between September 2006 and April 2007. He was paid by Alex Shevgert, who had received tens of thousands of dollars from his in-laws to start businesses that always failed and grew angry when the couple cut off their financial support.

Again, porn and its ironies in these troubled economic times. At the beginning of February, public relations manager Thomas Roche said Kink.com was “still going strong,” and that higher-ups were “cautiously optimistic.” Three days later Roche was laid off, along with 11 percent of Kink’s staff.

Then famous last words came from Canadian wrestling promoter Dave Parsons who heads up International Anarchy Wrestling. Noting that his federation wasn’t doing much of a business, Parsons said he planned on entering the adult entertainment industry

“I just want to have my own company and there’s a lot of money in porn,” Parsons said.

See ya in Vegas, Rick, and have we got a deal for you. Interested in a bridge somewhere in Brooklyn?

But things weren’t all that bad in Canada as Daniel Friedman CEO of PinkCherry commented on the economic growth of the sex toy business. The company, according to Friedman, has seen record growth of over 20% each month since mid 2008. Freedman notes, “Many people are unable to afford a vacation this winter, but they’re willing to spend $50 or so to enhance their love lives. Even the Oscars have caught on, they are giving away a We-Vibe in their gift bags.” So that’s what Hugh Jackman was grinning about the whole time.

Playboy has had better years. In fact it has had better decades, but no story tells just how far Playboy has sunk then the one where Kate Winslet was supposedly made an offer to pose nude.

“There’s no question we would be interested in Kate,” Hugh Hefner was reported as saying. “It’s a competitive market, more than it used to be, so she would be a most welcome addition in our pages.”

According to at least one story that came out this year, hotel customers were more willing to plunk down change to watch a porno movie than a Kate Winslet one. A coalition of 13 conservative groups (including the Family Research Council) that opposes the production and sale of porn, estimated that adult fare accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of all in-room entertainment revenue.

More money from porn, from their perspective, translates to a proof of a larger societal problem, which helps advance their agenda. Given my research in this space, I’m inclined to accept the lower end of the spectrum, largely because of the management problems that have plagued the entire porn industry over the past few years.

AVN put the revenue from hotel porn at $550 million in 2006, the last year for which data is available. At around $15 a movie, that’s almost 37 million purchases.

Several other sources chimed in – including a former Ritz-Carlton general manager – that the average run time ranges from seven to 10 minutes. Steven Silbar, who served as Director of Sales and Business Development of NXTV (which sells in-room entertainment), recalls that the average time an adult film was viewed through his employer’s system was 7.5 minutes (in 2001 and 2002). Even if a handful go from start to finish, this suggests many viewings of less than a minute.

Every guy deep down inside wants to be a porn director. So it was with Chester Arthur Stiles, not to be confused with Chester Alan Arthur, the 21st president of the United states. Stiles liked to film his sexual encounters with the girls. Well, it seems he misplaced one of the tapes. It was found and finally turned over to police. The police took a keen interest in the tape and guilty verdicts were read against Stiles for 22 felonies, including sexual assault. He faces multiple life prison terms at sentencing.

On second thought, Stiles maybe shouldn’t have filmed himself having sex with a 2-year-old little girl. Courts frown on things like that.

And whatever happened to that Crazy Cabbie [pictured] sex tape- the one that was shot in the Howard Stern studios late at night- which Stern later found out about and went ballistic on the air? It seems Cabbie told XBIZ that after many years of the tape sitting on a shelf and collecting dust, he was finally ready to part with it and was accepting all fair offers for the footage. Stop for a moment- and you can hear the sounds of a stampede to his door.

“I’ve been sitting on this footage for years and people have been asking for it, clamoring for it,” Cabbie told XBiz. “No one’s ever really seen any raw footage from it, and people even doubted that it existed. But now, it’s time to make a splash.”

Cabbie said he had been contemplating a deal with Frank Kay of IVD, but since the agreement was predicated on other elements and not just the tape itself, a deal fell through. Cabbie also mentioned speaking with Red Light District’s David Joseph and Teravision’s Evan Seinfeld about releasing the tape. There was even talk that Taryn Thomas was going to release the tape featuring Ron Jeremy, Taylor Wane, Tabitha Stevens and Christi Lake, with her company. [Jeremy even talks about the tape in his autobiography.]

But if you read between the lines, Jeremy who was not paid “a normal salary” seems less than thrilled with the outcome especially after the Stern flare-up:

“Cabbie was rattled enough to pull the plug completely,” writes Jeremy.

“He stopped returning my calls, and Brett [Cabbie’s business partner] informed me that the movie was being shelved indefinitely.”

“I couldn’t legally distribute it to video stores, but I could release it for free on the Internet.”

Sounds to us like Cabbie was trying to pull a fast one.

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