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AdultFYI Continues theYear in Review: Michelle Avanti in the Valley of the Dolls

Think Larry Flynt had problems with sex harassment lawsuits? He had good company when Natalie Cedeno, the former HR director for FriendFinder Networks detailed accounts of a porn star draping boobs over an employee’s head, how lapdances were being performed on the company dime and a story about $50 million in back taxes being owed.

Cedeno claimed that company executives retaliated against her for pointing out violations of labor laws. Cedeno was a top executive at the Internet side of the business, deeply involved in its operations for eight years, before FriendFinder fired her without cause last January, she claimed.

She also claimed the company then tried to withhold the two years of pay she was owed under her contract unless she agreed to stay silent about FriendFinder’s misdeeds — a move her lawyer characterizes as “extortion.”

FriendFinder Networks used to be called Penthouse Media Group before it acquired Various Inc., the operator of Adult FriendFinder and other online personals sites, in 2007 for $500 million. While they’re both porn companies, the office cultures of Florida-based Penthouse and Silicon Valley-based Various Inc. — where Cedeno worked before the merger — couldn’t have been more different. That became obvious on May 2, 2008, when the ex-Penthouse executives, now in charge of the combined business, decided to ship in a passel of Penthouse Pets to the old Various offices.

When management announced that Penthouse’s stable of nude models would be stopping by the office to serve ice cream, one female employee objected, as Cedeno tells the story. When they arrived, one of the scantily clad Pets made a beeline for the dissenter.

“They came into her office and placed her breasts on her head in an attempt to humiliate her, and they had someone ready to take pictures,” Cedeno alleges. The employee quit soon after the incident.

The evening before Cedeno was terminated, she says she brought up at a meeting of executives how an employee had charged thousands of dollars in lapdances to the company — an expense the company’s pre-Penthouse management wouldn’t have tolerated.

“The president laughed and said the CEO had paid for lapdances for investment bankers with company money,” Cedeno claims.

Cedeno says she also complained to CEO Marc Bell the first day he came to visit Penthouse’s new acquisition — and was supposedly told that the women in FriendFinder’s technology department were “ugly” and that Cedeno should get rid of them and replace them with more attractive workers to keep the male employees happy.

According to Cedeno, Various operated Adult FriendFinder and other X-rated adult sites for seven years without drawing a single sexual-harassment lawsuit from employees. The company was as buttoned-down as nearby NASA contractors.

After first sending them a Cease & Desist letter earlier in the year, Arrow Productions later filed suit against Vivid Entertainment Group over a three-company production deal involving a reality series and remake of “Deep Throat,” according to a story that was reported on by XBiz this year.

In its suit, Arrow, the owner of the “Deep Throat” franchise, claimed Vivid prematurely screened scenes from the new Showtime reality show, “Deeper Throat,” at AEE last January, which is based upon its remake of “Deep Throat,” the Linda Lovelace movie produced in 1972 that is the highest-grossing porn film of all time.

Vivid planned to release the remake in March of last year under the title, “Throat: A Cautionary Tale.”

According to the story, Arrow, Vivid and World of Wonder Productions apparently struck a licensing deal in January 2008 over several production ideas spurred from the companies involvement in remaking the legendary adult film. Vivid was supposed to submit an “exclusive first-look” copy of the finished movie to Arrow before showing it to anyone else, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. But Arrow never received the copy, it claimed in the suit.

The story goes on to say that Arrow claimed the contract gave it 10 days to decide whether to release the film, and gave Arrow the option to buy the rights to the remake. Arrow said Vivid’s breach also fouled up the parties’ reality TV show about the remake, produced by World of Wonder which aired on Showtime last year.

“Arrow has kept its end of the bargain; Vivid has not,” the suit said.

Attorney Gary Kaufman of The Kaufman Law Group, which is representing Arrow in the suit said the breach in contract was stinging.

“We believe that Vivid’s actions constitute a blatant breach of the parties’ written agreement, and Arrow intends to aggressively protect all of its contractual rights,” Kaufman said in an interview with XBiz.

Arrow, in the suit, demanded the profits from reality series “Deeper Throat,” an injunction to stop further release of the film, and performance of the contract.

Not saying that Arrow’s Ray Pistol wouldn’t cut a fine figure in a Speed-o, but we like it better when bikini models trash their opposition in lawsuits as we saw in the case of Sarah Jo Lammers a pretty blonde Tiger Woods-type who claimed her ass was repeatedly groped and how she was crudely propositioned by her bosses at the Hawaiian Tropic Zone in New York City.

Lammers, 26, claimed she was fired because she refused the sleazy demands for sex, including a contest between two bosses over who could bed her first, court papers revealed. But Lammers was just the latest in a string of young women to sue the joint over X-rated shenanigans.

A knockout Bronx model has claimed she was turned away for a job for being “too ghetto.”

Though the restaurant rejected the lawsuits as baseless, Lammers said managers often touched her breasts and buttocks, pressed her for sex and asked for naked photos during the nine months she worked at the restaurant.

She complained, but bosses did nothing about the harassment, she said.

Two corporate bigwigs even staged a bizarre contest to try to talk her into the sack, including a corporate chef who asked for sex as his 50th birthday present.

Bosses also suggested they secretly taped Lammers and other Tropic girls in the nude at a company-provided apartment.

Lammers said she was treated unfairly when she rebuffed the advances. Things got worse when she told Tropic Zone executives about an unnamed co-worker who came home disorientated and half-undressed after meeting fired general manager Anthony Rakis for a drink. Another waitress accused Rakis of raping her in a cab. Rakis was also supposed to have impregnated another employee. Weasels that they are HTZ, after agreeing to settle an explosive $600 million lawsuit filed by five female former employees, backed away from a deal to settle out of court for $2 million.

After garnering a reputation as one of the wackiest chicks in porn [and now we know why], Michelle Avanti went on the Internet and offered some sobering reflections on her career. Avanti told her story of how her father was addicted to alcohol and drugs and how her mother had to raise her as a single parent.

Avanti says she was never accepted anywhere and by the time she was in middle school she was constantly in trouble. She got kicked out of high school, started exploring alcohol, drugs and sex until one day she got raped by a friend of hers.

She took college courses at the local community college but wasn’t able to finish due to a crazy party life. Then she got a job working as a cocktail server and beer girl behind the bar to support her addictions.

“I would drink so much that I would forget to work and my employers got fed up and fired me,” she wrote.

After trying to get a real job and failing at that she returned to working at the bar on the weekends. One night she met a guy who came in from the navy base. They started hanging out and partying together. Avanti thought for sure this was the one because he made her feel so good and gave her all the love she never had. As the relationship turned rocky, Avanti became very depressed. She started using more drugs and drank heavily and began to have major fall outs that eventually led to verbal and physical abuse.

On another occasion, Avanti and a friend took a trip on Amtrak to visit some friends. They never made it to their destination because they were so high. They met a guy and began flirting with him and within minutes they were partying. Avanti told him how she just broke up with her fiancé and lost her job and how she had no money to pay her bills.

He told her he was a porn star and could help her out, that he was looking for female talent. Avanti hesitated but heard the dollar signs and was desperate.

“All I knew was I was going to make tons and tons of money,” she says. “Boy was I wrong! The average I ever got paid was $900-$1000 and had to give 10% to the agent and 5% to the driver. My agent forced me to use a driver because he knew I was always wasted. About 75% of the women who make porn have to have drivers because they’re addicted to drugs and alcohol.”

When Avanti was first introduced to her agent she told him she had no limits and would do it all.

“But I had NO idea what I was saying. I didn’t know about all the hardcore sex acts I would be forced to do,” she says.

“All I knew was that I wanted to catch up on my bills and then get out. So I signed a one year contract and only worked for him.” Wanting to go home, Avanti tried backing out of her first scene but the male porn star she first met said she couldn’t because she had signed a contract.

She claims she was threatened that if she didn’t do the scene she was going to get sued for lots of money. So she ended up taking shots of vodka to get her through it. As she did more and more scenes, Avanti says she abused prescription pills which were given to her anytime she wanted by several Doctors in the San Fernando Valley.

She was given Vicodin, Xanax, Norcos, Prozac and Zoloft. According to what she says, the doctors knew she did porn but still gave her any prescription pills she wanted. All she had to do was tell them she needed them to get through hardcore scenes.

“In fact, any porn star can get just about any prescription from certain doctors in the San Fernando area,” Avanti reveals. “Maybe they get kickbacks from porn producers. Who knows.”

Avanti says most of her experiences on the porn set include her being totally wasted and porn producers allowed her to be, and even provided alcohol and drugs for her. She experienced rough sex scenes and had been hit by male talent. Avanti says she would tell them to stop but they wouldn’t stop until she started to cry.

“During one specific scene called “Bukkake” I was really high and the producers knew it, and they told me to use a Douche to pretend I was urinating on another performer but I had an accident and instead I defecated on the performer,” says Avanti.

“I was so humiliated and wanted to die. They told me it was okay and not to worry that they weren’t going to make a big deal about it and the next thing I know they blasted the scene all over the web. I felt totally degraded.”


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