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Conversations with the Late Lenny Friedlander; Used to be a “Tin Man” – final

Porn Valley- It must have been sometime in 2000 that I had the following chat with Lenny Friedlander whose death in New Orleans this week comes under mysterious circumstances. which reports the news in that city runs an obituary with no detail; and there’s a thread that states Friedlander committed suicide. Yet there is no official story [at least as yet] posted on the site.

When I had this chat with Friedlander, he had just received The Good Guy award from The Free Speech Coalition. Plus, I was talking to a number of distributors about the value of contract girls and, whether having them, companies sell more tapes. We start off with that question, but Friedlander begged off from answering stating that he was removed from the sales of the product.

“And I’ve been in New Orleans the last eight and a half months,” he says. “I don’t think I’m a good one to answer that question. I can only say myself- if I wanted to see a Jenna Jameson- if she’s a Vivid girl, the only way to see her is to get a Vivid product. It’s smart for the manufacturer I guess to lock ’em up if they’re that good. As to the impact it has on the sale of the product or the starlets themselves, I don’t have the foggiest idea.”

Asked about the award, Friedlander joked that it was “about fucking time.”

“But being on the board you can’t receive an award,” he notes. “So until I got turned out to pasture and became president emeritus, this was the first opportunity for the board to give me an award. As far as The Free Speech Coalition Good Guy award, I’m flattered that someone other than my mother considers me a good guy. In all seriousness, while it’s nice to be considered for any award, this award is particularly satisfying as it comes from my colleagues in the industry.

“I don’t know what more I an say.”

Which leads to the inevitable question of how Friedlander got into the business.

“That’s one helluva long story,” he quips. “You’re going to need pages for that. I got in as a bill collector. I started collecting receivables for Marlan Distributors. That was June of ’79. I was asked to come out and start collecting for Marlan. I did such a good job that I ran out of work. And I was sitting there one day with my feet on the desk, and a guy by the name of George Bates- who I believe was the sixth person in this country to be dianosed with AIDs, the were calling it cancer back then – so he was the manager of Marlan at the time. Marlan was owned by Mark Klein and Lanny Cohen.

“So he asked me if I wanted to try and do some sales,” Frielandander continues. “I said, oh man, the only thing I did in sales was door-to-door aluminum siding. I was a Tin Man. They used to drop us off in Queens and I had no vehicle. We used to walk door-to-door. I got laid a lot because of the housewives.

“Ever see the movie The Tin Men? You’re the guy who knocks on the door and tries to get your foot in. When you get in, you bring The Closer. The name of the company was King Cole Aluminum Siding. So this guy pulls up in a silk suit in a Mark III Lincoln. He comes in the house, a real sharp dresser. And he sits down. We’re sitting around a coffee table- the woman, myself and The Closer.

“He’s telling her the story about how the deal’s going to work,” Friedlander continues. “At which point all the papers are laid out- literally- to be signed.

“Her husband comes home. ‘Oh, honey, hi. How are you doing?’ He takes off his sport coat. We notice his gun and his Lieutenent badge. He’s a lieutenant on the vice squad of the NYPD. Needless to say, as we get out the door, I got fired. And my boss left me carless in Queens because he had to legitimately do the job.

“He told this lady how her house was going to be on the cover of this magazine and all of this and all of that. Well, they wound up not making any money on the job. I was fired before I even hit the door. That was my one and only sales job.”

Keeping all that in mind, when Bates asked Friedlander if he wanted a sales job, Lenny drove himself to the Los Angeles Public Library.

“Which has every phone book in the country,” says Friedlander. “There were no videos at the time. We were still selling 8mm, magazines and a mere pittance of rubber goods, newspapers and paperback books.”

Friedlander sat for hours and hours at the library thumbing through the Yellow Pages and looking for anything under “bookstore,” and “newsstands” to sell his wares to.

“Maybe some liquor stores, too,” Friedlander recalls. “So when I got back to the office I started dialing.” When Friedlander would tell his prospect he represented an adult company, he’d often hear a click.

“I was calling bible stores and stuff like that,” he laughed. “Eventually I hooked up with a few customers that said we’ll give you a shot. So I slowly but surely started to build a clientele that I was able to service. Then they came out with video. And before you knew it, I was doing $10,000 a month; $20,000 a month, $30,000 a month, $50,000. Marlan at the time had a 5,000 square foot building. Then they added another on in North Hollywood right around from the Palomino Club on Lankershim.

“Then I got another 5,000 square foot building over in Burbank. And then some years later I got an 18,000 square foot building on Lankershim Blvd. which we expanded everything in turn. By now there’s lots of rubber goods, lots of magazines. The highest I ever got was $299,000 and change. I was so close to $300,000, I almost took the money out of my pocket- that’s how bad I wanted to make that goal. I had become the boss, and I wound up buying 10% interest of Marlan.”

“Then they sold me a piece of a store in Santa Barbara,” he goes on to say. “And ultimately what happened was, Mark and Lanny opened up two stores somewhere up north, and they took approximately, just for argument’s sake, $80,000 worth of merchandise for those stores. Mark and Lanny were taking out $500 a week as consultant fees and a $1,000 a week, each, from each store as management fees. And the stores never paid Marlan the $80,000. A year, two years go by and the stores didn’t do very well, so they were going to close them.

“They wanted to write off the $80,000. I said, hey, that’s fine, guys. But you owe me $8,000. I owned 10% of Marlan. But they didn’t want to see it that way.

“So I got pissed off and was interested in getting involved in something else in the adult marketplace. Back then there was a company called Joli Greeting Cards out of Chicago. A guy by the name of Joel Wylde. It was a straight greeting card company. But there was an adult card company he also owned called Peppermint Stick.”

Friedlander wanted to buy Peppermint Stick, so he flew, along with his attorney and the attoney’s girlfriend out to Chicago. They met with Wylde. But instead of wanting to sell the company, he told Friedlander that he wanted to be his partner.

“So we started a company called Lenjo,” Friedlander recalls. “My attorney formed the corporation. I think I got back on a Wednesday night when Mark and Lanny called me into their office and asked me what I was doing in Chicago. The word got back that I was in Chicago. I told them I was going into the greeting card business. They said we’re your partners, you’re supposed to give us first right of refusal. I said you guys have opened 12 stores since I’ve been here. You never gave me first right of refusal, and I don’t want to be your partner any more. You fucked me out of 8 grand. Screw you. They said okay.

“I left the office. I went back to my office. They no longer came into work on Fridays. Monday morning, first thing, Lanny walks into my office. He says you’re fired! Get out. This was like firing me from my own company. I was there for 7 3/4 years. I built the company. I said if that’s the way you want it, fine. He said, ‘I want you out now! He said, ‘You see this desk? It’s mine. I bought it. You see this credenza? You see this wall unit? It’s mine, I bought it.’

“I said I’ll be out by Wednesday. He said I want you out, now. I’ll call the cops. I said here’s the telephone. Call the cops. Go fuck yourself, I ain’t leaving. I’ll be out by Wednesday. He says, fine. He walks out. By Wednesday I left the office and between those couple of days I started calling the industry telling them I was leaving and that they better start collecting their money from Marlan because I was no longer going to be in the posiion of helping them.”

According to Friedlander, he started calling the magazine people who assured him they’d lend support.

“So I went to Al and Mike who were the owners of M&M Sales back at that time,” says Friedlander. “I asked if I could run the stuff through their business and they could keep all the money just as long as I don’t lose the customers. I started doing that for a week or so, but there was so much stuff going on. They were handwriting the bills. They only had one shipper and Mike was doing all the billing. They were saying we can’t handle this- this is too much. I said you guys are making all this money! He said, my heart, I can’t handle it! I swear, this is the truth. They couldn’t take it. So my friend Elliot Segal at the time who owned Western Visuals offered me a telephone and I borrowed a cardboard box from him. So I took the Lenjo name and started a company called dba New Beginnings.”

Using the cardboard box as a desk, Friedlandber began making calls as Lenny from New Beginnings.

“Within a week or two later, Elliot noticed a building on Densmore right around the coner from his place on Van Nuys. It was 4600 square feet and I rented it.”

By way of explanation, Friedlander mentions that he had known Segal since they were 13 years old in New York.

“October of ’86 is when I started New Beginnigs,” states Friedlander. “Before you knew it, I had to add a loft of a 1,000 square feet. I outgrew that in a short period of time. After the first three years was up on my lease, I went out and rented a 10,100 square foot building. After that I went out and rented 20,000 square feet. Then behind me a building became available for 14,000 square feet and I rented that, which is what I have now- 34,000 square feet.”

Asked whay he relocated to New Orleans, Friedlander says, “My wife is from New Orleans. I promised her if we stayed together I’d buy a home there so we could go and visit her family a couple of times a year during the holidays. Little did I know when I went down there the first time that I’d be staying there for 8 1/2 months and became a Jewish, New York city slicker coon-ass. And that’s it.”

“I can’t picture you dancing to Cajun music,” I tell him.

“Most people can’t, but I love it down there,” he replies. Friedlander kids about being a big shot back in Porn Valley but in New Orleans, he’s just one of the guys.

“It’s sort of stress-free for me down there,” he explains. “Nobody really bothers me. Most people can’t reach me there unless it’s really urgent. Here, the phone doesn’t stop. It’s a constant ongoing kind of thing, and I was just enjoying the stress-free activities down there. I was hunting. I was fishing. I was watching Judge Judy and Archie Bunker. That was my big thing.”

I ask Friedlander about his attempts to buy CDi.

“I was going to try and help bail out Charlie [Brickman]- he was going under,” says Friedlander. At the time, CDi still had a staff of employees, and Friedlander remembers having to install hot water.

“I actually pushed plugs back in,” Friedlander comments regarding the shape of the company. “Everything was hanging out of the walls. I pushed the plug back in and held them at least this long, to let them hang on.”


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