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Dane is Open for Business- update

Porn Valley- So I was over at Dane Productions this afternoon. And guess what? The door was open. Unlike the idea being put out there that the company’s deader than another Dane – Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ed Cohen, the company owner, shows me an e-mail. Some guy calling himself Stan Burrdick spreading the word that Dane is closing its doors forever and that there’s going to be some kind of month of March going out of business sale.

Despite positive stories in the adult media to the contrary, this guy Burrdick’s still sending out this e-mail. And people are believing Burrdick. Cohen suspects who Burrdick is but can’t name names, can’t point fingers, telling me his lawyer got his legal briefs tied in a knot last time Cohen spoke to me about that.

Cohen’s cellphone rings. He apologizes, stating that he normally shuts it off during meetings but that his daughter, a twin, is giving birth to twins. Any day now. Cohen’s telling me how rare this thing is, that it usually skips a generation. Cohen’s sounding more like a grandfather than a porn company owner.

Cohen, his face sad, is also telling me how much this e-mail has been eating him. Bob Blisten, Cohen’s vice president, telling me the same thing, Blisten and Cohen going back many years together when Cohen was his customer, and Blisten was in the mens wear business. Blisten’s telling me moving porn’s not much different than selling suits to big guys which is what Blisten specialized doing. Blisten himself a big guy. The inclination is to call him Big Bob.

“It’s a service business and customer-oriented,” says Big Bob about porno and suits. I’m about to ask Blisten if he ever had to match up a 48 waist to a 42 regular jacket which selling porn strikes me as, sometimes. Cohen’s giving me some history of the company, like that speech Burt Lancaster gives in Atlantic City about how you shoulda seen the ocean back then. Something like that.

At it’s height, Dane was making about $2 million a year and was heading for maybe $5 million, says Cohen admitting that it’s nice numbers. Not a lot, albeit. Still, nice numbers. Then comes partnership drama, tons of bullshit, lawsuits, legal fees, Cohen put in the position of having to get the company back on its feet, pouring money into that instead of into productions.

Which brings you to the Burrdick e-mail, Cohen saying pretty much how, over his dead body, is the company going to close like a casket lid. Cohen, an accountant all his life, tells me how he got to be the owner of Dane. How he was a consultant in the purchase of Forbidden Films, a move which brought Paul Bussey from Minnesota out to California.

I tell Cohen last time I saw Bussey was when Lou Peraino Jr. hired a limo, and that me, him and Bussey drank our way through Santa Monica one night. Cohen spins his eyeballs at the name of Lou Jr., how Lou Jr. had it made, all he had to do was show up, what happened. I know what happened there. So I ask Cohen what happened to Bussey, Cohen telling me, Paul’s back in Minnesota- wife, kids that whole thing.

In a story better told on a Saturday morning radio show devoted to investments, Cohen, in a nutshell, takes over the company which is now Dane. This is 1997. But Dane is doing pretty good. That is until one of the partners decides to hire this guy away from VCA, then makes a deal with the guy to start coming in on Saturday. The guy’s being paid, essentially, to steal masters. But then he tells Cohen about it, not being able to deal with the guilt any longer. Puts the whole thing in writing. Then Cohen discovers that the partner is trying to sell this footage to Leisuretime, Cohen finding out about it when Mike Kovacs is requiring two signatures on the deal, Cohen going nuts.

But the story didn’t end there. Cohen’s showing me some titles bearing the Dane logo, like Brandon Iron’s POV and Fantastic Stories which have come across his desk, Cohen telling me those titles didn’t come from Dane, that this is the kind of bullshit that’s been going on.

Cohen’s, like, your guess is as good as mine how this thing is happening, Cohen telling me he’s a very stubborn man and is going to beat this thing. Cohen’s also telling me he spends four hours a day commuting back and forth to work, which isn’t stubborn. It’s insane.

“Dane one time was a well-oiled machine,” says Cohen. “Our receivables exceeded our payables.” The new releases have slowed down, Cohen has to admit, again pointing to all the mitigating circumstances. Right now Cohen’s telling me he’ll settle for half of that two million the company was making, that he doesn’t even draw a paycheck from the company and how the company has gone from 15 employees to three. But there are good things on the horizon as well. Richard Montfort, the black cloud of love, has been shooting a lot for him, Montfort putting out a Latino line, Latina Sabrosas, which is shot in two languages, Spanish and English. Cohen loves Montfort, loves his work ethic. “Richard works like a horse,” he says. “I don’t know how he does it.”

Cohen’s also got an all-anal line called I Like to Watch pairing up black girls and white guys, Cohen telling me that even with the aggravation he refuses to cheapen his product. “I never lost a business,” he says. “You make mistakes but you overcome them. That’s why there’ erasers on pencils.” To that extent, Cohen’s telling me about some other past mistakes, that he has something like 500 customers but is weeding those out. For instance, he mentions a very big distributor that has always had a tough time reaching into its wallet from all the stories I’ve heard. “We’re not a bank,” says Cohen, meaning to say they’re cut off.

But, mostly, Cohen feels badly for the people who’ve stuck with him. He’s telling me how they’re all wearing different hats, doing five different jobs, pulling it altogether, about how Migaly, a woman who’s been with him a number of years, took this sizable pay chomp but remains. I ask Migaly, who started with the company as a secretary, why does she stay, Migaly telling me because it’s more like a family business, that you’re taken care of in other ways. “It’s hard to find a nice person to work for,” Migaly’s saying. Then I hear the story from Cohen about the warehouse guy, how he does the work of four people.

Big Bob, who came on board with Dane in September, starts his day at 6 am. “Ed is a nice person,” Bob explains. “He’s a decent person. He treats people nice, but some people take advantage.” Bob’s telling me Ed Christmas stories, Ed reaching deep into his pockets, trying to square a situation that had gone bad.

“There’s no reason for Ed to be going through this,” says Bob of the Burrdick e-mail, noting that with its circulation, the company phones have basically stopped ringing. But Bob is doing his damndest to change that situation, even sent out an impassioned plea to the business.

As he’s escorting me to the lobby, Ed Cohen nods to a poster for Snatch, his big April release, telling me he’s got plans- obviously- beyond March.

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