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LA Daily News: The Valley Exposed: From pioneer to porn giant

Porn Valley- When Steven Hirsch was growing up in Cleveland, his father sat him and his sister down and explained that some kids might be forbidden to play with them because their father was in the porn business.

“I was OK with that,” said Hirsch, now 45. “If they didn’t want to be friends with us, I didn’t want to be friends with them.”

But Hirsch said he doesn’t remember feeling ostracized then, or after moving in the ninth grade to Los Angeles, where he had a childhood much like his friends’.

Hirsch went to work for his father when he was 18. A short time later, he borrowed $20,000, and with business partner David James shot his first adult movie.

In 1984, the duo founded Vivid Entertainment Group, which has grown into one of the world’s largest adult-entertainment companies, with estimated annual revenues of $100 million.

Hirsch, James and Bill Asher are co-chairmen of the company, which owns a signature building on Cahuenga Boulevard near Universal City.

Hirsch’s office is spare except for a lighted trophy case filled with awards from AVN and pictures of his children.

He views what he does as entertainment.

“We’re just another option for adults,” he said. “I believe people make decisions for themselves. It’s not for me or anybody else to pass any kind of moral judgment. We make movies that people want to watch and we’ll continue to do that.”

For the past two decades, Vivid has been a pioneer in using new technology, buying Spice Hot and other adult-cable channels that it ultimately sold to Playboy.

“The Internet came along and we positioned ourselves right away to take advantage of that, to make it a key part of our business,” Hirsch said.

“So we weren’t as dependent on video or DVD sales as some of the other producers. This year, less than 30 percent of our income will come from DVDs.”

Hirsch also said that the increasingly competitive industry means increasingly high expectations for performers who sign with Vivid.

“It’s the way they talk, the way their eyes are, the way they carry themselves. If there’s something that just really stands out about them then we send them over to our photographer,” he said.

“If those look great, we shoot a scene with them, because obviously the sex has to be great.”

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