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Story of the Day Replay: XXX Wasteland Interviews Derek Hay

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Adam Wilcox posts on www.xxxwasteland.wordpress.com – With a decade-plus worth of unparalleled credentials to its credit, adult industry talent agency L.A. Direct Models stands tall as the premier representation company for performers in XXX.

At the helm of L.A. Direct is the group’s owner and founder, London native Derek Hay. A multi-award-winning adult actor in his own right, Hay launched the U.S. version of L.A. Direct Models out of a one-bedroom California apartment and proceeded to transform the agency into one of the most renowned entities in the history of adult entertainment. Since its inception, L.A. Direct has garnered a reputation for helping to develop long-term careers and currently represents a vast majority of the porn industry’s “A-List” performers and award-winning talent.

Hay expanded his operation in 2010 with the launch of E.C. Direct Models, a sister company of L.A. Direct located in Miami.

Derek kindly spoke with XXX Wasteland to discuss the origins of L.A. Direct Models, the reputation his agency has established within the adult industry, what L.A. Direct seeks in a potential client and more.

You can visit L.A. Direct Models online at LADirectModels.com and follow the agency on Twitter under the handle @DirectModels.

Q: Can you give us some background on yourself and how you entered the adult industry?

Certainly. The manner in which I came into the adult industry has been published many times, but I’m happy to relay it again to you. I suppose it was kind of unusual in a way. It took place over a long period of time.

I was formerly in the music industry for nearly twenty years traveling the world for major musical artists, some of which included The Rolling Stones, The Bee Gees, Van Halen, Metallica and many others. It was on a Metallica tour in the early-nineties that I met two girls, Tonisha Mills and Lynn Le May, who were very popular at that time. I became friends with both of them and through them happened to meet through the nineties a couple of other girls, who I dated, and through those relationships and friendships all the way through the nineties learned a great deal about the adult film industry.

In the late-nineties, I began to work part-time as an actor through some of the contacts I had garnered through those relationships and friendships. They began to ask me if I would work for them as an actor – which I was reluctant to do at first, not wishing to cause any harm to my continued employment in the music industry. But eventually I did; somewhere around 1997 I began to work part-time as an actor.

And then, in 2000, an opportunity presented itself to me – actually, in London, which is my native town; that’s where I’m from – to start an agency providing talent to the adult film business.

I actually started to reside most of the time in the United States in 1988, so between 1988 and 2000 I maintained a residence in London. And so, I had dual residency. But much more of my time would be spent in the United States then in London, so when this opportunity came in 2000 to start the agency – which, of course, is now L.A. Direct Models – I was interested to do that because it seemed like those preceding eight or nine years through the nineties the adult film business was sort of a near constant in addition to the music business, but (I wasn’t) so keen on being back in London. Regardless, I worked at this fledgling company for about a year back in London, but then decided that it wasn’t for me to be living my life back in England; I was already very happy to be spending most of it in California. So, I moved (the agency) back here and L.A. Direct Models started in the spring of 2001.

Q: L.A. Direct is widely considered the top modeling agency in the adult industry; probably at least ninety percent of the “name” talent in the business is represented by the company. I suppose this is a broad question, but can you tell us how you built L.A. Direct into what it is today and what sets the agency apart from others in the industry?

I think simply put would be hard work – we really do work hard here; we’re open seven days a week – responsibility and accountability. I think that L.A. Direct has gone a long way to change the way that the industry regards talent agents or agencies. Nowadays, there are, I think, twelve licensed talent agencies in the business. When I started in 2001 there was only one; that was Jim South (World Modeling) and Direct Models was the second one and a decade later there are twelve. Of course, I would like to say that there aren’t any unlicensed ones, but unfortunately there are. But we work to try to get people to conduct their business lawfully; but I guess that’s a different question altogether.

I’ve been asked that question many times also, but a decade ago it wasn’t any Harvard business school or fantastic business plan that caused L.A. Direct to have success; it was simply that the ethics and the upbringing and the education that I had received told me if I had contracted with a studio to provide them a model tomorrow at 9:00 AM, then they should expect the model to arrive on that set at 9:00 AM and I constantly strove to achieve that.

Q: What do you feel are some of the most important qualities for an agent to have?

Well, I think the agent must always remember that you’re working for the wishes of your client and our clients are the actors – I use the term “actor” obviously without gender, meaning actors and actresses in this case. Sometimes we refer to them as “models” as well – Direct Models. It is sort of interchangeable, I suppose, in the adult film business, whether it’s an actor or a model. But nonetheless, you’re working for your client in the interest of your client.

In the adult film business, you have to balance that also because there are unique challenges to that. In our business, because many of our actresses are of fairly young age – I would say the majority of them are between 18 and 25 – and the industry and the money that they can earn exceeds that of all of their peers and that can present challenges. So you have to balance the responsibility that you have to your actor/client, as well as the responsibility that you have to your studio client from whom you procure employment on behalf of your actors.

Q: Sort of on the flip side, what advice would you give to someone who is considering entering the adult industry as a performer?

When you ask that question, do you mean for a female model or a male model?

Q: I suppose both, although I guess it is different for each.

It’s completely different for both, so if you’re talking about a female model … well, obviously the very first thing is whether the model is attractive enough to be marketable in the industry. Obviously, there is a certain standard that I can tell.

And of course, there are so many niches within our business that a model may have niche appeal. If she’s got a lot of tattoos, then the more mainstream studios are probably going to shy away from her, but we have clients that welcome that, that seek that out. So there can be various attributes that she’s suitable for. Some clients are not for others. But nonetheless, as an overall assessment based on her looks, I’m looking to see if I think I’ll be able to find for her a reasonable amount of work. That’s Number One.

If we move on from there, the next thing is motivation, her ambition, what it is she wants to achieve in the industry and my assessment of that and whether I think I can realize that with her.

What L.A. Direct Models has been most famous for is long-term careers. What we’ve achieved that few others have achieved is taking a model from her very first days and years and years later looking back and saying, “She’s still with us three, four, five, even eight years later.” Monique Alexander is a great example: She’s been with L.A. Direct Models eight years, and of course, she’s one of the biggest names in the business. There are many other names I could mention the same thing; of course, Tori Black is another one, Alexis Texas, etc. But that’s something that we have managed to do quite well.

We can cater to the wishes of our actor/clients. If a model is less long-term oriented and perhaps is taking a year off before going back to school or going to school and this is something that is an interest to her for a short period of time, then we can cater to that, too, as long as there’s purpose to it.

Male actors are a bit of a gamble. These days, looks are much more important than ever they were even a decade ago. It was a case of not what a guy looks like, but merely can he perform? Can he actually maintain an erection? And it’s irrelevant what he looks like because that’s all that matters. That is no longer the case. Productions now are much more focused on what a guy looks like and equally his acting ability. With the change of the last few years to higher-value productions and bigger budget productions and almost complete elimination of gonzo-type shooting, looks and acting are as important now as his actual sexual performance abilities – which, of course, remains very important.

And so I have to balance. Whenever a new guy submits himself for consideration for representation, I have to assess all of those things. It’s impossible to really know if a guy has what it takes as far as sexual performance; a hundred guys could tell you they have what it takes and probably less than one in a hundred really do. So it’s a bit trial and error to find new guys.

Q: Online piracy has obviously hit the adult industry hard in recent years. Speaking as an agent, can you tell us about the effect piracy has had on the pay rates for performers?

Well, aside from the fact that I work nearly seven days a week and pay attention to what is going on in the industry, piracy doesn’t directly affect the business of Direct Models. We don’t produce any content that can be pirated. It has trickle-down effect, I suppose, in that if the companies are losing money because their product is being pirated, then they will produce less product and therefore hire less models. So I suppose it has a trickle-down effect, but piracy isn’t something that directly affects us and I don’t see any linkage between piracy and the rates of the models.

Q: Earlier this year, there was a malicious website called Porn Wikileaks that made life miserable for many people in the adult industry. It was essentially proven that one of the main people behind the site is an individual who, for whatever reason, harbors some sort of grudge against you. I was wondering if you yourself sought any legal action against the website in order to get it taken down.

It’s well-known that there is an ongoing criminal investigation and a number of parties that would seek to see that investigation to come to conclusion and appropriate prosecution made (to those) who played their part in that and L.A. Direct Models, of course, (is) one of those.

Q: What do you feel are some common misconceptions about both your job and the adult industry overall?

Well, I suppose because you are interviewing me as the owner of a talent agency, the only misconception I find with any regularity is that people are at times surprised to find that there is a company such as L.A. Direct Models that is a licensed and bonded talent agency with nine office employees and additional drivers and part-time employees operating the same as any other licensed talent agency catering to the television world, the feature film world, the sports world, or any other career that requires talent representation, except in our case we are providing it to the adult film industry. I think at times they are surprised by that, I don’t know. Perhaps public perception is that the adult film industry is sort of still the Wild West and nowhere near as corporately structured as, in fact, it is.

Q: There was a recent HIV scare within the adult industry, which thankfully appears to have been a false alarm. I wanted to ask your thoughts on the condom debate – whether or not they should be mandatory on porn sets – and what impact you feel the closure of AIM had on the business.

Well, the infrastructure and the protocols AIM put in place have served us so well over the past twelve or thirteen years since we began to adhere to that, which at first was just HIV testing and then expanded to chlamydia and gonorrhea testing; and then, of course, we also test periodically every six months for syphilis and so on. It’s served us so well and somebody remarked to me the other day: There have been three cases in the last decade, all of which have been such that those persons have been infected outside of the industry and brought it to us. Only in one of those cases – Darren James’ case back in 2004 – was it actually passed to other performers, which is regrettable, but to other, more recent cases, fortunately, they did not.

But when you consider the volume of performers testing – as a rough approximation, AIM was testing about one thousand performers a month – and we had three instances in a decade, that is a pretty good statistic.

I thought it was enlightening in the recent case that the adult industry’s biggest detractor – Michael Weinstein, head of AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) – when interviewed said that the manner in which you could tell immediately that somebody was HIV-negative or not was to use an OraSure test that AHF recommends, which one can self-administer and which is, in fact, an ELISA test, which most people understand is a test which will not show positive unless a person has been exposed to the virus for a period of somewhere between three and six months – that’s the window period during which that particular testing type will show positive.

(Laughs) Obviously, it shows that our biggest detractor knows little to nothing about which he is talking because supposing a person had been exposed one week ago and you are recommending a test that will not show up now for a further eleven weeks.

So I suppose to take that argument a little bit further then, if Michael Weinstein had his way, then we would test somebody that we want to insure is not HIV-positive or maybe has been exposed – we would test them, theoretically, using his OraSure testing – the test would come back negative and then, I guess, according to Michael, we would be okay to shoot them, albeit with a condom.

What a time bomb that is. What a time bomb. So we’d actually be shooting HIV-positive persons, but using a condom. Need one say any more? I don’t think so.

Suffice to say, thank you to AIM for putting such a good system in place that has served us so well. We continue on with it until something causes us not to, I suppose.

Q: L.A. Direct expanded last year with the launch of E.C. Direct Models in Miami, is that right?

Yes, that’s true.

Q: Can you give us the story behind that and the decision to branch out?

Well, simply put, Miami has long been the second city in the United States for adult film production and we wanted to have a more solid presence in Florida. Prior to doing that, only really “The Big Three” down there – Bang Bros., Reality Kings and Brazzers – really, just those could ever afford to fly a model down for a shoot or two and fly them back. But there are, of course, many other producers in that market who are pleased to be serviced with models who could not afford flights and hotels accompanied with the expense of shooting. So we opened a small office there to service that marketplace.

Q: Are there any further plans to expand elsewhere?

No, there really aren’t any other cities that have anything like the volume of business that Los Angeles or Miami does.

Q: I realize these things are difficult to predict, but what do you feel is the future of adult in regard to the overall health of the industry?

It’s difficult to predict because at times being in the industry, you can’t see the changes that are coming. It’s almost like, I suppose, as one ages: You don’t really realize that you are aging until you look in the mirror and you think, “Hmm, I’ve got an extra few wrinkles there.” You think back a couple of years ago and you think, “Well, we used to do that differently and now we do it like this.” It’s hard to predict; I don’t know that I can predict it.

Piracy, of course, has caused the productions to virtually eliminate shooting gonzo-type movies. Nobody is really shooting just sex scenes anymore; scenes are within dialogue or scripted movies or, of course, parody movies are very regular now. I don’t know how long that wave can go on for – until consumers’ interest for parody movies is sated and sales for those may fall off. I hope not. Some studios, of course – like Vivid – have been making some exceptional productions with their superhero comic book parodies. And other people, too. But I can’t tell you what I think the next thing will be when that particular wave ends.

Q: To finish up, is there anything you wish to say to readers?

I’d like to say thank you to my staff – particularly Fran and Veronica, who have been at L.A. Direct for, I think, eight and ten years, respectively, which is a very long time and have contributed greatly to the success of the company.

Q: Excellent. Thank you very much for your time and I wish yourself and L.A. Direct continued success. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

You’re welcome. Thank you.

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