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There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: Vivid Offering a Sex Film of “Jimi Hendrix”

LOS ANGELES — In a twist on the recent string of sex tapes of Hollywood’s young stars, Vivid Entertainment plans to release what it says is a film from the vaults of classic rock: a sex film supposedly of Jimi Hendrix.

The film shows a naked man who resembles Hendrix, the guitar legend who died in 1970, wearing a bandanna in his Afro, having sex with two brunettes in a dimly lighted bedroom. His full face appears on screen for only a few seconds, with his eyes closed. In other portions there are flashes of his profile. But his hands, bedecked with rings, roam large on the screen at times. The film has no audio.

Vivid, a large maker of pornographic movies that is releasing the film this week, has created a 45-minute DVD, called “Jimi Hendrix the Sex Tape,” that combines 11 minutes of sex footage with a retrospective of Hendrix’s career in the 1960s (but with none of his music included). The company, which has also released tapes of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, Kim Kardashian and others, will sell it for $39.95 in stores and over the Internet, and will also offer the film for downloading.

But the identity of the man in the film, which has circulated among Hendrix aficionados for years, is fiercely disputed by experts and former associates. And the DVD arrives on the heels of a string of hoaxes involving star look-alikes and one other dead superstar. Internet news reports recently cast doubt on the claims of a New York collectibles dealer who said he brokered the sale of an explicit Marilyn Monroe film.

The marketing of the intimate moments of dead stars adds a strange new dimension to the surge of voyeuristic entertainment that has swept Hollywood, where sex tapes can be considered a means to stoke or revive careers. It indicates how far people will go — and how far legends may fall — as audiences clamor for unvarnished details of celebrity life.

Vivid Entertainment said that after an extensive inquiry led by private detective agencies, it stands by the Hendrix film as the real thing. “I believe that we did our due diligence, and as a result of that clearly believe that it’s him,” said Steven Hirsch, Vivid’s co-chairman. “If they said that it wasn’t him, I would never have put it out.”

Mr. Hirsch said he became convinced that the tape was authentic after tracking down the man who shot it with an eight-millimeter camera; they reached a monetary agreement “for his approval for us to distribute this.” But Mr. Hirsch and his lawyers declined to say how the man was located or to put a reporter in touch with him, saying they were bound by a confidentiality agreement signed at the man’s insistence. No one was able to identify the women in the film, Mr. Hirsch added.

According to the sex-film distributor Howie Klein, who sold the tape to Vivid, the film surfaced when a collector discovered a tin labeled “Black Man” in a box of rock memorabilia bought at an unidentified auction in London. Upon recognizing Hendrix, Mr. Klein said, the collector decided to sell the tape. It was offered on eBay, apparently unsuccessfully, more than a year ago, although it is not clear if the same collector was involved.

The collector approached Mr. Klein in July but insisted that his identity not be disclosed, Mr. Klein said. He declined to say how much he paid for the tape but indicated it was less than $50,000. Mr. Klein sold the tape to Vivid, he said, because the company had the resources to handle it better than he could.

The DVD includes commentary from two women who met Hendrix and say they believe the tape is real: Pamela Des Barres, the author of “I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie” (1987), and Cynthia Albritton, better known as Cynthia Plaster Caster. Ms. Albritton is known for doing plaster casts of the genitals of rock stars, including Hendrix in 1968. (Mr. Hirsch said both women were paid for their contributions to the video but declined to be more specific.)

“I’m 100 percent sure it’s him,” Ms. Albritton, 61, said in an interview from her home in Chicago. “The facial bone structure is the same. The eyebrows and the mustache are true to the style he was wearing in 1970.”

But Kathy Etchingham, 60, one of Hendrix’s steady girlfriends during the ’60s, said via e-mail after viewing still photos from the film at the request of a reporter: “It is not him. His face is too broad and nose and nostrils too wide for Jimi. Also the hair is too low on the forehead.”

“He would never have allowed anyone to see that,” she said in a telephone interview. “In private he was very shy and would cover up.”

The film has also been dismissed by Hendrix collectors and historians. One expert said that the rings the man in the film is wearing do not resemble any he had seen in years of studying pictures and film of Hendrix. Charles R. Cross, author of the Hendrix biography “Room Full of Mirrors” (Hyperion, 2005), encountered the film during his book research. “It doesn’t add up to Jimi,” he said.

As a fan, he said, he felt the film was “horrible to watch,” as he thinks the man appears to be on drugs or heavily intoxicated. “I don’t want that to be what I think about when I think about Jimi Hendrix,” he said.

A spokesman for the Hendrix estate declined to comment.

Mr. Hirsch said he did not worry about a backlash from ardent fans of Hendrix, who died of drug-related causes at 27.

He said there was “a very, very small percentage who worship him in such a way that they just want to visualize and remember him onstage.” But, he added, “There are many, many more casual Jimi Hendrix fans who certainly will be curious to see the other side.”

Mr. Hirsch, however, played down the notion that he or fans would be interested in a stream of posthumous sex tapes from celebrities. “There are only about five real icons,” he said, including Hendrix, Monroe and Elvis Presley. “If I had Frank Sinatra, that would do awesome. J. F. K. would do great. I don’t know if, other than that, there are a lot of dead people that it would make sense to put out.”


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