They each wanted the other dead. But neither would kill the other because that would piss off the powerful capo regime who had forced them into partnership—even if that partnership was driving “the biggest Mafia porno outfit on the west coast (FBI quote)” into bankruptcy.
I got my job at S & L Distributors through a double-cross that helped another pornographer retrieve a stolen editing machine, and he, in turn, got me hired. His advice: (Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.) “You can’t get in the door without my recommendation,” Robby said. “And whatever you do, don’t ever try to screw these people. Don’t even think about it.”
I thought I had been hired to shoot porn movies and was eager to show my filmmaking skills. But that corrosive partnership got in the way. One boss, Tony, wanted to sent me out right away to shoot a loop series. (Loops were short films, sold in series’ of six.) But his partner, Marv, wanted to continue simply as a middleman for other producers.
“Duke, we gotta get into production.” Tony staged the arguments in the middle of the warehouse, so we all could hear. “Every piece of film we buy for $5 is money we’re wastin’. Say we buy 500 pieces; that’s enough money for us to shoot a series. Then we print up 3000 of a number. That’s 18,000 pieces, Marv.”
Tony said we could sell them all. Phil the bookkeeper told me that volume meant $40,000 net profit. I could easily shoot two series a month (as Robby had in S & L’s early days).
It grated on Tony to hear Teddy Gaswirth boast of his “12 new series in the can” and how one of his 27 race horses “paid a $70 exacta last week.” Teddy drove a new Mercedes annually; Tony’s battered old 280SL sat dormant in the warehouse.
So why wasn’t I out shooting? What was Marv’s problem?
I was to learn of Marv’s secret agenda, entangled with the murky history of the forces behind S & L: a history of treachery, blood feuds, prison sentences, and murders. As the partners argued, I didn’t shoot; I sat. But my time wasn’t wasted. Tony ordered me to screen “every number in the place,” to educated myself about what was on the porno market. (Details of these films—some highly illegal, such as the infamous Animal Lover—are described in SKINFLICKS.) I also had plenty of time to take notes–secretly. Very secretly. If anyone suspected I was keeping a journal of my experiences at S & L, I would have been promptly fired—or worse.
Future entries will describe S & L’s crew of “Mafia poor relations,” how I saved my bosses from a major bust, and how the company used piracy and mob muscle to become rich with their VCX adult video line. I will also recount my scariest moments, when I was falsely accused of ripping off the company and faced death threats.