The XXXstasy Biz

Porn in Miami Beach is just another franchise operation

Already presold in Europe, Hustler hopes to land South Beach Love at a domestic cable outlet such as Cinemax. On-location shooting is set for February 2003 with a local casting call this fall. "The fact that Larry Flynt is getting involved with South Beach is going to attract a lot of media attention in and of itself," Baes crows. But don't expect any of Barely Legal's urination closeups. "It won't be anything you haven't already seen on Sex and the City or The Sopranos," he cautions, referring to the HBO series that have helped redefine the boundaries of commercial taste. "You will have adult situations, strong language, topless situations, simulated sex -- that's the standard now, and we're going to exploit this niche."

Anyone looking for some made-in-Miami Beach porn doesn't have to wait, however. DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts is part of Hustler's now-annual tradition of piggybacking on the Beach's Winter Music Conference (WMC). After observing the international media reaction to the WMC's weeklong gathering of 5000 of electronica's movers and shakers (as well as an equal number of pure fans) for a series of all-night DJ lineups, Hustler smelled money. Setting a porn film amidst a confab already known as a world-class bacchanalia was a no-brainer for Hustler marketing director (and Larry Flynt's own nephew) Jimmy Flynt II.

At age 29, Jimmy Flynt is literally the next generation of porn moguls, a role he took to heart for DJ Groupie, Hustler's debut foray into electronic dance music last year. Acting as a producer, he winged into the Beach's Albion Hotel during the WMC with the film's cast and crew, intercutting dance-club footage with scenes shot inside the hotel and atop Lincoln Road's Sony building. "Rock and roll had its time," he explains, but now it's electronica that sets the shopping beat for twentysomething consumers -- Hustler's new target market. When pressed Flynt is unable to name a single electronic artist -- "I'm just beginning to get to know the DJs" -- but that ignorance hardly seems to bother him. It just means hiring folks who know their techno from their trance, and then throwing some porn into the mix.

We're ready for our closeup, Mr. Thring: Friday (Top) and Lesley Zen on the set of  DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts
Brett Sokol
We're ready for our closeup, Mr. Thring: Friday (Top) and Lesley Zen on the set of DJ Groupie 2: Technosluts

Hustler Video is hardly the only adult film company setting its sights on Miami. A handful of local outfits, such as Fort Lauderdale's Jim Gunn and Miami Beach's Pjur Group/Eros, shoot locally, albeit on much smaller budgets and scales; the gay field is represented by Kristen Bjorn and VistaVideo International. Broward is already home to several regional distributors, and all of South Florida has become the adult Internet's equivalent of Silicon Valley, a status mirrored in that industry's move of its conventions and trade shows here from Las Vegas.

In fact the truly pressing question is why it's taking so long for Miami to become a porn hotbed. Coconut Grove holds the dubious honor of being the 1972 locale for Deep Throat, whose $600 million gross (with production costs of only $30,000) helped launch the industry. Yet the subsequent decades have been comparatively quiet.

It's an evolution that's worth pondering: Miami Beach in particular has all the ingredients considered essential for porn. The climate is warm and sunny; it has an ample supply of large, secluded homes and spacious condos (the usual sets); and it's smack in the heart of a large talent base -- stripper is the most common previous profession for porn actresses, and South Florida is second only to Los Angeles and Las Vegas in its number of strip clubs.

There's also an environment that is seen as invitingly open-minded, a permissiveness that applies to the business community as well. In other cities, nightclub impresarios are often deemed little more than proprietors of dens of iniquity. Even Manhattan, famed for its cosmopolitanism, finds its nighteries hoping their new mayor will simply ignore them -- a marked improvement over Rudy Giuliani's attempts to enforce Depression-era antidancing ordinances.

In Miami Beach, however, nightclub owners such as Level's Noah Lazes and crobar's Ken Smith find themselves not just respected, but actually sitting on city hall task forces and advising Mayor David Dermer's many blue-ribbon committees on civic services.

So what's the holdup? What's preventing porn producers from taking their place among Miami Beach's other louche movers and shakers? It's not the law. According to Beach Chief Deputy Attorney Donald Papy, shooting porn is technically legal -- though he declined to comment further.

"What's stopping the big flow from Los Angeles to southern Florida is technicians," believes Adult Video News's Mark Kernes. "A lot of the technicians and crew that we use in adult videos are people who would normally work in Hollywood. For them it's just a question of crossing the Hollywood Hills [into the San Fernando Valley] to get to a porn production where they can earn a day's pay."

Ironically it's been the creation of this very infrastructure that has been an oft-stated goal of both local filmmakers and Miami's Office of Film and Entertainment. Asked to articulate the city's official policy on porn, that office's Miami Beach coordinator, Alexis Edwards, shudders in mock horror: "I expected this to come down the pike someday." Turning serious, she confirms: "It's a legal industry and as long as they're willing to operate within our guidelines, I would accommodate them." Although Edwards recognizes the possible public discomfort level, she says she's bound by the First Amendment. "Our office cannot make content decisions. I cannot be the person who says, 'Let me look at your script before I give you a permit.'"

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