The Ride to Perdition
The camera's red light eye blinks on, and the hardcore sex, choreographed for maximum visual exposure and female humiliation, begins in earnest. While camera operator Greg Entner taunts and insults her, a slip of a young woman with curly brown hair whom we'll call Lori, performs oral sex on her partner, and chokes, partially on stifled tears.
The scene will be edited into a 45-minute episode depicting Lori's sexual escapades and uploaded onto the Website of Miami-based porn giant Bangbus.com. While the Bangbus gang often gets credit for being groundbreakers in the world of Internet amateur porn, reality porn and its reality-based cousin, gonzo porn, actually have been the leading forms in the $10 billion a year industry for about a decade.
Anyone with a digital video camera and at least one person willing to perform a sex act in front of it can make and distribute pornography. The acts depicted on amateur, reality, and gonzo Websites are more raw than those on professionally airbrushed bit streams such as the ones launched by Penthouse and Hustler magazines or other well-financed operations. With jaded media consumers having seen everything from footage of hostage beheadings posted to Islamist-affiliated Websites to people stuffing eels up their noses on prime-time network television, porn programmers have to work extra hard to jolt synapses out of their sensory-overloaded stupor.
In Miami that work is camouflaged by the respectable veneer of the Brickell Avenue skyline. Among the many law and accounting firms that have made SE Fourth Street their home; Ox Ideas, creator of Bangbus.com, is pixilating and broadcasting pornography across the world.
Captured inside countless hard drives, Lori's feigned moans of sexual ecstasy narrate the sad tale of her introduction into the world of porn. The saga begins with her squatting over an at-home urine test, confirming what her body had already told her -- she was pregnant. Tears poured down her face as a million thoughts raced through her head. She was too young at 22, unwed, and her relationship with the father was rocky. In fact, he had just moved out of the South Beach apartment they shared. Now, alone, with rent due, and no insurance, her choice was clear -- terminate the pregnancy. But Lori needed money. Her obligations as a university student of psychology only allowed for part-time work that barely covered her living expenses. So Lori arranged to meet with the father, a guy we'll call Donnie, to explain their mutual predicament. She hoped to elicit some emotional support, or at the very least, funds for the procedure. But the seemingly simple task of raising a few hundred dollars would prove difficult. Upset, jobless, and just as broke as his former lover, Donnie needed some time to absorb the gravity of the situation.
Donnie's proposed solution came two days later in the form of a small newspaper ad seeking models and couples; paying up to $1000 a day -- nudity required. Lori had never been naked in front of a camera. Still, as long as it didn't entail anything lewd or graphic, she wasn't opposed to the idea. The next day Donnie, with Lori's encouragement, called the number in the ad.
A few days later, Lori and Donnie stepped inside the offices of Ox Ideas. She half expected to walk in on some dirty old man and his camera. Instead, she and Donnie encountered a low-key, professional operation. They were led into a conference room where they provided proof of age and Lori was afforded the opportunity to ask questions. "They were trying to make me feel comfortable, they wanted to convince me," said Lori. "One of their employees ... said that my movie would only be up for two weeks."
Utilizing the luxury of hindsight, Lori admits she was in the middle of an emotional crisis and didn't go over the contract and release forms presented to her as well as she should have.
Lawrence G. Walters, Bangbus.com's corporate lawyer, agrees. "Bangbus has everyone sign the same model release, and none of the model releases, and I know because I drafted it, none of the model releases authorize Bangbus to display their content for a period of two weeks. That's not standard in the industry. No Website does that," said Walters by phone from his office in Orlando. He was the only person from Ox Ideas who would speak with New Times; all other company officials declined repeated requests for interviews and comments.
The couple was put on a list of available talent, and two weeks later received the call. It usually takes a little longer, but as the caller explained, Lori and Donnie were lucky -- another couple scheduled to shoot that day had cancelled. Pregnant Lori and her ex-boyfriend would soon be working for Kristopher Hinson, founder and CEO of Ox Ideas.
Hinson is the brain trust behind such Websites as 8thstreetlatinas.com, Baitbus.com, Trannytrick.com, and of course, the Bangbus. He controls a porno empire from his $1.8 million mansion on San Marino Drive, overlooking the Venetian Causeway. Details about Ox Ideas are hard to come by, but Hinson got into the business when he and chief operations officer Penn Davis were attending the University of Florida. They had been running free adult Website links, the largest one being Sublime Directory. As novice webmasters in the adult entertainment industry, they set up links to other Websites that required payment. This is a way for fledgling companies to cash in on the sex industry without actually producing any content. These directories list and rank pay sites that do produce their own content, and in turn receive commissions for referrals. After the checks started to roll in, Hinson and Davis decided to pack up, move to Miami, and create Ox Ideas. That was back in 2000, and since then Miami has flourished as a porno paradise rivaled only by Southern California.
Hinson and Davis solidified Miami's position as a pornographer's mecca. The area had been slowly gaining a reputation as an alternative to the West Coast scene; Hustler, Playboy, and a host of other companies had been shooting on South Beach. But it wasn't until the advent of Ox Ideas that our town became a feeding ground for executive pimps. Log on to any of the Ox sites and eventually you are bound to spot someone you recognize. ReelButts.com was Ox Ideas' first venture into producing exclusive content. It was relatively soft-core compared to their third site, Bangbus.com, which eventually became the company's flagship.
Bangbus offers an element of verbal abuse coupled with the perception of reality. It is supposed to convey the illusion that what is shown is real, and that this is the way most women would respond. While big productions from Hollywood had marquee names such as Jenna Jameson and Sylvia Saint, Bangbus focused on a more natural look. No longer was porn going to be in the hands of a few distribution companies with lavish sets. Gone were the double-D boob jobs and the wigs. Instead, every effort was made for the scenario to appear as real as the sex.
In just a few years, the Bangbus made a name for itself. T-shirts and bumper stickers bearing the bus logo were a common sight on the streets of Miami. This led to a slew of Magic City copycats attempting, with moderate success, to ride the Bangbus coattails to riches themselves. Each of the copycats added its own flair, but all had the elements of reality porn made famous by Hinson and Davis.
Even though Ox Ideas' principals keep details of its financial dealings to themselves, there is big money in porn.
"We don't feel the squeeze from the down economy at all," Hinson says in an interview published on the industry site AVN Online. "Losing your job isn't going to make you want to stop masturbating; trust me, I've lost several jobs. It's one of the laws of economics; the sixth one, I think. Some things are necessities like food, water, shelter, TiVo, and porn."
The Bangbus formula is simple. As the bus -- really, a white rental van -- drives all over the Miami area, Greg Entner, who "performs" under the name Dirty Sanchez, acts as an antagonistic host and narrator who offers money to supposedly unwitting women in exchange for sexual favors. This is all smoke and mirrors, though. Usually, the people having sex are rookie couples or professional models. Once the women are "convinced" to get inside the van, the action starts, but it's not a pool table quickie approach. The actual sex doesn't come until the last ten minutes of the film. The majority of the time is spent suspending disbelief by capitalizing on the assumption that women will do anything for a few dollars.
Lori needed the money, but once she knew she would be having all-out sex in front of the camera, she says she was hesitant: "They kept emphasizing the money. öThink about the money. If you need the money, we'll give it to you, just as soon as you sign.' I had never heard of Ox Ideas and I figured no one else had either, so I did it."
Lori claims that she was unaware Ox Ideas and Bangbus were one and the same until the day of the shoot.
Entner was polite and amicable until the red light came on, she says, but once the camera was rolling, he let his true colors show. "That's when he became a total prick. He started to taunt me and just make me feel very small."
On the video it is clear that Lori is not happy. Entner berates her until she calls him an asshole. At one point, he directs Lori to bark like a dog, and later, with Donnie in her mouth, to squeal like a pig. Lori, afraid she would end up doing all this for free, grudgingly agrees. Donnie chuckles and trades high fives with Sanchez.
She was encouraged, however, by the thought that in a couple of days she would receive her share of the $1200 she and Donnie had just earned and this crisis would be behind her. The sad truth is that in the world of reality porn the only sure thing is that you are going to get fucked. Poor Lori found this out the hard way. In a matter of hours, her images were available to anybody with Internet access and a credit card.
For Internet porn worshipers, Wednesdays are the Sabbath. That is the day Bangbus.com posts the new videos for the week. When co-workers and patrons from Lori's restaurant job downloaded her Bangbus episode, they instantly recognized her.
Not only was her image the Bangbus feature of the week, but, by the next day, people had already started to trade her video file, much as music lovers do with MP3s, on peer-to-peer file sharing networks such as Kazaa and WinMX. Once it was posted to one of these networks, Lori's video file was renamed with her true identity and workplace. After that, it was only a matter of time before her brother in upstate New York, an avid WinMx user and Bangbus fan, would come across his little sister's fifteen minutes of shame.
What's more, Ox Ideas wrote out a check to Donnie for the entire $1200. Unbeknownst to Lori, Donnie was himself in serious debt. So it isn't surprising that he would take advantage of the situation and exploit his former lover. He had already pimped her out and now it was time to collect. He cashed the check and vanished.
"As far as the payment, it's common that one of the two individuals performing will ask for full payment to be made to one of them because of lack of a bank account or what have you. If her boyfriend hustled her out of her money, there really isn't anything Bangbus can do about that," said Walters.
Two weeks later, Lori furiously clicked on her mouse as she saw her video still posted on Bangbus.com. She phoned Ox Ideas and received some devastating news.
"I called and I said to them, öHey, my movie is still up and it's been more than two weeks.' They were like, öSo what?' I told them what I had been told, but they said that the only way they could take my video off was if I paid them the amount of money it had made them up to that point. When I asked them how much that was, they said it would be around $50,000," said Lori. A 30-day subscription to Bangbus.com costs $34.95.
"As far as taking the pictures down, there has not been a request of that nature, to my knowledge, in the last several years," said Walters. "If someone sold the rights to a picture or performance and someone wants to buy those rights back, there would certainly be nothing wrong or illegal in requesting that that someone pay to buy those rights back. But I'm not aware of any kind of offer like that."
Lori asserts she did make that claim but felt she had come to an impasse when the $50,000 payment came up. "These people have all this money. I signed their papers. There was nothing I could do," she said.
In the end, and perhaps where she should have started, Lori was forced to borrow the money for the abortion from a sympathetic friend.
Lori's story is a sad one, but one woman's singularly heartbreaking tale is not enough to fully reflect the misogynistic undercurrent that permeates the Bangbus offices, and by default, our city, according to another Bangbus.com star.
Mike McKay found Lori's plight all too familiar. McKay is a porn star, but he wasn't until the day he, like Lori, started paying attention to Greg Entner. In addition to being the front man for the local rock band Car Bomb Theory, McKay, 27, has performed in more than a hundred adult films produced by Ox Ideas. He is a porno pro. But like Lori, he describes less-than-ideal circumstances, even by those of the sex trade, at Ox Ideas. He recalls the time a police officer noticed a 19-year-old's tight ass pressed up against the back window of the Bangbus, and pulled the van over. The camera kept rolling as the officer let the crew go in exchange for another flash from the teenager.
"The shadiest shit I saw, though, was all the double standards. The girls have to be completely sober all the time, but I knew there was cocaine being done by some of the administrative heads of the company. I knew Greg, was, you know, definitely on that blow, "said McKay, who also speaks candidly of seeing women cry after their shoots and recalls how Entner would just laugh at them.
Dirty Sanchez wasn't laughing, though, when New Times showed up unexpectedly at his $398,000 Brickell Key condo after weeks of going through official channels trying to get an interview. An obviously pissed off, though civil, petite, blond woman with a perfect tan and not-so-perfect English handed the reporter a cell phone. On the other end was Entner, who agreed to meet with us, provided we stop infuriating his wife.
Chubby, short, and unshaven, Entner awaited us at the entrance to an art gallery a few miles from his home where some of his other work was on display; he's also a painter.
He was wearing a pair of gray shorts, a black baseball cap, and sandals, looking rather inconspicuous, despite the word "Bangbus" written in big, bright, red letters across his T-shirt. "Dude, I can't talk to you," he said. "They [Ox Ideas] don't want me to say anything to you."
Okay, but we have people claiming you are a coke-sniffing misogynist, are you sure you don't want to respond?
"People say all sorts of shit, it's probably not true," said Entner, adding a string of "no comments."
Entner met McKay while the latter was working as a server at Café Tu Tu Tango in Coconut Grove. "[He] said all kinds of things. He said, öMikey I'm going to make you a star. You'll make anywhere from ten to fifteen Gs a month ... he said he was going to get me interviews on Howard Stern. He promised me all kinds of shit. Like the devil, man, like the devil," McKay said.
McKay began working for Ox Ideas at the going rate of $300 a scene. A few scenes a week was enough money to double what he was making at the restaurant, but he says his new vocation took a toll on him.
After being strung along for months with promises of riches and fame, McKay says that he had had enough. It wasn't so much the ethics that troubled him, but the fact that Ox Ideas refused to let him work for any other companies. While on a shoot for Bangbus in Prague, he phoned Penn Davis in Miami and tendered his resignation.
Trying to make a name for himself and his band, he is still actively searching for more work in the adult film industry. "Little 14- and 15-year-old boys recognize me all the time. It's great," said McKay.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.