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Adult Industry Publication of Record Marks 25 Years

Turned down for credentials to attend the AVN Adult Novelty Expo in Universal City, who better to ask for an explanation than Paul Fishbein, president of the AVN Media Network, the Chatsworth company producing the show and publisher of print and online trade publications for the adult entertainment industry. His response? “Why” he asked sitting in the office of the building in an industrial park that has been home for the company for 10 of its 25 years. Fishbein picked up the phone and began making calls. When told the name of the person handling media credentials, Fishbein became confused. He had never heard the name before. So he made more calls all the while assuring he’ll get the matter squared away. With the phone on speaker mode, Fishbein talked with an AVN staffer who let out a long sigh when asked about the person handling media credentials? “It’s not how I want us represented,” Fishbein told the staffer. “If it was Chic magazine I’m sure they’d have no problem.” Fishbein does get the matter squared away, a demonstration that the framed AVN Customer Promise on his desk means something and why he has stayed in business since publishing the first issue of Adult Video News in 1983. Many changes have taken place since then, both on the publishing and content distribution sides of the industry. Videocassettes gave way to DVD. Discs are now yielding to online streaming and video-on-demand. Digital altered the way print publications do business, as general circulation newspapers have learned the hard way. But not even the niche publications like those from the AVN Network with a targeted audience and advertisers could ignore what was going on. That led to AVN Online and to e-mail newsletters and alerts sent out with breaking news from the industry. Through all that, Fishbein remains a print guy at heart. He reads three newspapers a day and subscribes to 20 magazines. Yes, overall sales of the network’s magazines have dropped almost 10 percent but the talk about the death of print means little. “I don’t see it and I don’t feel it,” Fishbein said. To mark the company’s 25th anniversary this year, Fishbein published a special issue of AVN. He waited until the summer rather than have the issue coincide with the actual anniversary in February that was on the heels of the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, an event that marks the big spending time of the year for advertisers. The 200-plus page issue contains interviews and profiles; lists of memorable events, personalities and films from the past quarter-century; and of course the reviews that have been the magazine’s staple since the start. When Fishbein and two partners pooled $300 each to start the publication in Philadelphia none had a strong interest in adult films. Fishbein worked at a video store at a time when VCRs were getting into the home. Customers asking advice on adult titles were the inspiration for the magazine. It was with consumers in mind that Adult Video News started but it soon evolved into a trade publication with reviews, marketing advice, commentary and industry news as more video store owners subscribed. As the New York-based adult industry moved west, Fishbein and AVN followed. He first set up shop in Los Angeles in 1991 and moved to the Valley several years after that. AVN and the adult industry grew up side by side. As the one emerged from the fringes of society and shed its image of a dirty old man in a raincoat at a peepshow, the other chronicled the change. Fishbein, however, isn’t convinced adult films and their stars have gone mainstream. The industry can’t be mainstream because it loses its forbidden nature if it does. What has happened is that graphic sexual content receives enough media exposure to become more accepted. That’s as far as it needs to go. “It needs to remain dirty for it to be interesting,” Fishbein said. Now, About That Expo The trio of businesswomen behind ToiBocks Inc. was more than happy to discuss the wooden container created for storing personal items, including those sold at the novelty expo. What they didn’t want publicized was how to access the secret compartment inside. The design of the box is such that it could be kept in the open with no worries that nosey people will open it. “There are other storage units but they are so obvious,” said Heather Tablosky, the vice president of business development for West Hills-based ToiBocks. “They have padlocks, keyholes or switches.” The ToiBocks container, on the other hand, fits with any d & #233;cor and would not look out of place on a mantle or a dresser. A second model is a wooden tissue dispenser with a hidden drawer for condoms or other small items. Started by Tablosky, Dawn Tulman, president, and Trish Goldstein, the chief operating officer, two years ago ToiBocks is now at the stage of getting its product onto retail shelves. The containers are sold at The Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood and plans are to make another five models available by the end of 2009. Filling that secret compartment should not prove difficult, a walk around the expo suggested. Exhibitors displayed their wares for buyers and distributors (but not the general public). Three of the largest manufacturers of adult novelties, all based in the Valley Topco, Pipedreams, and Doc Johnson had elaborate exhibits. The Doc Johnson exhibit displayed the next six months of product, all arranged in the same order as found in the new catalogue to make it easier for buyers to know what to order. “This is our annual show that we go all out on,” said company CEO Ron Braverman. They aren’t the only ones. The expo takes up space inside the Hilton and Sheraton and in a tent set up between the hotels. Uniformed guards are stationed outside expo areas, allowing only badgeholders to enter. Outside the ballrooms at the Hilton, stand cardboard cutouts of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. They are promoting condoms distributed by Practice Safe Sex Policy, a New York company. If anyone buying the Barack or McCain condoms are shy about having them found there’s always a tissue dispenser to hide them in. Staff Reporter Mark Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or by e-mail at mmadler@sfvbj.com .

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