In 1995 I was married and had 2 jobs. At night I was a working musician, during the day I worked for a small ad agency which handled clients in the phone sex industry.
This was pre-Internet and all of our advertising was in print or spots on late night TV. We provided media placement, graphic design, ad copy and Television ad spot production.We also provided photo content for ads in adult magazines like Hustler, Penthouse, Swank, Club and all the rest. “Call Me Now! 1-900-XXX-XXX” with a photo of a nice pretty girl in a dirty pose 🙂
We didn’t shoot our own photos, in fact my boss nor myself had ever been on the set of a nude photo shoot. Instead we purchased photos from the main freelance “Glamour” photographers of the time.
There was a handful of shooters with a monopoly on the market: Earl Miller, Stephen Hicks, Suze Randall and Ron Vogel. Earl Miller is still “The most published Penthouse photographer” in the history of the magazine. The photos came with a limited non-exclusive license for print only. However one of our clients needed exclusive, custom photos for his ads. We would need to find a model willing to do this type of work. Where to start?
Through our relationships with the aforementioned kingpins, we tracked down a guy named Hal Guthu. According to IMDB, Hal “Began in the 1960s as a talent agent for “adult” (softcore) films. With the legalization of Porn Films he got into that”. He was the definitive source of nudie models and actresses.
Hal was a funny little old guy with a fast talking high pitched voice. His trademark greeting in response to “How are you?” was always “Fine fine fine!” in rapid succession with each word getting higher pitched.
My boss and I drove up to Hal’s to meet him and see his roster of girls. He had a nondescript store front studio in West Hollywood along the retail section of Santa Monica Blvd. We arrived and the diminutive Hal gave us a proud tour. It was a congested little place and difficult to navigate around without bumping into something. I’m sure these days it would have been considered a “hoarder” house, at the very least a *fire hazard* (this was to foreshadow an ironic twist – see end of this story). There were old costumes hanging on racks, wigs, props, vintage studio lights and furniture which he had collected from all kinds of movies sets. In one corner of the room there was a makeshift bedroom “set” with an over sized red velvet head board. In another corner there was a BDSM cage in front of chain-link drape backdrop. The place actually looked more like a freaky S & M antique store.
Hal showed us around while telling us some of his movie industry stories. He had been friends with the infamous Producer / Director Ed Wood Jr. and shared a story about Ed’s cross dressing fetish. Apparently while on movie sets Ed would barter with the actresses to get their clothes. He would always go home with a huge cache of female garments.
Hal took us back out to the tiny lobby. He had a giant uncaged Macaw bird named Max who freely roamed the front desk. Max could easily remove your finger so I avoided him. Hal opened up several big black binders filled with Polaroids of hundreds of photos of young aspiring actors and actresses – some available for nude work. He pointed to a pretty brunette and said “That’s Demi Moore, she walked in here on her 18th birthday” I said “Wow” and thought to myself: “That’s Demi Moore naked with small pretty breasts”. We chose two new models.
A week later my boss (the photographer) and I arrived at Hal’s for our first nude photo shoot. Hal led us into the studio and then summoned the girls. A blonde and a brunette walked out from the back of the studio wearing only robes. To get our approval, both girls immediately dropped their robes to reveal the most beautiful naked bodies I had ever laid my eyes on. I felt like a Saudi Prince being presented tonight’s entertainment. The Polaroids were no comparison to the live beauties in front of me. We had made the right choice! Fine fine fine! I was thinking this is too cool to be true. Was there a way to land myself in a job like this?
I don’t remember much about the actual photo shoot but I do remember both girls didn’t smile much. They were very quiet and serious, even sullen. The name of the stunning blonde was Sara St James. For the next 15 years I kept my eye out for her. She ended up making quite a career for herself as an “erotic” model, writer and actress working for hundreds of magazines, Playboy movies and doing mainstream work.
We ended up doing a few more 900# ad shoots for our clients at Hal’s including my first “Boy / Girl ” hardcore stills shoot.
After that trip to Hal’s I didn’t think much about it but it was etched into the back of my mind. Almost exactly a year later I found myself unhappy in my job and wanting a change. The internet was starting to get user-friendly and I had the ill formed idea of starting my own online ad agency for clients in the adult industry. So at the end of 1996, without warning my wife, I quit my day job. She wasn’t very happy with me and within another year I would be separated.
I knew I wanted to have my own business but I had no steady job, no start-up money, no college degree, nobody giving me advice and no real plan. I was also never a risk taker. In fact I didn’t even know how to gamble. Oddly as I look back at myself in this dicey position I wasn’t worried – only determined. I guess you could call it dumb luck because I was about to become the luckiest guy on the planet.
* In February of 2000, Hal Guthu died under “mysterious” circumstances in his precious studio. There was a fire and he had a bullet to the head. He was 77 years old and one of the nicest old guys you could ever meet. Along with him went his historic movie treasure trove, supposedly compromising photos of famous people and his beloved bird Max. There is still disagreement as to whether it was a suicide or murder and there is even a Court TV episode about it.
He was truly a sweetheart of a guy.