Adult Video News – The Industry Bible, The First Year (1983-84)

Adult Video News – The Industry Bible, The First Year (1983-84)

An important player in the history of the golden age of adult films was Adult Video News (AVN), a trade journal that covered the then-burgeoning adult video industry.

Growing from a basic 8-page newsletter it 1983, it eventually became a 300-page glossy magazine that dominated news coverage of the pornographic film business. The New York Times once said that AVN was to pornographic films what Billboard was to records.

The Rialto Report has re-visited the birth of the magazine – and we found interviews in the first year with people such as Marilyn Chambers, Chuck Vincent, Russ Meyer, Anthony Spinelli, Constance Money and Veronica Hart, together with early reviews of films like Cafe’ Flesh, The Erotic Adventures of Lolita, A Taste of Money, and Night Hunger.

This installment of The Rialto Report is in two parts: firstly we present the first year’s issues of the magazine – available in their entirety online for the first time. Secondly we tell the oral history of the birth of AVN, with the main players recounting their story of how the magazine was created.

Click on the covers below to access the full magazines. Due to the fact that the magazines are scanned in high definition, allow a little time for each page to load. If you are viewing on a phone, view in landscape orientation.

Many thanks to Mark Kernes and Carol Walker for their help.

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Adult Video News – The First Year

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

Adult Video News – February 1983

  • Interview with Veronica Hart
  • Top movies of all time
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Babe
  • Erotic Adventures of Lolita
  • Intimate Lessons
  • Nothing To Hide

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

 

Adult Video News – March 1983

  • Interview with Kay Parker
  • The best movies with plots
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Cafe’ Flesh
  • Naughty Victorians
  • All American Girls
  • Erotic World of Angel Cash

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

Adult Video News – April/May 1983

  • Interview with Marilyn Chambers
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Irresistible
  • Blue Voodoo
  • Up and Coming
  • Farewell Scarlett
  • Debbie Does Dallas II

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

Adult Video News – June 1983

  • Interview with Russ Meyer
  • Best sex scenes
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Nightlife
  • Scoundrels
  • The Casting Couch
  • In Love

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

Adult Video News – July 1983

  • Interview with Anthony Spinelli
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Let’s Talk Sex
  • Boiling Point
  • Little Girls Blue, Part 2
  • Once Upon A Secretary
  • The Fantasies of Jennifer Faye

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

Adult Video News – August 1983

  • Interview with John Leslie
  • Adult magazines on tape
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Little Girls Lost
  • Blue Jeans
  • Daddy’s Little Girls
  • California Valley Girls

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

Adult Video News – September 1983

  • Interview with Constance Money
  • The best directors in adult movies
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Puss ‘N Boots
  • In The Pink
  • Dracula Exotica
  • Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

 

Adult Video News – October 1983

  • Interview with Chuck Vincent
  • A history of stag films
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Captain Lust
  • Luscious
  • A Taste of Money
  • Golden Girls

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

 

Adult Video News – November 1983

  • Interview with Kelly Nichols
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Babylon Gold
  • Coed Teasers
  • Hot Dreams
  • Sexcapades
  • Blue Voodoo

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

 

Adult Video News – December 1983

  • Interview with Ron Jeremy
  • Overseas sex films
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Night Hunger
  • The Young Like It Hot
  • Bad Girls 2
  • Glitter

(click on cover to view magazine)

 

 

 

Adult Video News – January 1984

  • Interview with Marlene Willoughby
  • Nominations for the AVNA awards
  • Movie reviews, including:
  • Night Moves
  • That’s Outrageous
  • Fantasex Island
  • Adult Movie Bloopers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adult Video News – The Oral History of the First Years

Paul Fishbein (Founder, Publisher, and Editor of Adult Video News):

I never expected to be involved in the adult business, but I knew I’d publish a magazine; that was almost predestined.

I published a magazine about professional wrestling (‘Universal Wrestling’) when I was 14 years old, and in my freshman year of college I published ‘In Print’, a features and entertainment magazine distributed on all the college campuses in the Philadelphia area.

Al Goldstein (Publisher of Screw magazine):

When adult films really took off in the mid-1970s, some of the porno publications started to cover them. Of course, Screw had been the first to do that in the late 1960s, but now you had these glossy magazines like High Society and Cheri giving them space.

Then in the late 1970s, magazines specifically dedicated to porn flicks started to spring up. Rags like Video X, Flick, and Adult Cinema Review. It was a simple equation: Show some skin and write about the movies. The audience was fascinated with these films and the people behind them, so people were hungry for information. It was a time when everyone was going to their local porn palace…

Paul Fishbein:

I did the usual sneaking-into-the-porn-theater-when-I-was-17 deal. The Philmont Cinema in Pennsylvania… an Alex de Renzy double feature, Desiree Cousteau getting an enema, a bunch of girls shitting on a character named Rocky DeSade and singing, “Bye Rocky, you’re full of shit.” I had no clue what I was watching, or what was to come. But the impact was overwhelming, given that both ends of that double feature ended up on my all-time greatest list.

Mark Kernes (AVN staff writer):

I remember the first adult films I saw were on the big screen in Eastern Pennsylvania, where I was living. It was a double bill of ‘Hard Soap, Hard Soap’ and ‘Confessions of a Teenage Peanut Butter Freak’. This was before any video…

Paul Fishbein:

From 1977 through the 1980s, Movies Unlimited was the foremost video specialist store in the country. In 1982 Jerry Frebowitz, the movie-buff owner of Philadelphia’s busiest and best video store, asked me to manage the new Movies Unlimited store in Drexel Hill, PA.

It was an honor, but rather frightening since I was graduating college and heading for a career in retail.

Arthur Morowitz (owner of Video-X-Pix):

The early 1980s we a time of change for the industry. Home videos had been available for a few years but were sold for high prices directly by adult film retailers. Now all of a sudden, they were available for rent from mom and pop video stores, where they were displayed almost side-by-side with Hollywood blockbusters.

Suddenly these high street video stores became very important for adult video companies.

Bill Margold (Adult industry personality):

It worked both ways: home video was important for porn films, but let’s not forget that porn films were important for home video. Especially in the early days, when home video was struggling to take off, sex films kept the new technology alive.

Paul Fishbein:

In Movies Unlimited, the porn films were displayed in a covered glass case. They did good business, which was strange because customers had no idea how to judge one flick from another beyond the steamy box covers.

Mark Kernes:

When I realized you could hire adult movies on tape, I remember walking into Movies Unlimited to see their selection. What struck me was the sheer quantity… there were so many available. They were in glass cases – which were locked, so you had to ask someone to open it if you wanted to rent a movie – and I had no idea which tape to rent. I didn’t know the stars that well, so I was a little lost.

Paul Fishbein:

After the new store opened and I was ready to graduate college, we realized that this new world of video porn needed a guide.

I got together with a friend from college called Irv Slifkin who was a great writer, and a print-shop friend called Barry Rosenblatt, and we put the idea together for a monthly video newsletter for the new consumer of home video – which we called Adult Video News.

Jerry Frebowitz at Movies Unlimited lent us some money, and he also allowed me to continue to work at the video store while I published the first issue of AVN.

Gene Ross (future Executive Editor, Contributor to Adult Video news):

It was an idea to publish a magazine that would be a classy, intelligent, and informative critique of the goings-on in adult film, and the soon-to-come-on-like-gangbusters, shot-on-video industry.

Barry Rosenblatt (co-founder of Adult Video news):

It could have been Science Fiction Video News or Children’s Video News. It just happened to be aimed at whatever was hot at the time.

Gene Ross:

The first issue of Adult Video News was published in February 1983. It was an eight-page newsletter, and was written entirely by Fishbein and Slifkin.

(They) got a famous adult star like Veronica Hart to do an interview with them (in the first issue). Hart is a terrific lady in a very personable way, but cripes, even charity goes so far.

It was a combination of interviews and eight reviews, introducing a four-A grading system. The first film review to appear was Babe from Arrow Films starring Samantha Fox. For the record, it got a three ‘A’ rating. And the first shot-on-video feature to be reviewed was Valley Vixens with Shauna Grant.

The newsletter was targeted firmly at home video renters – and it was subtitled ‘A Monthly Newsletter For Today’s Sophisticated X-Rated Viewer.’

Mark Kernes:

I was at Movies Unlimited one day, paying for a video rental, when I noticed a little stack of AVNs next to the cash register. I’d seen Paul Fishbein around the store because he was managing it, and he knew I rented out adult tapes, so he handed me a copy of AVN saying, “Here – take one of these, it’s free.”

Gene Ross:

In the second issue, Kay Parker granted an interview, and the reviews expanded to include 11 new features.

The Ivory Soap girl, Marilyn Chambers, agreed to an interview in the following issue, and the publication doubled its size to 16 pages.

The first Cecil Howard picture to come under scrutiny in AVN was ‘Scoundrels’, a story of a philandering family that carves new inroads in erotic entertainment. The film received a four ‘A’ review. It also received the First Annual AVN ‘Best Picture’ award with Cecil Howard named Best Director. Richard Pacheco also had the distinction of winning both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards for ‘Irresistible’ and ‘Nothing to Hide’ respectively.

Paul Fishbein:

Back in the day when we started as a little eight-page newsletter, I probably reviewed about half of the films, but back then there were only about 20 coming out a month…

Mark Kernes:

One day, I got talking with Paul while I was leafing through a copy of AVN. He was publishing the magazine out of his parent’s basement, and he said to me, “Do you think you’d like to write for the magazine and review the movies?”

I was working as a court reporter earning pretty good money, so I said, “Maybe… Does it pay?”

He said, “$15 for each review, and you get to keep the tape.”

I said, “Sold!”

Al Goldstein:

In the early days of AVN, Paul came up to New York from Philadelphia where he was based, and I took him to places like Bernard’s to meet the east coast porno mavens. He was like a virgin at a topless club. He was a little baby.

I always liked him, because he was sincere, but I never thought he would make it.

From ‘King Porn’, Philadelphia magazine, 15 May, 2006:

From the start, Fishbein didn’t quite fit into this strange new world. When sex star Marilyn Chambers came to town in 1983, he interviewed her in her hotel room. Playful answers to his questions turned into obvious flirting, yet Fishbein missed all the signals and didn’t realize he might have missed a chance to get laid until hours later. The following year, Fishbein visited his first set — an airplane romp titled ‘Lay Over’ — and was coaxed into his one and only on-camera appearance, as a drunk. While people screwed all around him, Fishbein was passed out, eyes closed tight.

Al Goldstein:

Paul was smart, and slowly AVN kept growing. And the main reason for its success was that it identified a new audience: Forget the horny schmuck sitting at home renting a video. They learnt to serve the store owners instead.

From ‘King Porn’, Philadelphia magazine, 15 May, 2006:

What the flesh trade needed was someone who could let flesh fade into the background so the trade could come into focus.

Paul Fishbein:

Guess what? Retailers started subscribing, and we realized that what the adult world really needed was a trade publication.

From ‘King Porn’, Philadelphia magazine, 15 May, 2006:

What Fishbein saw were dollar signs, and while consumers were curious about new product, distributors and movie stores depended on it to survive. AVN shifted to target them, and Fishbein created a marketing guide with advice on selling tapes and tips for retailers on stocking their stores.

Someone was finally speaking to the renegades and smut-peddlers like they were CEOs instead of scum.

Paul Fishbein:

We decided to refer to ourselves as a ‘trade publication.’ Instead of saying this is a hot sexy movie that you should rent, we decided to say this is a hot sexy movie that you should stock in your store.

Bill Margold:

That was the turning point for AVN. I’ve heard it say that it was the day that AVN went from being industry observer to industry insider overnight – and in many respects that’s true.

I think Paul always wanted to be an outsider, but he wasn’t.

Paul Fishbein:

After two years we had 17,000 paid subscribers – which included about 7,000 video stores.

From Chicago Tribune, April 5th, 1985:

To rate the flicks, Fishbein employs 22 free-lance reviewers, including 3 women.

“I wish I had 10 women critics. It’s very hard to find women who know enough about porn and watch enough of it to be qualified,” the publisher says.

Fishbein says he personally views about half a dozen adult movies a month, and that he and his team of reviewers all suffer from ‘porn burnout.’ “I don`t view these films anymore as erotic. It’s business,” he says.

Mark Kernes:

Pretty soon, Paul and AVN moved into their own office out on the Westchester Pike, west of Philadelphia.

I would stop by and pick up the tapes that interested me, and that I wanted to review. I typed up my reviews on a Macintosh, and dropped a disc off at the office.

In those days, I only reviewed two or three films a week, as I was still working as a court reporter.

Al Goldstein:

Paul Fishbein professionalized pornography. The practitioners of porn are scam artists, semi-criminals and lowlifes. He’s made something presentable out of a scurvy business.

At first, people thought it would never survive because it had no nudity, no sex. Think about that: A sex film magazine without sex!

Paul Fishbein (speaking in the 1980s):

This publication features no nudity and no foul language. It is very professionally written and produced. Everything is handled in a clean and tasteful manner.

We won`t accept ads that portray violence, child pornography, bestiality or blatant bondage.

From Chicago Tribune, April 5th, 1985:

Surprisingly, the magazine, which is delivered in a plain white wrapper, is a lot tamer that its title might suggest. Last month`s cover, for example, portrayed porno star Ginger Lynn clad in a complete bikini – a pose considerably less erotic than those inside Sports Illustrated’s celebrated bathing suit issue.

Gene Ross:

In June 1984, AVN produced its first ‘Top Ten’ sales and rental chart. ‘Suzie Superstar’ was the first feature to make Number One on the new AVN charts.

In March 1985, this was expanded to list the ‘Top Twenty.’

Bill Margold:

AVN became the Bible for a godless industry, with Paul Fishbein is its rogue Moses.

It was the place you turned to first for the news, and you found many of the most interesting characters represented there.

Gene Ross:

The first editorial appeared in the July 1984 issue, and Ron Jeremy wrote his first column in AVN in September 1984.

Al Goldstein, writing in a letter to the editor in the November 1984 issue in response to Ron Jeremy’s first column:

Isn’t is enough that Ron Jeremy is rehashing the same old schtick routines, shutting up only long enough to suck his own cock? Must we now have his mindless trivialities preserved forever in print to offend our ears?

Gene Ross:

In February 1985, AVN become a full color magazine for the first time, with Ginger Lynn as its first cover girl.

Mark Kernes:

I remember Paul going on early episodes of The Howard Stern Show where he would review the latest adult tapes.

From ‘King Porn’, Philadelphia magazine, 15 May, 2006:

Eventually (original co-founder) Irv Slifkin, tired of finding new ways to describe titles like ‘Top Buns’ and ‘Hannah Does Her Sisters’, says it was his decision to walk away without compensation.

(Original co-founder) Barry Rosenblatt, after partnering with Fishbein in two other, misguided business ventures, used a lawyer to make his AVN exit.

Alone, with heavy debts plaguing his business, Fishbein recruited a silent partner, fellow Washington High classmate Stuart Franks, who printed the magazine through his family’s shop and agreed to defer the $200,000 debt AVN owed his company.

Mark Kernes:

In early 1991, Paul told me he was moving AVN from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, and asked me if I wanted to move there and take a full-time job with the company. I was still working as a court reporter, but I was tiring of the repetitive nature of my day job… so I accepted.

I packed up everything I owned in a Dodge Ram van, and I headed out for the west coast – and my new job.

Bill Margold:

AVN is a true porn business story. It started out as an eight-page newsletter on the east coast. And it grew to be a huge 350-page west coast glossy monthly magazine, with all the porno news fit to print.

Larry Flynt (at the 2004 AVN Awards):

AVN raised the industry up out of the muck and granted it respectability. I want to thank Paul Fishbein and AVN for lifting this industry out of the gutter.

Paul Fishbein:

Like the rest of the industry, we grew, took chances, hit rock-bottom a couple of times, survived Ed Meese, and bonded with a common cause: free speech.

 

Paul Fishbein sold Adult Video News in 2010.

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14 Comments

  1. Anon · May 6, 2018

    I love that you re-publish the original magazines – the Flick magazines were a goldmine, as were the Playboy extracts.

    And now the rarest of rare – the first 12 AVNs!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve tried bidding for these on ebay but they’re rarer than a Donald Trump brain cell.

    Hope about the remaining Flick issues?

    I’m greedy, but thanks for these.

  2. David Bell · May 6, 2018

    Most of this article is a revelation to me. I thought that it had always been a west coast magazine, I had idea of its newsletter roots, and I didn’t know much about Paul Fishbein.

    Good to have the full story and the digital copies~~~~~~~

    Thanks to all concerned.

  3. Mike C. · May 6, 2018

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!! God bless The Rilato Report~!!!!!

  4. Duck Soup · May 6, 2018

    Al Goldstein, writing in a letter to the editor in the November 1984 issue in response to Ron Jeremy’s first column:

    Isn’t is enough that Ron Jeremy is rehashing the same old schtick routines, shutting up only long enough to suck his own cock? Must we now have his mindless trivialities preserved forever in print to offend our ears?

    Wow, even way back in 1984 Al Goldstein had Ron Jeremy’s number. I read Ron’s book a few years ago and almost fell asleep. I was expecting good behind the scenes stories from a legend of the industry, I loved Jerry Butler’s book and thought Ron Jeremy’s would be good too, instead it was politically correct, he’s friends with all the celebs and they all love him yata yata yata. I agree with Al, I like Ron’s films but he should leave the writing to the professionals

  5. Bondurant · May 6, 2018

    Fishbine gave Howard Stern an AVN award. The award was accepted by Beetlejuice. I’ll have to attempt to find video. It’s surefire gold.

    Liked reading about Fishbine’s connection to Movies Unlimited. They used to have, and still may, Adult Movies Unlimited.

  6. mondocane · May 7, 2018

    I would love to print these off but the pages won’t align in my printer settings no matter how much I adjust them.

    Is there any way to save these issues as a PDF?

    thanks

    • April Hall · May 27, 2018

      As AVN is under copyright, the publishers prefer not to provide the issues in PDF. We hope you’ll enjoy them on the site.

  7. Marco Rodriguez · May 10, 2018

    Hello Rialto

    I am very impressed with this website. The quality of the information you give makes me visit the web very often.

    As a foreign fan of Golden Age, to find info like where classic movies were films, how they filmed, the life of porn legend (before and after), etc really let me introduce to a wonderful era of how US adult industry was like.

    For instance, i was grateful to me, know that Tina Russell, was in my country (Yes, Perú) between other things.

    Congratulations to all editors and collaborators of this amazing web.

    Greetings from Lima, Peru

  8. J. Walter Puppybreath · May 16, 2018

    What’s interesting in these issues (to me) is that, though most of the product was being made on the West Coast, it was still (mostly) dominated by East coast talent. It would only be a scant few months until Ginger, Amber, Christy and TL (to name a few) would blow the doors off and send the video biz into the stratosphere.