A Brief History of the Adult Film Association of America (AFAA)

A Brief History of the Adult Film Association of America (AFAA)

The Adult Film Association of America (AFAA) was a non-profit membership organization of adult film producers, distributors and exhibitors. The group stated purpose was “to create respectability and present a positive image to the public.” They did so primarily through political lobbying efforts and the annual Erotica Film Awards which the organization referred to as the adult industry’s Oscar Night.

In this Rialto Report, we look at the history of the AFAA by reprinting an article by Dave Friedman in which he outlines the origins of the AFAA.

We’re also re-publishing a curated selection of the AFAA’s monthly bulletins and convention booklets from the 1980s. These rare documents were never published commercially, and had only limited distribution to AFAA members.

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

Documents are fully searchable; use the icon displayed in each magazine to search by keyword.

Publications are being shared here purely for the purpose of research. They should not to be used or reproduced for any commercial gain.

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A History of the Adult Film Association of America (AFAA)

By David Friedman, Chairman of the Board AFAA
First published in Boxoffice, March 1982

On a cold and dreary day in January of 1969, about a hundred of us who were ngaged in the production, distribution and exhibition of adult pictures – there were no ratings in those days, but our pictures were usually labeled “adults only”, which at the time meant the nudie cuties, and the roughies, the kinkies and the ghoulies – gathered in a second-rate hotel, the Belle Rive, in Kansas City, to form what became known as the Adult Film Association of America.

We had gathered because a few of us had learned by then that, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “we must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.” There was “heat” throughout the land, although the pictures we were making at the time would today be rated at worst as R, and perhaps as PG. Time determines what is and is not pornography.

Sam Chernoff, an exhibitor of adult films, had had the idea of forming an adult film association, a sort of “Nudie NATO.” The original title of the group we formed in Kansas City was the Adult Motion Picture Association of America, but the MPAA strongly objected to that, and I came up with the present title.

David FriedmanAdult Film Association of America (AFAA) member David Friedman

Four of us signed the corporate charter, incorporating as a nonprofit organization under the laws of Texas. A board of directors was voted on. I was elected the chairman of the board, and Sam Chernoff was named president. A very important exhibitor in the New York area, Conrad Baker, became vice president.

In the ensuing year we held a number of meetings around the country, and hired three attorneys: Stanley Fleischman in Los Angeles, Tom Gudgel in Oklahoma City, and Frierson Graves, from Memphis. These three drew up the bylaws and so on, and more importantly they put together a legal kit for the use of our members.

At the time there were perhaps four or five attorneys in the entire country acquainted with First Amendment and censorship law. A lot of our exhibitor members were getting busted for showing these pictures, and their local attorneys would not know how to proceed. With the use of these legal kits, the local attorney would know how to defend the cases and attack the obscenity laws. If necessary, we would bring one of the three AFAA attorneys into the cases.

The following year we electing Connie Baker as president, and I was named vice president. That was the year that the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography was doing its work at the request of Lyndon Johnson. They recognized the AFAA as the spokesman for the adult film industry, and David Isacson, an associate of Connie Baker’s, and I were invited to speak to the Commission.

Anne Perry-RhineAdult Film Association of America (AFAA) member Anne Perry-Rhine

We told them about the industry, the theatres involved, facts and figures, and so on, and arranged to screen about half a dozen pictures of this genre for them. We all know the outcomes. After two years of work and about $5 million, the Commission stated that they saw no harm in adults viewing erotic material, and could not see it was of any great concern to the government as long as children were protected. It was one of the great tragedies of civil liberties in this country that these recommendations were essentially ignored.

At this time the AFAA’s credo was formulated and published; it basically states that we make films for adults, with adults, by adults, and that no one under the legal age in their community should attend these films. We based this on the belief that adults have certain privileges that non-adults do not have, the same way the liquor, tobacco and gambling industries reserve their products for adults. There is nothing we are doing in the way of restrictions that other industries had not been doing for many years, and rightly so.

It followed that if we were not going to let anyone in to see these films under the legal age, we would not use anyone in these films under legal age. This became the foundation of our attack on children pornography and our testimony before Congressional committees pledging the aid of the AFAA in stamping out traffic in child pornography. It is totally outside our interest and outside the area of anything we would want to protect, because it is not sex between consenting adults. Eight years later Ann Perry-Rhine and I appeared before a Congressional hearing held in Los Angeles and reiterated the AFAA’s opposition to this material.

We started publishing a monthly newsletter early on, and by the time of our third convention at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, we were a full-fledged organization. In that year I became president, and held that position for five years, until 1976, when I moved up to the position of board chairman, a post I have held ever since.

With this, our fourteenth convention, our membership is approximately 200, representing perhaps 96 percent of all of the people in the United States engaged in the production, distribution or exhibition of adult films.

Over the years we have set some standards by which the large majority of our industry lives. We have certainly functioned as a very vital trade and trading organization. And we have been involved in a number of legal issues, including the submission of amicus curiae briefs. We even filed a lawsuit against the United States government in 1975 or so, asking for an end to the tremendous harassment of films in interstate commerce and for a definition of “obscenity.”

During my tenure I did manage to demolish the myth of the “snuff film.” It first surfaced in a speech by a paid employee of Citizens for Decency Through Law, Raymond Gauer, to the Holy Name Society. He said, “Since the producers of these films are no longer satisfied to simulate sex, it must follow that they will no longer be satisfied to simulate murder.” That is, people would actually be killed in films. Seeing the reaction, he very son came up with the name “snuff film,” from the gangster jargon to “snuff” or murder someone, and then went on to say he had heard of such a film or had never seen one. He was a very effective, evangelical spearker on radio and television.

Naturally law enforcement at all levels began to look into his allegations, and a police sergeant in New York claimed the Mafia had such a film and was charging $100 a head to show it.

We got involved, and the AFAA offered a $25,000 reward for anyone who could bring us a print of such a film. We got no takers, of course, but did get some media exposure. Finally the FBI had to admit, after several months of investigation, that they could find no evidence of such a film ever having existed in this country.

Sidney NiekirkAdult Film Association of America (AFAA) member Sidney Niekirk

There was a member of our association who took and old South American film, a blood-and-guts picture like the ones I used to make years ago, and retitled it “Snuff.” Interestingly, none of the AFAA-member theatres would touch the picture, but a lot of the so-called “respectable” general release theatres did carry it. Vince Miranda, head of the Pussycat Theatres chain, was then president of the AFAA, and we actually went out and picketed the theatres on Hollywood Blvd. showing the film. We called a press conference to say the film was a phony, and that we were proud to say we would not show it.

The man who distributed the picture was drummed out of the AFAA. I knew the picture, and knew that of course no one had been killed during its production.

One goal of the AFAA has consistently been to encourage the members to upgrade the quality of their films. At our conventions we have had panels of major film critics, discussion why they did or did not review adult films, and what they thought of them. I think to a large extend we have promoted an upgrading of these films – better production values, better acting, better direction.

Even from a legal standpoint alone, it is to our advantage. If it looks like someone has tried to create an entertaining product, a product of interest, then the likelihood of conviction by a jury is much less.

In addition, the audience has gotten much more selective.

We have training seminars every year at our convention. But what has done the most to upgrade film quality in our industry is the Erotica Awards, the credit for which belongs to Ann-Perry Rhine and Tod Johnson, who came up with the concept and staged the first one almost single-handedly. The Best Picture awards can mean $100,000 in the pocket of the producer of the film. To the performer who wins an award, it is worth perhaps another $20,000 or more per year in income. Because of the timing of the awards, the winning picture is virtually assured of a second major release.

Maria TobalinaAdult Film Association of America (AFAA) member Maria Tobalina

A producer can enter as many pictures as he or she likes, with the payment of the entry fee. The membership then votes on the films, and in years past they picked the winner. Because of a desire to get away from any notion of “politicking” for an award, this year the final selections will not be made by the membership at large. Instead, after the membership votes to select five finalists, a panel of film critics and writers will screen the films and, voting in secret, will select the winners. The panel consists of Mollie Williamson, David Rensin, Bruce Williamson, Andrew Sarris, Robert Rimmer, Arthur Knight and Diane Grosskoft.

One question that comes up regularly is whether people move from adult films into the pool of talent for general release productions. I know of no actor or actress that has gone on to big careers in Hollywood, although many of the male stars of adult films work regularly in TV commercials, and of course Marilyn Chambers has built a successful Las Vegas show. I can say that the average actor working regularly in adult films makes a lot more than the $4,000 average income of the 20,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild.

From behind the camera, among those who have moved on to careers in general release include Francis Coppola, who made “Tonight for Sure,” a nudie-cuties, while still a colleage student; John Avildsen, whose first picture was X-rated; and cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, who shot half a dozen nudie-cuties for me in the mid-60s.

On the other hand, there are people in this business who only know that you put film in one end of the machine and money comes out the other – people who have no knowledge of film or feel for it, directors who could not direct traffic, and producers who don’t understand that you need a story as well as sex. Increasingly, however, our people understand that adult films need a story, a flow, a sense of drama as well as a series of clinical sex scenes.

We need more such filmmakers. Unfortunately, the industry seems to have become locked into a rigid formula. That may in part be the fault of the exhibitors, who seems to be afraid that the customers won’t accept anything outside the standard formula.

Ironically, the financial success of adult films may have held back their quality. Well over 90 percent of adult films at least make back their cost of production. On the one hand, the virtual guarantee of profit means that filmmakers may not strive to do more than make an adult film that’s just good enough.” And, on the other hand, the poor filmmakers are not driven out of the business as they are in general release. That may change as the public gets more selective. But in the meantime, efforts such as the AFAA’s Erotica Awards can do a great deal to encourage everyone to improve, and to recognize the best among us.

AFAA

Dave Friedman

Maria Tobalina

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AFAA Bulletins

June 1979
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-3rd Annual Erotic Film Awards nominees
-Letter from AFAA Head of Ad Sales Ann Perry regarding piracy, calling out Ruby Gottesman (owner X-Citement Video) as a key offender
-AFAA Chairman Dave Friedman’s op-ed on Paul Schrader’s film ‘Hardcore’ and its “phony morality”

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April 1980
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-4th Annual Erotic Film Awards nominees
-Feature on Maria Tobalina as new AFAA president
-Profile on ‘The Budding of Brie

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June 1980
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-NY Convention photos from Ron Sullivan and Marco Nero
-Film reviews: ‘Caligula‘, ‘Bon Appetit‘, ‘Champagne for Breakfast
Linda Lovelace promotes ‘Ordeal’

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August 1980
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
AFAA 1980 Erotic Awards
-Profile of Gail Palmer
-‘Insatiable’ review

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September 1980
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
4th Annual Erotic Film Awards award winners
-‘Dracula Exotica‘ review
Annette Haven talks about her career

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November 1980
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-AFAA statement of purpose
-Dr. Joyce Brothers’ opinion of pornography
-Prostitute organizer Margo St. James protests neighborhood nude model theater location

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January 1981
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Profile of organized crime porn distribution in L.A.
-What the election of 1980 will mean for religious liberty
Tony Peraino ‘Deep Throat’ trial preview

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March 1981
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Mistrial declared in Miporn case
-Adult theaters making money selling videocassettes in lobby
-Pussycat Theatre chain wins over local zoning laws

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April 1981
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Sidney Niekerk elected AFAA president
-AFAA meets to discuss strategy for gaining respectability
-Feds get first Miporn conviction

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May 1981
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-26 pictures nominated for 1981 Erotic Awards best picture
-AFAA seeks to curb video piracy
-‘Tales of Tiffany Lust’ review

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July 1981
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
Erotica Film Awards highlights
-Reviews of ‘Outlaw Ladies’, ‘The Best of Gail Palmer’, ‘High School Memories
-Message from AFAA’s president

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August 1981
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
Erotica Film Awards photos (renamed from Erotic Film Awards)
Al Goldstein op-ed on what’s really dirty about x-rated films
-Anti-pornography book reviews

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April 1982
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Variety reprint on AFAA’s defense of hardcore
-14th Annual AFAA Convention photos
-Profile of Seattle porn king Roger Forbes

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June 1982 (partial)
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
6th annual Erotic Film Awards
-Penthouse eyes its readers home video habits

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August 1982
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
1982 Erotic(a) Film Awards winners (both event names used)
-Profile of Sam Weston
-Q&A with Harry Reems

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September 1982
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Skin flicks are reeling in millions
Al Goldstein’s annual lambast of the Erotic Awards

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November 1982
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Justice eludes John Holmes
-Wall Street begins funding x-rated films
-LA acting coach for x-rated actors

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February 1983
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Announcing ‘The Extra Film Mart’ – a marketplace for adult films
-An open letter from Ted McIlvenna, head of The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality
-Review of ‘Mascara

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March 1983
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Jimmie Johnson elected 8th AFAA president
-President Sidney Niekirk’s outgoing statement

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April 1983
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-The difficult effort of enforcing pornography laws
-Editor’s letter to Chuck Vincent

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May 1983 (partial)
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Open letter to AFAA members
-Review of ‘In Love
Erotica Awards final nominees

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August 1983 (cover reprint)
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
Linda Lovelace fights against pornography
-Editorial re: theatre prosecution

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January 1984
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Preprint of Variety feature on the financial success of adult films
Jerry Falwell doesn’t speak for America’s Baptists
-Film reviews: ‘The Young Like it Hot’, ‘Smoker

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February 1984
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
8th annual Erotic Film Awards nominees
-Film reviews: ‘When She Was Bad’, ‘Sex Games’, ‘Glitter

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August 1985
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Les Baker elected 10th AFAA president
Reuben Sturman indicted on tax counts
-NY Times reprint: Is new action needed on pornography?

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September 1985
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-AFAA membership drive
Review of 9th annual Erotic Film Awards
-The relationship of pornography with anti-social behavior

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AFAA Convention Booklets

13th Annual Convention
Hollywood, March 26-29 1981
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Convention schedule
-List of officers
-Letter from Chairman David Friedman

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14th Annual Convention
New York, March 5-7 1982
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Convention schedule
-List of officers
-Letter from Chairman David Friedman

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15th Annual Convention
Hawaii, February 25-27 1983
(click on cover to view full magazine)

Highlights include:
-Convention schedule
-List of officers
-Letter from President Sidney Niekirk

 

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Sample ads submitted to AFAA:

AFAA

 

Cal Vista

Essex

 

  • Posted On: 15th March 2020
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Articles

7 Comments

  1. Andy H. James · March 15, 2020 Reply

    There is NOTHING as comprehensive and entertaining and informative and…. just so damn good as this marvel of an archive.

    Thanks to the team involved.

  2. Robert Antonacci · March 15, 2020 Reply

    Rare documents indeed.

    Fascinating insight into the inner workings of the indiustry.

  3. Jim Stevens · March 15, 2020 Reply

    Fascinating stuff…and appreciative if the fact that I was finally able see full lists of nominees for the awards.

    As a subscriber to Variety for several years back in the 80’s, to see how much content they cobbed from there and Boxoffice was illuminating. I recognized the review format.

  4. George Maranville · March 15, 2020 Reply

    Here’s hoping David Friedman finished the sequel to his autobio A Youth In Babylon before his passing.

  5. Jetta · March 16, 2020 Reply

    Incredible work from the Rialto Report, as always. As a film historian and longtime lurker who has not commented here before, let me just say how much I appreciate what you do!

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