Chief executive, founder
Company: Vivid Entertainment Group
Born: Lyndhurst, Ohio; 1961
Career Turning Point: Borrowing $20,000 to start his adult video company
Personal: Married, two children
Hobbies: Collecting presidential autographs and Bruce Springsteen memorabilia; spending time with his family
After dropping out of UCLA in his 20s, Steve Hirsch and his partner David James borrowed $20,000 to found Vivid Entertainment Group, an adult entertainment company, in 1984. It wasn't a world unfamiliar to Hirsch: His father, a former stockbroker, had moved the family from Ohio to Los Angeles to launch his own adult film company when Hirsch was a child. Today, Hirsch is a multimillionaire and Vivid is the biggest adult film studio in the world, with estimated revenue of more than $100 million. Hirsch is known for signing starlets such as Jenna Jameson to exclusive contracts. Hirsch has seen the industry grow from its seedy roots to its more mainstream position in today's world Jameson, for example, is the author of a best-selling book, "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale." Vivid and similar production companies now supply content through major hotel chains, and satellite and cable operators.
Question: Did you always want to be in the adult business?
Answer: Back in those days you weren't very public about being in the adult business because some people were afraid of potential legal hassles coming their way. I had different ideas and those were: Just put it out there and get as much media as possible and not be ashamed. I'm proud of what I produce and I don't have a problem with it. This is stuff made by adults for consenting adults. If someone doesn't like that, we respect that and we ask them not to buy our movies. For years and years it wasn't like that. People weren't very forthright with what they did and sort of hid from it. I think Jenna Jameson went a long way in changing that and transcending the adult business and that was good for the entire industry.
Q: Was it an uphill battle at first?
A: I was young and fearless. I always felt if it didn't work out I would just go get a job somewhere, it wouldn't be the end of my life. I didn't have a wife and I didn't have kids and I didn't have a mortgage payment. So it was like, hey, let's take a shot. So we were fearless and we went after everything. There were several things we did to make ourselves unique: signing girls to exclusive contracts, which had never been done before; shooting the majority of our movies on film; working with an art director who wasn't jaded by the old adult business so we had a new, fresh, slick look. We were very lucky because our first video went to No. 1 and was a huge success. For the first five years, I didn't take more than $500 a week. We just took every dime and plowed it back into the business.
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