Four leaders in the pleasure products sector of the adult industry have been tapped as the 2017 inductees into the AVN Hall of Fame-Pleasure Products Branch.
Selected as the seventh class of inductees are Chuck Harnish and Jim Horne of PHS International, Big Al Bedrosian of Spartacus Enterprises, and Dell Williams of Eve’s Garden. This year’s class of inductees represent manufacturing, distribution and retail segments of the pleasure products industry.
The induction officially takes place at the 2017 AVN Awards, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.
PHS began as a small health care supply company in the early ‘80s and was founded by Jim Horne. The letters PHS actually stood for Professional Healthcare Supply. When Jim and Chuck Harnish met in 1990, Harnish was working as a corporate trainer/human resources director for a small regional chain of restaurants and nightclubs.
“A few years later, I was seriously burning out on the restaurant business and was looking for something else to do. Jim and I enjoyed each other’s company so much that we started brainstorming ideas of things we could do together,” Harnish said. “Soon after, I started a small business called Phabulous Handcrafted Stuff (PHS). I made lots of custom Christmas decorations and other handcrafted items. I happened upon some rainbow ribbon and made several gay pride-themed items.
“A small gay pride store had just opened in Phoenix and Jim took my stuff in to try and sell it to the store owner,” Harnish continued. “The store owner bought the items but stated that he really needed more rainbow stuff for personal use—necklaces, key chains, etc. We took his suggestion, went to a bead store, and started making a small offering of gay pride goods. Samples of our first collection of items easily fit in a small fanny pack. Our first ‘catalog’ was nothing more than a 3-by-5 photo of our collection arranged on our dining room table and then stapled to a trifold ‘brochure.’ We kept investing in the company, bought out several other small pride companies, and before you know it, our catalog had grown to more than 150 pages with more than 5,000 SKUs. Within five years, we were the largest gay and lesbian pride company in the world with sales on every continent except Antarctica.”
Since its start more than two decades ago, PHS International has debuted more popular lines of products, including H2H (Heart to Heart) beginner BDSM gear marketed to heterosexual couples, Fresh! vegan fetish toys and vibes, Bijoux de Nip nipple hand-beaded clamps, and With Attitude novelties. Their recent product releases include solid stainless steel cock rings in various colors and styles, Bijoux de Nip handcrafted pasties, and Ka-Pow Color! brightly colored leather gear.
The founder of Spartacus, Big Al was a pioneer in the BDSM community. His legacy in the adult industry and commitment to providing hand-crafted products made from quality materials has made Spartacus the industry leader.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1928, Big Al immigrated to the United States by boat in 1953 with less than $200 in his pocket. He held his first job at an adult bookstore while completing his master’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Indiana. Big Al eventually acquired the store from the aging owner.
Under his ownership, the business saw immense success, and Big Al eventually sold it and moved to San Francisco. After a brief foray into the field of highway construction, he began opening adult novelty businesses, eventually owning stores and video arcades everywhere from Hawaii to Chicago.
Big Al moved to Portland, Ore., in the early 1970s, and lived there for the remainder of his life. Upon settling, he quickly opened several adult stores called Hard Times, which became a very successful Northwest chain. Throughout the years, he opened many other businesses, including restaurants and cafes, and grocery and liquor stores.
A desire to pursue a business in the BDSM industry led Big Al to found Spartacus in 1987. A visionary pioneer of the BDSM product industry, he expanded the business quickly, producing a full line of bondage gear.
Big Al changed the lives of many. On numerous occasions, he provided the opportunity and funding for others to open their own fledgling businesses. He has welcomed hundreds of people into the Spartacus family, and is a friend to all in the adult industry. He is survived by his wife Lynda, three children, two stepchildren, and five grandchildren.
Big Al died in 2013 at the age of 85.
Women’s advocate Dell Williams founded the store in 1974 on New York’s Westside. Eve’s Garden provided a discreet, comfortable atmosphere where discerning female clients looking to “expand and celebrate” their sexuality could shop for quality products.
Prior to taking on a revolutionary role in the pleasure products industry, Williams was an actress, advertising executive and Army WAC.
When Williams started Eve’s Garden, the majority of stores selling sex toys were designed for and frequented by men. Eve’s Garden originally operated as a mail-order business before a storefront was opened on the upper floor of a Manhattan office building on West 57th Street. Eventually, the store began operating a website, EvesGarden.com, as well.
Williams was born Dell Zetlin on Aug. 5, 1922. She was the daughter of Isaac and Sarah Bronstein Zetlin. She reportedly adopted the surname Williams as it was a variant on the name of a man to whom she was married for a short time. Her marriage to Ted Willms was annulled, but no other details were available.
Williams, in her memoir Revolution in the Garden, said she got the idea to open Eve’s Garden after participating in a workshop conducted by Betty Dodsen. When Dodsen recommended female masturbation, she suggested those in attendance purchase the Magic Wand. After an uncomfortable experience purchasing the device at Macy’s, Williams decided women needed a place where they could purchase similar items free from judgment.
Williams died in 2015 at the age of 92.
Click here to read about the 2017 inductees in the other branches of the AVN Hall of Fame.