NEW YORK CITY—Many adult fans are already familiar with The Rialto Report, an online repository of articles about the adult industry, interviews with Golden Age stars and producers, and even some investigative journalism. Its editor, Ashley West, is fairly well known in New York porn circles, and has recently been making trips to Los Angeles to expand his knowledge base by talking to L.A.-based industry makers and shakers—and even making his first visit to a porn set.
On one of these visits, West and his wife were given a tour of the AVN offices, and when he was shown AVN's library of back issues, he immediately wanted to look through them—and when informed that the earliest issues were not available anywhere online, he offered to post the first year's run in full on the Rialto Report. Those first 11 issues (only one issue was published for April/May, 1983), along with reminiscences by several of AVN's first employees, writers and supporters, can be found here.
AVN has periodically published supplements on its anniversary dates, many with glimpses of AVN's history, but West's reporting still makes for a fascinating read.
"I did the usual sneaking-into-the-porn-theater-when-I-was-17 deal," West reports AVN founder Paul Fishbein as saying. "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, whose first review (of Nightlife, from Caballero Control Corporation) appears in the June, 1983 issue, and who still works for the magazine, recalled his first adult movie experience: "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…"
The remembrance goes on to chronicle Fishbein's first contacts with adult video, working as a night manager for one branch of Movies Unlimited, which in the early 1980s had the largest selection of XXX tapes in the Philadelphia area.
"In Movies Unlimited, the porn films were displayed in a covered glass case," Fishbein recalled. "They did good business, which was strange because customers had no idea how to judge one flick from another beyond the steamy box covers."
Kernes was one of Movies Unlimited's porn-renting customers, and he and Fishbein struck up a conversation over AVN's first issue, which was available for free on the counter by the cash register.
"When I realized you could [rent] adult movies on tape, I remember walking into Movies Unlimited to see their selection," he told West. "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. ... One day, I got talking with Paul while I was leafing through a copy of AVN. He was publishing the magazine out of his parents' 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!'"
West's article goes on to quote from such diverse and knowledgeable sources as former AVN Managing Editor Gene Ross, AVN co-founder (and its first printer) Barry Rosenblatt, SCREW publisher Al Goldstein, Larry Flynt and even Bill Margold, plus there are several quotes from mainstream articles about the industry and the magazine's earliest days.
For anyone interested in AVN's (and the adult industry's) early days, The Rialto Report is an excellent resource—and who wouldn't be fascinated to see how AVN has grown in the 35 years since it came into existence?