A True Playboy

The man behind the mainstream popularity of Club Jenna is still very much the same person he was growing up in Ohio. He is still down to earth, and friends and family will always matter more than anything else.

A casual stroll through his Arizona home reveals smiling faces beaming out from an eclectic mix of photo frames. There are pictures of him with buddies, with his nephews and with colleagues. There are even pictures of his pack of dogs, big and small.

"They are dogs though," he said, almost as a disclaimer, even though it's apparent he spoils them as much as he would a child. They have the run of the house, settling in on couches when he takes a rare break and following his every move as he tours from room to room. "The small ones don't wear clothes, I don't take them out in public in some sort of to-go bag to restaurants," he added with a laugh.

To see Grdina roughhousing with the dogs, or casually petting them as he takes breaks from playing video games - "Rock Band" is a favorite these days - it's hard to see how this tattooed, good-looking, 40-year-old man could lead an empire. But get him talking about business, and the perception changes.

It's almost like listening to a wunderkind with a deeper voice. The easy-going attitude is still apparent, but there's a more serious tone and detectable earnestness in Grdina's voice when he discusses his rise to the top of the adult entertainment business, both in the video and online sectors.

Grdina got his start in the business long before his ex, Jenna Jameson, had become a household name. After growing up in a wealthy family in the Midwest - much of the Slovenian community in Cleveland was built up by his ancestors - Grdina decided to strike out on his own and attend college on the West Coast at the University of San Diego. Though he never graduated, his education, combined with his family's business background, gave him the tools needed to make a name for himself. When he made some connections in the adult industry, things took off.

"I was doing some mainstream acting and other things," he explained, adding an opportunity to work with director Michael Ninn arose in 1992. "The outer view of the industry was that it was a little seedy, but I wanted to come to a set and work in the industry a little bit before I decided to invest," he said.

And work he did: From the lowest of ranks to star, Grdina earned his stripes, so to speak, in the adult industry. "I learned from everyone what to do and what not to do," he said.

By 1998, he had an impressive resume in the adult industry, and enough money amassed that he no longer needed to work 28 days a month. He started buying "toys," he said, a habit that continues today. Lining the walls of several rooms in his home are giant frames filled with pop culture and sport memorabilia. Gangsters and boxers are the major themes of the collection, another nod to his roots in Cleveland. "It's all stuff that I like, though," he said. "I guess it can be considered an investment (some of the pieces are rare pieces of memorabilia), but a lot of it is stuff that I wanted because it was cool."

While there was no need to work anymore, he continued to hone his business skills starting in 1994 after meeting Jenna Jameson, whom he later married and has since divorced. Capitalizing on her good looks, talent as a performer and likeability in and out of the adult industry, he became the brains behind Club Jenna.

"The Internet really was the Wild West back then," Grdina said. "We knew she was popular on the Internet, and we wanted to find a way to monetize that."

Featuring everything from fresh content starring Jenna to advice columns and links to plastic surgery centers, ClubJenna.com began a meteoric rise during the dot-com explosion. The site was profitable within three weeks, and by the time Club Jenna was sold to Playboy in 2006, the brand had grown exponentially: Club Jenna went from producing one movie a year to six or seven a month; from one contract girl to six; and from one site to more than 20. "It was like someone injected steroids into the company," Grdina said with a laugh.

And though everyone involved was making money hand over fist at the time, Grdina's work ethic still had him working 16- to 18-hour days, doing everything from directing to performing under the name Justin Sterling. And while Jenna no longer performs, Club Jenna continues its stronghold online, and Grdina continues to put in long days to help maintain that success.

But Grdina can party as hard as he works. Oftentimes he's seen at clubs and parties in Las Vegas, hanging out with athletes and musicians. But he's just as likely to spend time with his family: Both his brother and sister were instrumental in the early days of Club Jenna.

As for the more personal details, he tries to keep his hand a little closer to the vest these days. The tattoo bearing Jenna's name remains on the fourth finger of his left hand, though the relationship is strictly a business one now. He does date, but is careful about whom and when.

"Any time I go out, it ends up in the papers or on websites, and that's not fair to the girl," he said. "I really don't date publicly at all."

For now, Grdina seems content to spend quality time with his dogs when he's home (the hard work associated with Club Jenna has him traveling more often than not), add to his "toy" collection of cars, games and gadgets, and party with friends. But you can bet chances are he will be associated with the next big thing as soon as it presents itself.

"I'm not ready to retire yet," he said. "There's still stuff I want to do."


This article initially appeared in the October 2008 issue of AVN Online. To subscribe, visit AVNMediaNetwork.com/subscribe.com