There's Steve Lightspeed, and then there's Steve Lightspeed.
The first man is the larger-than-life personality who's been associated with some of the wildest promotions and stunts related to the online adult industry in the past 10 years. He's the Steve Lightspeed veterans in the industry associate with the term "party animal." The one who sponsored get-away weekends for webmasters and friends. The one who gave away motorcycles over the years at various adult Internet shows. The one who's known for go-kart races, paintball wars and stunt plane flights-"I've heard we raced them through the Grand Canyon and even down The Strip in Las Vegas," he said.
The second Steve Lightspeed is the man who enjoys having friends over to the home he and his wife, Shannon, share. The Steve Lightspeed who makes his business a family affair. (Both his wife and his mother work for Lightspeed Media.) The one who once took a year off from the industry to spend some quality with his family.
The funny thing is, Lightspeed sees no real difference between the two.
"In the beginning of my time in this industry, I tried to be who I thought I was supposed to be," he said. "A renegade, larger-than-life personality."
But the persona isn't that far off from the man. Lightspeed is willing to recount that pivotal turning point in his life, when he learned to grab life by the horns and enjoy the ride. As a teenager, he and a friend were more than a little inebriated when they went hiking. When their balsa wood gliders fell, both tried to recover them, only to plummet to the bottom of a canyon. With major injuries-Lightspeed fractured his skull, a piece of which is missing and is all the more visible since he recently shaved his head-the pair believed they were going to die. A passing motorist noticed their abandoned vehicle and then heard their cries for help. Once hospitalized, he drifted in and out of consciousness for days.
After surviving that incident, Lightspeed made a decision: Live life to the fullest.
"Life is too short," he said. "I've always been willing to take risks. I don't want to be one of those people who says, ‘This is my dream, and I'm gonna do it someday.' Why not today?"
It's a motto he's operated by ever since, and it's almost always worked for him. There have been times he's "given in to peer pressure" or taken advice he probably shouldn't have when it came to his business, though.
There was once a time Lightspeed Media tried bundling all their sites together for customers. It didn't take long for them to find out that their fans were oftentimes interested solely in one girl, not all of them. And then there was the time Lightspeed tried to operate a gay site, when it seemed like that would help branch out the company and bring in more revenue. He considers it a failed experiment.
"I was listening to everyone else telling me what I should do," he said. "But the problem is, once you do something, you can't undo it.
"Every time I listened to someone else about what I should do, I have regretted it," he continued. "So now, I listen to myself."
To outsiders, it might seem like Lightspeed is a lone wolf, someone who needs no help and shuns anyone who would even try to get close to him. But perception and reality are two different animals when it comes to this man. Truth is, there would be no Steve Lightspeed if it weren't for one woman: Shannon Lightspeed.
Anyone who knows the couple knows they are a force to be reckoned with. Steve's talent lies in finding the popular Lightspeed Girls and oftentimes shooting them-he likes to keep it old school at times, shooting content for the likes of Jordan Capri himself--while Shannon keeps a tight leash on the numbers aspect of the company and helps the girls feel comfortable. "There's been more than one time where Shannon will bring milk and cookies to a shoot," Steve said.
It's the little things like that-Shannon often shops for clothes for the models and attends shoots for first-timers to make them feel welcome, while she and Steve often end up becoming friends and surrogate parents with the solo-girls featured in the dozens of sites owned and operated by Lightpseed Media-that keep the talent around for years.
"They were good to me from the beginning," said Jordan Capri, one of the most popular Lightspeed girls ever. "They did little extras like that and went out of their way to make me feel more comfortable. They really took me under their wing."
But it's not all business all the time for Shannon and Steve Lightspeed. Anyone lucky enough to spend time with them can't help but see how much they care about each other. It's obvious in their actions, words and looks toward one another. They genuinely care about each other, enjoy being in one another's company and work well together, both inside and outside the behemoth that is Lightspeed Media.
The company was started together by the couple, each of whom had a career before starting the first site-Lightspeed University-in 1999. After seeing a television news report about an early adult Internet entrepreneur, they looked at one another and said, "We could do that."
"The goal was to try and do it on the side and make an extra $1,000 per month," Shannon said.
They admit it seemed an unattainable goal at the time. But with a little hard work, they easily surpassed it: Within a few months, they were making $10,000 a month and more.
"The money was coming in so fast, we couldn't spend it all if we tried," Steve said.
While stories abound about those who made fortunes in the adult online industry and spent it on mansions, fancy cars and drugs and alcohol, Steve and Shannon made a deliberate decision to not only put money back into the program, developing more sites and finding more models, but also to "give back to the community" in a sense. If there was an adult webmaster show, Lightspeed Media was there, throwing some of the best parties-sometimes to the tune of $50,000-and creating the most memorable experiences, including the famed stunt plane flights.
But it's not just the extravagant gestures that have made Lightspeed Media-and Steve and Shannon themselves-such a well-known name in the industry. It's the honest approach to the business, the hard work and the dedication that help them stand apart and survive. And it's the genuine love for one another and what they do that really sets them apart.
"Let's be honest," Steve said. "The worst day on this job is still better than the best day on any other job."
This article originally appeared in the Spetember 2008 issue of AVN Online magazine. To subscribe, visit AVNMediaNetwork.com/subscribe.