LOS ANGELES - Adult industry veteran Howie Klein spoke to AVN this morning about his role in brokering Vivid Entertainment's "Jimi Hendrix: The Sex Tape."
The Hendrix porn flick made national headlines yesterday as various experts came forward to alternately verify and discredit the footage. Given the recent debunking of an alleged Marilyn Monroe porn reel, it's easy to believe that the Jimi footage is fake - but Klein insists the film is authentic.
"There's much more proof that it is him than proof that it isn't him," Klein said. "A lot of the people who are saying it's not real have not even seen the movie yet."
According to Klein, a private collector discovered the 11-minute silent 8mm film two years ago in a trunk of memorabilia purchased at a London auction. The film shows a man who resembles Hendrix having sex with two unidentified women in a hotel room, including graphic scenes of fellatio, cunnilingus and full intercourse with an internal climax.
"This guy bought a trunk full of memorabilia in London and he sent it home to Indiana," Klein told AVN. "He stayed on in Europe for maybe a month or so. When he got back to Indiana, he went through the stuff and he found this 8mm tin in there labeled 'Black Man.' He looked at the movie and he was pretty shocked - right away, he thought it was Jimi Hendrix."
According to reports, the film was unsuccessfully offered on eBay over a year ago for the asking price of $50,000. It is unclear whether the online auctioneer is the same individual who approached Klein with the film in July 2007.
"Someone had given this guy my name and told him that I was a broker in the business and a person to be trusted," Klein explained. "He called me and we began a rapport; I started investigating it and became pretty convinced that I thought it was [Hendrix]. He trusted me enough that he sent me a copy of the movie before I even bought it."
After seeing the footage, Klein began looking into the film's history with the intention of releasing it himself. His research led him to Keith Dion, a San Francisco-based musician and Hendrix collector who has performed with former Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding.
"I flew up to San Francisco and I went to Keith's apartment and showed [the film] to him, and he fell off his chair," Klein said. "I started getting more and more convinced it was real."
Klein ultimately decided the property was too big to handle on his own. He brought the movie to Vivid in October.
"I realized this was pretty huge and not just another porno tape," Klein said. "So I thought the best person to handle it was [Vivid co-chairman] Steven Hirsch, a longtime friend of mine. I told him I had this tape and showed it to him; he was pretty blown away, too, but he wanted to do his own investigation to be sure it was real."
Hirsch hired an expensive private investigator to track down the person who shot the movie; according to Klein, the results of that search are bound by a confidentiality agreement. Hirsch also brought in famed '60s rock groupies Pamela Des Barres and Cynthia Plaster Caster (a.k.a. Cynthia Albritton) to examine the footage.
"Steven did a lot of vetting of the movie, and I think we both decided the best person who would know would be Cynthia Plaster Caster," Klein said. "She knew what [Hendrix's] dick looked like up close and personal. She went to New York to view the movie; they never told her who it was. They just said we want you to verify someone in this movie. And right away, she said, 'Oh my God, that's Jimi Hendrix.'"
The New York Times cast doubt on these claims by pointing out that Des Barres and Albritton were paid for their participation in the project, but Klein maintains that their testimony is valid.
"If they paid Cynthia a million to lie, she wouldn't do it," Klein said. "When she went home she started doing a lot of research into it, and she is 100 percent sure it's him."
Despite Albritton's professed certainty, the late guitarist's former girlfriend Kathy Etchingham dismissed the tape as a fraud. "[Hendrix] would never have allowed anyone to see that. In private he was very shy and would cover up," she told the Times.
But Etchingham told a completely different story to early Hendrix mentor Curtis Knight in his 1973 book "An Intimate Biography of Jimi Hendrix." In that interview, Knight notes that "Kathy talked, too, of Jimi's penchant for filming, and even for recording some of his sexual exploits on film."
"He bought a lovely camera and projector and sometimes he'd just lean out of the window and film people walking across the road," Etchingham told Knight. "He had a thing about taking films of really fat women, or skinny ugly ones; then he used to show the films and laugh at them. He would also get friends of his to film women running around naked in his room. Often, though, these films were blacked out by the processing people if they got a bit way-out."
While Hendrix biographer Charles Cross ("Room Full of Mirrors") has declared the tape a fraud, Klein said Cross offered no substantial proof to back his assertions.
"People like [Cross] are superfans who don't want to believe that it's Hendrix," Klein said. "They don't want to remember him that way. It's really down to the viewer and to the due diligence that Steven Hirsch did before he released the movie."
The Hendrix estate has not returned calls for comment on the sex tape. In the meantime, Vivid sales rep David Peskin told AVN the tape is selling "beyond all expectations." The company has been flooded with calls since the release was announced yesterday, and the deluge shows no sign of letting up.