Industry Mourns Death of Lenny Friedlander

SYLMAR, Calif. - Lenny Friedlander, 50, owner of New Beginnings and former president of The Free Speech Coalition, passed away yesterday.

Bryan Berber, New Beginnings vice-president, issued the following statement to AVN: "It is with great sadness and regret that I must tell you all of the passing of Lenny Friedlander, owner of New Beginnings. Lenny died August 5 at his home in Louisiana.

"Funeral arrangements are pending," Berber said. "We ask that out of respect for Lenny and his family, that everyone will take a moment and say a prayer for him. Thank you all for your consideration in this difficult time."

"It's been a complete shock to everyone here at New Beginnings, especially for myself and Brian Berber and Jim Nitz," said Lee Negri, who worked closely with Friedlander for 19 years. "It was very difficult for me to sleep last night knowing that he is gone. There's not that many people that don't know Lenny Friedlander – he is a legend in this industry. He started this company back in 1985 and built it into what it is today, and being with him every step of the way, I can say that there's nobody else that is a more honorable person than Lenny. He always lived up to his word, regardless of what it was, and we don't seem to find people like that anymore. Even during the last several years that he was basically working out of his house and spending time with his family in New Orleans, he continued to fight for the industry; he fought 2257 by filing the case against the government, and he was one of the founding members of the Free Speech Coalition. So with all that in mind, we're all going to miss a really incredible person. We're all extremely heartbroken and sad here."

Friedlander began his career in the adult industry in 1978 working for Lanny Cohen at Marlan Distributors and went on to become the company's head of sales.

"I'm very sorry to hear this news," Cohen said. "Lenny had worked for me at the beginning. He was doing collections – and then he took over sales after our salesman George [Bates] died of AIDS. Lenny was a young man, so I'm shocked to hear of his passing."

"I've known Lenny since he started in the business, and he was really one of the modern day founders of the industry," said Ron Braverman of Doc Johnson. "He was always a supporter of the industry, and he was always in the forefront of every issue involving the adult business. I was very, very, very close with him, I have tremendous respect for him; his passing is going to be not only a tremendous personal loss, but it's also going to be a loss for the industry as a whole."

Vivid Entertainment co-founder Steven Hirsch called Friedlander "a pioneer" and "one of the truly great guys in the business."

"I've known Lenny since the minute I got into the business; well over 20 years," Hirsch said. "And he really was one of the great guys – you could always call, he would always do you a favor, and he would go the extra mile, even though he didn't have to. When I first met him, he was head of sales for Marlan – he was always there to help push product. When he started New Beginnings, he called me and asked for my support, and of course we were there for him. This is a tremendous loss, and we will all miss him very much."

Christian Mann of Metro Interactive told AVN, "I first met Lenny in 1979 or 1980 when he was at Marlan Distributors and I was working in my dad's warehouse at Flamingo Press. Lenny was the first guy in the business to invite me to dinner and make me feel like a part of the industry. Even then, he was a big personality with a ball-busting but good natured sense of humor. I spent many hours at his house while he struggled with uncertainty about going on his own and opening New Beginnings. We remained friends throughout all the years and the many business incarnations that followed. I'll remember Lenny as loud, boisterous, funny and genuine. My thoughts are with his family."

Attorney Jeffrey Douglas spoke of Friedlander's dedication to the adult industry and his enormous influence on many friends and colleagues.

"The loss is just incalculable," Douglas told AVN. "Lenny is irreplaceable in every capacity; as a leader of the industry, as a groundbreaking entrepreneur, but most deeply as a friend. I've never known anyone like him. The size of his heart, his extraordinary mind and his ability to inspire are unique. His dedication to the industry and therefore to the Free Speech Coalition was without limitations. He was the most dedicated fundraiser; he understood the importance of the industry uniting, and he made enormous personal sacrifices to keep FSC going, to marshal support... FSC could not be where it is today but for him. He was president for many years and he recruited and inspired scores and scores of people to be involved and support – essentially, he was personally responsible for the financial health of the organization for many, many years."

"Amongst a lot of great memories I have were the times spent on the Free Speech Coalition board with Lenny," said AVN President Paul Fishbein. "Especially the crazy calls late at night at home, when Lenny would come upon a new idea about fighting government suppression. A lot of people don't know what a great president of Free Speech he was, and how he really donated most of his business time raising money and awareness."

Many of Friedlander's colleagues were stunned and shaken by the news of his death.

"I'm really shocked ... really shocked ... and so sorry to hear that Lenny passed away," said Susan Colvin of California Exotic Novelties. "It's not something I expected at all. He was a very dynamic person, and I'll miss his enthusiasm about everything. When he used to sell and he started New Beginnings, he was one of the top salespeople in the adult field. If he decided to go after an account, he usually got that account. He was an amazing salesman. I feel really badly for his daughter and his wife, I want to pass my condolences on to them. And everyone at New Beginnings, I wish them my best. As far as I'm concerned, his legacy is [being an] incredible salesman."

"Lenny was one of my best friends in and out of the business," said veteran adult video salesman Howard Levine. "I am shocked. I loved Lenny - he was always the best. He would do anything for you. He was one of my customers at New Beginnings, and we always hung out. I am going to miss Lenny a lot."

"Lenny was such a great guy whom I adored and way too young to have left us," said Gloria Leonard. "I loved that when I went to his home when he still lived in LA, he had several pictures of his Mom placed throughout the house. This is a very sad day, indeed."

Friedlander is survived by his wife, son and two daughters.