The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Identified as a trouble maker by the authorities since childhood, and resolved to live up to the description, Charles Carreon soon discovered that mischief is most effectively fomented through speech. Having mastered the art of flinging verbal pipe-bombs and molotov cocktails at an early age, he refined his skills by writing legal briefs and journalistic exposes, while developing a poetic style that meandered from the lyrical to the political. Journey with him into the dark caves of the human experience, illuminated by the torch of an outraged sense of injustice.

Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:59 am


Leaving New York, Gary and I hopped a plane north to Toronto, crossing into the comparatively relaxed atmosphere of Canadian airports and hotels, where I suddenly realized Gary and I were really keyed-up. I had adopted his habit of walking bent forward, leaning into the wind of the omnipresent opposition, pressing ever onward. Our impatience didn’t quicken the slow pace of the Canadian airport clerks, who questioned us mildly and used ball point pens to fill out new airline tickets after they bumped us off our flight for snow up north. It felt like a plot designed to cause the brains of time-conscious Americans like Gary and myself to explode with rage and frustration. Get a printer!

In the Canadian customs waiting area, I practiced relaxing my mind while closely studying a display case of all kinds of stuff you can’t import into Canada, like rhino horn, endangered birds, live snakes and other Asians-themed novelties. The display looked like it had been assembled by a seventh-grader for Science Day. It was dull and obvious, but far more interesting than the concrete floors, metallic surfaces and scuffed vinyl of the baggage depot. We were eventually asked to queue up and be subjected to a quick, skeptical eye from an official servant of the Crown, before being admitted to Toronto, the city of snow and concrete.

In the cab from the airport, Gary and I fiddled with our cell phones, answering calls and inflating our self-importance as we rode through the dark. Sue had set us up to meet Dave Vanderpool from Python and Meir Strahlberg of Orgasm and We met in their large spacious offices, where racks of caged servers pumped cash in a clean room, and rows of computers awaited the workers who would arrive again tomorrow to optimize and upload sexy pictures to the Net. The layout was more interesting than the stable of accountants Yishai had shown us in New York. We talked about, and Gary collected kudos for creating After getting acquainted, we left the office and walked down quiet, dark streets to an opulent bar with huge ceilings and black floor-to-ceiling wall drapes. Men were smoking cigars and leaning back with exaggerated ease. There were few women anywhere, and none at our table.

I played my role as consigliore to the big man at Sex.Com, and received encouragement for my performance from everyone except Gary, who was noticeably off his feed. But our companions were jolly enough, and while we sat in the opulent, sophisticated lounge, Gary tried to seem interested in the conversation. Sitting back sipping a pint of good, Canadian draft, I contemplated the appearances of our industry colleagues. Demian, who worked for Meir, was devilishly handsome in goth attire, long black curls and a goatee. Dave was a tall, blonde impeccably groomed Northern European sophisticate who looked like he would be comfortable anywhere the elegant are found. Meir’s delicate frame was smoothly packaged in preppy clothes. He made eye contact, and used delicate gestures and words when he spoke to me. The three made good company, and seemed to prove that minting money on the Internet needn’t turn you into a grim servitor of cash like Yishai or his boss, Richard Martino.

We dined at a large, round table stacked with silver, china, and starched napkins carefully folded into fan-shapes that looked like chickens roosting on our plates. There we sat, five knaves dining like kings, and discussing the electronic skin trade. Demian talked knowledgeably about “content,” what pornsites sell, saying more is always better. offered several hundred thousand images, streaming videos, a silly astrology column that lampooned sun-signs for their sexual foibles, and various other gimmicks. Suffice it to say that having a dirty mind seemed to be an asset in this business, and discussions of the product led to the inevitable conclusion that inducing masturbation among the clientele drove profits. Hence, the slogan for was “keeping Kleenex in business . . .”

I thought perhaps we’d have some fun with these guys, but Gary’s mood went completely sour sometime during dinner, and he decided to go to bed early. If I’d thought about it, I might have deduced that forced breaks in Gary’s pharmaceutical regimen, such as those imposed by air travel, might be causing the downturn in his mood that had been evident for the last several days. After Gary left, I headed out to the streets with Meir, Dave and Demian. They teased each other like kids as we navigated the icy sidewalks and heaps of dirty snow. Dave was minding the business, though, and quickly flagged down a cab that we piled into noisily, jostling and joking. The club they’d chosen for our evening entertainment offered up two floors of nubile women gliding about in revealing outfits, and lounging with customers on large couches and chairs. When they weren’t working the customers one-on-one, they danced sensually in brass-railed enclosures, like imaginary creatures trapped in bottles of colored light. When the music stopped, they were freed from the spell, and moved about the railed stages, squatting on six-inch heels to collect their tips from the floor, while murmuring thanks with their beautiful mouths and eyes.

Demian made the most of our entrance. The boys were obviously known for their generosity. We all settled down among soft cushions and chatted while various women came up to talk with us and hang out. They even seemed to actually want to talk to us. Given who I was with, I figured they did a certain amount of recruiting here, so the goodwill I felt might be genuine. After engaging in the obligatory good-natured ogling and salacious talk, we settled into a mood of professional relaxation. I chose a golden-skinned Maltese woman with almond-shaped eyes and a lovely smile as my conversation companion. I rarely want anyone but my wife to push her ass in my face, and once I made it clear that she could relax, that I was having a good time just sitting next to someone as pretty as she was, and that my friends were paying the fee for her idleness, she was good with it. I suspect that most exotic dancers have kids, and this young lady fit the mold. We talked about her little boy, and how she enjoyed her work because it allowed her time and money to care for him. I drank several more Canadian beers, and after a couple of hours, the place was closing, so we left. The party broke up on the sidewalk, with Demian taking off by himself to walk home, weaving slightly around the mounds of snow. Meir and Dave flagged down a taxi and dropped me off at the hotel, on the way remarking that in this city, the cops keep an eye on the prostitutes to make sure they’re okay.

Back in the hotel room Gary and I were sharing, he snorted and gasped through his fitful dreams. I don’t know about now, but in those days, he slept poorly, and while I’m not a light sleeper, it could keep me awake listening to him struggle with basic respiration. But the beer wrapped me in a blanket of oblivion, and when I awoke, it was a new day, and we were on our way back to the States.

From Toronto, our plane drew a great big diagonal line southwest across the continental United States, landing in LA, where we had been invited to attend the Christmas party for New Frontier, the only publicly traded U.S. company dedicated to selling sex online, and trading on the NASDAQ under the symbol NOOF. Gary and I had been talking with Greg Dumas of New Frontier for months, going back to the days when Gary was trolling for bankers to help with legal fees. Of course, like all the other smut dealers, New Frontier hadn’t taken us seriously, or responded in any meaningful way to our funding overtures, but hey, that was before the victory. Nowadays, wherever we went, it was all a big chorus of, “We love you, Man!” So that’s what we’d grown to expect, and why we were here, a couple of days before Christmas, looking for a rented hall near Sunset and Vine. I was on my own turf, and found the location easily in the rental car, but as had become the norm, Gary seemed bored and distracted.

I soon realized that we had been invited to the classic year-end LA company party, where corporate bigwigs and their wives are distributed evenly among the circular banquet tables, rubbing elbows with middle managers in a ritual atmosphere of artificial bonhomie. It was so familiar. We had the Nazi-style bouncers with muscles bulging under their black t-shirts, sporting cropped blonde haircuts and surly faces. There was a spread of shrimp cocktail, a vast array of cheese cubes, veggies with dip, and an open bar. Folks were eating under the bug lights out on a patio, where rented propane heaters dispelled the chill of the ocean breeze blowing up Sunset Boulevard.

I had endured similar events a half-dozen times during my years in the LA lawfirm scene, and immediately sensed that this was going to be one dull evening. My expectations were fulfilled with a vengeance, as Gary and I were virtually ignored in the glow of self-love radiating from the NOOFers. Whether blinded by the glare of the radiant heaters that warmed the outdoor dining area, or simply the glamour of their own splendid empire, not one bigwig did what Gary expected -- stop everything, move people aside, and seat him at his table as a guest of honor. Apparently, Greg Dumas had failed to circulate a memo about how to court Gary. Not one person approached with a rapt look to ask him big questions and bestow their admiration.

As the evening crushed down on us, I absorbed the poignant absurdity. New Frontier had actually outdone itself with the music, supplementing the DJ’s sonic output with what has now become a commonplace, but was then rather unique -- a handsome, energetic male dancer, his naked upper body toned by the southern sun, his lower body swathed in an Indian-style wrap, feet as bare as if he had been performing on Venice Beach. He was beating a big conga drum, dancing, singing along to the recorded music, his face shining with ecstasy. He was like an ad for health, youth, beauty, and celebration.

A throng of office-help swirled below the bare-chested dance-leader. The messenger boys and photocopy guys were outdoing themselves in their black suits, deploying clichéd male dance postures to ensnare the skinny LA women who are only magnetized by moves they’ve seen a thousand times before. The event inverted class relations for one night, during which the subordinates demonstrate how much they enjoy the event, in contrast with their bosses, who are so stiff they never make it out to the dance floor, or just take a few turns for the sake of the night. Their uptight asses shake weakly as their silly smiles say it’s all good fun, the boss can never dance -- that’s not how it works -- and everybody’s dignity survives intact.

I sat on a thumping speaker above the dancing crowd watching Gary from a distance. I’d left him hounding a couple of New Frontier execs about “Where’s my escort?” Looking around the room at the abundance of top-shelf booty, I could understand Gary’s take on the scene. I don’t think he seriously meant he expected an escort -- he hadn’t asked for one in Toronto, where the service could’ve been easily and lawfully provided. He was just ribbing the self-stuck, ignorant NOOFers -- “Isn’t this a sex company? Aren’t we in LA, ground zero for sex and money? Isn’t it Christmas? Don’t I own Sex.Com? Where are my presents?”

Any serious hopes for a linkup between New Frontier and Sex.Com was doomed that night. Some weeks later, I heard from Gary that New Frontier had offered to buy Sex.Com for three times yearly revenue in stock, approximately $24,000,000. Since New Frontier rose markedly in 2001, this would have been a nice deal, but if the company really had any interest in courting Gary, it wasn’t visible that night. Too bad -- New Frontier had legitimacy, and even though it had over fifteen-thousand domain names, Sex.Com had better web-traffic, and much higher conversion rates. New Frontier was also a public company with relatively transparent finances and big contracts to supply adult cable-TV programming. Cross-marketing through Sex.Com would have given them an instantly recognizable brand in an industry where aside from Playboy and Hustler, brands don’t matter. Sex.Com, with its unforgettable six letters and Internet cachet, could have become the third most recognizable name in the minds of sexually curious men everywhere. My old friend Steve Marshank strongly advised me to make this deal happen, and I didn’t listen. But as Steve Cohen was fond of saying, “If wishes and buts were apples and nuts, Oh, what a fine Christmas we’d have.”
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:59 am


From L.A. we returned to San Francisco to face an inevitable, tension-filled exchange. It had been nearly a month since we got control of Sex.Com and with the assistance of Richard Idell, Gary had formed Grant Media, LLC and established a bank account into which Yishai had already deposited $385,000. Gary had been sitting on a bill for eight-hundred and fifty hours worth of legal work I had done on credit, since around July of 2000, when Gary’s money got scarce, and what he had went to costs and Wagstaffe’s firm. I hadn’t said a word about the money since November 27th, so when we got back to Gary’s new house on Third Street, I had to raise the issue.

I only had about a four-hour layover in the bay area before my flight left for Oregon, so the exchange was time-pressured. After we got back from the airport, I sat down with Gary in his bedroom, amid the chaos of jumbled bed clothes, heaps of clothing and the usual snowfall of papers covering his battered gray desk. I sat on the bed, and Gary sat on his office chair while I explained that we needed to do our 15% split now, and I wanted to be paid $10,000 in costs that I’d advanced. Also, before we won the name, Gary had said that we would both have signature authority on the account. It was time to give me signature authority. Gary’s lips became tight, as he shook his head and said, “No.”

Gary said before we figured my cut, I should pay him back for all the money he’d paid Wagstaffe and other lawyers to help with the case. I figured I owed him 15% of that expense, but he didn’t agree, and said I owed him all of Wagstaffe’s fees, several hundred thousand dollars. Our written agreement didn’t say who would pay if Gary hired more lawyers, so we had a bit of a problem, but I couldn’t wait to resolve it. We reached a temporary resolution by agreeing we’d leave $85,000 in the account, and divide the remaining $300,000 between us, with me receiving $45,000, fifteen percent of 300K. My unpaid hourly fees would wait, and so would Gary’s claim for reimbursement of Wagstaffe’s fees.

I waited outside Redwood Bank on Montgomery Street in Gary’s car while he wire transferred the forty-five thousand to my account. When he got back he gave me the pink receipt for the wire transfer. I was much relieved and thanked him for the payment. The atmosphere between us was troubled as he drove me back to the airport. In the familiar atmosphere of the Crab Pot restaurant on the SFO departure level, I reflected on my situation, and ate a crab sandwich on white drenched with Tabasco sauce, preceded by a bowl of clam chowder. A week’s worth of tension had built up inside me, so I had an oversize glass of beer, then another. Watching the airliners and service vehicles prowling the tarmac outside the restaurant windows, taking passing notice of the TV news on the screens behind the bar, I encouraged myself to relax, but it was a tough sell.

When I got back to Oregon, I was able to pay some bills, and began considering the process of closing down my law practice to take a job as house counsel for Sex.Com. The more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea. The meeting with Yishai and the look of the website scared me. Word was getting around among the lawyers in town that I had won the Sex.Com case. Sooner or later it was going to be discovered by one of the enemies you make in some profusion when you practice law in a rural area. Some lawyer might report it to the Oregon State Bar and make an ethics complaint, saying that owning an adult website that displayed free fuck movies without the barest age-verification requirement, was conduct “likely to expose the legal profession to disrepute.” Money comes and goes, I realized, but you can be a lawyer your whole life, and as I now knew more clearly than ever, a lawyer can spin straw into gold, given the right opportunity.

So I started writing Gary an e-mail which began with “Thanks for the offer of a job,” and ended three pages later after a long discussion of a lot of my internal gripes about his behavior. I didn’t plan on sending it right away. I’d written at least a half-dozen e-mails that I’d never sent to Gary, venting my frustrations first, then adopting a more thoughtful approach after considered reflection. I had planned to do the same thing with this one -- get it off my chest, then come back to it and say only the important, essential stuff. I usually composed large documents in Word, and without thinking about it, I had written the whole thing in Outlook Express. After venting for I while, I went to do a shortcut save, and ZIP! The email was gone. It went. Gary had it. Oh SHIT. In Word, CTRL-S means SAVE. The CTRL key is right next to the ALT key, which was what I hit, and in Outlook Express, “ALT-S” means “SEND.”
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:59 am


“In El Dorado-town there is a great bullfighter.
His hair is red as blood,
His eyes are screamin’ blue.
And when the gate goes up,
The crowd gets so excited.
Then he comes dancin’ out,
Dressed in gold lame’.
He kills the bull
And lives another day.”

-- Neil Young, Eldorado

In Arizona, the power of precious metal has shaped the people and the land. My mother grew up in a town called Morenci, that once had the world’s largest open pit copper mine. We went there only once. The town was a big hole in the ground, with tiny trucks maneuvering down a spiraling road into a huge, flat pit. We drove past the few buildings that lined the perimeter road ringing the enormous hole. I asked my mom where her house was, and she gestured toward the center of the gaping chasm, laughingly responding with only a single phrase, “Oh, it was out there, honey.” We never discussed it again.

People have seen mirages of great wealth in the desert. As a child I learned of Pizarro, who went seeking a utopia and ended by kidnapping the Inca God-King and ransoming him back to his people for a roomful of gold. After accepting the gold, Pizarro killed the Inca king anyway, ending the life of a man known to his people as “The Son of the Sun.” Pizarro himself was murdered a few years later by his co-venturers, who thought, heaven knows why, that he was too greedy. I heard other tales of gold, like the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix and Mesa, where a goodly number of folks have died inserting their lives into a puzzle of their own making.

I was most affected by The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, by B. Traven. It was the first novel I ever read, at the tender age of four, and my unforeseen choice of reading material caused some concern among the grownups. The cover of the paperback edition I’d found on my father’s bookshelf showed a gang of grizzled miners wearing clothing worn out from hard labor, battling each other amid the ruins of their mining camp, each one clutching a gun and a bag of gold. From rents in several of the bags, precious gold spilled in long thin triangles. As I read the story and understood the plot, it broke my heart to see the bright dust piling up in mounds on the desert soil. The men had extracted it through months of backbreaking labor that had, nevertheless, been filled with the joy of mutual effort. I wanted to end the madness that had caused these men, flush with the fruits of their labors, to unleash hatred and violence upon each other, when all they had to do was share. I wanted to stop the gold from spilling on the ground, or catch at least a little of it in my own cup. Perhaps I was pained so deeply by the story because of that very love for gold that destroyed the miners in B. Traven’s book.

Like a poisoned arrow, my email went straight to Gary’s heart. He was on the phone to me within seconds. It was not the sort of thing he liked to receive. I did not know what to tell him except that I hadn’t intended to send it, and argued that the contents were not that inflammatory after all. In truth, I had somehow obscured from myself how gravely I had injured myself. A bizarre twist of fate had revealed me out of uniform, less than perfectly loyal in spirit. I now have no clear memory of that time period, when the magic I was handling exploded in my face. I only know that I went on, because the damage had been done and the only way was forward.

There were two dedicated intercessors -- Sue Whatley and Phil Father, who now held a nominal two percent interest in Sex.Com, Gary’s gift to Phil for being his partner in Kremen, Father & Partners (there were no partners). It now seemed like a good thing I had decided to attend the Internext trade show in Vegas during the dawning days of January 2001. At first I thought I’d skip it, and leave it to Gary, Sue, and Phil. But after hanging out with the Python and Orgasm people, and spending quality time with Yishai, I thought perhaps I should show my face at the trade show.

Gary had given Sue Whatley the job of exploring the big players in the online porn business. She had identified the usual suspects -- Luke Ford, the gossip columnist, Ron Levy, the King of CyberErotica, Jonathan Silverstein, a perennial player, Serge Birbrair, and various others. The goings-on at Internext were apparently somewhat risqué, or so I was lead to believe, which is why I at first thought it would be more lawyerly to not attend. When I changed my mind, and decided to go, Gary was grumpy about it, and said he would allow me to come. And that had been before he got my draft email. Now that Microsoft Outlook Express had spilled the beans about my discontent with the new regime, Gary simmered on medium high all the time. He ignored my emails or replied so tersely it was clear he was freezing me out. Still, I figured I’d make the trip, and Sue rearranged our flight and room plans easily. Gary and Phil had booked rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel, where ostensibly there were more chicks. Sue and I would share a suite at the Venetian, the convention venue.

So there I was, in the lobby of the Venetian Hotel and Casino, with its huge, curving portico, and doormen in pseudo-Italian outfits, equipped with wireless mikes that enabled some of them to sing operatic airs while hailing cabs. It was all dissonant and dazzling, in that offhand way Vegas has of jumbling megalithic glitter into a supposedly cool thing -- the Strip! In this glamorous environment, Sue and I were short on glitz. A tall woman, Sue wore big, black, platform-soled boots, and concealed her entire person under a full-length pink flannel coat that looked a lot like a housecoat. Wearing Dan Post boots, black Levis, and a tired leather motorcycle jacket, I didn’t look like I needed to change companions. She was dowdy and I was scruffy. We were perfect for each other. As we stood in the long line snaking up to the desk, we observed crowds of young men in leather sport-coats, wearing jewelry, occasionally looking up from absorption in their cell-phone conversation to hail the person they were talking to. They seemed to be there for “the Show,” as industry-types refer to the yearly Internext bash. There were geeky types, gothish people, and occasional gaggles of chicks who looked like they might be passing out literature or adorning a trade-show booth.

Sue and I checked into the room, which wasn’t a suite, but was a split-level big enough to appease my desire for a small slice of luxury. After freshening up, we headed back downstairs to face my first post-email meeting with Gary. Extremely stressed is how I would describe my condition. On the elevator ride to the casino floor, a young man and woman, both impeccably attired, were going down with their bags. The woman was a breathtaking brunette around twenty-four, with hair like chestnut-colored silk falling to well below her shoulders. The young man had sandy brown hair, wore clothing that was casually high-class, and looked like he belonged behind the wheel of a Porsche.

The brunette asked us “Checking in?”

“Yep,” I answered, with a smile.

With a slightly rueful expression, she said, “We’re checking out.” She paused, then supplemented this with an explanation, “We’ve been here a long time.” Silence. The gentleman was reasonably handsome, but seemed drained of virility. What was this sad story all about? A dentist who had left wife and kids, being jerked back to reality? An oil scion who’d just run through his trust fund, responding to a warning call from his accountant? Something had turned out badly, probably at the gaming tables. The elevator doors opened, and the sounds of the casino flooded in -- batteries of slot machines chiming out the promise of abundant returns for those eager to achieve the unlikely goal of instant riches. We crossed the gaming floor to the Grand Lux Restaurant, where Gary and Phil were waiting. On the way, we saw scores of the young industry players dressed identically in black-on-black, leaning against craps and roulette tables, looking slightly bored with what they hoped seemed like big bets.

Inside the Grand Lux, we found Gary and Phil in a booth. Phil rose to meet us solicitously, while Gary remained seated, his clenched right fist planted firmly on a hardcopy of my excessively candid email. He had grown a goatee, and someone had joined it to a comb-over that accentuated his bald spot. He looked like maybe he had hired a stylist, so I complimented him on the look. He responded with an acid smile that suggested I did not mean it. Shallow breaths heaved his shoulders, as if stoking a fire in his chest. In the booth that seated four, I sat diagonally to Gary, maximizing the available distance between us, in an effort to avoid spontaneous combustion.

Into this situation, Sue and Phil maneuvered expertly like a couple of bomb squad vehicles covered with blast cushions, spraying foam everywhere. Both were extremely obsequious to both Gary and myself. Phil asked me to reconsider my decision not to join the company as an employee, which was of course flattering, because I wasn’t sure Gary wanted me as a Grant Media employee, anyway. It seemed that Phil had prepared the ground well, though, because he was focused on getting me back into the company. I had to be okay with that, because I was sure Gary would not make it easy for an absentee partner. Within twenty minutes, the atmosphere had cooled considerably. The igneous heat that had suffused Gary’s body retreated into a tiny point of nuclear heat, gleaming in the recesses of his eyes. In my heart, I fervently hoped that I could withdraw the sudden mis-step that had abruptly landed me on the wrong side of the Rubicon.

We finished our dinner, and with rising spirits, headed up to our room for more refreshments. We were putting the past behind us, and Sue was now in control of our agenda. The first stop. she informed us, was Yishai’s party, on the upper level in a white-tablecloth Italian restaurant Yishai had rented at a reputed cost of $50,000. Not bad for a business expense, and less than a month of his share of Sex.Com revenue. It was so nice knowing we were helping him stay afloat. As Gary and I strode through the Venetian mall under the big, fake sky they’ve painted on the ceiling, past the landlocked gondoliers in their marble-lined canals, he threw his arm around me and looked into my eyes, enthusing, unbelievably, “Isn’t this great?” To which I was only able to agree. Hoo-ya! We were team

Yishai’s party was just like Yishai -- so upscale and lavish that you could mistake the guests for actual rich people. Polished silverware, white table cloths, spreads of higher-quality fare, and plenty of good-quality wine and champagne. It was not much of a surprise to see Joel Dichter. But when my eyes focused on his conversation partner, and I realized he was talking to Katie Diemer, it was dejavu all over again. Since they were the only people I knew there, I said hi to Joel and Katie. Joel seemed amused at my presence at the party, and Katie said, “Well, this must be quite a feather in your cap.” Ah yes, the feather in my cap. I had almost forgotten about it, worried as I was about the color of the cap itself, which I was certain had started out white, but was looking increasingly grey, or even darker. I acknowledged her compliment and took my leave of the compromised pair.

Then came another bizarre exchange, as our host Yishai importuned me by seeking amnesty on behalf of Jordan Levinson, Cohen’s Sex.Com bagman. Jordan, who had been scarfing up a percentage of advertising sales, was blameless, Yishai explained. Hardly. I knew Jordan was one of the younger members of a family of seasoned fraudsters with their roots in phone-sex (euphemistically called “audiotext” in the industry) and phone-fraud. His uncle, I believe, was one of the celebrated rate-gougers at Crown Communications, a company that the FTC had taken down a few years back. I wanted to go to the bathroom and see if someone had written “DUMBASS” on my forehead, because why would I want to keep doing business with Cohen’s confederate? Nevertheless, Jordan now stood before me, impeccably garbed in black-on-black, beseeching me to please understand that he had never been in sympathy with Cohen, and really wanted to keep buying traffic. Jordan had been buying less than $10,000 per month of traffic through small text links that reputedly converted at a very high rate, so there was plenty of money still on the branch for him, waiting to be plucked, even though he was already stuffed with stolen Sex.Com money. He asked me to please not sue him. I was disoriented. Yishai was our partner now, and being a turncoat seemed to be the way of things around him. I looked around. Where was Gary? Sue sidled up to tell me that Gary was, at this very moment, telling Katie Diemer that he would sue her. Accordingly, the fight with Levinson would still be on as well. Levinson’s peace overtures were poorly timed, and left me feeling as confused as a field commander receiving a call that should have been routed to the spy guys.

I felt completely out of place wearing a tattered motorcycle jacket amongst all these well-dressed desperadoes. I stood alone, looking listlessly at the little round tables covered with wineglasses and plates bearing abandoned wedges of brie, cut veggies, and fractured water crackers. I felt like I had lost my sleek profile. My black jeans were crumpling down, bagging about the knees, and the heels of my boots felt big and heavy. Gary was still sporting the rumpled sweatshirt that gave him his Michelin Man profile, but it wasn’t radiating any Silicon Valley geek cachet. It just looked like he was cheap and clueless, especially with the new hairdo and goatee. Sue was humbly moving about in the midst of all the refined vampires with downcast eyes. Christ, I thought, Gary should have bought her a coat. Phil Father was elegant in his own black-on-black outfit, but was obviously just window dressing. I had to face it -- in this crowd, the Sex.Com crew was nikulturni. The experience must have depressed Gary, too, because when we left, he and Phil headed back to the Hardrock Café, ostensibly to look for chicks.

As night turned to morning in the sunless caverns of the Venetian, I stuck with Sue, whose ever-accommodating shy smile, knowing eyes, blond curls, baby-like features, and throaty laugh increasingly reminded me how nice big German girls can look. She was playing a lowbrow, supersized ingénue, and managing to draw more favorable attention than I would have expected. She was blossoming in the scene, making connections in person with people she’d been gabbing with for months on the Net. She didn’t look like a model, which was a plus, because we avoided awkward exchanges and were able to answer inquiries by jointly presenting ourselves as the Sex.Com lawyers. Besides which, she was comfortable in an environment where sex, sex toys, fetishes, bestiality, and other marginal subjects fed bottom line. Sue was quickly becoming one of the boys, mixing easily with important players, and I was very thankful for her knowledge of the business, about which I was still fundamentally clueless.

Industry insiders usually turned adoring when we said we were the Sex.Com lawyers who had beheaded Cohen, the old dragon. It had been an upset victory, because no one in the industry thought Gary had a chance of knocking Cohen off the throne. Paul Wolfowitz should’ve been there to see what it’s like to be received as liberators, because we were the toast of the night. We were receiving accolades for making the world safe for ordinary, decent smut peddlers. I got a sloppy kiss from a porn star. We were the new face of Sex.Com, and a kinder, gentler face it seemed, no doubt, as long as you were looking at me or Sue.

Left to ourselves, Sue and I wandered through hotel lobbies, across gambling floors, into restaurants and bars, collecting kudos, networking and passing out business cards that Tara had printed for us back in Oregon. They had vintage erotica pictures on them and looked humorous and light, but a little ambiguous. Eventually we made it back to our room and turned in for the night. The next morning, Sue had arranged a big meeting with Ron Levy, at his request. We were supposed to hook up with Ron’s people on the show floor for directions.

The next morning, Sue and I were up, taking care of business. The trade show exhibition floor was enormous. About three hundred booths vied for attention in a room big enough to store a couple of jumbo jets. Above us hung thirty foot banners displaying enhanced blondes overprinted with logos in blue, pink, yellow and silver rendered in visual perfection with high-tech printing. Website logos were everywhere, notable for the extreme obviousness of their appeal -- “Hardcoremoney” -- “” -- “Cyber Erotica” -- “Porn Profits” -- “Babenet” -- all rendered in bright colors and dynamic characters. The air was shimmering with skin tones, bright colors and metallic sheen. Precise, crisp images of idealized females are the product, and they received pride of place at this exhibition.

Visually, the scene was titillating, but the audio track was tedious. The theme music for the sex industry is a blend of featureless beats that demonstrates disrespect for all legitimate musical forms. At the CyberErotica booth, you couldn’t get away from the tired sounds, because Ron had hired a half-dozen slightly past-prime Barbies to bump and grind to the rhythmic dreck that oozed from banks of black loudspeakers. The exhibition of tired hip-swiveling, listless shoulder-rotation, arrogant chin-pointing, and bored pouting would sap anyone’s enthusiasm for the sex business. Where, I wondered, had they found these women? They lacked funk, spunk and everything else that would have enlivened their presentation of God’s basic handiwork. No wonder Viagra was so much in demand.

The desultory dancers adorning the CyberErotica booth were appropriate, though, because Ron Levy is oblivious to everything about sex except its ability to generate conversions. Call it professional focus. And Ron had a proposal he wanted to present to Gary in the secluded comfort of his hotel room. We approached a member of the scurrying posse of Ron-worshipers clustered around his trade show booth, the largest on the floor. We met Ron’s Canadian lawyer, and he gave us the room number and directions to Ron’s extremely expensive room, which was off in some exclusive wing of the hotel. Ron was ready, so I called Gary and Phil to request their presence at the Venetian. Phil said he’d be getting Gary moving, but it might be tough.

I think Phil had to use a winch or other device to get Gary out of bed, because he looked about as bad as he did when Dorband asked him if he ever took drugs that might affect his memory. Whatever he’d ingested, it seemed to have obliterated all memories, going back to childhood. I felt his pain. He could barely talk, and I was sure that whatever he was hearing, he wasn’t understanding. He looked like a sick dog that might have to be put down, because it was just suffering too much. Gary had always gotten sweaty palms when he thought how it would go with Ron. It was by now part of the lore of the case that Ron had invested $150,000 in Joel Dichter’s representation of Gary. Rumor had it that Ron felt some sense of entitlement based on that investment, even though Gary had fired Dichter and Diemer years before, declaring the whole deal a dead letter.

I wasn’t worried at all. We owned Sex.Com. If Ron wanted to make a deal, we could evaluate his offer just like Yishai’s or NOOF’s or anybody else’s. It would have been nice to have Gary’s brain operational that morning, but for the moment, it wasn’t taking calls. Gary was going where he was led, up the elevator and down the long halls of the Venetian to the wide double doors of a suite that Sue told us Ron was renting for $4,500 per night.

Admitted to the suite by a black-T-shirted CyberErotica servitor, we walked into a large white room where Ron was sitting at the head of a conference table a short walk from the entryway. Two packs of Marlboro Lights were stacked to his left, and he occasionally adjusted their position with his left hand, squaring them up parallel with the edge of the large, white table. We sat at a comfortable distance from the great man, Gary and Phil on one side, Sue and I on the other. After getting Gary’s approval in the form of a light nod, I took over as the speaker for Sex.Com. This wasn’t difficult, because Ron made what seemed like a reasonable proposal -- CyberErotica would license the Sex.Com name for $400,000 per month, and would pay us 40% of all the money over that amount that CE brought in from the website. It was a one-year deal, renewable. Ron had no paperwork to review, but if we were interested, he’d have his lawyer write it up. I said sure, write it up, and with that, the interview was over. We finished our coffee -- way too strong -- and were back out in the hall. For me, it was just one more experience with astronomical numbers and blasé pornographers. I was getting used to this. Gary, relieved simply to have a stressful meeting behind him, caught a cab back to the Hard Rock with Phil.

I accompanied Sue out to the front of the Venetian so she could have a smoke, and there we met a balding, sixty-ish English guy, puffing his unfiltered cigarette with earnest enjoyment. Sue introduced the fellow, who was dressed as unstylishly as we were. His name was Mike Sweet, aka, “The Dirty Old Man,” a Canadian porn star. Mike had the laconic style of a fellow who has no real point of connection with the social aspect of the industry, claims he knows zip about chicks, money transfer, etcetera. His partner, Steve Sweet, he said, had brought him to Vegas for the show. He didn’t know what it was about, didn’t care. Mike droned on stylishly, exuding grandfatherly amusement for the whole affair. Within six months, I would be working for Mike, and I would be privy to his true name, his true passions and just how difficult a job it is to be an aging porn star. Mike has a fascination with military history, and an extensive knowledge of many of the more frightening arts of persuasion. He has, on occasion, paid pain-resistant models one-dollar-per needle-insertion. That’s Canadian dollars. The top earner took home $200 bucks. When I got to know him, Mike became scary -- not like Yishai, or Ron, or Gary. Scary in his own way, because his mind went into places that I feared I was never meant to go. But at the time, he seemed like a sweet old porno grandpa, involved in some kind of bizarre and profitable family enterprise.

At a lunch meeting later that day, Sue and I met with Fernando, Ben and Mike from Wired Solutions, which had been buying $150,000 of traffic from Cohen’s Sex.Com and had maintained that level of buying after Gary took over. These were, by definition, customers, so we wanted to treat them well, and show an interest in their business. Fernando was a moderately obese young man of Latino ancestry, who at that time owned a place in Barbados, which he said got very claustrophobic after a few days. Ben was a Massachusetts prep with a yen for ecstasy that some said might be available from a certain blonde Sex.Com team member. He and Sue made fast friends. I hit it off with Mike, a wiry techie who worked at the Wired Solutions headquarters in Santa Fe. He had a lot of questions about the lawsuit we’d just won, and volunteered plenty of information about Wired’s business. Fernando gushed about the conversion rates for Sex.Com “type-ins,” clicks that originated from direct requests for the domain, typed directly into the address bar of the surfer’s web browser. Unlike search engine clicks, Fernando explained, type-ins to Sex.Com were coming from very young people, who had just figured out how to navigate using a web browser, and were therefore highly susceptible to backbrain stimulation induced by the sexual imagery flashing on the website twenty-four hours of every worldwide day. Suddenly, I started to worry all over again about the ethics of the present condition of the website. It was looking smarter and smarter to consider a partnership with some established player to manage Sex.Com, someone other than Yishai and Richard Martino, perhaps like Ron or Fernando, who knew how to make a bundle without getting in trouble. I wished that Gary were there to hear some of these things, so we could discuss them together, but I was beginning to intuit that Gary didn’t want to be my partner in this business.

After meeting with the Wired Solutions guys, Sue and I cruised the showroom floor one last time. Sue was assiduous in collecting all the VIP passes and free drink cards we would need to assume our properly exalted place in the hierarchy of porn magnates during the last night’s blowout. As it winds down, the three-day sextravaganza debouches into a swirling vortex of obscene self-love, the aptly named “Pimp and Ho Ball.” Staged in a huge ballroom, powered by expensive light shows and computerized beats, populated with skinny young men and hired women, the scene is well lubricated with a healthy injection of free drinks, available of course to those with free drink cards. I had a pocketful that Sue had provided, and stuck to a diet of cranberry vodkas and the occasional Red Bull.

The real fun at the Pimp and Ho Ball isn’t the music, the dancing, the achievement awards for excellence in smut distribution, or the drably scripted stage patter between the porn industry leaders and the crowd of sycophantic webmasters. The fun is about getting things sorted by pecking order. There are three kinds of free tickets given out. The regular ticket will get you in the door. A VIP ticket will get you up one set of stairs. A special VIP ticket will get you to the third floor balcony area, where private rooms have been rented by the majors. And in an extremely elevated location, were no one gets in without an invitation from a true skin-trade tycoon, there is a room where it is rumored you can smoke a joint with Ron. But Sue was the only Sex.Commer to allegedly get into that room, and it’s still a rumor to me.

That night, I spent most of my time with Ben, the Wired Solutions ecstasy-head, who seemed to enjoy my company, after Gary drifted away and Sue went looking for Ron’s secret hideaway. Up in a private room I met the most intelligent, genuinely attractive woman I’d discovered at the show -- Jamie Sweet. She was Steve Sweet’s girlfriend, and therefore obscurely related to Mike Sweet, aka The Dirty Old Man. Jamie and Steve were dressed in pajamas, and were fun and easy to talk to. It’s strangely cosmopolitan to stand, casually talking with a woman in her pajamas, while leaning against a bar where an anatomically correct, flesh-colored simulacrum of a female ass has two Corona bottles stuck into it, one protruding from the simulated anus, the other from the snug, rubber vagina. I delicately removed the beverage containers from the sex toy as an act of politeness, which Jamie acknowledged with a little laugh. We had a nice chat about sexual freedom and the liberating power of erotica. She introduced me to Steve, over six feet, probably a hundred and eighty pounds, dressed in a leopard print bathrobe and silk pajamas. Steve’s shark-like grin, military-style buzzcut, and impressive build bespoke a powerful man with abundant personal charisma and ready access to large sums. I liked him immediately, although I knew nothing about him. He briefly expressed admiration for my litigation prowess, then left me to chat with Jamie, which I kept right on doing for the next half-hour, until Ben and I decided to drift on to some other place.

I found Sue, who had been up in the ganja den with Ron, so she said. We parted company with Ben, who went in quest of a new source of serotonin to heal his overstimulated dopamine receptors. The hours drained away like dark water, leaving us on the faintly brightening shores of a Las Vegas dawn. Susanne and I had checked out of our hotel already, because in some sort of half-assed cost-saving, Gary had only booked his room for the last night. So on the last night of the fun, Sue and I were the homeless Sex.Commers. My plane was leaving sometime that morning, so with our luggage in tow, we caught a cab to the Hard Rock Hotel, there to enjoy what remained of Gary’s meager hospitality.

Gary’s room at the Hard Rock was much smaller than what Sue and I had at the Venetian. She and I showed up with our luggage at around 4:30 in the morning. Gary was wadded up in the bedclothes like a hundred-and-ninety-pound infant with a comb-over. He looked tortured. Phil was exhausted, and offered us the couch and mini bar. My boss, my partner, my client, snored, snorted and shifted his body repeatedly in the room, which was slowly brightening.

I stood on the balcony and looked toward the bright lights of the Vegas Strip. My brain felt tenderized from lack of sleep and all of the yelling I had done to make myself heard while conversing in smoke-filled rooms drowned in hip-hop noise. The lights ringing the profiles of the hotels and casinos seemed to shimmer with beauty, with hope. In the dusty dawn, the colored lights twinkled brightly in a world where I had membership in the upper crust of low occupations.

The six-letter mantra that had fueled my obsession for nearly two years was still overbearing in my mind, but now, it seemed to exude fulfillment. It was the gleaming sun of morning that was about to rise over the summertime of my life. I had made it. I had done something in the world of money, power, and influence. I had mounted the heights. Standing in my heavy boots, which I hadn’t removed from my feet in at least twenty hours, I felt well able to move ahead into the new world I had helped to conquer. I would get on with some of the white hat stuff. We would change Sex.Com for the better.

As I turned these thoughts over in my mind, they began to turn me over. I felt divorced from the earth as persistent thoughts of self-importance lifted my spirits. Nevertheless, after three days of outshining Gary with the people who were responsible for making Sex.Com valuable, I had a strange presentiment. As glamorous as it was to be a warrior, I might be a liability in time of peace.

Looking out over the Vegas skyline, hearing Gary thrashing his sheets in an effort to find a niche of unconsciousness in which to stuff his mind, I remembered the way the fire in his eyes had retreated, but not disappeared. Taking refuge in sleep and intoxication, he had hidden from me ever since the brief reconciliation in the Grand Lux. Hearing him snort and convulse his way through fitful dreams, it did not, frankly, look good for me. I knew what I dared not tell myself. Gary had come to mistrust me. His pain was breeding inside him, darkening his mind with suspicion, jealousy and hatred. He suspected me because I’d expressed secret thoughts. He was jealous of me because I had a wife, kids, a house, and now, money too. He hated me because I was starting to enjoy my new position as a principal in Sex.Com, and he hadn’t approved my ascent to that role.

Whether it was preordained or not, I knew from that moment forward that soon we would be adversaries. Lying there, lost in the darkness of a fitful sleep, Gary was hiding from his power, from the terrifying adulation of an amoral crowd, but even as he did, the power of Sex.Com was filling him up like water fills a hollow space underground. The power of Sex.Com had no love for me or anyone. No longer the slave girl whom we had liberated, she now appeared like the whore of Babylon, bestower of all earthly pleasures, enslaver of her devotees. She had Gary completely in her power, and was seducing him utterly with her most powerful, one-syllable mantra, the mantra known only to one person, now pounding away in Gary’s heart over and over again -- mine... mine... mine... and every now and then... all mine.

The sun was rising on a new world, filled with gold and its power. It was my first morning in El Dorado. Outwardly dressed in crumpled black clothes, stinking with cigarette smoke, inwardly I looked up to behold a golden sun at its zenith, blazing in a cobalt sky. I heard the crowd’s cheer as the barred gate across the arena slowly rose. The bull charged through the gate on pounding hooves, tossed his horns this way and that, then found me. When the bull charges, I remembered, the bullfighter stands his ground. The bull, not the man, must move. The bull trotted up to face me from a near distance. He lowered his head, scuffed the sand, and looked up at me. I saw the red coals hidden deep in eyes that did not recognize me. I gripped my sword and planted my feet.
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:00 am


As I walked out of the Hard Rock Hotel to find a cab, the sun rose full above the eastern horizon, and the hard light scrubbed the glitter off the town. I saw the cheap stucco walls, potted oases, empty parking lots and ubiquitous billboards offering big meals, big payouts, and big entertainment. After three days of being pummeled by boring beats in smoky atmospheres flowing with free drinks, I was ready for home. As the cab rolled down sun-scoured avenues, the driver reminisced in generalities. He began with, “People in this town...” and concluded with, “They’re all into that Ecstasy.” To which I responded, “Tell me about it!”

After Vegas, communications with Gary decayed, and black tension seeped into my life. Wagstaffe’s office continued to report to me diligently, informing me about trial preparation in deferential letters. On the surface, I was cocksure and optimistic about the future, planning to continue meeting with prospective partners and helping Gary sort through their proposals. On the surface, Gary and Phil sent me e-mails about various business opportunities with industry players, soliciting my remarks. Under the surface there was little sense of interest on their part, and I felt like I was on suspension.

After Vegas, I promptly went looking for trouble and found it. I became obsessed with changing the look of Sex.Com. Everyday I checked the website to see if the changes we had agreed on back in New York had been made yet. And every day I found the same old gross-out contest. I started emailing and calling Yishai every other day or so, to ask him why the banners were still showing all the radically distasteful shit that they had always been showing. I called Wired Solutions and asked why their ads were still so raunchy -- hadn’t Yishai told them to tune it back? They told me that Yishai had said it to them, but his own banners were still as nasty as ever, so they couldn’t afford to back off the hardcore while he was still pushing it.

Feeling that I’d been saddled with this relationship with Yishai, I started insisting in emails to Gary that he had breached his promise to control the appearance of the website, and demanding that we give Yishai the required thirty-day notice of our intention to end the relationship. I tried various angles to create points of division. I told Yishai I couldn’t have Joel Dichter in the relationship. No worries, said Yishai -- Joel was not indispensable. Joel called and said he was resigning as Yishai’s lawyer with respect to Sex.Com. When I couldn’t complain about that, I came back to the nasty content issue, and wouldn’t leave it alone. After being in Vegas with all the click-mongers, I thought I knew something, and I couldn’t believe that our website was obliged to be the absolute sewer of Internet sex. We were the premier type-in domain on the entire Internet. We could do better than to spatter our white hat with mud. Boy, was I dumb.

The entire thing exploded on January 15th, Martin Luther King Day, in San Francisco. I was heading back from Reno with Tara and Ana, where we’d stayed for a few days as the invited guests of the owner of XXX.Com. He had pitched me a proposal to manage Sex.Com, and I was trying to organize a meeting so he could talk to Gary and Phil about it. Actually, I’d tentatively arranged for Gary to meet us in Reno, but he dropped off the map that weekend. He wouldn’t answer his cell phone, and when I finally got hold of him, his mood was foul. He’d spent a miserable weekend entertaining an auburn-haired woman he met in Vegas. When I asked him about the experience, hoping he’d had some fun, his answer was filled with bitterness: “Total waste of a day. She made me go and see her kid.” He sounded disgusted, convinced that once again, he’d been used for his money.

As if seeking my own destruction, I directed myself straight into the path of Gary’s anger. Knowing that he was spoiling for a fight, I told him I was coming to San Francisco to do business. I told him I had been monitoring the appearance of Sex.Com, and nothing had changed. The gross-out contest had to end. I wanted Yishai’s contract cancelled, and since our agreement required thirty days notice to cancel, the 15th was the day. I told Gary I was on my way with a letter that I wanted to send to Yishai. I might as well have danced on an old pirate’s bunions.

Tara, Ana, Gary and I met at a sushi place up the street from “Dogpatch,” Gary’s new house on 3rd Street. He was keyed up to an intense pitch, perspiring heavily. His energy had turned to iron. As we sat at the table, I tried to speak, but conversation skated off him. He was a gauche, graceless, bellowing beast. Suddenly, my cell phone rang and I answered. While I was talking, Gary devoured the sushi off my plate. The call was from a bonehead spam outfit that was trying to pressure Gary into a deal by threatening to launch their own website, which they intended to call “TheNewSex.Com.” The caller was an obvious jackass, and when I told Gary who it was, he exploded -- “Tell that guy if he calls me one more time, I’ll fucking sue him!” I ended the call, and tried to placate Gary, but he just stormed out, leaving me with an empty plate and a sense of doom.

Hungry, rattled, and humiliated in front of my wife and daughter, I followed Gary back to the office and continued to beleaguer him with demands to review and approve my letter canceling Yishai’s contract. He read it, but wouldn’t approve it. We revised it until there was nothing left, and then he told me he would write and send his own letter. Then he disappeared from his office. No one could find him, so we left and got on the freeway for home. Three hours later, as Tara and I drove north on I-5, with Ana riding in the back seat, Gary called. The conversation was short and one-sided. It ended with Gary shouting “See you in court!”
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:02 am


“Whom the gods would destroy, they first seek to anger.”

Lucifer cast from Heaven might have been more enraged than I was after my ouster from But as his cry of rage ripped the sky, God’s favorite angel took a third of heaven’s stars with him into exile. I had only my wife and children, Peter and myself to share the sad news. Sue promptly threw her lot in with Gary, moving to San Francisco. My outrage was unbearable. Had I not triumphed? Had I not been hailed as a conqueror, with adoring crowds acknowledging my role as Gary’s general in the halls of the Venetian, while magnates inclined their heads in respect?

In two months I’d gone from unknown lawyer to top-flight litigator to porn mogul to ousted Sex.Com partner. I had been counting my millions since I first saw the pipeline of cash from Union Bank Fort Lauderdale to Wells Fargo Anaheim Hills. They were mine already, by contract, and I intended to have them. I couldn’t go back to my former life as a country lawyer. I had resigned from the list of federal public defenders, cancelled my yellow pages ads, and ended my lease with Peter.

I had made a dreadful miscalculation. My self-flattering mirror was shattered, and the broken shards reflected a frightening visage. Grim lines of determination sealed over stark hollows of grief. A mild smile occasionally softened my look of steely obsession, but no one gained my attention, because my mind was now totally obsessed with a grey chessboard of claims to be made and rebutted, allies to be gathered, and a war chest to be accumulated. I had begun to think harder than I had ever thought before, and what I thought was an unending stream of aggression. I would destroy Gary, humble Idell, and redeem Sue from captivity.

I could hear Gary taunting, “Now you find the lawyers. You pay the fees. You wait for motions to be decided, then postponed. You try facing the mechanized firepower of the hired guns! Enjoy!” And I took up the challenge, filing a lawsuit against Gary for breach of contract, and moving to withdraw as his counsel for nonpayment of fees.

One man pointed me in another direction. When I appeared in his court before the trial with a motion to withdraw as Gary’s counsel, Judge Ware’s features drooped in sympathy as he gently asked me why I was leaving now, when I had been there from the beginning. I drank up that small draft of recognition, like the last flash of water in the parched bed of a disappearing stream.

Judge Ware counseled us in chambers to mediate our dispute. We mediated. I hired an expensive and well-respected lawyer from Ashland who had once interviewed me for a job in LA when he was a partner at a New York law firm. He was not cheap, but the mediation had to be done properly, with a name lawyer. My lawyer negotiated well at the mediation, and we got up to a number that, in retrospect, would have been a good result. But on that day, I couldn’t accept it. The atmosphere was poisoned. I had imposed only one condition on the mediation - that Richard Idell not be there. But Idell ended up talking to Gary on the cell phone all day, throwing sand in the gears with one piece of negative advice after another, until we just had to get the hell out of there. My lawyer’s bill was over seven-thousand bucks for a few days of representation, so after I paid that bill, I realized I had to convince some lawyer to take forty percent of fifteen percent of Sex.Com, or the game was over.
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:03 am


“The way leads not back, toward innocence, but onward, deeper into sin.”

-- Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf

With my law practice shut down and no money coming in from Sex.Com, I had a bit of a money problem. I’d gotten two months of fifteen percent of the profits, so I was up by ninety-grand through Christmastime, then watched the stack disappearing like a woodpile during a cold winter. I was depressed as hell, sleeping ‘till eleven every day, buying trinkets for entertainment’s sake, throwing the occasional party for local friends to brighten my mood, and researching the sex industry online for the first time. I decided to educate myself about online law and business. I started a website for my wife as an experiment, and she took to it with a lot of enthusiasm, so we spent our days pecking at our computers together, while I tried to figure out where my future was going to come from.

Spring appeared on the horizon, and in March I started looking for work. I called Steve Sweet, the man who looked so good in a bathrobe at the Pimp ‘n Ho Ball. He was up in Vancouver, the headquarters of Sweet Entertainment. When I called, he at first teased me by suggesting I actually wanted to talk to his girlfriend Jamie, but I told him that no, I wanted to talk about working for Sweet Entertainment.

Canadians have a long tradition of selling contraband to Americans. Edmonton, north of the Midwestern United States, was a bootlegger’s paradise in the nineteen-twenties, the railhead for an underground railway that delivered countless barrels of whisky to speakeasies in Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and other parched areas. Canadian banks got fat with loot deposited by Bugsy Moran, Al Capone, and Joe Kennedy.

In Vancouver, the legal, cinematic, and financial infrastructure was all in place to build a thriving Canadian adult film industry. The Canadian attitude toward sex is flexible. Canadian law forbids only the depiction of extremely degrading scenes combining violence with sex and submission. Canadian girls can be very beautiful, and in Vancouver, BC, the native film industry had familiarized many a young lad with the techniques of video production. Canadian banks maintain offshore operations in former British territories, like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Antigua, and Barbuda, thus providing one-stop money-laundering and tax avoidance services for those smart or rapacious enough to pursue such “asset protection” strategies.

Canadian pornographers operate websites in the US and charge for memberships in American dollars. Back in 2001, each American dollar bought nearly two Canadian dollars, so every thirty-dollar signup to a Sweet Entertainment website generated nearly sixty Canadian dollars. As a result, Sweet Entertainment, operating out of Vancouver’s sprawling whore-and-heroin district, hauled in very large bucks.

In April 2001, Sweet Entertainment was hosting the second annual “West Coast Webmasters Convention,” an event that had made quite a splash in its first year. Lawyers willing to talk to pornographers about the legal aspects of the business were big draws at these adult industry trade shows, so Steve Sweet was enthusiastic when I offered to speak at the event, and urged me to come up for the three-day bash. Sweet would sponsor my hotel room at the event venue, and there was free food and drink courtesy of the sponsors all day and most of the night. It was a two-day drive from Ashland, and the first opportunity since Vegas to see if I could get any altitude in the online sex business.

My ambivalent feelings toward porn had grown and grown. I was now facing some painfully discovered facts about the sex industry and myself. If I did not keep my hand in the sex industry, my claim to own fifteen percent of Sex.Com would evaporate. I had learned a lot from Gary about putting together an army, and like Gary, I hoped to find someone to finance my efforts to recover control over my share of the business. In the meantime, the online sex industry was the only place I could charge people three hundred dollars an hour for my work, and find clients glad to pay it.

But would anyone hire a guy who was suing his own client? More to the point -- would anyone in the adult industry risk offending Gary, the lord of Sex.Com, by hiring me? I staved off despair by remembering an aphorism of Balthasar Gracian’s: “A wise man makes better use of his enemies than a fool makes of his friends.” Behold, the new owner of Sex.Com had already made enemies in the industry. Word was, the site was turning from a supernova into a white dwarf.

Gary had no interest in networking with porn kingpins, and quickly exhausted Ron Levy’s patience with proposed amendments to the four hundred thousand per month licensing proposal. Ron retaliated by abandoning his advertising on Sex.Com, which he had been buying through a straw man at the rate of fifty thousand per month. Ron’s withdrawal from his role as a secret Sex.Com advertiser was the first vote of no-confidence that Gary received from the online sex business, and would not be the last. Gary dumped Yishai as his webhost and advertising agent, so Yishai stopped buying traffic, and there went another hundred-grand a month. After Gary implemented a redesign with zero visual appeal, Sex.Com became an industry laughingstock for its ability to scare off porn-seekers. As industry flack Kimmy Kim, a dead ringer for a used-up Joni Mitchell, remarked in my presence -- “Say whatever the fuck you want about Steve Cohen, he knew how to make money.”

Gary was becoming notorious as an industry outsider who could turn gold into lead. His background as a highly educated dot-commer made the criticism more delicious for porn insiders who, in the wake of the dot-bomb stock market crash of 2000, could brag that they were making more money online than had lost. Sex.Com seemed to be headed for what would have once seemed impossible to achieve -- obscurity.

As a result, clicks from Gary’s Sex.Com weren’t converting to paying memberships the way Cohen’s clicks had. One of the people who had lost money buying traffic from Gary was Steve Sweet. Thus, I was able to use Steve’s animosity toward Gary to jump-start our relationship.

I prepared a lecture for the Sweet event that I called “The Seven Commandments of Adult Webmastering.” I’d probably revise the lecture if I gave it again today, but it went over fairly well at the time. The gist of it was actually lifted from a principle enunciated by Napoleon Hill inThink and Grow Rich, my Dad’s favorite self-help book. Only wealth that is honestly gained can give one security, comfort, and satisfaction. I advised the assembled crowd of some eighty or ninety webmasters to let honesty be their watchword, to deal with honest people, and to be cautious with respect to the obscenity laws.

I avoided the approach followed by the established porn lawyers, who shook down some pornographers with a protection racket by promising that the Bush administration was going to crack down on Internet porn and throw all the big players in jail. While I had been very aware of my own vulnerability as a lawyer-owner of a website that was operating with blatant disregard for the obscenity laws, I saw no reason to believe that a purge of the Net-porn business was in the offing. The business simply produced too damn much money to shut down. The credit card companies would never allow it. Since porn was likely here to stay, I argued that the people who do the dirty work could gain legitimacy by acting legitimately.

There was also a future beyond porn, because those who made money in online adult would have a head start on making money in straight commerce, as it matured. I compared the early Internet economy to that of San Francisco during the Gold Rush. In 1849, most merchants sold mining tools, liquor and sex. Today, those industries still exist, but have a smaller piece of the Bay Area economy. Similarly, the Internet had discovered sex first, but its role would inevitably shrink as the Net attracted more and more straight businesses. My advice to the pornographers was to stay honest, stay profitable, stay free, and be around to harvest the really big money that would come as the Internet became the world’s global marketplace. People applauded and smiled at the end of the lecture, and a few came up to talk with me afterward.

Soon I ran into Ben from Wired Solutions, the smooth north-easterner with so much intelligence, charm and breeding. His first question was, “Did he fuck you?”

The life of a loser is full of such pleasant exchanges.

“Yes, he did,” I answered.

Ben immediately announced, “I knew it!”

Not really a fun start to the encounter, but Ben was sympathetic, and helped to lift my spirits at the convention, talking me up to everyone we met. He was a high status pornographer, and if he said I was the shit, then no one was going to argue with him. We settled down in Ben’s hotel room, crowded with wheeler-dealers networking with their cellphones, sucking down bottles of Canadian beer, and wondering where they would locate their favorite substances there in Vancouver. Ben introduced me to everyone as the incredible lawyer who had won Sex.Com and yet ended up empty-handed. It’s not the easiest intro to deal with.

As the evening’s inebriation project got underway, Ben volunteered that he was willing to testify at any proceeding on my behalf. I didn’t think Ben had been privy to anything that I would need testimony about, and had to ask him, “Testify to what?” Ben answered that, one night at a strip club in Santa Fe, while they were both wired on crank, Gary had explained to Ben how he was going to fuck Charles out of his fifteen percent of He said another lawyer was going to step in and take the credit, make it look like Charles had breached his agreements, and Charles would be cut out. Receiving this information was like adding some heavy metals to a cocktail of battery acid and hazardous waste - I hardly noticed the change in flavor, but it was possibly more bitter.

I absorbed the news and tried to balance my emotions, put on a game face, and do what I’d come to do - set myself up as a lawyer in the industry. I had only one chip to ante up, or I could go back to defending drug dealers in Southern Oregon. There was only one identifiable group of clients who would be meaningfully impressed by meeting the lawyer who won Sex.Com, and they were all around me. Using Ben as a life-support device for my credibility, I circulated among them.

I liked the people I was meeting. Almost all of them were Canadians, young, good-looking and good-humored. Like Bonnie and Russell of Streetlight Productions, Tom Sweet from Sweet Entertainment, and Zak Zarry of Porncity. Each one expressed their appreciation that I had brought a bit of justice to a corrupt business. These folks clearly weren’t going to be stuck in porn for the rest of their lives. Zak aspired to be a lawyer and seemed likely achieve his goal. Bonnie and Russell sold their business for a healthy chunk of change a year or so later. Tom Sweet and I sized each other up professionally during a brief chat outside a night club. As I understood it, he was Steve’s brother, and thus at the top of the Sweet food chain, so I tried to make a good impression.

Eventually, around midnight or so, I ran into Ben again on a dance floor where pornographers were milling about without attempting any dance steps. The lights were swirling and music was pounding all around us as he shouted into my ear that he’d just gone up to see the top porn czars way upstairs, including Ron Levy, Ron Gould, and other people whose names I didn’t know. He had told them the whole story about me and Gary, that Gary was no good, and no one should deal with him. And he would testify! He would testify! The Ecstasy was really kicking in, and I knew that whatever Ben said now, it was the dopamine talking. It was sad. In this place filled with frivolity, anxiety and greed, my best friend was a rave-drug addict with delusions of grandeur.

Later that night, as we settled into the three-til-dawn shift back in Ben’s room, and the manic waves subsided in his mindstream, he revealed why he wanted to destroy Gary Kremen, whose trip to Santa Fe to meet the Wired Solutions people had nearly derailed Ben’s sleaze career. Ben explained that Gary had invited Ben to leave Wired Solutions and go to work for Sex.Com. Ben told Gary he was interested. Then Gary, apparently deciding that he would benefit most by injecting chaos into the situation, told Ben’s boss Fernando that Ben was willing to jump ship. Fernando, seizing the opportunity to trace little incision lines on Ben’s soft belly, forced Ben to admit his disloyal sentiments and beg for his job. Endowed with a blueblood’s taste for vengeance, Ben lusted for payback, and once again, in an apparently sober condition, swore that when I needed his testimony, he’d be there. I had high hopes that perhaps, at the right moment, he would provide the testimony that would prove that Gary had in fact planned my destruction.

It was also interesting to know that the top guys were attending the Sweet event, a sure sign that the Canadian porn community was important to the industry as a whole. One prominent person who had not yet been seen at the conference was Gary Kremen. Sometime that first night, I ran into Sue, now playing Nurse Feelgood to Gary, who said Gary was in his room, in an abysmal condition, possibly near death. She was embarrassed to be seen in this role, but by disclosing confidences about Sex.Com, hoped to win my approval. She was dying to get away from him, but needed money, she said. He was paying her five thousand a month, more than she’d ever been paid as a lawyer, and she wasn’t lawyering. I wanted to hear more about Gary’s mental and physical health being on the skids. After what I’d recently heard from Ben, Gary couldn’t be close enough to death to satisfy me until he was actually in hell, roasting on a spit. She said that, given how he was abusing his body with controlled substances, she was worried about it all the time, and had a dream where he was lying dead with a mass of foam emerging from his mouth. The image confirmed my then-current impression of Gary as a huge insect that predated on warm-blooded beings.

I had to wait until the second night of the conference to see my dearest enemy at the really big bash Sweet hosted at a conference center someplace across the Lions Gate Bridge, on an island with a beautiful view of Vancouver. The party started around two in the afternoon, so I drove across the bridge and settled in early to enjoy the views across the water from the ranch-style convention center. It was much better than even the nicest lawfirm all-day picnic, with excellent free food and drinks, white tablecloths, silverware, and real wine glasses. At these affairs, rich dilettantes mingle with the techies, photographers, and financiers who spin profit out of digital images and sophisticated tracking programs. Steve Sweet was there, the big shark with the toothy grin, and briefly welcomed me to the event before going on to mingle with others.

It was fun and scary to be in this world, and not on a leash. I wondered -- could I get my spoon in here somewhere? I was free to do what I could with this wild, untamed energy, but with a few top guys controlling the big money, and most of them as eager to avoid conflict with Gary as they had been to avoid conflict with Cohen in his day, I feared I’d be blocked at every turn. I was standing outside on a deck with a view, sipping wine, when someone came up and told me, significantly, that Gary had arrived. Some people had apparently been anticipating this moment. Would we meet? Would we fight?, like a volcano with a history of past eruptions, was making noises again. Neither of us had need of a scene, however. I approached Gary as soon as I spotted him, noting without surprise that he seemed healthy as a horse. Sue had obviously been exaggerating his condition in an effort to cheer me up. We exchanged insincere pleasantries, then I returned to circulating through the crowd, sipping drinks and swapping business cards.

Eventually it got dark outside, and people started settling into friendly groups at candlelit tables. I hadn’t found anyplace to settle down until a tall, older guy with a craggy face and posture slightly bent at the waist, asked me if I’d like to join him and his friends for a drink, if it wasn’t beneath me to drink with some poor webmasters. This was the first reference I’d heard to any class distinctions in the big happy family of pornographers. Thus I met Ed, a humble Canadian webmaster who has no doubt by now got title to that piece of island property he was planning to buy off the coast of British Columbia. Ed was completely independent, and had an unglamorous view of the industry. He’d started out in cabinet making, he told me, but when his knees, elbows and back got creaky, he learned computer repair. He did that for awhile, then discovered it was easier and more profitable to make free porn sites, and sell the traffic to the big paysite owners. He was making $10,000 Canadian a month at that time, although as the years went by, he continually reported declines in profits-per-website, as more competitors entered his field.

Kind, good humored, and aware of his limitations, Ed figured that since he didn’t design the world, he couldn’t account for people’s inclinations. His goal was to drive porn surfers to click the “Join Now” button at a big paysite that would send him a commission. His goal was summed up in an industry aphorism -- “Tease, don’t please.” Ed explained that most webmasters made sites that were too attractive. They not only “teased,” they “pleased.” Since webmasters only earn a commission when surfers leave their website to sign up at a sponsor’s paysite, Ed wanted his sponsor’s website to look far more attractive than his own. As a result, Ed’s sites were some of the ugliest on the Net.

Sitting with Ed and his friend Carol, my drink consumption kept ahead of my paranoia and sense of alienation. For Ed, it was a presumed good that we were all alive, enjoying free beer, food, and pleasant companions. We all have stories to tell, stories worth listening to, and although at the end of the night, we each face the darkness by ourselves, we can watch out for each other along the way. As the evening drew to a close, around one-thirty in the morning, we went to the parking lot, but as I headed towards my car, Ed and Carol suggested that I ride the bus back to the hotel. He offered to meet me the next day and drive me out to pick up my Camry during lunch. I accepted his offer as the only wise choice, but one obstacle had to be overcome. Sex.Com had sponsored the bus, and Gary was sure to be on it.

Canadians, however, take driving under the influence of drink very seriously, much more seriously for example than auto break-ins, which are ubiquitous and rarely punished. Since the Mounties are known for always getting their man, I didn’t want to be that man. Once on the bus, I discovered that the only seat left was right next to Gary Kremen. I sat in it. We were both three sheets to the wind. Like two soldiers wounded in battle from opposing sides in the war, temporarily unable to kill each other, we did not talk about the battle. When I got back to the hotel, I had another beer and crawled into bed around three or four in the morning. Around lunchtime the next day, Ed drove me out to the island in an old T-bird. I picked up my car and returned to the hotel.
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:03 am


On the last day of the Vancouver show, I wanted to hook up with Steve and Jamie, the beau and belle of the ball, but they were keeping a low profile. I asked one of their black-tee-shirted family-members, easily identifiable with their “SEG” logos in red and white, and all surnamed “Sweet,” if I could get an audience. A brief meeting was arranged, after which Tom Sweet took over as my guide. We visited the Sweet production studio in the Hastings district. The operation was housed in a two-story walkup location off a grimy street. There were two levels of buzz-through security, narrow halls, and low ceilings. The uniform color scheme was military gray. Steve’s office was narrow like a closet, and people had to practically line up to see him. Steve’s desk was a piece of second-hand furniture, and through the window behind his swivel chair you could see an industrial skyline, complete with cranes, factories and smog. The decor said loud and clear, “Don’t ask for a fucking thing.”

The studio was a single room with different “sets” on each wall, and multiple doors that locked up tight as a drum when shooting was in progress. The actresses, not the props, are the focus of attention in these productions, which were directed and filmed by the ever-affable Rey Damasco, a charming man of Filipino ancestry. Rey, who of course went by the name of Rey Sweet, could put the most skittish filly at ease with respect to her intrinsic sexual charms, the proper use of sex toys, the ease of feigning orgasm, and many other details essential to a proper adult film performance. Skilled in the use of the amazing Buttcam, a gimmick camera that Steve had designed to literally explore the inner recesses of the human body, Rey had obtained deep internal views of the elimination canals of many people. If he ever decides to go into medicine, he’ll have a head start on the other guys when it comes to diagnosing colon cancer.

Sweet’s real gimmick, though, was simulated torture. This was where Mike Sweet, whom I’d met back in Vegas, earned his keep. His dungeon was realistically created. The floor was thick with wax, the walls had been painted to simulate blood smears, and the worktables and walls were adorned with whips, hooks, and weights. From the ceiling hung pulleys and chains. The only seats available looked very uncomfortable and had straps and buckles on them. Thus it seemed I’d stumbled into the lair of a twisted family headed by a dungeon master. Not the only torturer on the payroll, however, Mike was assisted in the business of punishing the guilty by Paige, a blond dominatrix with precise and exacting skills, and a pair of blue jeans entirely stitched together up the inside and outside seams with safety pins. Paige had the unique distinction of not being a Sweet. Her stage name was merely “Miss Pain,” and in addition to running a site called, she was the official webmistress for, a scary-ass website if ever I saw one.

The Sweet dungeon tempted one to entertain strange notions, which had to be the appeal of the whole bondage and domination scene. The allure was not entirely lost on me, and I experienced brief confusion when Paige suggested that I join her for a session in the dungeon. I declined with a laugh, and told her I’d have to take a rain check. Though the safety pins had me tuned up to a responsive pitch, being hoisted off the ground in chains, even by an attractive blonde, would still have to be forced upon me. Of course, being filmed in that condition would be so damaging to my own image as a dominating male that I couldn’t entertain the notion seriously, even for purposes of career advancement. Although there is a California lawyer who is also a porn actor, and the California Bar association takes no umbrage at the fact, somehow I doubt that the Oregon Bar would adopt the same liberal attitude.

When I got back from Canada, I kept in touch with Tom Sweet, making myself available to consult on some Sweet issues. It wasn’t long before I had snagged a copyright infringement lawsuit. Steve was a big believer in pursuing copyright infringers, and a Texas company called E-Race had made the mistake of lifting about three-hundred Sweet images for their own use at a website called The E-Race partners compounded their error by failing to take Steve’s demands for settlement seriously. Sweet Entertainment Group had hired a copyright lawyer in Century City to file suit about a year before, but aside from escalating bills and demands for payment, Steve and Tom hadn’t seen much progress toward the goal of crushing their opponents.

I was in Phoenix having breakfast with my brother, his wife, and Tara, when the call came in from Tom Sweet. I was frankly elated, and my brother, a career prosecutor, was astounded. How on earth, he wondered, could I live in this fashion? He’d worked for the City of Phoenix for nearly thirty years, he said, and would be utterly lost if he didn’t have that place to go every morning. I, however, was like a bird, he said, and flapped his arms like wings to demonstrate how strange my metamorphosis into an aerial performer seemed to him. Admittedly, the whole lifestyle had an edge to it. Tom had authorized me to drop in on his LA lawyer and find out what the hell was going on.

Two days later, Tara and I were in LA, reviewing the files of Sweet Entertainment Group, Inc. vs. E-Race. Fortunately, they revealed a great deal of lackadaisical work on the part of the Sweet lawyer, and I was able to give Tom an effective and alarming pitch. The case was mired in delay, and Sweet had been billed for the cost of fixing two major errors committed by their lawyer, who had not been sending them complete reports about the progress of the litigation. Deadlines to complete discovery were running out, and the future of the case was not positive. The Sweet lawyer was politely apologetic, and while he hoped to get paid his outstanding bill, could tell that he was losing the client. I received authorization from Tom to copy the whole file and plan to take over the litigation, then pending in Orange County Federal Court. My retainer of ten-thousand dollars would be in the mail. Looking for trouble had paid off again.

During the next couple of months, I started kicking E-Race’s ass with discovery, and soon had the principals of the company sitting in their lawyer’s conference room in LA. Tom Sweet came down to savor the pleasure of observing their discomfort. Instead, peace broke out in the middle of the deposition. Frank Walley, one of the E-Race principals, and one of the best salesmen I have ever met in my life, simply stopped the show, and asked if he could make an off the record proposal. If Sweet would acquire E-Race, all the problems could go away. There was plenty of money to be made, he said, and being sued by Sweet had not been a picnic. They were ready to share. Tom was receptive, got on the phone to Steve, and got authority to negotiate once I completed the depositions. We finished the depositions relatively quickly, since their lawyer interposed no objections and let me learn the things I needed to for purposes of keeping the litigation in an aggressive posture. We were done with the testimony by four o’clock, and then adjourned to drink tequila across the street and hammer out the makings of my first porn-industry merger.

A few weeks later, Tom and I flew to Dallas to perform due diligence on our acquisition target. The first day there, we had lunch with Frank and his wife in an expensive peasant-style Italian restaurant with tasteful décor. Frank’s wife is a classic Texas blonde who can’t believe what men have to do to make money. Frank kept trying to lure us away from our homework by urging us to stop grinding the paperwork and take a trip with him out to the racetrack, where we could find out what it feels like to drive the E-Race Porsche at a hundred-and-sixty miles and hour. It was a cool smokescreen, but Tom and I stayed on task. We could see why Frank had attempted to deflect our attention from the books. E-Race had been mismanaged rather radically, and although its cashflow was good, its expenses were way out of line. Tom and I agreed we couldn’t acquire the company. The best we could do was cherry-pick the assets and leave the liabilities on the table, which ultimately is what we did.

The trip to Texas confirmed that Tom and I had good rapport, even down to little things like using the onboard GPS system in our rented SUV to negotiate the Dallas freeways. Tom is a highly ambitious intellectual, and working for Gary had been a two-year post-graduate program in how to deal with such people. A few weeks later, I received a job offer from Sweet to be the company’s General Counsel at ten thousand US dollars per month, with the hope, but not the requirement, that I would eventually move to Vancouver.
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:05 am


I was delighted to report to my new lawyer that I had landed a job. For forty percent of my fifteen percent, I had managed to rope an old UCLA pal, Jim DeSimone, into representing me in my lawsuit against Gary. Jim had not been a close friend of mine in law school, but I respected his integrity. He had been one of the few law students to join the protests that forced the Regents of the University of California to eliminate South African investments from its securities portfolio, as part of the international movement to free Nelson Mandela and end apartheid. After law school, Jim went to work for Centro Legal, the legal aid clinic where he’d volunteered during law school. After a few years doing public service, he partnered with Ben Schonbrun to practice civil rights and employment law from Ben’s beachfront office on the Venice boardwalk. Jim and I got to know each other better after he took that job, because I did the same type of work at Mazursky, Schwartz & Angelo. We had run into each other at bar events and the courthouse, and exchanged the occasional war story.

I actually hadn’t even thought of calling Jim until one day when I saw a news article on the Internet about a case that Mike Seplow, a younger lawyer at the firm, had recently settled for a couple million dollars on behalf of a homeless man who was picked up on the streets of LA, misidentified as a New York felon, shipped to New York, and allowed to rot in a mental hospital for two years before the case of mistaken identity was sorted out. I was working on a similar case, that of Roger Benson, who suffered a long stint in a California jail because Oregon misidentified him as a felon. Once I was on the phone talking to Jim’s partner Mike Seplow, I realized he was a very intelligent lawyer, and it occurred to me that Jim’s firm might be interested in taking on my own case.

The case was a tough sell, but Jim is ambitious, and had the employment lawyer’s skill of mastering the scores of essential facts necessary understand the case. To some extent, he was seduced by the sleazy glamour of the story and the intellectual sophistication required to master it. Jim was the number two partner at Schonbrun, DeSimone, Harris, Seplow & Hoffman, and so could put the weight of a California firm, and an agreed-upon expense budget, to work on my case. I took Bob Kuenzel, who had served as an excellent placeholder, off the pleadings, and put Jim’s firm on.

As was apparent to Jim when he signed on, in my haste to file suit against Gary, I had sped right past an important rule of California lawyer law. Before you can sue your client, you have to ask them if they’d like to engage in non-binding arbitration. If they say no, you can sue them. If they say yes, you have to arbitrate. I knew this, but I also knew there was a more general rule that in a lawsuit based on a written contract, you can sue to attach funds in a defendant’s bank account, even if you are supposed to arbitrate the dispute. I had been eager to file a motion for attachment, because I had a written contract, and there was about $45,000 per month that I was entitled to under that agreement. I had written up most of the motion, supported it with all of my evidence, and just needed to have a lawyer finish it up and file it, and Jim did file it. But my strategy produced no benefit. Richard Idell, stepping in quickly to take advantage of my mistake, moved to stay my lawsuit until the matter had been arbitrated by the State Bar. Judge Whyte put the lawsuit on hold and sent us to arbitration. Not surprisingly, he denied the motion for attachment as well. I was beginning to understand the meaning of the old saying that some things can be accomplished quickly only if you don’t try to rush them.

Jim prepared for the arbitration diligently, poring over binders of documents. He read my October 4, 1999 agreement with Gary repeatedly, and understood its provisions thoroughly. As a result, he repeatedly lamented a minor omission that was to have a huge influence on our joint expectations. The agreement failed to comply with a California statute that requires contingent fee agreements to explicitly state that the percentage fee is “negotiated, and not set by law.” Obviously, the October 4th agreement was extensively negotiated, incorporating as it did all manner of clever provisions that Gary and I had discussed in detail, including the novel financing-by-going-public mechanism. Gary himself had proposed the 15% fee, so it was particularly galling that Idell had found this Achilles heel in the agreement. And the consequence of my error was fatal, because any agreement lacking the essential language was unenforceable, illegitimate, and gave me no rights. A minor error in the fee agreement threatened to undo all my plans.

Of course, even if the agreement was unenforceable, I was still entitled to the reasonable value of my services. The reasonable value of my services would be calculated based on the skill I showed in getting the result, the amount of benefit I’d brought to my client, and the expected fee that other lawyers would charge for getting that result. That left some room for hope, even if my written agreement proved worthless. The way I calculated it, I’d helped Gary recover the world’s most valuable domain name, worth at least eight-million dollars a year. I’d helped Gary acquire the three-million dollar Rancho Santa Fe mansion. I’d shown considerable skill in saving the case from dismissal at the last moment, and prevented it from ever being dismissed again. I had rehabilitated Gary’s image from wannabe pornographer to white-hat hero. I had been sued for $50 Million and shrugged it off. I had procured the services of State Farm to stave off Cohen’s lawsuits. I helped prove Gary’s case so thoroughly that Judge Ware thought a trial unnecessary.

I had also devised the plan to have Cohen arrested, an achievement that may seem minor until you realize that civil lawyers never arrest the opposing party. Only a prosecutor can request the court to issue an arrest warrant, and in those pre-Patriot Act days, the prosecutor still had to allege that the defendant had committed a crime. Ignoring this obstacle, I devised the answer -- we would bait Cohen into doing the only thing that could get him arrested -- defying a court order to show up in front of Judge Ware. To get a warrant issued for Cohen’s arrest, I told Gary, we merely had to convict Cohen of a small misdemeanor called “failure to appear.” When a judge orders a person to show up in court, and they fail to appear, he issues a bench warrant. It’s automatic -- the easiest warrant to get. Judge Ware had manifested an interest in Cohen’s whereabouts during the November 27th hearing, so it was easy to get him to order Cohen to appear, which had the foreseeable result of Cohen failing to appear and Judge Ware’s issuing a warrant for his arrest. By the time I sat down at the arbitration table on January 22, 2002, Cohen had been a fugitive from justice for nearly a year, cementing Gary’s victory unshakeably.

Cyrano de Bergerac would have understood. Cyrano was an incomparable swordsman who looked for trouble wherever he could honorably find it, and found it everywhere. Like Cyrano, I had become rather bitter about my fate. I felt I’d won the prize, delivered Sex.Com to Gary like we’d always planned, and now I got to watch other lawyers consume my share of the pie in exchange for cutting me out of the deal. Cyrano was bitter because he won the love of his cousin Roxanne only to confer her affections upon his fellow Musketeer, Christian. Like Cyrano, who couldn’t reveal the entire truth of the affair to either Christian or Roxanne, I too was bound by duties of confidentiality to refrain from revealing secrets that might have given me leverage against Gary.

Despite or because of his repulsive physical appearance, Cyrano moved from conflict to conflict, cutting a path with sword and poetry through a world peopled by fools, knaves and lackeys. In the aftermath of my split with Gary, I too had a sufficient supply of enemies, most of whom had at least been nominal allies. Foremost among my former allies was Richard Idell, the San Francisco lawyer who represented the famously cutthroat rock impresario Bill Graham, presumably in the delicate business of cutting the legs off drugged-out entertainers who had overstayed their fifteen minutes of fame. Graham was so famously cruel that even today, twelve years after his death in a 1991 helicopter crash, you get a lot of hits if you Google “Bill Graham” and “asshole.” I am sure he found his ideological mate in Richard Idell, whose frigid soul pops open only long enough to reveal the kryptonite, nitroglycerine, and arsenic that substitute for his heart, lungs and liver.

Idell and I first met in his office on Bush Street at the greasy edge of Chinatown. These days he’s got a better address on California Street, but remains well known in San Francisco for his bulldog litigation style. Physically and temperamentally, Idell reminds me of a wolverine. He’s barrel-waisted, neckless with a short jaw line that operates a pair of lips that have never smiled in my presence, but sneer even better than Cohen’s. A graduate of Golden Gate University School of Law, he had the grit and spit of a self-made man.

The Wagstaffe team had got the memo at last, and were singing a completely different tune at the arbitration than had become their habit during the heady months following the big win. For a while, in a dim prehistory that none of the Wagstaffe team could ever recollect, there had been a wild, crazy moment when they all believed that Charles Carreon really was a fifteen percent owner of Sex.Com. That’s how delusive it got. Sanity had been restored however, and Wagstaffe’s firm had liens for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees on Gary’s Rancho Santa Fe house. There was work in abundance as Kerr & Wagstaffe pursued every avenue of collection against Cohen, and in general satisfied Gary’s desire to pursue a policy of armed strength against all comers.

Pam Urueta had been enlisted as a sapper to undermine my character. It seemed she had recovered a memory that she had once heard me say I was burned out, and didn’t want to try the case. I snapped at her in the waiting room, and was forced to apologize and make some evidentiary concession, or it would be reported that I had assaulted her with profanity. Poor Jim was humiliated by my out-of-control antics, and gave me a lecture in the bathroom. It was really kind of funny, because he went into this whole passionate Italian advocate routine that was straight out of TV. I wondered how many of those routines I’d developed for my own repertoire of client-control mechanisms.

I was learning once again a painful lesson in litigation. Until you’ve been there, you have no idea what it will be like. I thought my achievements were indisputable. Unfortunately for me, there is no job so well done that it cannot be improved upon in retrospect by a team of lawyers, and Wagstaffe did a fabulous job of dissing me with affectionate recollections, as if I’d been Gary’s handler, a wild guy useful for soaking up Gary’s wilder enthusiasms, given to taking a boatload of unnecessary discovery, and unfortunately, responsible for a couple of acts of serious malpractice.

Malpractice? Yes, malpractice of the high-dollar amount kind. Alas, it turned out, once Gary got to running down all the bankers with subpoenas, that on November 27th,, Cohen had transferred $1.2 Million out of the Wells Fargo Anaheim Hills Branch, in violation of the orders that I faxed to Wells Fargo’s attorney in San Francisco. Wells Fargo of course was denying having received the order “in time” to prevent the transfer. This was probably true, since Cohen later told me he’d gone down to the Anaheim Hills branch of Wells Fargo in person, and transferred the money the morning before the hearing, just to be safe. Now Gary was suing me, and Wells Fargo, for the money. Those were some of Wagstaffe’s glad tidings.

Additionally, he testified, in retrospect I had screwed up by not suing NSI for “negligent damage to personal property.” Unfortunately for me, Katie Diemer’s Second Amended Complaint included a claim for “negligence” against NSI, and now Idell was arguing that I malpracticed when I didn’t carry on with that claim in the Third Amended Complaint, because, he theorized, a negligence claim would have given us an additional leg to stand on with Judge Ware.

Gary’s criticisms of my performance were bogus. With respect to the money that disappeared, I’d done everything possible to fax the order to Wells Fargo at the earliest possible moment, and Cohen had simply gotten the drop on us. That last unpreventable theft merged with all the millions that had already been piped offshore, and were also small in proportion to the large sums Gary was now receiving monthly from Sex.Com. And as far as my failure to allege negligence against NSI, I knew Gary would ultimately win on appeal, making it all a moot point.

I was keen to prove to the arbitrators that I had been the architect of victory. I knew I’d benefited Gary in a unique and thorough way that overarched the accomplishments of all Gary’s other lawyers. If my contractual entitlement went down in flames because I’d left magic words out of the October 4th agreement, I would be asking the arbitrators to award the reasonable value of my services, so it made sense to build my case around a single principle -- I did my job.

I didn’t figure I could call a better witness on this point than Bob Dorband. Jim was incredulous when I suggested that we call Cohen’s lawyer to the witness stand. Wouldn’t his words be discounted as sour grapes? Wouldn’t he seem to be the wrong person to have as an ally? No, I assured Jim, no one would ever look at Bob Dorband and discount his testimony. His word on the subject of my skill and ability would be true, and the truth will be believed when spoken by Bob. I had received Bob’s promise to testify during a lunchbreak at the two-day trial he defended on behalf of an absent Cohen. Bob’s comments on that day made it clear he was now doubly convinced that every accusation of deception he’d directed against Gary had been true all along. He now saw exactly what he would have prophesied coming true in spades. It was telling that I was getting sympathy from a man who represented Cohen. Bob and I could have commiserated about our client-inflicted wounds, but we never have. Bob is a knight I have only met on the battlefield, encased in iron, a foe to whom mercy is alien, and yet accords me respect. His testimony was as good as I could have hoped.

JIM: Up until the time that Mr. Carreon came into the case, what was the procedural status of the case?

BOB: There had been several complaints filed and we had filed a motion to dismiss against each complaint, in turn, and basically won all those motions.

JIM: And what was your expectation as to the outcome of this case?

BOB: After the second amended complaint was dismissed, I thought that was probably going to be it, that they probably would not be able to replead it successfully.

JIM: And it was replead successfully?

BOB: Yes it was.

JIM: Who filed the third amended complaint that was pled successfully?

BOB: Mr. Carreon.

JIM: When Mr. Carreon came in the case, did you have to change the way in which you were litigating the case?

BOB: Mr. Carreon was much more aggressive.

JIM: And in terms of his aggressiveness, was it appropriate or inappropriate?

BOB: It was very appropriate.

JIM: And in terms of taking your client’s deposition, who in your estimation questioned your client most effectively in this litigation?

BOB: Of all the attorneys that questioned Mr. Cohen, I would say Mr. Carreon was the most effective.

JIM: Who propounded all the discovery to Mr. Cohen, Ocean Fund, and YNATA in this case?

BOB: As far as I can recall, it was Mr. Carreon.

JIM: And in terms of who was responding to your discovery on behalf of Mr. Kremen, which attorney was handling that?

BOB: Mr. Carreon.

JIM: There was a lot of paper in this case, to say the least?

BOB: A ton of paper.

JIM: Did you have a view as to how Mr. Carreon handled those thousands of pages of paper?

BOB: He handled it very effectively, as effectively as any attorney I’ve dealt with in cases where there’s a lot of documentation.

JIM: Were you the attorney primarily responsible for preparing the opposition to Mr. Kremen’s motion for preliminary injunction and summary judgment?

BOB: Yes.

JIM: And were there declarations submitted with attached evidence in support of those motion?

BOB: Yes.

JIM: And in terms of the attorney who was submitting the many pages of exhibits that supported those motions, what attorney was that?

IDELL: Objection -- lack of foundation, vague and ambiguous.

CHIEF ARBITRATOR: I’ll allow it if you know.

BOB: I know it was Mr. Carreon.

JIM: And the evidence submitted by Mr. Carreon, did you believe that that played a critical role in Judge Ware’s eventual ruling?

BOB: In my opinion, yes.

JIM: Did you and Mr. Carreon have a cordial relationship?

BOB: Yes, we did.

JIM: Did Mr. Carreon ever discuss with you whether he was willing to try this case?

BOB: Yes, he did.

JIM: Did Mr. Carreon ever indicate to you that he wasn’t going to be the trial counsel in the case?

BOB: No.

JIM: Did you have the impressions in your dealings with Mr. Carreon that he would be trial counsel in this case?

BOB: Absolutely.

Jim: And what did you base that impression on?

BOB: My discussions with Charles. We would actually have discussions on occasion bout actually trying the case, and in a sort of collegial way, we would talk about how fun it was going to be and that it was kind of a crazy case. And also, my observations of Mr. Carreon in terms of how he was handling the case day-to-day, he was always involved in it, as far as I can tell.

JIM: Did he ever appear to be tired or burned out to you?

BOB: I couldn’t say that. No, he never did.

JIM: You were the lawyer for Mr. Cohen at the trial in this matter, correct?

BOB: Yes.

JIM: How long did that trial take?

BOB: It was less than a day and a half.

JIM: Was it a bench trial?

BOB: It was a bench trial.

JIM: Did Mr. Cohen appear?

BOB: No.

JIM: Did you call any witnesses?

BOB: No.

JIM: Were there any liability issues on the facts tried?

BOB: No.

JIM: What issues were dealt with at the trial?

BOB: It was purely damages at that point, and all the liability issues had been decided on summary adjudication, and there were orders entered as a result of contempt sanctions that pretty much precluded our presentation of anything. It was basically, I just sat there.

Bob had flown in from Portland to give his testimony, and when he was done, we adjourned for the day. I will always remember the feeling of sympathy for the adversary I felt when Bob was worn down by the hail of lead, and Cohen left him with no case to defend. Those days were behind him, though he acknowledged without explaining too much, that they had taken their toll on his personal life. After Gary won the trial, he had sued Bob, who then left the Duboff firm to work for Safeco managing an insurance defense shop in Portland. I wished him well and bid him goodbye. My closest enemy had done me all the good he could.

Peter Carini, my closest friend, also flew into town to testify at the arbitration. Since Gary had impugned both my willingness and ability to try the case, the Chief Arbitrator allowed Peter to testify about his knowledge and opinion concerning my trial abilities. Like Bob had, Peter first testified about my willingness to try the case, that had been cast into question by Pam’s recovered memories:

JIM: What did Mr. Carreon say on the topic of whether or not he would be trial counsel on the Kremen vs. Cohen matter?

PETER: He was definitely going to be the trial counsel.

JIM: And what did he say that led you to that conclusion?

PETER: Not only what he said, but what he was doing. Oftentimes during that period of time, we’d be working up themes and working up strategies and tactics to be utilized for a jury trial, and we were working on it together. I was interested in doing the case because it was just a great case. I mean, just from a litigator’s perspective, going into court against Cohen, it was like a field day. It was incredible, an opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss if you were a trial lawyer.

Peter also gave his opinion about how well I tried cases, based on our work together:

JIM: Have you tried cases with Mr. Carreon?


JIM: What are your observations of Mr. Carreon as a trial attorney?

PETER: He’s excellent.

But it’s one’s performance as any adversary that is the most convincing test, and Peter found a succinct way to describe my abilities:

JIM: Have you tried cases against Mr. Carreon?


JIM: And that’s when Mr. Carreon was a district attorney; is that correct?

PETER: That’s right.

JIM: And during that period of time, how was his work as a prosecutor?

PETER: He was a feared prosecutor.

That’s high praise from a man as insensible to fear as Peter. I was proud to have two Oregon lawyers come down to the Bay Area to vouch for me. I had hoped to have a third Oregon lawyer show up, but Sue Whatley was hiding out in Oregon, supposedly on the lam from Gary but probably avoiding me by absenting herself from the Bay Area during the hazardous time period of the arbitration. She had promised repeatedly to come San Francisco and testify for the hearing, once after I personally delivered her a subpoena, but when the day came, she didn’t make the trip.

My ecstasy-head friend also failed to show. Ben, who had direct evidence of Gary’s admission to axing me with malice aforethought, and had sworn eternal loyalty to my cause for one blazing moment in Vancouver, had also been subpoenaed, and also absented himself. After first calling Jim DeSimone to ask for plane fare, Ben then had a New York lawyer contact us to make threatening excuses for his non-appearance. I sensed Fernando’s big, fat hand squashing my plans, while Gary looked on with delight. It was all too gross.

Cyrano knew how little a man can expect from his friends:

Watching you other people
Making friends everywhere
As a dog makes friends,
I mark the manner of these
Canine courtesies and think
“My friends are of a cleaner breed—
Here comes, thank God, another enemy!”
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:06 am


Vancouver, BC is dominated by a half-dozen glass residential towers, which are monuments to the unique housing needs of the Chinese elite who bailed out of Hong Kong when Mao’s minions took over the metropolis a few decades back. Designed to fit the special needs of the exiles, every apartment has a solarium. In February 2002, Tara and I were living in a luxurious two-bedroom apartment overlooking a soccer field and the marina. We were alternating two or three weeks a month in Canada with an equal amount of time in Oregon, making the ten-hour drive in two-day relays. My son Josh was living at home, and took care of the place during our absence. It was a long drive, but we had fun getting our apartment together and living in a small, cosmopolitan city where we could eat out anytime, take walks by the water, and be out of the USA.

Being out of the USA had seemed like a good idea ever since the towers fell in broad daylight on that very bad day in New York City. It had been a crime so big that even after they connected all the dots, the FBI and the Department of Justice could find only one pathetic madman to charge with the crime. We were getting war instead of prosecution, and war on everyone but the people who’d crashed the planes. I asked my friends to consider what would have happened if seventeen Cubans, rather than seventeen Saudis, had piloted the hijacked airplanes?

My biggest problem came when I saw three office buildings fall neatly on that nine-one-one day, collapsing like decks of cards in the palm a demonic dealer. Because only two of the collapsing buildings had been hit by airliners. At that moment, I had the distinct perception that the emperor was wearing no clothes. Then the forensic evidence was spirited away, the landlord made a killing, and the mayor and police chief went on to mine the security industry for the new gold -- paranoia.

Yes, as I quarreled with my former partner over the spoils of an empire of smut, the world toppled over the brink. We slipped from the dot-com crash into the Enron implosion, into a new world of terror where we would never be bored again. Fox turned up the volume on the hero machine, the president girded for war, and the cheerleaders in Congress seized their pom-poms and started spouting slogans with a will. None would be last to their feet in swearing allegiance to the homeland and its protectors. The peace dividend Clinton had left behind was suddenly as safe as if Cohen had gotten hold of it. Sex had been eclipsed by death, the fire of lust by the lust for destruction.

Yes, the bad craziness was upon us, and it was eclipsing even the darkness of my own situation. There was plenty besides my missing share of Sex.Com to be depressed about in the good old USA. It was a relief to speak to Canadians, who shook their heads in woe at the unsurprising news that the Americans were on the warpath again, and this time, it was forever. And I had work to do.

Working for Sweet Entertainment Group was turning out to be quite an education in many things I probably should have learned before I signed on. Tom was not Steve’s brother, and Mike was not an elder relative. Steve was a black belt in Thai kickboxing who had taken a few months out of his porn career to help his teacher, famed in Vancouver as “The Blade,” build his martial arts school. He enjoyed eating sushi in restaurants where he affected the manner of a porn paterfamilias, buying endless amounts of everything anyone wanted. He sponsored employee trips to the local amusement park, where he would dare everyone to ride the scariest rides, and clearly had the most fun of anyone.

For me, joining a pseudo-family of kooky and somewhat legendarily outrageous pornographers seemed likely to be a profitable lark. Aside from turning down Steve’s request that I adopt the name of “Charlie Sweet,” I was fully on board. At the 2001 Internext show in Vegas, I was there wearing an SEG t-shirt, adding Gary Kremen’s former legal muscle to Steve’s team. Ana, now 21, came along for the trip. She wore a Bebe pinstripe suit to the Pimp ‘n Ho Ball and when asked, told everyone she “was a pimp.” My friends vied for the right to protect her from lowlifes, and Steve had only five words of advice: “Stay out of the business.” She took his advice, but had a great time at the show, which was one big carnival to her.

The job had long stretches of what were supposed to be fun. One night during August 2001, I was sitting on the beach in Florida at night with a number of pornographers. Darrin Babbin was there with a smiling black woman who laughed easily. Darrin, who looked nerdy with a black moustache and big glasses, was drinking Jack Daniels from a 1.5 liter bottle with no apparent effect. He told me he started out playing piano for the Christian Broadcasting Network, and was now working for Sex.Com in search-engine optimization, but Gary’s scene was a zoo, and Darrin had already accepted a new job at New Frontier. There were other sleaze luminaries sitting by the lapping shore in the indolent night. Joe Elkind, a famous cokehead with the schnozz to prove it, had induced a foolish young thing to blow pot smoke down his throat, easing the labor of sucking on his own joint. Joe was briefly distracted when he had to discipline one of his bodyguards, who had gotten into a little scuffle on the hotel grounds, but it didn’t mess up his mood. Oystein Wright of Mansion Productions, a tall Norwegian in the software business, was there with a caramel-skinned beauty. It was a pleasant gathering.

At some point, between his slugs of Jack and pulls of reefer, a young man whose name I don’t remember, asked me if I really was the lawyer for Sweet. I pointed to the SEG logo on my t-shirt and told him that, yes, I was. Sweet’s most popular product was a series of short films called SweetLoads. He asked me if I’d watched Sweet Loads. I told him that I hadn’t watched the movies, just the site tour. He seemed incredulous, and with his eyebrows raised for emphasis and his face nodding, advised, “You should watch them. They’re incredible. I’ve watched them all two or three times.”

So, the next time I had a high-speed connection, I watched a couple of the Sweet Loads vignettes. It was my introduction to the POV genre, for point-of-view, which in porn, describes the practice of shooting your own video with a handheld camera while having sex. In each movie, the set was simply Steve’s grey office. The first victim was a big blonde with large tits, who reminded me of a cow. Her mascara and the whites of her eyes showed large below her pupils as Steve insisted that she keep looking up at him. It went on and on, looking like difficult work for the woman. The girl looked miserable and humiliated. I watched another video, and it was just the same. I stopped at two, and couldn’t understand how anybody could watch them all, much less twice. There were dozens of them, and Tom later told me that not a one of the girls got paid a penny to do Sweet Loads videos. They were “auditions” for movies that Steve never intended to make.

One day in early February 2002, Steve got all excited about a new deal we had to pursue with a self-made pornstar named Max Hardcore. I had never heard of Max, but Rey had explained to me that his content was hugely famous on video, and had the raw qualities that would make it a natural for a co-marketing deal with Sweet. Sweet, I realized, was a leader in all things gauche, and had pioneered such innovations as shoving baseball bats, large fruits and vegetables, and other household items into the sexual orifices of their models. I could hardly imagine what tremendously novel way of using women’s bodies Max had devised that would drive Steve’s interest in him to such a pitch. But I would soon see, because Steve had bought plane tickets for us to fly down to LA and meet him the next day.

Max Hardcore was the most charming misogynistic bastard I have ever met. Steve and I flew into LAX on an early flight, then jammed down the freeway in a tiny SUV to arrive early at Max’s house in the Pasadena hills east of LA. It was a beautiful morning, and the weather was lovely. Max’s webmaster met us, showed us the house and the hot tub. It was pretty good-sized, nicely laid out, no porn in evidence anywhere, and the feeling of sex everywhere. Max, I learned from the webmaster, was a fucking machine who scripted, performed and directed the shooting of all his own work. Right about that time, the great man rolled up in his lowered white pickup truck, wearing a white cowboy hat and mirrorshades.

He and Steve hit it off famously. It wasn’t a question of whether they would do a deal, but of what it would be. Max described some of his signature screwing styles, which included of course pissing on his partner, using surgical equipment like a speculum to dilate her vagina, and having her drink milk from the cup so created through a length of clear surgical tubing. He had a favorite model to work with, named Catalina, about whom he couldn’t say enough good things. She had my silent admiration. Anyone who could make a career out of fucking a jerk this big had to be tough. Max always referred to women as sluts, even Catalina, in marked contrast to Steve, who always called them content, and liked to give lectures about “how to treat your content.” Very impressive, unless you’ve watched SweetLoads.

Like Steve, Max liked to register his intellectual property. He had registered his own trademark, “Max Hardcore,” which he proudly displayed, pulling the official registration from a file folder to display the gold-embossed treasure he’d received from the US Patent & Trademark Office. He also assiduously copyrighted everything, designed all of his own video covers, and retained all of the rights to his work. He only licensed his productions for a term of years, and never sold a title, because, he explained, porn never gets old. “Take it off the shelf for a few years and then reissue it, and the sales come right back.” I had to admit, I was getting an education from a guy who had managed to beat the odds by a considerable length -- male porn stars are utterly disposable, but this man was in control of his career.

Still, it was scary to be sitting there in Max’s study watching him get on with Steve as if they were father and son. They spoke each other’s language. They liked the same things. They had each dominated hundreds, maybe even thousands of women with their voices and their looks, their air of command. I was learning secrets I had never wanted to learn.

Once I asked Steve directly, “You’re the devil, aren’t you?” In return, he only gave me that sharklike grin. As I watched Steve and Max magnetizing each other with mutual admiration, I asked myself what my mother would think, seeing me here with these men. I asked myself why I was cementing deals between two misogynists who had their own unique reasons for hating women, and only needed me to seal the deal with contractual language. Sure, I could do it, but did I want to broker a merger that would flood the Internet with more nasty shit? Suddenly, the words burst into my mind, “Can money be this important?” I was seriously pondering this question when the Mexican maid came up to let us know that lunch had been served.

It was a lovely lunch. She had laid out a spread of cold cuts, cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and open jars of mayonnaise and relish. The plates and silverware were sparkling clean, and the lettuce was crisp and freshly rinsed. There was good bread. By way of enjoying what good there was in life, I put together a tasty sandwich and bit into it. Delicious. Steve was headed for the kitchen table when his cell phone rang and he stopped. He stepped outside to take the call.

A short while later Steve returned to the kitchen, very pale. The police had raided the shop in Vancouver. The employees were all standing in the hall in handcuffs, while the cops searched and seized. We had to go back to Canada immediately. We hurriedly excused ourselves from the meeting with Max. As we were leaving, Max made a touching offer. Did we, you know, need anything? I assumed he meant a little session with a mirror and a straw, which we declined. He didn’t detain us any further then, just encouraged Steve by saying that he’d been to jail more than once, and to hang in there, that it would all come out right.

Although I thought Steve should think twice before flying back that night, because he might be arrested at the airport upon arrival, Steve is too much of a field commander for that sort of thing. After a little dithering about his own safety, and much more anxiety about what his troops might be thinking, he overruled my cautionary advice, and we flew back to Vancouver on the first available flight. It is not, I realized, that the devil has no character. It is just that he has a different agenda.

There were no cops at the airport when we returned, just Jamie and her brother Thor, a serious, sedate geek who seemed to work at Sweet so he could keep an eye on his sister. The next day we went to the shop, and everyone was there. We rejoiced that no one was in jail, assessed what was lost, and started figuring what it would take to get back to work. A lot of equipment had been seized and had to be replaced. But no one had given any incriminating statements to the police. Steve rose to the occasion like a wartime leader standing in the ashes of his fortress. But my time with the organization was effectively over.

A week after Steve and I returned, I got word that my dad had passed away in the Eastern Star Nursing Home in Phoenix after two years of silently taking his meals through a tube in his stomach. He had never understood the meaning of Sex.Com, or how it had kept me from visiting him more than a few hours in his last two years of life. We made a quick round trip from Vancouver to Phoenix to attend the funeral, then packed up the apartment and returned to Oregon. It had taken only ten months to exhaust my fifteen minutes of shame.
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Re: The Sex.Com Chronicles, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:06 am


On August 13, 2002, Judge Alex Kozinski took the bench in the Ninth Circuit courtroom in downtown San Francisco to hear oral arguments in Kremen vs. Cohen. Kozinski is a maverick, which was apparent to everyone when Reagan appointed him to the Ninth Circuit bench in 1985. Widely admired for his brusque rhetoric, he had graduated from UCLA Law School a mere ten years earlier, thus becoming the youngest appointee to the U.S. appellate bench. Born of Rumanian immigrants in Los Feliz, a Latino suburb northeast of LA, he was known for writing clever, biting opinions, and suffering fools with very poor grace.

Perhaps foreshadowing the outcome of the case now before him, about ten years earlier Kozinski had authored the blunt opinion that gave Cohen a pyrrhic victory in his appeal from the San Diego bankruptcy fraud convictions. Kozinski’s opinion reversed one of the three convictions and remanded him for resentencing by Judge Judith Miller. The same Judge Miller who Cohen had called a “cunt,” something she probably hadn’t forgotten when he stood before her again a couple of years later. Despite Cohen’s appellate victory, Judge Miller sentenced him to the same term of years as she had at the conclusion of trial. For some reason, Cohen thought his first encounter with Kozinski boded well for the outcome of the Sex.Com case.

Cohen had taken up the habit of calling me occasionally to incite my animosity toward Gary and to share his plans for causing Gary pain and expense. Sometimes, when he was very proud of his cleverness, he would disclose his litigation plans, and in such a mood he told me about his lawyer’s theme for the appellate argument. It didn’t sound like a good theme, and I was sure he’d never use it, so I was surprised when Cohen’s lawyer stepped up to the podium in the beautiful Ninth Circuit chamber and spoke his opening line.

The atmosphere was hushed and decorous for what those involved knew was a momentous hearing. Several reporters, and bigwigs like Phil Sbarbaro of NSI, were in attendance. The appearance of the courtroom was truly splendid, the most dazzling I have ever seen. The stonemasons and cabinet-makers of the FDR era had outdone themselves creating a temple of justice. Everywhere the eye wandered it settled on sculpted marble and fine woods carved with complex designs. The lights were concealed behind stained glass. The three judges, with Kozinski in the middle, sat in high-backed leather swivel chairs, black-robed and charged with power, surveying the lawyers and the gallery from their exalted position.

Mike Mayock, who had argued Cohen’s criminal appeal years before, addressed his opening line directly to Kozinski. To my immense surprise, he said just what Cohen had told me he would say: “Judge Ware was sucker-punched.”

Kozinski’s brow immediately furrowed, and a cloud gathered over his head. While Mayock was drawing his breath, Kozinski checked his advance with an abrupt response: “Wait a minute. You can’t come here and call the District Judge a sucker.”

Mayock tried to dig his way out of the hole Kozinski had put him in. He hadn’t called Judge Ware a sucker, he pleaded.

Kozinski kept him on the hook. Yes he had called the judge a sucker.

When a judge speaks to a lawyer that way in open court, it’s like being hit in the forehead with a fencepost. His brain stalls. If he’s lucky, he does the right thing from pure instinct. Mayock wasn’t lucky. His instincts failed him, probably because there was no right thing to do. A sucker punch hits the sucker before he has a chance to defend himself, and it was obvious to everyone in the opulent chamber that Mayock had been suckered by a master. Kozinski finished him off with a dose of disdain, demonstrating utter disinterest in his argument, allowing him to drown in disgrace. Cohen told me that Mike had a heart attack a short time later. Unlike past occasions when Cohen had reported that he or his lawyer had suffered a heart attack, this time I think it was true.

Jim Wagstaffe was up next, arguing for affirmance of Judge Ware’s verdict against Cohen, and a reversal of the summary judgment for NSI. The atmosphere in the court relaxed as Wagstaffe efficiently recounted the story of how Cohen had stolen Sex.Com, laundered the proceeds through offshore banks, and was living in Mexico, a fugitive from Judge Ware’s arrest warrant. Machiavelli said that victory makes everything all right, and it certainly was true of Gary’s case against Cohen. Gary had gone from fighting an uphill battle to coasting downhill, and the nods from Kozinski and his fellow judges made it clear that Wagstaffe had little to worry about from Cohen’s appeal.

Wagstaffe moved on to the appeal against NSI. Judge Ware had concluded that domains were a form of intellectual property too evanescent to form the basis for a conversion claim, because they weren’t “merged with a document.” Thus, Gary’s search for a “document of title” had expanded. In the trial court, I had pointed to the registration documents Gary filed to obtain Sex.Com, and the falsified documents Cohen submitted, combining Gary’s name with Cohen’s email address to “spoof” NSI. They had looked like “documents of title” to me, but Judge Ware had not even considered them. Wagstaffe took my argument further, pointing to the entire Whois database as the fundamental document that makes all domains a form of personal property.

Through Gary’s growing influence, he had gotten a variety of cutting-edge legal organizations to support his fight, like the Electronic Freedom Foundation, that had never been interested in the cause before. Kozinski and his fellow judges had received numerous amicus briefs attacking NSI’s arrogant position, but more than scholarly legal opinion was in the air.

A wind of change was blowing through the courtroom, as the barometer of public opinion came into harmony with the facts of Internet life. What had been esoteric in June 1999 when I joined the case, and remained obscure in May 2000 when Judge Ware dismissed NSI, had since become common knowledge. Computer printers were on every desktop, ready to turn online documents into hardcopy. In truth, printing itself was irrelevant, as electronic documents had become ubiquitous. Our society had moved beyond reading its email to drowning in spam. The very word “document,” was losing meaning as people Googled for facts they once would have looked for in books, newspapers, libraries or archives. Taxes were filed online, paper airline tickets were an anachronism, and even the federal courts were requiring lawyers to learn the new “e-filing” system. By fall, 2002, Internet domain names were being registered at a rate that was accelerating exponentially, generating millions of dollars in registration revenue. Meanwhile, NSI was still trying to hide behind the lack of a “document.”

The danger of Internet fraud had also ceased to be theoretical. Newbie websurfers everywhere were falling prey to Nigerian inheritance scams, offshore casinos, and phishing scams that forged whole financial websites to extract precious personal data. Identity theft had become the fastest-growing crime in the nation, aided by insecure databases and loose verification procedures. Forgery and false impersonation were becoming the signature crimes of the computer era, and the courts were beginning to see more cases like Gary’s, where con artists directed their deceptions not to the owner of property, but to those in charge of their property -- the banks, the credit reporting agencies, and of course, the domain name registries.

The domain name business had also changed. NSI had lost its monopoly on domain registrations, and with it the mystique of being a government contractor performing a unique function. Nor was it any longer a wet-from-the-womb dot-com brimming with electronic cash. It was a mere small-cap subsidiary of a big company called VeriSign, for which domain registrations were a drop in its revenue bucket. New companies like Godaddy and eNom had made mincemeat of NSI’s registration business by cutting prices and providing a decent level of customer service. NSI’s argument that it would be too burdensome and costly to impose oversight obligations on registrars had been shown to be ridiculous.

Kozinski received Wagstaffe’s arguments welcomingly, asking questions that brought out the strongest points in Gary’s favor. When Dave Dolkas stood up to argue NSI’s defense of Judge Ware’s decision, Kozinski’s mood changed. When Dave said there was no document of title, Kozinski’s response wasn’t polite. What about the Whois database? NSI had total control over that record. It was printable. It recorded the names of domain name registrants, and all of their information. Why wasn’t it a document? Wasn’t it NSI’s property? Wouldn’t NSI have a claim if someone injured that property? Dave seemed puzzled. Maybe, he ventured, it would be trespass? Kozinski seemed appalled by the response. Dave’s habitual thinking patterns had apparently reached the limit of their utility.

Kozinski’s questioning then moved Dave further into unfriendly territory -- the topic of the forged letter. Ellen Rony’s analysis finally received its due. Citing what Ellen had called “red flags” that should have raised questions, Kozinski rejected Dave’s argument that NSI couldn’t have discerned fraud from the face of the letter. He pointedly asked if it wasn’t strange that a company called “Online Classifieds” would lack an Internet connection, as the forged letter asserted. As the pace of Kozinski’s attack on NSI’s position moved to a brutal conclusion, Phil Sbarbaro, his bald spot jerking and his pin-striped suit a jumble of conflicting lines, began shifting uncomfortably in his seat. By the time Dave sat down, NSI’s position had been utterly rejected by the enfant terrible of the Ninth Circuit. Phil sprang from his seat and darted from the courtroom, pushing through the massive red leather doors without reverence for the dignity of the court. Although I called to him as he blew past, “Hey, Phil,” he was not interested in exchanging pleasantries with an old enemy, and ignored me completely.

After the hearing, I congratulated Wagstaffe on his argument, and maneuvered my way around Idell. I was standing by the ornate elevator, wrapped in an old-fashioned cage, when Gary came out.

Gary swung his bulk a little side to side and tossed me a question, “Whaddja think?”

I answered politely, “I think it was good for you.”

Tara, who had appeared at my elbow, leaned forward to interject “I think it was great for Charles!” Like giving a vial of nitroglycerine a sharp rap, her remark had an instantaneous effect.

Gary’s eyes exploded into bulging orbs of rage as his reply flew forth from his goatee-encircled mouth: “Well, you really fucked up Wells Fargo! Idell has the proof!”

Ah yes, the bittersweet pleasure of hedging your bets. Gary’s victory over NSI was tainted by the painful thought that he had just lost leverage against me. I had been vindicated by Kozinski’s endorsement of my reasoning. The court could now lift the stay of my lawsuit, and he would no longer be able to accuse me of malpractice for not filing a stupid negligence claim against NSI. Negligence! How absurd. For after all, what could NSI have negligently damaged but Gary’s property? As I had always said, Sex.Com was either property, or it was nothing.

Jim DeSimone was delighted to hear about Kozinski’s performance, whom he reminded me was UCLA alumnus. I took a few calls from clueless reporters who didn’t know how to read a docket sheet and still thought I was Gary’s lawyer. Cohen called, but when I told him about Mayock’s terrible performance, he still expressed optimism, and looked forward to reading the opinion. Cohen didn’t have long to wait, but the panel’s unanimous opinion couldn’t have been worse for him. If there had been a baby in the bathwater that Mayock had presented to the panel, they ignored it entirely, because all of his arguments were sent unceremoniously down the drain with a one-line opinion published in early October 2002. “In light of Cohen’s status as a fugitive from justice and his egregious abuse of the litigation process, we exercise our discretion to dismiss his appeal.” In response to this news, Gary told Wired magazine, “It shows sometimes justice prevails.”

I was hoping that I, too, would receive a little justice from the Ninth Circuit, in the form of an opinion vindicating my position on the property character of domain names, but the distance from the cup to the lip once again proved elastic. When Kozinski’s opinion came out, it was not unanimous, and it was not what I had hoped. The other two silent judges apparently got the memo that NSI was supposed to win the case, and tried to derail Kozinski’s common-sense efforts to treat NSI like any other civil defendant. In an opinion that didn’t attempt to conceal his outrage, Kozinski revealed that his two fellow robe-wearers had decided that the issue he saw as an utter no-brainer -- that domains were property under California law -- was actually a great big open issue that required them to solicit an opinion from the California Supreme Court. He was livid, because these judicial nincompoops had actually forced him, the panel leader, to “certify a question” to which the answer was utterly clear. Kozinski thus loaded the certification with an extended rant that listed all of the reasons why the California Supreme Court couldn’t be bothered with such a ridiculous request, like its backlog of death penalty appeals, and implied that the matter would now take another three years to resolve simply because his fellow-panelists refused to interpret well-settled California law.

Kozinski and I got the last laugh, though. The California Supreme Court followed Kozinski’s advice, refused to certify the question, and kicked the case back to the Ninth Circuit within a couple of months. Kozinski swiftly issued a new, unanimous opinion, that established that Internet domains are property in the State of California, and throughout the Ninth Circuit, from Alaska to Arizona.
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