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Ear to the Ground

Behind the Scenes at Girls Gone Wild Inc.

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Posted on Aug 6, 2006
Girls Gone Wild party
From Claire Hoffman / From the L.A. Times

Joe Francis, founder of the Girls Gone Wild empire, dances in a nightclub outside Chicago.

The founder of the wildly popular pornographic video series takes an L.A. Times reporter into his $40-million-a-year world.


L.A. Times:

... Maybe you’ve seen the “Girls Gone Wild” infomercials that run on late-night cable, advertising mail-order videos of women exposing themselves (“and more!” as the jackets promise). [Joe] Francis didn’t invent the notion of spring break—and all the binge drinking, flurried hookups, wet T-shirt contests and general you-only-live-once exhibitionism that it entails—but he and his company, Mantra Entertainment, have affixed themselves to this youthful domain and transmitted its middle-American hedonism to the world. By packaging and dispersing it, people close to Francis tell me, Mantra does as much as $40 million a year in sales.

At 33, and after almost a decade as the king of soft porn, Francis says he wants to leave this twilight existence and wade into the mainstream. He is quick to list the projects he says he has in the works: a feature-length film, a series of “Girls Gone Wild” ocean cruises, a “Girls Gone Wild” apparel line and a chain of “Girls Gone Wild” restaurants. He says he’s producing a new line of videos called “Flirt” that will be racy, but not explicit, and could be sold in mass-market retail outlets such as Wal-Mart and Target.

In short, Francis wants to insinuate himself and his view of the world into the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the vacations you take and the entertainment—filmed and glossy—that you consume. He sees “Girls Gone Wild” as the ultimate lifestyle brand. “Sex sells everything,” he says. “It drives every buying decision . . . I hate to get too deep and philosophical here, but only the guys with the greatest sexual appetites are the ones who are the most driven and most successful.”

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By trade show displays on sale, June 24, 2011 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

I hope Mr Francis is putting some of his $40 million a year into good liability insurance and lawyers. It’s a free country, but it seems to me that he is taking advantage of a lot of young ladies’ naiveness, and it’s just a matter of time before the lawsuits, justified or not, start piling up. It’s not a business that I would choose to be in…

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By Trade Show Displays, December 29, 2010 at 4:05 am Link to this comment

Oh! So he is the guy behind those info commercials. I do believe they cross the world and are shown on just about every commercial channel. I cannot say I am a fan of them, as it can be annoying when you are in the middle of a later night movie, or a game of football and then bang! Here is an invite from some luscious lady.

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By john, April 13, 2007 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

He’s worth a ton of money, Oh he definitely has a brain and very good one, he’s just not using it the right way.

But I mean, if girls are so stupid to do this for a t-shirt and a trucker hat then they deserve what is done to them. We’ve all seen the commercials and they know what they’re getting themselves into I don’t care how smashed they are.

In any of the commercials the girls looked buzzed but none of them look like they passed out and just woke up or something.

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By George Manuelian, February 3, 2007 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oh please.  Everyone attacks Joe Francis, but they’re just jealous of him. 

I admire the guy. He started with an idea and nothing, then he built himself an empire. Now that he’s an emperor, he can indulge himself in every way and get what he wants. That’s commendable. Who wouldn’t want that?

As for him raping girls…well, they were adults and knew what kind of situation they were getting themselves into. They agreed to go with him, take off their clothes, and be filmed. What happened to them next shouldn’t have been a surprise. They were naive and stupid. Maybe that’ll teach them to be smarter next time.

George Manuelian
San Jose, CA

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By yes_no_maybe, October 18, 2006 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What I have against the whole girls gone wild thing is that I saw behind the scene footage of what really happens.  These people are young, have studied hard, and are on Spring break. So they are drinking….... most people have been drunk whether they admit it or not.  Anyway, they get caught up in the mob hysteria, the coaxing, the drinking blurs thier judgement and this Joe Francis is basically a predator, moving in on situations where he knows young girls will be drinking and thier guard down.  I saw footage of them crying in the parking lot.  One moment of letting thier guard down and they have to deal with it for life.  Does Joe Francis care?  Hell, no.  I’ll bet he would (and did, I hear) film underage girls…. but I also bet he would be perverted enough to film kids.  If there weren’t laws - I bet there is no group he would not prey upon - all for money.

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By Rich Jerk, August 9, 2006 at 9:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Its amazing what people would do just to be affiliated to the rich and powerful people, just selling your body to the richies and looking like you are important is all they want.

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By Paracelsus, August 7, 2006 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have no problem with honest porn. My problem is using a pair of breasts a vulva, or a phallus to goad people at an unconcious level to buy a product based on primal drives. Lust is just one component of this marketing drive. Fear is another tingler of the reptilian brain. I want to save lust for lust’s sake. I want purity of intent and motivation. I want love to be love, not a marketing objective. As bad as porn in advertising is “spiritaulity”. Feel empty and out of touch with nature and the heavens? Buy an SUV. What can censor such a poignant appeal to the primal need for union with a larger reality? Our brains have no filter for such cankers of the mind.

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By elmo, August 7, 2006 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

sounds like a little spilled milk here. this guy has made millions because SEX SELLS!!!! whether you want to admit it or not it does and always will.I’m just pissed i didn’t think of it first,then you’d all be writing bad things about me, while i’m going to the BANK!!!

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By robert puglia, August 7, 2006 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

what mencken said

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By Surprised, August 7, 2006 at 12:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m surprised that what is undoubtedly an educated audience at truthdig dismisses “Girls Gone Wild” and Joe Francis so blithely by calling him a scuzzball or evil or denouncing our collective selves as moral idiots, etc. 

The point to me is that sex and pornography are ancient, persistent and pervasive practices.  Whether or not it’s used as a form of cynical marketing, pure capitalism or titillation is less important than an intelligent debate about what is and is not acceptable.  For all the left-wing’s open-mindedness, i’m always surprised and disappointed by a stark puritanical streak that runs through its adherents.  Often this puritanism is co-opted in the cloak of sexism and real legitimate concerns about women’s dignity and violence against women, and most pornography is objectionable on those grounds.  This knee jerk reaction reminds me of the often used statement on college campuses (at least when I was in college) that “all men are potential rapists”—a statement that is about as useful as saying “all people are potential murderers”.  The ultimate end-point of that sort of logic is to simply disengage from the world at large and hide behind a veil or paranoia without addressing real rape and real murder and real violence against women.

But the fact remains that pornography is an industry as large as the legitimate film business, generates over ten billion dollars of revenue per year in the united states and is available on nearly every magazine stand and television set in country.  It’s a disaggregated industry and, like illegal immigration, lives on the edge of the legitimate economy, but is a significant force in our economy and in our social fabric.

In order to have an intelligent discussion about what turns us on sexually, rather than what should turn us on, we need to be frank about the truth that men and women mostly enjoy thinking about and watching images of attractive people having sex (let alone doing it).  And we need to stop having a knee jerk reaction that demonizes any phenomenon or person simply because they take economic advantage of that reality.

Pornography seems to be the one area where “liberals” who insist on the sanctity of womens’ bodies (i.e. pro birth control and pro choice) and “christian conservatives” (i.e. against any form of sex that isn’t between a married heterosexual couple and anti-abortion) find common ground and feel compelled to moralize against the masses without any real analysis of “why”.

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By Mary Wallman, August 6, 2006 at 9:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It baffles me why these young girls want to make his ass rich?  I have heard that they don’t receive compensation…is that right?  Are they that stupid?

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By Fred Slocombe, August 6, 2006 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bachelors likey.

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By Paracelsus, August 6, 2006 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think we have had enough of marketers treating human beings as if they were spinal columns with an id attach to it. If Joe Francis wants to do soft porn that is fine, but his ambition is to do evil for the sake of marketing. At one time advertisers listed rational sound reasons for buying their products. This was before Bernays had swept the world. After that advertising was about appealing to primal drives and the satisfactions of a tyrannical infant inside every consumer. We don’t have egos anymore, just an overexcited id that gets whipped by a superego on Sunday mornings. We get mystified by images and sounds like a bunch of primitives before a wildly gesticulating shamanic media. Cigarettes are either breasts or tiny penises. Cars are sold as the apparent freedom of a baby. We really don’t have egos that sublimate our frustrations into creativity. We have toys, and we have contests to see who will end up with the most. Need, and want are more important than reflection. To a large extent the Madison Avenue crowd are vicious and cynical lot. They use sublimation and incompatible memes to knock out our critical thinking. We are being conditioned to be moral idiots, not citizens.

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By C Quil, August 6, 2006 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“I hate to get too deep and philosophical here…”

I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening, Mr. Francis. To get “deep and philosophical” you have to actually possess a brain and know how to use it.

I think we all know exactly where your brain is located, so stand up every once in a while and take the weight off it. On second thought, keep sitting. The sooner all but brain-stem functions are completely destroyed, the better, you scuzzball.

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