Nothing spreads faster online than a celebrity sex tape, and the tapes are spreading faster than ever this fall. Rapper Foxy Brown, California beauty queen Carrie Prejean, and Playboy model Shauna Sand are the talk of the town, from CNN to TMZ. This week, Jennifer Lopez reluctantly joined the party when, after filing a $10 million lawsuit, she won a restraining order preventing her ex-husband Ojani Noa from releasing steamy honeymoon clips.
The flood of leaks doesn’t surprise the guy who specializes in this dirty trade: Kevin “KB” Blatt, Hollywood’s sex-tape broker.
“Just about every scumbag caught under every rock in L.A. is trying to sell out an ex-lover,” Blatt says, non-judgmentally. “It’s a direct reflection of the economy.” Since promoting his first tape — the infamous video of Paris Hilton — in 2003, Blatt has been embroiled in naughty bit scandals from the A-list (Colin Farrell, Cameron Diaz) to the D (Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer). “People will always get off on watching famous people having sex,” says Paul Fishbein, president of Adult Video News. “Kevin has a knack for finding the tapes.”
A self-described “nice Jewish kid from Cleveland,” Blatt broke into the trade after marketing adult websites in the nineties. When a guy with the Hilton tape needed a front man, he hired Blatt, whose subsequent notoriety now brings nearly every stolen tape his way. When his cell rings with an offer of a video, he always asks the same question first: “You got the releases?” The Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act — known in the business by the regulations number, “2257” — requires adult sites to keep records proving actors are over 18. While people like to think that all celebrity sex tapes get put out under duress, everyone onscreen has to sign on for a legal, commercial release.
Blatt learned the hard way what happens when there’s no authorization. After the Hilton tape hit, he got chased by entertainment attorney Paul Berra, who at the time was working for the firm representing Rick Salomon, ex-boyfriend of Hilton. On behalf of Salomon, Berra was after the copyright infringers who were trafficking the tape — and Blatt, who was handling the PR. Blatt worried that even though he wasn’t selling the tape himself, he could get nailed for facilitating copyright infringement.
Salomon eventually dropped the suit, though, and struck a deal to legally release the tape online and on DVD. The public controversy, of course, made the tape a hit. While an average porn video sells a few thousand copies, the 1 Night in Paris DVD released by Red Light District has now sold over 700,000 copies, and the web version on hotelheiress.com has made several million more online. The new sex-tape trade was born.
And that’s just the public half of the business. Blatt also makes his money helping keep stolen videos off the market. Fact is, most tapes never get released — or even hit the rumor mill. While Blatt’s seen the release of six tapes, there are at least another sixteen he’s quietly quashed (he has signed confidentiality deals not to release the names of those involved).
This first happened in 2004, when Blatt teamed up with Berra to catch a guy who was trying to extort $2.5 million from Cameron Diaz over a stolen tape. Blatt traced the IP address to computer servers in Thailand, then unearthed the IQ online chat number of a Russian who led him to a photographer. Blatt furnished Berra with the information, and a lawsuit was then filed against the photographer for extortion. It’s impossible to say whether Blatt is the only such broker in town, but he became Berra’s go-to guy for these services.
Blatt now has a system in place. When a tape comes his way, he first tries to get the authorization of the participants. If he can’t, he then tells the people with the tape to back off on releasing it, explaining how and why they’ll be sued. At the same time, he’ll reach out to the lawyers and celebs. While he can’t prevent someone from leaking the tapes online or releasing them commercially offshore, he discourages it as best he can. “When you’re dealing with people like J.Lo, they have enough money to ruin your life, and at end of day, it’s not worth it,” he says.
Brokering sex tapes isn’t much of an income generator. Blatt charges up to $250 per hour for his services, and the negotiations often take just a few days. (He operates out of his home office in Chatsworth, California, heart of the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley; clients find him through MySpace and Facebook. He enlists with hacker types and webmasters for sleuthing.) For Blatt, it’s an ego thing — satisfying his desire to feel like a player, and fueling his day job marketing adult sites.
Guitarist Dave Navarro thanks Blatt for keeping a stolen bondage video from hitting the market. “I consider myself to be one of the chosen few Kevin did give a heads-up to,” Navarro says. “I really appreciate his thoughtfulness on this.” Blatt also assisted former Baywatch star Jeremy Jackson with keeping a sex tape off the market. “KB may have had a checkered past,” Jackson says, of Blatt’s history in the porn industry, “but he really stepped in and helped me.”
Blatt is accustomed to this kind of ambivalence — and being dissed as “a sleazy porn producer,” as the New York Daily News once put it. “I know that people still think I’m a scumbag,” he says, “but I’m satisfied with who I’ve become.”