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Classic Porn Collector Interview: Mike Hawk

Classic Pornstar Ginger Lynn

Because Silent Porn Star is not (just?) a porn site or even a vintage porn site, because it’s about collecting and sex history, I thought it would be interesting to get a behind the scenes look at the serious collecting and preservation of classic porn movies done by Smashbucks — which brings you sites such as Pornstar Classics, Vintage Divas, and Busty Classics (which brings you A Dirty Western). And who better to speak with than Mike Hawk, co-founder and active partner in the business for the past ten years.

While Smashbucks is in the accumulation of classic porn for profit, it’s clear Mike’s in it for the love — or love of lust — too, as you’ll soon see. In that sense, he’s no different than those of us who save vintage men’s magazines, French postcards, etc.. (Unlike my collection, however, his collection has a clear definition in both scope and purpose.) His personal collection, his collection habits, are what drives the business, preserving the legacy of these classic pornographic films for original fans and new audiences alike.

Mike, aside from making money *wink* what prompted you to start/get involved in the classic porn sites?

Ten years ago, it was not that big a niche, or market, we enjoyed the classics, Christy Canyon, Ginger Lynn and all the rest. It was just so unique and different than what everyone else was doing, it seemed to be the smart choice. So far its been really great.

I grew up in LA; the first investors of coffee shop in LA turned out to be the biggest 80s and 90s film companies producing all the vintage and retro classics. Growing up in California made it easy to track down all the movies and people in the business.

Vanessa Del Rio Caballero Classics

Umm, did you say you owned a coffee shop?

Yes, it was called Insomnia in LA ,  two stores… Prior to that I met most everyone we do business with now from the night club promo biz I owned for 18 years. So in the 80s if you did not know who I was, you either did not go out at night, or you stood in line at all my clubs. :)

LOL So it couldn’t just be l lived in the Midwest — I had to be uncool, huh?

I gather from your night club business etc. that you were old enough to see these films when they played at theatres, when they were new on the store shelves — and that you’ve seen plenty of adult films since then too. *wink* Do you have a favorite film?

Well hate to say it but, yeah, I do remember the pussy cat theater and the Myan downtown with giant screen theater porn! VHS was playing in my machines… I was ALWAYS a big fan of Tracy Lords, Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn. I have been lucky enough over the years in my night club days in LA to have crossed paths with these young ladies and had some interesting “encounters” … There were many favorite films but nothing as good as the real thing!

Do you consider yourself a connoisseur of x-rated and adult films?

I would have to answer that question with a YES — some have said I could be the very best non filmed porn star.

Did you start collecting with films from memory? Old catalogs? Or?

Had some old favorite girls that were in some of these movies, then talked with companies that owned them and they showed us which were the biggest VHS selling tapes.

Tell us a bit about getting the rights to these classic films… Were the studios etc. still around or had studios & rights to films been gobbled up by other studios? How much work is/was involved in tracking down who had the rights? When you reached the right person, were they excited at the prospect of having their works live on? Were they surprised there was interest in them?

Anytime there is “change” in a business such as the Internet, this requires a great deal of patience and persistence. Most just did not want to bother with the “internet.” Most did not know there was a value or audience still for the “classics.” One of our biggest partners that owns the entire Swedish Erotica Library and thousands of titles is Caballero. This was two years of phone calls and attempts for meetings till a deal was struck with Caballero and Smashbucks for a joint venture partnership, CaballeroClassics.com.

Anytime something is “new but old” there is a ton of confusion, from webmasters to studios. But it would seem this is NOT the case anymore.

Classic Porn Star Seka

Do studios, former executives & directors, bring you boxes of stuff you have to dig & sort through? Or is this less romantic (for a collector) and more about legal red tape?

We would get Chromes and one inch master tapes that would have to be converted to digital for the internet. One crazy day, we were in a black Lincoln town car coming back from Henderson, Nevada, with over 100 1 inch masters of the very best classic porn movies in the trunk. Traveling at 100 mph coming back to the California boarder, I slowed down thinking that maybe it be a good idea not to get pulled over with all that porn in the trunk… You just never know!

There was and is about Red Tape. But primarily, it’s all about “relationships” If you have them, great; if not, you’re not going to get any rights or love. This has now changed since the movies and the market has become so big.

In the 80s, the ease of video tape made many films seem ephemeral — nearly like the tissues viewers used watching them. We hear about lost silent and classic films from the mainstream movie industry, are there lost or missing adult works as well? Are there any condition issues with the film/videos themselves?

There’s trouble with everything — from the way the movies were kept to the way they were filmed. So most of them had trouble with the quality of the tape itself. We found over 40 great movies in an old warehouse but there was no air conditioning so these masters were destroyed, or so damaged they could not be transferred. It’s a real shame that nobody looked into the future how to keep these rare treasures from all the damage.

Many movies never made it past VHS or theater release, and there are still movies that owners have chosen not to release on the internet.

When you look for additional works to add, do you have any specific criteria you’re looking for?

Porn stars and just about everything… It’s so hard to find anything anymore. It’s like a treasure hunt: when we find new films, photos, it’s very exciting .

Is there a lot of work to be done in converting the works digitally? Do you do that in house, or have the studios done that for you?

Conversion process from 1 inch master to digital is tricky. We did all the first movies with Porn Star Classics, but when you get a batch of 100 movies, it made more sense to outsource to one of the only labs that had this 1 inch machine. Each movie had to be color corrected and done by hand.

Caballero Classics

I know that since many of these works were from the 1980s, and so were video tape, not film, does that affect the process?

All a pain in the ass, most of them were 1 inch master tape. This was the “industry standard” for saving tape, but now it seems silly.

How does the age and format of the films themselves affect things such as getting stills, screen captures, promotional materials etc. as opposed to films made today?

It’s Night and Day. It’s very hard to get good quality screen grabs from the movies. The quality of the way a movie was filmed, the equipment and cameras, is totally different now. But I would take any movie scene from Seka, Christy Canyon, Ginger Lynn over anything new now.

Christy Canyon Pornstar Classics

“Any movie scene from Seka, Christy Canyon, Ginger Lynn over anything new now…” What do you think makes classic porn so great?

These three girls loved to fuck, and maybe you could get them to do films with out even paying them. They were super sexy and very good at what they did. Every part of there bodies were natural and real, and so were they when they would cum and cum — on set or off set :)

Have you been surprised by the success of your sites, of the interest in classic porn? Are you surprised that it has more than just nostalgic appeal to those who have seen and enjoyed it “back in the day”? I know this may sound like a repeat of the other question, but you have a nostalgic bias lol

No, not surprised. I think there are far more people who have viewed these movies than ever before. I think it opens up a door for those with a thirst or appetite for “the classics.” It was such a great time in the world, to see it raw natural and unfold before our eyes — then and now. It’s truly amazing!

Do you receive any feedback from studios, paying members of the sites, the porn stars themselves, etc. about the surprise or discovery of the classic vintage and retro x-rated adult films online?

Well, the studios are very happy; its new and a different business model than the VHS/ DVD business. Our joint venture partners are very happy and we will continue on into the future with them we hope for many years to come!

Do you have any plans to expand your sites to include other materials (scanned images from boxes, promotional materials, etc.) at your sites — or are you content to leave stuff like that to bloggers and collectors like me? *wink*

YES. We have Christy Canyons book signed and autographed by her, for members, and there will be a number of things we will be rolling out very soon…

Such a tease! Before I let you go, any exclusive insider news you’d like to share with us? New old films coming soon to the sites, etc.?

Finding some of the “new old films” is like mining for gold — when you find it, you get super excited! We are always looking and adding new old films into our already giant library of the very best classics, vintage, and retro movies! We did get the entire Swedish Erotic series that has been going up at Caballero Classics.

You can argue the merits of profit vs. pure collecting, but you cannot argue that what Mike does for financial gain also serves the porn industry and indeed all of us; for the commercial aspects require a diligence to the preservation and restoration of these classic adult film works. So, thanks, Mike!

Posted in Collecting, Essays, Films.

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  1. Little mack says

    Was Vanessa Del Rio in a sexual relationship with the late Luis De Jesus? He was the midget porn actor Vanessa did several sex scenes with. While someone like Seka would never agree to do a sex scene with a midget, Vanessa seemed to enjoy it



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