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Essex Video Faces Legal, Financial Setbacks : Pornographic Film Distributor Goes Bust; Company's President Busted

May 01, 1988|GREGORY CROUCH | Times Staff Writer

One of Essex's strategies was to sign well-known porn stars to exclusive contracts, such as Barbara Dare, who said she appeared in 10 films a year for Essex at an annual salary of $150,000.

But Jared Rutter, editor of Film World Reports, a trade publication, said all of the money didn't necessarily pay off in hit films. "Essex put too much money into production," he said, and Essex produced their share of flops. Rutter's newsletter lists the 10 biggest-grossing pornography movies every two weeks. "Essex stopped appearing on the charts about a year ago," he said.

The patriarch of the business was Joe Steinman, who was born Jose Domingo Restrepo in Bogota, Colombia, sometime in the mid-1930s, court records indicate. By the late 1960s, Essex was up and running. In 1971, Restrepo changed the family name to Steinman; even his son Jeff isn't sure why.

Through his son Tony, Joe Steinman refused an interview request.

New Company Begun

Another mystery is what happened to Essex's films and licenses. Former Essex salesman Marino has started a new adult video company called Essex West. It took over Essex Video's Northridge headquarters and has thousands of videocassettes in its warehouse.

But Marino insists that Essex West has no connection to Essex Video. "I licensed the name Essex from the copyright holder, a foreign company," Marino said. "I have a new business." But Marino said he didn't remember the name of the foreign company.

He also said the Steinmans are not connected to Essex West. "I have a silent partner," he said. Marino refused to name the individual.

Jeff Steinman's arrest was a shock to some of his friends and neighbors. One of them was John McKeon, who sold his house to Steinman. "It's a little surprising," he said. "He told me he was in the construction trade. This is amazing."

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