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He promises more will be revealed

David Hans Schmidt, named in the Colin Farrell lawsuit, makes celebrity porn his very successful business.

July 29, 2005|Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writer

By now, everybody's heard that Colin Farrell's suing his former girlfriend, Playboy Playmate Nicole Narain, over a steamy 15-minute sex video they made together over two years ago. But who's this David Hans Schmidt, who was named in last week's lawsuit along with her?

If you don't know, it probably means you are (a) not an exhibitionistic celebrity or (b) not in possession of sexy images of one.

Over the last decade, Schmidt has emerged as one of the nation's leading brokers of celebrity porn, the man who negotiated the sale of Tonya Harding's wedding-night sex video; arranged for Paula Jones, the former Arkansas state employee who sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, to pose in the buff in Penthouse magazine; and was the behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealer who obtained topless shots of rescued U.S. Army POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch and nude photos of Amber Frey, the star prosecution witness in the Scott Peterson double murder trial, and then tried to peddle them to Hustler magazine's Larry Flynt.

When a cache of explicit photographs of Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx turned up in May -- a workman claims to have found them in a Dumpster outside Foxx's Las Vegas home -- guess who got ahold of them? (Schmidt later negotiated an agreement to voluntarily return them to litigator-to-the-stars Martin D. Singer, and the two sealed the deal by posing for a photograph shaking hands. Ironically, Singer is now suing Schmidt over the Farrell sex video.)

Schmidt also tried to broker a deal this year involving a pornographic video featuring musician Fred Durst, lead singer of Limp Bizkit. The video was posted on the Internet after computer hackers -- who had removed the clips from Durst's computer -- backed out of negotiations.

A Phoenix publicist and agent, Schmidt says he relishes his role as a peddler of Hollywood sleaze. "Somebody has to make the deals," he says. "I'm the CAA of smarm." As such, he occupies a position close to the heart of America's twin obsessions -- porn and celebrity in the Internet age.

Sal Abate, owner of Phoenix-based Internet Commerce Group, which operates various porn websites like femalecelebrities.com and malecelebrities.com, calls Schmidt the "go-to guy" for deals involving celebrity sex videos and nude photos of the stars. ICG's marketing director, Paul Nash, was named as a defendant in Farrell's lawsuit along with Schmidt and Narain.

In Farrell's suit, attorney Singer calls the defendants' attempts to cash in on the screen star's private video an "outrageous attempt to capitalize on the celebrity of ... Colin Farrell."

High-profile attorney Aaron Moss, who has represented such stars as Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Dustin Hoffman, calls the trafficking in celebrity porn "not only in poor taste but also legally actionable."

"Celebrities often give up some aspects of their private lives by virtue of being public figures, but this does not mean that unscrupulous businessmen have the right to make money by exploiting a celebrity's most intimate moments," Moss said. "For celebrities who have worked very hard to cultivate a particular image, this is just plain and simply being ripped off for somebody's else's profit."

Porn website operators like Abate defend what they do, arguing that they are like any other news organizations. If a website posts photos -- even nude ones -- from a movie and also provides reviews or other news items about that film, he said, then that format is newsworthy and legally protected. "If you're just posting photos," Abate noted, "that is not newsworthy."

Besides, he says, not all celebrities are outraged by having their raunchy private moments splashed in public.

"When I started in the business back in 1995, there were a lot of celebrities who were concerned that the websites were making money off their names and images," Abate said. "Through the years, we've been contacted by celebrities who demanded that we remove the photos and cease and desist. But now celebrities are using nudity to further their careers. When a celebrity does a nude scene, it's amazing how many people want to see that scene.

"A perfect example is the Paris Hilton sex tape. Before the tape came out, you kind of knew there were two Hilton twins. Now, she's one of the biggest stars in Hollywood with new movies and her own television show. So celebrities now feel that this Internet thing is not hurting them. Now, if they have a nude scene, the stars are realizing [porn websites] are helping their careers."

Abate noted that his porn websites attract 250 million hits a day and between 100 and 300 people sign up as new members daily, agreeing to plunk down between $29.95 and $39.95 a month to access photo galleries for members only.

Abate said that Hollywood studios usually don't come after porn websites for posting clips of their movies because, in their own way, these websites help promote the movies.

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