CHATSWORTH, Calif.—Three giants in the pleasure products industry make up the Class of 2018 inductees into the AVN Hall of Fame – Pleasure Products Branch.
Sam Boltansky of Komar Co., Joel Kaminsky of Good Vibrations and Bruce Murison of Standard Innovation are the eighth class of inductees into the Pleasure Products Branch of the AVN Hall of Fame. They represent the distribution, retail and manufacturing segments of the pleasure products industry.
The induction officially takes place at the 2018 AVN Awards Show, slated for Saturday, Jan. 27 in The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. The AVN Awards are presented by MyFreeCams.com.
Sam Boltansky was one of the first people who helped to get pornography and sex toys out to the masses, but he paid a price for doing so during some turbulent times in the country.
Boltansky ran the family-owned and operated Komar Co., which in 1960 was a U.S. distributor for the U.K.-based Penguin Books. Komar Co. was moving 2 million copies of Lady Chatterly’s Lover annually from a brick building in Baltimore. While federal judges prevented the U.S. government’s attempts to block distribution of the book in America, it didn’t stop officials from trying to go after those who distributed pornography. Boltansky was among those accused of illegally distributing obscene material and having ties to organized crime.
Boltansky fought the law, however, and eventually won an acquittal in 1972 of a federal obscenity prosecution. He continued fighting for the First Amendment, and even mounted a legal campaign to ensure prison inmates had proper access to pornography.
In addition to his work in adult and fights for the First Amendment, Boltansky also was a local real estate developer and philanthropist.
Boltansky sold his interests in the Komar Company in the early 2000s. He died in 2002.
Joel Kaminsky is currently the CEO of Good Vibrations, a premier retailer trusted for more than 30 years to provide high-quality products, education and information that promotes sexual health, pleasure and empowerment. But his history in the industry stretches back to his teenage years.
“My first jobs were seasonal, during school breaks, working in the warehouse in the 1960s, and later on full time after graduating college in 1975,” Kaminsky said. “I started as a store supervisor of 10 stores in the Cleveland/Akron area. I would go on to run or operate stores for the next 30-plus years in eight different states along with Australia until purchasing Good Vibrations 10 years ago and then along with Babeland in August of this past year.”
In the early 2000s, Kaminsky did double duty, serving as CEO of both Good Vibrations and General Video of America–Trans World News, where he worked alongside his niece, Rondee Kamins, who had purchased the business from her father, Mel Kamins. Prior to that, he had been with the Adult Superstore in San Francisco.
Kaminsky has long loved the industry, particularly the pleasure products side, and has been witness to changes not only in manufacturing processes, but also the real lansdscape.
“I love this industry and remain optimistic and hopeful that it will continually improve. That said, I have a lot of concerns about the ease of purchasing low-quality ‘look-alike’ items from the China marketplace. Many of these are sold on sites such as Amazon, eBay and the like,” he said. “This can result in potentially new customers developing a low opinion toward the industry, or worse, in an unhealthy physical reaction. We have chosen to stay true to vendors that we know have strict quality control and for the most part are original manufacturers.
“From a positive standpoint, I’m excited about the plethora of quality products that are being introduced into the marketplace,” he continued. “Healthy competition has driven the market upwards. Body-safe materials are now a must, as is consideration for the consumer. Rechargeable vibrators are gaining more wall space versus battery operated. Dildos are available in more colors, shapes and sizes. And gender expression products are now gaining more space as well. Manufacturers of products are providing more support in training and in offering warranties and considering consumer feedback in the manufacturing process.”
Founded in 1977 by Joani Blank, Good Vibrations came to be known as an outlet for entrepreneurial people to make high-quality sex toys. At one point, Blank transformed the store into a worker-owned and operated cooperative. In 2006, some years after Blank had left Good Vibrations, the store returned to a more traditional business structure and then sold itself in 2007 to GVA-TWN. Kaminsky purchased Good Vibrations outright in 2008 and hired Jackie Strano to run operations.
“I’m honored to be recognized by AVN,” Kaminsky said. “How many people get to receive an award for merely doing what they love? I’m most fortunate.”
Bruce Murison helped to revolutionize the pleasure products industry a decade ago with his invention, the We-Vibe. The idea for the vibrators designed to be used by couples and worn by women during lovemaking was the result of a conversation between Murison and his wife, Melody, while brainstorming possible inventions.
The idea of creating a sex toy started as a joke between the duo, but soon led to years of research, development and hard work to create something that could reach an untapped market: couples.
“Melody and I had been working in the semiconductor manufacturing industry for Nortel when the tech crash hit Ottawa in the early 2000s,” Murison told AVN. “My job was about to vaporize and change would soon to be upon us. I had been inventing since my early teens, and I had probably researched 20 inventions up to that point. I dreamed of building a company and taking a product to market. When Melody and I were thinking of what to do next, I came up with the idea of vibrator that couples can use together. When I did further research, I found that the adult market was poised and had long been waiting for innovation and advanced design. My vision was to create a unique product and bring high-tech, advanced manufacturing practices to the industry.”
When introduced, the We-Vibe was like nothing the industry had ever seen. The C-shape of the piece was new, as was its use of silicone, which was not the norm a decade ago. We-Vibe did not look like a traditional pleasure product, and it took almost no time for the couples vibrator to develop a dedicated fan base.
Since then, the We-Vibe family of products has grown to include other version of the original piece, as well as new designs for women and couples. Recently, the parent company Standard Innovation began designing items for men as well.
“I’ve seen a great deal of change in my 10 years in the adult market,” Murison said. “It started with more and more companies using body-safe materials and focusing on both functional and aesthetic design. As the industry matures, we are seeing a shift from product marketing to lifestyle branding. More brands using consumer research and insights to guide their direction. Now we are just beginning to see what the internet of things can bring to the industry. All of this means that brands are investing heavily in research and development and are taking steps to protect their intellectual property. This is a healthy development for the industry and will ensure that companies continue to invest in innovation.”
And while Murison helped to revolutionize product design and technology in the market with his invention, he admits there is more to come not only from his company, but future generations of designers and inventors as well.
“Artificial intelligence and miniaturization will enable innovation that we can’t yet imagine,” he said. “Smart learning technology will allow for sophisticated toys that are easy to use. They will learn and adapt to each unique individual's specific likes and routines. There is a fair amount of habitual nature to our sexual pleasure, and it won’t take much for toys to learn precisely how to offer a customized experience, whether used solo or with a partner. Eventually, the toys will know what you mean when you ask for a quickie or an hour of pleasure.”
Murison knows part of his success is a right place, right time phenomenon, but notes that We-Vibe avoided being a flash in the pan because of the dedication and hard work of people with whom he and Melody worked.
“Melody and I were very fortunate that we started We-Vibe during a cultural shift when the conversation about sex toys was changing, and retail stores were becoming more welcoming to couples,” Murison said. “The hard work began many years before our first sale in 2008, and to make We-Vibe successful it has continued for the past decade. It’s one thing to have an idea and manufacture a product, but building a business takes time and commitment. The secret to success is to stick to your knitting and find people that are good at everything you are not. Build a great team and empower them to do their best. Melody and I are very fortunate to have the most talented people behind us. I’m also personally so thankful to have Frank Ferrari to run the business. Not only does Standard Innovation have a great leader in Frank, but he also allows me to do what I love and do best: focus on innovation and design.”
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