Jack Gallagher, Founder of Babenet, Dies at 74

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—Jack Gallagher, a long-time adult industry entrepreneur, died early Sunday morning at his home in Park City, Utah, at the age of 74. The exact cause of death has not been released, but Gallagher was known to have been gravely ill for several months.

Originally trained as a CPA, Gallagher joined Larry Flynt's LFP, Inc. as its Chief Financial Officer in the mid-'70s, but left there in 1980 to become Vice President of Cal Vista Films under owner Sidney Niekirk, and helped to turn the fledgling adult videotape producer into one of the leading content creators of its day—and Flynt, apparently, was happy to see Gallagher go.

"It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Flynt said upon learning of Gallagher's death.

During his time at Cal Vista, both Gallagher and Niekirk were arrested for allegedly selling obscene videos in Broken Arrow, Okla., and on October 5, 1990, were indicted in federal court on five counts of conspiracy and interstate transportation of obscene material; most notably, several Cal Vista movies including Sorority Pink and Backdoor Lust. Both were eventually acquitted of all charges.

Notably, Gallagher hired a young Steve Hirsch as one of Cal Vista's salespeople—one of Hirsch's last jobs before founding Vivid Video with David James, whom Hirsch had met while James was overseeing Cal Vista's warehouse and mail-order division.

"CalVista was my second job in adult," Hirsch recalled. "I was actually there before Jack by a little bit. I was hired by Sandy Sarnblad, and then Jack came in, and Jack as much as anyone is responsible for me being where I am today. He really took me under his wing. He really knew how to get deals done. He and Sidney were the ones who really taught me how to sell and gave me the confidence that I needed—and remember, I was very young. I was 21 when I started working at CalVista, in early '82, and I left there with David James to found Vivid in late '84.

"Actually, David had worked for Jack prior to CalVista, when Jack was at Wonderful World of Video, which was Jack's job prior to CalVista," Hirsch added. "I knew Jack very well, and he was a real people person. He had tons of friends. jack would sit down and tell you story after story after story. He was really good at what he did, he was a good deal maker, and he really helped and taught me. He was my direct boss, so whenever I would come to him with some crazy deal, he would help massage it and help it make sense."

After his acquittal, Gallagher left Cal Vista to start up one of the first adult pay sites, Babenet.com, which delivered top-notch adult content for nearly 10 years until it closed in 2006.

"Jack was another Philadelphia guy, one of the first people I met here in L.A.," recalled AVN founder Paul Fishbein. "He was an innovator at Cal Vista Films, and then along with Russ Hampshire, Rob Gould and others, created Babenet in the '90s, which was one of the first internet companies with pay sites. Jack was a very generous, big-hearted guy who funded a lot of companies and was very successful. Personally, he helped us get IA2000, the first major independent adult convention, off the ground by lending us start-up capital when we purchased that company and turned it into InterNEXT. There's no doubt that he was one of the adult industry's most important founders."

"I started in the video business in 1980 and went to the first shows," Gallagher said at the time, referring to the VSDA show, Adultdex and the "adult section" of the Consumer Electronics Show, "and the size of the shows all paralleled the growth of the sales of the videos, and the same thing has happened here in the internet business. I just see our business getting larger and more successful, just like the video business. I don't care how many people come. The more the merrier. It's the guys who do the best job and have the best customer service [who will last]."

Also in the late '90s, Gallagher was instrumental in introducing adult actress Stacy Valentine to documentary filmmaker Christine Fugate.

"Christine had been looking for someone for a couple of years," Valentine told AVN. "She had met with a lot of women but hadn't really found the right person. Actually, Jack Gallagher brought me to her attention. Christine said, 'Let me meet her,' so I went in. We just clicked, we bonded. I had this potential and dedication, and she needed someone who was going to stay in the business. I guess she saw something in me and someone who wasn't going to flake out."

That meeting led to Valentine starring in , a documentary of Valentine's life that included interviews with Gallagher, Hampshire and directors Veronica Hart and Fred Lincoln.

"Jack was a visionary filled with true wild stories and sound advice," said Jason Tucker, founder of Falcon Foto. "He had great stories about his early days, and they were all true. He was a legend and a truly good man."

As more of Gallagher's friends and acquaintances provide further remembrances of this adult industry legend, this story will be updated.