The t-shirt tells the tale. Gun-metal gray, with Anabolic logos front and back, it is simple but stylish, in your face and reeking with attitude. Like the company it represents, it’s both cool and tough.
Anabolic Video and its affiliate, Diabolic Video, go their own way and do their own thing. Over 13 years they have developed their own distinctive style, from the covers of their DVDs to the “more fuck for your buck” movies inside. One of the architects of gonzo porn, they keep their sex scenes hard and their prices high. Fans love them, other companies imitate them and envy their success.
Anabolic was dreamed up by Christopher Alexander in 1991 when he was still a porn actor named Biff Malibu. By his own estimation, he was “a fifty-fifty performer at best. I certainly wasn’t one of the guys who gets called first.”
Realizing that he’d never be able to buy a home and raise a family on his income from porn acting, he decided to try directing. “Instead of making a couple of hundred bucks, I made a couple of thousand bucks. I said, Hey, wait, this is a lot better.”
Amateur porn was all the rage at the time, so he shot scenes with girls he picked up in Venice and sold them to companies like Zane, LBO and Arrow. “I realized, hey, when I get to pick the girls, I can do a much better job acting.” One of the girls he met was Suzanne, who moved in and began to share his directing work. They became partners and were married six years later.
Alexander’s breakthrough came when he met a fan from the Bay Area who was a gangbang aficionado and had many ideas about how to shoot them. “I took his thoughts and made The Gangbang Girl #1, with Trixie Tyler,” he said. Chuck Zane’s lowball bid for distribution rights was all too easy to refuse so, “I said, well, maybe I’ll just go ahead and try it myself.”
It was Anabolic’s first release, along with three volumes of Biff Malibu’s Totally Nasty Home Videos, and it immediately put the company on the map. After 35 volumes, The Gangbang Girl is still Anabolic’s signature line.
With Zane’s art director, Alexander designed the Anabolic logo, one of the adult industry’s most instantly recognizable. Zane let Alexander ship from his warehouse, and that’s where he met Greg Allen, who was working there to pay for his college studies in economics.
Alexander set up Anabolic in an old triplex in Venice. For the first couple of years the product was distributed by a Las Vegas company, now defunct. Then in 1993, Chris brought Greg on board as sales manager, and they began selling their titles themselves. Both men remember when they issued their first invoice: in June of 1993, to Legend Video. A framed copy hangs in their offices.
In 1995 Chris took a crew to Europe for the first Anabolic World Sex Tour, another signature line. Suzanne took over shooting the still-running Nasty Girls, and they hit paydirt once more with Nasty Nymphos, the prototype of many of today’s “tease, talk and fuck” gonzo lines.
Diabolic Video was launched on January 16, 1998, with Allen as president. Lewd Conduct 1 was the first release. It was basically, Allen said, “another way to disperse product to the marketplace.”
Diabolic and Anabolic are two separate corporations. “We share an address and some phone numbers, that’s about it,” Alexander said. “Greg is still the sales manager for Anabolic, and I do some consulting for Diabolic.”
Allen said that when he first started doing sales, “Chris said, ‘We’re just not ever going to lower our price.’ The thing that made that easy was every day the re-orders just kept coming in at full price. Then we started figuring it out: We can sell less pieces for more money, which means less work for more money. That’s always been the route we’ve chosen to take. It gives value to the product. Drop it to three bucks, it’s a three-dollar product. Keep it at 13, 14 bucks, it gives the product what it deserves.”
They still maintain that pricing level and have only recently had their first sales, just on VHS format, to clear their shelves for the DVD-only world that Allen predicts the industry will be within 18 months.
For customers who still balk at their prices, Alexander pointed out that on his side, everything costs more — printing, production, overhead, workers’ comp and especially talent. “Our costs have gone up and our prices haven’t, so in reality, we’re charging less than before.”
To accommodate the company’s relentless growth, the Venice facility went through several enlargements until they had to move to even bigger space in Chatsworth in 2001. “Now we’re getting ready to build our next building,” Alexander said.
The companies’ combined catalogs include between five and six hundred titles: around 400 for Anabolic, 130 for Diabolic. And each one has what Allen calls “title integrity.”
That means that “if this is what the title says it’s about, that’s what it’s about.” For example, Sweet Cheeks is about asses, Nice Rack about tits, Spring Chickens about young girls. “If our movie’s an anal movie, there’s anal in every scene,” Allen said.
He and Alexander refuse to tie themselves down to a set schedule of, say, eight movies a month. “We won’t just put a movie out to fill the date,” Allen said. “We release movies when they’re done — not slapped together, but done. Our fans don’t like to wait as long, but they’re happy when they get it.”
Over the years Anabolic has developed many directors who have moved on to other companies. The alumni association includes Sean Michaels, Vince Vouyer, Mike John, Lexington Steele, Erik Everhard, Jon Dough and John Strong. All honed their directing chops under Alexander and Allen.
The current directors lineup is equally impressive: Suzanne Alexander (billed as Su), Chico Wang, Sal Genoa (Anabolic Asians), Robbie Fischer, Alexis Amore (Lusicous Latinas), and the newest arrival, Tony T (I Want to Be Face-Fucked). The long-running Assman series from Europe, originated by Jean-Yves LeCastel, is now in the hands of Alberto Rey in Budapest.
Allen, who shot most of Diabolic’s Gangbang Auditions, has turned that line over to Su. As for Alexander, he promises “a nice gangbang surprise” for the Adult Expo in January.
Su was shooting in Europe at the time of this interview, but her husband singled her out for tribute. “Suzanne has been just as instrumental in building the company as Greg,” he said. “The three of us together have been quite a team.”
“Chris, myself and Suzanne always did what it took to get the job done,” Allen added. “Chris ran the business, but he also held the camera. He also helped Suzanne pick out box covers. Suzanne also helped Chris with the camera. We all changed runs in the dupe lab. We’ve boxed, labeled, trayed tapes, shipped boxes. We’ve all done all of that.”
For a major manufacturer they have a surprisingly small staff — “less than a dozen employees.”
Looming large among future plans is Anabolic Adult Toys — not just a signature line through a novelties company but their own brand. They started selling it in Europe in August and plan to begin U.S. distribution before the first of the year. The first releases are a line of dildos in a new substance called Plastisol and a lubricant.
They have a substantial distribution network in Europe where, Allen said, “our name is possibly even bigger than here.” A year ago they started a hardcore magazine there, which they’ll launch in the U.S. next year. They also plan a “dramatic” expansion of their Internet operations.
Allen said, “We try to do things our way and be the best we can be. We’re not competing with other companies, because in my opinion, if you’re competing, you’re following.”
It all comes back to the t-shirt.
“A lot of people,” Alexander said, “go out and buy the two or three dollar t-shirts with the material that you wash it once and it dissolves in the laundry. We get the Hanes BVT heavy-duties. We have guys come up to us at the [AEE] show and tell us, ‘I got this three years ago, and I’ve worn it out, but I love this shirt.’ Everything we do we do with attention to detail and quality.”
He added, “I like the logo we’ve used on our catalogue, ‘Commitment to Excellence.’” Then he laughed. “Those darn [L.A.] Raiders, using our slogan!”Anabolic and Diabolic Video Productions, 21707 Nordhoff St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. 818.407.6200. Fax: 818.407.6201.