Note: As further remembrances of Christian Mann are received, they will be posted at the end of this article, so if it returns to AVN.com's front page, it's because new information has been added.
LOS ANGELES—It is safe to say that the entire adult industry, spanning movie production and online content creation and the novelty branch, is shocked and saddened by the death of Christian "Chris" Mann, the 35-year veteran who worked variously for his father, Kurt Mann, delivering the hardcore magazines Kurt produced; for Catalina Video, where he was a top salesman for several years; for California Publishers Liquidating Corp. (better known as CPLC) and Video Team, where he began as the head of that video production unit until it was spun off from CPLC in about 1994, after which he became a co-owner of the new company; for Metro Media, where he was a producer after he sold his interest in Video Team to that company; and finally, for John Stagliano as the general manager of Evil Angel Productions, a job Mann held until his death last evening.
"Christian has been one of my best friends for over 30 years, and the last 19 months were difficult for everyone, including him," observed Steve Hirsch, Co-Chair of Vivid Entertainment. "His courage and dignity is something I'll always remember, and he will obviously never be forgotten, and from the first time I met Christian, I knew that we would be friends, and we've been through a lot together, good times and not-so-good times, but our friendship never wavered.
"I think Chris was a native Californian; I think he was born in LA," he continued. "He had a really interesting childhood; went to boarding school in Europe and was on his own at a very young age, and that's why Christian was so cultured, because he spent time in Europe. He spoke four languages, so he really knew his European history, that's for sure, as well as his music. Christian was a music aficionado. He liked early rock 'n' roll. He loved the Beatles for sure, but he also liked Elvis Costello, Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen, that sort of vibe of music. And he was also great at Jeopardy. I mean, the guy would get every single question right on Jeopardy. "
For those who knew Mann well, two attributes stand out above all others: his willingness to help others, which grew out of the help Mann himself had received in learning to lead a sober life, and his devotion to his work, whatever it may have been at the time. Add to that a third, which may have been an outgrowth of the other two: Mann was looked upon as a problem solver, a champion of fair play, and a mediator who knew how to bring opposing viewpoints—and the people who held them—together in compromise.
"Chris was at Catalina; that's how I first knew him, because he would come to Video Team and ask us to sell the Catalina videos," remembered Susan Colvin, owner of California Exotic Novelties and formerly of CPLC. "Video Team distributed the Catalina videos, so he would be the salesperson who would come and say, 'Hey, how many of these titles do you want? Let's do it—and let's have a promotion on them!' He maintained all of those relationships always; all his friends from Catalina always remained as friends. He was good at maintaining relationships over long periods of time."
Hirsch agreed—and knew him during his Catalina days.
"I met him on a plane going to the CES show in Chicago, like 32 years ago," Hirsch said. "I must have been working for CalVista at that time; it was before Vivid. Christian was working for Bill Higgins at Catalina, and Christian was a great guy. He was a friend to everyone and everyone loved him. I can't think of a single human being who has anything negative to say about him. Anybody who had any contact with Christian was immediately drawn to him; that was just the kind of guy he was," adding, "We went on football trips together every year for over 20 years, and we just had a lot of great times hanging out and making fun of Paul [Fishbein]."
"When he came to CPLC, which was in about 1989, '90, he ran Video Team, and he was in charge of production, and of course, that's what he loved," Colvin detailed. "And over the years, even at California Exotic Novelties, sometimes when we would write copy for men's items, I'd give him a call and he'd give me some terminology that was helpful or some input."
"Christian Mann was a man of integrity, who never raised his voice, always entered my office with a smile and positive attitude, and was quite the 'gentleman'," said former VCA Pictures owner Russ Hampshire, speaking for himself and wife Betty. "His knowledge of languages always impressed us, and Betty and Christian carried on many conversations together in German. He was also so witty, and his intelligence impressed me very much. He worked hard at maintaining a healthy lifestyle over the years, and we commend him for the hard work. The thought of not having Christian in our world is a very sad one, but I feel honored to have known him.
"We want to pass on our condolences to his family, and hope they know, he was a very special man. … R.I.P. Christian, we love you!"
"Christian was just an all-around great guy," recalled producer Jules Jordan, who first met Mann at an East Coast Video Show in the mid-'90s. "He'd take the shirt off his back for anybody, that's for sure. He was a real problem-solver, willing to help anyone out with their issues, you know. I called him the ambassador of good will to the industry. People would have grievances with each other and he'd try to help out and kind of mediate any issues that were out there. He always had great advice for people with substance abuse issues, stuff like that."
Colin Rowntree, founder and CEO of Wasteland.com, had similar views.
"Beyond being one of the most creative and intelligent people I have ever known, what always amazed me about Christian Mann was his truly caring role as an educator and mentor to others," Rowntree observed. "Over the 15 years I knew, worked with, and was friends with Christian, one consistently amazing quality I adored was his enthusiasm to teach and support others, imparting his many years of experience and wisdom to both other folks in the industry, and in his personal circles. We have truly lost a great mind, leader, teacher and statesman and my heart is broken at his departure from this mortal coil."
Another longtime associate was Gary Miller, co-owner of Moonlight Entertainment, who occasionally would find himself in Mann's company while attempting to sell videotapes to distributors.
"Chris was the head sales manager at Catalina Video, and he and myself and a gentleman by the name of Perry Ross, who was the owner of Fantasy Home Video at the time, were invited to do a sales presentation at General Video-Baltimore, subsequently renamed General Video-MidAtlantic," he recalled. "One of the main salespeople there was Steve Karmelin, now the general manager of Wicked Pictures. I remember us going there together. It was the first time I met him, and I remember hanging out with him for a couple of days and thinking he was a great guy and we had a really good time."
One aspect of his life of which everyone was aware, because it would inevitably come up as their friendships with Mann grew closer, was that he had once had a substance abuse problem.
"His former addiction was well-known, and he made sure everyone knew he had had a drug problem," Colvin advised. "He started at Video Team just as he had gotten clean, went through rehab, and he worked his sobriety program all his life. Even while he was in hospice these past months, the people came over from AA to have meetings at his flat. He always worked. When I knew him at Video Team, some days we'd have a rough day, and he would go, 'I've got to get to a meeting right now!' I'd go, 'Okay, go.' But for all these years, he's actively worked his program; he's mentored—oh my gosh, I can't tell you how many people. He was extremely active in AA; not just that he went on his own; he went on his own, he kept himself straight and he helped so many people over the years. Any time I knew a person was having a problem, I'd give him a call for advice. It wasn't just that he had an issue and he overcame it; he actively worked the program. He stayed sober all these years; a long time."
People also remember Mann as an innovator, especially in the area of interracial video.
"Once he became in charge of it, Chris really took Video Team to a new level because he's the one that came out with the My Baby Got Back series, which was amazing creative of him," Colvin explained. "Now there's like—I don't know—5,000 volumes? [Ed.'s Note: 47, actually] And then he came out with one of the first all-girl series, No Man's Land—he started all the great series, but one that's still famous today is My Baby Got Back. He was very creative; he really took Video Team to the next level. He always had a great sense of humor; he was incredibly creative, and he never took 'No' for an answer, believe me! He reported to me, so I can tell you, he never took 'No' for an answer. So his sense of humor, his wit and his persistence were always there, and it was great."
John Stagliano, Mann's boss at Evil Angel, agreed, but recalled even more movies that Mann was proud to have created.
"Christian was the person to push interracial porn or all-black porn at Video Team," he stated. "That was his thing, and he also did that movie West Side, and he would be pissed off at me right now if I didn't mention Edward Penishands also. That was his idea; he was so proud of that. And the big thing about his company was that he did a lot of interesting things besides the interracial, and that's why it's worth noting for his history."
Edward Penishands (1991), which spawned two sequels, was one of the earliest adult parodies of famous mainstream films like Edward Scissorhands, leading AVN reviewer Dick Goldhaber to call it "one of the best erotic video interpretations of a mainstream film that I have ever reviewed," and "a perfect recapture of the Tim Burton film." However, it had to be taken off the market a few years later after it was discovered that one of the movie's lead actresses, Alexandria Quinn, had been underage when she performed in it. West Side (2000), on the other hand, was a sprawling interracial epic send-up of Romeo & Juliet, running nearly three hours and garnering AVN's highest rating, not to mention nominations for director Ren Savant and most of the principal cast.
Mann was also a champion of critic-turned-director David Aaron Clark, who directed mostly Asian-themed movies for Video Team from 2002 to 2006, including such titles as Zen and the Art of Fellatio 1 & 2, Asia Noir 1-6 (though the last two volumes came out during Mann's tenure at Metro) and AZN Super Idols 1-3. In fact, it was Mann who arranged for a memorial tribute to Clark upon his death in December 2009, which was held at the New Beverly Cinema where, according to Mann, Clark had wanted to have his last movie premiered.
Mann was also no stranger to controversy. Already mentioned was his 1991 federal trial, along with Susan Colvin, Great Western Litho's Michael Warner, and Ron Zdeb and Don Browning, for having sent allegedly obscene videotapes across state lines, but Mann was dropped from the case after all of the counts naming him were dismissed because he was not a Video Team employee at the time of the offense. The case was memorable because the judge, the interestingly named Barefoot Sanders, denied the government's attempt to seize, under the RICO statutes, all of the assets of CPLC/Video Team, Great Western and the individual defendants, and after the case was remanded to him by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, he awarded the government approximately $12, the wholesale cost of the videotapes at issue.
The other main controversy of Mann's career involved one of his contract stars, Marylin Star, who was found to have profited from inside information provided to her by Wall Street investors Anthony Pomponio and James McDermott. Star was put on trial along with the stockbrokers, and it came out that according to Mann, he had first introduced Star to Pomponio when Pomponio had gushed to Mann about Star at the East Coast Video Show in 1995, saying that he wanted to meet her. AVN reported on Mann's CNN interview on the topic here.
Mann also received numerous awards from the adult industry, including AVN’s First Amendment Defense Award in 1991, the Free Speech Coalition’s Good Guy Award in 2000 and his induction into the AVN Hall of Fame—Founder’s Branch in January 2010. He was also elected President of the Free Speech Coalition in January, 2014, after having served as its Vice-President for two years.
Several industry members shared other memories of their friendship and interactions with Mann.
"Christian was a gifted, brilliant thinker who inspired me to be my best," said Kimberly Wynn, Mann's longtime assistant at Video Team. "Every day we shared at work, and off work brought us together beyond employer/employee. Now that I look back, it seems like a lifetime ago, yet I remember and enjoyed every minute we had together. Christian, Thank you! There will never me another like you. Rest in peace my friend."
Other former employees of Video Team also spoke out: "From the former staff of Video Team, Amy, Kimberly, Maricela, Violet, Steve, Susan, David, DC, Keith, Joanie, Luis and Pedro, we would like to send our heartfelt and deepest condolences to Melissa, and Mann family for your tremendous loss. Christian was our friend and that’s who we will miss. Christian you are special! Thank you for everything."
"I remember when we were doing one of the first AVN award shows," recalled Gary Miller, who was one of the show's producers, "and Christian was still with Catalina, and we were trying to think up a good opening of the show, and Christian had these girls that they were calling the 'Catalina twins,' that he and Paul Norman had shot for some special shows that they had for their line, and we thought up this idea along with Christian to have—Paul Fishbein decided to dress in a white tuxedo, and back in those days, he was actually hosting the award show, so we decided we wanted to do a big opening, so we had the Catalina twins, who were dressed exactly alike in these hot black dresses, flanking Paul on each side, grabbing his arms and walking him down the aisle down to the stage for this big introduction, and Paul hated it; he was uncomfortable because he's not an entertainer, but Christian and myself and my brother Mark Stone, we all got a kick out of it and it was a lot of fun."
Even Mann himself had fond Award Show memories, one of which he shared with AVN on its 30th anniversary.
"I have been to every single AVN Awards Show since they became an event that industry people attended in person," Mann said. "One of my favorite pictures from the AVN Awards is of me sitting at my Video Team table flanked by rapper Lil’ Jon and Lakers owner Jerry Buss. My favorite presentation moment occurred when one of the starlets [Micki Lynn] had to stumble through announcing a win for Risque Burlesque, pronounced by her as “Risk-Cue Burles-Cue.” I’m not being mean, but it was sweet and fucking funny at the same time."
Several people expressed their admiration for how Mann had continued working even after his cancer had become very painful.
"He was a great gentleman, and I can say he was a great asset to Evil Angel," assessed Jules Jordan. "He would work all the time; his main priority was coming into the office and just trying to work despite his medical condition, because that's what he loved to do: He loved to work. Everybody saw it coming, but it's always a shock when you finally hear that he's gone. He always felt a sense of responsibility to help people out. When David Aaron Clark passed, he took the responsibility to see that he was taken care of in death."
"Chris came for my birthday in March, and of course, he was in a lot of pain," Susan Colvin said. "We took some pictures in the warehouse with the original [CPLC] people, and we were just looking at those. Most of those people didn't know he was so sick and was in a lot of pain when he came for my birthday. I had the sad duty to go around to all the CalExotics employees who knew Chris, some from as long ago as the CPLC days, and tell them that he passed away last night, and oh my God, that just made it even worse."
"The two Melissas, his wife and his sister, have been at his side every single day for the last well over a month, 24 hours a day," Hirsch noted. "They are angels, those two women, and they took care of him and so the people who spent time there often became close with them."
Since, at press time, AVN has been unable to speak with the two Melissas in Mann's life, we'll give his last boss, John Stagliano, the last word here:
"The first thing I want to say is that normally, Christian Mann would handle all my interface with the press, but he's gone now," Stagliano half-joked. "He was really a good person for Evil Angel in terms of putting forth the image and taking care of business, and he allowed me to be creative in so many ways, and it was a great thing to have him for the time that I had him working for me. I had had one long conversation with him back in the early 2000s. We were stuck in an airport together. And I talked to him briefly a few other times, but as soon as Chris Norman left, I thought of him, because I knew I had heard his company had closed and he was just working for Metro. He's the only person I considered, and Christian was a very smart, well-educated man, and he was a pleasure to be around, because he knew so much stuff."
More memories of Mann's life can be found here, and as more of his friends and acquaintances respond to AVN's requests for comment, they will be added to this story, so keep checking back with AVN.com for more memories of one of the adult industry's best, Christian Mann.
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William Higgins, the pioneering gay porn director who founded Catalina Video in 1978, has sent in a few remembrances he would like to share publicly:
"Chris came to Catalina as Sales Manager from House One, his father's gay mail order business. He was the second General Manager of Catalina Video. Around our shop, there was some speculation that Chris was gay. We later found out, he was totally straight but felt very comfortable working with and being around gays; include in that drag queens and transsexuals. After I moved to Europe, Chris continued to manage Catalina until he left for Video Team and bigger and better. But Chris and I always stayed in touch. He delivered the eulogy at the funeral of my partner, David Weiss, in Holland. I was very grateful that Chris took the time to come all of the way to Europe to fulfill that sad task. Every time I'd visit the California, Chris was always the first person I'd look up.
"Chris once wondered aloud to me whether his father, Curt, was in fact Jewish. I answered, 'And he named you Christian?' But you never know, Curt was from Austria and spoke English with a strong German accent.
"Last fall, Christian and I got into a conversation, either by email or Skype. At the time, I think we both thought his cancer was totally in remission. Chris invited me to meet him at Venus in Berlin. I told him that Venus had deteriorated so much in the last few years, I didn't think it was worth making the trip to Berlin. He told me he'd have a booth there and would love to have dinner with me. He was so insistent I tentatively decided to attend. Later one of my colleagues talked me out of going. Boy, do I ever regret that decision as it would have been my last chance to visit with Christian. Chris could expound on any subject, at length. He didn't confine himself to our industry. He knew opera, politics, you name it. Chris was a renaissance man. I certainly will miss him, and I treasure all of the time I was able to spend with him."
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Evil Angel director and radio host Glenn King has contributed the following reminisence, which he also posted to his blog. We reprint it here in full.
"I can’t remember how it is that Christian Mann and I became golf buddies. I just remember that we played a round of 3-par golf together, had a great time, and then ended up playing 2-3 times a week for the next 6 months. We both loved playing golf, but neither of us had the attention span to do anything for more than 90 minutes. So, we played short 3-par courses. I would pick him up at his office on a weekday at noon, run over to Van Nuys Executive Course, and then be back by 1:30. On Fridays, we would meet late in the day and play the Weddington 3-par course from 6-7pm and then have dinner. And on weekend mornings, he and his girlfriend would meet me at various courses around Los Angeles County. Sometimes I would drive 60 minutes to play a 90 minute round of golf. He loved trying new course.
"We talked a little about music and current events, but that’s not where we found huge mutual interest. It was talking about the porn industry past, present, and future that really interested us both. We talked about the industry in the 80’s and 90’s as it evolved from peep show booths to VHS to DVD. We talked about how today’s industry has moved from DVD to web-based distribution through multiple channels. When I say we talked, I mean I asked questions, he talked and I learned. He understood the state of our industry like no other person I had ever met. He talked about the technology, the changes in the marketplace, and the changes in business economics. We talked about my productions and where I was in my evolution and what I could do to reach the next level. He became my mentor… He never told me 'This is what I think you should do.' He always would ask me questions or give me non-specific thoughts that helped me to reach my own conclusions. He helped me evolve from being a fetish-only producer to being a producer of more widely popular cuckold and femdom sex videos. He showed me how I could reach a much larger audience and achieve a much higher level of success. He was also the mastermind behind Evil Angel Radio, and helped me further my career as a radio host.
"We talked about his sobriety. He told me about how he had made a decision many years earlier to be clean and sober and would consciously make that choice again every day of his life. That wasn’t the part that moved me… it was when he told me that he spent hours each week helping others defeat their personal sobriety demons and improve their lives. Christian was never satisfied with being the best he could be. He wanted to help others improve their lives. He was always willing to take others’ burdens upon himself. That’s the kind of guy he was.
"We talked about his wife, Melissa, although that was before they were married, and about how much she had meant to him and his life. Usually when two guys bond at a sporting event they vent about all the little things they hate about their significant other, but not Christian. I can’t recall a single time where he said anything negative about his beloved Melissa. He knew he had found his soul mate.
"We also talked about the industry a lot. He wanted to help the industry solve some of its many problems. He helped come up with testing notification system that didn’t violate HIPAA laws, and better ways of preventing HIV from spreading in the case of detection. He always wanted to listen to performers, and I helped set up a number of meetings where performers told him about their experiences and hopes regarding the testing system. He was on the board of the Free Speech Coalition, and despite what you may have read was not paid for the hundreds of hours he put in. He was always amazed at the people who wanted to tear down the industry instead of working together to solve problems. When people wrote things about him that were untrue, he would tell me, 'It makes more sense for me to communicate with them and try to clear up misunderstandings than it does to fight silly name calling battles and thereby accomplish nothing.' That’s the kind of guy he was.
"He was the kind of guy who would gladly lend you the shirt off his back. A could of years ago, my alma mater, the University of Texas, started their own channel and decided they would broadcast some of their games exclusively on the channel. Unfortunately, Verizon was the only cable company who carried this channel. Even more unfortunately, Verizon Cable was only available in a few select areas. I had watched every Texas Longhorns football game for the last 20 years, but had accepted that I was going to have a miss a few. As it turned out, Christian Mann had an apartment in Santa Monica with Verizon Cable. He insisted I watch the game at his apartment. Even though he had no interest in the game, he and Melissa sat through the entire game with me, bringing course after course of delicious hors d’oeuvres that he made himself. He wanted to make sure that I enjoyed every minute of his hospitality. That’s the kind of guy he was. A few weeks later, there was another game on the Texas Longhorns Network. He said he wouldn’t be able to be there, but said 'please use my apartment as if it were yours.' His son let me in and I happily watched the game. Christian kept checking in with me via text to make sure I was happy and had access to all the food in his place. That’s the kind of guy he was. Each time I watched a game there, both he and his wife treated me as if I was a member of the family.
"On December 30, 2012, Christian Mann canceled our golf outing because of a stomach ache. I laughed at him and said, 'Seriously? A tummy ache? Be a man and play golf, ya pussy.' We agreed to play the next day instead. On December 31, he said his stomach ache had gotten worse and he was going to go to the emergency room. I told him he was being a baby. I said, 'You have heartburn because of all the terrible crap you eat. They are going to give you some Prilosec and send you home.' He said, 'My family has a history of cancer. That might be what it is.' I laughed and said, 'You are a hypochondriac. You don’t have cancer. You have an ulcer maybe, but most likely you ate something bad.' To my credit, the doctors gave him an antacid and sent him home. They referred him to a specialist. A few days later, he found out he had pancreatic cancer, one of the worst kinds. The doctors estimated he had 5 months to live.
"Over the next 18 months, Christian went from being my mentor to being my hero. He fought hard against the cancer and never gave up. Although he was in constant agonizing pain, he went to great lengths to make sure that everyone who visited him felt special. He was an inspiration for others with cancer, while continuing to help others with their sobriety. That’s the kind of guy he was. I visited numerous times, and each time was amazed at the large number of friend he had and the deep love they all had for him. He cared about everyone who touched his life and they cared about him.
"On June 15 , Father’s Day, I got a call from Christian. I was stunned to see his name come up on caller ID. His condition had deteriorated quite a bit. We chatted for a while and he invited me to come visit him at his condo the following Tuesday. On Tuesday, he ended up back in the hospital. So, I went to the hospital. Melissa had told me he was really out of it and not to expect him to be lucid, but he woke up and was really clear headed. I got to spend some time alone with him for the first time in a year or so. I told him I loved him and went through with him the huge impact he had made on my life. He talked to me about how much he appreciated all the love and support he had gotten from his friends and family. That’s what he cared about. That’s the kind of guy he was.
"On July 30, 2014, Christian Mann passed away. I miss him. His wife misses him. The industry misses him. Every one that knew him benefited in some way from his friendship. His desire to make the world a better place, his willingness to put the world on his shoulders, his quirky sense of humor, his brilliant mind, his wonderful ability to think of simple solutions to complex problems, and his great love for his family and friends will all be missed. He made everyone around him a better person. Rest in peace, Christian Mann."
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Director Roy Karch wrote:
"We didn't have the most 'traditional' family and therefore have a lot of interesting stories, and too countless to tell.
"Christian didn't speak until he was approximately 3 years old, and his first words were, 'Can I please have a peanut butter & jelly sandwich', so the story goes!
"Because of my mother's job, we moved a lot. We lived in Mexico City, Switzerland and Spain and various parts around the greater Los Angeles area.
"When we returned to the States from Europe, Christian attended military school and soon became the youngest staff sergeant—surprise!
"Christian started working at a very young age, We moved to Spain when he was 10 years old and he decided he wanted to work. He went to the local cleaners and made a deal with the owner. He would deliver the cleaning for tips only. When he was 16, he was managing a cleaners in Torrance, California, where he got me my first job and was my boss.
"I think he started working for my dad immediately out of high school.
"Even in his final days, he still had every bit of that brilliant Christian mind. One of the very last things he said to me, in his whisper of a voice was, 'What is 2.2 divisible by itself?'
"Up until the very end Christian did not miss a beat!"
Pictured: Christian Mann at Susan Colvin's birthday party in March, 2014.
Click here for more about Mann's passing.
Click here for a statement from Evil Angel.
Click here for information on a celebration of life for Mann.