John Stagliano

The mind behind "Buttman" and the godfather of gonzo, Stagliano is also an artist who turned one of his hugely successful movie series into a show in Vegas.

"Evil empire." Reagan coined the phrase when describing a huge, daunting swath of frosty terra firma known then as the Soviet Union. The term pointed to one of the Gipper's biggest fears: a Russian beast, fanged with nuclear warheads, hell-bent on a global takeover.

John Stagliano's passions are far less sinister than that Cold War nightmare. But if the Russians had managed in world domination anything like what Stagliano's Evil Empire has pulled off in adult entertainment, we all might still be smarting (and glowing) post-WW III. 

Evil Empire and Evil Angel Video are among the half-dozen top producers and distributors of adult DVD and feature film content. Stagliano -- an MBA-toting model and dancer  -- turned Evil Empire into a powerhouse brand by indulging his sensual and creative visions, while sealing shrewd distribution deals with top shelf producer-director talent. The mind behind "Buttman" and the godfather of gonzo, Stagliano is also an artist who turned one of his hugely successful movie series into a show in Vegas.

Since last spring, Stagliano has also been waist-deep in a federal obscenity case. This staunch libertarian is mostly unflappable on the legal front.  Stagliano's nail biting is mainly over his failure to translate Evil Angel's imperial video store stature into a strong online presence.  Now he's scrambling to catch up with the manic web race.

How did you get started in adult entertainment?

I did my first adult modeling job in 1973. Then I got into dancing, and eventually joined Chippendales. 

I also started doing adult still picture layouts. I wasn't a great action performer, but I could do well in magazines. 

In 1983, I teamed up with legendary adult filmmaker Bruce Seven to make a movie I funded totally solo.

But I wanted to become a manufacturer. So I maxed out a dozen credit cards to start my company. Our first release was in January of 1989. 

It was stressful, but I did it so I could have complete creative control over my movies.

Evil Angel has some of the best director-producers in the business - including John Leslie, Rocco Siffredi, and Joey Silvera. How does that work as a business model - having so much talent (and so many egos, I'm sure) under one roof?

I've been successful because I offer producer-directors deals where they own their movies, and I sell the movies and keep a percentage of the sales.

We've created the brand "Evil Angel" - a company that has never sold a bad film. My directors have an imperative to put a lot of effort into their movies and maintain the reputation.

Also, the fact that I've been into porn helps me pick directors that are better at it!

Let's talk about the Web side of your business. What are Evil Empire - and Evil Angel in particular  -  doing to survive and thrive with Porn 2.0?

We're redesigning to have a paysite section and a tour to show people the incredible things they get when they join our group of sites.

I've re-launched the Buttman site, and now members can see the trailers for the next four or five scenes, a week before they post. Starting in April, I'll do a monthly live scene stream, and you'll be able to ask questions before and after.

I admit we got into the Internet late. My standard has always been to let my directors be creative. But that doesn't generate enough scenes to update every week the way niche sites do. So, we've been trying to adjust. 

It is still a work in progress.

Something else that's still ongoing is United States v. John Stagliano. The case is pretty well known by now. Last spring, in a federal court, you plead "not guilty" to obscenity charges. Where do things stand now?

It's in the hands of the judge to rule on motions. The judge gets to decide whether or not to throw the case out. We are all just waiting. It could be a long time. Or, it could be today that the judge says we all have to come to Washington for a trial date. 

If you weren't doing pornography, what would you be doing? Do you think you would be something else artistic?

I don't know that I would have been a successful artist, because pornography has let me develop as an artist.

If I were starting over again, maybe I would have been an economist or a statistics guy. But I certainly like looking at naked bodies and creating art a whole lot better.


This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of AVN Online. To subscribe, visit

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