Saturday, March 20—It is 3 a.m., and I am with the Girls Gone Wild crew at a bar in Miami Beach called Señor Frog’s. We’re within walking distance of the Delano Hotel, but in here, watching the “Sexy Positions Contest,” minimalism and snobbery feel very far away. Two chunky women with the familiar spring break combination of hair that’s been bleached to a yellowy white and skin that’s been charred to a brownish coral are pretending to hump each other on a raised platform. A circle of maybe 90 men and 30 women has formed around them, and a rhythmic chant of “TAKE IT OFF! TAKE IT OFF!” rises from the crowd, followed by a hearty chorus of boos when the women decline to do so. As a consolation prize, the taller one pours beer over the shorter one’s head and breasts.
“Girls! This is not a wet T-shirt contest!” The MC bellows over the mike. “Pretend you’re fucking! Let me emphasize, pretend you are really fucking! I want you to pretend like you’re fucking the shit out of her doggy style.” But the women are too inebriated to achieve sufficient verisimilitude, and the crowd hollers them off the stage. Next up, a cheery, muscular African-American guy in extremely baggy jeans somehow manages to hoist his partner up so that her legs straddle his face while the rest of her body flies Superman-like into the air, supported by his hands under her breasts. The crowd is duly impressed by this unusual show of brute strength and lewd creativity. They may have found a winner.
This is all well and good, but Mia Leist, Girls Gone Wild’s tour manager, is more excited by what she’s just heard from the bartender: Later in the week, there will be a “girl on girl box-eating” contest in Fort Lauderdale. This will no doubt yield excellent footage for the tapes sold to GGW subscribers, the people who get three raunchy videos every month for $9.99 each, as opposed to the occasional buyers who pay $19.99 to order a single tape of milder content—girls flashing and making out—from a GGW infomercial. “We never shoot guys,” says Bill Horn, GGW’s vice president of communications and marketing, who today is dressed in jeans and a vintage T-shirt. “That’s not what Joe wants. And no pros. It has to be real.”
The Joe he is referring to is GGW founder Joe Francis, and reality has always been Francis’ beat—specifically, those realities that appeal to people’s darkest impulses: voyeurism, violence, and eroto-mania. On the GGW Web site, you can still purchase Francis’ debut effort, Banned From Television: A hideous compilation featuring “a public execution, a great white shark attack, a horrifying train accident and an explicit under-cover video from a sex club bust!” as the video is described on the site. “That’s how Joe made his first million,” says Horn. Horn recently pitched Francis for an MTV Cribs episode, and last week ABC shot a segment on him for a show called Life of Luxury. (Based on what little Francis has said about his finances, it’s safe to assume he makes in the neighborhood of $5 million a year off GGW.)
But GGW hasn’t exactly bought respectability for Francis, the former reality snuff filmmaker; he still has charges pending against him for racketeering, although he was recently acquitted by a judge of charges that he offered a girl $50 to touch his penis. (“As if!” Horn shrieks. “As my boyfriend said, when has Joe ever had to pay for a hand job?”) But GGW has made Francis rich and fairly famous and certainly a particular kind of L.A. celebrity: His ex-girlfriends include such prize girls gone wild as Paris Hilton and Tara Reid.
Francis is not here right now, but his presence is felt. The cameramen receive bonuses if they can capture a hot girl—instead of just a regular girl—flashing on camera. “Joe’s looking for 10s,” says Leist. “You know, 100 to 110 pounds, big boobs, blond, blue eyes, ideally no piercing or tattoos.” Leist herself is short and has brown hair and recently graduated from Emerson in Boston. One of her professors (who knew the last GGW tour manager) got her this job. “I’ve had discussions with friends who were like, ‘This is so degrading to females,’ ” she says. “I feel that if you walk up to someone all sly and say, ‘Come on, get naked, show me your box,’ that’s one thing. But if you have women coming up to you, begging to get on camera, and they’re having fun and being sexy, then that’s another story.” I ask Leist if she would ever appear in a GGW video. She says, “Definitely not.”
She’s right that the crew doesn’t need to do any sly entreating. Girl after girl approaches Puck, the cute cameraman. He is dressed in a GGW hat and T-shirt and carrying a camera, and that seems to be enough to draw women to him as if by ensorcellment while he makes his way around Señor Frog’s. Usually the girls start out joking—they plead with him to give them a GGW hat, and then they pretend to peel up their shirts or lift their skirts—but little by little the tease becomes the truth, and they are taking off their clothes as he records them for later viewing by God knows who.
Out on the balcony, a group of 10 men gather to watch a very pretty 19-year-old girl named Jennifer Cafferty from Jupiter, Fla., lift up her pink tube top for the camera. “OK now show me your thong,” says Puck. She giggles and twirls her honey-colored hair around her forefinger. “Just show me your thong,” he says again. “Just really quick. Show me your thong. Show me your thong now.” She whips around and lifts her skirt.
“Yeah!” One of the guys in the crowd hollers, elated. “Yeah! Yeah!”
Jennifer Cafferty turns to Puck with her hands on her hips. “Now where’s my hat?”