Woman on Top : Can Kelly Holland Revive Fallen Porn Empire Penthouse?

I met Larry Flint recently. “Met” is a bit of an extension, since the pornography mogul living in Beverly Hills was not really capable of talking that night. On his golden wheelchair, at a Hustler’s party on Sunset Boulevard, the 74 year-old publisher seemed tired. What a life, indeed. But that’s not the case of his female version and main rival (even though she’s not quite as famous yet), Kelly Holland, whom I met at another party, at her ranch, playfully themed “Vice is Nice”.

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Two performers posing

Kelly Holland, who made mainstream documentaries before becoming a director of “adult” films (you have to be legally adult, at least 18 years-old, to work in this industry), wants to build a new empire. Or rather, she hopes to resuscitate the one Bob Guccione – the son of Sicilian immigrants – created in the 1960s, when sex freedom became a global phenomenon.

Getting into the mess he eventually left, Holland has a lot of challenges in front of her. Solving financial and legal trouble are one, as well as shaping a better digital strategy in order to face the competition of free online content, especially since she intends to reach millennials.

But to jugde from her charisma while she’s saying goodbye to her guests at the entrance of the ranch located in Chatsworth, a rural area 40 minutes away from Hollywood, she seems pretty confident that she’s going somewhere.

“You should read Sherry Lansing’s biography, it’s called Leading Lady“, she preaches to a young woman who works at Warners Bros, in a mentor-kind of goodbye. Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, was the first woman to head a Hollywood movie studio.

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Penthouse owner Kelly Holland

Kelly Holland believes in women building things. In the adult industry, she’s known as a director, making movies under the pseudonym Toni English. She also built the property where she was having her annual party ten days ago (a fundraising event for the animal cause).

It was just a junkyard, it was awful”, she remembers of the place when she bought it, about 12 years ago. Now it’s a beautiful spanish-style ranch surrounded by horses, dogs, goats, etc.

Holland grew up in Texas, but that’s not why she chose that kind of surroundings, she affirms. “I hated Texas, actually”, she says.

“At the beginning, the only place I didn’t want to go was Chatsworth. So cliché to live here (in the heart of the porn industry), not to mention I might go to the grocery store and encounter porn stars, producers… I didn’t want to deal with it”.

But she loved the rocks around. Rocks are powerful, they’re here to stay. Unlike humans.

“The real motivator, honestly, is that I can’t stand people”, she adds. Having hundreds of guests on one night is not a problem since “it’s only temporary”.  She’s even enjoying their company. “But having to hear the neighbors, it drives me crazy”.

“I was an only child, and my mom was never there, so I was essentially raised by my own rules”, she explains. Her dad died when she was young, and she was raised at a catholic convent school (of all places, yes, that’s where a feminist porn director/CEO was raised). “I didn’t understand why Mary had to be a virgin”, she recalls, quoted in the Los Angeles Times. On the contrary, she must have believed in resurrections…

A few decades later, in 2016, she took her own rules to Penthouse as the new boss, after finding some people to invest in the bankrupt controversial brand. Whether or not she’ll bring it back to life, whether or not it will turn out to be a feminist empire (no one will ever agree on this), she’s already called the “badass boss” by her employees on Twitter. Well, but of course, she’s watching, from her overlooking ranch and the nearby “garden of the Gods”.

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Kelly Holland’s ranch is overlooked by the Garden of the Gods, a rocky area used in many old western movies and TV shows, such as Zorro. It’s also next to the Spahn Ranch, where murderer Charles Manson and his “family” once lived.

 

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