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Sex Tapes, Hush Money, and Hollywood’s Economy of Secrets – aaafaqedmen

Sex Tapes, Hush Money, and Hollywood’s Economy of Secrets

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When Georgia reported its first coronavirus case, Amber and Vinson had about three months of expenses saved. 

The couple met in high school in 2006, in a Yahoo chat room about hip hop. (Amber and Vinson have asked us to use their first names only.) She gave up a college scholarship and moved to Atlanta to be with him; he dropped out of college when she became pregnant. For more than a decade, he made sandwiches at Subway while she gave birth to two more kids and drifted through call center jobs. They were in love, but like most millennials they had little financial stability.

Then, in 2018, Amber landed a job at Public Storage. The gig involved overseeing auctions for the stuff left behind in unpaid storage units. Speculators could, if lucky, quadruple their money by flipping the contents. It got her thinking. As an employee, she wasn’t allowed to participate in the auctions, but since she and Vinson weren’t married, he was free to bid. 

The trick, the couple soon discovered, was to find the right buyer for each object you’d scored if you won an auction. Not everyone may see the value in film production lights or a particular brand of streetwear, but if you did some digging online, you might find someone who would pay a lot more than a pawn shop would. Amber and Vinson felt they’d found something they were good at. They talked about saving for a house—that is, until the pandemic hit, their car broke down, the auctions got canceled, and schools went virtual, meaning all three of their sons were home, 24/7. 

Two months into lockdown, Vinson was combing through stuff he’d bought in previous auctions and hadn’t sold yet. He found an old BlackBerry and fired it up. There, he saw photos of an engagement ring, then a funeral, and then, was that a naked woman? He looked closer. Yes, it was a naked woman; it was a famous naked woman, strutting around, and giving a blow job to a famous naked man, in a series of short video clips.

He showed the videos to Amber, and she wondered if they might be worth something. But where would they find the right buyer?

Amber thought for a moment. The biggest celebrity sex tape she could remember was Paris Hilton’s. Hadn’t that home video turbocharged the socialite’s career and made millions of dollars? Who was behind that, anyway? A few Googles later, she had her answer: a man named Kevin Blatt, who called himself a “celebrity sex tape broker.” She squinted at the avatar on his Instagram profile. He looked like a villain in an action flick, staring into the camera over the top of his black Ray-Bans.

At 2:31 am on May 14, 2020, she DM’d him. 

“Hey Kevin I have a sex tape involving some celebrities who are no longer together but want some advice on making the most money.”

As the couple went to sleep that night, Amber assumed they were wasting their time. A big shot like Kevin Blatt was never going to write back. Maybe that Instagram account wasn’t actually his. She noticed it didn’t even have a blue checkmark.

That same afternoon, a reply appeared: “Can u send me a number to call you?”

A movie star’s agent will never take a call from a stranger, but Kevin Blatt reads every message and follows up on every tip. You never know who might have the goods. Over the past two decades, Blatt has become a one-man clearinghouse for everything seedy in Hollywood—the fixer you call when you want to see whether the thing you have that could humiliate a famous person is worth anything. 

“If they have something really bad, enough to jeopardize a sponsorship or a new TV show, we try to turn it into money,” Blatt tells me. “Everybody gets paid if they come to me and we do it the right way.”

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