David Hans Schmidt
Details, May 2007
The Dark Prince Of Celebrity Porn: For David Hans Schmidt, the philosopher-cum-smutbroker, business is booming.
Lying on his couch one afternoon in late February, David Hans Schmidt puts Oprah on mute, grabs his ringing phone, and raises an eyebrow. “Where’s 732?” He flips it to speaker. “Hans Schmidt.”
“Er, hi. I had a look at your website,” says a male voice. “I’ve got footage of Cassandra Peterson copulating in the seventies. She was Elvira, Mistress of the Dark? She’s in negotiation to do a reality show now . . .”
This is how it is for Schmidt these days. The filth finds him. Porn on a plate. Such are the rewards of being America’s premier peddler of celebrity smut. At 46, Schmidt has a rËsumË that includes the Gennifer Flowers Penthouse cover, Tonya Harding’s wedding-night video, Paris Hilton’s private diaries, nude shots of Private Jessica Lynch, Amber Frey, and Jamie Foxx, and sex tapes of Colin Farrell and Dustin Diamondóand, if the man on the phone is for real (Schmidt is still determining the tape’s authenticity), maybe Elvira, too.
“Tell me, is there full sex, fellatio, cunnilingus?” Schmidt asks, pacing the room in stonewashed jeans and cowboy boots. The man claims there’s 18 minutes of high-res action. In color. With a money shot.
“Excellent!” Schmidt exclaims. “Okay, first we enter into a broker’s-fee agreement, which stipulates a period of time in which I can effectuate a deal for you. Then you surrender to me a DVD copy, which I show prospective buyers on my laptop. And then, my friend, we’ll go for the high buck. Somewhere between Sunset Boulevard and Wilshire, we’ll come to a deal.”
They swap information, and Schmidt shuts his phone, grinning. “What you have just witnessed is a moment of history,” he says, stroking his mustache. “What might be the first deal for David Hans Schmidt since he almost got fucking killed!”
The attack allegedly happened after a Super Bowl party he hosted at his bungalow in Phoenix. According to Schmidt, a male guest assaulted him with a two-by-four, fracturing his skull (the police investigation is ongoing).
The moment Schmidt meets me at his door, he’s ranting about the incident and eager to show me his blood-stained sofa. “They’re going to fry to kingdom fuck!” he snarls. “But you know what? God let me live for a purpose! There’s a deal in the Middle East and one in Europe concerning ‘heads of state’óthat’s all I can say about that. I’ve also got a line on Michael Jackson’s financial history. There’s photos and video, too, but that’s separate.”
It’s unclear whether the financials shed light on Jackson’s settlements with his accusers and their parents, or whether the photos and videos are incriminatingóor even whether any of it is authentic. All Schmidt will reveal is that the seller is a team of overseas financial analysts, and that they called him.
“I can feel the old drive and ambition coming back,” he says through gritted teeth. “As Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‘That which does not kill you makes you stronger.’ And they didn’t fucking kill me!”
Celebrity porn has followed a priapic trajectory since Schmidt started peddling it. “The world has emphatically moved in my direction,” he says. “Andy Warhol said we’d all have 15 minutes of fame. I say we’ll have an eight-minute sex tape. We all want to see ourselves copulating like rodents!”
Not that Schmidt considers himself a mere porn broker. His milieu isn’t sex per se but news: “information, scandal, controversy.” In the early nineties, he had to chase this “news” down, even dream it up. Case in point: Gennifer Flowers, whose Penthouse cover effectively launched him in 1992. “I was in a supermarket checkout when I saw that a tabloid paid $125,000 for her story, so I thought, ‘I’ll bet will pay $1 million to see her naked!'”
He called Blake Hendrix, Flowers’ attorney, and within days Flowers had signed the contract. According to Schmidt, the reason Hendrix didn’t approach Penthouse, scruples aside, is that only Schmidt has the “secret formula” for pricing celebrity porn. “Scandals are like snowflakes,” he says. “No two are alike.”
Some are born of sheer opportunism. “I read that Dustin Diamond was losing his house,” Schmidt says. “So I called himówhy not star in a porn flick and make some money?” (Diamond claims the tape is years old, that he brought it to the distributor himself, and that he has no idea how Schmidt got hold of a copy. Click here for the Details exclusive on Diamond) Schmidt’s pitch to Tonya Harding’s ex, Jeff Gillooly, was similar:
“I said, ‘Jeff, if you want to make some money, get me some skin on the old lady.'” (When contacted, Harding said that “everything [Schmidt] says is a forged truth.”)
Increasingly, though, scandals arrive in his hands, like Colin Farrell’s shenanigans with Playmate Nicole Narain. Schmidt says he didn’t sell that tape because he didn’t have a model release. Instead, he negotiated the tape’s return to Farrell’s lawyer, Martin Singer. “The only copy was in my possessionówhy risk it getting out?” Never mind that it surfaced on the Internet anyway. The same logic prevailed with the nude Jamie Foxx photos. Schmidt says he not only lacked model releases but also discovered that his client had stolen the pictures. So again Schmidt settled, and again the attorney was Martin Singer. (Singer did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this article.)
“It was two weeks before Foxx won the Oscar,” Schmidt says. “You think he’d have won if those pictures came out? He won that Oscar because of me.” The implication is clear: Buy back the pictures or face the fallout. Before you can say blackmail, Schmidt counters: “Blackmail is when you make threatsóthis was all done in good faith.”
Strictly speaking, he’s right. He’s not breaking any laws. By insisting on model releases and avoiding the black market or anything that exploits children, Schmidt counts himself a principled man and has scorn for moralizing television pundits. “Those tapes hit my desk because someone involved wants to profit from it,” he says. “The only thing I exploit is opportunity.” When Schmidt sold the nude pictures of Jessica Lynch to Larry Flynt, the resulting shitstorm caused Flynt to demur. “She was a victim not just of the war but of the PR machine of the war. I couldn’t rationalize dragging her through the mud,” says Flynt, who calls Schmidt “overbearing, unsophisticated, but pretty successful.”
As Schmidt sees it, Flynt lost his nerve. “He did a 180!” he says. “There’s no difference between Jessica Lynch naked on a beach, Colin Farrell naked on a beach, or the Pope running naked on a beach.”
Schmidt dresses such crassness in the high cloth of philosophy, which was, he never fails to mention, his college major. He’s the porn-peddling philosopher, Hegel in one hand, hard-core in the other.
Schmidt is convinced that he’s a figure of national, even historic, importance, referring to himself often as “the celebrity David Hans Schmidt.” He grew up in a well-off Minnesota Lutheran farming family and would have been a grain farmer like his brother if he hadn’t felt compelled to “seize more from life.”
You’ll find evidence of Schmidt’s epic self-regard all over his home. The effect is claustrophobic. The place is filled with keepsakes: his Penthouse, Playboy, and Hustler covers; a BUSH/CHENEY ’04 sticker beside a picture of Ron Jeremy on the fridge; mementos from his years as an Army paratrooper (1978 to 1981); track medals; his college diploma. There’s even an exhibit, with handcuffs and barbed wire, devoted to his time in prison (a total of 30 months between 1999 and 2003). Schmidt claims he was a “political prisoner like Fyodor Dostoyevsky”; court records indicate aggravated harassment tied to custody violations. And indeed, Schmidt’s split with the mother of his two daughters was bitter. “I lost $4 million in net worth in the separation,” he says, “everything except my balls.”
Ah, yesóhis balls. Schmidt is obsessed with them, as he is with proving his manliness. He keeps swords and an ax on the wall and brags to strangers about biting a guy in a prison fight. A Hemingway fan, Schmidt displays The Old Man and the Sea beside the unpublished book he wrote in prison, Dead Dawgs Burning, and another jailhouse classic, Mein Kampf (Schmidt says he is writing a study of anti-Semitism in America). And everywhere he looks he spies potential conquestsówaitresses, pedestrians, shop girls.
Schmidt’s testicle fixation dates back to at least the 1992 ad he placed in the Arizona Republic. It read, “Meet the PR Practitioner Who Has a Pair,” and featured a shot of him shirtless and an invitation to “phone me in my Porsche.” At lunch, he produces a wallet-size copy of the 1986 photo (which he claims was a Calvin Klein jeans ad). Suddenly seeming vulnerable, he asks, “Pretty good-looking, not a guy that has trouble getting laid, right?”
Two weeks later, Schmidt still hasn’t made it to Europe or the Middle East, but he is in L.A. Some more filthóanother sex tapeóhas found him, this time courtesy of the ex-husband of a C-list actress (the sister of a more famous star).
“It’s fucking hot,” says Schmidt, introducing me to the ex at a Mexican restaurant in Marina Del Rey. The man agrees. The video is an hour’s worth of hard-core exploits.
Schmidt promises me a peek. So the next morning, I pick him up from his cheap motel and we drive to a breakfast spot by the beach and wait for the ex-husband to bring the tape. As we sit outside, Schmidt casts a hungry eye at the women who pass by. He seems particularly energized even before his quadruple espresso arrives.
“What I’m about to do in the Middle East will put me on every front page in the world,” he says. “David Hans Schmidt is moving from tabloidism to the utmost regions of human interaction so as to change the geopolitical structure of the entire fucking world!”
Dead serious, he fixes me in the eye. “I would be remiss not to tell you that this near-death experience has rekindled in me a motivation that was lying dormant,” he says. “I am willing to allow this injury to serve as a catalyst for the transcendence, if you will, of David Hans Schmidt to a life of greater things. For if a man cannot work to the betterment of others, then what is our purpose in this life?”
There’s no time to figure out what he’s driving at. Schmidt points to the actress’s ex, who’s pulled up with a camcorder and a leering grin. “Okay, which part do you want to see first?”