The Rise and Fall of Girls Gone Wild and Joe Francis
With spring break right around the corner, it seems apropos that the Girls Gone Wild franchise has just filed Chapter 11. There was a time in our history when Girls Gone Wild infomercials were a regular staple on late night cable. Their name was synonymous with dirty fun and freedom from bras. In the mid-2000s, the company was spending millions in advertising revenue and raking in even more. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
Girls Gone Wild was developed by mastermind Joe Francis who devised a premise so simple and so brilliant its success was inevitable: go to spring break locations where girls are wasted, give them free stuff like T-shirts and hats, and ask them to flash you their boobs. I can't imagine the pitch meeting for this idea but I hope everyone high-fived and snorted coke when they were done. Why didn't anyone else think of this ingenious concept before? It's basically cinéma vérité film-making depicting sorority-girl behavior when taken out of its natural habitat and placed in the wild jungle of Senor Frogs, Cancun.
Francis and GGW were king! By 2001 the company had sold more than four million videos and by the end of the next year had amassed more than 80 titles. Girls Gone Wild titled their films with remarkable creativity such as "Best of Horny School Girls," "Extreme Orgy," "Finally 18!", "Finger Me" and "Sex Starved Panty Raid." The company had gotten the attention of various celebrities, some of whom made appearances in the videos such as Snoop Dogg and Bubba Sparxxx. Francis had all this at the ripe old age of 25.
But it wasn't all dental floss bikinis and Kamikaze shots; Francis ran into some trouble along the way. Dating as far back as 2003, Francis has been in and out of legal battles. The most famous, perhaps, was when Francis was tried for a whole laundry list of things, felony child abuse, misdemeanor prostitution, racketeering, tax evasion and then he somehow got another charge for sneaking sleeping pills and cash into jail. That case alone wound up costing him more than a million dollars and 11 months in jail. This was just one case, by the way, which Francis claims was all due to a violation of his right to the First Amendment and a personal vendetta against him and his millions of dollars.
Francis has been charged by several girls who claim he took advantage of them (in one charge he was accused of rape) as well as using topless video without permission. Allegedly these girls (not the rape one) were made to sign waivers and promises that they were over age, but if they said they were underage then they couldn't keep drinking mudslides and be given the chance to be on TV without shirts on. In the light of a sober haze and your questioning parents, being in an infomercial is not all it's cracked up to be.
I'm not defending the guy. Given his demeanor and douche-frat boy look and the fact that he's made millions on exploiting wasted schoolgirls, I assume he sucks at life; however, I imagine that these girls wake up the next morning in a pool of regret and their own vomit, and that is the cause of many of these lawsuits. No one asked you to drink your own weight in body shots of Sex on the Beach. But that has nothing to do with the fact that I think Francis sucks at life.
Whether the girls are agreeable or just drunk aside, Francis has a history of being a dick. In an article by Claire Hoffman for the LA Times, she notes the many other lawsuits against Francis that have nothing to do with wet t-shirt contests and all to do with Francis' alleged anger management problems.
In 2000, the property manager of his Santa Monica apartment, Stephanie Van de Motter, obtained a restraining order requiring that he stay at least 100 yards away from her. According to court documents, she said that Francis, upset about the noise garbage collectors made in the mornings, had harassed and threatened her, twice climbing up to her bedroom window and pounding violently on the glass and screaming obscenities at her whenever he saw her. He appeared in her office several times, she said, asking for her by using the crude word for female genitalia, and left messages with a co-worker: "Tell the bitch this is war." Francis' lawyer says he can't comment on the case.
Yikes. There are several more people claiming that Francis went buckwild on them; this guy has seen more lawyers over the past decade than g-strings. Why all the legal trouble, bro-brah? The most recent case against Francis was a slander suit in which Francis wound up owing 19 million dollars. To an outsider it seems like the guy has everything, girls all over the land just want to show the dude their boobs; what does he have to be so angry about?
And now, in addition to all the legal hot water and the fact that Francis' hair has gotten long and stringy-looking, Girls Gone Wild is filing for bankruptcy. Some are saying that the bankruptcy is in part because of the slander case against Francis but that is not confirmed. What is confirmed is that drunk spring break co-eds will not have the opportunity to whip their sorority sisters out of their wet tank tops in front of cameras and have a public forum in which they showcase their "brains" because where in the heck does one find a portable camera and a place to post video these days?
Editor's note: Francis vehemently denies the accusation of rape mentioned in this article.