The media seem endlessly fascinated by the workings of the porn business out in the San Fernando Valley, much more than the public appear to be. In the latest example, Dave Gardetta of Los Angeles magazine explores the company behind the somewhat legendary, or at least time-tested, sex toy company that markets as Doc Johnson products. The real Doc Johnsons are Ron Braverman and his 30-year-old son, Chad. Their company, Gardetta writes in the July issue, is "the Procter & Gamble of sex toys. Each month the company pours 125 tons of rubber, manufacturing 330,000 dildos, vibrators, and synthetic buttocks."
Chad’s office, not large, has a view of a cinder block wall and is decorated with posters of basketball players and faraway islands. Ron’s office—huge, with a wet bar, private bathroom, rich oak paneling, and photographs of Ron posed beside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nancy Reagan—resembles the domain of a wealthy barrister or someone who collects tropical islands. Together the Bravermans run Doc Johnson, the country’s biggest sex toy manufacturer, a six-acre industrial park in North Hollywood that employs 500 people and fabricates about 2,500 items—including the Pocket Rocket vibrator, the John Holmes penis pump, the Cuddles clitoral bumper, Li’L Gum Drops butt plugs (sold in pink or blue), Dr. Honn’s Erection Ring (“Feel the Power”), and Kimmi, an anime love doll that arrives with her own “removable vagina.”
Ron Braverman arrived in Los Angeles in 1976 with the idea of opening an adult novelty company in a town where the competition was basically nil. He looked then pretty much as he does at 65: bearded, balding, stout—made in the crucible that formed Tony Soprano at his most corpulent and commanding. He says he purchased a rubber molding business on Lankershim Boulevard called Marche Manufacturing and renamed it Doc Johnson. “They had been pouring rubber fishing lures, Halloween masks, and maybe ten different dongs that came in several sizes,” says Ron. “Those were the only part of the business I wanted.”
The home office that Ron created is a dizzying place for any novice—there are penises everywhere. The phallus is one grand slam of a cultural symbol, and the North Hollywood factory, with its Latino workforce pouring, cooking, primping, and painting rubbery phalluses around the clock, is as symbolically rich as Utah’s Monument Valley. “When I applied for a job 31 years ago,” says the company’s CFO, Mary, “all I knew was, they were a mail order business. The office manager had me wait in the display room, and the next thing I knew, I fainted and came around on the floor.” Nevertheless it is mostly women who work at Doc Johnson—on the sales staff, on the manufacturing staff, on the production staff. Men, it turns out, get flustered handling bodiless penises in the presence of women. “You have to be open-minded to work here,” says a sales rep, “but not too weird and into things. That ends in trouble.”
Also in the July issue, among other things: the best new bars, Steve Erickson on "Breaking Bad," portraits of LA Olympians, a new format to the letters page and more.
Photo of the Bravermans: Jeff Minton