In Memoriam — Michelle Parma
NOTE: To be brought up to full speed, please read the tribute to Robert Wise first at this link.
Ken Tipton's mentor, Academy Award-winning Director Robert Wise, advised Ken to come up with a publicity stunt that would pay homage to the Orson Welles 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds radio hoax and hopefully open doors to getting Ken's movie HEART of the BEHOLDER made.
Ken first decided to use the Internet to showcase whatever production he could come up with because it was the newest form of mass communication and it reached the entire world. The hardest part was coming up with an idea that would be instantly popular and controversial so the content would spread quickly because of reactions to it. Invaders from space had already been done and there isn't much else that can get millions of people talking - except sex.
Yes sex, the bane of conservatives and the delight of liberals. After all, this was 1998 and the Monica Lewinsky / President Clinton sex scandal was going absolutely bananas. Every possible sexual allegation and innuendo was being dissected daily in every form of media. Ken knew if he could come up with some original sexual Internet soap opera then the conservatives would fire up their email lists and the liberals would rise to defend it which would create it's own publicity. Try as he could, no plausible story idea would come to him. But that was about to change.
The answer came when Ken watched a CNN broadcast where a woman was giving birth to a baby LIVE on the Internet. There was lots of media coverage and Ken just shook his head, “ The next thing you know they'll be sacrificing virgins on the Internet”. That's when the idea hit and he started writing a script about two eighteen year old virgins who thought that if the LIVE birth of a baby can be shown on the Internet, then why can't the conception? OurFirstTime.com was about to become the world's largest publicity stunt. NOTE: OurFirstTime.com was sold to a URL broker who sold it to a porn company. Ken has had no ties to OurFirstTime.com since October of 1998.
Our First Time (OFT) was the 1998 summer Internet website that titillated the entire world with the story of Mike and Diane, two 18 year old virgins who had just graduated with honors from High School. They were upstanding community and church members who wanted to challenge the hypocrisy over sex that our society is steeped in. In homage to the 60th anniversary of the Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio stunt, Ken rolled the controversial website into a sexually tantalizing media-ball on a budget of $700. While the perceived topic was about two virgins taking that next step into adult sexuality, in fact, the website was an engineered educational event promoting safe sex practices, parental communication about sex, AIDS awareness, and sexual abstinence.
To find the two actors needed to play Mike and Diane, Ken auditioned many in Hollywood until he found who he was looking for. These actors would also play Mike and Diane in the HEART of the BEHOLDER movie that he hoped to make from the publicity generated by OurFirstTime.com. The two actors were Ty Taylor, a new fresh face in Hollywood, and Michelle Parma, a former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader and also a former participant on one of the first reality TV shows, MTV's "Real World".
Ken hoped that Hollywood doors might be opened in response to his creative endeavor and allow him to make his passion project, "HEART of the BEHOLDER" . From July 12 to July 17, 1998, the only thing posted on the OFT website was a one page teaser. Then on July 18 the website would be opened and for eighteen days, one day at a time, the world could follow the adventures of Mike and Diane as they tell their parents about what they were going to do, get AIDS tests, react to the daily media hype, pick out condoms, and other various reality scenes based on the script as well as what was happening in the world. On the eighteenth day, the final scene would be shown LIVE on the Internet where Mike and Diane would follow a script that would have them in bed fumbling innocently over their first sexual relation in bra and underwear, but no nudity. Eventually the scene would lead to realizations of what they were doing and that they would decide to practice sexual abstinence. They would also pledge to finish college and remain abstinent until after they married. This scene would be followed by a wrap up by the supposed webmaster played by Ken. Using the name Oscar Wells, Ken would talk about how our lives are made up of choices and consequences and how it is never too late to change your mind about anything.
There were plenty of clues for reporters to figure out that this was a hoax located on the one page teaser. Every journalist knows that to enclose words in quote marks means that the information is not to be taken literally. The OFT Producers posted such phrases as "church going honor students" and "losing their Internet virginity". But the media being the media jumped all over the sex angle and quickly turned the website into the most popular website on the planet, just as Ken hoped they would.
Then matters changed drastically. On day three of the five day preview, the computers crashed from the over 10 million visitors per day which still stands as a world record. The website became super popular after Rush Limbaugh and other conservative elements started to complain about the OFT website, which lead to Senator John McClain asking Congress to shut the website down. Countries such as Peru said that they would air the entire production to their schools as part of sexual education while Thailand said it would block the website from its country. Conservatives around the world were appalled and liberals were thrilled.
With the crashing of the computers, the main web pages were in jeopardy of never being seen by the public, which would show that the entire production was a respectful publicity stunt about safe sex practices, parental communication about sex, AIDS awareness, and sexual abstinence. Once the main pages were open to the public, anyone could click on the disclaimer at the bottom of each page saying that this was an engineered education event and also that it was a fictitious story.
With over 10 million people worldwide trying to login and news media from around the world covering this event, the OFT attorney held a news conference to find someone or some company with enough computer power and bandwidth to put the show on. Few mainstream Internet service providers came forward due to the controversial topic of the show. Those that did had to sign confidentiality nondisclosure agreements just like everyone else who had been a part of this production. Although many Internet Service Providers were happy to see that the show was actually a positive message, the bottom line was that they just didn't have the computer power and bandwidth to handle the worlds largest Internet audience ever.
Enter the World Wide Web's Prince of Porn, Seth Warshavsky and his company IEG - Internet Entertainment Group. IEG had become famous for promoting the Pamela Anderson Lee sex tapes and the Dr. Laura Schlessinger nude photos. Seth had been interviewed on 48 Hours, Dateline, as well as Time, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal. He had even testified in front of Congress. When Ken could not find another Internet Service Provider to host his show and the deadline to air the show on July 18th only two days away, he took IEG's call.
Seth offered to host the OFT website for free because of his support for the First Amendment and passion for freedom of expression, according to the IEG press release. Since IEG handled the Internet's top porn sites which offered LIVE streaming video of nude women, they not only had the computer power and bandwidth that would rival NASA or the Pentagon, but they were used to hosting sites that routinely had hundreds of thousands of visitors each day.
After confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements were signed, lawyers for both sides worked out a hosting contract. IEG technicians went through the OFT website for six hours before a hosting contract was signed checking every page for illegal obscene content and hacker vulnerability, which included the entire script with its surprise ending of abstinence. Warshavsky was surprised by the fact that the whole production was one big safe sex public service announcement but he was thrilled by the positive publicity that would generated.
The Internet hosting contract that was written by IEG and approved by Ken's attorney called for IEG to host the entire production for free. IEG would pay for all computer usage and bandwidth. IEG also agreed not to put any references to their porn sites or to reroute Internet visitors. After the entire production had been up for six months, the URL of OurFirstTime.com would be given to IEG to use as they wished.
Once the contract was signed, Ken redirected the Internet traffic from OurFirstTime.com to a special address that had been setup on the IEG servers. As soon as the traffic started to redirect to IEG, the tech center at IEG went crazy. IEG had many ultra-super computer servers to handle all of their traffic. As one server filled with data requests, the extra traffic would spill over to the next server. Even at their peak traffic during the publicity surrounding the release of the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tapes, IEG never spilled over to a third server. But as the world-wide traffic came in from OurFirstTime.com, server after server would fill and spill over to the next until all servers were working at maximum capacity which was calculated by the IEG techs to be between 10 to 15 million visitors per day and growing.
Once Warshavsky saw the massive Internet traffic he pushed Ken to implement a $5 Adult Verification fee. This kind of fee was used on all of IEG's websites to make sure only adults were accessing the website. The Adult Verification fee would be charged to a major credit card. Warshavsky saw that IEG and Ken could quickly generate $25 to $50 fifty million or more. Warshavsky begged Ken to allow him to institute the Adult Verification fee since IEG already had the credit card processing software and merchant accounts available. Ken turned Warshavsky down saying that he wanted kids, especially teens, to watch their safe sex public service production. This was a Hollywood publicity stunt that could get Ken the kind of attention he needed to make his own projects. Charging a fee of any kind was totally out of the question and would hurt the production.
This isn't to say that Ken didn't have a plan to make money from the website -- he did. During the development of the OFT website, Ken approached organizations and companies to partner with and hopefully raise some production money. The $700 he started with was not enough for even down payments on goods and services he needed to put on a great show. Confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements were signed with groups and companies such as Planned Parenthood, AIDS Project L.A., Trojan Condoms, Project Angel Food, and several others. To get a decision from these entities would take months of meetings and time was running out.
There was one company that was very interested in the production, Condomania.com, which was the largest Internet supplier of safe sex goods and it also had a retail store in Los Angeles on Melrose Avenue. Ken and his attorney soon met with Adam Glickman, the founder of Condomania.
More information about Condomania go to http://secure.condomania.com/AboutUs/AdamGlickman/.
Adam Glickman had built Condomania from a small store in 1991 into the largest single safe sex product retail and online company. Glickman was recognized as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the nation under 30 by the National Collegiate Entrepreneurial Association, and as one of the country's 100 most active and influential young leaders by the Youth Leadership Summit in Washington. Ken and Adam had much in common when it came to being creative entrepreneurs and OurFirstTime.com was just what Adam was looking for to gain publicity for Condomania.
As usual, confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements had been signed before the parties met. Ken laid out the entire production to Adam and he had many ideas on how to exploit other aspects of the website that Ken had never thought of. For instance, by trademarking and branding the "Our First" name, Ken could expand into Our First - Camping Trip, or Date, or Baby, or Cruise, or Haircut, or Boyfriend, or whatever. The uses could be unlimited and visitors could host personal pages and web logs (which later became blogs). Internet advertisers would purchase advertising space to reach the large audience these websites would generate.
NOTE: In a court deposition, an Internet marketing expert testified that the "Our First" branding had the ability to generate Internet advertising traffic valued at over $1 billion. As we have seen in past years with websites like Yahoo, Google, My Space, You Tube, the value of websites is in how many eyeballs look at the pages and what advertisers are willing to pay to reach those eyeballs.
Adam agreed with Ken that if this production was done right that it could generate more web traffic than any other website in the history of the Internet. Ken then asked Adam to put up $5,000 to partner with OFT and to have inclusive marketing rights for his products on the OFT web pages once the production was brought LIVE on July 18th. Adam was all for partnering in some way but at that time he didn't have the cash flow to put in any money. His counter proposal was to have exclusive advertising rights for safe sex products and Ken would be free to attract other noncompetitive advertisers. Special marketing links would be put on the OFT website for Condomania that would track all online sales generated by visitors to the OFT website and Ken would be paid an affiliate commission of 25% for successful sales leads. Adam would also allow his Condomania store to be used as a location when the two "virgins" went to pick out his and hers condoms.
Adam had more advice on how to market the website that Ken was not aware of. Adam told him that information in the form of personal demographic data was worth plenty. Marketing companies would pay to rent marketing lists with email addresses and they currently rented for 20 cents a piece. If more demographic information was collected such as name, address, age, income, likes and dislikes, etc., marketing companies would pay between 50 and 75 cents per marketing lead to rent a list.
With this information, Ken reworked the website script to make the 6th day end with a cliffhanger. On the 7th day Mike would tell his parents about him and Diane losing their virginity LIVE on the Internet. Since Mike's father was a Baptist Minister there was sure to be a dramatic confrontation that would have people coming back to see what happens. But also on the 7th day, a registration screen would popup asking for demographic information in order for the viewer to be allowed to continue following the daily adventures of Mike and Diane for FREE.
The only demographic information required was the visitor's name and email address. Everything else would be voluntary. If Ken was right and millions of people would log on to see the world's biggest safe sex Internet soap opera, then he could probably fund his HEART of the BEHOLDER movie just by building a marketing list. If 1 million people registered, that would generate $200,000 by just renting the list one time. The marketing list would be Ken's property and it could be rented over and over to hundreds of companies. The possibilities were endless. But that was then, his problem at this time was that his computers have crashed and the only company willing and able to put on the show was Seth Warshavsky and his porn company, the Internet Entertainment Group.
Ken didn't have any time to do any research on Seth and IEG. What little he could showed clearly that he was the biggest pornographer on the Internet and had been written about in many prestigious newspapers and magazines. While his product was nothing Ken wanted to be associated with, it did look like Seth was a true business man exploiting a niche market on the Internet. With a joint press release announcing that IEG would host the OFT website free of charge because of their support for the First Amendment and passion for freedom of expression. IEG also announced that no pornographic links or material would be available on the OFT website. That statement alone should have told the media that there would be no nudity but no one picked that up. With the success of the show in jeopardy Ken had no choice but to sign a deal with Seth and IEG.
Ken leaned later that Warshavsky had led a checkered past. He spent time in mental institutions after being arrested for hacking into computer phone systems. His past also included many convictions for selling stolen property, unlawful issuance of bank checks, felony theft in the first degree, and charges of assault when his girlfriend, Sunawin Andrews, filed a restraining order Warshavsky for physically attacked her in front of her 6-year-old child and throwing her out of a moving limousine. In a later investigation, former employees filed sworn statements with federal and state investigators exposing Warshavsky's practice of over billing customers' credit cards, some up to 10 times a month, which generated millions in illegal income. The employees also had evidence of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, and many websites where customers were scammed when they paid fees to get guaranteed home loans that never materialized as well as fees to get financing for cosmetic surgery, which also didn't happen. If Ken had had any inkling of what a dirt bag Seth was, he would have not done the deal. But everything was moving very fast and all Ken could think about was getting the OFT website back up in time to put on the show.
Once Warshavsky realized that Ken would not allow him to charge Adult Verification fees and IEG would not participate in any other money generated through the OFT website by marketing consumer demographic data lists, Seth decided to change the deal.
Seth instructed his IEG techs to again reroute the OFT traffic into his number #1 sex website - ClubLove.com. Then Seth deleted the password that had been issued to Ken that controlled the OFT website. Ken had now lost complete control of the OFT website. The highest volume traffic in the history of the Internet was now going directly to a website with thousands of raunchy sex movies and pictures along with the Pamela Anderson Lee sex videos and the nude Dr. Laura pictures. Popup banners advertised "More Fuck for Your Buck" and other extremely lewd come-ons to entice the visitor to sign up and pay the monthly fee of $29.95.
Warshavsky then blitzed the media, exposing the OFT production as a scam where Ken was going to charge people to see two 18 year old adults not have sex. What Warshavsky failed to tell the press was that it was his idea to charge visitors and that IEG had total control of the OFT website and its millions of visitors. Ken had no business merchant accounts or any method to charge credit cards, but Warshavsky did. The media was pissed off that Ken had fooled them and they ate up everything Seth spewed out in retaliation. Ken and his actors had to go into hiding because of the hostility over a safe sex hoax.
Warshavsky and IEG had now breached the hosting and confidentiality contracts that they themselves had written, changed the OFT's website content, then funneled the millions of OFT visitors into their flagship porn site ClubLove.com. In deposition, Warshavsky refused to answer how many of OFT's visitors paid fees at ClubLove.com, but former employees showed records that 3% to 4% of the OFT traffic stayed and paid over $9 million dollars in fees the first month alone and over $35 million was collected by overcharging customer credit cards in the months that followed.
Ken was then referred to a lawyer named Stan Lieber who had experience in lawsuits pertaining to the Internet. Stan had followed the story in the news and wasn't surprised to find out that Ken and his OFT production had been hijacked. A news conference was setup at the Condomania store in L.A. and Ken with his two actors were there to tell their side of the story to a throng of very angry reporters.
The scene inside the Los Angeles Condomania store was a circus with Ken and his two actors behind a small table in the back of the store and over 50 print, radio, and TV reporters angrily shouting, "YOU SCAMMED US!", "YOU LIED TO US!". Things settled and Ken spoke laying out what was supposed to have been a world wide safe sex public service hoax. He was constantly interrupted with questions about running a scam. Ken answered back, "This production was a hoax, a practical joke, not a scam. The fact is that this should have never even been a news story. But you guys always go for the tawdry sex news byte over real news everyday." This just fueled the fire until Michelle Parma spoke up. "I'm an actress trying to break out and this script was never anything more than a well written script about safe sex, parental communication about sex, AIDS awareness, and most important, sexual abstinence. That's a very powerful and positive message. But the message will never be seen now because you are taking the word of a greedy pornographer." The media listened by didn't care. Ken had made them look like fools and the media was going to get its revenge.
For the record, Ken admits that if he should not have given interviews as the character of Oscar Wells which had to follow the scripted production. The production was much like a Candid Camera event where the actors improv the situation and then the reveal comes out at the end. Where Ken went wrong was by talking to real reporters who thought they were reporting on a real news story and not a publicity stunt. That was a mistake that Ken is truly sorry for.
After several weeks, Ken was able to regain control of OurFirstTime.com with help from Network Solutions which was the company that had issued the URL to Ken. Since Condomania knew what the intent of the website was from the very start, they agreed to host the website on their server and they put up the entire website, all 18 days including the disclaimer. Instead of showing the 18th day LIVE, they just posted the shooting script. But the damage had been done. Ken and his actors had been disgraced and blacklisted in Hollywood. They all lost their agents and managers immediately. Many of their friends and relatives distanced themselves from the three entrepreneurs and times turned extremely sour.
Ken was instructed by his attorney to not talk to the media because of a pending lawsuit against Seth and IEG for breach of contract and defamation. The lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles Federal Court and took years to finally get a court date.
During the time waiting for a court date Ken continued working on HEART of the BEHOLDER and Ken's female virgin actress, Michelle Parma, struggled to get work in Hollywood. After the publicity stunt was exposed both Ken and Michelle experienced harassment from those who really wanted to see two virgins lose it as well as others who believed the information that Seth had put out. Ken had experienced this kind of pressure before in St. Louis but it was terrible for Michelle. She found work as an waitress at a 50's theme restaurant where she played the Prom Queen. But night after night she would be harassed. After others posted her personal phone and address on the Internet, the harassment followed her home. Blacklisted as an actress and constantly antagonized, she did all she could to hang in there while waiting for the chance to clear her name in court along with Ken.
Finally after two years of legal wrangling where Seth tried to derail the lawsuit anyway he could, Federal Judge John Kelleher ordered a trial where Seth was to be held personally responsible as well as corporately responsible for the breach of contract and defamation. But something weird was happening on the day of the trial. Ken and his attorney showed up with all of their files and trial material and the defendant's attorney had nothing, no briefcase or even a defendant. They soon found out what was wrong.
The Chief Federal Judge in Los Angeles, Judge Manuel Real, took over the case with no explanation and then dismissed the case with no explanation. Ken and his attorney were absolutely shocked but more than determined to get to trial. They filed their appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals court which took another two years while Ken and Michelle tried to hang on in Hollywood and get work.
While Ken waited for the ruling from the Appeals Court, state and federal charges were ounting against Seth Warshavsky and he fled the country to Thailand with an estimated $50 million dollars.
This link confirms that Seth Warshavsky did flee to Thailand with lots of money. He also admits to re-directing the Our First Time traffic to his number one sex website.
The Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in Ken's favor that there is more than sufficient evidence for a breach of contract and defamation trial against Seth Warshavsky and IEG and the case was sent back to Judge Real. But again Judge Real dismissed the case with no explanation even though he knew that Seth had fled the country.
Michelle took this last setback so hard that she gave up on Hollywood and moved back to Texas. Tragically, she was killed in an auto accident. Her online memorial can be found at - http://www.michelleparma.com/
For over four years an investigation into Judge Real's actions has been pursued with the help of a Private Investigator. There is so much more to this story and Judge Real but it can't be made public yet. It will be put into the screenplay called "Virgin Territory" once the outcome of the current congressional impeachment investigation is completed.
Michelle was a beautiful vibrant woman and a very talented actress. As passionate as Ken was to make HEART of the BEHOLDER, he is equally passionate to make VIRGIN TERRITORY and clear Michelle's name. She is painfully missed.
Links to information about Judge Real -