xbiznewsreport By Dan Miller

LOS ANGELES — Adult film pioneer Lasse Braun passed away this morning at his home in Rome, Italy, due to complications from diabetes, his son Axel Braun confirmed Monday. Braun was 78.

“Look, I remember when he was in his late 50s that he said I could die tomorrow and I would’ve had more life more than I could have ever imagined, and he got another 30 years after that,” Axel told XBIZ.

“My father had diabetes for a long time but he kept it under control. The last few years he let it slip. A few years ago he had part of his foot amputated because of diabetes, but he always kept a good spirit and always felt everyday was the best day.”

Lasse Braun, who started directing and distributing adult movies in Europe in 1961, fought and won a precedent-setting obscenity case in Denmark in 1969 that led to porn becoming legal in the country. Two years later, Lasse came to the U.S. and partnered with fellow porn pioneer Reuben Sturman on what became known as peepshow machines that showed his 8mm loops.

At the height of their success there were more than 60,000 peepshow machines in the U.S.

Braun for the past 10 years had been writing fiction books that were published in numerous countries and translated into 16 different languages. He had also published an autobiography as well as several erotic books, such as “Lady Caligula.”

“He had been working on his last one,” Axel said.

Braun, whose first adult movie feature, “Fantasy Nights” for VCA, was produced by his father 25 years ago, said that what his father taught him the most, “was not to make mistakes that he made.”

“So I think it was very important. If you think about it, when you’re in a position like that and when you have a son who gets into the same area of business, it’s easy to flaunt your accomplishments and flaunt your expertise,” Braun explained. “But instead, every single little thing that could go wrong — and in a production so many things can go wrong — he always pointed out, ‘that was a mistake I made.’ That made him a much more humble person than what you could see from looking at his public persona.

“It’s not easy for people to admit they fucked up, especially when you’re in a production you can always blame someone. But with me he took responsibility and would say ‘that was a stupid mistake I made.’ I learned a lot from all the things that he did. I graduated from two different film schools, but what I learned from him just being around was priceless.”

In addition to producing and directing scores of 8mm loops, Braun helmed almost two dozen major productions from the early ’80s to the late ’90s for studios such as Caballero Home Video, Vidco, Videorama, Gentlemen’s Gourmet Video, Sin City and VA.

Axel said of all his father’s movies that “American Desire,” a 1981 release from Caballero that starred Veronica Hart, was his favorite even though “Sensations” (Caballero, 1975) was his “most celebrated.”

“It just struck a chord,” Braun said. “It showed the maturity of the filmmaker. ‘Sensations’ was more of a trip, this was more of a movie.

“There was one pivotal scene in ‘American Desire’ where the performer couldn’t get wood, yet it’s a really powerful scene. … There’s actually no penetration but it’s so intense you forgot.

“It was a very interesting what he taught me about the psychological aspect of sex. He always told me no matter what happens, no matter what the scene requires, you always have to ask yourself, ‘why are these two people having sex?’ There’s got to be a trigger. That was important to me.”

Just last month, Axel spoke at length about his father’s journey and influence on him during his keynote address at the XBIZ 360 Adult Film Conference at the Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood, Calif. Axel noted that his grandfather was an Italian consol in Germany so Lasse had a diplomatic passport and with that came diplomatic immunity.

“He met some guys in Belgium who were printing pornographic magazines out of their garage and offered him to smuggle them all over Europe to create a large distribution network,” Axel said Jan. 14. “So custom officials could not search him. Within a few months these guys had purchased a whole new printing building to respond to the incredible demand for porn from the large distribution network they created.

“At that point my father thought, ‘there’s obviously great interest in pornography. What about movies, there aren’t any movies?’ There was nobody making movies.”

So Lasse decided to take a small ad out of an Italian newspaper in the classified section and it read “Adult Movies From Sweden.” The ad said that for a catalog to send “whatever the equivalent of 20 dollars today is” to a P.O. Box in Stockholm, according to Braun.

“A few weeks go by and he calls the P.O. Box to see if he got the mail and they were screaming at him, ‘you’ve got to come here, we’ve got two shopping carts full of mail for you and you only paid for a small box. If I could get a company I would incinerate everything,'” Braun recalled.

“So he goes up to Sweden and picks up just about 2,000 envelopes full of 20-dollar bills. It’s an outrageous amount of money just for a small ad for something that didn’t exist, so of course the problem was that there was no catalog and there were no movies.”

Braun continued, “So he took this money and decided to shoot a movie. And it was a parody. His first movie was a parody of ‘Madame Butterfly.’ The actors were him and his girlfriend at the time. … Within a year from that first movie he had purchased a 21-bedroom castle in Britta, Holland, where he had a full 24-7 production company. It was a staggering amount of demand.”

Axel said that his father not only was a visionary filmmaker, he also was ahead of his time in marketing his product.

“He made sure every one of these he put out was a huge deal, the marketing was incredible, the box covers were amazing,” Axel noted. “There was a signature on the back where he personally guaranteed these are the best thing you will ever see. It was over the top. But the problem was it was still illegal.

“Pornography was illegal just about everywhere, so he decided to try and challenge the establishment and created a case that he could defend in court.”

Lasse created a magazine of a really tight close-up of what appeared to be “a nicely shaven vagina.” As soon as it hits the newsstand the authorities confiscated every copy they could find.

“And then he was indicted for obscenity in Denmark and prosecuted and he was tried,” Axel said. “He went to trial but he chose to defend himself because he was a lawyer.”

After the very public and controversial trial, Lasse Braun toward the end produced the negative of the picture that was used for the cover.

“The negative that was used for the cover and the picture was not a vagina, it was an armpit,” Axel said. “That created the precedent for what really is obscene, what is perceived to be obscene. … That was January 1969. At the end of the year, Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize pornography. And that’s based off his precedent.”

The three-time XBIZ Director of the Year said Monday his father made a profound impact on adult entertainment.

“I think the word pioneer is the one that fits him best,” he said. “Literally, there was no industry when he started and he had the vision of let’s not just make porn, let’s produce, distribute and expand. He always had a big, broad vision.

“He built an empire back in those days because of real careful planning and a true idea and I think his legacy is really in having the foresight to do that.”