While researching this report, at times it seemed as if there were two 101 Modelings – one which never betrayed any financial problems, and another with deep structural flaws. After interviewing a dozen past and present 101 models and employees, a pattern began to emerge: the top tier performers currently at 101 were insulated from, and oblivious to, any cash-flow issues or accounting delays, while the bottom half of the roster, and those who had departed 101, experienced perennial accounting issues over the past year or more.
Two performers signed to 101 Modeling, contacted during the second production moratorium this summer, expressed great frustration, and said plainly they felt they were getting the runaround: they’d been told that Tracy Hatem, 101’s accountant, had gone on vacation and that checks would issue when she returned. This excuse was not warmly received during a work stoppage.
Another performer indicated that she’d heard 101 “is shutting down.” She’d been asking for a statement of account for several months, and was told that accounting was now delayed because Hatem, whose mother had died, had not been at work of late. She said that 101 agent Bud Lee was “always helpful, but they’re being shady” and so she is currently trying to leave 101 for another talent agency.
It wasn’t only talent that was complaining: TRPWL also learned that 101’s web developer was owed several payments, and had threatened to pull down 101’s website.
TRPWL learned that performers who had departed 101 also reported long delays in receiving accounting statements, as well as significant errors on their statements, and that several had resigned themselves to writing off monies long-owed by their former agency.
One recalled having been “booked out really cheap, way below my rate” and encouraged to take the booking by Bud Lee. “It’s good to get your name out there, and it’s a good company,” he reportedly told her. To lessen the blow of a $500 scene rate, she recalls, Lee offered to waive the $100 booking fee that the agency receives from the producer, so that she could retain $600 from each $500 scene. When she came to 101’s office to go over the books, she says, the $100 per scene had not been credited to her, among other discrepancies. Likewise, the 19-year old performer whose story was recounted in part one recalls being booked out “so cheap it’d make you sick,” and then having to wait “almost a month” to receive her money.
One popular performer left 101 for another agency in March 2013, and had great difficulty getting a statement of account out of 101. According to the performer’s new agent, it took 2 ½ months for the statement (which asserted that the performer owed more in fees than was owed) to issue, and the performer was dubious as to its accuracy. At that point the performer learned that Bud Lee had been holding on to four checks made payable to the performer for more than 90 days, and had recently requested that new (non-expired) checks be cut by the production company that issued them. When contacted, Lee suggested a solution: he and the performer would go to the bank together and split the checks – two each – and in return Lee would see to it that the performer’s account was cleared. The implication was that Lee would pocket the cash. So, the two went to the bank together to cash the checks, then parted ways.
To be fair, Lee had loaned the performer cash in the past, and it’s unclear whether those debts had ever been fully repaid, but the anecdote nonetheless highlights the sometimes cavalier approach to finances at 101, particularly by owner Robert Moran – an approach which hits both 101 employees and models.
Josh Clarkson started working in the adult business in 2002. Using the nom de porn Mike Maravich, he ran camera for Shane’s World in 2004, and second camera for Vivid in 2009. In between those gigs, Moran went to work at the front desk of Derek Hay’s LA Direct Models, during the era when both Robert Moran and Lisa Ann were learning the ropes under Hay.
In 2011, Clarkson was living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and occasionally working as a roadie for Jayden Cole, when Moran (who was then dating Cole) called to offer him a job at 101 Modeling. “Moran was a great agent,” says Clarkson, “but he didn’t know how to do all the little stuff – the ‘system’ you need to keep an agency running.” Clarkson planned to come back to L.A. for only three months, but ended up staying for almost two years.
Some observers, such as LA Direct’s Derek Hay, view Moran’s hiring of LA Direct alumni – agents, staff, and even its former web developer — as an attempt “to recreate Direct as 101.” Clarkson too speaks fondly of LA Direct’s “golden era” but recalls that the culture of 101 was often chaotic, political and highlighted by Bud Lee’s obsession with job security.
“Robert assured Bud, ‘As long as I have 101, you have a job,’” Clarkson claims, “and Bud has basically said that he just needs ten years, and then he can retire.”
“Bud’s the first person to tell Robert to get rid of people,” says Clarkson. “He’s the one who told Robert to fire Charlie Laine after she came over from Penthouse. He was against hiring Jamie [Keeling], and then butted heads with him immediately. And Bud hated me because I’d point out his mistakes.”
Clarkson sums up Lee’s role at the agency thusly: “Bud is great as a daddy figure for the girls, but he’s not the guy you want to run your business.”
One friend recalls Clarkson’s tenure at 101, “I’d see him dealing with stuff that would have made me pull my hair out! He’d be at that office ‘til 10-11 pm sometimes.”
“It’s a 24/7 job,” Clarkson shrugs. Particularly when you have a largely absentee boss.
101’s problems, Clarkson says, are rooted in the fact that “Robert got lax. He’d leave for lunch and not come back; it’d be hard to get hold of him.” Models formerly represented by 101 and ex-employees agree that, more and more, the workload at 101 shifted to others, as Moran became a kind of absentee employer – distracted by his relationships with female performers and ‘partying.’ Says Clarkson, “He was a great agent, but he no longer has that work ethic.”
Cash-flow can be tricky in the agency game. Producers pay a fee to the performers, and a small booking fee to the agency. Some producers do ‘same day pay,’ but others can be slow to send checks — and most checks for scenes are made payable to performers, who in turn pay fees back to the agency. Sometimes performers disappear leaving fees unpaid.
Having funds on hand is imperative to keep the lights on, as well as to pay the agents, employees and vendors. “Talent is quick to complain if they don’t get paid right away,” says Clarkson, and since talent creates the revenue, there is always pressure to appease them.
When payments from producers were late, sources at 101 reveal, Moran would sometimes advance the models their fees out of 101 funds – leaving money tight for employees and less-favored models. Moran would also cause tension with his own accounting department when he used 101 funds to pay for his personal expenses, such as trips to Vegas, agency sources reveal.
Moran’s use of 101 funds (called ‘misappropriation’ by one former employee) may have caused additional stress for Bud Lee: according to LA Direct Models, Lee’s wages were garnished by the federal government and the state of California for unpaid child support for the entirety of his employment there – nearly three years, ending in April 2011 – and whatever the amount that was originally owed, it was never exhausted when he left to join Moran at 101 Modeling.
TRPWL had been hearing for months about slow payments to performers and employees, checks to vendors with insufficient funds, and other accountancy issues at 101 when we reached out to Bud Lee for answers. His initial responses, on Sunday, Oct 20, denied any serious problems at the agency.
Our accountant’s mother passed away and will be back in the office on Monday [Oct 21st]. We wrote a lot of checks last week.
My wall is full of shoots,” Lee wrote. “Robert and I are working hard everyday and trying to take up the slack for the others [Tracy Hatem] as they go through the pains of losing a loved one. It is amazing how many people act like that is nothing. I guess they do not have strong ties to their parents.”
The following day, however, Lee’s tune changed slightly:
Our accountant was having a lot of issues with her family and life so, she has stepped down and we are in control of the accounting again. We try to give people the benefit of the doubt and our old accountant was just too distracted to carry on and had made some decisions she decided not to share with us until today. We have already cleared up accounting issues with several models.
This was Lee’s way of admitting that 101 accountant Tracy Hatem had left in disgust and would not be returning to work that day, or ever.
Hatem did not respond to requests for comment, but Josh Clarkson speaks with her “every few days.” Clarkson maintains that, according to Hatem, whenever funds ran short at 101 – and particularly since the drought caused by this summer’s two production moratoria – Moran would instruct Hatem to work from home, so that when people called or stopped by the office looking for their money, or a statement of account, he or Bud could shrug, ”She’s out of the office at the moment.”
According to Clarkson, Lee’s grandstanding about the insensitivity of people towards Hatem’s loss is ironic, because during her mourning, it was Moran who would call Hatem “twenty times a day” with requests (such as moving funds between accounts) and problems, asking ”when are you coming back?”
It was the pressure of the endless shell game, coupled with Moran’s attitude of ‘your mother’s death is an inconvenience to me,’ that drove Hatem to quit, Clarkson says.
One adult industry watcher diagnoses 101 Modeling’s problems as being, in part, a result of having too large a roster. “The super-agency model just doesn’t work anymore,” he says. Smaller, sleeker agencies, with a more hands-on, personalized approach to representation are “in.” Whether by design or otherwise, it appears that 101 Modeling is currently contracting. In recent days the bottom end of 101’s roster has thinned with the removal of models such as Carmen Callaway, Britney Shannon, Lolly Ink, Adriana Sephora, Kali James, Chrissy Nova and Angelica Lane from the agency’s website.
TRPWL has also received unsubstantiated reports that Moran is attempting to borrow money, and that the agency, which at this time is not expected to have a booth at the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) in Las Vegas, had nonetheless rented a penthouse suite with its own bowling alley for the show. Whether Moran & Co. can keep 101 modeling out of the gutter is still very much in question.