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Video Store Magazine founder Stuart Karl caught the publishing bug at an early age "When he was about 5, he was hand-printing a neighborhood paper and charging people 25 cents for it," says Karl's wife, Debbie Karl. "It was mostly about his sisters and parents."
By the time Karl was in high school, his father, George Karl, says he was publishing another weekly newspaper. "Stuart always had four or five things going," he says.
In 1974, Karl purchased a weekly newspaper in Newport Beach, CA, the Newport-Mesa News, where he met his wife, Debbie, who was a writer on the publication. also in the late 1970's, Karl founded Spa and Sauna Industry Magazine and Design Living magazines.
In 1979, he founded yet another magazine Video Store Magazine the first issue, dated July 1979, was assembled in the living room of Karl's oceanfront Newport Beach home. Initially the monthly publication focused on video recording hardware.
Karl's attendance at an industry event, however, convinced him the future of the business was in software. "I remember Stuart came rushing home one night in late 1979 and he was very excited because he had 'seen the future of video,'" Debbie Karl recalls.
Karl's vision went beyond watching movies and adult entertainment. "He thought video was a great medium for alternatives like exercise, cooking, and home repair," Debbie Karl says.
Karl was so enamored with the prospects of home video that he founded his own video distribution company, Karl Video Corp. (later Karl Home Video), in 1980. He subsequently sold the magazine to Hester Communications so he could devote all his time to his new venture.
Karl Home Video focused on the special interest market, enjoying early success with its "Mid-Vid" line. Titles ranged from aerobic and conditioning tapes to Dick Barrymore ski films. "Practically the only software available for home video is movies and adult films," Karl said in the August 1980 issue of Video Store Magazine. "Mid-Vid fills the gap between Jaws and Deep Throat."
A trip the Karls took to New York spawned the idea of producing the "Jane Fonda Workout" video series. "I was talking about how it would be nice to work out at home and not always at the gym," says Debbie Karl. "We passed a bookstore that had posters of Jane Fonda's new book in the window, and Stuart came up with the idea."
Karl says her husband contacted the campaign headquarters of Thomas Hayden, Fonda's husband at the time, to get the ball rolling. "Stuart knew politicians were always looking for ways to raise money, so he posed the idea of a fitness video and suggested the proceeds could go to Hayden's campaign," Karl recalls.
In a 1995 speech, Fonda remembered Karl's persistence in recruiting her for the project. "He kept talking to me, calling me and finally convinced me," she recalled.
In 1982, with a production budget of $50,000, Karl produced the very first Jane Fonda fitness video. In a joint venture with RCA, KVC distributed the video on cassette, while RCA distributed it on "SelectaVision" VideoDisc. The actress's workout became the first non-theatrical video to sell more than 100,000 units.
Karl subsequently produced several more Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons workout videos and began acquiring more video product.
In 1984, Karl sold Karl Home Video to Lorimar and became president of Karl Lorimar, Lorimar's new home video division. He resigned from Lorimar in 1987. That same year, he was named one of the 10 most influential people in the video industry by the VSDA.
The next few years were difficult ones for the Karls as they first battled a lawsuit filed against Karl by Lorimar. Then Karl was diagnosed with cancer. He succumbed to the disease in August 1991 at the age of 38.
In 1995, Stuart Karl, along with media mogul (and Jane Fonda husband) Ted Turner, was posthumously inducted into the Video Hall of Fame, sponsored by Video Business.
During the induction ceremony, Jane Fonda described her former video producer as the "quintessential visionary of the video industry."
- June 6, 1999 Video Store Magazine
I am Don Rosenberg, the current publisher of Video Store Magazine. This is a great site. My congratulations to all of you who put this together. Please feel free to hot link to the Video Store site at www.videostoremag.com.
- Don Rosenberg
Thank you very much for recognizing and honoring my father. I greatly appreciate it.
- Hamilton Karl
I think that your site is excellent, although you don't have the Fonda story quite right. I was VP of Programming for RCA Video (West Coast), and I was actually the one who initially contacted Jane about doing the video and was contacted by her (after Paramount turned her video program down) to make the deal to do the program. I had been in contact with her for about a year before she agreed to do the video, and I reluctantly understood when she told me she was going to Simon & Schuster Productions (based at Paramount) with the program first because she had done the Workout book with S&S and felt she owed an obligation to take it there. David Obst, then head of S&S Productions was thrilled to have the chance to do the program, but when they took it to Paramount Home Video, it was turned down. That was when Jane called me. I, too, was thrilled to get the opportunity, and closed the deal with her for all video rights on the phone (incidentally, the production budget for the first show was $75,000, not $50,000 as you reported).
My senior management in New York, however, was not as convinced as I that the program would be a sensational hit. They insisted that I find a "videotape" partner to bear half the risk in return for videotape rights. Remember that then there was a serious belief that there was a real contest between tape and disc as to which would be the prevailing format. So I called Stuart, whom I had met before, and with whom I had discussed my pursuit of Jane to do an exercise video. The next thing was to pursuade Jane that she would be better off with Stuart's new company rather than with a major studio's video division. I had tremendous respect for Stuart's instinctive grasp of marketing and promotion. He was a genius and unafraid. After Jane met with him, the die was cast, and, as they say, the rest is history. And ,fyi, I was Stuart's co-executive producer on the first four programs in the Workout series. You can verify the above with Seth Willenson, Tom Kuhn or other then senior executives of the division if you wish.
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