Joe Francis made innumerable headlines and a vast personal fortune from conceptualizing, producing, and selling the iconic Girls Gone Wild series of men's entertainment videos. A native of Laguna Beach, Francis attended the University of Southern California, then moved into television work as a production assistant on the syndicated blooper program Real TV. While holding court at this job, the upstart broke through as an entrepreneur with Banned from Television, a video that he successfully marketed, comprised exclusively of gory injuries and actual deaths deemed inappropriate for mainstream television. That scored with the public, but Girls Gone Wild is what ultimately put Francis on top of the heap. The concept was appallingly simple: a live video crew (often accompanied by Francis) would patrol areas occupied by partying teens and young adults, and invite young women to expose themselves for the cameras, in exchange for a hat, shorts, and/or T-shirt. The premier installment emerged in 1998; in the years to follow, scores of follow-ups appeared. Francis and co. generally sold the videos via infomercials on late-night television; unsurprisingly, they raked in obscene amounts of money.
Alongside his Girls Gone Wild exploits, Francis also drew a vast number of legal entanglements and lawsuit threats (usually from women who changed their minds and resented being exposed on-camera), and had several brushes with the law, including federal tax evasion charges and accusations of bribing minors with money in exchange for on-camera sexual exploits and requests for personal sexual favors -- charges Francis vehemently denied.