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Atlanta's King of Porn 

How Mike South evolved from a computer geek to a well-known pornographer

It's packed inside P.F. Chang's at the Mall of Georgia. People cluster next to the dim, wooden bar waiting for a table. A couple of feet away, Mike South sits in a leather booth and throws his arm around Taylor, a lean brunette with a long nose, tight ringlets and dark eyes. He takes off his black baseball hat stitched with the word "asshole" -- he rarely leaves home without it -- and scratches his salt and pepper scruff. He forks a slice of fish and offers Taylor a bite.

click to enlarge LOVING LIFE: Mike South, a local pornographer, has what some guys and gals would consider the ultimate dream job. - JIM STAWNIAK
  • Jim Stawniak
  • LOVING LIFE: Mike South, a local pornographer, has what some guys and gals would consider the ultimate dream job.

"What is that?" she asks.

"It's seared ahi tuna. You'll like it."

She narrows her eyes.

"Don't crinkle your little eyes at me," he says.

She shrugs and nibbles at the raw fish.

Mike, a pert guy with beady eyes, a soft belly and a distinct twang, has invited Taylor to dinner to talk about shooting her next big scene. Mike's a prolific filmmaker, and his repertoire is impressive.

Taylor places a plastic bag on the table as Mike pushes away his leftover lettuce wraps. Inside the bag are several of the more than 45 videos that have made Mike South one of the luckiest bastards in the state: Southern Belles 8, Georgia Peaches 2, and Southern Magnolias: The Fire Down Below.

"I can make a perfectly good living selling something I don't even own," Mike says. "I sell pussy, and I've never owned one.

"She owns one," he says, motioning to Taylor, "and I'm the middle man."

A 48-year-old ex-scientist who grew up in Atlanta's suburbs, Mike's quick to speak his mind -- even at a restaurant crowded with fine, upstanding, God-fearing Gwinnettians. He worries about little (except his growing paunch) and touts a bunch of seemingly tall tales: how he once caught a 1,200-pound tiger shark, how he and his friends used to snort a ridiculous amount of cocaine, how porn legend Ron Jeremy has hailed his sexual prowess, and how he's slept with somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 women.

All of it could be true. After all, Mike South is an award-winning pornographer who's been able to succeed in a business whose epicenter is nearly 2,000 miles away. He's the only Atlanta-based filmmaker who directs and produces films for two mediums -- DVD/VHS releases and Internet downloads -- and stars in his work. Surprisingly, he also has a widely documented respect for women, as well as a conscience.

"I feel this need to be chivalrous," Mike says. "Women deserve that kind of treatment."

That's why Taylor, a newly minted porn star, is happy to be having dinner with him.

At a neighboring table, a middle-aged woman in a black cardigan and red scarf looks over at Mike and Taylor, pausing on the VHS boxes spread before them that show naked women fellating well-endowed men. She glares through wire-rimmed glasses and purses her lips. Her husband's jaw drops. A balding man with a grandfatherly manor, he smiles at Mike and chuckles.

"Thirteen years in this business, and I've had maybe four girls that could deep-throat me," Mike says, none too quietly. "Taylor's the only one who really isn't a pro in the biz who's able to do it."

The man laughs. His wife looks at him disapprovingly, and he immediately shuts his mouth.

Sixteen years ago, Mike was sitting alone in a Las Vegas cafeteria, eating an overpriced sandwich. He had traveled across the country for the International Consumer Electronics Show, where more than 2,000 exhibitors were showcasing the latest in audio, home theater and gaming technology. A portion of the exhibitors also were promoting advancements in adult industry technology.

At the time, however, Mike had nothing to do with that part of the biz; as a scientist for NASA, he attended several technology expos every year.

A man sat down next to Mike and introduced himself as Rick Savage. Mike had heard of Rick, a longtime porn-star-turned-fetish-film director. Though Mike had never owned a notable collection of porn, he knew the big-time adult players; due to his work with computers, he was acutely familiar with the budding World Wide Web, and the porn industry was positioning itself to have a significant online presence.

Despite being a self-described computer geek, Mike indulged in some deviancies. He and his then-wife partied hard in the sex-and-drugs scene, often buying an ounce of blow per week and sometimes hanging out in swingers' clubs.

Rick commented on Mike's thick accent and asked where he was from. When Mike told him, Rick answered, "You should shoot porn in Atlanta. You have the most beautiful women, and a strip club on every corner."

It was an interesting but far-fetched idea. Sure, Mike enjoyed smut, but he wasn't going to turn his back on a successful career to pursue something he knew virtually nothing about.

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