Girls Go Wild

Some Say

Whether it is South Padre Island, Texas, or Panama City Beach, Fla., spring break is hardly family fare.

As beer bongs and keg stands replace sunscreen lotion, girls are taking it off. And cameras are taking it in. But not everyone is making home movies. Joe Francis is using his cameras to make millions. Peter Van Sant reports.

Francis is the 29-year-old mastermind behind the extremely popular "Girls Gone Wild" video series. Advertised on late night TV and on the Internet, millions of these tapes and DVDs have been sold worldwide.

At first, Francis is reluctant to talk because some of the women in his videos feel exploited and are suing him.

Women like Elizabeth claim he's violated their privacy.

"I feel like this is just a bad as rape," she says. "He just rapes me on video. He's showing me naked to millions and millions of people without my permission."

Elizabeth was an 18-year-old senior in high school when she spent spring break in Cancun, Mexico, and entered a wet T-shirt contest. Francis bought this tape from a third party, shooting the contest.

"We consumed a lot of alcohol. We didn't realize what we were doing," she says.

"Everyone makes mistakes or does something bad in their lives. But not everyone has to go back and look at a video about it and have it displayed across the world and have it continually remind them about that mistake. And this is what Joe Francis has done to me."

Francis says he is not taking advantage of the women. He invited 48 Hours out with him while he did some shooting.

Francis admits to making mistakes in the past, and he's changed the way he does business. He says he shoots his own material, asks for IDs, and gets releases.

Asked why she had done what she did, one woman who appeared on the tape said: "Cause we're nuts. We're crazy. It's spring break."

"'Girls Gone Wild' is not about using hidden cameras or coaxing or coercing people into doing something they don't want to do. It's about finding girls that are out here having fun and just documenting it," says Francis.

One woman, who asked not to be identified, claims that Francis, without her knowledge or permission, put her on the cover of one of his most popular videos. "I can't go anywhere without people recognizing me. Shame on you," she says.

Some say the women are drunk, and may do something in the spur of the moment that they may regret soon after. "We have to be responsible for all of our actions in life, I think," Francis answers.

He says that many women want to be in "Girls Gone Wild." "I think definitely for a girl to be on 'Girls Gone Wild,' it's a status symbol. It's your 15 seconds of fame."

Francis now has deals with celebrities, like rapper Snoop Dogg, and a new partnership with Playboy.

Says Francis: "For Generation X and Generation Y, this is their Playboy. This is cool. They've accepted this."
  • David Kohn

More From 48 Hours

Comments