PHOENIX – A special edition of the popular MTV program “Cribs” has gone inside the home of Jim Larkin, co-owner of the controversial classifieds site, Backpage.com. Despite myriad reports of prostitution and human trafficking advertisements on the site – often involving minors — Backpage.com has earned Larkin millions and allowed him to live a life usually reserved for top-tier celebrities and Fortune 500 businessmen. Larkin’s palatial estate in Phoenix, Arizona is certainly one of the most impressive properties ever seen on “Cribs.”
The 64,000 square-foot home comes complete with two pools, a twelve-seat movie theatre, an indoor basketball court, a guest house, and eight bedrooms.
Members of the “Cribs” crew reportedly expressed great outrage to their superiors when they learned of Larkin’s occupation. “I Googled it quickly,” one camera operator told Newslo. “A hundred and eighty-six minors have been sex-trafficked on this dude’s site – and this guy’s getting commissions every time.”
Larkin has stated that the site has a “libertarian,” laissez-fare approach to its content, and has fought back against activists and political figures that want the site shut down. His rebuttals are unsurprising, as the loose rules and light oversight of Backpage.com have led to significant profits for those involved. The site, which accounts for 80% of the nation’s online sex ads according to The New York Times, earns an estimated $31,000,000 in annual revenues.
Larkin, who receives a commission from the ads posted on the site, clearly sees a fine cut of Backpage’s revenues.
“This is the house that human trafficking built,” a “Cribs” gaffer said.
Larkin himself gave “Cribs” the tour of his estate. In moments that appeared quite forced, he points out various possessions in the home that he claims he bought on Backpage.com, in what seems to be an attempt to convince viewers that the site has legitimate, non-sexual business practices. “Look at this vase,” Larkin says midway through the program, beaming. “Thanks, Backpage!”
The vase was later found to be a nineteenth-century antique that Larkin purchased for $73,000 at a Sotheby’s auction.
Perhaps most telling were two moments in the half-hour special in which Larkin’s gaffes inadvertently revealed the truth about his site. The first came when Larkin brought the camera crew into the “grotto” of his second pool, a manmade cave resembling a picturesque lagoon. “I’ve thrown some great parties here,” Larkin says. “The last one was a little celebration for some of the pimps we — ” Larkin then paused, caught himself, and asked the crew to “move on.”
Back inside, Larkin toured his “Wall of Fame,” a corridor lined with pictures of himself and well-known figures he has met. “This is me with my good buddy Chris,” Larkin says, pointing to a framed photograph of him and Chris Hansen, former host of Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator.” “He even autographed it for me!” Larkin boasts.
Unbeknownst to him, however, the camera operator then zoomed in on the photograph, revealing the contents of Hansen’s writing. “To Jimbo,” it reads, “thanks for keeping me in business!”
The special edition “Cribs” episode is set to air in late October.