South sold insurance in Dallas for a few years and moved to Los Angeles in 1968. He opened a fashion modeling agency first, then formed the World Modeling Talent Agency in Sherman Oaks, California in 1976. The agency represented many performers and models who worked in adult movies and magazines.
World Modeling has represented adult stars such as Shauna Grant, Marc Wallice, Ginger Lynn, Gina Ryder, Savannah, Katie Gold. Cheryl Austin, and Christy Canyon. The agency became infamous for unknowingly representing a then underaged Traci Lords. Through South's agency, 15-year-old Lords started nude modeling under the stage name Kristie Elizabeth Nussman. Lords became the September 1984 Penthouse "Pet of the Month", for which she earned $5000, and first performed in pornographic movies in October 1984.
Following the May 1986 revelation that most of Lords' porn work was illegal, South was arrested on March 4, 1987, and was among those later charged by the U.S. government with pandering and child pornography. The charges were eventually dismissed after the discovery that the government had issued Lords a passport under the name Kristi Nussman. (South first learned that Lords' age was in question in a phone call from Suze Randall.)
In an interview South said, "The only reason that (the charges were) dropped was that the federal government that saw the very same ID I saw gave Traci a passport to go to Europe to make an X-rated movie." That movie, Traci, I Love You, which was made in Cannes soon after Lords' 18th birthday, is her only legal porn film in the United States.
In interviews and her book, Lords held him in perpetual contempt for what she sees as his (and others') unapologetic role in her sexual exploitation. She stated that she named him "Tim North" in her autobiography not for legal reasons but as a means to protect people from him, and to avoid giving him and his company any publicity, which could draw young women into the sex industry. Lords wrote that South gave her cocaine and champagne during her first nude photo shoot at World Modeling. Christy Canyon, a supporter of South, disagrees with this claim, and said that Lords lied a lot in her book. Another performer with South's agency during this period, Colleen Brennan, says "I'm sure lots of people offered Traci coke back in the day, but Jim South wouldn't have been one of them. And it's not like he hung around bus stations trying to recruit, we all came to him."
In his investigative memoir Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, published in the United States by Headpress in 2012, New York journalist Robert Rosen describes the Traci Lords affair as a government sting operation. According to the book, the government was aware that Lords was underage, yet rather than “rescue” her they allowed Lords to continue performing in pornographic movies for a year in order to gather evidence on South and the filmmakers. They then charged South and some of the filmmakers with child exploitation.
In 1991, porn producers discovered that Alexandra Quinn, a World Modeling talent, had entered porn in 1990 at age 17. Quinn pretended that she was born in 1968, the same year as Traci Lords' birth. Unlike the Lords case, Quinn did not generate a scandal with media coverage, nor did anyone face legal action.
South has appeared in several documentaries about the porn industry, one of which being 1997s "Porn" done by Louis Theroux for the BBC. He has two sons, James South Jr., who worked with him at the agency, and Dallas South. His father was assistant chief of the Dallas Police Department.
World Modeling shut down in November 2006 because of falling profits. Over a year later on December 5, 2007, South announced the reopening of World Modeling with a change of direction as well as an intent to reduce the number of young women he represents.
- Jim South by Luke Ford
- Ross, Gene (2003-09-25). "Christy Canyon: I Bent Over and Something Made Its Way Down There". AdultFYI.com. Retrieved 2007-06-12.
- Lords, Traci (2003-07-08). Traci Lords: Underneath It All. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-050820-5.
- Krajicek, David. "About Sex". The Crime Library. Retrieved 2006-06-12.
- "Jim South". NNDB. Retrieved 2007-06-12.
- Kapelovitz, Dan; Partridge, Giddle (September 2002). "Agents Pornographeurs: The Men Behind The Muff" (reprint). Hustler. Larry Flynt. Retrieved 2006-07-20.
- Bowman, David (2003-08-01). "Traci talks". Salon.com. Retrieved 2013-11-13. "It pissed me off, I can tell you. Because some girl out there who is confused will be able to find this idiot, and he is a menace."
- Theroux, Louie (1997). "Porn". BBC. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- Martinez, Carlos (2006-10-31). "World Modeling Closes". AVN. Retrieved 2007-06-12.
- Warren, Peter (2008-12-05). "Jim South Reopening World Modeling". AVN. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
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