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The Great Erection Deception: The Stiff Nights Story arrives on ITVX

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The Great Erection Deception: The Stiff Nights Story arrives on ITVX

The series is part of the new ‘Swindles & Cons’ season exclusive to ITVX this Autumn.

The Great Erection Deception: The Stiff Nights Story tells the jaw-dropping true story of a Mormon man and his vegan business partner who made millions by duping their sex-loving customers into buying what they believed was a ‘natural’ alternative to Viagra.

Telling the story himself for the first time on camera, Kelly Harvey explains how he went from selling herbal pills to producing a sexual supplement to compete with Viagra, which he marketed as all-natural, when, in fact, it was laced with the same ingredient as Viagra.

The Great Erection Deception recounts how Kelly became aware of the ‘supplement’ from China and then made contact with acquaintance Erb Avore – one of the first people to send spam emails – to start up their business producing and marketing the Stiff Nights pill. Kelly and his wife talk about trying out the product at home and how, soon, their little red pills were a sell-out success across America.

Kelly says: “Erb and I were taking a 24-cent pill and selling it for seven dollars, and selling it like crazy, like, ‘places couldn’t keep it on the shelf’, crazy.” Standing outside the former Stiff Nights HQ in Salt Lake City, Utah, Kelly says they were producing four million capsules a day and running their machines around the clock.

With intimate access to the family home, Kelly’s wife and children talk about their father’s success and how they all enjoyed the benefits. His daughters also talk about their time helping package the pills in the factory. Kelly’s wife, Jennifer, says: “I think it was a happy time, we were just living day to day and thinking life was the way it should be. We did a lot of fun vacations. We went to Hawaii, we went to Japan.”

As home movies and slides shows of holiday snaps play out, Kelly’s children reveal that they believed their dad was a huge success. David, Kelly’s son says: “My dad was looking to help people with his products because with herbal plants and things like that, it’s all natural, things from the earth that, you know, is just put here by God.”

Erb’s former employee talks to the film about him and describes him as ‘an introverted, brilliant, principled, weirdo’. He also talks about the spoils of Erb’s success and how he believes he bought properties abroad and even an airport.

However, The Great Erection Deception: The Stiff Nights Story, reveals the moment Kelly’s happiness came to an abrupt end when a visit to China uncovered the fact that the herbal supplement was not, in fact, herbal, and contained sildenafil, which is also in Viagra.

Despite this shocking news, Kelly continued to sell it. He says: “One of the first phone calls I made was to Erb Avore. I basically told him what I had learned and we came to a consensus that the best thing for us was, ‘let’s just carry on as normal.’” Luckily, the film reveals that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), had launched an investigation into the pills after complaints of respiratory, cardiac related issues surrounding consumption of the product.

A former FDA agent says Stiff Nights was brought to their attention so they started to look into the business and decided to carry out a raid. Kelly’s employees talk to the film about the raid, with one of them saying: “All of a sudden all of these guys came in with vests and guns and said, ‘Get away from your computer, get away from your computer.’ It was very scary and I was really confused.”

Eventually Kelly was arrested and sent to prison and the family describe the moment officers came to take their dad away. Erb Avore went missing and has never been questioned regarding his part in the business. His sister speaks to the film and describes having the pills in the family home and her father taking them. Now out of jail after taking all the wrap, Kelly talks about Erb going missing and plays the last voicemail he received from him. Kelly attempts to call Erb again but the number is unavailable.

The film follows a journalist in India as she traces Erb to the last place he was seen, a former office block that he worked out of, but, even though security guards say he was there the day before, there is no longer any sign of him. The cameras follow Kelly as he now works as a delivery driver.

While following the story of Stiff Nights, the film looks at the birth of Viagra – which marks the 25th anniversary of its launch this year – and hears from its lead scientists who developed these infamous little blue pills. The Great Erection Deception: The Stiff Nights Story also charts the rise of the culture of modern-day ‘over the counter’ sexual supplement pills by talking to users, distributors and sex shops and sheds light on what has now become a multimillion dollar business.

The Great Erection Deception: The Stiff Nights Story available to stream exclusively on ITVX from today, Thursday 9 November 2023

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