Las Vegas, NV
I plodded through a sea of slow-walking frustrated geeks tweeting that their iPhones were not getting coverage in the bowels of the Sands convention center. The tech-savvy folks were in town for the annual CES show, yet I was completely lost and unable to find the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE). I was about to stop for directions when I saw two top-heavy women in latex squeaking down an adjacent hallway. I ditched the geeks and followed the shiny duo.
The AEE is Mecca for porn enthusiasts, a candy store for sex toys practitioners, and heaven on Earth if you get off on being surrounded by your favorite porn stars. The annual event in January attracts people from all facets of the sex industry and from the darkest corners of the world. Fans, vendors, and media descended upon Sin City and soak up the carnival of sex over a three-day weekend and ending with the AVN awards ceremony -- the Oscars for the porn industry.
Fans waited several hours and paid $80 for an up close and personal interaction with the leading stars and starlets in the adult entertainment industry. Some fans paid an extra $20 for VIP access and the privilege to roam the floor an hour before the doors open to the general public. After witnessing the flood of fans and the claustrophobic nature of the convention, I understood why some people paid extra for VIP passes to avoid the masses.
As expected, a large portion of the fan base at the AEE were guys with beer guts and video cameras. The rest of the fans were a mixed bag of veterans, newcomers, casual observers (many of whom were from the CES), and hobbyists.
Female fans made up a tiny percentage of the attendees. A few guys brought along their girlfriends. Just observing their body language, you could tell which girlfriends were enthusiastic about the expo and the ones who were mortified. Some females fans dressed up like working girls and strippers in lace, leather, rubber, latex, and fishnets. They were wanna-be porn stars and attention whores. The AEE was sort of a fantasy camp for them. The rest of the females visiting the AEE were true fans and just like the guys, they wanted to meet their favorite stars and shop for the latest line of sex toys and gadgets.
The largest production companies were strategically camped out near the entrance to the floor. Hustler, Wicked, Vivid, Digital Playground, Evil Angel and Adam & Eve crafted elaborate sets, stages, and booths. Gigantic billboards plugged their hit films, plasma screens ran highlight reels, and images of the stable of stars graced banners and backdrops. Lines wrapped around the large setups as fans patiently waited for photo ops and autographs.
The secondary film companies appeared in the second and third rows. Porn people from Japan (an odd set up with a cute girl in a kimono and two sex dolls) and France had booths in this section. The sex toys were clustered together in the middle like the blowjob guard, Spingasm, Clitoraid, and True Companion dolls. I chatted up a couple of doctors from a well-known Beverly Hills plastic surgery factory. A couple of erotica publishers set up shop and sold books next to a BDSM film distributor. Nina Hartley (the Doyle Brunson of porn stars) recently penned a book and her fans were wrapped around their booth and down the aisle as they waited for Nina to sign her book.
The best independent booth was run by Popeye Wong, an artist from Mexico most known for his pinup artwork. His airbrush paintings looked like actual photographs. His stunning images included a series of fetish eroticartoons.
Popeye was set up near the huge penis which offered free penis rides (the AEE version of electronic bull rides). Sasha Grey held court in front of the penis with a dozen or so film crews following her around and capturing her every move. Of course, Flipchip was hard at work snapping photos of Sasha and the entire scene around the penis.
Booths sold lingerie, other seductive types of clothing (including liquid latex), and "porn make up". One booth specialized in extravagant shades of lipstick and eyeliner that Sephora found too distasteful to sell. Some shades of green are suited for only grandmothers and hookers.
The quality of booths diminished as you walked deeper into the convention floor space and that's where you could find the freak show - the scorpion tank with goth chicks, women with breasts the size of beach balls, and glassy-eyed spinsters deep into bondage. The last few booths were populated by law firms, over-the-hill stars, gay video distributors, and small-timers running webcams out of their garages. Oh, and how could I forget? Poon-Tang menswear and the congregation from XXX Church who were handing out stickers and books saying Jesus Loves Porn Stars.
The prostitution industry was also represented at the AEE. The Mustang Ranch had their own booth populated with real working girls. A few local escort agencies also set up booths, but those were not as elaborate nor appealing as the brightly lit monster-stages at the front. Local strip clubs used the AEE to advertise. Sapphire had a swanky set up with stripper poles but Deja Vu won the prize for most creative booth... they backed up a truck that was transformed into a strippermobile. The back end had see through walls and included a stripper pole, web cam, and benches for lap dances. Once the AEE is over, the Deja Vu strippermobile will hit the road and park in front on their other properties throughout America.
The AEE vets arrived with cameras, some had multiple ones dangling around their necks. The average attendee walked around with a shit-eating grin, a huge boner, and clutching a large shopping bag handed out by the Bang Bros. -- used to horde around the free schwag that vendors handed out for promotional reasons. Scantily clad women working the booths tossed DVD samplers, postcards, pens, and whatever into the bags.
I didn't collect too many things on the first day aside from an autograph for my brother by a starlet who spelled his name wrong. I was simply observing, taking notes, and snapping photos. I collected a couple of business cards from vendors and one guy gave me a sample of his "natural" form of Viagra. He dubbed it a sexual amplifier. I wondered how much I could sell those pills on Phish tour.
Two models dressed up like angels breezed by. They were promoting Bluebird films around the corner from the Fleshlights otherwise known as "pocket pussies" or "sex in a can" that were in the shape of large flashlights. You put your penis inside the cylinder through the semi-realistic replication of a woman's vagina. Some of them were modeled after real porn stars. You could also purchase replications of mouths and butts. Every time I walked past the booth, one of the models would stick out one of the Fleshlights.
"Would you like to try it out?"
"Right here? In front of everyone with my... um...."
"Not with your little pal," she said pointing below the belt, "Try it with your finger."
You don't want to offend a beautiful woman waving a pocket pussy in your face, so you have to show some sort of elated response as you slide your finger inside but at the same time you have to be careful and not look too aroused. That might disgust her and she'll beat you senseless the other sample fleshlights.
I turned the corner and bumped into Tom Byron. He was one of the few male adult stars at the convention with his own booth. He's also swinging a paint can between his legs that can also punch holes into drywall.
"Nice dick," I said, unable to come up with anything more creative.
"Thanks," said Byron.
"Bet you get that a lot. Huh?"
"Every... single... day."
I met a jaded vet and the best people to give you the straight dope because they don't care anymore. We made a bit more small talk. He went from being an actor grinding out scene after scene to the head of his own production company with a stable of nubile fillies. He's a self-made entrepreneur in the industry who worked his way up the voracious food chain.
"Don't trust anyone and believe in yourself," Byron said was part of his keys to success. Simple yet fundamentally astute advice for any enterprise whether it's the financial sector, poker, or pornography.
Timing is everything. A year ago, Lisa Ann was just one of thousands of other unknowns in the consortium of actresses in the world of porn. Enter Sarah Palin, the former Governor of Alaska, who got the unexpected nod as John McCain's running mate. Lisa Ann threw on a pair of glasses and all of a sudden she was the porn-doppelganger of Sarah Palin. And just like Palin, she became an instant star with her exquisite work in Nalin Palin. And who said porn and politics don't mix?
Look-a-likes are always a bonus in the adult entertainment industry. There's no coincidence that some of the more popular stars resembled Hollywood actresses. For some reason, Alexis Texas gave off a Reese Witherspoon vibe. That "girl next door" look caters to a proportion of porn viewers who are turned off by the watermelon sized boobs.
Alexis effectively worked the crowd. I suspected she was on something... good. Because she was feisty and bubbly and really have fun when she posed for pictures with guys. She gave a mini show every time a new fan stepped up on stage and unleashed a few pole dance moves and a booty dance as she proudly displayed her luscious assets.
Some of the actresses are noticeably not into the autograph sessions. They are exhausted and drained. Others don't mesh too well with the public and are fighting every bit of social anxiety. And some are handling such a high volume of requests that it's impossible to fool around with the fans. But Alexis? She enjoyed every second of the spotlight. Boundless energy. Always smiling. If she was my favorite star and I waited twenty minutes in line for a photo, I'd be super pumped because she was super excited to meet me. Then again, maybe it was the ecstasy pumping through her blood system?
It's no secret that many of the people involved in the adult entertainment industry dabble into recreational drugs. I was on the prowl for pharmies and I could easily tell which stars were on the sauce and which ones were sober. For the most part, all of the big named stars and the ones who worked for the big companies were in control -- meaning I couldn't tell. Either they were sober or were experts at hiding it. There were a few exceptions. The ones jumping up and down were obviously rolling their tits off on ecstasy. But as one actress mentioned, it allowed her to do her job, "I'm uncomfortable with the huge crowds. The E lets me to talk because I'm too shy. It's hard for me to met people. I'm too scared."
When you went to the back of the floor space, you would notice the bottom feeders of the industry. They tended to be stereotypically fucked up. Lots of running noses, sniffles, actresses scratching themselves. Those were the ones I asked if they were holding. None of them had what I wanted. Everyone had blow, yet I was in search of Adderall. One goth-looking chick with tattoo of a penis on her arm accused me of being a DEA agent. Heh. Far from it.
I finally thought I hit the motherload but it was a false alarm. One of the models working a sex toys booth thought that I was a dealer and called over her friend.
"This guy has Adderall! I'll buy everything you have!" she squealed.
I had to politely tell her that I was not a seller, rather a buyer. At that point, it was time for the keynote address with Sasha Grey. I left the convention floor and went in search of the seminar room. I didn't know if I needed to sign up or pay to attend Sasha's seminar, but I had a press badge and had no qualms about crashing or sneaking in if I had to.
To be continued...
Check out my NSFW photos of the AVN AEE here.
And don't forget about Flipchip's pics... Day 1 & Day 2 & Day 3.
If you like my writing, then I suggest you buy my book... Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker
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