Las Vegas, NV
I snuck into the back of the seminar room and took a seat. The rather ordinary room was filled with a mixture of press and business types. The seminar cost over $135 which kept the riff raff out. The room looked like any other seminar room in Las Vegas with the exception that someone who once won an award for "Best Blowjob" would be giving the keynote address for the entire conference.
My chair was spammed with a free pad (courtesy of Sex Apps) and a menu of seminars that I thumbed through. Although Power & Influence - The Growing Force of Women in Adult Entertainment sounded like a throw-away sociology class at beatnik college in the Midwest.
Former star turned producer Tristan Taormino took the mic and gave a witty and saucy introduction to Sasha Grey.
"She is everything that the mainstream media says does not exist," explained Tristan. "Bright. Ambitious. Intellectual. Artistic. Savvy. Self-possessed. Porn Star. She is the anti-porn feminists' unicorn."
At the age of 21, Sasha Grey acted in over 80 adult films including a stunning crossover role in Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience. Very few actresses are able to make a smooth transition into Hollywood, yet Sasha became one of the few exceptions. The last time I saw Sasha Grey, she had a cock the size of a piano leg in her ass. I stumbled upon a captivating gangbang video. Actually, I did a search for it... Sasha Grey piano gangbang... and one of her scenes magically appeared.
Sasha took the stage ten minutes behind schedule and immediately apologized for her raspy voice -- a casualty of a rigorous travel schedule and several days of non-stop interviews. Sasha gave the audience a quick recap of how she broke into the business. She began her path when she was 17 years old and working full time at a restaurant in Northern California. She had also just started college and watched what she referred to "a lot of porn" because she was interested in the industry. She diligently studied the entire industry for seven months. In the meantime, she saved up $7,000 and as soon as she turned 18, she moved to Southern California. She derived the last part of her stage name from an Oscar Wilde book titled The Picture of Dorian Gray. Holy shit... a porn star who reads non-Oprah book club books? She made a name for herself during a scintillating scene in John Stagliano's Fashionistas 2.
"The adult industry was a way to safely to explore my sexuality," Sasha said. "It was a way to change what I was seeing. I was getting off physically, but not getting off intellectually. I wanted to get into the business to change how pornography is perceived."
Sasha expressed her disappointment in the lack of solidarity among her fellow actresses. Female/female relationships in the workplace are always difficult and volatile... especially in the porn world. Sasha explained that the industry and technology has grown so much that it's pushing the talent "more and more apart."
Sasha recently formed her own production company and remarked, "I want to make more erotic and more creative films. The key element missing from adult films today is tonality."
Her keynote speech was over in ten minutes and followed up by a brief Q&A conducted by Tristan Taormino who asked Sasha a couple of prepared questions about kinky sex, effective communication, and getting paid what you're worth as an artist. Once they finished up, I snuck out of the room while everyone gave Sasha a riveting ovation.
The AEE celebrates and showcases the industry which has come a long way since the first ever stag flicks were spliced together post-WWII and sold in the back of trunks from smut peddlers. People love porn. It's not just an American thing, but an international obsession. Adult entertainment transformed into multi-billion dollar industry (exact numbers are unknown) and the yearly revenue generated makes some online poker rooms look like a lemonade stand. The US is actually not the largest market for porn. That honor goes to the Asian countries (Japan, China, and South Korea) that derive revenue from pornography than the US, mainly because openness about all things pertaining to sex is not a culturally accepted norm in some Asian countries. In some twisted way, it's the porn industry (or rather, the easy accessibility to porn and freedom to create it) that drives fundamental Islamists bat shit crazy. One of the justifications behind their Jihad is a rigid view that all forms of porn are obscene, shameful, vulgar, and filthy. And yes, of course it is, but so is reality television -- you just see less flesh.
The serious-looking suits hung out off to the side or in the hallways with their potential clients... well-dressed European, Middle Eastern, and Asian businessmen. At first glance you might mistake them for CES geeks who wandered down the wrong hallway, but the CES geeks were always dragging around multiple laptops and other wheelie luggage through the crowd. The power brokers of the adult entertainment industry were the guys with composed and focused looks on their faces and without the cameras dangling around their necks. They weren't in Vegas to gawk. They were there to seek out investors and distributors. As someone succinctly explained to me, the Persians were funding the films. The Americans in LA were making the films and then distributing them to Asia. The Japanese market was flooded with regional bondage flicks, but their high-volume customers were seeking out films from Flesh Valley over the hills of Hollywood of the "big breasted" and "blonde" variety.
Conventions are always the collision of art and commerce. For every true artist, there are a dozen hustlers out there trying to make a buck and profit off of the exploited fools. I always knew that the porn industry was huge, but it wasn't until I saw the sheer enormity of the elaborate stages from Hustler, Vivid, and Wicked when I realized the amount of money the companies were pumping into the AEE to market their films and promote their stars.
It reminded me of the golden era of the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s and 1940s when the major studios cranked out films in two weeks. The big-named stars were in a dozen films a year, sometimes more. These days, it costs so much and takes too long to create a studio movie from scratch. However, in the porn universe films are being cranked out every day. Sasha Grey has been in an average of 20 films a year and she's just 21.
I returned to the AEE on Saturday morning to beat the rush and get a couple of hours in before the Jets/Bengals playoff game at 1:33pm. Flipchip and the random actresses I spoke to on Friday all agreed that Saturday is a zoo and the worst day of the convention. That's why I went as early as possible -- to avoid the masses. The floor was opened up an hour earlier for press and VIP members. That's the only time to get a chance at interviewing people because once they let the general public inside the room, the aisles quickly clogged up and the lengthy lines started to form. Reminded me of bread lines from old Communist Mother Russia, except guys drunk on vodka are not waiting for food but rather for an autograph and a picture with porn stars who they constantly fantasize about and regularly jerk off to.
At concerts inside the men's toilet, the guys using the stalls were usually snorting hard drugs. I always wondered if the guys in the stalls at the AEE were wanking off? It seemed to suspicious that that many dudes had to take a shit at the same time.
One girl in a jean mini skirt sat on a table and spread her legs. Blinding flashes went off as dozens of horny guys snapped photos. They elbowed each other for position while other guys filmed every second of the peep show with their hand-held video cameras. Most of the time the attendees appeared normal, but every once in a while you came across someone who wasn't altogether there... you know who I'm talking about... the nebbish looking guy with leering eyes of a pedophile.
A blonde in a Catholic school girl outfit tried to get me to buy porn beer coosies. A young guy in his 20s with an L.A. Dodgers hat dragged a blow up doll through the crowd. A Japanese film crew slowly navigated through the crowd while a tiny female presenter stopped people to ask questions. Another busty model offered me a pamphlet on flavored lube. I got caught up in a traffic jam in front of Diamond Foxx's booth as she signed autographs for a group of 60-year old Japanese guys. You could park a motorcycle in her cleavage.
I spent the most time in front of the Girlfriends Films booth across the way from the Beverly Hills plastic surgeons. Two plasma screens flanked the booth and aired the highlights from their high-selling girl-on-girl flicks. They specialize in lesbian porn and I was deeply interested in that genre. I became fond of someone named Prinzzess, who signed an autograph for me and happily answered questions on why she refused traditional porn and engaged exclusively in lesbian films. "I hate men," was her predictable answer.
I stumbled by the Vegasgirls.com booth across the way from the Fleshlights. Wait a sec. Outcall service? Right behind the working girls, were the sex robots and the Bad Girls in 3D. I wondered if Avatar was a bust, would everyone be buzzing about 3D? The future of the porn industry was huddle in that corner. That's when I saw the long white truck trailer with a "Grown and Tow" logo on the front. I investigated and discovered that those guys ran a business that created mobile marijuana grow operations and then they'd drop it off at your house or somewhere in the woods. Talk about one heady set up. We spoke for a while and I tried to see of the Grow and Tow guys wanted to work out some sort of marketing/ad deal with Coventry, my music and Phish blog, which falls under the "grown your own" crowd.
Some how, I made the wrong turn and got caught up in the narrowest aisle and it took ten minutes to squeeze trough the Mardi Gras size crowd that slowly pushed me down the aisle. I passed a couple of the Asian stars from Evil Angel showing off their cookies. Someone dressed up I Dream of Jeannie signed autographs.
A higher percentage of women were in attendance on Saturday, but they were still grossly outnumbered by the dudes. A gaggle of female attendees dressed in lingerie gathered in front of the Bucking Penis. They posed for photos for random guys with cameras. It was sort of their "I'm a porn star" moment because some folks thought they were part of the show. Nope. Just amateurs. I wondered how many women showed up with resumes at the AEE seeking work in this difficult economy?
I passed by a couple of guys in thick accents working out some sort of deal near the Sapphire stripper pole, while CES dorks wandered around in a daze with mouths agape, and stiff erections stifled by their Dockers.
Almost time for kick off, so I bailed as the floor hit an over-saturation point. I took a deep breath and fought the ravenous crowd heading onto the floor as I made my exit but not before a guy in fishnets and a bondage mask barreled by me. On most normal days, uptight citizens call the cops when they witness that sordid and aberrant behavior. But at the AVN AEE, that norm is accepted and customary. Heck, he was one of the more normal people I cam across that day. I surprised he was dragging along a drunk monkey and a Japanese film crew.
Raw Vegas interviewed Sasha Grey.
Check out my NSFW photos of the AVN AEE here.
And don't forget about Flipchip's pics... Day 1 & Day 2 & Day 3.
Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at www.taopoker.com. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.