Flesh and Boredom in Vegas
by Chris Best
illustration by G. Blue
Last time I was in Vegas I had the time of my life. I was on a constant margarita bender, hooked up with a stripper, got mistaken for a chauffeur/gigolo (I can’t even begin to explain that one now), and almost married some L.A. Goth chick I had known for five hours at the Excalibur hotel wedding chapel (“Hell yeah, we’re drunk! Fuckin’ marry us, Friar Tuck!”). Seven months later I went back, but this time I had a purpose. My friends do a magazine with a goth-erotica theme and they were going to promote it at a major convention for the adult entertainment industry, the CES (Consumer Electronics Show). I decided I should go too. What I found, besides a few yucks, was an industry making their case for legitimacy. The thinking is this: by taking the usually hidden world of pornography and presenting it in a sanitized, trade show setting, the sleaze takes a back seat to the business side. Not to say there is no sleaze, au contraire! There’s more sleaze than ten sex shops put together, that and live, half-naked appearances by the stars themselves to sign autographs. The difference is that the shame has been removed and replaced by a celebration of sex and the ability to make a buck off of it.
MORE WOOD THAN THE BLACK FOREST
For most of my life I’ve pictured conventions as a bunch of middle-aged men who have the same boring jobs, gathered together to hear about new and interesting innovations in their fields as an excuse for a weekend of debauchery at company and marital expense. When I think of conventions I also think of “cons” where gamers, Medievalists and Trekkies, among others, seek sanctuary in a hotel for a weekend away from the cruel world of people with lives. Winter CES in Las Vegas is a different breed altogether. But it’s not because of the latest innovations in all things electronic. No, as interesting as that might seem, the whole place starts to look like a big Radio Shack after a while. What sets CES apart from other conventions completely is smut. Yeah, you heard me. Smut. CES is also the largest convention for the adult entertainment industry. It is where everyone who is anyone in the business meets to push product. Imagine that. An industry based on the needs of lonely guys who can’t get any, coming together to show the world, not each other, how business-like they are. Combine the adult film moguls and the promotion and distribution reps with the biggest name porn stars who show up to sign autographs and pose for pictures and then, finally, add their admirers; you have a scene akin to hundreds of male dogs in need of a leg to hump. William S. Burroughs would think up something like this if he were straight.
No, I didn’t get a good first impression from the convention. It was the mob of horny fans that acted as though they had never seen women before and actually thought that they could get some with one of the women that put me off. Being a fan of porn stars is a lot different from being a fan of other entertainers. Where the normal fan-idol relationship has the fan looking up to the idol, porn fans seem to feel the exact opposite way towards their favorite stars. Some of the mostly male fans were just happy to be there enjoying the experience. One guy described it as feeling “like a kid in a candy store!” The other type of fan was bossy and demanding and had some strange idea that they could get some action just by showing off their manly swaggers and beer guts. The actresses making appearances gave cold, detached but fairly polite greetings to their fans who came for autographs and photo-ops. Behind that is a superior attitude that the fans are nothing more than slobbering idiots (I don’t think that’s far off at all).
This is where Sascha Sweet, an extremely attractive redhead with a Cleopatra haircut, and, thanks to modern technology, a very impressive bust, comes in. I had just finished one interview with a peep-show booth salesman (more on that later) and at the booth next to where I was, Ms. Sweet was signing autographs. She looked tired and pissed off. All of a sudden she starts complaining to anyone in earshot: “I’m tired. God, my feet are killing me. One of you rub my feet.” She then looked at me, someone not even in line to get her autograph, “You!” meaning me, “You! Get over here and rub my feet!” I had been on my feet for ten hours straight, and had only had four hours of sleep in the last two days. I had spent the previous night flying from Boston to Charlotte, N.C., only to miss my connection. I then got rerouted to Philadelphia to get the only remaining flight to Las Vegas, only to spend three hours at the Stratosphere bar watching the band play Kool & the Gang covers because my friends were all registered under the name of the one person I didn’t know. On top of that, I hadn’t eaten since the peanuts on the plane. In short, I wasn’t in good shape either. “Buy me some lunch! Huh? Could you do that?” I guess I over reacted a little. But I do think it’s funny that in a place where 99 out of 100 guys would rub her feet, she picked the one guy who wouldn’t.
It’s just like”Leave It To Beaver!”
My second day at the convention, I arrived early enough to actually catch people with nothing better to do than talk to me. I was walking by a booth for a company that specializes in classic (’70s) porn films such as Deep Throat, Debbie Does Dallas, Devil In Miss Jones, etc. He clued me into some, ahem, secrets on the real lives of those in his business. “We’re all normal people. We have families. We deal with life just like everyone else does.” I nodded, he continued. “These girls here all have boyfriends or husbands. They don’t go out and do drugs and fuck everybody they see.” What this man gave me is the porn industry’s strict party line. While I do believe that there probably are quite a number of porn people who do have traditional families, I do not believe that they are in the majority by any means. Hardly anyone has a traditional family these days. But I figure that the rosy image is just defensive. Since the law has been at odds with pornography for a long time, the fear is that any negative news acts as more ammo for the anti-porn crusaders.
In contrast, I later ran into Sharon Mitchell and got to speak with her at length. Mitchell has been on the scene for years but, since her early days of doing normal porn, she’s moved into the fetish market where she produces her own videos and appears as a dominatrix supreme. From her, I got the first real interview of the day. Unlike the candy-coated scripted answers I’d gotten from every other star I’d spoken to previously (some examples: “I love making movies!” “There’s nothing bad about the industry.” “I’m having so much fun today.” “I love my fans.” “I’m 18.”), she was not hesitant to talk about her life, or about the documentary, Kamikaze Hearts, that came out over ten years ago. Kamikaze Hearts, though it showed a balanced portrait of Sharon’s life and the porn world she worked in, also showed Sharon doing drugs on screen. Considering how healthy she looked when I talked to her, I actually believe she’s been off the hard stuff for over a decade. What I really wanted to know was how she managed to stay in the industry for so long without being discarded. What it all boiled down to was control. When she couldn’t stand straight fucking on screen anymore, she moved into the fetish world. By the same token, when bodies started changing (implants and other surgical alterations), she opted to stay like she was. Amazingly enough, her decisions didn’t destroy her career, they gave her a new one.
“I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE UP, MR. BUTTS.”
I’m sure a lot of guys there fantasized about being “discovered” at the convention. I think you know what I mean. Some regular schmo is just walking around the convention when some director points him out and yells “YOU! It’s you we’ve been looking for all along! You’re going to be a star.” This does not happen. I can’t say this enough. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN TO ANYONE. Well, it can if you’re a woman, but it never happens to guys. I got two offers. One guy from Vid-Tek home video (they specialize in fetish videos) saw me and immediately asked me to be in one of his films. This was the pitch he gave me: “First, we’re going to tie you up, then we’re going to get Portia Lynn to whip you!” What’s the catch? The most disturbing exchange was with one older gentleman from Junior Studio whose opener was “How old are you?” I told him 24. The man looked a little disappointed. “Oh my,” he replied, “you’re a bit old for what we want. But you look so young! We could still use you.” Uh-huh. It became apparent that his studio specializes in younger male videos. Aside from that, I only got propositioned for autographs. I kept being asked if I was in KoRn. “I sure am.” That’s what I told everybody. Oh, and I do intend to do that Vid-Tek movie when I can. Now that’s gonna be some fun times.
To be continued.