Fear and Loathing

Trashman sinks his teeth into the unholy union of porn and Vegas

One way I've discovered to subsidize my real writing and alcohol habit is porn writing. Smut for Dollars: cheap hack porn-vid toss-offs for quick-buck fixes. Scribing a "review" takes about as long as a good whack session, which is actually longer than it takes to do an album review. Album reviewing is even more appalling than porn reviewing. It is the most overrated and tired genre in all of criticism.

Kids don't read reviews, and reviews don't reflect sales. If they did, Elvis Costello would have sold more records than Van Halen. Most reviewers I know barely listen to the CDs before they start tossing off their trite and unresearched judgments. Porn-tape reviews, on the other hand, dutifully allow the consumer not to get taken by fly-by-night smut peddlers. They steer the porn fan straight, so to speak. In porn, it is easy to tell that which is good for wood and that which is not. Really, a below the belt kinda thang.

Hard-core porn thrives in the land of the free in spite of the censorship of chest-pounding, Christian fundamentalist Dudley Do-rights. In 1997 Americans burped up eight billion buckaroos on their longing for the heady stuff--more than we spent on any other "leisure time" activity (and enough to put a serious dent into the extreme poverty of the world's poorest countries). And talk about tax revenue! Injustices still abound: We will have our smut, but the Ramones never got the airwaves.

In the mail I receive all types of porno promo regalia; I get two-headed dildos, vibrators designed for any orifice imaginable, and invites to go on San Fernando Valley porn shoots. I also get lots of videos and DVDs: gorilla gonzos, fetish, all-girl, over 50, anal gang-bangs, and slick (by smut standards) "films" that incorporate "real" filmmaking techniques alongside the requisite schtupping. And just like the record-company crap I receive, it all winds up in the local resale venue. What a great country.

In the second week of July, Las Vegas reared its head in the form of the VSDA show, a porn convention of sorts. I wanted out of here. So I got a press pass and went, flask in hand.

Vegas and porn. Talk about a supreme all-American unholy union. The first, middle and last act in Vegas was to drink. In Vegas the booze flows all-out 24/7, and a man like me just has to love that. It's a wonder I didn't remain there.

Cash is the gas in Vegas; without it a man is done. Stranded. And in the netherworld of old Vegas, there lie strains of those who purchased the glitter myth with nothing but fumes; evil-eyed hucksters looking for a cheap take, a financial hand job. Their desperation is complete. And while all of Vegas is without hope and culture, that older side of Vegas is completely barren of expectation and even joy; the last thread upon which to string a selfish desire for easy wealth.

The other side of the strip rates an equal desperation only filtered through an evil Disneyesque sheen and a glorified mall habit. It's where the accumulation of fast-food-driven families from places with names like Kalamazoo or Lincoln or Sioux Falls jostle for their place in dreamland, that place arrived at only through the avaricious and futile exchange of money for want of more money.

The VSDA show sits smack in the middle of it all in the homogenous and spacious Las Vegas Convention Center. The show itself is giant media mindfuck designed for home-entertainment sellers and distributors to chirp their wares to retail businesses, press and the average couch-dwelling dolt. They do it via glossy attraction in booths, stalls and small shows.

The bigger the company, the more ornate the booth. HBO, for example, had slot machines and a card table with a dealer using custom "Rat Pack" cards. One company employed a flashy stage--large enough to fit into any midsize venue--on which choreographed dance shows were performed, complete with gauche lighting and huge background video screens broadcasting the performance. Some vendors offered gimpy singin' Elvises serenading passers-by with acoustic guitars (one even showcased the more taunting and bloated Vegas-era Elvis).

A few others volunteered B-level Hollywood celebrity hams for the mouth-breathing general public to harangue for autographs (here I stared in awe as an unsuspecting Paula Abdul picked her nose behind a floor display).

In the rear, as if in the back of the bus, behind a 25-foot-high facade of blue-and-white curtains--at the very end of the mainstream--was, fittingly, the adult section. It was marked with a sign that clearly read: "ADULTS ONLY."

The adult slice of the convention pie was less ornate and much smaller. At the entrance a cop checked IDs. Inside, rows of adult-video makers and distributors propped paraphernalia in colorful collages of spectacularly exaggerated snips of human desire. Top pouty pro tarts posed for pictures and signed autographs at booths for slack-jawed masturbation professionals and lonely post-midlife baldos who traversed from miles away and paid hundreds for day passes to be there. A surprising number of women circulated as well.

Aging industry veterans yapped on while some of the up-and-coming companies sported hipster 20-something male and female employees who have overcome (or never had) silly religious sexual hang-ups and made porn a solid career device. Top companies like Vivid, Private USA, Metro, Sin City and Odyssey, plus industry trade AVN (the Billboard of porn), all have young professionals at the helm who defy that arcane notion that porn is strictly a misogynistic men-only affair for that trench-coated weirdo who leafs through whack-fodder in the back of triple-X arcades. That was then, this is now. Porn has come out from under the mattress and onto the coffee table.

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