No thanks for the mammaries
A Sacramento writer goes limp at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Sin City
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold … ”
And thank God for that. My back had been killing me since I boarded the plane for Las Vegas, and I was not looking forward to lugging my bags around without an anti-inflammatory. I was heading to Sin City for the recent AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, and my bags only faintly resembled the luggage Hunter S. Thompson and Oscar Zeta Acosta felt necessary to take with them in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. My tame bag of drugs included 48 ibuprofen, 16 chewable Pepto-Bismol tablets, half a bottle of Tums and eight caps of DayQuil—all stuffed into a Ziploc emblazoned with Spider-Man’s mug.
Still, I felt prepared. The Vegas of today isn’t Thompson’s Vegas of 1971. Hell, it’s not even the Vegas of a decade ago. The family-friendly Vegas pushed on us a few years back ended in a broken marriage and, sure enough, the Harley-riding stepfather, “What happens in Vegas …” showed up. Now frat boys and families who never got the memo wander the overpriced Strip, neither group comfortable with the other’s presence.
The Adult Entertainment Expo is the largest adult-entertainment trade convention in the world, pulling in more than 22,000 attendees this year. Walking through the Sands Expo toward the large double doors that led into the convention was like strolling a twisted red carpet. Suits playing hooky from the nearby Consumer Electronics Show lined the entryway, snapping pictures of any actresses coming or going from work.
If it wasn’t for the breasts, I could almost convince myself that I had wandered into any other convention in the world. Booths created rows in a large hall, bigger companies took up more space, and I could always tell where the free goodies were by the size of the crowd.
Then I turned a corner and ran face-first into a 7-foot bucking penis. Straddled by girls in bikinis, the penis acted as a phallic mechanical bull, thrusting wildly and slamming woman after woman into the ground while the crowd cheered.
There were rows of vibrators, strap-ons, $6,000 life-size realistic sex dolls, Obama condoms, bondage gear and pillows with indentations in them so women with implants can sleep comfortably on their stomachs. Everywhere breasts accosted me. Stars signed autographs, video monitors ran porn and 40-foot posters proclaimed the release of the latest XXX parody. Within five minutes, my brain shut down, and tits became almost boring. Granted, I didn’t want to blink for fear of missing a pair, but even the sight of a gaggle of female porn stars snacking on hot dogs in the cafeteria did nothing for me.
“These will get you rock hard. Last for hours,” a bald salesman for Stiff 4 Hours yelled out at me when I came within 10 feet of his booth. “Best there …” He continued before trailing off at the sight of my credentials. “Oh, press.”
While some tried to earn a living, most people came for the T ’n’ A. In addition to the 7-foot mechanical member, AEE also delivered Slick Chix female oil wrestling, a series of naughty stage games for fans, and professional and amateur pole-dancing contests. Even with waning attendance over the years, AEE still filled the halls, thanks to the overwhelming power of sex.
Casinos have tapped this vein as their latest effort to counter the difficult economic climate. On a previous trip to AEE, I stumbled upon an isolated portion of the Mandalay Bay casino called “The Party Pit.” Consisting of a series of gaming tables surrounding a small stage complete with flashing lights, a stripper pole and, of course, a scantily clad woman dancing to the current Top 40, it mixed the two staples of Nevada: sex and gambling.
This time, two years later, on a Thursday night, I found myself aimlessly wandering Luxor’s empty food court looking for signs of life. At 11 p.m. on a Thursday night, the shops stood closed, most restaurants were locked down and only a few members of the cleanup crew remained. The casino downstairs, while not barren, was patchy at best, with one exception: the Luxor’s very own Party Pit surrounded by gamblers and tourists snapping photos. In only a few short years, seemingly every casino on the strip had emulated Mandalay Bay’s mash-up of women and cards.
It was easy to see why sex had infiltrated the casinos. Las Vegas, as a gambling town, was stagnant. Just one block off the Strip, rundown motels punctuated for-sale signs sitting atop empty lots that amounted to nothing more than fenced-in sections of the desert. Everything about Las Vegas—gambling, big shows and weddings—had become a cliché of itself. Vegas had to sex them up.