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The 2006 Adult Entertainment Exposition - Special Report


Call it what you will but the adult entertainment industry is arguably ingrained in almost every aspect of modern life, much to the chagrin of a small but vocal minority of folks trying to attack it by any means possible. A quick look at the industry shows ties to many major corporations, Hollywood, and just about every community in the form of local video and book stores catering to the masses seeking to enjoy various forms of sexual activity. While porn is often discussed in secret or hushed tones, with snickering and joking to ease the awkwardness of the moment, the desire to view such material cuts across all socio-economic lines, all races, and all cultures; regardless of the specific material favored by individuals. The industry caters to our collective sexual fantasies and as such, relies heavily on the perception of desirability, often using slight of hand and illusion to convey an image that falls short of the reality of porn. Some of this image is addressed in the documentary Rated Xand the advent of the DVD format has seen the growth of behind the scenes features that sometimes dispel the myths of the industry too but our need to believe in the free flowing sexuality of attractive young women is so great that even jaded old porn hounds like me sometimes forget this is a business first. With all the regulations, court decisions, and newfound support from the feds in recent years, the industry finds itself under attack like never before hence the need for trade magazines like AVN (Adult Video News) to address the needs of the business and provide a positive face for an industry known as much for it's scandals as its profitability.

The magazine is best known for offering up scores of advertisements by production companies and encapsulated reviews designed to give a quick overview of the 14,000+ titles released every year but it also includes legal reports, articles and discussions on industry trends. The magazine also sponsors a yearly trade show in Las Vegas every January; a show called the Adult Entertainment Exposition. While there are other shows throughout the year, some of which are decidedly more fan friendly and convenient to some people, it's tough to argue that the AEE is anything less than a celebration of the sheer diversity porn has to offer, complete with an award show covering more aspects of the industry's releases than anything conceived to date. The following article attempts to provide one mans overview of the recent show, noting the impossibility of seeing everything and partaking in all the festivities the industry had to offer but like me write up of the 2004 AEE Show, there was plenty to see and more porn stars in view than you could possible deal with in a given day.

The Exposition:

The AEE takes place every January at the Sands Expo Center attached to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The AEE is held concurrently with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), having sprung forth from the electronics show after years as a small (but incredibly popular) section of the famous show. For the four days the show is actively in session, people from all walks of life and all parts of the industry meet to discuss porn, conduct business, and otherwise network while interacting with the plethora of eye candy the companies hire to hawk their names. The first official day of the expo is on Thursday but insiders know that getting into town early offers up significant perks to those willing to come early, not the least of which are a number of small invitation-only parties and dinners designed to ease people into the whirlwind of the expo floor that gets increasingly hectic as the show progresses.

As the official representative of XCritic, I fielded a few of these early invites with Wednesday night, the "night of anticipation" for me, having the most interest. After the initial registration for press credentials with all the normal problems, I wondered if perhaps a better system could be used to facilitate the matter of getting the scores of press credentials handed out faster and/or more efficiently. That said, the logistics of any such operation involve endless issues so it is to the credit of people like Andrew Mun, the Manager of Public Affairs for the show, to iron out the little kinks that pop up from time to time.

Sometime later in the evening, I ran into the infamous Robby D. of Digital Playground in the hallways of the Venetian along restaurant row. We spoke at length about recent events, like audio commentaries and how best to joke around in them, after which I joined him and his colleagues from Digital Playground for dinner at the Royal Star. The food was excellent but, to be frank about it, the company was so much more engaging than most dinners that I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the highlights of the evening. From sitting beside the lovely Jana Cova, to discussing the art of public relations with Adella O'Neal, to the sharing of baby pictures by contract stars, directors, and others invited to the event; the night went incredibly well. That stars like Janine, Teagan Presley, Jana Cova, Sophia Santi, and Jesse Jane all looked better than in their movies goes without saying yet I hesitate to suggest that the basis of their appeal was simply the eye candy value they each possess.

After shutting the restaurant down, we all left to prepare for the first day of the show though I ran into a few performers on my way back to the hotel and ended up discussing the finer points of porn until far too late into the evening. As a reviewer, I sometimes forget that many in the industry do not watch the movies they make so their perceptions of how they are made to look is often tremendously skewed compared to what they're later told by the producers. I later find out that the heads of many major companies don't watch their own titles except in passing, focusing their efforts on the business aspects of the business over the parts many of us know far too well. Given the chance, I'm sure most consumers could offer tips to improve the content of movies coming from such companies, a fact that did not fall on deaf ears later on in the week.

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Getting far too little sleep then, I slept about as well as a child anticipating Christmas Day with thoughts of happy harlots dancing in my head in place of the more traditional fare. Having been to the show before, I knew that the first hours of opening day would be among the least productive since past experience told me that many of the companies would find their spokeswomen flaking for the first few hours. Part of this is due to the time change (Las Vegas is in an earlier time zone than most performers live in) and part of it has to do with the independence of the gals but it always seems to separate the men from the boys in terms of which companies have their act together, a fact that became apparent rather soon this time.

After the cluster fuck of the opening that was delayed repeatedly by staffers intent on holding us back well after the scheduled opening time, we all rushed in to see the general outlay of the floor. The most noticeable booths at the front of the expo were the Vivid Entertainment and Club Jenna stands. One of the things I noticed about their booths was that they had a steady stream of contract stars, all of them looking as glamorous as one would expect of a star caste system, elevating the status of their gals substantially over companies that forced their gals to wear uniforms or allowed their people to dress down.

Some of the best draws of the show were located here with Lanny Barby and Tera Patrick being among the most popular ladies of the day. Throughout the show, my personal observation was that the longest lines were by these two booths with infrequent exceptions like the rare appearance by the legendary Larry Flynt and the times when the term "wardrobe malfunction" took on a whole new meaning as ladies went much further than they were supposed to, showing enough skin to cause a couple of small fights as men vied for position to take the most revealing pictures.

Make no mistake about it either, the main reason why so many people put up with the long lines, the inconveniences, and the circus like atmosphere was the number of ladies signing for the various companies. Take them out of the equation and you'd have a hard time counting the tumbleweeds rolling through the aisles no matter what you've heard about the amount of business taking place on the show floor. Like always, this led to the yearly porn cold war of ladies whereby companies attempt to get the best women signing for them in order to create the largest buzz. Some companies rely on their lovely contract stars, including Wicked Pictures using hotties like Jessica Drake and Stormy to bring in the crowds while others chose to employ hired guns like Red Light Districts selection of the lovely Rita Faltoyano or Evil Angel's use of popular ladies like Katja Kassin to bring fans in for a closer look. In the end, the bigger companies have the ability to hire the best in the business but the show itself has been known to elevate the status of the gals who show the best attitudes, are the friendliest to fans, and come across as excellent spokesmodels for the line they are representing. For the women who put the fans first every day, this can easily generate the kind of excitement that the best publicist in the world can't buy them so the AEE is a golden opportunity for newcomers to make a name for themselves in a personal manner. With so many directors, producers, distributors, and even reviewers in the same place, a few well made comments can certainly put a gal on the fast track to stardom and I watched more than a couple pour their hearts into such efforts all week long.

There were numerous unsung heroes of the show like starlet Felecia Fox, perhaps the only gal at the show on time, every day, with a glowing demeanor that never sublimated her raw sensuality but supplemented it to the point where I'm still amazed she's not under contract for all she has to offer over the flavor of the week types that fade away in no time. Others worthy of attention were those who assisted fans by taking their picture with the performers since most fans really wanted something to truly personalize their experience at the show.

In terms of companies catering to the fans, this was an area of mixed blessings. The huge lines at Vivid and Club Jenna caused many to have to choose between getting a few high profile autographs or passing them up in hopes of seeing a lesser known selection of women more freely available. This was especially evident on the weekend when the hordes of fans poured through the showroom floor in search of some quality time with a barely dressed hotty. For every lucky twist of fate allowing a fan to have access to a sexpot like Flower Tucci or Julia Bond without waiting in a lengthy line, there'd be numerous idiots bringing dozens of pictures to be signed for later sale on Ebay, causing the rest of us to fantasize about a perfect world where such jerks would be thrown in the stockade for the duration of the show.

By the end of the show though, booths hawking enhancement products using gals like the fabulous Nikki Loren nearly had me willing to test them out given the overload of multiple days of hot women, tons of porn, and the carnival like atmosphere surrounding the show. It didn't hurt that most of us were sleep deprived, trying to fit in some gambling, parties where the free booze flowed so readily, and the hordes of escorts wanting to play with us (for a price of course, everything in Vegas seems to have a price tag attached). A word of general caution though; if you're seeking to make this pilgrimage to the porn gods, make it on Friday (or Thursday if you can swing it) because as the show progresses, fewer ladies make it to their booths and many of them skip Sunday altogether.

The Awards Show:

Okay, by now most of you have heard who the big winners for the year were for the AVN Awards that took place on Saturday. Audrey Hollander won best female performer and the majority of other awards went to The New Devil In Miss Jones, Pirates,Camp Cuddly Pines Powertool Massacre, Slut Puppies, Dark Side, and Dark Angels 2. A cursory glance at the titles winning overall showed a lot of awards going to relatively few movies but it was also interesting to note that many of the awards went to titles we picked last year in the XCritic 2005 Top Porn Lists so perhaps the quality of the selection process used by the folks at AVN matched our own laborious work (or maybe the top titles were so far above the pack as to be universally appealing). There were relatively few surprises in the show this year and the lovely hostess with the mostess, Jesse Jane, came across as one of the most positive and charming ladies in the role, befitting her position as the lead contract star of Digital Playground.

The show was followed by the tremendous number of parties that seemed so in vogue. What struck me as particularly odd was how many contract performers could be readily seen at parties hosted by their competition though it was a chance for rivalries to give way to the decadent merriment the industry has to offer. Some of the classier parties included the Vivid gathering, the Sean Michaels After Party, and the smaller but reportedly fun Andrew Blake party at Club Ice. There were other parties during the week well worth attending but these were the big name parties where the movers and shakers appeared at in droves. Of course there were a ton of private parties, some of which resulted in performers skipping out on working the convention the next day I might add, but they were not open to the public and for all the rumors of orgies and other misconduct going on at them, precious few offered any sort of live sex show with limited audience participation (don't ask). The common thread for the parties, particularly the ones either readily open to the public or "sort of" open to the public was that the ratio of men to women remained about the same as always with large volumes of horned up guys hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare performer. As I've mentioned in the past, such parties are okay for those who enjoy large clubs with the usual club atmosphere but they typically pale compared to the convention floor in terms of quality time spent with the ladies.


Before I left for the show, I asked people what they wanted me to focus my efforts on and almost universally they claimed to get lots of pictures. In the past, I took a few hundred shots and everyone seemed most appreciative so I tried my best to go all out this time. I ended up taking close to 500 pictures, editing them down to cut out the worst of the lot or the ones I'd need 2257 documentation to post (any sexual conduct between two undressed adults has restrictive rules so I get to keep those for myself). I tried to get as many of the ladies as possible, directors, and even some eye candy for the ladies out there. There were lots of thongs, a few flashes of breasts, and a few notable celebrities on hand that were willing to pose. Some of the gals flaked or couldn't make it to the show, others made it some of the time, and still others had restrictive schedules at booths that weren't set up to handle crowds so I'll admit that I didn't get everyone in attendance but the companies set it up that way so consider this as complete a photo essay as a single guy could get while still trying to find out what's coming up in 2006. Not all of the people are identified (for a variety of reasons) but many of them will be selected in upcoming Spotlight Performer articles in the weekly Blue Room Columnso keep an eye out to see who we talk about in the coming weeks (and feel free to email me any corrections or missing names for exclusive no-prize award recognition).

Wrap Up:

"The industry is evolving" said director Brandon Iron as he whisked the lovely Gia Jordan away from me, "with the big guys swallowing up the smaller ones at an increasingly rapid pace. Competition is thick and it takes a lot of money to stay in the game these days." For him, porn is not about the fantasy so much as a means to pay the bills since it truly is a business first for those making the movies. With directors moving around like witnesses in a protection program in the last few weeks, I just hope they can keep the levels of quality high as they parade the latest ladies entering the business to an adoring public intent on fueling the fantasy behind the reality that is porn. Porn may well be business as he suggested but it's also BIG business and that means the rewards are there for the ones who successfully address consumer desires, wants and needs the best. 2006 is going to be another step forward in that regard given my conversations with so many of the people that make the movies we love to appreciate in private but in the immortal words of my new best friend Robby D., "Enjoy Yourself and have fun!

- Don Houston.

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