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CES

[CES/adult expo]

A tale of two conventions

Despite objections from a few, porn and electronics shows succeed hand-in-hand

Image
Show attendees gather outside the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Photo: Justin M. Bowen

A show attendee takes a picture of a TV display Sunday at CES in Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Adult Video Network Awards show at Mandalay Bay.

The Adult Video Network Awards show at Mandalay Bay.

Sunday at CES

Photo

John Stagliano

Snoop Dogg’s classic hit “Gin and Juice” played on the iPod as four Asian businessmen crowded around the Sergio booth at the Consumer Electronics Show Friday afternoon to check out the company’s iSpin, a mini mixing device on the small scale of a DJ’s turntables.

Less than a football field away inside the Sands Expo Convention Center, the same rap song was pulsating through much larger speakers and another group of salespeople were pedaling their wares.

In this case, the point(s) of interests were the products themselves as four half-naked strippers from Sapphire Gentlemen's Club showcased their dance skills and a little skin on upraised stripper poles during the annual Adult Entertainment Expo.

“It’s a great time for us. It’s our biggest week of the year. There is definitely a lot of crossover from the two conventions every night,” said Shai Cohen, director of marketing for Sapphire. “How can you not think that’s a win-win situation for everybody involved?”

While the contrasting scenes in the Venetian are about as surreal as any you’ll find in a destination stop that goes by the moniker of “Sin City,” the two conventions also are vital to each other’s success and have been that way for the past two decades, despite the underground snickers from mainstream CES attendees and vendors.

“Certainly adult entertainment has always been an engine of technological innovation,” said legendary porn star Nina Hartley. “There’s a natural affinity. They like our money but they hold their noses at it because we are, you know, a low culture medium. We use the technology, but the people who made the technology certainly don’t want to know what we do with it.”

Well, maybe for some, but clearly a large group of CES showgoers tried to sneak a peek at what was going on next door whenever possible.

The main section of CES that houses the seemingly infinite number of flat screens, along with keynote speeches and the majority of the 2,700 exhibits is held at the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center.

But much of the excitement for CES fans can be found in the corridor inside the Expo Center that connects the AEE to the CES.

Middle-aged men in three-piece suits lined the hallway each day to check out adult entertainers donning their corresponding suits, usually latex or see-through.

As starlet Jessica Bangkok made her way through the Venetian, convention attendees from both sides stopped dead in their tracks to stare at her barely-there fringe skirt.

But the actress from Oakland said she hardly noticed the attention.

“I guess when you’re at a convention like this, your mindframe switches to where you just don’t think about all the onlookers,” she said. “I mean, every girl is hardly wearing anything, so people are staring at all of us. I did notice a few more men in suits though -- those must be from the CES show,” she said with a chuckle.

The cattle call of men lining up outside the entryway to AEE provided plenty of comedic moments that were captured on a plethora of camera phones, but for workers nearby, some of the actions and nonstop traffic became frustrating, but still funny.

A towering doorman who goes by simply “Diablo” couldn’t help but sit back and laugh at the spectacles he took in each day — that is, when he wasn’t doing his job of busting CES showgoers who were trying to sneak in to AEE.

“You can’t blame them for setting up shop out here and staring. I’ve been doing a little bit myself because of all the crazy costumes and girls,” he said. “Sure it creates a big crowd, but the only real problem is trying to catch the people that are scalping their passes.”

Randy Weinzweig, a salesman from Toronto who has been coming to Las Vegas for the past 20 years for CES, finally decided to step into the adult world this year and bought a ticket to AEE.

“I guess my curiosity finally got the best of me,” Weinzweig said. “It’s kinda what I expected in some ways, but way over the top in other aspects.

“As far as the technology goes, it is kind of cool to see the two worlds coexist. I’m sure there’s a lot more partnering then anyone really knows. I mean, the advent of VHS and DVD fed directly into the world of porn, as did so many other technologies. So it only makes sense that two shows are side by side.”

Playboy lifestyle editor Scott Alexander said that while the CES, the world’s largest trade show, could exist without AEE, after a day or two many of the patrons would want more than just their electronic needs fulfilled.

“I think AVN is like the id of CES,” he said. “CES is very repressed.”

VERSUS LTD director Filip Ivanovski, whose company makes a portable pop-a-shot basketball hoop with accompanying stadium-sounding scoreboard, said so many companies at CES cater to a predominantly male audience.

So Ivanovski took a page out of the AEE playbook and hired attractive girls to help display his product.

Of course, the women’s miniskirts and tight shirts didn't completely resemble the flesh-based outfits next door.

“Yeah, the clothes are nothing compared to what’s going on in there,” Ivanovski said, pointing to the AEE convention. “But we’ve had several people stop by, play a game and talk to the girls. Both these shows are such male-dominated that you can’t help by try to take a couple of tricks from each other. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Neither did techie, make that "Star Trekie" LeVar Burton, who was in town for CES.

“It’s obvious these two shows are stimulating the economy in this town this week,” said Burton, who acknowledged that both events on their own suffered a dip in attendance this year.

“And next week when these shows are gone, there will be people out of work. So no matter how a few people may view these shows, together they are definitely a good thing for this town.”

Andy Samuelson is a writer for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at andy.samuelson@lasvegassun.com or 702-948-7837.
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