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A night at the porn expo’s favorite watering hole

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After the tradeshow floor closes up, porn insiders head to the Venetian’s “circle bar” to meet and mingle.
Photo: Sarah Feldberg

"We can't call you Sarah," Poison Ivy tells me. I point out that it's my name, that most people call me that or some derivative of my last name, Feldberg, but the 64-year-old dressed in a gray sweatshirt and glasses isn't interested.

"We'll call you Rocky Rose," he decides.

My new porn name makes me want ice cream, but I'm not about to argue. Poison Ivy, as he's called in the "industry," is a veteran in the world of adult entertainment, a former video store owner from Scarsdale, N.Y.

He says he opened Video Ranger in 1983 with its small adult section hidden behind a curtain because he "was a little perverted Jewish guy from the Bronx."

He says it smiling, tells me he walked away with $93,000 a year plus bonus in Manhattan to sell videos and keep naughty secrets in a wealthy Jewish community in Westchester County. The store is closed now, but his 20-odd years stocking videos and attending conventions have made him a fixture at industry trade shows. Tonight, as we sit at the slots alongside the Venetian's Oculus Lounge on the first night of the 2010 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, Poison Ivy is my guide.

And now I have a tribal name.

Oculus is the unofficial headquarters of the adult expo after dark. While a few of the biggest names in the industry make appearances in Strip nightclubs, most of the actors, models, exhibitors and peripheral players skip the lines, cover charges and dress codes and congregate around what they call "circle bar."

Wearing swim trunks, T-shirt and eau de chlorine, Chase Styles doesn't know the real name of the bar he's standing alongside, but he is exactly where he wants to be.

Within a minute of approaching the bar, Styles is at my side. "Are you ladies in the industry?" he asks.

We're not. Like safari guests on the Serengeti we're here to observe the porn insiders in their natural environment. Circle bar is the savannah's watering hole.

Tonight, Styles reports, AVN Awards co-host Kayden Kross has been spotted. That man, in the white hat, he's "talent" — and Spanish. Manuel Ferrara. "All the girls want him."

That blonde with spindly legs that loft her to a height that can't be ignored, she's "industry," too.

"She's beautiful," Styles assesses flatly like a coach surveying his starting lineup.

"I'm a Libra," he adds. "I admire beauty."

During Styles' first years attending the annual trade show, he slogged to every porn star-hosted nightclub party, logging 20 minutes here or there before moving to the next one. Now he knows better.

"Everyone eventually comes here, anyway."

Styles is here to recruit. He's having a party later in the weekend. It's open bar, he tells us, and very exclusive. "They usually turn into orgies," Styles says grinning. "Are you guys good girls?"

All around circle bar, people are admiring beauty. As the clock sneaks toward midnight, the crowd is three to four deep, overflowing the standing room and radiating out into the rows of slots where people splay out on chairs, sipping cocktails and talking about each other.

The steady chatter is interrupted by squeals when someone bumps into a long-lost friend. It's like a high-school reunion in Lucite heels.

"Gorgeous" is the word they use when they talk about one another. Some stretch the word out so the "o" almost swallows the "r." "Gooooooorgeous."

Poison Ivy says it matter-of-factly as he recalls meeting the now-retired Queen of Porn, Jenna Jameson.

"She said, 'My name's Jenna Jameson, I just got into the business, and I'm going to be a big star.' You could tell then. She was gorgeous."

Ivy considers himself a sort of amateur porn historian. In New York, he lectures occasionally at local colleges like the New School, Dominican College and the State University of New York's Purchase College, starting each class with the same question.

"I say, "'How does a girl become a porno star?'" Ivy goes on to tell a Lifetime Originals-style tale of woe — sexual abuse, running away from home, drug use and eventually, sex on camera to pay for more drugs.

"Don't listen to any of that shit," he laughs. "A girl becomes a porno star because she likes to fuck."

A couple of friends and a pair of minor porn actresses listen in as he holds court on the casino floor. Every now and then he springs from his seat and calls out somebody's name by the bar, running over to give a quick hug.

"The first show I went to had six companies and 12 girls," he recounts. "It's too plastic now. All the girls look the same; they're all junior Jenna Jamesons."

The dark-haired girl/girl actress with a quilt of tattoos sitting in front of him straightens slightly. The word "P-U-R-E" is spelled out in ink across the fingers of one hand.

"Most of the girls are complete morons," Ivy grumbles. "I won't even call them Valley girls. They're worse."

Tonight, about a dozen actresses have gathered around the bar. Veteran porn star Tiffany Mynx is here, typing into an iPhone encased in black and silver rhinestones. "Hi, handsome! I've been looking all over for you," she coos as she reaches down to wrap Ivy in a hug. On the other side of the crowd Sunny Lane is surrounded by three men. Other than a few obvious cases, however, it's hard to tell who is who.

It's a circle bar guessing game: Consumer Electronics Show or AVN?

The girl in a snakeskin dress that seems about to declare itself a shirt is easy to assign. A group of men in suits puffing on fat, stinky cigars, less so.

On this first night, men outnumber women at Oculus by about four to one.

The female porn stars are easy to spot. Each is long and lean with impossible cleavage and escorted by a man who appears to be simultaneously showing her off and tasked with ensuring her safety. When they walk by, a dozen heads turn and follow. Eye contact is held for longer than would normally seem appropriate.

Inside the bar's busy ring, a handful of bartenders zoom back and forth between customers pouring Glenlivets and sticking limes into the necks of chilly Coronas. A lower-level fridge door swings open revealing a frayed bumper sticker that says, "Easy does it." At the moment it seems like a bitter joke.

As empty beer bottles and cocktail glasses accumulate on the bar, a proclamation rises from one of the cigar smokers.

"I'll never get married again," he declares from inside his cloud. "Well, maybe once more. I'll get married three times."

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