Boo ya Las Vegas
By Kurt Weitzmann
My bags are packed and I'm ready to go. Thankfully, my roommate has lent me a daypack for the trip. There is something truly depressing about boarding an airplane with a paper bag full of dirty clothes, not that I would have felt out of place. A short flight to Las Vegas is always filled with precocious white trash. It's their holiday and it shows. For a few short days they will be called "sir" and "ma'am" with sincerity and have the unflinching support of the local police. Obviously an attitude is forthcoming.
Touch down Vegas. I have never been here before but some recessive, all too human instinct tells me what to expect. Little old ladies with cigarettes stuck to their badly applied lipstick hanging for their lives from slot handles, white knuckled fists drained of blood, teeth clenched in Christian prayer -"Oh Lord, please just let me break this bank so I can afford that iron lung...and get some help."
The taxi driver's incessant drawl is painfully slow. "You here for the convention", he asks as the red and blue veins on his nose throb in the rear view mirror. "No...". My answer is guarded. "Here to visit a friend", I lie. Why? Why can't I simply state with pride: "I am going to the Adult Video News Awards Show"? Probably for the same reason I can't walk into a video store and proclaim loudly, "I'm going to masturbate to anal dwarves two! Bring it hither boy, and be lively! Get back before I lose my erection and there's an extra farthing in it for you- a bright boy, a remarkable boy."
The Adult Video News Awards Show is the porn industry’s version of the Oscars. An X-rated Cannes, if you will, held, where else but in America 's very own Riviera : Las Vegas . I don't know where the 'news' enters into it but I have visions of Connie Chung bent over a Teletype machine. There is no fur allowed at the event- save the whales, no tuna, and all that. I suppose that most pornographic artisans boycott grapes unless, of course, it is essential to the plot. It's just comforting to know that Coors beer is not used in the production of golden showers.
Please don't misunderstand me. I may be a cynic, but I do understand the importance of 'art house' cinema. If nothing else it is one of the only truly American art forms, to be ranked with jazz, performance art, and macramé. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who once said, "Give me someone who doesn't like porno, and I'll give you someone who won't stick their tongue up your ass". It was either Franklin or the other guy: the one who liked black chicks.
Droopalong, my syphilitic taxi driver, let's me off in front of Bally's, 'Home of the Stars'. I'm ridiculously early. I have brought nothing to read. But I'm sure that the sight of someone reading in a casino would bring hostile stares, and possibly hotel security.
I have more than a few hours before the show so I decide to check out the sight of tonight's gala. I walk into the ballroom unobstructed. It's a little disparaging to think that I look like I belong. People actually nod. My God, do I look like somebody?! There is a drag queen fronted heavy metal (yes, heavy metal) band on stage doing a sound check. 'Doll with the Extra surprise' is a catchy little tune but she's no Freddie Mercury. She's more like Divine, but with "IT". She stands with her arms akimbo administering stage directions for her entrance: "You wheel me up, and you're holding the cat o' nine tails...and don't drop me this time!" I've seen enough. I hope it's more dramatic in full dress.
Outside of Bally's there is a beautiful Nevada sunset brought on by the particles of nuclear testing but it just can't compete with the radiant landscape of cascading lights crisply flashing down the strip. Vegas is confidence with a blatant lack of panache. There is a lively and oppressive undercurrent here. I feel that if I stop moving for a single instant I will smother like a shark, but if I keep moving, spending money, everything will be OK.
Here I stand, in the rectum of the American beast, knowing that somewhere near by there's a place you can bet on the special Olympics, or go double or nothing on a homeless persons change cup. Las Vegas is not corrupt. The word implies covert activity. This is so damned obvious. The bumper sticker should read, 'Vegas is For Hookers'. They don't walk the streets. They are sent to your room. Ordered from pamphlets handed out on every street corner by sleazy, toothless 50-year-old paperboys. One can order fetish after fetish from this X-rated Spiegel catalogue and room service (nudge, nudge) will send them right over.
Meanwhile, the marketing powers that be are trying to sell Las Vegas as a family vacation spot by erecting hotels built around theme park motifs. No amount of pirate coves can hide the fact that Vegas was built on lust and greed, prostitution and gambling- which is great. But don't bring the kids... unless you're going to sell them. Disney is not rushing to make a cartoon version of Caligula. Why put a theme park in Las Vegas ? Don't bring the kids. Do you really want to hear these words on your vacation: "Daddy, why are you crying"?
I relocate to a dumpy casino dollar bar where I confront the first audible smell of the trip. The rule seems to be, the smaller the casino the bigger the smell. Caesar’s is void of any odor. This joint is teeming with olfactory sensation. I prefer it. This is the smell that should be pumped through the oxygen ducts of all the more glittery casinos. I believe one should sense the aroma Satan’s anus as one kisses it. This is the smell that one should equate with Vegas- the smell that should permeate your dreams, waking you to wet sheets. "I was in Vegas and I couldn't get home. And you were there, and you, and... Hey, where are my clothes?" - "Had to save the farm somehow, Dorothy. There's a depression on, ya know." A glance at my watch reveals that it's almost show time. My dollar bar has served me well. Goodbye my silent friends.
Back in the ballroom lobby people are arriving. The once deserted hallway is now filled with people exuding pensive excitement. One can tell there are a lot of us who don't know what to expect. I feel one up on the crowd. Having seen 'Girl With the Extra Whatever', And steeping all day in the realization that life sucks, my expectations are infinitely lower.
I have to pick up my ticket at the door, having waited for the last possible minute to send in what should have been my car insurance. Tickets were expensive, apparently to keep out the riff raff. The man at the gate instantly recognizes my name, reaches into his tux and pulls out an envelope. Creepy. Shades of the Twilight Zone: "room for one more honey".
The actors begin to arrive. The corridor has turned into a runway and I stand watching the parade with eyes agape. I am completely dumbfounded by the commitment to their star mystique. They sashay down the hall way like the Hollywood stars of old, and with the flash bulbs bouncing off the sequined gowns The analogy does not seem that far off. I imagine most of these women came from humble and wholesome beginnings somewhere deep within America 's heartland, not unlike Marilyn Monroe. I think that, if there is one thing that Norma Jean taught us it's that if you work hard enough and really apply yourself, anyone can grow up to fuck the president. The lesson learned? If you’re gonna be a whore you might as well be the best-damned whore you can be.
The ballroom looks bigger with people in it. The stars keep arriving; people I'm glad I don't recognize. I decide to find my table and greet my neighbors. I'm grateful that my table guests all seem to be curiosity seekers like myself. I have been anxious all day about the possibility of shaking hands with someone named Crusty Mound star of Bottom Eaters Two.
The lights dim as people are still schmoozing. A boyish comedian that I recognize from his numerous franchise restaurant commercials takes the stage and begins to eat it harder than Ron Jeremy. I watch with sadistic glee as this milkbread freak performs night of the living Improv (just one letter away from being good). Dying is easy; comedy is hard. It would take me minutes to write a set of Adult Video News jokes. This smarmy dolt does jokes about cars, and commercials for cars, and Didja ever notice how commercials about cars are different than commercials about dish soap, and...
"God? ... Please kill him."
All during sweater-boys set I've been checking out the other tables. Lots of 50 year old businessmen with dates, their hands suggestively placed on their escorts shoulder while most of their attention is focused on their tingling penis. Table talk is a disjointed necessity to be politely endured until it's time to go back to the room and once again spill his phlegmatic corporate seed.
"Thank you. You guys have been great. Goodnight!" the crowd erupts with cathartic applause and breathes a sigh of relief as the comic flees the stage. A bare-chested blonde man I assume fucks on screen for a living does a few songs with the band and the show is in full swing. Thor (?) mc’s the first portion of the show. Although he looks nervous (I don't imagine he has performed in front of more than 10 people since high school chorus) his inside industry references win him over to the crowd. What follows is a parade of excruciatingly bland ceremony, awards for best actor and actress, director, editing (so overlooked). But there are no clips! Why would anyone go to a porno awards show with no clips?! I have to rent these films? This show is three hours long. How am I going to get through it with no clips? I want to sleep but the stars have such the infectious air of giddy cheerleaders that I can't help but get caught up in the beach party atmosphere. Their joyous bounce never once betrays the fact that they are most likely filled to the brim with the decaying semen of industry power brokers. I wait all night for a speech that never comes: "I would just like to say that it doesn't matter who wins or loses here tonight, we are all, each and every one of us, losers."
My weakened kidneys give me an excuse for a break in the pathos. In the only urinal available floats an empty carton of Kodak film. My bladder empties in a spray of blissful poetic release. Laughing sadly at the symbolic irony I slowly ebb back to my seat and almost miss the quintessential moment of the evening.
Standing at the podium is a woman moved to the point of tears, her tightly strung emotions engulfed in illustrious honor. Her voice is wavering. The crowd is hushed (I don't think they can believe this either). She speaks "Thank you for letting me act like I can". She is then led off stage, crying those cocaine tears and collecting the joyful sobs in the sanctum of her now famous throat. This is her night. The lights, the applause wafting stageward, the smell of grease paint and God knows what else.
Buttslammers walks away with a number of awards (including best picture) but that was no surprise. Another big winner was Jonathan Morgan. Every time he takes the stage to accept an award (four in all) he yells, "BOO YA", the relevance of which is lost on me. He reminds me of a pornographic Sam Waynewrite. All that's missing is a thumb in his ear. " Hello Bedford Falls ! Hello beautiful old savings and loan. Hello huge dripping clitoris! Don'tcha know me? SMELLS LIKE FISH!"
I pay close attention as a crowd is brought up to accept an award for best group sex scene. I love good ensemble acting. It's all about listening and trust. There are no stars here, just talent.
The remainder of the show is rushed through by a group of three women sounding off in unison. It is truly a bizarre sight to behold. They flatly read off names like a three-headed siren singing in a Jersey twang: Key grips, set design, wardrobe, the gays…
The last recipient (for -you guessed it- life achievement) sums it all up nicely, and finally breaks through the first amendment band-standing and the wall of respectability that this event has tried so hard to uphold. "There are a lot of new faces out there tonight. I know 'cause I haven't fucked any of you!” On that defining note the stars dance and wiggle to the finale. The "IT" girl actually forgets a few lines to Thing with the Extra Cock, but looks stunning. After the show the stars linger, pictures are taken. Video crews are everywhere. I'm baffled by the lack of security. By this phase of my drinking I look like a psychopath, but I could walk up to any starlet with ease. Oh well, I suppose they know what they're doing. I don't see anyone with a shaved head or army fatigues. I can't imagine you'd get much press assassinating a porn star anyway.
It's time to go home. I feel cheated. I have learned nothing, except maybe that Vegas sucks and sex is bad. I hope there is a movie about a dog on the plane. From the air Las Vegas seems to jut out of the desert floor like a pregnant sore spewing forth glittery, lava colored puss into the oppressively thin, vestal desert air. But then again, I need sleep and maybe some therapy. Goodnight, sweet jonboy. God bless us every one. BOO YA!
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