by Rich Moreland, February 2020
Photos by Kevin Sayers.
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Call it the end of an era or the final curtain, but never suggest it’s a swan song. The Adult Entertainment Expo and the Hard Rock Hotel are no more, but the trade show is not going into retirement.
Here’s the story. The talk around the Hard Rock this year was what to expect in 2021. What is going to be new and different? Well, as it turns out, not a whole lot. The Hard Rock is going under a name and branding change.
“We are signed with the Virgin Hotel through 2023 already. They are thrilled to have the AVN Awards and Expo at their property,” Dan Miller, managing editor of the AVN, told me. The only real change is the name because the venue remains in place. Next year fans and industry people will meet and greet at the new Virgin Hotel on Paradise Road in Las Vegas, the same location that carried the impressive guitar logo of the Hard Rock.
Enough said on that. Let’s take a look at what this year offered.
The Expo’s opening day on the collective floors of Artist Hall, Muse Hall, and The Joint is much appreciated by media people. A modest number of fans are just getting into the swing of things. The bulk of them will arrive Thursday and Friday so movement around the three adjoining facilities is less crowded which means many of the stars are conveniently accessible. For an industry writer, corralling porn’s finest for a short interview or brief chat is hassle free.
Simply put, this is orientation time, if that’s what I may call it. Find out where the talent agencies have their girls, scope out the best times to visit the booths of the major studios, and check the layout of the novelty expo. For veterans like yours truly, the day is filled with networking and renewing old acquaintances before everyone’s schedule becomes too hectic.
My photog Kevin and I stopped by ATMLA’s (Adult Talent Managers) signing area to pass a few moments with a favorite I interviewed last year, Ember Snow, and one of the industry’s most likeable MILFs, Sarah Vandella. We first met her on a Girlfriends Films set a couple of years ago.
Stopping by Adult Time in late afternoon, I congratulated Tommy Pistol on another productive year. I congratulated him on a superior performance in one of the year’s top comedies, Love Emergency, but didn’t stay long because a couple of fans showed up and they always come first. Then I dropped by Foxxx Modeling to set up an interview with newcomer Paris Amour.
One of the fascinating aspects of networking day is an impromptu chat with a performer I’ve never met, but am familiar with her work. Early in the day I introduced myself to Victoria Voxxx, an AVN award nominee for a shoot she did with Kink.com. Very personable and I mentally put her on my list of talent to interview if time allows.
The Press Room
Kevin and I have learned that the best way to take a break from the hyperactive pace of the trade show floor is to retreat to the press room. Everything there is calm, bottled water is available (we are in the desert, after all), and talent comes and goes in response to interview requests.
We had some informal time with Cory Chase, whom we interviewed last year, spoke with Bree Mills as she passed through and with Seth Gamble whose acting talent is unmatched in the industry. Even offered a brief “hello” to Lauren Philips as she waited for someone from the media.
Good-natured Tim Williams and Jill Hagara are the bedrock of the room, checking people in and keeping everyone informed. If anyone needs anything, they’re the ones to ask.
During the week, Kevin and I networked in the room and, as we did last year, enjoyed our conversations with Captain Jack who knows every performer in the business (or seems to).
Later in the week, I reconnected with Jillian Janson whose porn comet is rocketing into the galaxies of stardom. She was sitting on a couch waiting for her interviews (she had a couple lined up).
Jillian’s no longer that skinny kid I remember from a few year ago. Lamenting that I did not get a scheduled interview with her for this show (it’s tough, she’s in demand), Jillian gave me a hug and we made informal arrangements for next year.
Getting back to the floor, Kevin and I spent a few moments with John Stagliano of Evil Angel early in the day and later with veteran actor Dick Chibbles who was holding down a spot at the AVN booth.
In summarizing our sweep through the show’s major venues, three thoughts crossed my mind. First, some kiosks were cleverly placed among the signing tables available to talent. That was particularly helpful for fans in The Joint where corridors are narrow. The facility is a really a theater with tiered seating and a stage where the AVN Awards show is held. Traffic flow was much less congested so fans could move more freely from one girl to the next for momentary conversations and signed photos.
Second, more performers were there on the first day than I remember from the past, a boon for fans eager for a selfie with their favs. And lastly, director Greg Lansky’s Vixen Media Group was absent this year. Lansky sold his business shortly before the show to pursue other interests. In the recent past, Lansky’s presence was a focal point for meeting talent.
On a final note for the day, Kevin and I invested significant time getting an overview of the novelty part of the AEE, something we had done only cursorily in the past.
This year I had an interest in an up-and-coming topic: sex dolls. My knowledge of what constitutes a sex doll was limited to TV skits and off-color jokes. As someone in the press room mentioned to me, “who would buy one of those things?”
I was determined to find out and that is where we go next!