9:44 p.m. January 29, 2013

At Legends of Erotica, We Are VIPs

Two days after my fiendishly unpleasant experience in the bowels of the Las Vegas peepshow underworld, I returned to the scene of the crime, the Showgirl Video, for Legends of Erotica. For work.

The Legends of Erotica is essentially a porn hall of fame, sponsored by industry veterans Raymond Pistol and Bill Margold. Margold, who served as the emcee for the evening, has a long career as a director in the adult industry and likens himself to as the “Papa bear” to all of his “children”, which he then goes on to describe as “overage juvenile delinquents”. Because really, that’s not creepy at all.

Pistol is the owner of Showgirl Video and its sister venue, Talk of the Town, famed for its $5 lapdances. He’s ghost-like and pervy. I do not see him slink on stage later in the show, I merely realize that there has appeared a tall, thin wisp of a white haired man sitting perilously close to a naked, crawling woman and leering at her enormous breasts. His leer is so defined in its clarity of purpose that it’s almost endearing. Almost.

My companion for the evening is Dayvid Figler, NSFWCORP contributor and fellow Showgirl Video peepshow survivor. Figler is a dapper dude and will look quite out of place at the Legends of Erotica, but we don’t know that yet. All we know going into it is how fucking awful the peepshow was and how unlikely it is that the show will be anything more than a trainwreck.

As we walk inside, the guy taking tickets recognizes Figler (everyone in Vegas recognizes Figler) and shoos us inside. We are VIP. This is weird.

I somewhat naively expect the interior to be different from our last visit. After all, the video rental portion of the building is essentially just a bare, concrete-floored warehouse full of shelving. Surely there is room for even the scantest ounce of transformation.

There has been no transformation.

Rounding the corner, I take in the repurposing of the video rental floor. They've removed the shelving and replaced it with folding chairs. There is a large, hairy man with food stained sweatpants interviewing a slight, quiet man on stage. The smaller man cannot seem to use the microphone properly, so it takes me ten minutes to figure out that it’s Bill Margold talking to Bob Chinn, the director of the Johnny Wadd film series, featuring the legendary John Holmes.

There are, including employees and inductees, 51 people in the room, five of which are women. There is a man in a velour tracksuit and an enormously wide and flat ass frantically taking pictures. (Really, his backside was like a pizza box. The sheer physiology of it was mesmerizing.) There is a 2:1 chair to people ratio, not counting the empty chairs on stage. The walls of the warehouse are lined with gold-painted bodily imprints in concrete. Breasts, crotches, lumps, slogans, and one with a fake plastic dong. It’s a sad state of affairs. There is unintentional flinching.

I snap pictures with my cellphone (that subscribers can see in Desknotes) and wait. Wait for what, I’m not sure. But, after another ten minutes or so of the silent interview with Mr. Sweatpants Margold and Mr. I-Directed-John-Holmes’-Giant-Weiner, the three ladies that bothered to show up for this sadness carnival take the stage: Rebecca Bardoux, Alexandra Silk, and Elizabeth Starr.

Silk is wearing a white suit and a fedora, her long black hair obscuring her face, the single button on her blazer straining under the weight of her breasts. She looks inescapably like Ringo Starr. When she sits, the blazer opens up and she occasionally flashes a nipple. Next to her is Bardoux, who unlike her counterparts, is aging exceptionally well. She’s lean and curvy and and well put together in a black pencil skirt and matching blazer. I know that Bardoux is not wearing underwear because she continues to do the Basic Instinct crotch flash whenever anyone that isn’t her is speaking. I get the distinct impression that she would like us to pay attention to her.

And then there is Elizabeth Starr. With her plastic, mask-like face, Boehner-orange skin, waist-length peroxide blonde hair and breasts the size of actual 5 year-olds, Ms. Starr has slid so deep into the uncanny valley that she barely registers as human. A single one of her breasts (which subscribers can see in Desknotes) is larger than the entirety of my pregnant belly when I was at full nine month capacity. She totters on her spiked stilettos and seems to be held upright by the black, glossy corset wrapped over her red velvet dress.

Margold talks about the scene in Last House on the Left during which someone bites his dick off, laughing as he informs the audience that they used a chorizo sausage as his stunt cock and that he later went home and ate said cock. Chorizo is delicious and I am pleased at his decision. He also talks again about being their father figure. (I’d rather he didn’t.)

Then the girls begin to talk. At first, the chatter is sweet. They are so genuinely happy to be there, to be recognized in front of some of their few remaining fans, that the inherent sadness of the event is momentarily lifted. They are basking in the spotlight of adoration, and in that moment, it doesn’t matter that the attention is from a handful of adult video store patrons and amateur photographers. The women seem momentarily electrified, as if stepping back onto stage has breathed new life into them, a quantum spark of vitality in an otherwise downward slide towards obscurity. They tell a story of Ron Jeremy doing nothing but eating and sleeping on set and giggle in tandem. They talk about the good old days, during which there was money to shoot proper porn, with stories and sets and (most importantly) a sizeable budget. They sneer at gonzo porn and credit it with the decline of the adult entertainment industry.

Beepers get namechecked.

Silk seems really out of it, mental-status wise, her voice lolling about in her mouth and airy through her larynx. “I got something cylindrical in my hand and I lost my train of thought.”

Starr feebly jokes that she is passing out from the corset. She pulls out a picture of her recently deceased mother, who was apparently a beautiful showgirl, and asks the audience to take a moment and remember her. Following this, she breathlessly introduces her husband, Tommy Gunn, who has suffered a heart attack just a week prior and hobbles onto the stage using a cane. He sweetly kisses her, his long yellow-blond hair falling across the heavy biker vest he’s wearing. She is rocking gently and appears to be in significant amounts of pain. My back hurts just looking at her.

This is bleak.

After the prattle turns from a cheery walk down memory lane to a half-hearted condemnation of today’s pornographic industry, it was time to start dipping naughty bits in concrete. And up first are the absolutely enormous breasts of Ms. Starr.

A wooden frame, filled with concrete, is placed on the floor in front of her. Her husband rushes to her side and helps her slip out of her shoes. There is something deeply intimate in seeing a woman dressed in evening wear slip off her heels, shifting the illusion of height and glamour to the reality of short stature and the limitations of nature. She instantly goes from an idea to a person. Her body looks worn and tired, standing barefoot on the wooden stage, Gunn helping her out of her corset. I am suddenly self-conscious, aware that I am staring mouth agape at the slow-motion disaster unfolding in front of me.

Corset off, she fumbles to remove one breast from her dress. It doesn’t work. She fumbles to remove both. Still not working. She drops her dress to the waist, but it’s still in the way. Casting her eyes at the floor, she stutters through an apology for her “old lady ass” and lets her dress fall to the floor. Hoisting the heft of her bosom, her husband tenderly unclasps the back of her bra, allowing it to fall forward into her hands. She puts her hair up.

Standing stripped and bare, hair up, the magic of heels and a corset obliterated, monstrous breasts freed from their holster, clad only in a red g-string, she begins the excruciating journey from standing to crawling. Her body is thin and withered, ribs visible, with thick ropes of blue veins bulging over her gargantuan breasts. I am acutely aware of how much this must hurt. Her movements have all the vigor of cold molasses, and she appears to be forever in danger of toppling over thanks to the enormous weight pulling her forwards. She can’t figure out the correct angle to get down to the floor. Should she squat straight down or lean forward into her husband and descend on and angle? (She does a mix of both).

Finally on the floor, she slowly crawls towards the pool of concrete ready to immortalize the remaining shreds of her ego. The only reason someone would keep boobs this big is if they carried inside them one’s entire sense of self. Her formidable chest was dreams preserved in silicone, a physical rendering of a life in the spotlight. Who would she be without the breasts?

She scoots to the edge of the wooden frame, rises to her knees, takes a deep breath, and falls hands first towards the upper rail of the frame. I gasp. She catches herself and audibly grunts under the weight of her uniqueness. Her first dip into the concrete is unsuccessful. The surface area of her breasts is too large compared to the frailty of her body and she’s unable to push deep enough into the concrete to make an impression. On her next attempt, her husband presses on the sinew of her tired back, looks up at the audience, and smiles. Cameras are tickering throughout the room, everyone rushing to capture this frail woman thrash through the death throes of a successful career. She is naked, vulnerable, a desperate need for attention personified. She is chasing that first high, the first time she fucked on camera, the first time she bared skin, the first time her bodily elicited that tantalizing response from strangers.

The imprint is finally successful. We leave early.

* *

The next night, I am squeezed into a short and tight dress, my own breasts perilously restrained by a thin strip of grey lace, my eyes rimmed in charcoal, and I am hustling down the street to catch a cab. Men on both sides of the street are yelling at me. I get a marriage proposal. Gussied up and in a hurry, and I’m headed to the AVN Awards, The Oscars of Porn.

Prior to tonight, industry insider Nate Glass, of Take Down Piracy, told me in no uncertain terms to lower my expectations for the show. “It’s like kindergarten, everybody gets an award. And when they get tired of handing them out, they just scroll through dozens of awards on the screen. It’s … something.”

I arrive at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and weave through the catcalls until I reach the Joint, where the ceremony is held. I get another marriage proposal. (Wish I was joking.)

Compared to Showgirl Video, the Hard Rock is glitzy, perfumed, and clean. The familiar click-clack of heels resonates throughout the halls, the blonde wood floors taking a pointed beating tonight. Again, the crowd moving towards the venue is mostly men, but unlike during the expo, many of them have dates. And from eavesdropping on conversations, I surmise that many of the dates are local strippers.

The flesh on display is mostly expo-caliber flesh. Smooth, tan, buffed, and polished skin, pouring out of backless dresses and plunging necklines. There are sequins everywhere. The air inside is stagnant and I am choked with the mingling aromas of hairspray, cigarette smoke, and gallons of cologne. Around me are lacquered women, mostly industry professionals, soaking in the flurry of male attention like cats luxuriating in a pool of sun on the floor.

I stand in line and purchase a gin and tonic in a plastic cup. It is over priced and tastes like a plastic cup. I immediately regret spending money on this shamefully overpriced drink.

I take my seat next to a nice, midwestern married couple, sip my plastic gin, and wait for the show to begin. The crowd is restless and anticipatory. The Oscars of Porn! This is going to be amazing!

It was not.

The show opens with a tragically long in memoriam segment. There were so many people in the tribute montage that halfway through I decided it must be parody. There was applause and laughter for one of the persons, bolstering my assumptions that it was, indeed, parody.

It wasn’t. They really did kick off the show with a dismal list of 2012’s porn industry dead, and also Gore Vidal. (Yes, Gore Vidal was included in the montage.)

Following the depressing show opener, a nasally red headed comedian named April Macie trots out and tells a few jokes. I chuckle when she describes the men that flop their penises vertically, rather than side to side, as organized sock drawer types. But most of her jokes are a little too tailored to the evening’s topic to be funny and she loses me with a long homophobic joke about fingering butts. She was very animated and trying very hard and whenever anyone around me tries that hard, I always want them to succeed. I don’t like watching people giving it their all and failing. So, this was uncomfortable.

There’s a performance by a tiny rapper in a large fur coat named Tyga, except instead of backup dancers, he has backup posers: a gaggle of backlit women that posed like redlight mannequins, who appeared to be shifting positions at random. I tried to find a pattern in the timing of their movements but alas, I could not.

Finally, chipper hosts, Jesse Jane and Asa Akira trot onto the stage for some woefully scripted banter. I couldn’t tell if they were actually that airheaded (seemed unlikely) or if they just thought it was funny to approximate the IQ of lichens, but it didn’t read. Lucky for the audience, the main stage mic cuts out.

They don’t fix it. Watching from the balcony, I see the figures on stage have forced awkward interactions with each other, tear open the envelopes, argue over who is going to announce the winner, bend forward to the mic, and mouth words. The sound of the condensation dripping down my disgusting, neglected drink was louder than the presenters on stage.

Thanks to the angry jeering from the crowd and chants of fix the mic!, some of the winners figured out that if they stood very close to the mic and shouted, we could hear them. After the boredom set in, I began to appreciate this.

Marcus London wins for "Best Parody - Drama" and laments that he does not believe his epic to be parody. Last year’s Best New Starlet, Brooklyn Lee, introduces the nominees for this year’s winner with a husky and utterly cringe-inducing acknowledgement that no one can be a starlet forever. When she later wins Best Anal Sex scene, she flatly states that it was weird to win it with her scene partner Manuel Ferrara. “This is kind of weird, he’s like my brother. I don’t want to talk about it,” she blurts before scurrying off stage. I cringe again.

Like their mainstream film counterpart, the AVNs are actually pretty boring. Stale, scripted dialogue. Throngs of beautiful people, all decked out for an evening of cameras and camaraderie. The pervasive air of this being a big industry circle jerk. Pretty girls making out for the cameras (well, actually, that’s uniquely AVN). The feeling that this is forever, that life will always be this grand, that the people will stay this important, and the bodies this perfect.

But I know what’s coming. I’ve seen the future at Legends of Erotica. While the promise of a new career shines with beautiful skin under the heat of the spotlight, bolstered by names announced to thunderous applause and youthful bodies fucking through well-organized clip shows, the reality is that all of this excitement will atrophy to a withered nub in less than a decade or two. And when your industry has discarded you, when you’re no longer bankable as a MILF, when emerging technology changes the game yet again, the concrete pits of Showgirl Video will be ready and waiting to commend you for a career that everyone else has forgotten.

In ten years, these lush and wanton women, now at the apex of their careers, will be sticking their labia in concrete, a death rattle performance for mere dozens of observers, a room full of men that came of age obsessing over the pinkness of their parts, the clench of their asshole, and the ultimate availability of their fantasy.

Enjoy it while it lasts, girls.