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Get Ready for Vegas…

Gene sez: The following article ran about four years ago in the Las Vegas Weekly but its theme has more relevance now than ever as many porn companies are mulling the prospects of crossing state lines if California begans regulating the porn industry

Las Vegas- Through the magic of film, the dilapidated Nevada Hotel & Casino’s gaming floor was re-opened for one night last February.

Not restored to anything shiny and new, mind you. Instead, imagine that the clock had been turned back to the night just before the end: The walls are crumbling and the place is nearly deserted. The only customer on the gaming floor suddenly hits big on a slot machine and four women head for him. Watching the scene is the new casino manager, who walked into the place for the first time just a moment earlier. She shakes her head and smiles ruefully.

Though The Goddaughter Part 5 is a porn film–the casino’s manager is none other than sex-star Asia Carrera–this footage contains neither sex nor nudity. Requiring multiple takes, it is in the film only to drive the plot. To get everything in the script filmed, the shoot continues through the night and into the next morning. The main event: a casino full of people mixing sex and gaming in ways that would make even Robin Leach blush.

Actress Kim Chambers, a former Vegas resident, says she agreed to do Goddaughter after learning it would be a location shoot at a real casino–a first in adult films according to those on the set.

“It was really cool to have sex on a casino table,” says Chambers.

“The key to why we made the movie was that we had an arrangement to rent a casino,” says Raymond Pistol, producer of The Goddaughter Part 5. “The availability of that hotel and the gaming area was the whole crux.”

It’s just one more small victory for the growing and increasingly mainstream business of adult film production in Las Vegas. Long centered around Los Angeles, it’s only natural that the denizens of the porn world would eventually begin migrating to Sin City. Often dubbed the adult Disneyland, the XXX movie industry and Vegas go hand-in-hand. From Adultdex to the Exotic Dancers Expo, adult theme conventions have long been a regular presence here. Twice a year, Adult Video News, a trade magazine, hosts a conference in Las Vegas. In fact, the January AVN convention includes the awards ceremony considered by many in the industry to be porn’s equivalent of the Oscars.

But increasingly, over the past few years, the adult film business hasn’t been just passing through Las Vegas, but establishing roots. And at the center of this burgeoning community is Pistol.

Two months after the casino shoot, Goddaughter is in the editing stage and Pistol–father of the adult movie business in Las Vegas–is waiting to interview an actress who approached him about making a multiple-partner flick. Sitting at home, Pistol gives off a bit of a Hugh Heffner vibe; he smokes a pipe, brushes his hair in a sweep across his forehead and carries himself with relaxed confidence. He is not, however, interested in embodying Hef’s lifestyle: You won’t find a manicured Raymond Pistol wearing silk pajamas in front of a camera, surrounded by a bevy of babes. Pistol prefers dirty jeans and it isn’t unusual to see a few days’ worth of stubble on his face. He’s a workaholic who hasn’t time to put on airs.

Pistol’s Las Vegas-based company, Arrow Productions,, releases about a dozen adult films a year. “You’re always in the process where you have several out there that are done and heading to the market and a couple of them back here that are getting ready to go to shoot. You’re usually working on five or six movies at the same time.” So, when the actress never shows up to talk concept that day, Pistol just shrugs it off.

A small-town Texas native and a Vietnam vet, Pistol’s libertarian streak got him into adult films as a response to the Pure Pleasure bust in Las Vegas in 1993. The store was hosting a benefit for The Free Speech Coalition staged by L.A.-based porn legend William Margold, who has starred, written, directed, produced and reviewed adult movies since the ’70s.

“The show featured women doing whatever they feel like doing inside a private show,” Margold recalls. “It was a private show. You had to pay $10 to get in. We got busted four hours into the show and went to jail. I was facing 54 years for various types of pandering. They wound up just fining me. Pistol paid my fine and paid my lawyer fees and I am eternally indebted to him.”

Pistol’s own sex-themed stores and strip club in Las Vegas were not involved in the incident.

Pistol also made Infamous Crimes Against Nature, his first film, as a fundraiser for those arrested. A couple of years later, another obscenity trial was taking place in town involving the former owner of the then-L.A.-based Arrow.

“We negotiated a deal to buy Arrow while he was here in town,” Pistol says.

Arrow was the company that made middle America aware of adult movies with the release of Deep Throat in 1973. Since bringing the company to Las Vegas, Pistol has made six Deep Throat movies. His goal is to find an actress–since Arrow owns the stage name–to dub as the new Linda Lovelace. At the moment, however, the series has hit a bit of a snag.

“We haven’t found the girl yet so we haven’t done [Part] 7 since it’s supposed to reveal the girl,” says Pistol.

So far, Pistol hasn’t been hassled by local authorities. “I don’t know if they care or not,” he says. “We shoot on private property and behind closed doors. We’re not impeding on any kind of public terrain. They don’t know when we shoot, because we don’t do anything that requires a permit.”

According to Pistol, California requires a permit for any filming done for commercial purpose. No such law exists in Nevada. This freedom from regulation–necessary to small business in general–is what makes Las Vegas such an attractive location for the still mostly L.A. based adult film industry.

“You don’t have to go through the infrastructure here to make a movie that you have to go through to make a movie in California,” says Pistol. “That’s why California is running over here to make their movies right now. Between the unions, the government bureaucracy and the red tape, it’s expensive, time consuming and stupid to shoot in California as compared to Nevada.”

There is, however, one important advantage to working in California: Filming adult movies there is legal. Or at least, according to Margold, that’s how the industry has interpreted a California court’s 1988 decision in a case in which a filmmaker was brought up on charges. And, adult filmmakers can–and do–wave the First Amendment for protection. As Clark County District Attorney Stuart Bell puts it: “It’s not against the law to make an X-rated movie using adults.” But in most states–including Nevada–the law can still be far more ambiguous in the hands of a creative prosecutor. People making adult films worry about being charged with pandering, prostitution or worse. To film in Nevada, at least theoretically, is to risk serious jail time. Just the costs of mounting a defense (not to mention an appeals process) could drive most companies out of business.

While neither Arrow nor any of the other Las Vegas-based adult filmmakers have had problems with the police so far, Pistol isn’t under any illusions: He knows it could happen at any time. Las Vegas Metro officers recently paid a visit to Talk of the Town, his strip club, briefly shutting the club down to issue citations to dancers who’d been hired from other clubs and didn’t yet have Talk of the Town listed on their sheriff’s cards.

The incident at Talk of the Town leaves Pistol unfazed, but it’s enough to spook Thomas Zupko, who canceled interviews arranged for this story. Zupko’s Apocalypse Films recently signed a deal to release four films through Arrow. Of course, none of the adult filmmakers in Las Vegas are eager for media coverage. But for Pistol and the others, the desire to keep a low profile is outweighed by the importance of appearing open and with nothing to hide.

Since Pistol brought Arrow to Las Vegas, a number of his protégés have begun making films here as well. “I don’t encourage or discourage, but I help people whenever they come and ask me for help,” Pistol says. Among his most talented and successful discoveries is Caroline Pierce. “Caroline came out of our strip club,” he says. “I use Caroline anywhere I can, because she can act, she’s hot and she’s out of our family.”

Pierce, who has lived in Las Vegas since she was 4, still dances at Pistol’s club, but these days her name is at the top of Talk of the Town’s marquee. Named last year by Hustler as one of the 50 most influential people in porn, the magazine noted that Pierce is “poised to take over the top echelons of XXX stardom.”

“Caroline I worship,” says Margold. “She just radiates animal sexuality. She is just gorgeous.”

Pierce’s work is not only playfully inventive, it is typically daring, physical and unique. In Goddaughter, Pierce has only a minor background role in the casino orgy. It’s a small part, but one that requires remarkable, shall we say, dexterity.

Pierce has long dark hair and is said to be surgically un-enhanced–a trait that’s not commonplace in the porn business. As the name implies, numerous piercings adorn her body. She is the future of the adult industry; a porn star for people who like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. Sitting down to talk in Talk of the Town’s cramped office, Pierce sees there’s no place nearby for her to perch the tape recorder. So, she sets the machine between her legs, hiking her skirt up to her waist in the process. She’s not wearing underwear. “Talk into the mike,” she says, then laughs hysterically.

Pierce made her first adult film as an actress for Pistol three years ago. Since then, she’s appeared in more than 50 films. From the first, Pierce resolved to eventually make her own films, a dream she realized when she met J.D. Ferguson, an Arrow film editor. Ferguson brought Pierce in as a partner for his own production company, Breathless Films. The two have just finished editing Humiliated Harlots Part 1. It’s the first in what they hope will be a series of films shot in the Las Vegas area. (Pistol, by the way, allowed his editing room to be used for Harlots at a bargain rate.)

“It was hard to make a film in Las Vegas,” says Pierce. The biggest problem they had was getting a hold of experienced talent–imported from L.A.–on their limited budget. “A lot of people don’t want to make the trip out here. Since myself and my business partner are the only ones funding the company, money is tight. So, I have to ask those people to not only come here, but to work on spec.”

Among the misconceptions about the adult film business is that it’s an easy road to riches. If that was once true, it isn’t any more. Competition is now too intense, thanks to the rise of the Internet and popular technology that allows almost anyone to make adult films. In 1985, about 400 to 600 adult films were released nationwide; last year, more than 10,000 new releases hit shelves. Ferguson and Pierce say that they have put everything they have into paying for Harlots, and, at best, Ferguson expects Breathless to break even on the film.

Pistol, of course, plans to realize a profit on Goddaughter, which he expects will come in at a cost of $50,000. Over time, Pistol hopes it will earn double that figure. Not bad, but Pistol could have done a lot better sinking his money into stocks three years ago.

“It’s an average profit out there in the industry. My retail stores work on a bigger profit margin,” Pistol admits. “My goal here is not to make money but to make good movies.”

Those appearing in adult movies aren’t rolling in the dough either. Kim Chambers says her husband, Scott Styles, with whom she appears in Goddaughter, receives a flat fee of $500 per movie. Chambers says female leads generally earn about three times that. “Porn movies are not a good way to get rich,” says Pierce.

That’s not to say that some people aren’t earning a good living in the Las Vegas adult film business. Local sex-star Christi Lake says she “earns a comfortable living,” despite pumping most of her earnings back into her two companies, Christi Lake Enterprises and Dripping Wet Pixxx. Over the past five years, Lake has starred in more than 275 films, some of them Pistol’s. Though she wasn’t in Goddaughter, she dropped by the set just to hang out. “To me it’s like a family,” she says. “I’m friends with many people in the industry.”

Lake began making her own movies after spending a year working as an adult actress. “Pistol was a definite mentor,” she says. “I talked to him about what all I need. I needed to find good people and he was one of the great people who helped me out with this. He just gave me the guidelines, names and phone numbers of who could, for example, be my film crew.”

To date, Lake’s most successful film series is one that records her gratification of the desires of select fans. Much of the series is shot in Las Vegas, and has become so well-known that Lake has been a guest on “The Howard Stern Show.”

According to Lake, locals have figured prominently in the series and the “fans” have included a cocktail waitress, a pilot and a pit boss from the Mirage. “I like Las Vegas,” she says, “because the laws are a lot more liberal and you don’t have to shell out a fortune to get permits. In California it’s $700 for just one location. When you do an entire film and put that in your production budget it’s a killer. But here, if I’m shooting on private property, I don’t have to go and get a permit, which is wonderful.”

When discussing the subject of bringing her cottage industry to Las Vegas, Lake sounds like any other business person: “It’s great that as a citizen of Nevada I don’t have any state taxes that I pay. My corporation being in Nevada has the corporation shield. The cost of living here is less. Even rent in California is outrageous.”

With substantial financial incentives like these, it’s not surprising that more adult film types are setting up shop in Vegas. In dark glasses and a knit hat, Mad Jack, 40, arrives for lunch with his latest discovery, Maryland, 22, in tow. Every few minutes his cell phone rings.

“I’m a pretty average Joe and I always have these gorgeous girls flocking around me,” he says. “The guys like to buy my stuff, because they think, ‘If he can do it then I can do it.’ They can relate.”

As a result, Jack is one of the most prominent makers of adult films in Las Vegas. For the past year and a half, Jack has been making about two films a month here. Unlike Pistol’s more traditional films, Jack is known for making gonzo porn films that are short on plot and heavy on action. A production company pays Jack to shoot and edit his films. That company then takes over manufacturing and marketing them. The budgets for his films run between $5,000 and $7,000. What isn’t spent on filming is his pay, an arrangement Jack is happy with. “I like working for myself and the notoriety is kind of neat.”

Jack, too, has found Las Vegas more accommodating than L.A. for making films. “If you shoot a scene in L.A., you’re going to be on a set for four to six hours normally, even for gonzo stuff,” he says. “That’s just the way it ends up working. When I shoot here, you are in and out in two hours tops.”

He also enjoys the tight-knit community network of adult filmmakers in Las Vegas: “I know everyone who shoots here and we all band together and help each other out. Everybody shares and everybody benefits.”

And despite their competitive relationship, Jack thinks highly of Pistol. “Ray’s a good guy,” he says. “We’ve never worked together, because he doesn’t do gonzo. He is more of an art film maker.” But, Jack says, should the authorities ever target him, Pistol would be among the first people he’d call for help.

Jack has watched as the adult film industry has blossomed in Vegas over the past year. “There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on here and everyone is just very low key about it,” he says. “Let’s face it: This is a boomtown. I think the business is going to continue to grow here. The public that buys these movies loves a Las Vegas background. It’s all part of the fantasy, because this is a fantasy town.”

Pistol agrees: “I think that adult films are good for Las Vegas. It helps keep this town’s image as a place where adults can have fun and a place where you can get amazingly lucky. People see our films and it just makes them want to come here.”



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