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LA Daily News Looks at the AEE Show

LAS VEGAS [LA Daily News] – John Lazarus had seen Lacie Heart naked before and wanted a moment of her time.

Lazarus clutched a handful of photos and magazines as the 20-year-old porn star held a shiny gold pen. He asked for her autograph. She smiled and signed away.

The 51-year-old Huntington Beach photographer’s eyes lit up and he snapped her picture as she signed. For a brief moment, the actress and the enthusiast shared a little rapport.

“For the adult fan, this is a bonanza,” he said. “Most of them are really nice people, just with a slightly unusual occupation.”

Such was the scene at the Adult Video News Adult Entertainment Expo 2007, a four-day trade show and extravaganza that will culminate Saturday night with the AVN Awards, billed as the Oscars of the porn world.

For that intense span, companies from the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere pack up their wares and head to Vegas to talk shop, show off and put their performers on display for scores of rabid fans.

Where else could a routine business conversation take place amid recordings of primal love screams with no one even raising an eyebrow?

Stunningly realistic mannequins and replica body parts fill the aisles, and women click-clack around atop towering heels.

And yet, for all the unusual eye candy flashing about, the participants are strikingly normal. When they sit down to talk about their life stories, they sound just like the girls who were your classmates in high school. They could be stockbrokers or homemakers, regular people down the street, and they converse freely about subjects as varied as American bulldogs and French cinema.

Most fans will settle for a quick snapshot and a smile.

“When you’re watching someone on the Internet or a DVD, they don’t seem real,” said Joanna Angel,[pictured] an actress and director who splits time between New York and Los Angeles. “It’s important for (the fans) to see us as real people.”

Real people with Hustler emblazoned across their underwear and acting titles like “Porny Monster” and “Reign of Tera” on their résumé. Real people asked to sign nude photos of themselves and pose seductively for a seemingly endless stream of very enthusiastic enthusiasts.

“On our side, it’s the couple of days a year when we get validated,” said Tera Patrick, a Studio City-based actress who appeared at the Vivid Video booth. “… To be recognized by the fans is great. When they come up to you and say, `You got me through Iraq,’ or `My wife and I had our first baby after watching your movie,’ that really means something.”

Participants recall past shows as being much more shocking, with more sex and more backroom craziness. This year’s version, aside from the video screens flashing hard-core scenes and the occasional provocative comment, didn’t seem particularly shocking, especially for Vegas.

The women toting drinks to the gamblers at the casino outside wore skimpier outfits than many of the adult performers.

“You show your face, play some mind games with the competition, embellish your sales, pretend to be all risqué and debaucherous, then you pack up and go home,” said Oren Cohen, president of Van Nuys-based Tight Fit Productions. “This used to be dangerous, with sex and drugs and crazy things. Now, it’s all about the money.”

And, for the unusual cavalcade of visitors, that didn’t seem so bad.

Though mostly male, the crowd spanned everything from shaven-headed tough guys to nerds with digital cameras. A grandmotherly woman parked her motorized wheelchair near the Hustler Video booth and looked on with bemusement as she watched Angel toss her hair and laugh with her co-stars.

“It’s not what I expected – it’s a lot classier,” said a 27-year-old Las Vegas tattoo artist known as Joey Needles who came to visit the show with his father. “A lot of the porn stars are just regular looking. I’m not intimidated at all.”


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