"I have never liked bargains," Hedy Lamarr once said, "when it came to sex." True, but if you were ever looking for a good value on a French maid's uniform, a "talking" sex toy or one of those sporty, studded leather collars, well, this may be the weekend to get your freak on.
We're approaching the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, but right now it's time for the Weekend of Lust or, to be more specific, the nation's largest adult consumer show, Erotica LA -- an expo of exposure, a bazaar of the bizarre and a hoe-down for ... well, nevermind.
The three-day event at the Los Angeles Convention Center will feature sexualized stage productions from Las Vegas, autograph sessions with the A-list stars of X-rated films and a vast dealer's showroom with 300 booths overflowing with lingerie, lotions, fantasy costumes and just about anything else that might tickle someone's sexual fancy. The most interesting thing about the event may be its sheer size -- 50,000 people are expected to attend, another vivid reminder that porn and adult products have left the back alleys of American culture and now parade right down Main Street U.S.A.
That parade seems to be getting bigger all the time. As of Wednesday, more than 100,000 fan votes were cast for porn actors and their films in the second annual FAME Awards (it stands for Fans of Adult Media & Entertainment), which will be presented Saturday night. That's more than double the number of votes cast last year. Also at the expo this year, Adult Video News will announce that it will put its logo on a Champ Car racer (brace yourself for years of jokes about pole position), and Cirque du Soleil's "Zumanity" will attach its considerable brand name to the expo by staging a mini-show on Saturday afternoon on the event's "Sensual Stage."
"It's a perfect fit for us," said John McCoy, publicist for the Cirque du Soleil show, which mixes the troupe's trademark acrobatics and surrealism with semi- and implied nudity. "We're trying to break down the boundaries between the mainstream and entertainment that is sensual, fun and sexy. This is a perfect marriage for us and the expo."
Cindy Cheer, marketing director for the 11th annual Erotica LA, said the expected attendance is proof that adult entertainment has reached new levels of acceptance and saturation. The explosion of home video in the 1980s, the DVD surge of the 1990s and the ubiquity of sex images on the Internet have taken porn from the trench-coat-at-the-theater days to the suburban bedroom.
"I think shows like 'Sex and the City' and the changing view of adult entertainment has made this an event that couples and women know they can come to and enjoy and find ways to help keep their lives fun and sexy," Cheer said.
She pointed out the seminars with "expert" advice on stripping, tantric sex and other explicit topics that defy this newspaper's content guidelines. There will be a number of lingerie-modeling events, performances by the scantily clad dancers of the "Hollywood Men" revue and daily burlesque shows.
THE men, women and couples who attend (the vast majority of them straight -- gay and lesbian fans of adult entertainment tend to stick to specialized gatherings, Cheer said) are not the only ones more comfortable with the increasingly sexualized candor of American culture. Corporate America drops in too, and the expo is a major moment to network, look for new ventures and roll out the latest novel product, such as the "talking" sex toy of a few years ago (it has a sound chip inside so it can sing). The next big business frontier, Cheer said, is the digital delivery of adult material to mobile phones.
"That's where the interest is really building," she said, citing her recent travels to Europe, where the cellphone is already entrenched as a popular forum for explicit content delivery.
The cultural debate of sexualized images hasn't gone away, of course -- the expo draws conservative-minded protesters every year -- but now the issue of taste has to share time with the topic of mainstream hunger for raunch, Cheer said. "The expo is proof that there is a real appetite now for adult entertainment, and that's not going away."
Where: Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., L.A.
When: 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Price: $35; $75, three-day VIP pass; must be age 18 or older
Info: (877) 778-8653, www.erotica-la.com