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THE MOVABLE BUFFET

Now they bare their souls to minister to others

January 20, 2008|Richard Abowitz | Special to The Times

A few days before the Adult Entertainment Expo arrived we waited for a booth at a restaurant because Annie Lobert's stories about her years working as an escort in the Vegas resort corridor can get graphic.

Many years ago her friend Heather Veitch used to be a stripper in Vegas. Now both women are Christian activists trying to reach out to women in the Las Vegas sex industry. They were gearing up for the 40,000-strong expo, the biggest adult industry convention in the country.

I discovered the duo through a series of popular YouTube videos they did called "Saving Sex City." Episode 3 features the two walking the Strip as showgirls carrying placards with Christian messages. Even before uniting for the video series, Veitch received a lot of media attention.

She thinks it is because she doesn't look like your typical Christian preacher.

Veitch says she has received almost no hostility from the people she is trying to reach in Vegas; on the other hand, she has found that some churches are not interested in populating congregations with strippers she has invited to services. And then it always comes back to her look. Veitch says, "The Christian community can be very judgmental."

At the expo Veitch and Lobert wound up working the convention floor, delivering their message to anyone who would listen.

By calling the church group she formed Hookers for Jesus, Lobert admits she pretty much guaranteed getting attention.

"Most Christians might think I am selling my body. But I say that because I am trying to hook people on Jesus."

Talent agent Mark Spiegler was sitting at the Evil Angel (a large porn distribution company) booth when the church duo approached him.

Spiegler is a leading talent agent for many adult stars, by his own description a "legal pimp." Lobert seemed to have legitimately befuddled him. Spiegler is Jewish, and he isn't the only one.

"What if the girls are Jewish?" he asks.

"Even if they are Satanist, we are still going to stand by them," Veitch says.

After they leave, a reflective Spiegler offers, "A lot of girls in this industry could use something stabilizing like religion. I don't mind what they are doing at all."

Later, Veitch and Lobert enjoy a laugh at one failing in their advertising plan: Lobert's Web address for Hookers for Jesus can't be read on her T-shirt because the writing has fallen out of sight, a victim of her cleavage.

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Angel's wings keep spreading

Criss Angel has a beard now. That was the first thing I noticed when we sat down last week for a quick interview (no cameras) in the suite where Angel lives at the Luxor. But it isn't a trendy strike beard; it is a work beard for fans to see on Season 4 of his popular A&E show "Criss Angel Mindfreak," which the magican/stunt performer is filming now in Vegas.

"I don't have time to shave. I've been really intensely training on my close-up stuff like cards and different effects. The purest form of magic is close-up. There have been things I have really wanted to do for years and have been playing with for three years [on 'Mindfreak'] but that I never mastered. But now I think I have it under control."

Angel's suite is near the top of the Luxor's pyramid and has been fully decorated for his comfort to include his miniature trains, a pinball machine, a drum set (given to him by a member of Godsmack) and a Pac-Man.

There is also plenty of memorabilia from Angel's rise over the last decade from unknown to one of the hottest names in Vegas entertainment.

Later this year he will become the first person to star in a Cirque show. Even though the show isn't opening until September, the Luxor already has dedicated display cases on the casino's ground floor to Angel's motorcycles, not to mention the souvenir store that sells all things Criss Angel.

I don't recall during my time here anything comparable to the interest and excitement that Angel generates.

Discussing the show, he says, "It will also be a more emotional experience. I have more than two to four minutes to connect with people. I have 90 minutes. I hope at the end of the day I will fulfill my ultimate goal, which is to have an experience for the audience that is very much like a song that they can connect to, reflecting their own life, and come away with what it means to them. . . .

"I say this without arrogance but with confidence . . . This show as an entertainment experience will be unlike not only everything in Las Vegas but in the world."

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For more of what's happening on and off the Strip, see latimes.com/movablebuffet.

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