The hardest part about visiting Las Vegas for work is staying out of trouble. At least it is for me.
From the blackjack tables to the nightclubs to the lounges and bars, there’s plenty of trouble a married man with a family and a career can get into.
And it’s not like I’m not busy with plenty of work to do. Between covering the International Consumer Electronics Show and the Adult Video News convention that together bring in over 150,000 geeks and freaks to this desert playground every January, believe me, there’s not much recreational time available.
And thank God for that.
The thing Vegas does so well is create friction between my responsible side and my wild side, and I always seem to wake up each morning replaying the last night’s debauchery, doing some internal damage control with my conscience.
“OK, I lost money at the tables, but you can’t win it if you’re not in it,” I tell myself, even though not so deep down I know very well that these casino hotels aren’t built with the odds in my favor.
“Yeah, I know I partied more than I should have and threw away hard earned money with the guys, but how often do I come to Vegas?” I ask myself, knowing full well that I come often enough to know that’s a lame excuse.
Nevertheless, I do manage to stay alive, stay married, stay liquid and to get my job done.
Consumer Electronics Association spokesman Jim Barry said the buzzwords for consumer electronics in 2006 are “content everywhere," but I think they should be more like "Look out, iPod."
More and more manufacturers are devising more ingenious ways for you to access your favorite movies, music and television shows with smaller and better technology.
“All of these products reflect the transition to digital technology," said Barry. "Handheld devices have become electronic Swiss Army knives, where they are a phone, a music player, a GPS locator, a camera, a camcorder and a personal assistant — all of those things combined and built into one device."
Sling Media is already popular for its software that connects your computer or laptop to your home TiVo system so that you can watch your favorite shows from anywhere with an Internet connection, but the company announced new software for Windows mobile devices that will enable users to watch their favorite shows on the go as well.
Yahoo! announced a similar feature with Yahoo! Go, which will connect users to programs stored on their online accounts.
XM Radio has a tiny portable satellite receiver from Samsung called the Helix that stores 50 hours of music and programming (like the newly launched FOX News Talk station and the hilarious "Opie and Anthony" show) along with your private MP3 collection. Again, look out iPod.
It’s the first mobile satellite receiver that can play downloaded MP3s. This happens to be a major Grrr! for me, since only a few months ago I purchased a Delphi handheld XM satellite receiver that doesn't play MP3s and holds only five hours of stored programming, as opposed to 50 hours! And mine is a lot bigger than the Helix is.
Barry said I'm not alone.
"The early adopter pays a price, generally a higher price than folks who wait," he said. "The good news about electronics is the prices get lower and the products get better ... but you look back and say 'Boy, I could have gotten more had I waited' — the truth is most don't wait."
Speaking of "Opie and Anthony," I had a chance to interview the dynamic but controversial duo for "The Real Deal," and was pleasantly surprised at how nice they were.
Plus, third wheel Jim Norton is one of the funniest comedians I’ve encountered. I envy his talent to rip apart everybody and anything, making one laugh and cringe at the same time, but I can't use half of what he said in my piece.
Anthony on Howard Stern's satellite debut: "We're really scared. We've only been doing it for 14 months now, well over a year, the technology at XM blows away Sirius technology. They have Howard. Can you hear them on a unit that isn't as big an anvil? I don't think so."
Norton on Martha Stewart: "'Cause they wasted their money on Martha Stewart. She's a crook and I hope she bombs."
Opie on Stern: "He just doesn't have the passion to do this type of radio anymore, simple as that, and he'll find out in the first three months when the spotlight dims and it's not about him going to satellite. When he actually has to go in and do a show he's in for a big surprise."
Stern debuted on Sirius Radio Monday morning.
Motorola is introducing iRadio, a radio service made for Motorola cell phones that play music and videos, including one built in to a pair of sunglasses. The mobile phone giant also partnered with Granite Records artist Geoff Byrd, an Internet sensation, to launch the service.
The way things look from the CES floor, it won’t be long before the futuristic world created by Steven Spielberg in “Minority Report” becomes reality, and we’re all walking around with Bluetooth-enabled brains.
Of course the letters H and D continue to capture the focus of most people.
Panasonic has a 103-inch high-definition plasma in prototype that will retail for over six figures. It’s the largest plasma screen to date, just one inch larger than Samsung's version.
I visited that booth with none other than Tom Arnold, the consummate personality who should really just have his own reality show chronicling his life.
In fact, design specialist to the stars and home lifestyle guru Janna Robinson, who has already outfitted actor Liev Schreiber’s Manhattan loft and director Oliver Stone’s home with state of the art, sleek home electronics, is working with Arnold to bring his home into the 21st century. Sonance is the audio system of choice for Arnold.
“My wife, Shelby, likes the way they look and Robb Report likes the way they sound,” said Arnold.
Robinson’s famous clients and their homes are featured in various publications, including Sound and Vision and the upcoming New York Times InStyle Home Magazine.
I also met one of my idols, film director Barry Sonnenfeld, who writes tech columns for Esquire magazine, among others. Sonnenfeld was working with Sony, which is in a heated race with Toshiba to capture the high-definition DVD market.
Sony has Blu-Ray and Toshiba has HD-DVD.
It’s way to early to tell which one will come out as an industry standard for the format, but manufacturers like Samsung ($1,000 retail) and Sanyo ($499 retail) will release Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players respectively this year, although movies being released in high-def DVD format are limited at this time.
By the way, Sonnenfeld is going to put me in his next movie ... he just doesn't know it yet.
The Porn Stars
And speaking of movies, after CES, my cameraman Rick Smosky and I moseyed over to the other side of the Sands Convention Center to the AVN porn convention, where I interviewed the two most famous porn stars in the world, Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson, separately, for "The Real Deal." (Click link to watch).
Jeremy is dynamic, and extremely confident. I asked him what attributes to his mainstream fame?
"I hustle really hard," said Jeremy in his shotgun quick way of speaking. "I like to think I'm a good actor, I'm trained, I have a Bachelor's degree in theatre, Bachelor's degree in education, Masters degree in special education, and I was actually accepted into Lee Strasberg (theatre institute) in New York," he said.
Jeremy also explained that several directors who are currently famous started out in porn, and they have helped him bridge the gap between "adult" and "mainstream" acting. He added that just last week he guest starred on an episode of "Las Vegas" on NBC.
Jameson attributes her multi-million dollar success to the fact that she never apologized for being a porn star, which makes most people more inclined to shrug their shoulders and say “to each their own.”
"I have always been honest about who I am and I think people respect that," she said.
According to Adult Video News, the adult industry — including strip clubs, hotel videos, Pay Per View and DVD sales — rakes in over $12 billion annually, and the industry does have influence over the consumer electronics industry. The battle between Blu-Ray DVD and HD-DVD could very well be won on which next generation format this industry chooses for its adult DVD consumers.
The AVN convention is not for the faint of heart.
Scantily clad porn stars are busy signing autographs and posing for pictures with rabid fans, X-rated videos play on background monitors and rock music blares from booth to booth like some battle of the bands concert.
Mostly, those in attendance are there to meet their favorite porn stars (seriously), but I also noticed several international distributors cutting deals with ClubJenna and Vivid Video and Adam and Eve productions.
One well-dressed businessman from Romania was explaining in detailed business terms to Jameson’s sister the complications of licensing adult content in the region.
I was curious about one porn star who goes by the name of Austyn Moore. She is a petite young blonde whose looks rival any mainstream movie star in Hollywood, so I wondered what made her choose pornography.
"It's not like everybody isn't having sex,” she said. "So why wouldn't it be accepted? I think people should come out of the closet and open up, have fun," she said.
So what do her parents think of her chosen career?
"My father still gets weird about it," she said. "My mother is supportive but I don't think she woke up one day and thought 'Austyn, I think you should become a porn star.' But she trusts me."
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