During my career in the adult internet industry I’ve attended a fair share of trade shows. These shows are worthy of their own entry in the chronicles at some point, but I’ll get around to that at some point. This show took place in 2000, in Miami.
Morning’s upon everyone again, and today it’s no real different than most days. Roll out of bed, take the required two steps to get over to the bathroom and take care of the usual morning things. Looks like my roommates haven’t quite regained consciousness yet. That poses a bit of a problem considering I can’t open the front door all the way without hitting someone in the head… but that’s not my problem.
The landlady gives me her customary filthy glare as I wander on down to the front gate, for some reason my being a “furrner” has had her on edge since I got there. It’s probably the accent. As I do every morning, I give her my biggest smile and cheerily wave before stepping out onto Ocean Drive.
Sometimes, life is good.
Making a mad dash across the street – it’s busy – I say hi to Charles, the supposedly not-homeless homeless guy who spends his days sitting on the low wall. Nobody really knows where he lives, what he does, and why he sits where he sits, but you get used to him. He doesn’t talk much, and when he does most of it is unintelligible. But he’s friendly enough, in his own way. Never touch his stuff, though. He’ll shiv you.
Starbucks is blessedly empty, and the morning ritual is now almost complete. Walking out the other side of the Starbucks, with a large latte in hand, I find myself on the beach. I’m enjoying this, as I do every morning. I sit in my usual spot, along with some of the other “regulars” and start on my first caffeinated beverage of the day. It’s going to be a long one.
An hour later, my roommates finally show up with their own caffeine in tow. It’s time to talk shop. Business meeting on the beach, it’s been weirder. Will (roommate 1) and I are programmers, we build websites, web applications, and generally solve all sorts of issues. The odd bit is that we work in the “adult” end of the internet industry, that part of the web where a credit card gets you all the smut you’ve ever dreamt of, and some you hadn’t considered yet.
Not that it bothers me, after all, a job is a job, money is money, and admittedly for a single early-twenties guy the whole thing is rather entertaining.
We decided to head out early so we could swing by the print shop and grab our custom-made polo shirts. We actually went ahead and had shirts made with the corporate logo, our names, and contact info. The next stop on the route is the convention center, which was up in North Miami. Arriving is like stepping into a completely different world. Banners, expensive cars, models wearing barely enough to be considered legal, glitz, glamour, and a pervasive feeling of having gone to the Twilight zone is what welcomes you there.
Registration goes off without a hitch, and off we go. Our goal was simple; get more business. To do this, we have to engage in the age old ritual of networking, schmoozing, and most of all being a pair of ruthless bastards in order to keep any competition away from the deals we’re about to make. Will is quickly lost in the throng of people in the convention center bar, and I find myself left to my own devices.
I’m pretty lost, though. It’s not like I haven’t been to conventions like this before, but for some reason this convention tends to attract the big guys. These are guys that think nothing of spending a few hundred thousand a night in the casino; or renting an entire strip club (with strippers) for the night for their associates.
Thankfully my first contact of the day turns out to lead to some work. Jeff runs a small link collection website, and has been having serious trouble with it, it’s growing very fast but the software he uses just can’t keep up. Can we do him one better? Why yes, yes we can. A handshake seals the contract, and a friendship that lasts to this day. We decide to get some drinks and notice somewhat of a commotion at the bar.
Cameras are flashing, and people are hollering. Walking up we see why; a very good looking woman is sitting on top of the piano, dressed in nothing more than a t-shirt, and is rather obviously enjoying what she is doing to her nether regions.
“Crazy. That piano is covered in leather, they’ll never get the stains out” is all that Jeff has to say. I stare for a second or two more, and realise he’s right. Leather stains, and that piano is going to have some serious staining going on. Someone’s going to have to pull out a stack of greenbacks for this one.
As out of the ordinary as that whole scene was, it wasn’t. It’s not an entirely common thing, but it happens. Being in the industry, however, very quickly desensitizes you to nudity and sex acts. The only observation we both had didn’t even have anything to do with something that, in any other setting, would get people arrested.
The rest of the evening (by then) progressed nicely, with Jeff introducing me to a variety of his contacts, some of which at the time were the movers and shakers of the traffic industry. Traffic meaning: web page visitors. These guys could make or break you, and being made part of the not-entirely-but-quite-inner circle was a pretty big deal. Courtesy of this, I received an invitation for a party.
These conventions serve a dual purpose, it’s usually business at day, party at night. There are a few “public” parties, and a whole bunch that require special invitations or an introduction by someone in order to attend. Some of the public parties also come in a “normal” and “VIP” variety. I managed to land myself a VIP introduction for the Players’ Ball – basically the idea being everyone dressing up as pimp as they could, and having a good time.
I don’t know how to dress pimp. But I went anyway. The party was held in the Shadow Club, at the time one of the more exclusive clubs in the South Beach area (and conveniently located a short walk from my hole in the wall with the crankly landlady).
It was fun. I can’t really describe most of what went on, because it’d totally destroy any sort of non-X rating this article may have. What I can say is that in a booze and drug fueled haze, most people weren’t feeling very inhibited. Being (still) a relative outsider, all I could do is observe and wonder what I got myself into.
The surprise of the party? Ice-T is the MC. Up on stage, guiding the festivities, and pretty much being, well, Ice-T.
He even talked to me. “Don’t touch me, cracka!” was the extent of it. You see, I was at the front of the stage, and was in fact trying to get Jeff’s attention, since he finally arrived too. I had no idea what happened but apparently I’d almost thwacked him in the face when he bent over to grab something.
Ah. Way to go. But I still think it’s funny as hell. The rest of the party went off without hitches, though. I don’t quite recall all the details, but one thing that sticks with me is that after my rather embarrassing near-hit, I finally figured screw it, and blended in with everyone else.
Morning’s upon everyone again, and today it’s no real different than most days. Roll out of bed, take the required two steps to get over to the bathroom and take care of the usual morning things. I need to take my clothes to the laundry, the stench emanating from the heap of clothes on the floor could gag a donkey. Booze, pot, and the smell of hot bodies all rolled up in to a single reminder of why my head hurts.