It was a Dark and Stormy night: rum and ginger beer served over ice in red plastic cups. But by the time Emily and I reached the bar at the Grand Lux Café in the Venetian, the Dark and Stormies were history. So was the impromptu nerd parade through the Casino Royale. So was the private party we crashed at the Venetian sports book. So was the dual sighting of MC Hammer and the world’s smallest computer.
Open 24/7, the Grand Lux Café (fancy-pants name for a joint owned by the Cheesecake Factory) sees many permutations of the Vegas kaleidoscope. This was the post-club, end-o-line, last-stop-before-bed version, and Emily insisted we eat at the crowded bar.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” asked a gentle, masculine voice.
“Sure.” I returned to my conversation with Emily.
“My name is Eric Swiss,” the man shook my hand, “and I’m an international porn star.”
I cringed. “Does this mean I have to wash my hands now?”
“They say we’re like puppies, because we come with papers. I’m probably cleaner than you,” he said with a gracious, almost meek tone.
I begged to differ, but lacked the energy. Instead, I pondered how I could wash my hands without offending him. (Yes, I know I’m crazy.)
“So are you really an actor? Or are you just ‘in the industry?’” Emily asked.
“In front of the camera.” He waved a convention badge with an inappropriate-for-newspapers stage name.
“And the international part?” Emily asked.
He said that he’d traveled the world and spoke several languages.
“How’s your French?” I asked.
“Je parle fluentement.” He paused, corrected himself: “Courrament.”
I was suspicious of this alleged fluency. Mr. Pornstar spoke with a distinct Anglophone accent. I knew because I speak French, too. But I didn’t say anything. A girl has to keep some mysteries.
Next, Eric politely declared his intentions, and Emily disappeared into her rib sandwich. He invited me to watch an 11 a.m. seminar about the glass ceiling for women in the porn industry. The seminar sounded legitimately interesting. Like college, but with fun topics.
Still, I found his advances baffling. If you’re a porn star picking up chicks at 3 a.m., why not go for the gold?
Why not hit on us both? Why the return to convention?
By this point, I decided it had been long enough; everybody had forgotten about my washing-hands comment. I excused myself to the restroom, where I saw 20 girls a porn star would more likely hit on than me.
Upon my return, the conversation drifted to books. I mentioned the only book I’ve read that’s relevant to the industry: the purposefully vile Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk.
“What’s it about?” he asked.
I recounted the plot, trying not to offend the porn star in the process. To soften the blow, I added, “Any author who spends so much time trying to prove something is viscerally repulsive can’t be wholly accurate.” (i.e., Really, I’m not judging you. The author of Fight Club is a biased jerk.)
“But is it worth reading?” he asked.
Worth reading? A stellar question. But one that I had no idea how to answer. So much for my English degree.
We fell into silence, and I was surprised to see Emily staring into an empty plate. I sat there, stuck between a friend and a porn star, unsure what to do. So I swung my feet and studied the architecture.
Grand Lux’s décor looked European, but without a specific style or provenance. I saw it as heavy luxury for the post-jet-set generation. A neo-Rococo mutt with a touch of whimsy. Perfectly American (pre-economic collapse, of course).
Then Eric the porn star turned toward me and said, “What’s the chances you’ll go home with me tonight?”
“Slim,” I answered, surprised I’d given him so much hope.
He stood to leave. I stopped him.
“What are the chances I’ll see you tomorrow?” I wondered if I could wake up in time to meet him at the seminar.
He sat down. “I’ll be very busy tomorrow ... but the chances are good.” He shook my hand again; this time he beat the rhythm of his goodbye on the palm of my hand with his finger. It was a neat move, but I’d have to wash my hands again.