The venerable Sahara


I went to Las Vegas for the first time in my life last week. I avoided it for so long as I considered it a cesspool. It took business to drag me there, in this case the VSDA Home Entertainment Expo, a convention of video retailers and distributors. You also get companies who make their livings connected to the home video industry - from those who make DVD display cases to those who sell popcorn in video stores. The candy company PEZ was even there!

So why did I attend? Well, the VSDA decided to give struggling indie directors like me the opportunity to pitch our films directly to video store owners, eliminating the middle men (distributors). They chose a baker's dozen of films this year, and we all wound up in Vegas trying to do our best. I was representing Foreign Correspondents with the film's producer Julia Stemock. Although the expo was held at the hip-and-happening Rio Hotel, Julia and I stayed at the Sahara, a once-legendary Sin City landmark, now a modest but tidy hotel. Home of $1 blackjack tables, the cheapest buffet in town, and Charo.

Anyway, despite my misgivings, I actually enjoyed my four days in Vegas. I met a lot of really nice people and even managed to sell a handful of copies of ForCor - so if you poke around your local independent video store, you just might find it. Other than that, I can sum up my experience in Las Vegas as this: slot machines are depressing and anti-social; the hotels pump oxygen into their rooms to keep you awake and alert (so you can keep gambling); VSDA award recipient Sylvester Stallone now looks like Matt LeBlanc after a stroke; the Mandalay Bay was the prettiest hotel/casino I visited, and Circus Circus was just a miserable place - practically a Third World country.

On an unrelated but significant note, my editor and I started cutting Claustrophobia on Sunday.