Xanadu Las Vegas

Still a weird place to visit, but not as racy—or busy—as hoped

Xanadu Las Vegas is a schizophrenic beast of a convention. Last year, it was touted as a family-friendly science-fiction, fantasy and horror event. This year, Xanadu added adults-only fetish and bondage to the mix.

I checked out the new Xanadu March 27-28 at the Suncoast. The gathering I found was very sci-fi oriented, not as racy as I expected, and a whole lot weirder.

The event’s setup maximized attendees’ choices with two ballrooms of programming and one for vendors. So if you weren’t in the mood to hear the sibling writing team of Dani and Eytan Kollin debate how the economy relates to science fiction, you could enter the next room and watch photographer Dominic Wolfe gag and tie up model Gina Rae Michaels. All dressed up in your Obi-Wan Kenobi outfit and not a fan of either? Then you could always wander through the dealers’ room (a.k.a. the vendors exhibit hall).

Make the rounds and you could meet talented people such as pinup artists Popeye Wong, fantasy photographer Joseph Corsentino, author Todd VanHooser, scream queen Rachel Grubb and porn star Julie Simone. Disaster education group Zombie Squad was also there, as well as vendors drawing zombie caricatures. Others sold artisan jewelry, gothic items, pagan gifts, movie memorabilia, comic books and more. Most of the elements seemed to mesh well.

“There’s an interesting mix of people here,” says Simone, who was one of the event’s headliners. “I’ve never been to a convention quite like this.”

Author Darryl Dawson had the best seat in the house. As he peddled his horror anthology, The Crawlspace (Author House, 2009), he could watch photographer James Busch turn models such as Blair Blouson into damsels in distress. “It helps draw attention to me, that’s for sure,” Dawson says.

Rich Johnson’s booth for Mystic Publishers of Henderson—as well as a few other “normals”—seemed a tad out of place, but like Lily’s blond niece Marilyn on The Munsters, nobody seemed to mind. “Some of what’s going on is on the fringe of what I might normally look at, but it’s definitely a learning experience,” Johnson says.

Wong, Corsentino and Grubb, who all attended Xanadu’s debut event, said they were happy with the new theme. “It made for better parties,” Grubb says. “I really liked the bondage demonstrations, too.”

The biggest thing lacking, besides a solid horror presence, was foot traffic. None of the vendors—including Simone, giving away autographed posters for her film, Audition—were very busy. But with fine tuning, more marketing and perhaps some therapy, Xanadu could become the weird highlight of spring.

Chad Clinton Freeman is a Las Vegas independent filmmaker and mass media specialist. He can be reached via email at CCF@PollyStaffle.com.

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