HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Seeking to distance itself from a perceived stigma associated with the more "explicit offerings" of the adult industry, the Love L.A. Show made its debut with a different approach to promoting "sexual health products, education and entertainment."
Sexual information and relationship enhancement were the cornerstones of the eight-hour event held Sunday afternoon at Boulevard 3 in Hollywood.
Amid a sea of comfy couches and chairs, 41 hand-picked exhibitors catered to more than 1,000 curious consumers of all ages and sexual preferences.
Attendees reveled in the intimate yet bustling setting and enjoyed the variety of educational seminars and courses that drew standing-room-only crowds in the vibrant Hollywood hot spot.
The watershed expo was organized by Ian Denchasy and Alicia Lum-Denchasy, co-owners of progressive retail shop Freddy and Eddy.
"I couldn't have been happier," Denchasy said, commenting on the turnout that was impressive despite the day's torrential rains. "It exceeded our greatest expectations." Denchasy said the venders are equally thrilled-32 vendors have already confirmed for next year's event.
"It was wonderful to get many of our favorite vendors under one roof enhancing one another," Alicia Lum-Denchasy said. "We gave what our consumers and clients wanted and did so in a classy way."
Denchasy had hoped that a classy location and approachable vendors would attract a different audience than the traditional adult-product show, and the show's numbers support his theory. "More than 65 percent of the attendees were women," said Denchasy. "I don't think there's ever been a sex show that appealed so well to the female audience. It proved to me that the right event could get women-and couples-to show up and explore."
The duo collaborated with companies they felt were best suited to represent the show's sexual-health motif while also affording vendors an opportunity to peddle their wares. While overtly-sexual demonstrations took place in the main room, on stage, and in seminars, porn was conspicuously absent from the proceedings. Its exclusion was no accident, a point which was hammered home in Love L.A.'s marketing materials and repeated by some of the show's exhibitors.
"Porn is different than we are," said Denchasy, who reviews adult movies as well as toys online, and sells adult DVDs and products in his shop right up the street from his Venice home. "We are all here as a team, re-branding elements and adopting new terms that do not have bad stigma attached to it."
"We want to re-brand words like ‘porno' and ‘dirty bookstores,'" added David Ballow, national director of operations for Pleasure Chest. "Teaching exploration through tasteful education with a positive light will be the important thing."
Coyote Days, senior buyer for retailer and sexual health pioneer Good Vibrations, flew down from San Francisco for the day just to attend the event. While embracing the show's overall message, Days cautioned against unnecessary divisiveness among those who ultimately share the same interests.
"I fully support the idea of a consumer show based around education and sex positivity, but I would hesitate in creating an "us/them" dynamic within our industry," said Days. "I look forward to seeing this show evolve, giving both retailers and manufacturers a chance to display their best products in a sex-positive, informal setting-while still allowing for inclusion of anyone furthering the cause of sexual health."
Jordan Dawes, CEO of Bonkum, which exhibited at the event, put it this way in his post-show comments published on the company website: "We are the ones shaping the future in this industry, so we are accountable for our actions AND our products, because that is what the public (not to mention the government) is viewing," wrote Dawes. "So this is exactly what we need, a powerful momentous shakeup in our industry from our manufacturers, vendors, and everyone associated with this industry and event."
Love L.A. also offered a unique opportunity for companies in and out of the industry to work together. L.A. Weekly, who publishes a column about sexy living in Los Angeles written by Denchasy, worked along with local industry supporters and vendors from the event to better market the expo.
"Watching our favorite industry folks work together was awesome," said Denchasy, as he watched market competitors team up to build, staff, and break down the event. One writer and event organizer stood out to Denchasy. "I have to say, this event wouldn't have happened without Anne Winter," said Denchasy. "She was my right hand, there every step of the way. I'm incredibly indebted to her."
Attendees came to the event ready to learn, said Spartacus representatives Alice Beckett and Ameena Lacey.
"We talked to a lot of the people and broadened their horizons about sexual products," said Beckett, who deals mostly with fetish products manufactured from leather, metal and rubber, among other materials. "Many of the attendees wanted to touch the products and get a hands-on experience to what we offer. The nipple clamps were really a hit."
"It opens up new and erotic possibilities in a relationship," said company owner Dan Siechert.
GS Wipes set up shop hoping to "create awareness for fellow Angelenos" and "spice up their love lives," said company President Steven Wasserman. His company's flavored pleasure wipes allow couples to freshen up before moments of intimacy and clean up afterward.
Sashin Nath, 28, and Torye Nguyen, 25, drove from Orange County in the morning showers for a "good, upscale erotic show."
"I was really impressed with the variety and atmosphere," said Nguyen, who had various hand-picked sexual product manufacturers to choose from, including Aneros, Devine Toys, Fun Factory, Gear Essentials, Good Clean Love, njoy toys, OhMiBod, Sliquid, and Vibratex. A complete list of vendors at the event can be found on the Love L.A. website, dubbed on the site as the "Love L.A. Family."
A slew of couples such as Nath and Nguyen also attended the seminars organized by Babeland, and staffed by experts from their own store as well as Pleasure Chest and Denchasy's Freddy and Eddy. A variety of fun, informative, and adventurous seminars ran throughout the day, such as "The Art of Corsetry," "BDSM 101," "Sex Toys 101," "How to Please Your Man," "Anal Sex 101" and "The Big O."
Dr. Sadie Allison was one of the featured guest speakers at Love L.A. Her line of books has sold more than 1 million copies since 2001, and provides sexuality tools in easy-to-read books that feature writing that is both humorous and conversational.
Her hopes for the show's patrons? "I hope they become better lovers and are both comfortable and empowering at the same time," said Allison.