Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 | 3 a.m.
Drummer, producer and songwriter Phil Varone of Saigon Kick and Skid Row dances to a different tune when he’s not touring.
Phil runs a thriving swingers sex video business here in his hometown, so for the rock and porn star, the annual Adult Entertainment Expo and AVN Awards are an interesting combination of work and play.
Now a XXX movie director for Vivid Video, Phil will broadcast his Sirius XM radio show “The Swing” on Vivid Radio Channel 102 from the Hard Rock Hotel today and Friday.
I talked with him as the AVN performers and producers began arriving in Las Vegas.
“Doing my radio show live from there will be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to it!” Phil said.
You’re a Las Vegas guy, you live in Las Vegas, and I’m guessing you also do some of your sex videos here in Las Vegas, too?
Yes, in fact, I originally I did a couple of them here because most of my swinger friends are from here, and we have a new one coming up that we’re going to do at the Green Door in March.
How do you define swingers in this day and age?
Putting a label on it is a little weird today. I have a new movie coming out in March, and we did it in Atlanta with a new generation of swingers who don’t like to be called swingers. They kind of equate that word, “swingers,” to the old ’70s tea parties. This is an open lifestyle, as they call it these days, for me the lifestyle of open-minded people who want to enjoy sex without the hang-ups, but yet are still respectful of being in a relationship and the safety of sex, as well.
I’ve noticed when shooting for my movies that more and more people are open-minded. I don’t call an agency and say, “Hey, I need this porn star for this.” I use real swingers, and we use condoms. Everybody is more aware of being safe over STDs; it’s just open with people that they like. What I’ve learned from shooting over the years is that the older swingers are kind of pickier and set in their ways, where the younger generation is like the ’60s all over again, but with more knowledge of safety and being responsible.
How long have you been running your adult-video business?
My company here is Vision Mind Entertainment, and I also shoot for Vivid for just over three years. In fact, we started the 100% Real Swingers series with Vivid. I’ve been shooting with them exclusively, and I have a couple of other series coming out, as well, this year. Now with this new deal with cable television and video on demand, we’ve been releasing at least four movies a year with 100% Real Swingers series. Next up is a new series called Groupies coming out this year about rock and roll days.
It’s called The Music From Behind instead of Behind the Music. I’ve been playing shows with my old band Saigon Kick, and I’ve actually been shooting the groupie stuff at the shows. It’s pretty fun. We just finished editing the first one, and it will be out sometime this year. Most of the filming has been out of Las Vegas, although we did the first one at AVN two years ago. Now I pretty much travel across the USA. We shot in Kentucky, Atlanta, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, you name it.
This year we plan on going to Indianapolis, and we’ll go back to Columbus, Ohio. As far as the swingers series, we’re really trying to show regular people, and we’re going to different cities that you would never guess. Would you believe that Kentucky has an amazing swinging community? It does. We’re trying to not only have fun and shoot these adult movies, but we’re also trying to educate everybody and say, “Listen, Kentucky has just as great a swinging community as Las Vegas does.”
Everybody is kind of used to swinging being in New York or Los Angeles or Las Vegas. They’re kind of shocked when we go to Columbus. This new generation of swingers is pretty much open to anything and just wants to have fun without the hang-ups and drama.
Are swingers basically defined as people who are either married or in a committed relationship who then enjoy sex with other partners?
Pretty much — that’s the black-and-white term, if you will. You’re in a committed relationship, you’re very honest with your spouse, and you’re able to explore different levels of swinging with other people. When I say different levels, it’s all swap, and there are different rules, but that’s all between the couples and the individuals to decide. There are no set rules to swinging. That’s definitely made with the couples.
When you go to the website and you look through the people with whom you feel compatible, it’s kind of like Match.com. You have all these people who you have things in common — for swinging it would be the sex side of it — and then you set up these dates and meet people. You’re not cheating; your spouse is very much involved with what’s going on.
Running Vision Mind as a Las Vegas company and doing your editing here, can you say swinging is on the uptick?
I think it is, but it’s not advertised as such. Recently, though, there have been shows on television that have focused on swinging. Even myself, I’ve been pitching a swinger show to television to show what the lifestyle is. You would think that the demographic would be everybody, but it’s not. Everybody has their curiosity about it, but swinging … is still one of those taboo subjects.
But it’s very large, and I think that the anonymity of people is what makes it seem still underground. To us, we are kind of Alcoholics Anonymous about it where you just don’t tell people who’s in it. You don’t say which couples are in it, you don’t talk about the celebrities you’ve just had sex with, you kind of keep it to yourself. That’s what keeps this whole underground thing going.
But this new generation of 20- to 30-year-olds is more out there. They don’t really care what people think and are not ashamed of it. I hope that people don’t discriminate against somebody because they’re a swinger and think that they’re sluts. It’s completely different. For us, we would rather play with other swingers so we don’t deal with the drama and the stuff that you do deal with when you deal with vanillas.
Which is if you were to pick a guy up at the bar to come into your marriage, that guy would be hitting on your wife or the possibility of disrupting your relationship, where a swinger, they understand the rules, they go by that, and it keeps everything as drama free as possible.
Is Las Vegas the capital of swinging, or having been to Kentucky do you say that we lost the title?
Las Vegas has a good swinging community; in fact, we have great websites out here and great people. I’ve learned, believe it or not, that Ohio is one of the largest swinging communities in the country. Tampa is another huge swinging city. So as much as Las Vegas is up there, there are close seconds throughout the United States.
We’re showing that with the 100% Real Swingers series. People will be shocked when they see what we have on tape, especially the Atlanta one. It’s just unbelievable. Teen swingers from Atlanta are just out of control and pure fun with no hang-ups.
What do you get out of AEE and AVN?
For me, I’m still new in the business, I came over from the music business, so I just love this whole thing. The energy there is my business now. For AVN, I’m nominated this year for two awards, so to me it is the Oscars — the same excitement. I’m doing my radio show there, and we have Vivid parties, and then we have the award show. It’s going to be a fun few days, and I get to see all of my friends, and the parties are amazing — and the sex isn’t bad, either.
You’re swinging and still rocking? Do they go hand-in-hand?
Saigon Kick is one of the bands. Skid Row is the other band that I played with. Now I do shows with Saigon Kick. We had a hit back in the ’90s with Atlantic Records, and we started playing again, and we’re doing select shows here and there having a good time. We’re a bunch of old guys now, so at 46 things hurt a lot more than when I was 20.
I don’t know if swinging goes with the groupie side of it. I think groupies definitely have their own category. Most rock stars were married and weren’t really swinging. I even made that mistake early on before I was really used to the lifestyle. You have so many opportunities when you’re a young rock star musician, and your relationship comes in last in those situations, so I wouldn’t compare groupies to swinging.
These days, though, while I’m shooting, if I’m in a relationship, they certainly know that I’m with groupies because you would tell your spouse. But, at the time, they were hidden from each other before I really got into the lifestyle itself.
I was married twice; not now. So two strikes. But they didn’t break up because of swinging. My last relationship was a full year relationship, and breaking up had nothing to do with swinging. One of the misconceptions that people think, and we get calls into the radio show all the time, “Hey, listen, our relationship is a little rocky. Do you think swinging will help?” And I say no because you have to have a very solid relationship to swing.
When it’s all said and done, people have to realize that it’s just two human beings, so whether we’re able to have sex with other people or not is irrelevant in the big picture of just growing apart as humans and our relationships are failing. It has nothing to do with swinging. It’s just normal, everyday things — it’s money, career or just growing apart.
There are old men in the rock business — Mick Jagger, for one. Do you see your rock career continuing, or are you more fascinated with making adult movies?
I try to do a little bit of everything, to be honest with you. Rock and roll, like I said before, hurts when you are not as young as you used to be. When we first put the band together, everything was hysterical, but now we talk if our hip hurts today, and we all have kids. So it’s a little different than it would be 20-plus years ago. I still love to play music, and I love drumming, but I also love to shoot movies. Right now I’m very grateful and fortunate that I can do both, the best of both worlds, and not overdo either one of them.
Playing in a band takes a lot of time and patience with four other people who you didn’t necessarily get along with; I don’t see many more years of me getting onstage and not looking ridiculous because my bands weren’t that big. They weren’t iconic bands,; we were just bands having a good time.
For me, I’ll continue doing that as long as I can, and I actually just released my new book, “Un-Philtered,” which has funny stories about touring. It’s all the stupid stuff, the “Spinal Tap” stuff we did on the road. I had a great time doing it, so I’ve actually started my second book that will come out sometime at the end of this year or early next year.
Will there be swinging during the 2014 AVN/AEE, or is everybody too busy selling sex films rather than doing it?
To answer that, you know money trumps sex any day. Once everybody has made enough money in the convention, then come the parties. We have a really good time, and there’s a lot of sex at the AVNs, but there’s a lot of business, as well. I’m sure that there will be plenty of sex and money over the next few days.
My lengthy interview with Vivid Entertainment kingpin Steven Hirsch was posted early Tuesday, and my chat with leading lady Jessica Drake was posted early Wednesday. Later today, 2014 AVN Awards co-host Chanel Preston will give us a preview of what to expect at “the Oscars of Porn.”
Check back daily to Vegas DeLuxe for the nightly rundown of all the 2014 AVN/AEE parties, and our weekly Weekend Celebrity Preview on Friday will have all the weekend events. On Sunday and Monday, we’ll have reports, photos and videos of the AVN Awards.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Arguably one the coolest joints in town, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino houses some of Vegas' best entertainment, restaurants and nightlife.
At Hard Rock, it's all about the music. From the light fixtures made out of drum cymbals and guitar shaped door handles to stage costumes and tools of the trade of legendary musicians displayed on the walls, the hotel screams rock and roll. The Hard Rock's Joint has hosted some the biggest names in music — from The Who to Bob Dylan to hometown heroes, The Killers.Aside from the music venues, the pool at the Hard Rock is one of its biggest attractions. Spread out over 4.7 acres, the pool area features swim-up blackjack, a bar and grill, private cabanas, a bevy of secluded nooks, a waterfall and an extensive live music venue with a dance floor. During the summer, the pool transforms into the Rehab club on Sunday afternoons.
The resident nightclub Body English fuses European elegance with a rock star bachelor pad and it often a hot spot for visiting celebs and popular DJs. Vintage rock memorabilia lines the walls at Wasted Space, Hard Rock's anti-club.
Restaurants at Hard Rock are just as hip as the rest of the casino. Pink Taco serves up Mexican dishes, as well as a Central American and Caribbean menu. Nobu, one of five worldwide Japanese-specialty restaurants from famed Nobu Matsuhisa, satisfies a different taste. For round-the-clock cuisine, Mr. Lucky's 24/7, is sure to ease your appetite even after a Vegas-all-nighter.