Normally I would need to wait until January to show what we did in September, but since this story broke online with the blessing of the company owner, I am free to share the images now.
LAS VEGAS—Kirsten Price adjusts her black tutu, checks her lipstick and climbs onto the roulette table. The crowd grows. Two men glance over their shoulders as their poker game continues, while a young woman standing behind the roped-off section reaches for her cell phone camera. Price kneels and turns to photographer Keith Munyan, who likes the pose.
“She looks amazing,” he says.
Munyan already is more than eight hours into the first day of this high-stakes photo shoot that eventually will entail posing all six Wicked Pictures contract girls against the Vegas skyline on the 32nd floor of the Palms Resort Casino. In an unprecedented agreement that was finalized less than a week ago, Wicked is partnering with the Palms to shoot its entire 2010 calendar and ad campaign inside the venue.
The photo crew seems unfazed by the two dozen onlookers around the set, which has turned into bonus entertainment for the gamblers. As the playful Price arches her back and licks her lips, Wicked creative director Lyle Sinkewich speaks into his walkie-talkie and makeup assistant Marco lies on the floor teasing Price’s hair with a fan.
Wicked Pictures president Steve Orenstein realizes what he is watching is special.
“When we started talking about it, I didn’t think it was going to happen. I’m used to being turned down by mainstream,” Orenstein says. “It’s not like you can do a practice run-through here. We’re not in a studio, where it’s all about us. We’ve never done this before where we’re trying to shoot something in the midst of someone else conducting their business. But the Palms, they’ve just been tremendous.”
Orenstein is thrilled that the Palms’ forward-thinking owners—George Maloof and brothers Gavin, Phil and Joe—have allowed Wicked its run of the property for the next three days. The plan is for Wicked to shoot in both public and private locations within the Palms without any interruptions of the normal course of business.
Today Munyan and company have already captured Price and Kaylani Lei inside the Ghostbar and Little Buddha restaurant. The aggressive schedule calls for shooting two Wicked Girls per day in multiple locations—for both stills and video—and all six of them together around midnight inside the two-story Sky Villa, an extravagant suite that rents for $50,000 per night.
“We plan to make a calendar out of this, and we are definitely going to have a party here Friday night before the [AVN Awards in January],” Orenstein says. “It’s not only that we’re doing the shoot here, we’re also promoting the [Palms’] name within it.”
It’s a sign of how far adult entertainment has come and also a landmark endorsement of Wicked Pictures’ 16-year-old brand.
The stills crew had to finish its earlier shots under pressure as the Ghostbar, the sleek ultra lounge on the 55th floor, was preparing to open for a paid event and Little Buddha began its dinner service. As Munyan reviews his most recent pictures on his laptop with Sinkewich, Orenstein tells me that the artwork for Wicked’s Adult Entertainment Expo booth in January traditionally is designed to match the theme of their ad campaign.
“The booth has always been so graphic-intensive and then it becomes, ‘How do you change the look?’” he explains. “A couple years ago we did the evening gowns; last year we did the paparazzi theme, with all the makeup area stuff around [the girls]. This year it’s evolved and it’s more about the relationship with the Palms.
“It’s not like we sat around and said, ‘Oh, let’s do Vegas this year.’ It’s really based on the relationship with the Palms and we said let’s go for it.”
While Price shoots in the casino, Kaylani Lei rehearses inside the plush west bedroom of the 32nd-floor Sky Villa with a male model. Wicked’s Sinkewich has left seemingly nothing to chance this week, hiring several male models to be in pictures with the girls to enhance the party vibe. Lei and the model are taking direction from the mainstream crew that Sinkewich brought in to produce the companion video piece that will be a key part of the campaign.
Seven members of the crew are crammed into the corner of the Sky Villa bedroom while the director instructs Lei, dressed only in black lace lingerie, to step off the bed, pull on her skirt and give the model a goodbye kiss.
“That’s sexy,” the director says. “Your smile is so gorgeous.”
Several takes later, everyone is satisfied and Lei dons an Asian-inspired robe and heads for the third-floor suite that is Wicked’s dressing room this week.
The methodical video crew comes to the project with a high profile; the director is under contract with a major Hollywood film studio and the producer is a network TV personality and actor. Both requested anonymity due to their mainstream contracts. The same crew also wants to use footage from this shoot for its own reality-TV-show pilot. Their involvement this week not only amps up the intensity level of everything, it also complicates matters.
The mainstream crew brought their own celebrity makeup artists: one woman has regular clients such as Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and Pantene shampoo; the other lists Demi Moore, Gwen Stefani and Vogue magazine as a few of her regulars. They also aren’t allowed to use their names for any publicity but have come highly recommended. The trouble is their video-style makeup so far hasn’t been jibing with Wicked’s vision for its still photos, so there is tension among the professionals. As the 10 o’clock hour approaches and the schedule falls further behind, numerous private conversations unfold in the two camps.
Wicked’s “dressing room” for the week actually is a mini movie theater that includes couches, an enormous food spread and about $2 million worth of jewelry by celebrity designer Erica Courtney, who is loaning some of her high-end pieces to Wicked.
Courtney, who this weekend will customize the jewelry for several Hollywood luminaries attending the Emmy Awards, is making a rare appearance on a set to personally help the Wicked Girls accessorize.
“I know Lyle and [his partner Jim Kehl] and when they told me about the project and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it, I was like, ‘Absolutely,’” Courtney says. “He said they’re stepping it up a notch and wanted it to be really beautiful and fabulous. I mean the girls are so gorgeous. I just thought I really want to be part of this. Why not? And this is my first time doing anything in the adult industry.”
Courtney, whose collection is sold in upmarket jewelry stores across the country as well as at Neiman Marcus, lists Julia Roberts, Sheryl Crow and Kristin Davis among her celebrity clients.
“The girls have been absolutely fabulous — gracious, appreciative, complimentary. They’ve just been as absolutely sweet as they could possibly be,” Courtney says. “I don’t know what I expected, certainly, being part of the crew. I always treat my crew really graciously, but I don’t expect everybody else does, and they have been absolutely the most gracious talent ever.”
By 11:30 p.m. on Day 1, the Wicked Girls are also displaying admirable patience. It’s been over two hours since a single photo or frame of video has been taken. And it’s become increasingly evident that the video crew and makeup artists share a slightly different vision from Wicked’s photo crew and girls about how they should be styled. Private conferences commence in the hallway while the four other Wicked Girls—Jessica Drake, Stormy Daniels, Mikayla Mendez and Alektra Blue—are in various stages of readiness. The whispers indicate that the makeup artists are on the verge of walking off the job in protest. The big group photo at the two-story Sky Villa is in serious jeopardy.
Finally Orenstein, Sinkewich and the video producer pull all the girls inside the theater for a meeting, drawing back the curtain for privacy. The video producer speaks first, telling the girls he’s “sorry” the shoot has stalled. Stormy asks him what all the girls are wondering: “Who are you?” He rattles off an impressive list of TV and entertainment credits and says he is sorry again. Orenstein and Sinkewich explain that Wicked must first get what it needs out of the shoot and that any agenda related to the reality-show pilot is secondary. Thirty-five minutes later the group decides to start fresh tomorrow. On the way to the elevator, Mikayla tells me she knew something wasn’t right when one of the makeup artists uncurled her hair and patted it down with water.
"I don’t know what just happened, just a bunch of miscommunications and stuff. I came in and got my hair done and then undone," she says, incredulously.
(Parts 2 and 3 to follow on Monday and Wednesday)
Article originally posted Nov 5th 2009 10:32AM by Dan Miller