SEMA Show 2004 – After Dark
It’s not the actual show that makes SEMA such a treacherous week. If you think about it, the Las Vegas Convention Center doors are only open nine hours a day. That gives plenty of time to relax over dinner, catch some sleep and then hit the show all over again the following day. But throw the nightlife of Vegas into the mix and staying locked up in a hotel room being good little boys and girls is a completely different story.
As one British photographer put it at the conclusion of SEMA Week, “Vegas is insane. Nobody ever tells you when to stop. You can be passed out on the ground in a pool of your own vomit and some bird (That’s a lady to us Yanks – OVB) will come up to you and ask you if you want to dance.” Yes, there’s a reason why it’s called Sin City.
What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas-it’s an unwritten rule. As much as the Overboost crew respects that line, we decided to somewhat cross it and bring you the inside scoop on what goes down when the show ends. Between covering SEMA, providing daily updates and trying not to die of exhaustion in the process, we mustered up enough energy to hit up as many industry parties as we could.
Forget pacing yourself in the SEMA party marathon, the nightlife jumped out to a quick start while everyone was still fresh. The agenda for the evening promised plenty of dancing, food and open bars. Tuesday’s main event was the Scion party, but until we made it there a couple of other stops were in order.
Autotecnica got the ball rolling with a media reception where the theme was PBR, or for those culturally challenged and unaware of the ways of the good ol’ boys, the Professional Bill Riders. The pair recently inked a deal for a line of Autotecnica/PBR products. And before you ask, yes, gun racks are part of the lineup. Keeping with the theme, there was a bull in the corner for those brave enough to give it a try. Instead of grabbing the bull by its horns, we opted to go for the other half and really show him who the boss is. (Autotecnica also announced a bunch of new parts for the VW Beetle, but sometimes bestiality has to take center stage – OVB)
Apparently the West isn’t as wild as it once was. Taking advantage of large, stuffed farm animals is no longer deemed acceptable behavior so we packed up our gear and headed across the hall to Honda’s reception. Things were in full swing by the time we arrived and judging by the crowd, we really wish we brought our Hostess paraphernalia along for the occasion.
Drifter Daijiro Yoshihara (left) decided to stay high on life in the early stages of a long night and threw back the caffeine at a record pace. Mike Mucklin (center) from GT Live was mixing business with pleasure while the others scrounged free food and watched us hard at work.
It wasn’t until the Scion party later that night until you could truly understand the lengths people will take to attend an evening with an open bar. The Rum Jungle in Mandalay Bay was packed wall-to-wall with people who somehow managed to get on Scion’s guest list. Navigating through the club was an experience all its own and we don’t even think Scion understood their own power.
When we finally made it through the door we were greeted with the smiling face of LJ Garcia. We also had a chance to see one proud soul passed out and being carried out of the club by his friends before the clock had a chance to strike 11:00 p.m. Technically he wasn’t available for comment, but when we tried to get a reply to how the party was, all he could do was grunt a few times.
If you’ve ever wondered what editors of Road &Track do when they aren’t out testing cars trying to formulate unbiased opinions, we aren’t going to be much help because we have no clue what act they were trying to perform on each other. Maybe the tie jerk is the trendy new very Euro mating call of the elite.
We would like to think that our method was better. Sunisa Kim was standing all alone in the corner so we felt obliged to entertain her for a while. After swearing up and down that we could make her famous, she was kind enough to pose with us for a picture. We thought we were smooth until two minutes later she asked us to take a picture of her and Art Michalik from Yokohama Tires. Jealousy will get you everywhere our dear Sunisa.
This group of misfits came all the way from north of the Canadian border. Going simply by the name of the 905 Crew, we found there are striking similarities between the 905 and the 909. Stick a flat-billed baseball cap sideways on these boys, put them in a lifted truck with a dirt bike in the bed and you would never know these northerly neighbors weren’t bros.
Tuesday night was also the first chance we had to hang out with The Nestor. You have to be beyond cool to only have one name and The Nestor was the closest thing Vegas had to Bishop Don Magic Juan during SEMA Week. To say he has a way with the ladies would be the understatement of the century. Wherever he went he owned them with his charm.
The Nestor spent the better part of the evening trying to avoid crowds of groupies that heard he was in town. But there was one lady who was able to hunt him down. Her reward was a complimentary ride back to her hotel in the Overboost tC support vehicle where she had a chance to enjoy it with The Nestor and put her number in one of his cell phone’s last remaining slots.
It was only Tuesday night, well, early Wednesday morning, and we had already made some memories. We just had to drop one more guy off and it was back to the hotel for a couple of winks before doing it all over again the next day. The drop-off didn’t go as smoothly as we planned, but eventually everyone made it back to their rooms.
It would take a lot to live up to the previous night’s experience. Luckily we did have an ace in the hole with an invitation we received from Claus Ettensberger to attend a CEC function. We’ll get to that later. First we had to find something to fill the three-hour void between the end of the show and the CEC gig and work wasn’t an option. There would be plenty of time for that when we got back to the hotel at 4 a.m.
The Toyota family wasn’t ready to retire their party hats just yet and they hosted a reception Wednesday evening. While Scion’s party was more like what you would expect when your friend’s parents went out of town for the weekend and left the key to the liquor cabinet along with enough money to hire a DJ, Toyota’s reception was a bit calmer. There was still room for a little controlled misbehaving though.
Ara Arslanian and Matt Scranton both drive Toyotas on the NHRA Sport Compact Series. Scranton came out of nowhere at the World Finals in Pomona to become the 2004 Pro-RWD Champion and the two still had some unfinished business to take care of. Arslanian struck first with a quick right uppercut. Dazed by the blow, Scranton retired to his corner for the standing eight count. His trainer threw in the towel before the ref could hit six and the two vowed to have a rematch on the 1320 in 2005. All kidding aside, it still happened to be the least staged boxing match in Vegas this year.
A couple other heavyweights from the sport of drag racing could also be found at the Toyota reception. Kenny Tran who drove the Quaker State Honda Civic in Hot Rod the past two years made an appearance at a Toyota event? Scion is a Toyota offspring and Tran/Jotech built a clean, powerful tC that was displayed at SEMA. Also in attendance was Jerry Toliver, driver of the Schick Quattro/Open Water Toyota Celica Funny Car.
As the reception ended, we faced a difficult decision. Our editorial team had to split up and share our time among the CEC party and the Injen Technologies party. Roger Hewson headed to Club Risque at the Paris for the Injen event where he met up with a team of other highly trained Overboost staffers, one of which had enough liquid courage to actually talk to a pair of models instead of standing in the corner thinking about it.
Everyone in attendance had a chance to spin the Injen Wheel of Prizes. As you can see from the excitement on Hewson’s face, some of the best things in life are free. The bag of goodies mysteriously disappeared before it could be brought back to the office and divided up among the staff. We aren’t going to point any fingers, but we have our suspicions.
One thing the Injen party had that most others were a little lean on was a tangible amount of women hanging out that weren’t actually being paid to be there. The ratio was somewhere in the neighborhood of three girls to every 100 guys which was triple the SEMA average. Hey, what do you expect from an industry dominated by testosterone?
Right about the time that part of the OVB staff was trying to sneak a second spin of the wheel at Injen’s shindig, a few other members were at the Bali Hai Golf Club rubbing shoulders a whole different crowd at the CEC party. (Mainly European models that stood more than six feet tall without heels on – OVB)
We wait all year for Mr. Ettensberg’s invite to come in the mail. Frankly, it’s the closest will ever be to living life like a social elite. It provides a chance to get up close and personal with Mercedes shod with Lorinser products, BMWs outfitted with AC Schnitzer and new for this year, Ferraris displaying the Novitec Rosso name. Not to mention it’s the only time in our lives when supermodels will actually look at us and smile.
One of the biggest draws to the CEC party is the fashion show and this year was no different. It’s not your typical runway event. It’s more of CEC’s twist on how an automotive enthusiast would want a fashion show to be. One by one beautiful cars drove up and took the center position. As if that wasn’t enough, one by one the doors to these rolling pieces of art opened and out steped a lovely model draped in designer clothing. It’s simple yet brilliant at the same time.
Thursday marked another day of Overboost staff divides as there was once again going to be two premier parties happening at the same time. We were faced with a dilemma and after drawing straws it was quickly remedied. The winner was going to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and the other winner was headed back to Club Risque in the Paris. (Music, booze and ritzy venues-how can you declare a loser? – OVB)
The Pro Motion/AEM/DC Sports/Sparco/Rotora/Sprint Suspension/Quake Entertainment and Phoonv2 party was going down at Risque and there was still good fun to be had as the week wound down. If you look closely at the picture on the right, there are five familiar faces in the sport compact world. Be the first one to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address and all five names and we’ll send you a DVD, hero card and collectible car all signed by IRL driver of the Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Number 15 car Buddy Rice.
From Paris to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino we have the RECARO/BASF/Madico/Folia Tec/Fox Marketing Bray Group/Industry Leading Parties event. Normally the space by the pool at Hard Rock is reserved for A-List celebrities and people that know A-List celebrities. We are neither, but somehow we managed to get our hands on an invite from RECARO.
Team Toyo was out and causing trouble around the pool. Hiding in the cabana was the crew from Rockford Fosgate while Fred Chang and Ryan Sage from Slipstream also joined in on the fun. The venue was almost as awesome as the three open bars on the upper level and the spectacular spinach and cheese dip that served as Thursday’s sole meal.
We also had the chance to make two new friends. Yutaka Sampei is a senior manager at Sansho Co. LTD and his friend works in Japan with Fu-Tech Co. LRD. We don’t speak or read Japanese so we have no clue what either of those companies do, but Sampei was one cool cat. We rescued him from a wrong turn in the restroom and in return he called us gaijing and introduced us to his associates. Only at SEMA.
By the time Friday hit we were completely out of gas. As has become a SEMA custom for the staff, at the end of the week we headed to the seafood buffet at the Rio to indulge in all of the sushi and lobster we could pack away. Once all of the excess finally hit it was night night for the OVB crew.
We can almost call it another year in the books, but we still have one more matter to tend to. Check back soon to see the cars that were responsible for taking us to the show and all of the nightlife. They were both the same color and both had Scion emblems on them, but they weren’t the two xBs that rocked Sin City last year.