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by Groundskeeper Willie

"Last year you applauded, This year you'll rave."

Or so hyped the slogan imprinted on the $200 ticket to the Adult Video News 2001 Awards Show, a yearly porn ritual celebrating the biggest videos and most popular names in porn. By the time you read this, the Awards show will have been a recent, but distant memory in the minds of most of the attendees, including myself. For years, I had been hearing about this event, sponsored by the nation's leading adult trade magazine, and reading about all the excitement and activity surrounding the event. Adult Video News is a well respected, though controversial magazine, which is issued monthly and is as thick as a small town phone book and as slick as an expanded edition of National Geographic. However, the controversial nature of the magazine lies more with its position and influence in the adult entertainment industry than in its editorial content. With few exceptions, the news articles and printed information of the magazine takes a back seat to the massive pages of eye-catching advertisements, with reviews which are generally safe and middle of the road.

Whatever its purpose or effect in the world of dirty movies, Adult Video News and its awards do mean something in the business, whether its the acknowledgement of superior (or overhyped) video products which lead into booming sales, or the recognition of a particular performer who is due to be catapulted into pornstardom. Since AVN has been around for years, one would think that the annual Awards Show would be something spectacular (within the limitations of a genre industry), and at first, I thought that it would be. Taking place in one of the largest ballrooms at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, I was immediately impressed with the elegant presentation of the event. As the crowd flooded in the double doors, rows of round tables dressed up in white cloth were spread throughout the room with the event's program laid elegantly on the chairs. At the front of the stage, green and red lasers glowed softly while an empty podium remain perched at the front, waiting for hostess Jenna Jameson to take command of the proceedings. Even if you were at the farthest seat in back of the room (but closest to the wet bar), watching the show was made easier with the multiple projection video screens set up throughout the ceiling.

Even though the show was scheduled to start at 7:45, it was almost 9:00 before the event actually began. In the meantime, video clips of the day's AVN Adult Entertainment Expo show were projected onto the video screens as the audience members poured in. I recall trying to find my table in the dim room before I was transfixed by one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen: a raven-haired, slender beauty wearing an elegant black dress and looking simply radiant. Of course, it had to be porn star Rebecca Lords, one of the prettiest and most underrated actresses in the business. A few brief gushing words were exchanged, and then I headed towards my seat, occasionally blurting out a quick comment to some of my favorites like Shayla LaVeaux ("Hello, Shayla...big fan of yours!" I said anonymously "Thank you, sweetie!" she replied reflexively.). The room settled down to full capacity, the lasers beamed from wall to wall, and announcements were made introducing Jenna Jameson as hostess to the industry's most prestigious awards event...

...and then it all went downhill from there.

Understand me...I did not expect to see Cirque De Soleil. Nor did I expect to see something as polished or as elaborate as the Academy Awards, or hell, even MTV Awards, since I know that applying mainstream standards to the adult industry is beyond ludicrous. However, I did expect to have some sort of reaction provoked in me; after all, we are dealing with dirty movies here. In a genre such as porn, an event like the AVN Awards should give rise to some base emotion: either excitement, repulsion, curiosity, wonder, amusement, amazement...something, or anything to make the night memorable!

Instead, I was bored to death. the whole affair started well with sexy (if generic) dancers vamping it up on-stage to provide some visual eye candy while the ceremony got underway. But ten minutes after the announcement of the first Award, the whole affair became an endlessly repetitive cycle of introduction, talk, laserlights, more talking, polite applause, and then back again to the dancers before the next set of presenters were announced. Then the whole thing started all over again. And again.

The initially buoyant crowd became merely attentive about fifteen minutes into the show. Then their polite interest grew into lassitude, followed by discomfiture, then finally outright restlessness. About one hour into the show (it sure felt longer), I became less interested with what was happening on-stage, and more distracted by the mass exodus of people leaving their tables to head for the bathroom or to refresh their palates with another drink at the bar. In any other circumstance, the conduct of the audience members would be considered rude. Here, however, it was almost encouraged.

The show itself was a monotonous affair, where interest was aroused only on the basis of the gaffes which occurred during the presentation. The only reason for anyone to stay in their seat that night was to either receive an award, or to mock what was unfolding on-stage. Award presenters were sometimes announced, with only a couple actually showing up on stage. At one point, Jenna Jameson interrupted a presentation to announce almost cryptically, that Domonique Simone was needed by the hotel because her friend had apparently had a medical emergency. At first, I thought this was a prank, until I noticed there was no punchline (even the presenters were puzzled by this non-sequitur). A camera built into the podium floor was used as a "Pussy Cam" to capture a look under the actresses' dress...this rather cliche photography trick has been used since the days when Letterman followed Carson, and is now the novelty of almost every "hidden cam" website around. Unfortunately, this novelty (which was used infrequently) became the only inspired act during the whole show. Announcers would saunter on-stage and speak their lines unintelligibly, apparently never learning during their porn shoots that one should occasionally speak into the microphone. Inside jokes were told, many to the puzzlement of the audience who were denied any kind of context or explanation. Jenna had a few funny lines, but despite her superstar status, did not have the natural charisma to keep the Awards show flowing.

However, the most bewildering part of the whole show was that video or film clips were not used during the show, even in the major categories. Since strong visuals are actually the raison d'etre of porn, it was almost antithetical to the genre that we weren't allowed to see a single moment of the nominees that were being honored that night. Hell, even the boxcover art would have been a convenient and easy way to show what products were up for awards. When several titles were rattled off a nominee for Best Classic Release on DVD, it took me a second or two to recall who was actually in each movie and why each was considered a classic. Watching an awards ceremony shouldn't have to involve too much studying and concentration on behalf of the audience members, but that is what one had to do if you wanted to reflect upon the nominees. But even if you were trying to follow all the nominees by using the AVN handbook, you had to strain your eyes to see in the overall darkness. If the AVN Awards Show were ever up for recognition, it would have to be in the category of Worst Interactive Experience at a porn event. It's not fair to the nominees, and especially not to the winners, if the audience isn't given a chance to actually see, or be reminded of, parts of the nominated work.

And so it went for the next couple of hours. All kinds of categories were announced, and winners were revealed but the deadly dullness of the show stole the thunder of what should have been an exciting experience for all those involved. The only fun and spontaneous parts I remember is seeing a casually dressed Joey Silvera rushing on stage to accept his award late in the game for ROGUE ADVENTURES: BIG ASS SHE-MALES 7 (a video which I probably would rather not see), and for the the ritual rush of all the women gathering on-stage for a climactic finale.

After the Awards, throngs of lookie-loos were gathered around the perimeter of the roped walkway meant for the attendees to collectively exit the ballroom through the Venetian hallway. For a moment, it did indeed feel like a special event, as the once captive audience members could bask in the attention of all the onlookers who were denied access to the show. But I don't know if walking down a porn aisle walk of fame is sufficient reward for enduring a very boring, and ultimately disappointing adult entertainment event. As for next year, AVN will hopefully beef up the spectacle and excitement of their 2002 show, otherwise most attendees will realize that they will have a better time out on the Vegas Strip then in some noisy hotel ballroom.

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