It was the first time in a new venue for the Adult Video News Awards, but it was an old-style adult movie that swept the feature categories.
Corruption, a gritty, intense drama with plot and character as well as sex, from Sex Z Pictures, a studio that three years ago didn't exist, came up seven times a winner at the 2007 awards presentation at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
"They haven't made stuff like this since the '70s," said writer-director Eli Cross as he and his jubilant colleagues accepted the award for Best Video Feature.
The evening's other big single winner was Jules Jordan, who went independent this year as Jules Jordan Video and took home seven awards, including that for Best New Company.
Produced and directed by Gary Miller, the show was emceed by Wicked star Jessica Drake and comedian Jim Norton. It was Norton's second time at bat as an AVN host and he hit another hilarity home run. He is surely the most porn-savvy comedian ever to emcee the show, as his ad-libs about various adult stars proved.
The Mandalay Bay Events center is a huge venue, part amphitheater, part sports arena, and last night it held 7,000 guests, many of them members of the public, who were admitted to the event for the first time.
This was a year of celebrities, not only in the audience, where fighter Tito Ortiz was prominently seated with new flame Jenna Jameson, but onstage as well. Presenters included rock icon Gene Simmons, rock heartthrob Dave Navarro, magician Criss Angel and over-the-top comedian Carrot Top.
Entertainment-wise, however, the show belonged to a stunning production number from John Stagliano's The Fashionistas, the musical revue that's been running in Las Vegas for two and a half years.
The number, which AVN President Paul Fishbein described with perfect accuracy as "the finest thing we've ever seen at the AVN Awards," on a par with the best of Broadway, featured five aerialists and lavishly costumed dancers. It filled the big Events Center stage, and probably could not have been presented in such spectacular fashion in previous show venues.
Corruption was going up against such heavy-hitting, multi-award winners as John Stagliano and Michael Ninn, but AVN voters clearly responded to the craft and passion of the offbeat movie's creators.
Cross, accepting the Best Director award, said he had no speech prepared because "I was 100% sure we were not going to win." He thanked Sex Z owner Bo Kenney "for allowing me to make this movie" and gave props to his significant other Kylie Ireland who "supported me like nobody ever could."
Cross also won Best Screenplay (with Alvin Edwards) and Best Non-Sex Performance. Hillary Scott was named Best Actress, Alana Evans took home Best Solo Sex Scene. The seventh award was for Best Editing (Robin Dyer, Mark Logan).
Ninn's Sacred Sin, won five awards, including Best Music, by guitar god Eddie Van Halen and Loren Alexander, and Stagliano's Fashionistas Safado: The Challenge won three, including Best High Definition Production.
Jordan's first award went to his girlfriend Jenna Haze for Best Oral Sex Scene (a five-man blow-bang) in Jenna Haze Darkside. Haze made what comedian Norton called "the greatest acceptance speech I've ever seen."
She said, "I have to say I love sucking cock. It's always been my favorite thing to do. And thanks to my amazing boyfriend, Jules Jordan."
Although he didn't get a chance to appear on stage, Jordan won five prizes for his own features (making him this year's most-awarded director), in addition to Best New Company, and one for Racial Tension (Best Interracial Release) from Mike John Productions, which he distributes. That put him ahead of Digital Playground, just after Wicked and Evil Angel—in other words, among the elite.
Jordan's other prizes were Best Vignette Release (Jenna Haze Darkside), Best Anal-Themed Release (Weapons of Ass Destruction 4), Best Specialty Release, Big Breast (Breast Worship), and Best Oral Sex Release (Feeding Frenzy 8).
Wicked's Manhunters was named Best Film. Brad Armstrong, who also won Best Director, Film, said, "Of all the ones I wanted to win it was this one," and thanked "my four little angels" (the bounty hunting girls of the title). It won three additional awards—including one for Randy Spears as Best Actor. FUCK, another Armstrong film from Wicked, also took home five prizes.
The Best Gonzo Release was won by Chemistry, a new-style gonzo from feminist filmmaker Tristan Taormino and Vivid Entertainment Group. Taormino, who's been covering the Adult Expo in her Village Voice column, gasped, "I was completely shocked." Mr. Marcus, one of her stars, jumped onstage to congratulate her. It was her second AVN award, having won in 2000 for Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women.
The heavily coveted Best New Starlet award went to the amazing Naomi, disappointingly a no-show. Hillary Scott supplemented her Best Actress prize with Female Performer of the Year. Male Performer was taken by Tommy Gunn, who was congratulated from the stage by two-time previous winner Manuel Ferrara.
The French super-woodsman won two sex scene awards (for Vivid's Emperor, with Janine, and Elegant Angel's Slave Dolls 2 with Tiffany Mynx) as well as Best Supporting Actor for She Bangs (Red Light District).
Evan Stone scored Best Actor for his searing performance in Sex Pix, also from Red Light. Katsumi, winning Best Supporting Actress for Fashionistas Safado: The Challenge, said she was happy it was "not for anal scene this time. Thank you—finally!" She was also named Female Foreign Performer. Male Foreign Performer went to Jean Val Jean.
A rare tie was registered in the Best All-Sex Video category, between JackTheZipper's Blacklight Beauty (Pulse) and Eon McKai's Neu Wave Hookers (Hustler). JTZ was also named Best Director, Non-Feature.
Best Foreign Feature was Private's Porn Wars: Episode One and Best Foreign Director went to Pierre Woodman for Sex City, also from Private.
In new categories, Stormy Daniels was named Contract Star of the year and Mika Tan Underrated Starlet of the Year (Unrecognized Excellence).
Near the end of the show, Fishbein introduced Larry Flynt, for a special presentation. It was an emotional one, in Flynt's words, "in support of the unknown heroes in this industry," the 1st Amendment lawyers. "These guys care about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They know that free speech means more than words, it means free expression."
The rock band Buckcherry provided a blistering prelude to the announcement of the final award, for Best Video Feature.
As for a studio count, Wicked came out first with 14 awards, followed by Evil Angel with 13, and Digital Playground and Jules Jordan Video each with 7. DP's included Best Renting and Best Selling Titles for Pirates, their co-production with Adam & Eve.