LAS VEGAS — Let's be honest with ourselves for a minute here: porn folk are pretty much the toughest crowd in show business. Lose their attention even momentarily (which is no challenge, ladies and sperms) and you're through.
All too often in AVN Adult Movie Awards history, the entertainment has gotten largely if not totally drowned out by the audience of restless porn actors, directors and producers anxious to scoop up their trophies and start partying. Not so this year.
Comedian Thea Vidale worked the room with perfect timing. No one was safe from Vidale's sass, as she took aim at politicians and porn stars alike - even in the backstage media room, the jaded crowd was cracking up. Co-hosts Belladonna and Jenna Haze carried out their duties with grace and professionalism; when Vidale ribbed Haze about receiving anal sex from the likes of Lexington Steele, the newly crowned Female Performer of the Year wasn't thrown off.
When Flo Rida hit the stage at the very top of the show with his mega-hit "Low," his performance immediately jolted the audience into a near-frenzy. When he returned toward the end to perform "In the Ayre," with special guests Flavor Flav and T-Pain, it brought a tidal wave of porn babes to the stage for the time-honored dancing (and flashing) extravaganza that's been a staple of the show for years.
John Stagliano produced a politically-themed halftime segment that began with Whitney Houston impersonator Jazmine of "Legends in Concert" signing the National Anthem in a medley inspired by the Crystal Method's "There Is Hope". Images of the Bush Administration's war-mongering and human rights abuses flashed on the video screen above a group of dancers, most of whom performer in Stagliano's Las Vegas "Fashionistas" show.
Gary Miller's interstitial awards show clips drew big cheers during some of the straight profiles, and even bigger laughs during the comedy segments. Performer Voodoo's spoof of the ubiquitous "Sham Wow" infomerical elicited the strongest response.
As last year's ceremony did for each Female Performer of the Year nominee, the 2009 show featured slick video profiles of past winners in each of the "big five" categories: Evan Stone (Best Actor), jessica drake (Best Actress), Lexington Steele (Male Performer of the Year), Nikita Denise (Female Performer of the Year) and Tera Patrick (Best New Starlet).
The segments featured archival footage of each performer's multiple wins over the years, and for three of the five, served as fitting preambles for victories they added to their resumés during the night. Stone picked up another Best Actor trophy for his performance in the evening's sweeper, Digital Playground epic Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge; drake again won Best Actress for Wicked Pictures' Fallen, and Patrick was inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame inductees received individual recognition as their names and photos splashed across the gigantic screens above the stage. Of these, Mr. Marcus prompted the most enthusiastic round of applause.
As the AVN Awards show has grown up, so has its audience. And judging by the crowd response to this year's program, things look truly bright for the future.