LAS VEGAS—To hear some tell it, AVN couldn't have put on a worse Awards Show than its first attempt at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in 2012—which made the kudos being showered on the 2013 gala that much sweeter.
"Honestly, the difference was like night and day," observed Penthouse Video's Kelly Holland. "None of those glitches from last year were repeated, and what I saw tonight was a truly professional show that was entertaining and beautifully done."
Similar remarks were heard among the crowd that filed out of the show's venue, The Joint, just after 11:30 Saturday night, though certainly, some were happier than others. That group would include the owners and staff of Elegant Angel Productions, which swept many of the major categories for a total of 27 awards, seven of which recognized the artistry of Graham Travis' Wasteland. Fresh from scoring multiple awards in 2012 for his equally intense Portrait of a Call Girl, Travis once again took home the trophies for Best Director - Feature, Best Screenplay and Best Editing, while its star, Lily Carter, snagged this year's Best Actress award. The movie's cinematography also won an award, and the movie itself was feted with both Best Drama and AVN's second Movie of the Year honor.
Close behind Wasteland in award popularity was Axel Braun's brilliantly comedic Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody, distributed by Vivid Entertainment Group. Braun himself scored the Best Director - Parody and, with Mark Logan, Best Screenplay - Parody awards; Tom Byron was recognized for his outstanding role as Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi; and the movie itself was voted Best Parody - Comedy, Best Art Direction (thanks in no small part to the realistic "land-speeder" built by Kylie Ireland and Andy Appleton), and Best Overall Marketing Campaign - Individual Project. And besides sharing those Star Wars XXX kudos with Braun, Vivid's new series Brand New Faces took home three awards: Best Pro-Am Release, Best Pro-Am Series and Best Specialty Release - Other Genre.
Of course, in terms of comedic parody, Wicked Pictures' Men in Black: A Hardcore Parody was a worthy contender, but despite more than a dozen nominations, it took home just the Best Makeup and Best Special Effects honors.
Another also-ran was Evil Angel's steamy vampire saga Voracious: The First Season, which won Best DVD Extras for the package's extensive behind-the-scenes coverage of the shoot, and Most Outrageous Sex Scene for Brooklyn Lee and Rocco Siffredi's "Clothespin-Head" encounter. But in all, Evil Angel scored a respectable 13 wins, including in such unexpected categories as Best Classic Release for Buttwoman II: Behind Bars and Best Educational Release for Belladonna's How To: "Fuck!", while its more prosaic honors included Best Gonzo Release for Bobbi Starr's Bobbi Violates San Francisco, Best Oral Release for Mike Adriano's American Cocksucking Sluts 2, Best Vignette Release for Manuel Ferrara's Slutty & Sluttier 16—which series also won Best Continuing Series—and Best Transsexual Release for Joey Silvera's American She-Male X.
As expected, by the time the show started at about 9:40, The Joint was packed to the rafters (almost literally) with adult industry members and fans, who reveled at seeing their favorite adult personalities on stage both handing out AVN's newly-designed trophies and receiving them—and it didn't hurt that the show was hosted by April Macie, whom Howard Stern dubbed the "funniest, hottest comedienne," together with multi-award-winning actresses Jesse Jane and Asa Akira.
Before the show got well under way, though, AVN paid tribute to the adult-related personalities who passed away during the previous year, including adult performers Kandi Barbour, Sledge Hammer and Hollie Stevens, directors Kirdy Stevens (Taboo 1-5) and Big Top Video's Sam Lessner, mainstream softcore director Zalman King and First Amendment attorney Steven Swander. (Sadly, time constraints didn't permit reediting the segment to include legendary director Fred Lincoln, who died last Wednesday evening.) This year's inductees into the AVN Halls of Fame were also shown, including hostess Jane, actress-turned-talent-agent Shy Love, "Girlvert" Ashley Blue, the late Anna Malle, and HBO sensation Katie Morgan.
Next on the program, and an excellent antidote to the sadness of the obits, was rapper Tyga, who performed his hit song "Rack City" on a fog-shrouded stage surrounded by plenty of cute women dancing and posing as the rapper moved around them.
From the start of the ceremony, Macie set the evening's raunchy mood by peering into the audience and asking, "Where's Mandingo? He must have the biggest dick of all! Where's Mandingo?" Hearing no response, she also called for Lexington Steele and Jack Napier, who also didn't respond even when Macie said, "I want to fuck you guys!" and noted, "I wish I had a dick. Dicks are cool. Women talk about dick size all the time." She then launched into an "homage to dicks." She was quickly joined on stage by the "fuckable" Jesse Jane and Asa Akira, who showed off a large-size version of AVN's new trophy—an intertwined couple—designed by RandomScrew.com. Then, after the first nominees (for Best Girl/Girl Sex Scene) were shown on the giant TV screen at the back of the stage, winners Dani Daniels and Sinn Sage bounded up the steps, were handed their statuettes, and promptly kissed each other deeply, which brought some mild audience applause.
Of course, just because an actress is hosting the show doesn't mean she can't win awards—and when the Best Star Showcase award went to Asa Akira to the Limit, the star was joined onstage by director Jules Jordan, who called her "the best performer I've met in 10 years." Jordan was also responsible for the production that won Best Boy/Girl Sex Scene, his Alexis Ford Darkside, but with both the boy (Nacho Vidal) and the girl (Ford) absent, the latter's gal-pal Nikki Benz took to the stage to accept the award on their behalf.
Another absentee was Best Actor winner Steven St. Croix, who scored the honor for his role in New Sensations Couples' Torn, and so his co-star Remy LaCroix came up to accept for him. LaCroix returned to the stage, together with co-directors Eddie Powell and Jacky St. James, when the movie was announced as this year's Best Romance Release, one of the night's three new categories (the others being Best Transsexual Sex Scene and the previously mentioned Best Star Showcase).
Once that award was presented, one of the video camera operators began following a dark-suited figure through the audience until he came to rest on the steps leading up to the stage. With a gesture, the curtains re-opened to reveal a woman, clad in a nearly transparent body suit, performing sexy acrobatic maneuvers on ropes several feet above the stage. That was possibly this year's most anticipated event, a number from Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity, and the audience cheered and applauded wildly as the woman humped herself on the ropes. This was followed by a short restrospective of the AVN Awards, accompanied by the ditty AVN Hall of Famer Randy West sang to open the show when he hosted it way back in 1994 (see that original performance here).
When the award presentations continued, first up was Best New Starlet, and 2012 honoree Brooklyn Lee took the stage to crown her successor, Remy LaCroix, who making her third trip up the winners' steps, immediately exclaimed, "That is a trip! That is crazy!"—and then thanked many of the people she'd worked with over the past year.
The Best Parody - Comedy award came next, and Braun brought almost the entire Star Wars XXX cast on stage with him, excitedly declaring, "We had Wookie Sex! That's all I have to say." Of course, it wasn't; he proceeded to thank his director of photography Eli Cross, who noted that just building the elaborate sets had taken six weeks, and producer Steve Hirsch.
A few minutes later, Hirsch had the stage all to himself. As the recipient of AVN's first Visionary Award in 2012, it was his task, as enjoyable as it might have been, to introdue this year's honoree, Adam & Eve's Phil Harvey. Hirsch spent most of his time, however, reminding the audience of the importance of defeating Los Angeles County's Measure B.
Hirsch began by thanking everyone who had contributed to the "No on Measure B" campaign, even though those contributions weren't enough to stop the bill from getting passed in the November election.
"We came up a little short, as we were overwhelmed by the millions of dollars spent by the other side—but that was only round one," he noted. "We are now going to continue this battle through the court system"—a statement that brought cheers from the audience.
Declaring that, "Every single person in this building is connected to the industry in some way," Hirsch stated that, "Right now, in this room, we have the means to fund our entire litigation, and for those who might be watching this, we need your help as well. Help us reach our goal and once again take charge of our own destiny." He asked would-be contributors to contact Diane Duke at Free Speech Coalition to lend support to the recently-filed Measure B lawsuit.
Changing focus, Hirsch lauded the life and work of Mr. Harvey.
"When I was first asked to choose the recipient of the second annual Visionary Award, I could think of no one more deserving than Phil Harvey," he stated. "No single person has done more than Phil to promote everything that is good about our business. Phil is the most knowledgeable, reasonable, intelligent, fair, decent and open-minded person I've ever met. He is brilliant, sensitive, passionate, determined and successful; Phil is totally committed to the importance and preservation of American freedom, and the free enterprise system. Our industry has never seen anyone quite like Phil Harvey. He is truly one of a kind, a leader, a trailblazer and absolutely a visionary."
Hirsch then introduced Adam & Eve's Bob Christian, accepting the honor for Harvey, who was unable to appear due to illness.
"I deeply appreciate this award, and I'm really sorry I can't be here," Christian quoted from a letter Harvey had given him to read aloud. "I'm recovering from a stomach virus and just couldn't make the trip. On behalf of the 350 employees of Adam & Eve, and on behalf of all of you, who have persisted against often difficult odds, I say thanks for your persistence and thanks for this award."
Best Actress and Best Parody - Drama were given out next, with Lily Carter walking away with the Actress honors for Wasteland, and Spartacus MMXII: The Beginning taking the dramatic parody statuette.
"Everyone knows we put a hell of a lot of energy into this movie," stated director Marcus London.
"This award has been a culmination of nine years," added star Tommy Gunn, and both went on to laud the cast and crew for their dedication to the independently-funded project.
Performer of the Year awards followed shortly, and when James Deen reached the stage to receive his Male Performer statutette, he delivered his thanks facing away from the audience.
"Thank you, every director who hires me; thank you, any girl that will have sex with me," Deen stated.
As it had done the previous year, website ImLive presented Deen with a Tag Heuer wristwatch, and as the Female Performer of the Year, Asa Akira, and the Transsexual Performer of the Year, Vaniity, accepted their statuettes, each was handed a diamond tennis bracelet, also courtesy of ImLive.
This was the first year that AVN has presented a transsexual award on stage, and Vaniity flashed a toothy smile as she accepted the honor. She thanked several of her directors, including one of her favorites, Joey Silvera, and promised to deliver more hot action to fans in the future.
Then it was time to present this year's Reuben Sturman Award, and it was only fitting that it should go to someone who helped Sturman revolutionize the adult entertainment business, director Lasse Braun. Lasse's son Axel introduced a video of some of Braun's accomplishments, which included being the person who almost single-handedly got sexually-explicit content legalized throughout Europe, and who also introduced the predecessor of the modern arcade booth to the U.S., in partnership with Sturman himself.
The award for Best Drama was presented next, and as mentioned earlier, it went to Graham Travis' Wasteland. Once again, a large part of the cast and crew ascended the stage, and Travis thanked all of the participants, from the actors to the camera operators to the crew.
The penultimate award was Director of the Year, and few were surprised when it went to Axel Braun. However, the director did not share their complacency.
"I did not expect this," Braun said. "I mean I really fucking wanted it, but I did not expect it. Eddie Powell, wherever you are, I could have sworn this was yours, you made so many amazing movies this year." He went on to thank Steve and Marci Hirsch for approving of his vision, Shylar Cobi for being his production manager ... and his wife, who he said is seven months pregnant.
Tyga's second performance came next, and as he sang his work "Make It Nasty," nearly 50 starlets took the stage with him and began dancing around him—an AVN Awards tradition that seemed to ressurect a level of palpable excitement among both the participants and the audience that it hasn't reached in years.
The evening's final award was Movie of the Year, whose winner is chosen from the honorees in 10 other categories including Best Comedy, Best Drama, two Best Parodies and Best Gonzo—and to almost no one's surprise, it went to Wasteland—and once again, nearly the entire cast and crew trouped onstage to receive it, to tremendous applause. It was a hell of a finish to a hell of an evening.
Read the complete list of winners from the 2013 AVN Awards here.