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Porn in the USA: AVN Awards an exercise in sensuality, humor … and endurance

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Crossover star Sasha Grey at the AVN Awards Show at Pearl Concert Theater. Guess which award she has just claimed.
Photo: Denise Truscello
AVN Awards Show co-hosts Kayden Kross and Kristen Price yuk it up.

AVN Awards Show co-hosts Kayden Kross and Kristen Price yuk it up.

Jessica Drake, adult actress, and on this night, a reporter covering the Adult Video News Awards red carpet.

Jessica Drake, adult actress, and on this night, a reporter covering the Adult Video News Awards red carpet.

Sasha Grey and her husband, Iann Cinnamon, a man who Dave Attell referred to as, "a drug dealer from the '70s."

Sasha Grey and her husband, Iann Cinnamon, a man who Dave Attell referred to as, "a drug dealer from the '70s."

The Palms, site of the 2010 AVN Awards show at Pearl Concert Theater.

The Palms, site of the 2010 AVN Awards show at Pearl Concert Theater.

Dave Attell on the AVN Awards Show red carpet with adult industry stalwart Bree Olson.

Dave Attell on the AVN Awards Show red carpet with adult industry stalwart Bree Olson.

A tux of a porn star: Ron Jeremy goes formal.

A tux of a porn star: Ron Jeremy goes formal.

Susan Astin and Lance Gilman, owners of a classic Mustang.

Susan Astin and Lance Gilman, owners of a classic Mustang.

Sasha Grey celebrating the unveiling of her PETA campaign.

Evan Stone is onstage – he owns this stage, actually – bellowing the nominees for the category of Female Performer of the Year. He is dressed something like a pirate, snug and fittingly, because he’s the star of two movies with that theme that have broken ground in the world of adult filmmaking. The first entry, Pirates, made headlines as the most expensive adult film ever (more than a million dollars!) and the first to be cloven of its hardcore sex scenes for an R-rating for release on DVD.

But still, it’s all about sex in pirate gear for Stone, who is 45 going on 15, as he assumes something of an aye-matey disposition and barks to the crowd, “There are 15 nominees for Female Performer of the Year (pause as he cinches his trousers) and I’ve had sex with every one of them!

He’s not kidding. According to his IMDB entry, Stone has appeared in 779 adult releases dating to 1998. That’s a lot of … work … and we’re not even counting whatever home movies he might have squirreled away.

The woman winning the coveted award, the night’s Sally Field (“You LIKE me!”), is Tori Black. She surveys the crowd at Pearl Concert Theater, wondering whom she has actually “worked” with in her brief adult-film career, and thanks those who have appeared onscreen with her for all that hard work.

Then, suddenly, Black says, “I’d better stop. I’m going to cry.”

She isn’t kidding, either. She really seems as if she is going to break down. And that is the prevailing lesson in the smut glut that is the AVN Awards show, the so-dubbed Oscars of Porn. It’s the same as any other awards night. The object is to reward the best of the best. Even in instances where the category is the seemingly frivolous Best All-Girl Sex Scene, there is a lengthy and painstaking process to award a deserving winner (winners, in this instance) and those who do win are both moved and thrilled. At least, they do a pretty convincing acting job as such.

Tedium, too, is a characteristic of the AVNs. You might not expect “tedious” to be an adjective to describe a show pulsating with all of the top adult-film stars in the world, but this is an awards show being taped for airing somewhere in the outskirts of cable TV. A lot of stops and starts, breaks in the action and re-dos. Clever editing, in the awards show and in the films themselves, is a porn hallmark.

After spending a several hours embedded in this culture, you feel sort of bored after the novelty of nudity wears thin. What’s that, a nipple exposed on the red carpet? Might as well take a photo. This person in the draped, green dress held aloft by a series of well-placed chains – is that a women or a man? Both? Thanks for clarifying.

The latest, hottest crossover prospect in adult film is Sasha Grey, who wins the award of that title after a warm introduction by Dave Navarro, who happens to be her co-manager. A clip of her in Stephen Soderberg’s film – a mainstream film – The Girlfriend Experience – is played. Grey has unveiled a new ad campaign on behalf of PETA this week and seems intent on using adult film as a springboard to a more broad-based entertainment empire.

If so, that’ll open up a few categories, including the one in which Grey wins for her work in, Throat: A Cautionary Tale.

Even though the 2 1/2-hour show sputters along, there are a few inspired moments. Co-host Dave Attell is reliably hilarious. He makes jokes about the beaded strand used as a sex toy and says he pretends to play PowerBall with it, giddily calling off a series of jackpot-winning numbers. Attell also says the male member cannot compete with any vibrator, because men only have two speeds: “In, and done!” Co-host Kayden Kross – a multiple nominee, natch – makes a revelation I’ve long suspected: Porn icon Ron Jeremy was the inspiration for the character in the Super Mario Brothers video game (Jeremy, opting for a tux, later appears onstage with AVN President Paul Fishbein, who bears a detectable resemblance to Dana Carvey).

Dubbed “The Year of the Parody,” 2010’s most intriguing category is Best Parody. It is the night’s lone tie, with Not the Cosbys XXX sharing the honor with The Sex Files: A Dark XXX Parody. And, Margaret Cho makes a really funny, ribald appearance, suggesting that a three-way sex act involving her, onstage, would do wonders to help the industry’s diversity campaign.

The most interesting pre-show moments are from Stone, during a give-and-take with my colleague Doug Elfman, he mentions that he has already banked two Tiger Woods-themed adult titles (Tiger’s Got Wood and Tiger Woods XXX, are said to be those titles).

Also on the carpet, Mustang Ranch owners Lance Gilman and Susan Astin talk of life on their 31 acres of happiness near Reno. Astin says this talk about hiring men as prostitutes is folly because the type of women who will pay a man for sex are often not the type who would sufficiently arouse a man to the point where he could actually perform sexually (she uses an unattractive 400-pound woman as an example). She reasons, probably accurately, that men can perform sex infrequently compared with a professional female prostitute. “Men need to be visually stimulated,” she says, and it’s impossible to argue. The idea of a guy being able to attend to multiple women in a single day, especially when he has no physical attraction to any of those women, is folly, Molly.

So it’s unlikely the men will ever be as prominent in that form of adult service as women, though Gilman says he hopes to one day create a safe, dating sanctuary – replete with lush landscaping and even a water effect – so women can hire male escorts for a taste of romance. Gilman further claims that 40 percent of the Mustang Ranch’s business is non-sexual. Light massages would be an example of such a service.

Interesting. That non-sexual 40 percent doesn’t drive the adult entertainment industry, that’s for sure. A scan of the more than 120 awards categories in this years’ show turns up no category titled, “Best Massage.” But if there were, Evan Stone would doubtless be a nominee. Ahoy!

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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