I’ve mentioned this before and this is probably not surprising to many of you, but yes, I, BallsofSteelAndFury, have attended the AVN Awards Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For someone NOT in the industry, it is as surreal as you may think.
I’ve wanted to tell this story for a long time, but I’d forgotten where I kept the program and ticket stub from that night. Yeah, you bet your ass I kept those!
Over the holidays, I had some time, so I spent the better part of a day looking for them. To my happy surprise, I found them and they are in pristine condition.
So, I’m finally telling the story. Here we go…
Wednesday, January 8, 1997, Pasadena, CA, USA
[INTERIOR, YOUNGER BALLS’ BEDROOM]
A phone rings.
Balls’ friend: SSSSSSSSSUUUUUUUUUUPPPPPP!!!
Balls’ friend: Yo, what’s going on this weekend?
Balls’ friend: Wanna go to Vegas?
Balls: Fuck it, why not? Anyone else wanna go?
Balls’ friend: [name redacted]’s in. Tell your brother.
Balls: Ok, cool, I’ll drive.
Afternoon, Saturday, January 11, 1997, Las Vegas, NV, USA
We had arrived late Friday night and found a hotel… somewhere. The shit was last minute so it could have been either the Motel 6 by the Airport or the Wild Wild West (née the King 8) on the other side of the 15. I don’t fucking remember that part of the story.
We were looking for shit to do on Saturday afternoon and we settled on doing that indoor skydiving thing which is now almost everywhere but back then was brand new. This was because Balls would rather staple his ballsack to a wooden bench than jump out of a perfectly good plane.
The place was located on the road leading from the Strip to the Convention Center. There wasn’t as much development then, so you could see the marquee of the Riviera as we were driving towards the Strip. I looked right and did a legitimate double take.
Written on the marquee was not “40 is not the new 20” as seen above. It had three gigantic magical letters: A V N
I knew exactly what that meant. My friends, ironically, didn’t. I explained. I also said that we should go over there and check it out.
We parked in the garage and walked over to see what was happening. Since it was midafternoon, nothing was, in fact, happening. However, we did see some people setting up the red carpet.
Curious, I went over to one of the dudes and asked what the deal was. He was cool and gave me the scoop on what was going to happen. The Show was just starting to get big that year, so they were going to sell a limited number of tickets to the public. By and large, it had always been an industry awards ceremony with dinner served and speeches. He said, “It might as well have been the Western Region Refrigerator Supplies Sales Awards Dinner. But porn. Except now they’re doing dance numbers and a comedian is hosting. They’re trying to make it a new big thing and it’s going to be taped.”
I was intrigued.
I found out the price of admission. $160. Each.
There was hesitation. One friend didn’t want to go. He was, and still is, conservative. The other two were on the fence. I tackled my brother first.
His birthday was coming up, so I told him I’d pay for his ticket as a birthday present. Sold.
Next, I tackled my other friend, who had been the one to call and suggest the trip in the first place.
Balls: Dude, this is a once in a lifetime thing!
Balls’ friend: Eh…
Balls: You were bored right? Isn’t this the opposite of boring?
Balls’ friend: Yeah, but that’s a lot of money.
Balls: True, but we’d probably lose that in an hour playing craps. This way, we’ll have a story we’ll remember the rest of our lives and we can tell it to our kids and write blog posts about it for random strangers!
I may not have had the foresight to mention the last part. Nevertheless, he was sold. We pulled the Three/Four Musketeers thing on the last holdout and he gave in.
As it is, it worked out fine because the person selling tickets overheard our debate and must have either felt sorry for us or really wanted a full house, so he gave us a discount on the tickets. Even better.
We went back to the hotel to freshen up.
Evening, Saturday, January 11, 1997, Las Vegas, NV, USA
We had showered and changed quickly into pants and collared shirts. The guy had told us there was a dress code. It wasn’t much of one, but we were male, so we had to look somewhat respectable.
As we were walking towards the hotel entrance at the back (yes, the anal joke was not lost on us), we saw that the red carpet festivities had already begun and guests were arriving.
There was an area for fans to take pictures (and there were quite a few fans), but it really wasn’t cordoned off like you see at the Hollywood award shows. After the guests walked on the red carpet, they would empty out onto a wide hallway and then be ushered inside the ballroom. Fans could take pictures with anyone and almost everyone I saw passing through the red carpet obliged. I myself asked several ladies to take a picture with me.
Alas, those pictures were lost in the Great Ex-GF Breakup of ’04.
One lady in particular was super nice and was dressed in a shiny gold skintight dress that barely held in two large gigantic round breasts each the size of the world globe I’ve had since I was a kid. She was around 60.
One porn star walked in with her girlfriend and they both took a picture with me. I remember distinctly that she wore a green dress cut low to the waist and one breast was barely hanging on by a thread inside the dress. Her girlfriend wore a matching red dress with similar gravity-defying features. Later that night, the girl in green went onstage to accept an award.
After a few more pictures, the red carpet started to dry up and it was time to go inside. We were seated at Table 185, which was situated fairly close to the back of the gigantic ballroom. A program was laid out on top of each place setting.
A stage was set up in the front with a podium and microphone in the middle and two large screens on each side. Prior to the show starting, the screens were showing clips of various nominated films and actresses. Sadly and probably smartly, they stopped showing the clips when they started serving dinner.
Dinner was the same generic bland dinner served at every single conference, symposium, or ceremony I’ve ever been to for work.
In the beginning, we were sitting next to some industry folks and they seemed very nice and friendly, but then they must have realized they were A) sitting way the fuck in the back and B) sitting with muggles. We didn’t see them after dessert.
It didn’t matter as the show began as dinner was being taken away by the wait staff.
I should mention that this happened to be the second night of awards. On Friday night, they had given out the technical and “niche” awards, but today were the main ones.
Bobby Slayton was the host that year and he’d always cracked me up, so I remember looking forward to his jokes. However, the true star that night was Robert Schimmel who did a stand up segment later and just fucking KILLED. Lord Bless that man, he was a true legend. Given how well he did, he was asked to host the awards the following year.
The show, though, started with a musical dance number choreographed by my favourite porn star at the time, Serenity. She had been a classical dancer before going into porn and was multi-talented. And hot.
The number was titled “The World Sex Suite”. The theme for the awards that year (every year had a theme or catchphrase) was “The World of Adult”. Adult, btw, is properly pronounced in the porn community as AH-dolt. That’s one of many things I learned that night.
Shit! I guess there was a video that actually started the show. It must have been really lame because I don’t remember any of it. For some reason, the AVN was making a real effort to tie the American porn community with the European one, so that’s why the theme. I do remember seeing many performers that looked Euro that had an expression on their face during the show that said, “What the fuck is this shit?”
Serenity’s dance number started off with Middle Eastern dance elements and then moved through something that was probably meant to be African but probably now would be considered kinda racist and then through the French Can Can and then back to good ole American stripping!
Let’s see her one more time, for old time’s sake:
After the dance number, Bobby did a few minutes of stand-up. He had hosted the show the year before and I think he had seen too much if you know what I mean and I think you do. The effort was there, but the excitement wasn’t. After his jokes, the format started to follow pretty much the format followed by most award shows. Performers would go on stage to introduce the nominees, open an envelope, and then announce the winner. As you can see, I had a pen with me that night and I kept careful track of all the winners, for posterity. I’m really glad I did that. That way, I can tell you that Jenna Jameson won the first two awards.
The speeches varied. People that had won many times, like Jenna, sounded like NASCAR drivers in that they thanked their sponsors, their production company, their mechanic, etc. The first-time winners, though, were the ones that made the show special. The Euros did too. This was something new to them and they didn’t quite know how to react.
In particular, Tony Tedeschi looked like he wanted to be upstairs fucking ten of the girls on stage rather than having to say something into a microphone. I think the bulk of his speech was, “Uh, thank you!” (looking around) “I gotta say more?” (looks to the left) “I want to thank my manager…”
For the All-Girl Sex Scene categories, all the girls involved in the scene made it onstage. That was awesome because no one knew who was supposed to take the trophy and it was getting passed around until, I think, it ultimately made it back to the director.
BTW, have I mentioned that the girls were very scantily dressed? Like the dresses were hanging on by sheer engineering prowess? Seriously, if we put as much effort into putting a man on Mars as we have into making dresses that seem like they’re going to fall off anytime but don’t, I’d have a condo in Mars by now.
Next, the editor of AVN came on to deliver a couple of industry sales-specific awards and then we were back to the acting categories. Now, I don’t know if you guys remember Juli Ashton the porn star, but almost every show I see on TV is cast by a Julie Ashton-Barson.
Every time I see her name on show credits, I like to think that Juli got out of the porn business, got married to a Mr. Barson, added an “e” to her name, and made it rich as a casting agent.
BTW, that porn star that was dressed in green in a dress that barely hung on to her with her girlfriend dressed in red that I took a picture with? That was Juli Ashton. She was super nice.
At this point, the show hit its apex. Robert Schimmel did a set that, as I mentioned before, just KILLED. I mean, he had that room by the back of his hand. I don’t know if he was married at the time, but I guarantee that if he wanted to, he could have had relations with any female porn star in attendance.
After his set, the room had to come down off the high, so we got a bunch of awards in a row. Like A LOT. Even through the anal categories, which you all know I love and hold close to my heart, I was thinking, “How many more left?”
I think one of the highlights of the night for me was the speech by one of the girls that won one of the anal categories. I don’t remember her name and I don’t remember which specific category she won, but I do remember how happy and excited she was. This was her first award and she was practically in tears. She thanked everyone she could think of, including her mother and father for supporting her. I think they might have been in attendance! I thought that was a pretty sweet moment.
Finally, we arrived at the major categories. the boredom of the crowd wore off as the more anticipated and desired awards were being given out. This time, the speeches were more serious and talked more about craft and all that artsy fartsy shit that no one cares about except for the creative people actually creating the movie you jack off to. It was at once enlightening and irrelevant.
We were almost at the end. Only the two biggies were left: Best Video and Best Film. You’ve got to remember that the late 90s was the point where film was dying and video was taking over. As resolution got better and better, directors and production companies shot more and more movies on video. I don’t think anyone shoots porn on film anymore.
But FIRST, Serenity and her dancers did a couple of more numbers, the most memorable one being… wait for it… THE COCKERANAL!
The Cockeranal was set to the music of The Macarena and it was AWESOME as you can imagine. I still crack up remembering that…
Shock won for Best Video and Bobby Sox won for Best Film. Weeks later, and considering the vast number of wins it got, I purchased a copy of Bobby Sox to see what all the fuzz was all about.
It was ok.
I mean, it was good, but it wasn’t something mind-blowing like I was expecting. That goes to show you, kids, keep your expectations low and you’ll live happier lives.
After the last two categories, the show was over. By then, the porn stars were going to their parties/orgies and we weren’t invited, so we went out gambling somewhere. We may have won playing some craps, I don’t remember. We definitely did win big, though, by attending this show.
To wrap up, I’m presenting to you the last pages of the program showing the historical winners to that point:
And here is my ticket stub:
One last thing: The program also had congratulatory messages similar to the ones you would see on high school yearbooks or other types of programs. I can’t show you them because most of them had copious amounts of nudity and sex. I can, however, show you a piece of one, so you can get the flavour of what was inside:
Go Mighty Ducks of Anaheim! And yup, that was definitely lime jello. Sorry, LemonJello!
FYI, the 2019 AVN Awards are this weekend in Las Vegas. You can still make it there…