One film journalist’s stream-of-consciousness cinematic journey through the pandemic, Part 115
By Laurence Lerman / New York City
Last Saturday, January 7, the 2023 AVN Awards were held in Las Vegas at the Resorts World Theatre, marking the annual event’s 40th anniversary. The 2023 Awards were the first to be held since January 2020, just weeks before Covid-19 kicked in, effectively putting the brakes on the entire industry (and a sizable portion of the mainstream entertainment world as well).
Created by the adult entertainment industry’s leading trade publication, the Adult Video News (AVN), the gala recognizes performers, craftspeople, executives, companies, movies and other content providers for their contributions to and excellence in the adult industry.
The awards make for a colorful and crazy kind of evening attended by a lively mix of porn professionals and eager (sometimes overeager) fans. This year, I took the plunge into the sexy maelstrom, which I’ve done a number of times over the past two decades as a journalist whose beat occasionally included covering the adult industry.
Three years after the outbreak, with the industry carrying on in a start-and-stop manner and on-set and production rules regularly being revisited, the awards return to honor an altered industry that is today more inclusive of the adult webcam community. The surge in webcamming since the outbreak of the pandemic—performers doing what they do in the safety of their own homes and streaming it on the Internet via a live webcam broadcast—led to the popular live webcam site MyFreeCams (MFC) serving as one of the sponsors of this year’s show. And there was also the addition of dozens and dozens of webcam models making the scene and strolling down the red carpet.
And what a red carpet, it was! Three hours long and featuring hundreds of sexily clad and occasionally barely dressed adult performers parading across the Resort World event center in front of a phalanx of photographers and video broadcasters.
Some 4,000 attendees made their way to the theater for the awards, which were hosted by popular porn-starlets-of-the-moment Abella Danger and Reya Sunshine, along with comedian Matt Rife (a TikTok sensation who joked about how much he had looked forward to the “naked trophy girl show.”). It kicked off at 9:00 p.m., with awards, acceptance speeches, video clips and musical interludes by Grammy-nominee Kehlani and global musical artist Shenseea coming at a steady clip for the next two-and-a-half hours.
As for the awards themselves, well, as is frequently the case with honors that are bestowed at an awards show, the winners and the merit behind their victories are frequently beside the point. (This can certainly be considered the case with the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Grammy Awards, and most of the others.) The show is more about the promotion of the nominees and their product, the early evening red carpet fashion factor, and the subsequent coverage of the event by the media.
The AVN Awards are the adult film industry’s biggest annual event, and the bulk of the adult community’s creators and performers attend it. The numbers speak for themselves: at this year’s ceremony, there were 130 categories, ranging from the obvious (Best Movie, Best Actress, Best Actor and so on) to the specialized (Best Anal Sex Scene, Best Oral Sex Scene), to the highly-specialized (Best Double-Penetration Sex Scene, Best Trans Newcomer) to the downright ridiculous (Most Clever Title, which this year was awarded to I Can’t Believe It’s Nut Butter!”). All manner of adult related products and accoutrements are also given their due, with categories like Best Lubricant Brand, Best Lingerie or Apparel Line and Best Boutique up for consideration.
It's during the actual awarding of the statuettes that one can have their own personal reaction to watching an adult actress thank her parents for their support and guidance as she accepts an award for Best Girl-Girl Scene (this year, the winners were Vanna Bardot and Gianna Dior for Heat Wave).
By the close of the evening, 380 trophies were given out, with 62 being awarded to women, 55 going to men, and 45 presented to individual movies.
Like many awards shows, the big “winner” of the night is the awards show itself, as it reaffirms the show and industry’s stature and pride in itself and reminds all participants and viewers (including those at home who livestreamed the show) that there really are no losers if you’re a fan of adult content.
And for the curious who’ve never taken a dip into the curious spectacle of the adult entertainment industry and the annual gathering when it honors itself, a shorter version of the evening will be broadcast on Showtime this spring.
Laurence Lerman is a film journalist, former editor of Video Business--Variety's DVD trade publication--and husband to The Insider's own Gwen Cooper. Over the course of his career he has conducted one-on-one interviews with just about every major director working today, including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Walter Hill, Spike Lee, and Werner Herzog, among numerous others. Once James Cameron specifically requested an interview with Laurence by name, which his wife still likes to brag about. Most recently, he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online review site DiscDish.com.