The History of the Porn Awards and Las Vegas

For more than 30 years, the porn awards and Las Vegas have enjoyed a very fulfilling—and very monogamous—relationship

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

There’s a long list of things that could only happen in Las Vegas, and the AVN Awards show is near the top. “The Oscars of Porn” has brought hundreds of stars and thousands of their fans to town for more than three decades, and during that time, the industry’s focus has moved from VHS to DVD to the Internet. Meanwhile, the rather chaste-looking statue of an angel given to award winners—unlike the foot-high naked dude they hand out at the Academy Awards—has evolved into something a bit more abstract and titillating. However, two things are eternal: People will always watch porn, and Ron Jeremy will always be with us …

1984: The first AVN Awards are held over rosé and cheese cubes in a ballroom at the Aladdin. The big winner is Scoundrels, starring the ubiquitous Jeremy as a randy psychiatrist.

1986: Winners include Blue Voodoo, starring Samantha Fox (often confused with the Samantha Fox who topped the pop charts that year with “Touch Me,” but one was a pinup and the other was in porn) and New Wave Hookers, about chicks who get turned on by asymmetrical haircuts and synth music.

1987: AVN moves to the Tropicana. Blame It on Ginger wins multiple awards, with Ginger Lynn becoming perhaps the only porn star to ever thank her screenwriter.

1988: The final (and only legally watchable) film by Traci Lords—Traci, I Love You—wins Top Selling Release and Top Renting Release.

1990: Standup comic and master of the rant Bill Hicks hosts, kicking off the tradition of comedians acting as emcees and working shades of blue that can’t even be seen on the color spectrum.

1992: AVN moves to Bally’s for the year of the butt: Buttman’s European Vacation, An American Buttman in London and Buttwoman all win awards.

1993: Shortly before the awards show begins, Metro arrests 11 porn actors for Infamous Crimes Against Nature while promoting a movie. The show goes on with slightly decreased star power—but a porn based on the bust becomes a best-seller.

1995: A newer, sexier statue is introduced, to be taken home by such winners as the mafia-porn flick Dog Walker and John Wayne Bobbit: Uncut.

1996: It’s a triumphant return for hometown girl Jenna Jameson, who wins Best New Starlet, Best Actress Video and Best Couples Sex Scene, all part of her master plan “to become the biggest star the industry has ever seen.” Talk about calling your shot.

1997: The awards briefly move to the Riviera, and attendance reaches a record 3,000.

1998: Another year, another new venue: a luxe ballroom at Caesars Palace. In attendance is writer David Foster Wallace, who says, “The industry’s not only vulgar, it’s predictably vulgar. All the clichés are true.” Update: We’re up to New Wave Hookers 5.

1999: Two indicators of future cultural directions, um, pop up: The GayVN Awards becomes a separate event, and Pam & Tommy Lee: Hardcore & Uncensored wins Top Renting Release, opening the crappy celebrity bootleg porn door for everyone from Paris Hilton to Screech from Saved by the Bell.

2000: The show moves to the Venetian—yes, Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian—where it will play to capacity crowds for the next seven years.

2002: Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle 1 wins Top Selling Release of the Year, solidifying the connection between porn and hip-hop, as such rappers as 50 Cent and Too $hort lend their stamp of approval to adult videos.

2007: The awards begin a three-year run at Mandalay Bay and are broadcast on Showtime. How to celebrate this momentous occasion? Invite Chris Angel to perform! More than 6,000 people gather to applaud Angel, as well as the Best All Sex Release award, which goes to … Neu Wave Hookers.

2010: The Best Sex Parody category is introduced, an award that is shared by a naughty X-Files parody and a dirty version of (gulp) The Cosby Show.

2011: The awards relocate to the Palms for two years, and the inaugural Best 3-D Feature Award is given to This Ain’t Ghostbusters XXX 3-D.

2012: The Adult Entertainment Expo is separated from the CES convention, much to the chagrin of tech nerds. Unchagrined: Charlie Sheen (who locks himself in a suite at the Palms with a pair of nominees) and Jeremy (who, nearly three decades after his first award, wins Crossover Star of the Year—clearly, this guy’s got staying power).

2013: AVN relocates both the expo and awards to The Joint at the Hard Rock and asks presidential loser Mitt Romney to co-host. He passes.

2014: AVA adopts the Academy Awards’ tradition of a montage honoring those in the porn industry who died in the last year. Ladies and gentlemen, a discreet round of respectful applause for Al Goldstein!



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