January 15, 2008 / 1:20 AM / in 11 years

Porn industry seeks recognition with annual awards

LAS VEGAS (Reuters Life!) - Stars and producers of the U.S. adult film industry gathered in Las Vegas this weekend for annual awards dubbed the Oscars of porn, lamenting the fact it was hard to win recognition with so much sex in movies these days.

Even insiders admit the thought of viewing even a fraction of the 12,000 porn films made in the United States last year to choose award winners in specific sexual categories

was a less-than-enviable task.

“That is hell,” said Jay Grdina, president of ClubJenna Inc, a division of Playboy. “I’d shoot myself in my head before I’d go through this.”

Grdina is hardly shy about hard-core content. He has worked on hundreds of movies behind the camera, and starred in others with his ex-wife Jenna Jameson, perhaps the best-known name in the history of adult film.

Videotape, fewer prosecutions, DVDs and Internet advertising created an unprecedented boom in the U.S. sex film business since the 1980s.

Paul Fishbein, publisher of Adult Video News, said his staff views 8,000 movies a year to find the best of the crop.

“It’s a very long, horrible process,” Fishbein said in an interview, saying he has 10 people devoted to the task full time. “It is a lot of watching.”

The repetitive viewing is the underpinning of the event held at a ritzy Las Vegas hotel on Saturday night complete with an enthusiastic audience of more than 5,000 after a red carpet arrival of scantily dressed performers.

In their 25th year, the awards have become the industry’s top celebration, dubbed the Oscars of porn, and were recorded to be broadcast on cable television’s Showtime, a division of CBS Corp.

“It’s a thankless business,” said Evan Stone, 43, who won best actor. “You don’t get a lot of feedback.”

Added Tera Patrick, the award’s co-host: “We should be celebrated for all the hard work that we do.”

Film studios and actors say the awards are important to gain attention when there is so much sex on film these days.

“You get a lot more work,” said Jenny Hendrix, who was hoping to win in the “best tease” and other categories. “It goes on your business cards, people notice you more.”

For many it is not easy to garner attention when widespread body enhancement procedures gives many performers a uniform blonde, busty look. Breast enhancement is commonplace as are collagen lip injections.

“The movies that win certainly get a bump in sales, but it’s more important for just the image of the company and the brand to be known as the company that makes the best movies,” said Steven Hirsch, co-founder of Vivid, a leading studio.

Nina Hartley, who won the AVN best actress award in 1987 for “Debbie Duz Dishes” was more sceptical about the impact of the awards. “Nothing has consistently shown that it helps anybody,” she said.

Many say the awards add legitimacy to an industry that is still often shunned by the mainstream.

“We’ve come out of the woodwork,” said Randy Spears, 46, a 22-year veteran of the business. “Our audience is not the raincoat crowd anymore.”

Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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