Richard Abowitz: My Night at the NSFW Oscars

Remember when porn meant something? At the lackluster 2014 AVN Awards, an event long-billed as the Academy Awards for the adult industry, things got a little weird.
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Porn’s current “It” girl, twenty-year-old Bonnie Rotten, takes a single hit off a joint. She passes it on to a man who admires her lipstick traces on it. He then jokes about the legal risks of keeping the butt as a souvenir for back home.

It’s Saturday night in a suite at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, a few moments before the AVN Awards start downstairs. Rotten is expected to win Performer of the Year, the most coveted prize at the show.

“Tonight her life is going to change,” porn legend Joey Silvera says. “She doesn’t have the traditional look. Tattoos used to be a small audience thing. But when I shot her that personality is so strong. The moment you deal with her you don’t see the tattoos. Just her.” I keep staring at the tattoo of Frank Sinatra on her leg. That says something about her personality.

Silvera doesn’t even know how many awards he’s nominated for this year. “A few years ago before the business died we could kid ourselves that we were growing into something big like the Oscars. For me, this isn’t going to change anything. But there is still enough magic left that the awards can make a difference for Bonnie if she wins.”

Though long-billed as the Academy Awards for the adult industry, few take that label seriously anymore. The mighty corporate and cultural juggernaut that was the porn industry of the 2000s, back when every mall had suburbanites wearing “porn star” t-shirts, is gone. The massive decline in the porn industry’s fortunes thanks to regulatory challenges and piracy and the infinity of sex offerings on the Internet have left the remains of the mainstream porn industry closer to the cheesy and sleazy parody of the other Hollywood that defined porn’s golden era of the ‘80s.

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