It might have been the combination of jet lag, dehydration or hunger, but being stood on the red carpet at the Adult Video Network Awards was making me feel rather unwell...
I thought I’d chance my arm and applied for a press pass. Access to the red carpet is highly sought after. Not entirely certain what to expect, I found my place. Sandwiched in between Russia Today, and Buzzfeed. Just to my left stood a woman in a see through PVC dress, g-string and black tape covering her nipples.
“I’m Hudsy” she said. An LA based dominatrix, she’s well known on the BDSM scene. If the press were any reflection of the event itself, I was in for an interesting night. This was my first time on a red carpet, and it was clear I was massively underprepared.
The red carpet interviews were to last three hours. Three hours! Given the sheer number of porn stars attending, and the time pressures, we were only allowed to ask a few questions. So my gritty questions about the nature of porn, whether there was still a place for it in a modern society were reduced to “what are you wearing?" and "are you excited?”. For three hours.
Consequently I met countless porn stars, and managed to clarify that yes, they were all excited.
By this time I was starting to feel ill. I’d not drunk anything for several hours. I’d been awake for 24. Flying west, we’d gained 8 hours of a day. So what was 5 pm for those around me, was 1am for me. The night didn’t exactly start out as planned either. I had two contacts in Vegas. Brian - a PR executive tasked with promoting the AVN expo - and Sue, in charge of the red carpet. We landed at Vegas late, partly due to the fog in London, and the bad weather on the east coast of the US. They’re just getting over the heaviest snow fall ever recorded.
“Text me when you land”, they both advised. Which I did. No response.
“You can call my right hand man Ed if you don’t get me”, Sue advised in an email.
Done, and ditto. No answer. I’d not been to Vegas, so how hard could it be to find someone. After all he said meet at the foyer. The foyer in the Hard Rock Casino is a) massive b) filled with ear bleedingly loud rock music. After multiple phone calls and texts, and even a tweet, finally we meet up. By this time Sue has ushered me into the press room. Held in Vinyl, a nightclub on the ground floor.
“Here are your party passes, ask for Lyle and Scott, and tell ‘em Brian sent you”.
These were passes to the AVN after party, where all the porn stars were set to attend. Partying with porn stars? Might just make up for the jet lag.
After several delayed starts, the porn stars started making their way into the room.The line stretched on forever. No way of ducking out, no way of getting a drink without losing my spot in the press line up.
The first porn star I met was Sarah Vandella. Featuring in over 250 movies so far, I found out that she was a) excited to be here b) really loved oral. This is probably a good thing given her job.
Next up came UK artist Tanya Tate. Not overly keen to have my internet history interrogated at work, I asked some of the guys to look her up.
“She’s dead Northern, and very good at her job”, came the reply. I can only imagine what that might mean. I asked her about the difference between the UK and US porn scenes. Tate’s career straddles the Atlantic - as well as all manner of men, strap-ons and dildos. Tanya was up for best MILF, best all girl and a number of other awards.
Next up was Jasmine Jae, another UK porn actress. By this time I couldn’t really see straight, and thought I was going to pass out. To me the UK scene had a distinctly amateurish feeling to it. Shaky cameras, poor quality footage, filmed in cheap hotels on the outskirts of provincial towns. Far from the glamourous image of the US industry. When I mentioned this to Jasmine, she looked offended.
“You clearly weren’t looking at the right product. There might be a market for that, be we do quality work too”. Well, that told me.
Then another star, this time a man came past, also British. His name was Axel, or Alixx or something like that. The background chatter was so loud I couldn’t make it out. He was probably in his late twenties, and I’m pretty sure I’d never met anyone genuinely called Axel.
What I did notice was just how many Brits were amongst the awards nominees. Porn in the US is mainstream entertainment, with the awards being televised on Showtime. The UK, it’s seen as rather seedy. “The British are cumming, the British are cumming”. It seemed funny to me at the time. No one laughed.
After an hour or so, I’d had enough. My camera had died, burnt out by the huge external battery pack I’d plugged it into. The professional quality mic picked up the background noise brilliantly, but rendered speech unintelligible, and I thought I was going to throw up.
I dipped out, said thanks, and spoke to Sue. She’d arranged for me to meet up later to pick up my complimentary ticket to the awards show itself.
Not thinking too clearly at this point, I walked back to my hotel. The MGM Grand can be seen from the Hard Rock hotel. In spite of this, it took me nearly an hour to get to it, taking several wrong turns and going down some decidedly dodgy side streets.
A rapid turn around, and I head back to the Hard Rock, this time in a taxi. It took five minutes. I met up with Sue and she issued me the ticket. I headed round and joined another queue, snaking around the corner.
In the queue a man started talking to me. Called “Brad” or “Chuck”, he started talking about a Lamborghini that drove past. Slurring his words, he said “I’m gonna go and piss on it”. Er...ok. Then the lady to my right passed out.
Finally I get in and take a seat, placed so far from the stage, and so high up that I might as well have been staring at a postage stamp. The show started. A comedienne I’d never heard off made some jokes, and the award for best all-girl was announced. Then I must have fallen asleep. I woke briefly for best anal, then nodded off again. I awoke for best-acting, which was utterly terrible, and decided to bail.
I headed to the bar for a drink. A guy next to me, hearing my accent, asked me how Arsenal were getting on. “I don’t follow football I’m afraid”.
He introduced himself. “I’m Stevie, but Xander is my other name”. I was stood next to one of the nominees for best male.
“You enjoy your job?”, I asked.
“Hell yeah, I get to have sex for money”, he replied. I’m not sure what I was expecting him to say.
Leaving, I called my mates to come to the porn star party. This must be the highlight of what was turning out to be pretty miserable night. They told me they were on their way. Two hours later, they still didn’t show.
“Where is it near?” asked one of my friends. They’d walked the length of the Las Vegas strip, and were now a couple of miles away in the wrong direction. Eventually they show after getting rescued by a passing cab, and we head to Vanity for the porn party. Another long queue, we get to the front.
“Er, Scott sent us”, I said.
“Who? You got any ID?”.
I asked around, only two of us had ID. I couldn’t really leave my mates, so we headed out and took a taxi back to our hotel.
So what I’d hoped would be a night of unforgettable experiences, spent partying with porn stars and celebs, turned out to be a nauseating route march and uncomfortable nap in the cheap seats of the auditorium. If anyone asks me how it was, I’ll tell them it was awesome. As Brian said in one of his emails, “You’re gonna see some YOLO shit”.
If he meant getting lost, nearly passing out, and being thoroughly annoyed, he was right. I’m quite sure this was what he meant.