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Stiff Competition 

Thursday, Nov 24 2005
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Photo by Ted Soqui
“I’d like to thank Jack Daniel’s, big-breasted women and the people who’ve got the balls to film ’em!”

This cri de coeur, shouted from the stage of the Sunset Strip’s Key Club by Hustler corporate honcho Jim Henley, succinctly captured the Zeitgeist last Thursday at the Fourth Annual X-Biz Awards, which Henley emceed.

Not to be confused with the Adult Video News Awards — porn’s equivalent of the Academy Awards, bestowed upon actors and directors — X-Biz trophies, which resemble the learning crystals that taught Superman everything he needed to know, go to the business and service end of things. So while Jenna Jameson did take the stage — not for her acting, but as business woman of the year — a bunch of accountants and techies received the learning crystals in unsexy categories like Alternative Billing Company, Web Content Provider and Up-and-Coming Affiliate Program.

“To be a tech geek in this industry is so rad!” crowed one Webmaster to the audience of adult-entertainment-industry office drudges, porn actresses and women who look like porn actresses — that rarefied breed of sullen platinum blondes who appear as though they’ve just been smacked in the face with a Ping-Pong paddle.

The men seemed to favor jeans and 5 o’clock shadows, while the sexy look for women was anything short with a scallop hem on it.

“Will you take my picture if I win?” drawled a platinum-haired woman in a black cocktail dress. “We’re up for Video on Demand.” She put her vodka cocktail down on the stage and showed me how to work what seemed like the world’s tiniest digital camera. “All you have to do is press this button.”

The woman, who looked like someone’s cool mom — or maybe the divorcée whose condo lies at the end of the pool — was Cynthia Kwasny, a senior VP for the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network (AEBN), a porn broadcast company based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“The Bible Belt doesn’t like porn at all,” Kwasny confided, leaning forward. “I’ve had policemen [search] my office, but we stay within the law. We don’t support child pornography.”

Kwasny’s camera ­— or rather the technology behind it — is one of the reasons porn is so prevalent and profitable today (generating about $10 billion annually), while the porn industry is one of the reasons entertainment technology is advancing so quickly. Though its all-nude sportscasts didn’t succeed on the Web, AEBN is famous within the business for having developed software for lucrative “pay-by-the-minute” streaming videos, a cyber-age version of porn arcade loops. (Why pay for a whole movie when you just want the money shots?)

“We had a vision for changing the way people view porn,” Kwasny said proudly.

Before long, a pair of male presenters (what ever happened to the Oscar boy-girl tradition?) began reading the nominees in the Video on Demand category — AEBN was up against the likes of NakedSword and Vixeo. Kwasny handed me her camera and squared her shoulders.

The presenters took their sweet time on the stage before one bellowed at last, “The winner is — AEBN!”

Kwasny marched to the podium, where she thanked a short list of people, and was back on the floor moments later.

“Porn rules!” a man yelled behind us.

“Can they shut us down?” MC Henley called out.

“No!” roared the crowd.

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Reach the writer at smikulan@laweekly.com

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