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Follow-up: The DAVID Awards Controversy

Follow-up: The DAVID Awards Controversy

December 19, 2007
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" The incident dramatizes the huge, widening rift "

Titan Media founder Bruce Cam stirred a hornet's nest when he refused Lifetime Achievement honors from the 2nd annual DAVID Awards, held on Oct. 19 in Berlin, to coincide with the Venus Berlin adult industry trade show and gay-fetish event Hustlaball Berlin.

Billed as the European "Oscars" of gay adult films, the DAVID Awards show was purportedly produced by GayELine Magazine, a publication of adult industry publisher MediaELine Magazine.

The show gives awards in both European and U.S. categories, and at last year's inaugural show, "bareback" or non-condom companies were excluded from the U.S. nominations. But, this year, the rules changed.

In a press release issued by Titan on Oct. 23, Cam said, ""I cannot in good conscience accept a Lifetime Achievement award from an organization that glorifies and promotes bareback content alongside my own. I have worked my entire adult industry career to promote and eroticize safer sex content in all of my films. It would be against every single fiber of my moral being to accept this award."

Cam was scheduled to attend the awards, but bowed out at the last minute due to a back injury. In his place, Titan Media vice president Keith Webb traveled to Berlin with several Titan exclusive models.

According to Webb, even as he and the models were leaving to fly overseas, they had received little information about the DAVID Awards nominations.

Also scheduled to attend the awards; Channel 1 Releasing founder and legendary director Chi Chi LaRue, who was also unaware of the nominations or details of the event.

After returning from Berlin, LaRue told XBIZ, "We were all blindsided. We didn't know there was going to be all this barebacking involved or that the guy who owns XY Films was in charge. Nothing was said. No information was given. If I would have known I was up against certain people, I wouldn't have had anything to do with that."

The scene that Webb and LaRue described took place at the DAVID Awards seemed surreal and unfathomable.

Webb said that the event started late, so he and other condom-only filmmakers were subjected to previewing bareback video clips. When he realized that several U.S. bareback studios had been nominated — including Treasure Island Media in the Best Studio category against condom-only Titan Media and Hothouse Media — Webb said that he made the decision, on the spot, to decline the achievement award on Cam's behalf, knowing that it would be Cam's preference.

Channel 1 Releasing had been nominated in three categories, including a second-time Best Director nomination for LaRue, as well as LaRue being penciled in to present Cam's award.

In fact, LaRue said that she had no idea she was nominated for Best Director and didn't realize until she'd won and was stepping onstage that the other two directors in the category were Joe Gage — and Treasure Island's Paul Morris.

Webb's account of what happened next sounds like a catfight on steroids:

"So, Chi Chi wins the award for director, and says, 'I wish I could say I'm honored to be in the same category as every else in my category, but I can't,'" recalled Webb.

"I'm sure she was kind of disgusted at that point, so she left her award. She comes off the stage and says [to Webb], 'Honey, I have to tell you something. There supposed to give Bruce a lifetime achievement award and they asked me to give it, but I'm so disgusted right now, I don't think I can get back on that stage and do it.'"

It was then that Webb tried to persuade LaRue to present the award, so that he could officially decline it. Meanwhile, the award for Best U.S. Studio was about to be given.

"All of a sudden, they do the Best American Studio, and they named Treasure Island Media. Well, Chi Chi turns around and says, 'You've got to be fucking kidding me?'" According to Webb, a shouting match ensued between himself and LaRue against the event's stage manager.

"It's time for the [lifetime achievement] award, but they weren't going to do it. So I go up to the stage, traipsing up the stairs, and they're pulling me back. So, I'm screaming, 'I'm Bruce's business partner. I'll refuse to take his award,' They kicked me off the stage and went on to the next award, and they told me to go away. So, I said, 'Fine — fuck you,'" described Webb.

The incident dramatizes the huge, widening rift between gay American mainline studios, (like Titan and Channel 1) and the growing number of bareback companies, both domestically and internationally.

The drama was compounded when, just a few days after the David Awards, a gay online publication from the U.K., Boyz.uk.co, reported that three gay performers working on a bareback set had been infected with HIV from another performer that had showed a false negative result on a standard antibody-detecting HIV test (which have a "window" period of several months when the virus might go undetected).

The unfortunate incident only added fuel to the condom-only fire.

In fact, the controversy continued to snowball as Webb and Titan came back from the trip, with allegations they had been duped into take part in an awards event that was corrupt and riddled with nominations for several U.S. bareback producers.

Both claimed the show's co-producer was Düsseldorf-based XY Studios, a European bareback studio that took home four trophies from the event.

By then, several other studios had come forward to denounce the DAVIDs, saying that they had been contacted by event officials, who solicited them for show sponsorships — in exchange for nominations and awards.

European producer XXX-Project Germany admitted outright that they had purchased their trophy.

"We received an award of Best Actor Europe, which was totally unfair," said Thomas Virsov and Ulrich Jung, CEO and Producer of XXX-Project Germany, respectively.

"We got the award because we paid to sponsor the show and other awards were given to companies which paid for ads in the GayEline magazine. We tried to communicate this while we were at the stage, but they took away our microphone. We gave back our award and didn't take it. We are more than happy that, also, Titan refused to accept their award," Virsov and Jung were quoted as saying in Titan's original press release.

New York-based producer Michael Lucas, owner of Lucas Entertainment and never one to shy from controversy, issued his own statement alleging he had been approached to trade sponsorship money for awards.

"The DAVID Awards gave me Best Non-European Picture award for 'Barcelona Nights' last year, but then very clearly asked for sponsorship money this year," Lucas told XBIZ. They made a point that I would not get nominations without giving them money. As I said before, I never communicated with them after hearing that."

Another producer that said he was approached was U.S. bareback studio Hot Desert Knights owner Bill Gardner.

"We turned them down. We don't even want to participate in these awards," Gardener told XBIZ. "I've said that about all of the awards given by the gay industry — there has always been a direct correlation between advertising dollars spent and awards received."

The story lit up gay industry blogs for several days, with columnist J.C. Adams as the only source able to obtain a list of 2007 DAVID Award nominees, from a GayELine Magazine he'd acquired from Berlin.

Both GayELine and MediaELine Magazines apparently do not have functioning websites, and there is no website for the DAVID Awards to be found.

Likewise, it proved difficult for many to get response from XY Studios, which is a subsidiary of MansArt Studios and co-owned by director/producer Marek Bruckner. Webb has stated that he believes XY Studios is distributed in the U.S. through Treasure Island Media.

XBIZ was able to contact Marek Bruckner via email, through the XY Studios website, in order to get his commentary for this piece. Because of language differences, Bruckner may not have entirely understood what he was being asked. His responses, however, were in English and he apologized for not being able to communicate more clearly.

Bruckner indicated that GayELine Magazine did contain information for the awards, but that he had not read it. He stated also that XY Studios did not pay for any awards or purchase advertising in the magazine, pointing out that he didn't not believe LaRue had paid for sponsorship, but had also won awards.

Both Webb and LaRue said that they were not approached by the DAVID Awards for sponsorship.

At no point in his response did Bruckner indicate that he had any participation in the sponsorship or production of the awards show, going as far to say that he was not in attendance.

"I [did] not go to Hustlaball with award this year, but I know from [another] company that Titan is very angry and afraid of bareback movies," Bruckner wrote. He pointed out that more bareback companies won awards this year than last, and this may be causing condom-only companies to be intimidated by the onslaught of bareback content.

"[The] market for bareback is bigger every year. [Within] two years, [there will not be condom] movies, I think," he said. "Movies with women never have condoms; [it] will be [the] same in porn with men, in one or two years."

Bruckner then went on to talk about his company's HIV protocol and the safety of his models, which, for all parties concerned with the DAVID Awards, is the root of the conflict.

He said, for this year's Hustlaball, he sent four of his models with strict instructions to avoid going into the "actor's room," to not take drinks from other guests and to "not [have] contact with models from [the] U.S.A."

"Five years ago, I sent three [of] my models to famous [gay] porn company in [the] U.S.A. and everybody [had] hard drugs on the set," Bruckner said further without naming the studio. "People work with cock injections. Nobody had a health test. [This is] not good for my models. Sorry, but I [will] not work with company from U.S.A. again."

Bruckner indicated that he did not feel that the bareback studios should have separate awards shows from the mainline studios — but he does think that awards should be given only to companies that do HIV testing, have a strict no-drug policy, do not use injectable drugs for enhancing erections and do not allow models to have sex with the production crew or other employees while on-set.

"Having no condom, or having [a] condom is no problem if models have big health test. Every movie [has] kissing with fluid, licking ass and sucking cock; everybody can [get] sick with this," Bruckner said. "My models have test for HIV 5/6, gonorrhea, syphilis, Chlamydia and hepatitis b/c not [older] than two weeks."

He wondered what condom-only studios could make the same claims. He sent also, a photo of a XY Studio model holding test results from a medical clinic in the Czech Republic, written in English and displaying negative results for the of STDs Bruckner mentioned.

And while LaRue is a staunch condom-only advocate that believes that testing is a risk reduction tactic at best — she had the same basic concerns for performers as Bruckner.

"One million times more important than queens getting in a fight at the DAVID Awards; it all kind of comes around to the catalyst, which is — use condoms in movies and protect your actors," said LaRue, referring to the incident involving the U.K. performers. "People out there need to start watching movies that have condoms in them because all their doing [by watching bareback films] is supporting people not protecting people on sets. It's very, very scary. I just look at that and it saddens me and it makes me feel, also, very secure about myself and the people in the industry that choose to use condoms."

Representatives from Treasure Island Media were not available by press time.


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