LOS ANGELES — The Free Speech Coalition honored an elite group of adult industry leaders on Thursday night, handing out the 2012 FSC Awards during a gala cocktail reception at the Stone Rose Lounge inside the Sofitel Hotel.
CEO Diane Duke and FSC chairman Jeffrey Douglas co-hosted the ceremony to cap off the FSC Summit, which was presented by XBIZ and kicked off Thursday morning with a full schedule of informational seminars about major industry issues.
Veteran adult industry attorney Paul Cambria began the awards program by presenting Vivid Entertainment Group CEO and co-chairman, Steven Hirsch, with the FSC Production Company of the Year Award. Cambria called Hirsch “innovative, creative and dedicated” as well as “an articulate spokesperson for the industry.”
“I want to thank Paul and all the people at Vivid and everyone who has supported us over the years,” Hirsch said in accepting the award, before switching gears to what would be a recurring theme throughout the night — industry unity. “... Let’s pull together now. Together, we can accomplish anything we set out to do.”
Vivid is in its 28th year as one of the most well known adult entertainment brands in the world. Hirsch recently led an industry-wide meeting for the “No on Measure B” effort, the Nov. 6 ballot initiative that now mandates condom enforcement in adult films. He also took a leadership role in the fundraising campaign to combat the Measure.
Evil Angel general manager and FSC board member, Christian Mann, was called upon to present Gamma Entertainment with the Internet Company of the Year honor for its excellence in innovation, high ethical standards and integrity in its business affairs.
Mann noted some of Gamma’s numerous online partners that include Evil Angel, Devil’s Film, Tera Patrick and Peter North, adding that Gamma “epitomizes what I would look for in a partner.”
Mark Blazing of BlazingBucks accepted the award of Gamma’s behalf, saying he was “pleased and honored” to accept such a prestigious accolade for Gamma, which has been BlazingBucks’ strategic partner for a variety of projects since 2010.
Gamma president Karl Bernard said before the event, “We are truly honored for this award. It's an affirmation of how we strive on staying on top of technology trends while creating a positive atmosphere in the industry."
Larry Garland, the CEO of Eldorado Trading Company, a leading wholesaler of sex toys and novelties, kept the evening moving by presenting the honor of Novelty Company of the Year to Sportsheets International president Julie Stewart.
It was only fitting for Stewart to accept the commemorative hardware. She was treasurer of FSC in 2003-04 and then FSC president in 2004-05. Led by Julie and her brother Tom Stewart, the founder and CEO, Sportsheets has become a recognized leader in creating products designed for couples that want to explore BDSM and fantasy taboos. The company is credited with navigating the recent 50 Shades of Grey erotic novel phenomenon with incredible savvy as its Sex & Mischief collection of BDSM fantasy restraints and accessories has resonated with consumers nationwide.
In accepting the award, Julie not only thanked the FSC and her staff but also all the “horny housewives” that have supported the company for almost 20 years.
Then FSC’s Douglas and Duke presented the outgoing FSC president Sidney Grief with a special recognition plaque honoring his years of service.
“I’ve been working in non-profit organizations for 30 years and every once in a while you come across a true leader,” Duke said of Grief, who is retiring from his post.
The program continued as Dan O’Connell, the president of Girlfriends Films, took the microphone to present both the FSC Man of the Year and Woman of the Year honors. Tim Valenti, CEO of NakedSword, received the Man of the Year award, while Theresa Flynt, the executive VP of Flynt Management Group, received the Woman of the Year award.
FSC’s Duke called Flynt “one of the most humble people I’ve ever met," adding that when she called to tell her she had won the Woman of the Year award that Theresa actually replied, “Are you sure, can you give it to someone else?”
Flynt said graciously, “I don’t think I deserve it. I want to thank the FSC and the Board of Directors for thinking of me. … Being Larry Flynt’s daughter, there is a lot of pressure to perform. There is no way I can do what he’s done, but what I can do is carry the torch forward and learn from what he’s done. I just want to be a part of this industry.”
Meanwhile, O’Connell read a letter from Valenti in accepting to Man of the Year trophy on his behalf.
“This is an industry of survivors that knows how to seize opportunities and doesn’t give up easily,” Valenti wrote in his acceptance speech. “But it’s not always a cohesive group and we need to be as an industry, and that’s why the FSC is so valuable.”
Valenti is a former FSC board member whose company designed the current FSC logo. Duke also noted that he set up a series of meetings for FSC with various AIDS organizations in San Francisco during its “No on Measure B” campaign.
Adult performers Steven St. Croix and Jessica Drake, a Wicked Pictures exclusive contract performer, received FSC Positive Image Awards, which are given to talent who have gone out of their way to dispel the myths and misconceptions of the adult industry through advocacy, public awareness programs and community service. Coincidentally, Drake and St. Croix co-starred in Wicked Pictures’ recent movie “Crazy in Love.”
A 20-year veteran of adult films, St. Croix in October created two prominent public service announcements for the “No on Measure B” effort. In addition, he initiated two different call-to-action days on social media as the adult industry passionately fought to defeat Measure B.
Vivid VP of Production Marci Hirsch presented St. Croix with his honor, noting that he was Vivid’s first male contract performer in the mid-1990s. St. Croix thanked several leaders who’ve come before him and fought many industry battles, including Flynt, Russ Hampshire and Steven Hirsch, calling them “genuine and giving people.” Then St. Croix said that the industry must mobilize again and keep fighting, as well as contribute additional funds to the effort. He then presented Duke and Douglas with a check toward that cause.
Drake, in her 13th year as a top actress and performer, this year spoke at the forward-thinking sexuality expo CatalystCon, continued to expand her sexual wellness DVD series and once again led Team Wicked in its AIDS Walk fundraising efforts. Among Drake’s other projects have been lobbying with the FSC in Sacramento, appearing in a viral PSA urging Californians to vote “No on Measure B,” organizing yearly food drives, and doing volunteer work around the world to help the less fortunate.
AVN founder Paul Fishbein presented Drake with her award, saying the way she represents the adult business “makes us all look good” and also noting her “humanity.”
“She’s the face of Wicked Pictures and one of the faces of our industry,” Fishbein said.
Drake said that if somebody would’ve told her 10 years ago that she would be receiving an award like this from FSC, “I don’t know if I would’ve believed it.”
“I owe this to Wicked Pictures and [Wicked president] Steve Orenstein,” she said. “They’ve always encouraged me to do everything that I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Drake also paid tribute to fellow sexual wellness experts such as Nina Hartley, Tristan Taormino and Candida Royalle, while noting emerging ones such as Kimberly Kane and Kelly Shibari.
“I’m going to accept this on their behalf too,” Drake said.
California Exotic Novelties founder Susan Colvin received the Legacy Award, which is given to an individual who, through innovative ideas and successful business practices, has gone above and beyond to not only protect the rights and freedoms of individuals and businesses within the industry, but also to improve the stature of the industry as a whole.
FSC chose the name Legacy Award instead of a lifetime achievement award because while the individual has done much to build an outstanding legacy, FSC knows that this individual’s great contributions are far from over.
Past recipients of the FSC Legacy Award have been Larry Flynt, Harry Mohney and Eddie Wedelstedt.
Al Bloom, the director of marketing for California Exotic Novelties who first met Colvin in the mid-1980s, presented her with the trophy. But first, the FSC played a special award tribute video in which several adult entertainment business owners and even some of her CalExotics staff members congratulated Colvin on the momentous occasion.
“I’m very humbled and honored,” said Colvin, who received a standing ovation from the audience as she walked to the podium.
After reflecting on her “idealistic” beginnings, Colvin emphasized industry unity moving forward.
“All of us are part of the same industry. What is important is that we stand united together with the Free Speech Coalition," Colvin said. "… We must exercise our right as a united front and never allow complacency or in-fighting to cloud our judgment. Let’s get together. Let’s do it.”
The 2012 FSC Awards winners:
Legacy Award – Susan Colvin, California Exotic Novelties
Positive Image Awards – Steven St. Croix and Jessica Drake
Man of the Year and Woman of the Year – Tim Valenti (AEBN, Naked Sword) and Theresa Flynt (Hustler Hollywood)
Novelty Company of the Year – Sportsheets International
Production Company of the Year – Vivid Entertainment
Internet Company of the Year – Gamma Entertainment
Benefactor of the Year – Manwin
Photo of Susan Colvin, Steven St. Croix, Jessica Drake and Theresa Flynt by Gia Jordan.