LOS ANGELES — Glorious. What a truly glorious evening! More than 500 adult industry celebrants swaggered into the upscale Hyde Sunset cocktail lounge last night, for the second annual XBIZ RISE Adult Talent Appreciation Gala, where endless liquor flowed freely from a fully open bar.
And what better way to share the buzz of crushing Prop 60 so handily, than clinking glasses of bottomless bubbly booze with dear friends and the crème de la crème? In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Free Speech Coalition, the selfless actions of the Adult Performer Advocacy Community and the irreplaceable lifeblood of the venerable industry, XBIZ once again hosted the only event dedicated to shining the spirit of Thanksgiving on the sexiest souls in L.A.
Dressed to slay, hundreds of gorgeous starlets and power players glided across the red carpet to bask in the dreamlike pleasure palace perched on the iconic Sunset Boulevard, where old world charm enveloped them in darkly rich radiance. After exchanging a great many drinks, hugs and toasts, a voice rang out from the center of the room, as XBIZ founder and publisher Alec Helmy commenced the inaugural RISE Awards ceremony.
“We created RISE to remind ourselves, once a year at least, that this industry would not be possible without the adult performer community,” he declared. “I want to thank you all for everything you do, for all your creativity and for your great courage. Thank you so much. Also, on behalf of the entire industry, I want to thank you guys for banding together to strike down that fucking Prop 60!”
Applause and hearty laughter erupted.
“I’m going to tell you, I don’t think it would have been possible without the collective unity of our business,” he continued. “I think this is a new chapter for our business, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it today. So thank you all, and on that note, I’m going to introduce you to the one and only, the incomparable, Ms. Kelly Holland!”
Stylish and poised as ever, Penthouse president Kelly Holland stepped into the midst of the merrymaking, to regale attendees with inspiring words. “Welcome everyone! Welcome ninjas, welcome warriors, welcome generals, welcome to all the amazing people who managed to defeat, as Alec said, the motherfucking Prop 60!” A deafening outpouring of cheering echoed. “You guys were everywhere, you were marching in the streets, talking on college campuses, talking to the press, tweeting and debating. You raised your voice, you sharpened your narrative, then you combined your voices, and that created a roar! A roar that cut above the noise of Michael Weinstein, a roar that cut above his five million dollars. The FSC had 300,000 dollars and you know… in politics… it’s about how much money you have, except here.”
Casting a meaningful glance about the room, she asked, “But you know what’s most important? We cut above the noise of the people in California and their prejudices about who we are, what we do, what we think and what we believe. And that is most important because we have redefined… you have redefined… who you are. You fought and you won a battle. An amazing, miraculously awesome battle. I’ve got to say, I feel like I’m in a church right now, can I get a witness?”
Several cries of “Amen!” followed.
“But guess what?” she warned. “The battle is not the war. Wouldn’t it be crazy for me tonight in this club to quote Charles Dickens? Charles Dickens said in the 1800s, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. There was brightness, and there was darkness, because we still have fights. There is still a war out there… it’s not just Washington, it’s not just OSHA, think about it. We’ve been fighting this war for thousands and thousands of years. Every time a woman had to put a red scarlet ‘A’ on her chest to show she was an adulterer… every time a 14-year-old had to apologize for ‘aberrant behavior’ because he got caught masturbating… every time a woman had to feel guilty because she loved another woman, or a man felt guilty because he loved another man, people could be killed for that.”
The raucous room quieted down, listening intently.
“So, now that everybody is perfectly organized, you know how to get out on the streets, you know how to do this,” she offered encouragingly. “You didn’t sit this one out, and this is what I want every performer in this room to know… this is why we sponsored this event, and this is why it’s so important for us to tell you we appreciate you. You are all warriors. So, tomorrow morning, pick up your swords and understand your power, because your power is so tremendous. Do not ever underestimate what you do. Always hold on to it, cherish it and honor it. Tonight, though, you can put your sword down, pick a drink up, get drunk and then pick up your sword for the war again tomorrow morning! Now, I want to bring up the general of this army, the commander in chief… the guy who, when I stand next to him, makes me nervous, because he’s so good looking, he’s so articulate, I just start fumbling around. Remember when I talked about you roaring? I want you all to take a deep breath and give a big roar to Mr. Eric Leue!”
For nearly a minute, enthusiastic clapping and hooting hailed the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, as he took the microphone with utmost reverence. “Thank you everyone!” he said. “I think we all want to get back to the music and the drinking, so I’ve prepared notes, because everybody knows if I don’t have notes, I could go on for hours. Thank you all for being here tonight with your colleagues, your community and your chosen family. Tonight we have so many fucking reasons to celebrate. For one, we have the entire foundation of the adult film industry here tonight, a force to be reckoned with, you the adult film performers! Thank you so much for your hard work, your advocacy and for standing up to such bigotry every fucking day.
“Secondly, we have the 25th anniversary of the Free Speech Coalition to celebrate tonight,” he said. “And I’ll only take two seconds to say what an incredible honor it has been to take the reins of the FSC army and to look at these amazing faces that fought so valiantly and so successfully. And then of course we have this little tiny thing that we achieved together this year, the resounding defeat of Proposition 60!” Another thunderous round of enthusiasm exploded from every corner. “None of this would have been possible without every single one of you in this room, and so many more who are not in this room tonight. But before I have the very great honor to announce the RISE Advocacy Award being given to one very special person, I want to thank a few individuals without whom this victory over Proposition 60 would not have been possible.”
He sang the praises of FSC director of policy and industry relations Siouxsie Q, attorney Karen Tynan, FSC communications director Mike Stabile and lobbyist Ignacio Hernandez.
Siouxsie Q jumped in, exclaiming, “You guys, we did it! We lived the dream, we are the Newsies and the fight continues. Eric is a dream, this man right here.”
Leue resumed his powerful speech. “And now, onto the RISE Advocacy Award!” he declared. “This person saw the severe dangers of Prop 60 early on, she attended every meeting, every call and stayed for many late nights to ask more questions, go more in-depth and to fight. She started a movement that not only created visual, but real promotional unity among over 2,000 adult film performers, advocates and supporters. This is a person who was always available to jump in, talk to every radio show, celebrity or reporter she could get to, a person who would text me at midnight saying they were taking a break, asking if somebody else can take the reins, only to return to Twitter seconds later talking to every person who mentioned 'Prop' and '60' in their tweets. Ladies and gentlemen, please congratulate Julia Ann!”
Karla Lane, with Ann live on her phone, strode forth and held the joyfully tearful performer up to Leue. Speaking to the screen, Leue said, “We all thank you from the very bottom of our hearts, we’re indebted to you for this incredible sense of unity that paved the way to this victory, and that we all must hold so very fucking dear, and protect. Because what unites us is bigger than what divides us. United we stand. Thank you for your incredible advocacy. We love you.” Turning to the crowd, he remarked, “She might not be here, but she’s crying, I can vouch for that!”
Turning to his right, Leue said, “Now, let me introduce Chanel Preston! This beautiful young woman was one of the founding members of APAC, the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee and I could not be more proud to bring her to the stage. Without APAC, we would not be standing where we are today. The entire industry is indebted to you too and united we stand.”
They embraced, as she stepped into the spotlight. “Hi everyone!” she said. “So, I will be presenting the RISE Image Award. This goes to a performer whose professionalism and reputation in the industry has elevated the adult performer community, and cultivated a positive image. I actually had a really formal speech, but since this isn’t a really formal event, I’m going to put it away! The performer I’m going to present this award to I met when I was first starting six years ago. She took me to dinner, and she’ll be the first to admit she was kind of perving on me, but I thought to myself this is the kind of woman I didn’t think I was ever going to meet in this industry. She’s beautiful, intelligent, well-spoken, she’s very comfortable with her sexuality and I thought wow, this is amazing, if there’s more women like her in this industry it’s going to be so much fun! And now, people both within this industry and outside of it look up to her and respect her. I’d like to present the RISE Image Award to… Jessica Drake!”
With humility and her trademark grace, Drake hugged Preston tightly. “So, this is one award that I think is actually going to make me cry,” Drake confessed, wiping away tears. “I just want to say thank you! I try to be as much of a good influence as I can, and I try to use my powers for good. I was blessed to have a great platform in this industry and I’m forever grateful to Brad Armstrong and Wicked Pictures and to anybody who ever helped me. I know that we have a huge battle ahead of us, but thank you to everyone for helping us defeat Prop 60!”
Next, legendary adult star Ron Jeremy, host of the 2017 XBIZ Awards, announced the nominees for Female Performer of the Year, Best New Starlet and Male Performer of the Year. With candor and wit, each name was conjured like sorcery, borne aloft by a smirk and roguish grin. Tantalizing nominees with the possibility of landing the most prestigious laurel in the biz, Jeremy soon sauntered off stage, making way for the final victor of the evening, Nina Hartley. Crowned with the RISE Legacy Award, Hartley was recognized for her illustrious and long-standing career, before the evening once more descended into revelry and good cheer.
Many a gleeful partier caroused long into the night, until at last the lights dimmed low and Hyde Sunset bade farewell to the sultriest all-stars to ever grace the venue. And so, the second annual XBIZ RISE Adult Talent Appreciation Gala came to a memorable, blissful end. Amen.