The Adult Film Association of America (AFAA) was the first American association of pornographic film producers. It fought against censorship laws, attempted to defend the industry against prosecution for obscenity, and held an annual adult film awards ceremony.
It was founded in 1969 in Kansas City, with Sam Chernoff of Astro-Jemco Film Co. as the first president. Other notable presidents included film producer David F. Friedman, elected the third president in 1971, and re-elected four times before becoming Chairman of the Board, and erotic actress and magazine publisher Gloria Leonard, who became president in 1986.
It held adult film awards ceremonies for 10 years during the Golden Age of Porn. The first awards ceremony was held July 14, 1977 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles while religious protesters picketed outside, as they would several years thereafter. "These feverish protesters are such a familiar part of the ritual, they really should be listed in the program," sex news magazine Cheri stated after the 1983 awards.
By February 1992 the tables were turned – association members "picketed the Public Forum on Pornography sponsored by religious groups who hope to institute morality codes back into all movies made."
Pornographic actress Marilyn Chambers presented the very first award for best erotic motion picture to the L. Sultana production of The Opening of Misty Beethoven, while runner-up was Count the Ways, produced by Virginia Ann Perry. Jennifer Welles and Jamie Gillis were the first winners in the best actress and best actor categories. Pornographic actor John Holmes told the crowd at the first year's awards, "In the not-too-far distant future we will proudly say that we were pioneers."
Retroactive awards of merit were also given to five movies considered best from 1955 to 1975: Tonight for Sure, Not Tonight, Henry! Trader Hornee and Sometime Sweet Susan. Deep Throat was also honored as one of the top-grossing of all movies, including mainstream films, of 1972. Board chairman Friedman said the AFAA was "much too busy fighting legal battles" in the early days to hold awards ceremonies, so these special awards were intended to make up for not having presented them in the past.
For a time the most notable erotic film awards were those of the AFAA, considered to be "the closest thing the porn world's got to filmdom's Oscar derby." Many stars would arrive in chauffeur-driven limousines while some would vie for attention by arriving in a four-horse carriage, a Roman chariot, a horse or even an elephant. The third annual awards "drew a festive crowd of some 600 porn-people plus several hundred hard-core fans to the Hollywood Palladium." Subsequent awards shows even attracted celebrities such as The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, singer Stephen Bishop and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson to be part of the audience and comedian Jackie Gayle and singer Jaye P. Morgan of The Gong Show to be part of evening's entertainment. The fifth and eighth awards ceremonies were videotaped and offered to cable and subscription television and for sale on VHS cassettes while the seventh was taped for an August 1983 broadcast on Playboy TV. Other awards during the porno chic era included Adam Film World's X-Caliber awards, first given out in 1975 and based on votes of fans, Hustler magazine's Erotic Movie Awards, first presented in 1977 and the Critics Adult Film Awards, bestowed by a New York-based group of East Coast adult sex film critics from 1981 to 1987.
By the third awards ceremony in 1980, although the concept was seen as positive, adult entertainment magazine Genesis reported they were "beginning to generate as much controversy as the regular Academy Awards, or more." While it seemed "politicking" gave the Best Film award to Legend of Lady Blue over heavy favorites Sex World and Take Off, the "most glaring lack of any validity" was shown by giving the best actor award to Aldo Ray. "The Erotica Awards are supposed to be presented to sex-film performers who both 'act' well and 'perform' well. In Sweet Savage, not only did Aldo Ray not 'act' particularly well—his part was simply gratuitous...he never even performed at all. The fact is he never even took his clothes off, nor did he show up to receive his award." Aside from that, Sweet Savage was released "well into 1979" and the films nominated were supposed to have been released in 1978, leaving the impression the AFAA gave him the award to "capitalize on his name and to obtain more media coverage." Adam Film World Guide, however, reported the following year's awards, which were presented in July 1981, "covered films released from mid-1980 to the middle of '81", which could have meant Sweet Savage was eligible for awards in 1979 if the same time frame was considered. Meanwhile, Adam Film World noted Ray's award "was not surprising considering that one of the announced functions of the aFAA and its annual awards is to upgrade the image of the adult film industry in the public eye."
Originally the Erotica Awards were determined by vote of the "association's membership of more than 700 producers, distributors and theater operators." However, in later years the AFAA ceremony was increasingly accused of bias, with a "belief among some that the West Coast producers were controlling what films received the awards" after Amanda By Night was passed over for best film at the 1981 awards. Starting with the awards presented in 1982, the AFAA decided to appoint an independent jury of three persons not associated with the adult film industry to make the final choices from the five finalists in each category. Jurors subsequently included an assortment of men and women such as a sexologist, author Robert Rimmer and journalists such as Brendan Gill of The New Yorker and other publications including Daily Variety, Playboy, USA Today and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
However, criticism continued, especially for the best erotic scene victory of Virginia in 1984, which led to the founding of the X-Rated Critics Organization and its Heart-On Awards. The role of adult film awards has been mostly supplanted by the AVN Awards, which also launched in 1984.
With the advent of pornography on video, in early 1986 the AFAA renamed itself Adult Film and Video Association of America (AFVAA) and added a new award category, best adult video. The 10th annual awards, held at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel in Los Angeles on June 29, 1986, were the last.
The association changed its name again in 1987 to the Adult Video Association (AVA). No awards were given for 1987. Instead, in mid-1988 they were replaced by an annual Night of the Stars dinner-dance and legal fundraiser, the fifth of which it held in June 1992 with more than 500 people in attendance, the association's biggest show ever. Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented at the Night of the Stars, however, film awards were discontinued.
In October 1992, Video Vixens Trading Cards for collectors were released with part of the profits going to the AVA. That same month, the AVA and Free Speech Legal Defense Fund, which had been organized in 1991, unified to create a new umbrella organization, the Free Speech Coalition (FSC). Its role as the trade association of the adult entertainment industry was taken over by the FSC, which acknowledges the AFAA as its first ancestor.
|Erotic Film Awards|
Cover of the official program of the 1983 awards ceremony showing the Erotica Award.
|Awarded for||Excellence in erotic film|
|Sponsor||Adult Film Association of America|
|Presented by||Adult Film Association of America|
|Host||David F. Friedman|
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