“What up, sluts?” Cazwell hollered as he strode onto the lit stage, flanked by two half-naked men gyrating on all fours.
The waiting crowd whooped and cheered at the leather-clad rapper’s jape about their promiscuity.
The Hookie Awards had officially begun.The Hookies, as the awards ceremony is affectionately called, is an annual event that honors the world’s top male escorts. Often referred to as the “Oscars of escorting,” the show was started in 2006 by male escort ad-listing website Rentboy.com to toast the best of the best in the business — from escorts who are considered the “Best Top” to those deemed to possess the “Best C—k.” Hosted by Emmy Award-winning actor Leslie Jordan and co-produced by Black Party Expo, a yearly festival celebrating gay erotic art and culture, the Hookies were held this year on March 21 in the dark and intimate XL Nightclub at The Out Hotel in New York City. A total of 16 awards were up for grabs that night, all of which were given out based on the results of online fan votes. “People always think it’s funny that we have awards for hookers,” Christopher Daniels, who took home the title of “Mr. International” at last year’s Hookies, told The Huffington Post. “But it’s really great that we have it. By showing respect to what [escorts] do, it legitimizes this industry. But it’s also this crazy, big fun party where we celebrate sex.”That sex-positive party vibe at the XL was palpable as hundreds of attendees — escorts, porn stars and others in the adult industry — began arriving in droves to the event last Friday. A handful of dancers in underwear boogied onstage as music blared and a huge disco ball cast flashing shadows over the gathering crowd.At the entrance to the club, all eyes were on the escorts as they preened and posed on the red carpet, flashing their pearly whites (and sometimes their naked bottoms) for a knot of reporters and fans that crowded around them, eagerly snapping photographs. In every corner of the club, rent boys (as Internet-based male escorts are known) could be seen enthusiastically embracing and locking lips with their fellow escorts, many of whom had flown in from other states — and in some cases, other countries — to be at the event.“It’s like a family-reunion-meets-hooker-convention,” gay porn director Mr. Pam, who hosted the red carpet, told the HuffPost with a laugh. “We’re all friends here.”Opportunities for escorts to come together are few and far between, explained porn blogger Zachary Sire, sipping a cocktail as he stood by the red carpet, his iPhone camera handy. “Everyone’s so spread out and isolated in this industry, so this is a great chance for escorts to come together.” According to organizers, most of the event’s attendees were affiliated with the adult industry in some way or other. However, they noted that a significant number of guests that night included both clients and fans of the nominees, many of whom are also porn stars.“This isn’t an exclusive event,” said Eli Lewis, an escort who serves as social media director at Rentboy.com. “It’s $50 for a VIP ticket and $10 for a regular one. We wanted a good mix of people here. This isn’t about the money, but about making sure that our boys are recognized and celebrated.” Two male attendees gazing slack-jawed at the red carpet for several minutes said they had seen some of the nominees in porn videos and were there to enjoy the “scenery.” “Who wouldn’t want to come to something like this?” one of them said, his eyes roving. A small cluster of women, who identified themselves as female escorts, said they had come to see “what the boys do.” “We’re also here to see lots of butts,” one of them added. They probably weren’t disappointed. Though full-frontal nudity was relatively scarce during the two-hour awards presentation, there was no shortage of perky backsides on display. The show kicked off with Cazwell’s performance, complete with booty-shaking dancers; and later, a group of go-go dancers took to the stage and started pulling off their clothes as they gave foul-mouthed host Leslie Jordan a raunchy lap dance.