Hot under the collar

'And the weener ees... Weeneee Eeenie.' David Patterson sees the tops come off at Cannes's Hot D'Or Porn Awards, while Peter Guttridge (right) reports on a brewing censorship row at the British Board of Film Classification

The porn people are touchy here in Cannes. "X-rated movies are definitely part of the cinematic art," begins their brochure, "but yet the International Film Festival at Cannes never gave us any award." To most, this decision is understandable, even fair. Up and Cummers and Anal Obsession (both of which are up for Best Gang-Bang Award at the 1995 Hot D'Or Porn Awards) are undoubtedly fine examples of their genre, but would almost certainly fare poorly in the running for the Palme D'Or, bearing in mind the European cultural haughtiness of Jeanne Moreau's jury this year.

But the porn people are genuinely affronted by their exclusion, and this year's Hot D'Or (or Golden Hot) has been designed - in a veritable frenzy of euphemism - as a "bona fide alternative to the mainstream festival, celebrating those recognised for their nakedness".

"Take Andrea Mae," says Jean Vieddly, the French organiser of this year's awards. "Andrea has taken part in some of the most incredible sperm baths ever filmed. Few have been able to match her, yet where are her accolades?"

"You're right," I reply. "What are sperm baths?"

Jean tells me.

"Oh," I say.

The Royal Casino Hotel looks like a plush five-star comprehensive school, and is situated five miles along the coast from the Croisette. Security here is extraordinary - guards with ravenous dogs patrol the swimming- pool area ("we are expecting fans to swim across") and tickets are like gold dust. The Great British hope, Hampshire ex-pat Sarah Young (Sex Party with Sarah Young - Best European Film nominee) sits by the pool and ponders her position at the very apex of her craft.

"I'm thrilled to be here, of course. Thrilled to be recognised for my nudity, but I hope not to win."

"Why?"

"Well, I'm very shy, and don't want to make a speech."

"Shyness isn't the first quality one would associate with a hard-core porn star," I suggest.

"You'd be surprised," she replies. "The erotic art is just like any other creative profession."

"And what about the future?" I ask, swept away myself in the ocean of euphemism. "Do you hope to branch out into more... clothed roles?"

"Oh no," she says. "Well, if the right script came along... I'm in Hamlet next. An erotic Hamlet. I'm playing Ophelia, and I designed the video cover too."

"Why did you choose Hamlet?"

"We're doing our bit for British culture," explains her middle-aged husband, the German porn king Hans Moser. "It's how nature intended it."

The awards are taking place tomorrow night, but first there are two luncheons and one press conference on the beach, sandwiched between the BFI party and the Barbet Schroeder party. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it is the hot ticket in town. Photographers swarm to glimpse such luminaries as John Wayne Bobbit (who has been awarded a Hot D'Or D'Honneur, the highest accolade the academy can bestow) and Misty Rain, who possesses - I'm informed confidently by Jean Vieddly - "the greatest breasts in America, and I should know".

The party is a remarkably sombre affair - the only drinks available are orange juice and mineral water, and a Brazilian samba band entertain us with subdued renditions of "The Girl from Ipanema" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face".

"Are there any questions?" asks the press officer, as we are gathered by the hastily erected stage.

Silence.

"Does anyone want to ask the girls anything?"

Silence.

"Would anyone like to photograph the girls?"

Everyone nods. And they pose, topless, giggling. When Tami Ann attempts to remove her bikini bottoms, however, a security guard rushes over to forcibly dissuade her. On the way out, we are each given a brown paper doggy-bag full of hard-core porn, one of which immediately splits open on the Croisette, spewing copies of Dirty Debutants on the pavement in front of a crowd of elderly tuxedoed couples on the way to the Terence Davies screening.

The award ceremony itself takes place at 11.00pm the next night, just as the nominees are finishing off their coffee and after-dinner mints. It is, I'm sorry to report, a remarkably inept affair, primarily because the starlet picked to announce the winners has a diction and high-pitched tonal quality entirely unequal to the job of making anyone understand a word of what she's saying.

"And the weener ees..." she squeaks, time after time, "Weeneee Eeenie..."

The band plays a rousing fanfare, and then has to repeat it several times while we work out who, in fact, has been victorious.

"You'd think they'd know how to organise a climax," mutters the man next to me, who turns out to be Randy West - the American star of The Masseur 2.

I am joined at my table by Nicholas Summer, the editor of Copenhagen's Adult Love magazine, who cheers and applauds when we eventually discover that Buttgirls 3 has won the "Best All Girl Award".

"It really is excellent," he tells me.

When John Wayne Bobbit picks up his Hot D'Or D'Honneur, he makes an impassioned - tearful - speech, thanking by name the doctors who saved his life by sewing his penis back on.

"Without them I wouldn't be alive today to pick up this wonderful award," he sobs, clutching his statuette - a topless golden angel ascending towards heaven - to his chest.

"Thank you, fellas."

"Doesn't this remind you of John Barry's Oscar acceptance speech for the Dances with Wolves score?" says Nicholas soberly. "He thanked his doctors too."

Unfortunately, Sarah Young - Britain's only nominee - fails to win her award, the prize going instead to Draghixa for Le Parfum de Mathilde. She is not disappointed. "All this is to do with ego," she says, gazing round the room. "I don't do this for ego, I do it for pride. I do it because I'm an artiste."

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