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The International Escort Awards Is the Friendliest Party in New York

When you ask people to come along to the Escort Oscars, everyone says yes.

April Adams

Photo via Flickr user stolethetv

Alaska Thunderfuck, Tayte Hanson, Brad Loekle, and Boomer Banks. Photos by Dick Mitchell

By the time Alaska Thunderfuck takes the stage at the 2015 Hookies, the audience is already celebratory. The bartenders are hot and pouring long, and the nominees have been stripping down since the red carpet at 8 PM. My guests are three sex workers, a designer who dabbled in the trade to support himself through school, and a programmer friend with her date.

When you ask people to come along to the Escort Oscars, everyone says yes.

The event is held at BPM, a club attached to the Out Hotel on West 42nd Street in Manhattan. The interior is a warren of rooms alternately mirrored or painted black, so my quest for the coat check immediately leads to my rescue from the subterranean water closet by a bemused attendant whose primary job, I suspect, is to keep the space from becoming its own room. By nine, the stairs are the only place not packed. (I overhear a tattooed couple: "Are you going to check your bag?" "What's in it?" "Spare underwear.")

Rentboy.com, an escort ad listing site, has hosted the International Escort Awards since 2006. Categories include Best Ass, Best Social Media, and Best Pornstar Escort. The fullest honor of the evening, Mr. International, goes to "somebody who has a great reputation, discusses the industry, and has a positive outlook," in the words of Hawk Kinkaid, Rentboy's COO. All voting takes place online, with campaigning primarily done via social media.

Alaska Thunderfuck of Rupaul's Drag Race fame opens with a musical number, her clothing consisting primarily of thigh-high boots and about a foot of platinum hair. She resembles a sexy praying mantis, especially surrounded by muscled backup dancers in sneakers. After changing, she and cohost Brad Loekle get to work announcing the winners.

"Why can't we have this?" asks my roommate, having previously bemoaned good eyeshadow going to waste on gay men. The mood of the evening has converted her.

Patrick Michaels, a genial Irishman who manages to make assless bike shorts look winsome, ties for Best Newcomer with Viktor Belmont, the first trans man ever nominated in the awards. Belmont thrusts his purplish jewel statuette into the air with a "Yaass bitches!"

It's also a tie for Best Bear or Cub. Will Foster accepts his award in camo pants with his furry belly rolling over them. He began escorting only four or five months ago and attributes the win to his different look.

"I'm a classic or a teddy bear," he tells me later. "The reason I fly all over to see clients is because when people get online they normally see people with perfect bodies, and there are plenty of people who like bears." He is the third person to heatedly inform me that there should be a different category for Otters, or skinny men with hair.

The other bear winner is Ted Byrns, an art student from Chicago. He sports a massive rectangular ginger beard and leather formals: leather button up shirt, pants, tie, and jacket. He started escorting last year.

"It affords me the time and energy to be a full-time student," he says. His win "might give me the opportunity to get into porn, though that's a whole different step of having yourself out there. I have some pretty amazing clients. Some tell me that their day to day life is so much happier because they get to explore themselves. I want to make sure that the trust is there."

MC Mr. Pam

The winners see a bounce in their visibility. Shameless Seamus takes Best Twink and says, "People saw my red carpet interview. It helps to see that I have two sides, both the twink and the kink." Comparing his five-foot-five stature to that of red carpet MC Mr. Pam reveals how diminutive he really is. "People got a better idea of who I was as opposed to just a couple of pictures and the website."

Rocco Steele, a ferociously muscled man with a flattop and kind blue eyes, takes both Best Cock and Mr. International. In an email after the show, Steele anticipates that "winning will definitely increase my 'curb appeal.' Being recognized as having the best cock is a good thing in this business." Has he seen an uptick since the win? "Well it's been a very busy weekend, that's for sure."

What does he think about the Hookies in general? "I think it's a great thing because it legitimizes and rewards individuals in an industry sometimes overlooked and/or not taken seriously, and it sets a benchmark for us to work toward by recognizing the best in the industry."

Boomer Banks works the room in a custom red leather harness. He won Best Dressed/Style this year, and is the outgoing Mr. International 2014. The crowd parts in front of him as if he were slightly polarized: He's gleamingly handsome and has quite a few porn credits. Escorting is not his primary focus, though. "I'm a fashion designer and I have been for years," he says. "This stuff was just a way to get from point a to point b."

His is the most serious face. From my vantage point, the event is a lovefest, everyone hugging and smiling with their eyes. It's one of the warmest crowds I've seen in New York City. Michael Musto, porn producer ChiChi LaRue, and drag personality Maddelyn Hatter pose for photos. Stoya looks enjoyably nonplussed, a drink in her hand. The acceptance is high octane, and I'm a little envious. My guests feel the same.

"Why can't we have this?" asks my roommate, having previously bemoaned good eyeshadow going to waste on gay men. The mood of the evening has converted her.

Hawk Kinkaid (left)

I ask Hawk Kinkaid: Why don't we have a Hookies for women?

"I don't know why we couldn't!" he says. "Well, maybe I do. The stigmas around women exercising their sexual agency are still so vast. Men are not typically the subject of that conversation."

And how can the straight sex industry mimic gay success?

"People who work in the sex industry have always been a component in the LGBT rights movement," Kinkaid suggests. "Stonewall or the Compton's Cafeteria Riots, a lot of that was fueled by guys in the sex industry. The porn stars, the strippers; they have always been at some level the celebrities of this culture. Now they may have had alternative identities, but in a time when there weren't public politicians who were gay, there weren't celebrities in music or in film or TV that were gay, they were the only ones who would put their faces out front."

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