While it was all about celebrating the year’s notable contributions to porn at the GayVN Awards in San Francisco this weekend, in the considerably more staid New York City, Saturday marked the less raucous 20th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. What the GLAAD Awards may have lacked in bare skin – save for Hedda Lettuce’s cleavage – the show made up for in size, a full three hours to be exact. And despite any possible celebrity overlap, GLAAD churned out a slew of big name presenters and guests, all in the name of honoring fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBT people in the media.
Host Kate Clinton, the sly lesbian comedienne, managed to keep the crowd attentive inside the Marriott Marquis Ballroom in Midtown, serving up zingers like “Sarah Palin is Dan Quayle in a pony tail,” and of course a requisite reference to Anderson Cooper’s “360 degree” sexuality. Tony Award winner and gay fave Jennifer Holliday sprinkled in performances during the ceremony, and Special Recognition Awards were presented to a handful of media luminaries, including Phil Donahue, Tyra Banks, and Suze Orman.
Orman was without a doubt a show stealer in her acceptance of the Vito Russo Award (given to an openly gay or lesbian media figure for contributions towards eliminating homophobia). With her blond wedge haircut, hardcore spray tan and commanding voice, Orman has always been a diva in her own right, but Saturday night cemented her status as Gay Diva. “It’s my life, it’s your life… We’re going to live it the way we should!” she shouted out in trademark Suze staccato, after marching up to the stage to the tune of Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.” She went on and roared “Stand up!” to various corporations and people who had supported her, barking the same refrain until nearly every power gay in the room was standing. Finally she thanked her partner, Kathy Travis, calling her “the love of my life.”
Clay Aiken attended his first GLAAD Awards as an out gay man and seemed remarkably at ease on the red carpet. He presented the Excellence in Media Award to Tyra Banks, who busted out a few “Hollas!” before saying that she always relied on gay friends during her struggle as an African-American in the largely white modeling world. “Hate is hate, and prejudice is prejudice,” she said, as the audience cheered.
As you might imagine, Proposition 8 was a hot topic, and the Outstanding TV Journalism Segment award went to Keith Olbermann for his much-YouTubed “Special Comment: Gay Marriage Is a Question of Love.” Accepting the award, Olbermann magnanimously apologized for not having done the segment prior to the Prop. 8 vote. Presenter and long-time gay rights advocate Judith Light also spoke on the subject, telling Queerty, “We are angry but we’re going to take that energy and channel it into something much more powerful.”
Other presenters included T.R. Knight, Cherry Jones, Stockard Channing, Vanessa Williams and Chris Noth, and other winners were A Jihad For Love for Outstanding Documentary, and a tie between LOGO’s Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom and surfer love story Shelter for Outstanding Limited Release Film. Accepting the award for Shelter was Paul Colichman, Regent and Here! Media CEO, who closed by proclaiming, “We wish you shelter, a pair of loving arms to hold you.”
While most ceremonies lag when the yawn-inducing suits behind the awards take the stage, Neil Giuliano, the outgoing President of GLAAD, actually gave one of the most moving speeches of the evening. He cited promising statistics about the increasing acceptance of gays among young people and related a story about his dying mother’s wishes, one of which was for him to meet a man and settle down. Apparently he’s still working on that part (he’s on Facebook, boys! Rawr!).
Jennifer Holliday closed out the evening with “And I Am Telling You…I’m Not Going,” but after three hours, it was indeed finally time to go.
More GLAAD Media Awards will be announced during a ceremony in Los Angeles on April 18 and in San Francisco on May 9. A complete list of winners and honorees can be found here.