The 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards—full list of winners here—were a mish-mash of political activism, back-slapping, genuinely emotional moments largely tied to the venerable org's new push for transgender rights and—oh, yeah!—a Madonna/Anderson Cooper one-two punch that was an instant-classic appearance for Madonna (even if the evening was to honor Coop).
Keep reading for a full report, pictures and videos...
I arrived around 5 for the red carpet, which I covered until (almost) the bitter end. Oddly, though the announcement of Madonna's participation had pushed ticket sales and media requests through the roof, the overall celebrity attendance was less stellar than usual. No one expected Madonna, who was simply presenting, to walk the carpet. But I was surprised when previously announced participants like Debra Messing and Ellen Barkin were no-shows, and when some of the juicier gets for we hard-working carpeteers like Downton Abbey's now-skinny Dan Stevens and Cooper himself skipped most of the press on the last half of the carpet.
I work for Anderson Live, so was hoping to ask him about his experience with the show (and to meet him for the first time—I'm new), but I wound up being ON the carpet dragging John Leguizamo back from a hasty exit with Anderson whizzed past. I had him in hand and was trying to snag one question, but he was on the move so, keeping it honest, he honestly disappeared. (No worries...I met him inside once I was seated and he was lovely. He was so happy to pose for photos with all of the guests who asked.)
I will upload many red-carpet snippets this weekend, but in a nutshell, I snagged Nigel Barker, Christian Borle, the Kitchen Cousin dudes, Wilson Cruz, Snooki and JWoww, 12-year-old transgender activist Jazz, GLAAD's prez Herndon Graddick, Nickelodeon star Avan Jogia, Milla Jovovich, Prop 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, the Fabulous Beekman Boys, John Leguizamo, Smash star Andy Mientus, Mo Rocca, Thomas Roberts, Jake Shears, AIDS activist Peter Staley, Scouts activist Jen Tyrrell, and city council candidate Mel Wymore.
Once inside, I found myself at the happy and happenin' table #65, where I quickly made friends and was joined for a few minutes by a longtime Boy Culture reader/commenter.
I did the satellite thing, orbiting around it in gradually wider circles until I'd met and gotten photo ops with Anderson, Leguizamo (he told me he's been to Madonna's house and was looking forward to seeing her), Christian Borle (gorgeous in person and cordial regarding pic-withs), Mama June and Carole Radziwill (who I hate on the show but liked in real life).
As we ate, the show was a bit of a mess! My apologies to GLAAD, which does amazing work, and which lured Madonna out to play, for being even mildy critical, but I did think Herndon's off-the-cuff speaking was ambling and felt angry (he used the word "shit" several times) when it should have been ebullient...he's accomplished a lot and the LGBT community is kicking asses and taking names in court and at the ballot box.
I do admire his passion for trans rights; he announced that GLAAD is no longer "the gay & lesbian association against defamation" (sidebar: its founder was on hand to dish that they'd been threatened with legal action by the Anti-Defamation League for the original name Gay & Lesbian Anti-Defamation League), it is simply GLAAD. The reason for this is that GLAAD is not just about gays and lesbians, but also trans people, bisexual people and even straight allies.
Milla Jovovich had a slightly sloppy speech, too, but again, her heart was in the right place and she looked amazing. It was quite amusing when she posed the question, "What if my daughter comes to me next year and says, 'Mom, I'm gay'...at age six?" She'd meant to put a few more years in there, but hey, it is happening younger and younger.
It was a bit boring, then we had an unnecessary intermission, which led to widespread milling about (which had already beeen accomplished at the pre-dinner cocktail reception) that was epidemic by the time Sam Champion emerged; poor guy had to call out tables by number to get asses into seats.
Jake Shears performed a beautiful ballad expressly for Anderson. I had found Jake to be the most personable of celebs on the red carpet, BTW. We have a mutual friend in common, the Italian PR for Scissor Sisters, and upon mentioning Giulio's name, he lit up and laid all of the band's successes in Italy at Giulio's feet. Very warm guy. We just have to get him to like Madonna more. He told me he'd been talking with Liz Rosenberg, so perhaps he is softening, ha.
The auction was no fun to watch, but it was curtailed quickly enough, then there were a few minutes' worth of nothingness, which made me anticipate an imminent Madonna appearance.
Soon enough, the full "Nobody Knows Me" interstitial from Madonna's MDNA Tour (pro-shot, clearly from an upcoming DVD release) played and out strolled Madonna, decked out head to toe in a Boy Scouts uniform. It was hilarious and adorable, and she looked beautiful (loved the hair and makeup). In great spirits, Madonna spoke for over 12 minutes about discrimination and intolerance, extolling the virtues of bravery before seguing into a thoroughly charming and affectionate introduction of Anderson, which was kicked off by a short film chronicling his career.
When the film ended, Madonna asked him to come up onto the stage, which would give her an excuse to grab his ass (they hugged, but she did not grab it), then Madonna ran off the stage like a 10-year-old Scout who'd just earned his first merit badge.
Madonna's appearance was kind of like when she rolled around on her mother's grave in Truth or Dare, the grave being the first part of the evening. But it certainly livened things up.
I'm not saying this because I work for the guy, but Anderson's speech was absolutely presidential. He spoke movingly and directly about what a blessing he feels his sexual orientation is, about how he fell in love with reporting and about how the two relate. Humbly, he admitted he does not feel worthy of winning the Vito Russo Award, name-checking many other activists whom he said made it possible for him to be there, and whose work he said he knows he can never match.
It was just terrific, and along with Madonna's, it made the entire bumpy night legendary. I'm so GLAAD I went to this event, and proud that this organization has some of my hard-earned money in its coffers.
The rest of the evening featured a tearful apperance by Tyrrell, who took being booted from the Scouts so personally that she wouldn't even express hope when I'd spoken to her earlier that they'd do the right thing and lift their ban. For her and for everyone, I hope they give up their 1800s mentality soon.
The weirdest part of the night for me was the rehabilitation of Brett Ratner. I don't agree that he needs to be given an award so soon after a slur got him so much bad press. I do buy that he is not a homophobe and do recognize that he's done some helpful PSAs, but it just felt like too quick a turnaround from reviling him to rewarding him. He seemed sincere enough, but took the stage on two separate occasions and was talked up a little too much by Herndon and by a much more experienced straight ally, Russell Simmons. I have to say it felt like an advertorial. But I do like that he has seen the light, and I got a chuckle when he read al kinds of names he'd been called after his slur, including homophobe, stupid fratboy, fat Jew, ignorant, and said he couldn't accept that any of those were true except for fat and Jew.
I took off while the finale (some voguers) was occurring as it was getting close to the witching hour.
I was at the after-party for only about 15 or 20 minutes, but it was packed. Then I dashed home and dashed this off. Hope you will enjoy the coverage, and come back for more soon.
I want to thank GLAAD for including me on their carpet, and I want to thank the 20something reporter Baruch for keeping his back turned to me all evening. Perky and aggressive, he's good at his job and has the sort of face that will take him places in this life, but he looks good from behind, too. Yes, even at a charitable event...I notice these things.