GLAAD's Rich Ferraro has consistently invited me to his organization's events and I've consistently declined; I officially cover so many events for my dayjob and unofficially cover so many events on my blog for fun that my thought has been I don't really need to hyperextend myself by marrying the two and officially covering an event for my blog.
Gays & thespians: Honoree Nixon with Prayers for Bobby's Weaver
But The 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards were honoring Cynthia Nixon and Joy Behar (two of my favorite redheads—the red carpet was truly red/orange...it was a Night of 1,000 Gingers) so I made it my first red carpet, quickly discovering that doing an event with no boss to please and nothing to lose and yet having orchestrated access to the main attractions can wind up being the best of both worlds—officially fun.
From where I stood
I arrived around 3PM for press check-in. There was a crush of people and the nice lady at the desk wasn't; I asked where to go and she said up the escalator, which isn't really that descriptive considering I was in the Marriott Marquis in Times Square (a place I was at on 9/10/01, and where I discussed going to the World Trade Center the following day to get TKTS tickets for a show...something that never panned out, obviously). I went up, as commanded, but couldn't figure out where to go next. I was pointed in many directions, finally landing on the third floor. (You'll see from the photos that I was much even more disheveled and droopy than usual.)
All my B-roll footage:
Here, I found my spot on the line—right toward the end. Red carpets are like the social caste system made manifest, or like a literal food chain. On the latter, I would be the seeds the birds poop out to keep the plants growing. To make it less metaphorical, I was two slots behind something called Autostraddle.com, which I refuse to look up because it sounds like one of those mechanical dildo sites. (I broke down and looked it up—it's a kinda great lesbian site with lots of traffic.)
But it turns out my spot wasn't so bad (considering I'm just some guy with a blog) because most of the stars were rather available and those who weren't were stopping to my left to do stuff with GLAAD. At first, I was right next to Ben Harvey and Dave Rubin of Ben & Dave's Six Pack (pictured, image from Metrosource). They were also covering for Queerty, though I wondered if they might not get less frozen reactions if they left the Queerty part out (I still link to Queerty, but I think it's fair to describe it as somewhat caustic). They were cute and as nice as can be; I point this out because the act of having a six-pack makes people gushingly nice, but the act of having six-pack abs usually does the opposite. They were professional and hot, the types of guys you wouldn't hate being stuck on a crowded elevator with, so I hoped they'd help attract stars, Suddenly Last Summer-style.
Samara puts the Reichen Lehmkuhls on the spot
Then, suddenly this winter, the ladies of Viva La Riviera slipped between us. Samara Riviera and Sassy made me nervous because I worried that yet another group in-between me and the flow of celebs might cut my chances of getting some to stop. But it worked out great as they were utterly charming, polite and as a bonus were more about doing on-camera interviews, which made it impossible for handlers to decide that I would just have to mic in on them.
Just after 4PM, the stars and honorees began making their way down the line, minus Gabourey Sidibe, who had called in sick. (Code for: Precious isn't winning anyway? Hopefully, because I wouldn't want her sick. I won't tell you which hard-bodied gay media type sniffed that it might be diabetes, but it wasn't Howard Stern.)
Will Phillips speaks out on real family values with his invaluable family's support
First up was 10-year-old Will Phillips, the Arkansas kid who refuses to say the pledge of allegiance because it's a lie that there is liberty and justice for all when gay people can't get married:
He's remarkably poised and smart. His parents were bursting with pride as they escorted him—I can't help wondering how many of even the most liberal parents would go along with this. Not enough.
Barrios & Rich Ferraro (I told Rich with that name he should be a bear...right?)
I was pleased to meet GLAAD's new prez Jarrett T. Barrios, though it took him forever to get to me because he was only to happy to speak to everyone as long as they required. A former state senator from Massachusetts, he reminded me so much of Gavin Newsom—tall, handsome, expressive, earnest to the point where some could read him as insincere (I didn't) and 100% in campaign mode. He graciously answered my question about why GLAAD and events like this are still relevant in the face of so many people arguing on behalf of a new post-gay outlook.
Amazing Face: Reichen & Rodiney
Reichen Lehmkuhl attended with BF Rodiney Santiago (pictured at work), both looking like they stepped off the set of an ad for something I can't afford or won't be able to fit into. Hilariously, Samara began her interview by saying, "You guys are lovers, right, we can say that?" Reichen corrected her quickly that they're partners. They definitely are partners, because when one of the Six-Packers seemed to know Reichen from some previous party, there was a flash "we'll discuss this later" in Rodiney's eyes. (It's a husband thing.)
Reichen was nice and talkative, and a handler made sure I was reminded that he's starring in My Big Gay Italian Wedding, an Off-Broadway play starting previews May 5 and opening May 22.
Barrios, Lehmkuhl, Urie & Luz:
I missed Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black—he did the major press then was being dragged past by his no-nonsense handler. I don't usually think of myself as being nonsense, and I had his attention to ask him a question, a possibility about which he seemed at worst neutral, but she insisted he had to get inside. He was merely presenting (hours later) and if none of the major honorees were inside yet, he didn't have to be inside either. This made me think I wouldn't get anyone else.
I got a free "I'm temperamental!" button out of this exchange
On the contrary, I had good luck. Michael Urie was happily chatting with everyone then was about to leave until I snagged him (he then stayed and spoke with all my neighbors, too). He spoke with me about his brill play The Temperamentals. I'd met him at Broadway Bares last year (get a ticket for this year yet?) and my impression of him remains unchanged—supernice.
I hadn't expected her, but I grabbed Project Runway's Maya Luz, who might have won the thing—I love her on the show. She's so striking. I know her look is Bettie Pagesque, but her face looks more '20s/'30s siren to me. Next, up beautiful Sarah Paulson was one of several attendees to whom I asked the question, "If a professionally closeted colleague came to you for advice on coming out, what would you say?"
The only bummer of the night was Jill Zarin. I don't like her on The Real Housewives of New York City; I used to think she was kind of the voice of reason until I realized she was more just the voice of no reason to listen to her. But I'm good at separating a flesh-and-blood person from an impression I have based on a TV show, so I was more than happy to get her. As she got closer to me, she was kvetching about needing a drink ("But I only drink Diet Coke!" she clarified, in case anyone was waiting to out her as an alkie). She was complaining about it like she really couldn't stand it and seemed about to skip me in search of refreshment until I corralled her.
First, I tried to get her to talk about the show's undeniable appeal to gay men. She had no answer, instead opting for the input of her gay companion (who was so nice but not the person I was asking). So I followed up by asking her to go on the record defending LuAnn against Ramona's recent accusation that she is a "slut." This got a real sourpuss reaction. I assume most of it was in remembering Ramona's nasty comment, but some could have been in response to my bringing it up. Whichever, I didn't get any good vibes from her. But she did help to continue upping the count of redheads.
I didn't ask Jay Manuel anything, but while I think his get-ups should sometimes disqualify him from ragging on what famous women wear, I must say in person he's very good-looking and has a body of death. Speaking of cute, fashion-forward guys, Make Me a Supermodel's Ronnie Kroell had on a suit I would never in a million years wear, and yet I thought it was really cute on him. I couldn't decide if it'd look better on or off, though, without a side-by-side.
I might be wrong, but I think Alan Cumming only did photos and maybe a very few outlets at the head of the carpet before breezing past. I thought this was odd since he's the host, but maybe he had to bone up on his routines for the show.
Next time, Kid!
Joy Behar was there to receive GLAAD's Excellence in Media Award (deserved!) and did quite a bit of press before skipping past my little section. She did stop at the very end of the carpet and did a bunch more questions as she was being dragged away, so it was more a matter of if only I'd been a few notches one way or another, I'd have gotten her. Rosie Perez—in a neck brace!—did no press anywhere near me.
Bryan Batt, recently expelled from Mad Men when his character was outed as gay, is much more handsome in person—total Cary Grant kind of package—plus personable. I was wondering if I'd get him when I realized he was transfixed by a stunning young tuxedoed correspondent in the middle of the line, but he was very available and chatty for me when the time came.
Even without her, I was still something
Just missed Sandra Bernhard, but as with Joy, it was just a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time. I noticed that the Six-Packers got her because they have interviewed her in the past, which is like comping a rich person's restaurant tab. I was impressed how warm and fuzzy she was, even if it wasn't to me. She has a great body and had put it into a great dress, which is about the extent of my ability to write about fashion.
The look of love!
Scott Evans and Brett Claywell may have just been told to drop dead by One Life to Live (their popular gay storyline is ovah), but they didn't seem too sad:
I imagine both of them appreciated the opportunity and now appreciate the opportunity to do other things. Scott gave me some good quotes and both later posed with me at the party; if only the OLTL producers had been there to see the potential for a ratings-grabbing "trouple" storyline.
You only One Life to Live once
Gavin Creel was adorable and grateful just to be there. It's hard to believe he only came out professionally less than two years ago he's been so visible and active. Speaking of which, he offered to whip out his "willy" to the people next to me off-camera. (He was kidding. This was Broadway but there was no paying audience.)
I never dreamed I'd get either Cynthia Nixon or Sigourney Weaver, let alone both.
I first nabbed Vito Russo Award winner Nixon by asking her about her inspiring FightBackPac.com campaign to punish New York's state senators who voted no on marriage equality. I'm not exaggerating to say she was one of the nicest-seeming people I've ever spoken to, let alone in a professional situation. She radiates an earthy, approachable quality and as lovely as she is articulate and engaged politically. Of all the people I asked about advising stars on whether or not to come out, she was the most forthright, "I would say, 'You gotta come out.'" Her argument about visibility dovetails nicely with GLAAD's mission statement and the LGBT community couldn't ask for a better representative.
Wish she could fit being a state senator into her schedule.
Awaiting the stars
Finally, I was so surprised to get Prayers for Bobby star Sigourney Weaver, and yet I believe she spoke with every single person on the line. In fact, as everyone was leaving, she was still talking to the last of the media. I would have loved to have spoken to her at length, and I'm not sure I couldn't have.
I had earlier bitched about some correspondents going for the coveted pic-with right there on the carpet since the rest of us might later be skipped over and that was time we could have used to ask a question, but I broke my rule and took a quick, terrifyingly bad (she looked money, I looked busted) pic-with Ripley.
The carpet had run forever and ever, so I barely had time to force a turkey sandwich into my throat as the attendees dined and had cocktails and engaged in a silent auction. I returned at 7:15PM to watch the show, winding up doing another full round of up-the-down escalator before arriving where I was supposed to be, in the press balcony with Kenneth and Joe and lots of other people too cheap to donate the $500 to be on the floor but not disinterested enough to have passed it up.
Three bloggers three
The show itself was kind of boring to watch, but listening to people whose children have been murdered for being gay was a powerful reminder of GLAAD's relevance; they approach the families of hate-crime victims to offer condolences, support and media training in case they decide to advocate on behalf of our cause, and this is something I think too many of the organization's critics sweep under the rug. Also, it bears reminding that words and images do matter, and it can't be a bad thing to have an entire body that exists solely to police things that are intentionally or unintentionally not only offensive but potentially harmful.
Why not support GLAAD?
Rosie Perez gave a raunchy speech, noting that if she ever became a "carpet-muncher" she'd choose Behar and Nixon to munch, then introed the nominees for Outstanding TV Movie or Mini-Series. When Prayers for Bobby won, it was amusing that Weaver & Co. took their sweet time with their speeches, ignore the TelePrompTer's pleas to "wrap up," but I think when you get an Oscar nominee to show up, you don't rush her. Their time at the podium as an outstanding mini-series.
The highlight of the show was Sandra Bernhard and Sarah Paulson (who was the straight woman for a change)—Bernhard's loopy presentation of the award for CNN's American Morning coverage of Will Phillips was hilarious. And yet, as the nomines were read, she was so irreverent one wondered if GLAAD might have to ticket her onstage for grunting, "God!" over the story about the transgendered pastor. (She meant it more like, "Jesus, don't take the easy road or nothin', Babe!")
Weaver accepts, Cumming parodies, Bernhard & Paulson crack up, Vieira roasts:
Meredith Vieira—who'd skipped the press line, perhaps not wanting to dwell on her recent gay faux pas (apology received and accepted, but please do the carpet!)—was on hand to present Joy her award, though her intro bordered on a roast. She also joked that Joy was her "big ol' lesbian lover," going on to imply that Barbara Walters had wanted in on the action. Behar later claimed Meredith had had to win her from Star Jones. Interesting how joking about being gay can seem offensive or almost inclusive in different scenarios.
Joy Behar's acceptance speech was pretty damn funny, with welcome digs at Joe the Plumber, Sarah Palin and John McCain (she pointed out he returned to Vietnam after having been a POW there but won't return to The View), but also filled with sincere gratitude for gay people, whom she acknowledges were her first and best audiences when she began her stand-up career.
Following an affectionate intro by Michael Patrick King that delved into her habit of eating with gusto during Sex & the City scens, Cynthia Nixon's acceptance speech again had me thinking I'd like to vote her into office. She is he embodiment of "gay is good," using her time at the podium to say that gays need to take back the conversation about our morality. In her view, gay people can't do anything with our lives in a way that we take for granted because no proper way to live as gay people is taught to us. In that regard, when we decide to marry or have children, it's all the more thought out. She pointed out that straight couples are taking from us our more equitable parenting style (less about a non-stop mother-er and a dad who works) and brought down the house by saying, "I've been straight and I've been gay, and gay is better!" Of course she means it's better to be who you are, and in a way means not to believe those who would argue that gay is inferior, but we need more household-name advocates not afraid to blow our own horns.
A fitting finale was Gavin Creel and some Hair cast members singing us out.
Would you da-do-Ron-Ronnie?
After I picked up my gift bag (weirdest item inside: a bottle of water plugging Kirstie Alley's new show...isn't Scientology against homosexuality?), Kenneth and I hit the after-party, which made for good people-watching. I think he was eager to be sure his stylist hadn't gone to waste. I was recognized by a reader (one who has gently scolded me for "Guydar," oops...erase the snaps of him and his friend!) and took some pics-with that I'll post, but it was late, I was already completely wilted from the steamy red carpet and I felt like my body had already leapt forward so I called it a night.
And overall, yes, I am GLAAD I came.
Full list of winners (more to come in L.A. April 17 and San Francisco June 5) here.