Last night was the 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards; it's always a fun event, if you remember my coverage from last year.
This year was really fun, with one major exception—I was red-carpet robbed by this jerk who was with Ricky Martin. More on that later.
GLAAD was happy with my past coverage, so they granted me an extra body on the carpet—my partner José attended as my cameraman. We were placed just after a large column and between an adorable guy working for AfterElton (Tim O'Leary) with his pretty friend and someone's tripod. I liked our positioning in that we were at the very front of the online media and the column meant no pushing.
But the first star we encountered had been before we even got to our spots—we'd run into Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God. checking in. Joe was a nominee for his blog (the first time GLAAD has nominated blogs...about time!) and was convinced Pam of Pam's House Blend would win. "I'd bet the Powerball on it," he'd confided. (Later, he totally won, as I expected, but he had no idea until some attendees informed him since the category wasn't deemed worthy of inclusion in the actual program.)
Considering some of the stars scheduled, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the carpet—Tina Fey was a nominee but didn't walk (come the fuck on, Tina), Patrick Wilson was a presenter but also was a no-show (perhaps wisely fearing being devoured and eaten a la Sebastien Venable) and the Rev. Al Sharpton was on hand to give an award to Russell Simmons but did not do press. Vinny Guadagnino from Jersey Shore? Fuhgeddaboudit.
But on the other hand, the stars who actually did the carpet were nice and fun, and even Ricky Martin himself did lots and lots of press. Just not me. We're getting to it.
My first carpet catch was 17-year-old Bianca "Nikki" Peet, a dynamic girl who was initially denied the opportunity to form a gay-straight alliance at her Corpus Christi high school but whose perseverance against Principal James Crenshaw paid off—she now has her GSA club! She was the picture of intestinal fortitude in her wheelchair, her eyeshadow as sparkling as her personality.
Next up was Jarrett Barrios, who explained to me how GLAAD decides what's offensive and what isn't; a hard task, I can agree, considering the varied opinions my own occasionally outraged posts sometimes elicit. You think something is duh-obviously offensive—like that Vanity Fair piece casually calling the Glee boys "fags," GLAAD (among many others) points it out, then you read AfterElton sniping that it was no big deal. (In context, the writer was gay and felt it was an ironic or "cheeky" usage...which to me was not as readily apparent as, say, during a viewing Wet Hot American Summer.) I asked him about this more in reference to Ron Howard's "so gay" joke, which I think is a lot more in those troubled waters of nuance where a large part—if not the majority—of the public would not go along with calling it offensive.
Mike Ruiz was warm and quite dashing up close—no poodle hair! He was happy to talk about why The A-List: New York seems to have at least as many haters as lovers and to introduce his boyf to anyone who asked.
I'm not a regular The Fabulous Beekman Boys watcher, but José is, and he warned me not to ask about "the pig." I knew it referred to them killing a pig they'd raised, but I imagine, "Don't ask them about the pig!" could be good advice before interviewing just about any reality TV stars.
Of course I dirty-love and clean-admire Wilson Cruz—who doesn't, and why don't they? I asked him about the Glee kiss, his recent excursion into shirtlessness in bars and his pet cause (and it's much deeper than that phrase), LGBT teen homelessness.
Jane Velez-Mitchell—with her bombshell girlfriend, who she meet at last year's GLAAD Media Awards—was the picture of poise and confidence, picking the Westboro clan as the gay story of the year when I asked her to choose something. The carpet had gotten a bit clogged up, so I almost missed her while jockeying to get some time with the event's host, Andy Cohen.
I'd never met Andy, so wasn't sure what to expect. I think I thought he'd be bubblier or more flirtatious but he definitely wasn't a stick in the mud. I stumped him with a question, but he recovered and was game to talk Housewives a bit. As he departed, he muttered, "My breath is atrocious!" and got some kind of oral relief from his PR walker, but it really wasn't...maybe it was mine!
She was followed up by the one-two punch of Manila Luzon and Sahara Davenport, both RuPaul's Drag Race alums. Did you know they're lesbian lovers now? I didn't either. Both looked quite fetching in blue; when I asked Luzon if her blue-ribbon dress was a hint (about who might win this season), she caught herself and then said she couldn't say.
I had fun talking with Alex Guarnaschelli and Ted Allen from Chopped (Allen more famous for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) about gay icons and about what offends them; Guarnaschelli took the serious route, and, as hoped, Allen provided comic relief.
Loved my brief with with DJ Tracy Young, who gamely took on the "Born This Way" v. "Express Yourself" case, landing firmly in the Madonna camp while still admitting everyone "pulls" and declaring herself a GaGa fan as well. She also told me point-blank that one thing people might not know about Madonna is that, "Madonna's not a bitch."
Nobody around me seemed to care about Sandra Lee from Semi-Homemade Cooking, perhaps not realizing she is a gold band away from being the First Lady of New York State since she is cooking with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She's definitely cut from the public-arena cloth—tall, striking, direct and articulate, she strongly advocated for marriage equality (and cut a mean rug at the party later).
I loved that Real Housewives of New Yorker Sonja Morgan said, "Oh, Boy Culture—yeah!" like she knew of my blog. It's classy to pretend you know little blogs and much appreciated. She looked great, like a pretty Glenn Close, and had fun reminiscing about sharing an apartment with three gay guys in college.
Then...it happened. Or didn't happen.
Ricky Martin had come in to deafening shots from the photographers and was actually doing quite a bit of print press, so there was a shred of hope he might do some online stuff, too. But as he neared, the guys around him had him positioned to seemingly streak past us all. Everyone around me seemed paralyzed, so I caught his attention and tried to ask him his coming-out advice for other entertainers. I had his full attention and he tried to answer, but this oaf:
...kept pushing him on, almost seeming to argue with him briefly. He wanted to answer my question, but ultimately allowed himself to be whisked past me (and past AfterElton, not exactly a fly-by-night blog):
Then, because his momentum had been halted, he was grabbed for lots of questions by the other bloggers further down the line. It was so infuriating and dispiriting—I definitely had him, then lost him. And for absolutely no reason. I got one of the security guys' attention and told him Martin had wanted to answer me, so could he step back? Unh-unh. GLAAD had done everything it could to help me out, but it was just one of those inexplicable things: I lost out on the #1 reason for going, coverage-wise, in the first place.
José took off to get some video while I fumed and did a quick question with charming Denis O'Hare of True Blood. Not being up on my True Blood, I opted to ask him about the just-wrapped J. Edgar—written by Lance Black, directed by Clint Eastwood—and was rewarded with a story about the hot scene between Armie Hammer and Leonardo DiCaprio:
I had half a mind to suggest we go whack off somewhere talking about it. But didn't.
I found fellow native Michigander Miss USA Rima Fakih sweet as pie and only too happy to go against her boss Donald Trump's Neanderthal position on gay people. She talked about the pressures of being the first Muslim Miss USA; interestingly, cretinous anti-Muslim Michael Lucas—whose words against all Muslims have included insults about their women's "stinking hairy pussies," etc., not just criticisms of the fundamentalist aspects of Islam that any sane person would disavow—was at the event, but not on the carpet. Fakih was also kind enough to pose for a picture with my camerman, a devoted pageant queen, and discuss her personal friendship with Miss Puerto Rico. A doll.
Next and last up was Russell Simmons (was he with Rima?), who also spoke about Trump in the context of how to convince anti-gay people of the error of their ways.
The carpet over, we gathered our wits (and an egg-salad sandwich a block away) before heading to the balcony level, where press would be seated. Last year was a bit of a squish, with everyone around circular tables craning to see the stage. This year, we were seated almost on top of the stage in neatly ordered chairs—the view was incredible. We got to tape lots of the show and this was when I took my footage of Ricky Martin with his mysterious, longtime lover Carlos Gonzalez Abella.
Actually, I had to have GLAAD point him out for me. Then, though I filmed about two minutes of him at his table, I still had no clue the handsome man seated with him was his boyfriend (nor that the older gentleman was Bryan Lourd, the ex-Mr. Carrie Fisher and an ex-straight); they hadn't done the carpet together. I thought he looked just like Guy Oseary (and considering Oseary's business instincts, it wouldn't surprise me that he'd date Ricky Martin to get a piece of that financial action). Martin spotted me early on—I wasn't hiding myself, nor were the dozens of ecstatic Hetrick-Martin students seated right around us, who were taking pictures of him—and then pointed right at me with an "I seeee you!" smile as he let his companions know they were on the record.
As far as the privacy issue, it was a public event where he was being given an award and at which he later name-checked his boyfriend from the stage. People were able to take pictures with him, too. In fact, a statuesque (actually, Lady Liberty is "statuesque," but flame-haired Anne Tique—pictured—is more of an actual statue—with her hair, she had to be staring down seven feet tall) drag queen seated one table away managed to get a photo op with Ricky and Carlos both! (At the after party, she told he he was lovely, so nice and that she was protecting him from people trying to approach him for photos during the meal...only to get one herself later on. Smart!) It's not like I approached the guy in the bathroom, though does accidentally peeing at the urinal next to Denis O'Hare's count? (I didn't look—and wouldn't have done this to Jake Gyllenhaal either!)
We'd been seated early, so we saw the last moments of the auction before the show began. Andy Cohen started the show with a very funny gay pop-culture test for a very game Tina Fey that couldn't have gone better and made her absence on the carpet all the more depressing—she was totally Fey for pay:
The most moving moment during the show came when Jancie Langbehn recounted her nightmare—her partner Lisa Marie Pond suffered a brain aneurysm on board a cruise ship in Florida in 2007, only to have to die alone because Miami's Jackson Memorial flat out refused to let Langbehn or their children see her. This case led to President Obama's directive that visitation be extended to gay families, the kind of change some gay activists have sniffed at as peanuts, but that could hardly have been more beautifully underscored than by Langbehn's story.
Right after, she and a GLAAD worker attempted to get attendees to stand in order to donate $1,500 or more. It would be a real pinch for me right now, but it crossed my mind. I was surprised a relative few in the $450-a-seat section stood to donate, and really perplexed as to why more of the celebs didn't stand. Perhaps they felt pressured and undoubtedly they've all give generously to GLAAD already. But would another $1,500 have been a pinch for them as well?
Denis O'Hare accepted an award for True Blood with a speech written for him by the show's creator, Alan Ball, who said:
"I would thank them for recognizing our very positive portrayal of gays and lesbians as blood-thirsty monsters, black-magic practitioners, prostitutes and drug dealers."
Rev. Al Sharpton presented an award to Russell Simmons, and while I bet a lot of white gay people don't care for the former, he was pro-equality back in '03 and has not taken the easy path when it comes to confronting homophobia in the black church.
Seeing that pair on stage advocating for LGBT equality and marriage rights was powerful stuff and was a welcome inclusion of people of color in a movement some people of color mistrust.
Loved the Cirque du Soleil performance, which consisted of an impossibly muscled performer bending and flexing himself on a couple of posts. You know that bitch didn't go home alone—he could've gone home with the host, judging by Cohen's lascivious comment about the artist being "my boyfriend" after his final not-so-stupid human trick.
NCIS star Pauley Perrette (who also skipped the carpet) happily presented Tina Fey with an award for 30 Rock's hysterical episode about Liz Lemon's gay nephew. Fey thanked GLAAD for its sense of humor (something it's not renowned for) and noted that context is everything when it comes to deciding what's offensive and what's funny.
The biggest news of the night was when Martin accepted his Vito Russo Award from Craig Zadan (who hinted that Martin might do an original movie musical for him after his 2012 run on Broadway in Evita) and thanked his partner-in-crime and boyfriend (aw, they're still at the "boyfriend" stage!) Carlos, among many others. His speech started out thin, like he had not prepared anything much to say, then ended with a bang as he whipped up enthusiasm for GLAAD to do outreach in Latin America, pledging to help. He really is a big-hearted guy, and an excellent role model for kids.
The only person who got bigger cheers than Martin from the kids seated around us was Lady GaGa—and she wasn't even there! The use of "Born This Way" in one of GLAAD's montages of the year's events elicited shrieks of joy. Take that, aging hipsters.
With the show behind us, we headed to the fifth-floor after party, where I spotted Kenneth in the (212), who was stylist-free (and therefore butterfly-free) this year.
We were regaled by Joe Jervis with his third of three priceless Close Encounters of the Madonna Kind stories (loved them all), met some cute readers of both our blogs and I was able to get pictures with Wilson Cruz (his brief participation in the show, from the balcony, had been a jolt of energy) and esteemed newsman Lawrence O'Donnell as well as between Luzon and Davenport (not sure which was the rock and which was the hard place...both felt plenty soft).
The evening was anything but a drag! (Shout out to the VivaLaRivera.com ladies!)
Most amazingly, NYC night-life legend Rollerena made an appearance, and José and I were able to share a dance floor with 'er as DJ Tracy Young was spinning Madonna's "Holiday."
It was the perfect end to an interesting night, a surreal few minutes when all the queer stars were aligned, and quite a few queer stars (and somewhat lesser heavenly bodies) were aligning against intolerance and gay hatred.