Comedian Margaret Cho, actor Harvey Fierstein and gay rights advocate Tipper Gore visited Lisner Auditorium Saturday for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s 12th Annual Media Awards.
The awards, sponsored by Absolut Vodka, honor media organizations and individuals who have accurately represented the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in mainstream culture. Cho hosted the event.
Saturday’s show was one of four awards shows sponsored by GLAAD in D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco in April, May and June.
GLAAD presented awards for Outstanding Washington D.C. Theater, Outstanding Advertising, the Capitol Award and the Barbara Gittings Award at the D.C. show. The organization also recognized television show “The West Wing” and last year’s Equality Rocks concert.
Gore, who was greeted with a standing ovation, presented an award to the Human Rights Campaign for the Equality Rocks concert for gay and lesbian rights at RFK Stadium. Gore played a drum solo to Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” at the concert, which also featured Garth Brooks, Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang and aired on VH-1.
“When the Human Rights Campaign dreams, they dream big,” Gore said. During the Clinton administration, Gore worked with GLAAD to promote equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on a national level.
“Our community has no better friend . than the family of Tipper and Al Gore,” said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.
Actress Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in Superman movies, presented Fierstein with the Capitol Award – a D.C. award honoring a media figure who has made a significant effort in promoting equal rights. Fierstein has played gay characters in popular movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day and Bullets Over Broadway, and TV shows including “The Simpsons.”
“I just can’t imagine living any other way than out,” Fierstein said. He criticized some of GLAAD’s media watchdog practices, saying the organization should be more watchful, and also condemned Hollywood’s casting of heterosexual characters to play gay leads.
“Hollywood thinks they’re doing us a fabulous favor by having heterosexuals play us,” he said. “It’s not doing us a favor.”
John Hancock Financial Service won the advertising award for its network television commercial featuring a lesbian couple adopting a child. Millions of viewers watched the ad during the Olympics and the World Series.
Judy Wieder, editor in chief of The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newsmagazine, presented the inaugural Barbara Gittings Award to Gittings, who was. editor of The Ladder, a “lesbian revue,” from 1963 to 1966. Gittings was an active proponent of gay and lesbian rights before the movement gained prominence with the 1969 Stonewall riots.
“We have to be visible to get equality and fair treatment,” Gittings said.
GLAAD honored NBC’s “The West Wing” for five episodes dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, including gays in the military, gay marriage and hate crimes.
“The West Wing is helping to create a culture where all people are treated with dignity and respect,” said actor Mitchell Anderson, one of the presenters. Llewellyn Wells, one of the show’s producers, accepted the award.
“To be rewarded like this for something we would do joyfully anyway, simply adds to our humility accepting this award,” he said. The rest of the show’s cast and crew were not able to attend the GLAAD awards due to scheduling conflicts.”
The award show also featured a benefit auction for a walk-on part on the Showtime series “Queer as Folk” and two roundtrip tickets to the show’s set in Toronto. The winning bid was $10,000.
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who opened the event, said D.C. Councilman Jim Graham asked to use the GW venue for the event.
“I’m very impressed with the University for offering the venue,” said Steven Klick, 35, who traveled from Philadelphia for the show. “It gives a good message to the community, faculty, everybody.”
Sam Riley, 23, an intern with GLAAD in Baltimore, said the event highlighted important women in the gay community, including Gore, Gittings and GLAAD Executive Director Joan Garry.
“That’s an amazing amount of woman up there,” Riley said.