By now, four days after the event, we’ve perused no less than
thirty articles about the 18th Annual GLAAD Media Awards held on
Monday night at the Marriott Marquis here in Gotham—and NOT ONE
article has been honest about what really went on that night.
Instead, we’ve read stories about how Patti LaBelle and Jennifer
Hudson were the toast of the night—when the truth of the matter
is closer to a smackdown.
Of course the night had already started on a note of controversy
given GLAAD’s uncompromising position not to include gay media
such as Here and Logo in their nominations and awards. In spite
of widespread criticism for such a stance, GLAAD was
unrelenting—this year. Perhaps it’s a matter of how the bylaws
of the organization are written—after all, the acronym stands
for Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation—and it’s
probable that gay media are not going to be defaming our
community, and therefore, why bother rewarding them? Right?
Well, not quite, not for everybody, and bless Kate Clinton who,
in accepting her Pioneer Award, chose to make mention of the
matter and express hope that GLAAD will, in the future, alter
its exclusion of gay media for commendation.
So there we were, in the rather unremarkable ballroom of the
Marriott Marquis—Mormon design at its finest, we could’ve been
in Salt Lake, or Detroit—video screens a-plenty, given the
capacity crowd, and some tables so far from the stage so as to
get only a glimpse of the service entrance. “Oh, look, there
Obviously, the thrill of possibly doing Tom Ford in the men’s
room had sold out the house. Mr. Ford was there to receive the
Vito Russo Award—and oh, that Vito were still around to savor
the delectability of Mr. Glamourpuss receiving an award named
for Mr. Russo, the man who deciphered the subliminal gay
messages within the film industry.
Fortunately, our table was next to the stage entrance—where we
witnessed every presenter and award winner waltzing by—Whoopi,
Julianne, Rosie, Tom, Cynthia Nixon, John Waters—but more
interesting than the fact of their presence was counting the
members of their entourage—and ultimately determining that those
celebrities with the most confidence and dignity needed no more
entourage than their partner. Bravo to Tom Ford and Kate
Clinton—for showing us all how to do it when it’s our turn:
recognize the one you love and walk arm-in-arm with him or her.
Ms. Hudson, on the other hand…. We counted no less than twelve
people surrounding and following and leading Ms. Hudson to the
stage…. But then again, once we heard her at the podium, well,
perhaps it’s understandable…. More on that later…
First, a shout-out to our most excellent dinner partner, Jesse
Garcia, star and heartache of the year’s most endearing film
Quinceanera, who proved himself a sparkling conversationalist
even as he prepared a speech to present the award for
Outstanding Spanish-Language Variety Program. Needless to say
again—as anyone who saw the film knows, but let’s say it again
anyway—the boy has it in spades. As do the writer/ directors for
that film, Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, also seated at
our table, and who also gave us that delightful film The Fluffer
(and are at least partially responsible for that term’s entrance
into the vernacular). Congrats to all three of them for winning
Outstanding Film in Limited Release—and especially to them for
doing so with such grace and dignity.
Which bring us to the final part of the evening—the
not-so-graceful. Patti LaBelle was to receive the Excellence in
Media Award—presumably for her unflagging support of the gays
and her work in the fight against AIDS (she serves as
spokesperson for the National Minority AIDS Council)—and earlier
in the week, GLAAD had announced that Jennifer Hudson had come
on-board to present the award to Ms. LaBelle (and hello? Has
anyone else noted the amazing symmetry in such a selection?
Think about it: in 1967, Cindy Birdsong left Patti LaBelle and
the Bluebells—to replace Flo Ballard who’d been dumped from the
Supremes—and here we have the Oscar-winning actress who played
Effie White, the Flo Ballard-esque character who was dumped from
the Dreams in the film Dreamgirls, a fictionalization of the
Supremes story, giving an award to the songstress who’d been
dumped. What goes around, and around—or something like that,
So, there we were, and there went JHud and her entourage of
sixty-two, and then came JHud to the stage—but apparently, she
couldn’t read the teleprompter—“Effie can’t read, y’all”—and no
one had thought to give her a script of the speech she was to
read—and so she stumbled over words and shielded her eyes—and
was generally endearing in a Billie Dawn/Jessica Rabbit kind of
But then came Ms. LaBelle, barging onto the stage before JHud
had finished what had now become an extemporaneous speech,
whereupon LaBelle proceeded to tell JHud that it was no problem
that she couldn’t see the teleprompter, because neither could
she read “that shit”—and in fact, she said, people like the two
of them didn’t know how to read, because, “You know why? We
don’t need to.”
And while some of the audience took a collective gasp, LaBelle
thundered on, commencing a performance which had her trading
rings with JHud as she attempted to imitate the Madonna/Britney
MTV kiss, before then proceeding to tell JHud that she didn’t
know her before tonight and she thought she was a bitch.
Furthermore, she could see now that JHud was no Beyonce. “When I
saw this heifer coming out, she killed everybody. They said
Beyonce who?" In fact, LaBelle said, “I see me in you,” because,
everyone always said Patti LaBelle was ugly when she was coming
up. “We the same, girl.” And that was why, according to LaBelle,
that JHud was the recipient of tonight’s award.
What? Wasn’t LaBelle the one getting the award?
Onward, LaBelle plowed, digging deeper and deeper—and now the
audience was riveted. This was a true-to-life meltdown, far
better than Lauren Bacall’s collapse at the podium at the
Oscars, and better than the footage of Paula Abdul on some
morning show, and better even than Elaine Stritch telling a
capacity crowd of MacDowell Colony supporters that she loved
George W. Bush. “They’ve always loved me,” LaBelle said,
referring to her LGBT supporters, “though I don’t know why.”
She didn’t know why we loved her, and even when people around
her would tell her she shouldn’t love us, she said we still
loved her, and for forty-five years we’ve been loving her and,
then turning back to JHud again, she says, “I thought you were a
bitch. You’re no Beyonce.”
Where was our tape recorder? We glanced at Jesse, and at Richard
and Wash—who were equally spellbound.
Whereafter, LaBelle went on—and on, about how some people didn’t
like us gays, and how Jesus teaches her what’s right and “I
thought you were a bitch,” she said, once again to JHud.
Who, incidentally, was standing alongside LaBelle, still holding
onto LaBelle’s award—but perhaps imagining how that crystal
award might shatter if dashed at LaBelle’s feet.
And then, as a few at the front tables began to shout, “Sing,
sing” (well-known insider code for “Shut up, shut up”), LaBelle
suddenly opened her mouth wider and started singing, “Nobody
knows the trouble I’ve seen,” motioning to JHud to follow—and to
her credit, Ms. Hudson did follow, and werk it out—louder and
longer than LaBelle—who strolled over to stage left to the other
mike to finish the verse.
Whereupon the stage lights went down and the sound went off—even
as LaBelle continued talking her talk and motioning to JHud.
Meanwhile, in the ballroom, an announcer came on the intercom to
direct us to the after-party (where we would find a somewhat
stunned deer-in-the-headlights Junior Vasquez), and slowly we
filed out of the ballroom, past the teleprompter which still
read, “Patti LaBelle: THANK YOU, EVERYBODY. THANK YOU FOR THIS
HONOR.” Words left unspoken—when too many others had been.
With luck, and subterfuge, all of the above will soon find its
way to a YouTube screen near you. You won’t want to miss it.