The red carpet was glittering with star power on Saturday as a who’s who of LGBT icons and allies came out to honor out actor George Takei with the Vito Russo Award and to recognize important LGBT contributions in all types of media in the past year.
The night kicked off with a stroll down the Official Red Carpet. Hotspots was right there in the mix as Boy George, Swoosie Kurtz, Wilson Cruz, Omar Sharif, Jr., the cast of Orange is the New Black, Perez Hilton, and George Takei among many others, made their way into the ball room.
It was great to get the chance to chat with Wilson Cruz, who is the National Spokesperson for GLAAD and has cultivated a 20 year relationship with the organization since he accepted an award for his role in My So-Called Life. He said “ I am so proud to go around the country representing GLAAD and telling the stories of LGBT people, because that’s how people’s hearts and minds are changed.” During the ceremony, Wilson took to the stage where he shared a story about how My So-Called Life impacted his personal life. A year before being cast as gay teen Rickie Vasquez, Cruz was kicked out of his house by his father because of his sexuality. One pivotal episode showed the same thing happening to the character Rickie at Christmas time. Cruz’ father watched that episode and reached out to Wilson to mend fences and welcome him back into the family after seeing the error of his ways. It was a touching story and proof that media, in it’s many forms, can have such a major impact on our lives.
I also had the chance to speak to Derrick Gordon, who plays basketball for the University of Massachusetts and recently came out of the closet becoming one of several college athletes who feel it’s safe to be out in the NCAA. Gordon told me “ my teammates don’t care about it [my sexuality] they are more worried about winning games. I am happy with the teammates that I have becaue they have all been great…Im not sure how it would have been at any other school, but it’s been great so far. Before I came out, I had to do so research on the laws of the state to make sure that if I come out it’s going to be just fine, and of course Massachusetts is a gay state so…it was perfect.” I asked him if he had any mentors who helped guide him as he was making the decision to come out and he mentioned “Michael Sam(Football player from the University of Missouri who came out and is expected to play professionally in the NFL this fall), Wade Davis, Anthony Nicodemo, and a few other guys who helped lead me in the right direction.” It’s great that there is finally a contingent of out athletes and coaches who are available to serve as mentors as young people make the decision to come out of the closet.
Once inside the ballroom at the Waldorf, guests were served an amazing dinner and then the real fun began. The Amazing Swoosie Kurtz, who currently stars in the hit TV show Mike & Molly, was the first star to take the stage. She had the crowd in stiches as she mentioned that The Waldorf Astoria held a special memory for her because she lost her virginity there! Who can compare with that? Certainly not funny girl Fortune Feimster, a writer for the Chelsea Lately show on E!, who was the hostess of the event. When she came on stage she adlibbed that Swoozie lost her virginity at the Waldorf, but she (Fortune) lost her virginity while eating a Waldorf salad. Ha!
Besides lots of laughs, the night featured a performance by Kacey Musgraves as well as a surprise sing along with gay icon Kylie Minogue. Kylie even hopped from the stage to one of the tables down in front and did a little “table dance” as she led the audience singing her hit Can’t get you out of my head. It was AMAZING.
Several awards were presented throughout the evening. Actor George Takei was honored with the Vito Russo Award which was presented by Stafford Arima, who is an out director currently directing the upcoming Broadway musical Allegiance, which was written by and stars George Takei and chronicles his family’s interment during World War II. The cast of Netflix original series Orange is the New Black also received the award for Outstanding Comedy Series.
It was such a pleasure to spend an evening rubbing elbows with the stars and to realize the good work that GLAAD is doing to further the LGBT cause. GLAAD amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.