Outfest Legacy Awards - A Gala To Benefit The Legacy Project For LGBT Film Preservation

On October 4, 2007, I had the honor of attending the Outfest Legacy Awards - A gala to benefit the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation, which was held at the Director's Guild of America. The project vows to address the years of unconscious neglect of independent gay and lesbian film, by building a world-class collection at UCLA. Apart from raising funds for the project, the awards ceremony was held to honor two important individuals who have proven to be immensely influential as well as having contributed immeasurable time and effort to the GLBT community - Judith Light, of ‘Who's The Boss’ and ‘Ugly Betty’ fame and Robert Greenblatt, Showtime Network's President of Entertainment.

The Legacy Awards

The evening commenced with the arrival of these as well as other esteemed guests on the red carpet. I managed to exchange thoughts with a few celebrities, including Peter Paige, formerly of Queer as Folk, as well as Fionnula Flanagan, who can be seen in Brotherhood. I learned of their level of involvement with the evening and of their contribution to the community through the various media channels available. Rubbing shoulders with celebrities, both gay and straight, and finding out of the pride that they had with the projects they are involved with, made the blissful evening even merrier.

Legacy Award honoree, Judith Light, signing autographs for fans

The awards presentation ceremony was to proceed, which was prefaced by a rather emotional speech by Outfest's Executive Director, Stephen Gutwillig, who we were informed would be leaving at the end of the year. To sum it up, he basically conveyed how great élan must be expressed through the preservation and restoration of these historically endangered films of days yore, for they only serve to protect all that the GLBT community has striven to gradually strive for throughout the ensuing years of massive homophobic instability apart from the contemptible and incendiary acts of ignorance - for in not doing so would be an act of cultural irresponsibility. He then explained how, together with UCLA, they have managed to successfully collect and archive thousands of stories on film, a number of which would have died a quiet death should they have not intervened. Ending his speech, he hurriedly left the stage, oblivious to the standing ovation he had elicited from the by-then emotionally-drenched audience. Saluting his success as well as saddening departure, the audience applauded him as he stood on the floor amongst them.

The cast of Ugly Betty, Michael Urie, Judith Light and Anna Ortiz

David Duchovny and Marlee Matlin presented Robert Greenblatt with the first honorary award for the evening. Mr. Greenblatt spoke of Showtime's involvement with the gay community and how they have become the most respected mainstream television network in the gay community where programming is concerned. Being the first network to have a centrally gay-themed show, it paved the way for other series such as their own 'The L Word', as well as Here! TV's 'Dante's Cove'. He accepted the award with great honor, promising that Showtime will be working with the community towards continued levels of satisfaction.

Judith Light gratefully accepted her award from her Ugly Betty's Michael Urie, who kept the audience entertained with his droll personality, insisting we reflect momentarily on a brief episode of Who's The Boss as we applaud her ascent to the podium. She conferred a heartfelt and poignant speech, elucidating on her reasons for being so involved with the community, for why she is such an activist, and why she champions human rights causes so selflessly. Turning it around to the audience, she explained how the GLBT community itself is the cause for her untiring efforts - how they have chosen to live the authentic lives that they do, neither compromising nor tolerating. Shedding a tear, she expresses her gratitude to the community for inspiring her to lead the life that she does.

Wilson Cruz of Noah's Arc and boyfriend

The audience was also treated to a video montage that represented 'The 25 Films That Changed Our Lives'. It included some mainstream and more recent features such as Brokeback Mountain and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, as well as the perennial classics My Beautiful Laundrette and Longtime Companion. A live auction was then held towards the end of the ceremony, with a walk-on role in Weeds and an Ugly Betty set visit. The latter caused a bidding furor between two very energetic audience members, and Caroline Rhea demonstrated her skill in being the persuasive pseudo-auctioneer, managing to wrangle two set visits instead, doubling the intended donation. It was a glorious night indeed for the benefit.

David Duchovny with daughter

Throughout the event, one crucial fact was instilled into the audience's mind - the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation relies on the magnanimous (and need I mention tax-deductible) donations of the masses so that its projects could see the light of day. I managed to steal a few personal minutes with Stephen Macias, head of the board-of-directors, and learned that each film project can have vastly differing costs towards its restoration or preservation, depending on the amount of physical damage it had sustained through degradation over time, natural or unintentional acts of destruction and whatnot. Thus far, the costs have ranged between $25,000 for a simple project to $250,000 for one that is decidedly more fragile and which would ultimately require more care for its revitalized resuscitation. These amounts may seem excessive, but in mitigation, I feel that history should be preserved no matter the cost.

Caroline Rhea as host of the evening

A cocktail reception concluded the evening and guests were given the opportunity to mingle with their favorite celebrities. I had the chance to speak with Anna Ortiz from Ugly Betty about her role and how wonderful her character has been in the show. I also spoke with Calpernia Addams, the transgendered person upon whom the movie 'A Soldier's Girl' was based upon. She was ever so sweet as she explained the premise of her character in the movie.

Judith Light and Robert Greenblatt. Photo courtesy of Gil Kaan

Throughout the entire course of the ceremony, I had the chance to reflect on the words being said and the fact that our lives were directly affected by what we watch. How the loss of the latter would cause untold and irreparable damage to our future. I do hope we observe the importance of such projects as the conservation of our past should not be left in neglect.

To learn more about the Outfest Legacy Project, please click here.

(from left) Outfest Executive Director Stephen Gutwillig, David Duchovny, Marlee Matlin, Judith Light and Showtime's Robert Greenblatt. Photo courtesy of Gil Kaan

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