A lot has happened in the last few months, from that fateful email congratulating me on being a nominee for a GLAAD Media Award — What? How? OMG! — to returning to Juneau Monday evening with a 10-lb. award that will also grace the mantels of the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Laverne Cox, among many others.
I posted before about finding out about the nomination, raising funds to get to LA and all the amazing support I encountered along the way. Now it's time for the juicy details on what it's really like to walk the red carpet in Beverly Hills, to brush elbows and take selfies with stars, and to get the thrill of your life winning a prestigious award.
Thanks to Loren and LaRae Jones, for whom I used to dog-sit, I had a mileage ticket booked to and from Los Angeles, including my first (and possibly only ever) first-class leg, which provided more leg room than my legs would ever need. It started the trip off with an element of class that would run through much of the long weekend. Even driving a rented compact car felt classy compared to my 2000 Ford Focus. Driving in LA is always fairly terrifying, but I learned the ways of the city, its turns on yellow and million-lane freeways, fairly quickly.
I spent the first few days with an acquaintance I had met when she came to Juneau for Folk Fest three years ago, she and a friend had slept on my couches, so she wanted to return the favor. And with her nannying schedule, that left plenty of time for going for sunny walks around Los Feliz and Silver Lake or to have a leisurely breakfast in the mornings. Thursday and Friday were spent much like that, plus with a dinner date with some college friends. Anna accompanied me to the GLAAD pre-party on Friday, held at a prominent gay bar in Hollywood, The Abbey. My name was on the list. I got to meet GLAAD staffers and volunteers, and apparently there was a famous person there, but from a show I haven't watched — I'm not that good at pop culture, I guess.
It was on Saturday that it really hit me that this was all happening. It was time to prepare for a red carpet event with celebrities. I had figured out a dress and shoes and accessories, but hadn't steamed the dress and hanging it in the bathroom while showering wasn't as effective as I had imagined. I got my makeup done at the MAC counter in the Beverly Hills Macy's and then drove to the hotel I had booked for the night, just over a quarter of a mile from the Beverly Hilton, where the event would be held. A quarter of a mile is so convenient when you're wearing normal clothing and shoes, but it's terrible when you're running late for the red carpet, wearing an evening gown and heels, and it's a sweltering 80-something degrees. After hiking up my skirts and staring down cars on a vehicle-only street, I made it to the entrance of the Beverly Hilton, hair barely curled, face shining and dress still unsteamed.
"Are you ready for the red carpet?" I was asked.
After straightening my windblown hair and gown, and making sure my mascara wasn't running from my eyes watering (I don't know why my eyes were watering so much, maybe it was a side-effect of the fake eyelashes?), I admitted that I was nervous as hell, but I guess I could be ready.
Luckily for me, the red carpet was a little congested, so it was at least another 20 minutes before I would actually walk. A little behind starts like Laverne Cox and Omar Sharif. Walking the red carpet looks like it would be easy. Walk. Stand. Smile. But there are about two dozen photographers all trying to get your attention, telling you to turn this way, pose that way and look over there. I made it through that portion, and it looks like they got at least a few good photos out of me, but then it was time for interviews. I think most of the reporters wanted the big stars, but they humored me and got some comments. Questioned ranged from those about journalism to celebrity crushes and what I was wearing. Possibly the item I was most proud to be wearing was an octopus bag woven by Ricky Tagaban. After the red carpet, there was a brief respite, sort of.
The pre-party was poolside in the sunshine and there were gaggles of well-heeled people, media people and more. I sipped on a cocktail and found the first person who looked as uncomfortable as I felt and said hello. Then I wandered around, looking at the silent auction items that started at $5,000 or so dollars, like photographs of Marilyn Monroe. I sort of managed to have little chats with a few people, as out-of-place as I felt, it wasn't because people were unfriendly.
The awards ceremony started at 7 p.m. and I was seated with a decent view of the stage, a friendly group of table-mates, a GLAAD board member, Capt. Lana Moore, and GLAAD's Director of News, Ross Murray. The event had E! host Ross Matthews as the host, plus words from GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, Orphan Black cast members and more, and celebrities presenting awards and talking about the LGBT community in the media — I got to see Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong'o, people from the documentaries Bridegroom and Call Me Kuchu, model Carmen Carrera, actresses Ellen Page and Laverne Cox, Rita Moreno and Jennifer Lopez, plus Rickie from My So-called Life (real name Wilson Cruz). I got a selfie with Wilson at the after party. The cast from The Fosters was also there. A number of awards were announced that night, some on stage, but many of them in a film reel.
The lights dimmed for the film reel announcements and the giant screens in the ballroom were illuminated with projected images. The nominees would be listed, then it would cut to the winner. I saw the list of Outstanding Newspaper Article nominees, including the New York Times, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, San Antonio Express-News and, of course, the Juneau Empire. When it cut to the winner, there was my name, my newspaper, and a photo from Michael Penn. Wow. Perhaps I should have taken some clues along the way that I was a real contender, I was seated next to the news director, after all, but I was in complete shock when I saw my name up there. The award was then hand-delivered to me at my table. It was all a blur. Max Gouttebroze, whom I'd been emailing with for a couple months, directed me backstage where I got my photo taken again with my award. I finished out the awards ceremony in kind of a haze, snapping photos with my delightful table-mates and admitting that I wouldn't quite believe it until the next day, if even then.
Through the evening, I was so happy to spend time with Ross, Max and Nicholas Hass, another helpful and friendly GLAAD staffer, plus some of their partners, and any number of other wonderful people. I also chatted with fellow award winner Manny De Guerre, who received the International Advocate for Change award for founding Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia. Honestly, I can't properly keep track, a visit to GLAAD's blog post here (http://www.glaad.org/blog/laverne-cox-jennifer-lopez-norman-lear-fosters-bridegroom-call-me-kuchu-among-glaad-media-award) will give you all the information you could want on the who's who of the LA awards ceremony.
During the dance party, with celebrity DJ Tracy Young, I mostly chatted with people since my feet were hurting and I was still a bit worried about tripping over my dress. I made a couple other friends on my way out the door and was given a ride the quarter of a mile to my fancy hotel, where I slept quite soundly. When I awoke the morning of the 13th, lo and behold, I was in Beverly Hills still and there was a real — and heavy — award there. I guess it's real.
I had the one last full day to spend enjoying the Southern California sunshine, and it was dedicated to seeing more friends, with a brunch in Studio City and evening plans around Venice and Santa Monica. Perhaps the one great disappointment on the trip was when the 7 p.m. showing of Acro Cats was canceled — a real CATastrophe! Monday was a day dedicated to travel, plus taking in the remains of Folk Fest, and now I'm back at my desk at the Empire, trying to not get too distracted by all the kind words, plus cake and ice cream.
As promised, I'll soon have a full thank you, but there are so many people to thank, from those who participated, who helped make it happen to those who have supported me since — I'm taking my time so I don't miss anyone.