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LACHER / OUT & ABOUT

Record Turnout Leaves Everyone Feeling GLAAD

April 21, 1999|IRENE LACHER

"I'm always surprised at who I see here at these GLAAD things," Roseanne told the crowd coyly. Roseanne was being her usual tart-tongued self, alluding to the don't-ask, do-attend fact of L.A. life--heaven knows, you might be declaring your sexual colors if you're spotted at an event hosted by the gay and lesbian community.

But there was another twist to the list at the 10th annual Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation media awards in L.A. (one of three held around the country): Saturday's bash was the largest GLAAD turnout here yet, with 1,700 supporters celebrating at the Century Plaza Hotel, among them such mainstream media powerhouses as Sharon Stone, Tom Hanks and honoree Whoopi Goldberg. Press from about 110 outlets recorded the event, which raised $800,000.

The sheer mass and might of the benefit illustrated how far things have come since GLAAD began recognizing heroes of film, TV and publishing for putting a human face on gay people in the images they project.

"It's had a tremendous effect because it's so aboveboard, it's so mainstream," said activist, comedy writer and "Hollywood Square" Bruce Vilanch. "The biggest names in the business come and pay obeisance to the idea of fair portrayals in the media. The press coverage is staggering now. People can't help but notice."

And there's safety in numbers. Assemblywoman Sheila James Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) said she was thrilled by the turnout. "It's a lot safer for gay and lesbian people in the industry to show up at an event because it's so much more acceptable to be here."

GLAAD honored Goldberg, who's played several lesbian roles in film, and new moms Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher, citing the couple as exemplars of "family values." "Gods and Monsters" was hailed as an outstanding film in wide release; "Rufus Wainwright" was deemed the outstanding music album; and "The Last Session" was named the outstanding L.A. theater production. The TV winners were "Will & Grace," for comedy series; "Chicago Hope," for drama series; and "Tracey Takes On Religion," for individual episode.

What's it all for? So that young gay people, like the 24-year-old Wainwright, can afford to be charmingly clueless about GLAAD's mission.

"I want to thank GLAAD for doing so much of the work I wasn't aware they did," he said, accepting his award. "I thank you for paving the way for me. I will not do wrong. I'll be the greatest gay person ever."

*

The real guest of honor at Sunday's Hunger Project benefit at the Beverly Hills Hotel wasn't there. But the late Raul Julia came alive in his friends' recollections while they carried on his battle to blunt world hunger.

"Chicago Hope's" Hector Elizondo talked about their first meeting in 1971. "[Julia] said, 'I want to meet you. You're an inspiration.' I said, 'You've got the wrong guy.' He said, 'No, because you're a Latino, we have to do something.' I said, 'You mean in the theater?' 'No, for mankind.' Now there was an idea that hadn't crossed my mind."

Julia clearly rounded up many takers, judging from the friends who turned out for the Raul Julia Ending Hunger Fund benefit, among them Edward James Olmos, Valerie Harper, Jeff Bridges, William Hurt, Anjelica Huston and Andy Garcia, who surprised the crowd by playing a piano piece he said was inspired by Julia.

Susan Sarandon, another longtime friend of Julia's, was presented with the first Raul Julia Global Citizen Award for her political activism. She talked about his huge appetite for life. "When we were having dinner, he would get up to thank the waiters and the cooks and sing and dance, sometimes on tabletops. Now, in Greece this worked really well. In the Hamptons, the second time we worked together, it was a little unusual."

Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2. She can be reached by e-mail at socalliving@latimes.com.

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