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At the Webbys, 'You Could Be Famous, or You Could Be Quirky'

May 16, 2000|BOOTH MOORE

SAN FRANCISCO — With his red Jean-Paul Gaultier shirt untucked, a dozen spiky short ponytails sticking out from his head, Alan Cumming was the perfect host for last week's quirky Webby Awards at the Masonic Auditorium here.

The Tony award-winning Scottish actor, who is in "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," began by illustrating the five-word speech limit for winners.

"This," he said, "is the Webby way of giving acceptance speeches: 'I have never been so . . .' " Or, "Miramax, Miramax, Harvey, Bob, Miramax."

That done, there was a final rule that Cumming imparted: "If you are sitting next to your brother and you win, please don't kiss him on the mouth because it will creep us all out!"

Cumming's affection for the tech age was relayed in song, to the tune of "My Favorite Things":

"Lime-colored iMacs and jokes on my e-mail. Lonely young men who pretend to be female. Rising stock options and wild Nasdaq swings. These are a few of my Internet things. . . .

"You could be famous, or you could be quirky, like the guy in a Speedo playing ping-pong in Turkey. He's not a man, he's an Internet king! These are a few of my Internet things. . . ."

*

And speaking of Turkish cyber-stud Mahir Cagri, the first bona-fide Internet celebrity did attend the Webbys, presenting the award for best personal Web site.

As soon as Cagri took the stage, the crowd went wild. Roses fell at his feet, girls swooned. His speech was . . . well, unintelligible. But who needs words, really? I recognized one, "love," and that's enough, right?

*

At the end of a lovely afternoon of traipsing around the city, I unwittingly became ensnarled in this town's own brand of ethnic tension. It happened after I hailed a cab in North Beach to return to my downtown hotel.

From the moment he veered across the street to pick me up, my Bulgarian driver was cursing and jerking the steering wheel. A second cab pulled up on our right and my driver shouted out the window, "Darn Chinese!" which sent the other driver (who appeared to be Chinese) lurching forward in his car to block us.

He screeched to a halt in the middle of the street, got out and approached our taxi, shouting, "What did you say? What did you say? You talk like that about the Chinese in this town, you get killed!"

Neither of them even seemed to realize I was still sitting in the back seat. I thought about getting out, but it was late and the streets were deserted.

The offended driver got back into his cab, and the two taxis started racing, with my driver on the wrong side of the road at one point. Just as it seemed we would hit oncoming traffic, my cab stopped short.

"I'm not racist," he said, "but everyone talks about them. . . . I'm going to find that guy . . . at the airport. He's not going to get away with this!"

"With what exactly?" I asked, picturing myself on the witness stand in his murder trial.

"He was driving in two lanes!" the driver said emphatically.

And that was worth almost dying for? Suddenly, I was looking forward to getting home. At least in L.A., my road rage would be my own.

*

Booth Moore can be reached at booth.moore@latimes.com.

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