The inspirational football drama "Remember the Titans" and the urban hospital TV drama "City of Angels," canceled by CBS late last year because of poor ratings, were key winners Saturday at the 32nd annual NAACP Image Awards.
A non-show-business figure, however, stole the spotlight at the glitzy Hollywood event honoring the best in black entertainment. Former President Bill Clinton was given the President's Award by NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume for his leadership on race issues and affirmative action.
Clinton, who is embroiled in controversy over his presidential pardons, received several warm ovations from the predominantly African American audience at Universal Amphitheater. Neither Clinton's acceptance speech nor Mfume's remarks included any reference to the uproar. The former president also engaged in impromptu joking with host Chris Tucker.
The ceremony's other emotional highlight came during the presentation of the Hall of Fame Award to Sidney Poitier. The veteran actor--the only African American to win an Academy Award for best actor--was visibly moved during the tribute, which included a medley of theme songs from his films performed by James Ingram, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Lou Rawls and a church choir. Andre Braugher, Michael Clarke Duncan, Morgan Freeman and Sean Patrick Thomas read excerpts from Poitier's autobiographies.
"Remember the Titans" was named outstanding motion picture; Denzel Washington won for outstanding actor in a motion picture. Sanaa Lathan walked off with a statuette for outstanding film actress for "Love & Basketball."
"City of Angels" beat ABC's "The Practice" and "Gideon's Crossing," Lifetime's "Any Day Now" and Showtime's "Soul Food" for the drama series award. The series underwent several creative and cast changes last year in its efforts to attract viewers. Although it drew a loyal black following, it never caught on with a broader audience.
In his acceptance speech, "City of Angels" co-creator Steven Bochco called the series a labor of love, and gave credit to the multiethnic cast and crew. He noted in ironic tones that the show had improved in its second season and was hitting its stride with a new cast and new executive producer Kevin Hooks.
"The show CBS canceled was better than the show CBS renewed," Bochco said, thanking the NAACP for its support of the series.
The series walked away with two other TV drama awards, for outstanding actor--Blair Underwood--and outstanding supporting actor--Ossie Davis. Della Reese won for outstanding actress in a drama for "Touched by an Angel."
"The Steve Harvey Show" was the big comedy winner, as the WB series scored honors for best comedy series, actor Steve Harvey, supporting actor Cedric the Entertainer and supporting actress Terri J. Vaughn. Mo'Nique won for outstanding comedy actress for "The Parkers."
Harvey was also honored as entertainer of the year.
In the TV movie, miniseries or dramatic special race, "Sally Hemings: An American Scandal" beat out the Emmy Award-winning HBO miniseries "The Corner." Natalie Cole won the actress nod for playing herself in "Living for Love: The Natalie Cole Story," while Danny Glover was named outstanding actor for "Freedom Song."
Singer Yolanda Adams was the major winner in the music division: outstanding gospel artist; performance in a variety series or special ("The Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards"); female artist; and as a co-writer on the best song, "Open My Heart."
Fox will air an edited version of the ceremony March 9.