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NEW YORK “Fifteen years ago, when we called and told people they’d won [a Glaad Media Award], they didn’t know who we were, and when they found out, they’d say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” says Julie Anderson, the senior director of development and finance at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (Glaad). “Now the award is heavily sought-after.”
Now in their 18th year, the Glaad Media Awards (which recognize mainstream media for “fair, accurate, and inclusive representation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives”) have come a long way from when the organization held one event in New York for an audience of 200 people and a single sponsor, Absolut Vodka. The March 26 New York festivities alone welcomed 1,600 guests, high-wattage stars, and a roster of big-name sponsors including IBM, Time Warner, American Airlines, Bud Light, Hilton Hotels, Motorola, and Starbucks Coffee Company. (Glaad now holds ceremonies in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami as well.) The show will also air on Logo for the third year, on April 21.
The event’s ever-rising profile, along with the television broadcast, has resulted in an increasingly sophisticated visual display on stage. “Technically, we have to be TV-ready, with audio, lighting, and more cameras,” says Marc McCarthy, the organization’s senior director of communications. “We’re turning a theatrical production into a television production.”
Brian Brooks, president of MB Productions, the video staging partner of the awards for the past eight years, remembers when a single plasma screen graced the stage. The addition of a 9- by 12-foot rear-projection screen, portrait plasma screens, side screens, and the mixing of live video and animation enables a “much more sophisticated look of the show,” Brooks says.
The use of several screens to display multiple images and media (live shots, pre-taped items, logos, and animations), in addition to well-placed lighting effects, gave the nonprofit’s marquee event—and primary fund-raiser—a ready-for-prime-time look. “You can do a lot with video and lighting,” Brooks says. “It’s actually simple, but it’s warm and inviting.”
Photos: Courtesy of Mark Von Holden/WireImage (Hudson and LaBelle), MB Productions (stage, Hilary Duff), BizBash (Heatherette, after-party)