Monday, June 14, 2004

press play

the l.a. press club awards were on saturday, and i attended with fellow citybeat nominee cole. we both won! he for his "viva la nitro" cover story about a chicano funny-car-racing legend and his family legacy, and i for my eddie izzard cover story. we received groovy personalized plaques and lovely parting gifts ... not to mention much self-satisfaction and praise from others. and gary leonard took our pictures, so it was pretty much a gas.

the scene was definitely wiggins-inducing -- a roomful of (gasp!) journalists. i don't think i have ever seen so many in one place at a time. they were mostly dressed in black (like me), but a few colorful ones stood out, especially patt morrison of the l.a. times, resplendent in sparkly pink frock and chapeau. she talked tougher than she looked ... more like she writes. and i got to see what jill stewart looks like. among others.

anyway, i, who had been expecting to go alone, was happy to have a compatriot who was as curious/apprehensive as i was. the awards were at the swanky st. regis hotel in century city. cole drove, and we parked in the nearby parking garage, b/c ... valet park? not. we wandered along the sidewalk and into the hotel, to the taupe-ishly peach special-events area, procured glasses of coppola merlot, and began to feel more relaxed. there was music from a grand pianist. then, when we saw gary leonard in the lobby outside the ballroom, i felt even better.

we found my story displayed among some others on easels outside the ballroom. after much fussing with his absurdly complicated photo-machine, cole took my picture next to it. it came out good and is actually one of the few recent photos of me that i like. another triumph for mssr. coonce.

finally the dinner began, with everyone finding their tables and their overly complicated, yet pretentiously simple, tomato salads with champagne vinaigrette. the tomatoes were pretty good, at least tasting like tomatoes (no mean feat in this day and age), but the whole "salad in a vase" concept of arranging the greens inside a hollowed-out roma (? perhaps) was just too fussy. (i guess the hotel had to justify charging the $125-a-plate-for-press-club-members somehow ...) it felt like a specimen for dissecting or something -- i couldn't even eat that part.

the first half of the program took a little more than an hour. most of it was given over to the daniel pearl award winners, a tribute to late l.a. times editor frank del olmo -- more involved and somber stuff like that. the del olmo part was educational and poignant. daniel pearl's parents spoke, as did his widow, and that was interesting too. it made me think about the risk-taking aspects of journalism and how these people do put themselves on the line to be witnesses. there was a segment honoring journalists who'd been killed last year, and there were a lot. but i did think, having looked at all the hard-news stories and photos (especially those by carolyn cole, whose stuff was amazing) on display, that they didn't die for nothing. the story will keep getting told.

cnn's jeff greenfield, who won the president's award, was amusing and had some good points, but i found his need to defend corporate-owned media, coupled with his doing so by disparaging small-town newspapers, somewhat toady and more than a bit distasteful. (i also didn't enjoy the bush impersonator who was hauled out at one point for comic relief, or something -- largely b/c he was horribly unfunny, but also b/c it just seemed so fucking, i dunno, "... and now for the liberal-media moment" or something. plus it just felt out of place. better they should've had someone up there making fun of journos, no? or can we not laugh at ourselves?)

there was a whirlwind dinner: some sort of reasonably tasty, meaty white fish, atop a bed of maybe brown rice with herbs and nuts and things, and steamed vegetables. coffee, and for dessert a truly evil (as in amazing) chocolate pastry. it seemed things were way behind schedule, so the presenters had to really hustle people through. as cole and i were sitting in the back (table 38, if you please), we barely made it to the stage before they were on to the next award. gary leonard snapped the shutter, and we were back to siberia. i was happy to win, and happy for citybeat to make its mark despite being such a fledgling institution. but when i got back to the table my heart was pounding, and i realized i had been terrified up there. (and again i was grateful for gary's friendly presence.)

it was all over about 10 minutes later. table 38 was also mercifully near the exit, and so we collected our gift bags and fled back outside to collapse on a couch near the valet comings-and-goings, frantically making cellphone calls to all the people waiting to hear the news.

hmmm. another thing that turned out not as bad as i expected. (which frankly makes me nervous.) i did a lot of agonizing over whether to attend or not. i'm glad i went, although going with cole definitely made it more fun. it was exciting to be recognized for my writing, which has never happened before in such a manner. and it was cool that both of our paper's nominees won ... not to mention that one of them was me, and one was a writer i hired. the british have a word, "chuffed," and that's how i feel right now. which means i'm due to fuck something up any minute now ...

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