Cho takes Golden Gate Award, Levinson named Davidson/Valentini Award winner

SAN FRANCISCO — It took a decade, but the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation finally staged a Media Awards program where you’d most expect it: in the “Gay Mecca” itself. Selling out its Argent Hotel venue at up to $375 a ticket, last Saturday’s first S.F. GLAAD fete sported a regional focus by doling out nods to digital as well as traditional media — reflecting the city’s (and nearby Silicon Valley’s) starring role in the “dot-com” revolution.

High-gloss event boasted more celebrity presenters than in-person award recipients, but the eager local turnout suggested more such GLAAD galas as a future Bay Area certainty. (They’ll join annual events already produced in L.A., N.Y. and D.C.)

Top honorees were comedian Margaret Cho (star of stage and forthcoming big-screen “I’m the One That I Want,” as well as defunct network sitcom “All-American Girl”) and Kathy Levinson, the just-retired CEO of major Internet player E*Trade. Latter Davidson/Valentini Award winner, whose activist endeavors recently included being a primary fundraiser for the No on Knight Campaign (opposing California’s Prop. 22, which limits legal recognition of marriage to heterosexuals), brought her two young daughters onstage as proof that the “nuclear family” comes in many forms.

Native San Franciscan Cho, accepting her trophy from comic Scott Capurro — a fellow traveler on the gay comedy circuit when they were both launching careers — gushed, “This is the highest honor I could receive.” Her Golden Gate Award honors “a pioneer (who) has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Other winners announced in various media were folk-rockers the Indigo Girls (Music Album), Abstract Studio’s “Stranger in Paradise” (Outstanding Comic Book), lesbian magazine Curve (Print Media), African-American gay website The Blackstripe (Digital Media), online mag Salon.com (Digital Journalism Article), ABCNews.com and WiredNews.com (tying for Digital Journalism Overall Coverage).

Presenters at the event included showbiz veteran Rita Moreno; Wallace Langham of “Veronica’s Closet”; S.F. mayor Willie Brown; and two “Star Trek”-ers, the original series’ “Mr. Sulu” George Takei joined by Jeri Ryan, “Next Generation’s” ambiguously sexy “7 of 9.” Pop folkie Jill Sobule (“I Kissed a Girl”) performed between presentations.

This last of GLAAD’s four 11th Annual Media Awards ceremonies added the above recipients to a 2000 roster toplined by Elton John, Anne Heche, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlo Thomas, each honored for their service in promoting diversity, tolerance, positive gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender media portrayals, and combating homophobia. On last note, the evening’s most-mentioned if absent “name” was Dr. Laura Schlesinger, whose comments on “deviant” lifestyles have drawn GLAAD-driven protest of her upcoming Paramount chat series. Her eventual ratings are anyone’s guess, but as a butt for jokes, Dr. Laura’s current popularity could not be improved.

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