'Giant leap for queer kind,' Gutwillig sez

Billing itself as “the largest film festival in Southern California,” Outfest 2001: The 19th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival launched Thursday at the Orpheum Theater, the newly refurbished 1926 gem on downtown’s South Broadway.

The gala opening was “a giant leap for queer kind” in the words of exec director Stephen Gutwillig, who called opening-night preem “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” “the best glam rock, botched sex-change musical that’s come along in ages.”

Fine Line marketing exec veep Marian Koltai-Levine said showing “Hedwig” at the fest was “a perfect marriage of a transgender musical with a multigender audience.” Director-star John Cameron Mitchell said, in terms of fan base — whether straight or gay — “We skim the freaks out of any demographic.”

Before pic unspooled, Camryn Manheim presented “Hedwig” producer Christine Vachon (“Crime and Punishment in Suburbia,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” “I’m Losing You,”) with the annual Outfest Achievement award.

Manheim got a big laugh when she told the crowd: “I always said Christine make the best films you only want to see once,” then recalled Marilyn Manson telling her he’d seen Vachon’s “Happiness” 37 times.

Among those seeing “Hedwig” once were Fine Line’s Steven Friedlander, plus guests Selma Blair, Jeff Burkhart, Kathy Griffin, Dan Jinks, Natasha Lyonne, Meatloaf, Giovanni Ribisi, Ione Skye, Jennifer Tilly, Ron Yerxa and Daphne Zuniga.

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