Last night's Brandon Tartikoff Legacy awards took place at the Fontainebleau's Glimmer Ballroom, one of the hotel's larger venues, with a bar placed strategically outside the ceremony so attendees could sneak out and fortify themselves mid-speech.
The Tartikoff Awards at NATPE are the biggest event on the official conference schedule; folks may or may not get to go to the various network parties, but the Tartikoffs are open to all attendees, and they are actually not boring. Let's be honest: there are a lot of awards ceremonies out there trying embarrassingly to be the Oscars, but the Tartikoffs are not among them. They tend to go to the people behind the scenes, and those people tend to have had interesting lives and interesting friends who introduce them.
Dick Ebersol's econium for his friend and former colleague Dennis Swanson was particularly heartfelt; Swanson's professional career has included the discovery of Oprah Winfrey, revolutionary changes at ABC Sports that affected the way the Olympics, baseball, and football are played, and exec jobs leading to his current post as prexy of station operations at Fox TV Stations.
For Ebersol personally, though, Swanson's most important contribution was emotional: When Ebersol and his son Teddy were involved in a plane crash that killed the son and badly injured the father, it was Swanson who sat by his side. "The person who came to the receiving line (for Teddy) when I was doped up to the gills and made sure nobody hurt me or grabbed me the wrong way was Dennis," Ebersol said hoarsely.
"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner was also among the honorees, and was also the recipient of easily the best video tribute, created by friends and colleagues from "Mad Men" and featuring some great deadpan from Jon Hamm. "You know what, Matt? You can take all of your Emmys and awards put them on top of your head," he said, then pointed to his own face. "It's never gonna be this."
Weiner was also moved. "I can't believe people took all that trouble. On my set. Without my knowledge," he said. Weiner told the aud that he'd been forbidden to watch weeknight television because of his grades as a kid, but "Thank God that my grades were eventually good enough that I was able to go to college and spend four years watching TV."
"If you get good grades, and you do all your homework – and I want to see it," he told the aud, "you can come downstairs at ten o'clock and watch the show."
Other highlights included Simon Cowell's video intro for FreeMantle Media North America topper Cecile Frot-Coutaz, in which he described the soft-spoken, diminutive executive as "what would happen if you merge a kitten and a shark, and they have a baby. She's kind of cute, but she bites you;" and the introduction of RCN exec and "Ugly Betty" creator Fernando Gaitán as "a tiger, not because he's fierce, but because he makes love every 20 minutes."