Celebrating diversity in H’wood

Glitzy opening gives way to serious and sentimental

The ninth annual Diversity Awards kicked off rather flamboyantly when a flock of can-can dancers from Club Rio left the stage looking like, as co-host Bob Goen put it, a “multicultural ostrich exploded.”

The black-tie event at the new Hollywood and Highland ballroom Nov. 17 doubled as a benefit for the Multicultural Motion Picture Assn.’s Educational and Development Scholarship Fund. Despite the glitzy opening, the evening was a serious and sentimental matter for most celebs.

Honoree Cuba Gooding Jr. said he was disturbed by images of anti-American sentiment overseas: “If they only knew we were one melting pot of love.”

Other recipients lauded were Kasi Lemmons, Ving Rhames, Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin, the cast of “Survivor 2,” Vin Diesel and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who reminded guests that the need for diversity didn’t only apply to people of color: “(My first agent) said I didn’t dress well and I was overweight. Guess it doesn’t only happen to women.”

Showtime was named the most diverse television network for programs such as “Soul Food,” “Resurrection Blvd.” and “Queer as Folk.” The evening, which ran a little long, ended with Kris Kristofferson thanking the MMPA for his Lifetime Achievement Award and giving “affirmation for things that usually bring condemnation on my head.”

Among those in the aud were co-chairs Peter Roth and Alan Horn; plus guests Jerry Offsay,Gary Levine, Jarvee Hutcherson, David Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Michael DeLorenzo, Angie Everhart, Robert Forster, Vondie Curtis Hall, Michael Horse, Diane Ladd, Mandy Moore, Dustin Nguyen and Elizabeth Pena.