The OutMusic Awards Were A Big Gay Mess!
The OutMusic Awards, filmed for TV a few months ago, was such a wackily organized night of miscommunication that the "out" in OutMusic might just stand for completely "out to lunch."
Mind you, I can totally appreciate the hard work and good intentions that went into preparing such a noble artistic pursuit. It's just that, as a participant, the experience sucked harder than a toothless gay hooker desperate for pocket change. And yet I'd gladly do it again!
Let's start at the very beginning: A producer booked me as a presenter many weeks before the scheduled ceremony, but after that, all communication was strangely cut off and I started sensing that this could be the biggest LGBT disaster since the hets moved into Chelsea. No one seemed to be in charge, with not a single e-mail forthcoming about where to go and when, and what I'd even be doing there. This to-do—which they said would be televised on Logo—was clearly going to let things fly as if it were just some drunken drag show in daddy's gay garage.
I prodded the organizers for updates and got an encouraging e-mail suggesting that information would be coming, but they stayed as silent as a Republican in a bathroom stall. Finally, I got a message the day before the event saying the stage show was at Webster Hall and would start at 6 p.m. (I was dubious, so I e-mailed back and got that start time confirmed.) "Your lines are below," the e-mail added, followed by nothing but blank space!
I figured I could just ad-lib something, but more annoying was the fact that the show really started at 8. The club didn't even let people in till 6:40, at which point I barreled in and went downstairs, where the pre-awards were about to be given out. Alas, once they started, you couldn't hear anything since there was no microphone hooked in! God obviously does hate the gays. The Producer of the Year had to scream her thank-yous into the air as we strained to read her lips over the nattering of the crowd. Halfway through, someone finally slipped the hosts some equipment, but by then, the momentum was shot and a lot of people were moving upstairs for the real awards as if to slaughter.
In the balcony, sure enough, there was even more chaos. Rather than hand out a printed set list, the folks in charge told the presenters and performers to locate someone named "Evelyn" (I've changed the name) for instructions. The result was the equivalent of a blank e-mail. After 10 minutes of searching the balcony's recesses, I found Evelyn in a dark corner, where she was telling a mass of people to line up and announce themselves to some guy sitting there with a script, and then he'd provide them with their appearance info. Thirty minutes later, I finally got to the man, who blithely flipped through his pages and said my name wasn't there at all! I was horrified, but felt a little better when I learned I wasn't alone in being eradicated by the gay peers I was supposedly doing a favor for. I heard performers griping that they'd actually flown themselves in for this event and their names weren't in the script, either! Does this happen at the Grammys? ("Sorry, Beyoncé. But there are some nice pubs in the area you can always enjoy.")
By now, Evelyn was elsewhere and wasn't answering her cell, so I cornered the nearest techie and begged her for help. She barked some urgent words into headphones, yelled, "This is chaos!" and simply walked away. I miraculously managed to track Evelyn down backstage, where a P.A. was screaming at her, "If you ask a question, you'd better listen to the answer! Don't talk to me again!" He stormed off, which at least left Evelyn to focus her attention on me for a gay minute. After listening to my woeful tale, she said, "I know you're in the script. I put it there!" But after flipping through every page, she couldn't find my name any more than the unnerving gentleman upstairs could. Rather than scream, "Don't talk to me again," I urged, "Well, could you try to add me? And please put me toward the top of the show so I can move on." (By now, it was 9 p.m., by the way.)
It was decided that I could present the very first award since the woman who was set to do that couldn't be found. But just as I was about to go onstage, she showed up, so now I was told I could give the second award. But then those people materialized, so they decided I could just present something called "the Heritage Award of 2009" to Toshi Reagon, a lesbian singer who was certainly available, having just performed.
All they told me was, "Just say, 'The Heritage Award of 2009 goes to Toshi Reagon!" There was no time to tell me who she is, why she was getting the honor, or any other mildly relevant info. I guess it was just something for me to do so I'd shut up and leave. Still, by this point, I actually liked the idea of giving a special award, because for the competitive ones, the lists of nominees that presenters were supposed to read off the large screen behind them wasn't materializing! You just saw a big OutMusic logo and it wouldn't budge, as the poor presenters found themselves squirming and looking down in humiliation. I could handle just saying, "The Heritage Award goes to Toshi Reagon" without prompters or screens—and there was even a mic plugged in!
So I did my thing, and even added some humor ("Things are running smoothly, aren't they?"), then I promptly ran to the exit to escape the scene of the crime. "Thank you for lightening the mood," said the guy who'd been screaming at Evelyn, as I darted out before he could change his tone and start chewing me out.
I hear that, later, singers Adam Barta and Brian Kent were all ready for their presenting moment, but they had nothing in their hands to do it with until they were finally granted a black envelope. Two production assistants were arguing about what these presenters should say, ultimately deciding, "Go out and just read the name of the winner. There will be no nominee list." So Barta and Kent went out, opened the envelope, and it simply said, "The Out Music Awards. Logo. Keep Bringin' Sexy Back Award." That was it—no winner, just the name of the award! Eventually, the hosts came back out and said they'd already announced the winner before! Embarrassing!
After that, I hear, a few acts were bumped because the show was running overtime, and some kind of fight even broke out onstage to break up the monotony. None of this made it to the final cut. In fact, all Logo aired from the whole night, wisely enough, were quick clips on its music show, often right before cutting to a commercial. A couple of performers got a tiny bit of exposure out of that, but I got gay bupkes. I guess my panicked recitation of "The Heritage Award goes to blah, blah" was not deemed an electrifyingly airable sound bite that would change the face of minority culture.
Still, while I know the gays deserve better, I'm perversely enough half-beaming with optimism. It's very likely the awards will be more professionally organized next time—they couldn't be less organized—and who knows? I might even win the Heritage Award for 2010! Start lining up in the balcony!
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.