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2009 OUT Music Awards

Chaos and Confusion at 2009 OUT Music Awards
by Antoine Craigwell,

Chaotic, disorganized and confused were some of the adjectives used to describe the 2009 OUT Music Awards held at New York City’s Webster Hall on Tuesday, Dec 8. Billed as the 19th OUT Music Awards, an alliance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) recording artists and performers, the awards celebrated the accomplishments of many of the artists and musicians in the community. The list of sponsors included LOGO, MAC cosmetics, Grace Hotels, Peaceman Foundation, and GMAD.

While behind the scenes was a hive of activity, scores of volunteers, and assorted staff and assistants running about trying to pull the show together, the first inkling of the widespread disorganization manifested itself outside the Hall with an officious bouncer determining who could gain entry. On one occasion, when he recognized three people who had somehow forced their way to the front of what was a collapsed line, to the chagrin of those who stood in the cold night air waiting to be admitted; he, feigning familiarity with hugs and simulated kisses, brandished a slim sheaf of papers, on which was written names of people who were VIPs, pretended to look at the list and declared, to no one in particular, that the three people were on the list, then waved them to another gatekeeper who affixed different colored wristbands.

On entry, in the lobby, more confusion reigned: an obviously harried assistant perfunctorily waved media and VIPs to the right and others, a press of people around her, she struggled to determine who had what type of access. And, when asked about VIP passes, the assistant was only too willing to hand over a quantity of the green VIP wrist bands without checking that the person was actually a VIP. In a long slender room, up against a wall, was what appeared to be a hastily constructed step-and-repeat banner, a flimsy strip of red carpet and a cordon, behind which a motley gaggle of photographers strained to hear the name of whoever was announced by an equally harried assistant, their cameras clicking away at anyone who appeared in front of the banner.

Those who appeared on the “red carpet”, after their moment of photographic fame, were ushered into either a larger room or left to fend for themselves. In the larger room, a pre-show was underway, which featured a couple going through the motions of presenting awards. At one point, the duo announcing the award categories, the nominees, opening a large blue envelope, and the winners were shouting, unamplified, to be heard above the din; some time after were given working microphones.

Many of those who walked the “red carpet” were sensibly if tastefully and fashionably attired. Others appeared in various costumes as if, some two months later, the Halloween parade had finally made its way across town from 6th Avenue to 3rd Avenue. One person who had designed and made his costume, as he said, to look like a sea creature, looked more like the main character from the Hans Christian Andersen story of the Snow Queen. Another appeared in an all black skin fitting costume with creations of two other people attached to the central figure with limbs sprouting from every direction; and another, the artist known as Sir Ivan, wore a floor length multicolored cape attached to a body suit which seemed as if he was an incarnation of Liberace.

Before the awards began, an assistant came on stage and made three important announcements: she apologized to the VIPs in the balcony that one of the main sponsors had not come through with the liquor, which meant that they had no bar service. A couple who had given up on being VIPs even though they had paid an estimated $300 a person for their tickets, took up seats on the main floor, which had a bar, and proceeded to get as drunk as they could. The assistant also apologized to the crowd of people who were seated in the first three rows, asked them to give up their seats for the nominees, and informed everyone that the entire show was being filmed live for LOGO.

After a further wait, that seemed to go on forever, the show’s joint hosts, Rodney Chester from Noah’s Arc and Kate Clinton, political humorist, appeared on stage and were followed by performances by Christine Martucci, Toshi Reagon, and an assortment of hip hop performers, one of whom kept indicating to the audience that she wanted more adulation. At one point, there was obviously no coordination when Clinton and Chester were to appear on stage together; she appeared and began speaking, followed later by Chester who emerged from behind a curtain and tried unsuccessfully to laugh off his missed cue.

According to the program, there were 23 categories with an interminable list of 91 nominations. Kevin Aviance was presented with the OUT Music Lifetime Achievement Award, which was followed by other special awards, including Willie Ninja, the OUT Music Icon; Reagon the OUT Music Heritage; and Debra Harry, the OUT Music Pillar award. Dan Martin and Michael Biello, who received the OUT Music Visionary, said that the OUT Music awards began in their living room, and then it was about men singing to men and women singing to women.

One artist who came on stage with about 12 back-up dancers, while performing a number with “voging” undertones, was upstaged by two people – a middle-aged man wearing a fur jacket and a tall man in drag with an upswept blond wig and heels – from the audience who couldn’t contain their need to demonstrate that they knew how to “vogue” and felt the need to march up on to the stage. While their antics elicited hooting, hollering and cheering from the audience, there was no crowd control; the person who may or may not have been security, who grabbed the middle-aged man and pulled him down the stage stairs, was standing around with a drink in his hand.

Despite all this, there were a few bright spots in the evening, one of which featured, Nhojj, who performed his song “Love” and won the Outstanding R&B/Soul award over Kalup Linzy and Robert Anton.
“It’s validation from my community and it’s good to be back,” said Nhojj.

Performance artist, milDRED, who earlier in the year had received OUT Music’s Spirit Award in recognition of her 14 years of service, said, “I came to the awards to give my support because OUT Music supported me and my work.”

Jessie O, an R&B pop recording artist who was a 2006 nominee and who introduced and presented Nhojj with the award, said, “This is a fulfillment of a dream where I could be at a place where my talents and that of others support each other.”

But, the actual award, as described by its designer, 24-year-old Emmanuel Perez, was inspired by his own recent coming out to his parents and family, and since he had not been exposed to the gay world, for him it was exciting and energetic. The CEO of OUT Music, he said, approached him and James Meade, the accomplished architect and photographer, with an idea for a campaign for LGBT artists called “Freedom of Expression”, and from this collaboration, a relationship developed. The entire process, from design to mock-ups, took between two to three weeks and was done as a contribution to the awards program, he added.
“I created a disco ball base for the top and a classy microphone as the award and I’m really proud of it,” Perez said.

There were three after parties, one for men, one for women, and another for extra special VIPs at the Grace Hotel. Yet, at the end, even though reactions were mixed, some enjoyed the evening: it was what they expected and more; to others, it signaled an organizational meltdown and leaves questions about the 20th anniversary.

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January 31, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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