What differentiated Friday's eighth annual Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Respect Awards from most fundraising dinners was the level of enthusiasm. It’s been a long time since anything in the Beverly Hills Hotel’s ballroom got that many standing ovations.
The element that really rocked the crowd -- which included Fox Filmed Entertainment's Jim Gianopulos, Disney/ABC's Anne Sweeney, CBS Film's Terry Press, film producer and event co-chair Donald De Line and HBO's Michael Lombardo -- was the LGBT teenage students who spoke movingly about the organization's assistance in combating harassment. Board member, evening co-chair and DreamWorks Studios head of publicity Chip Sullivan said, "these kids are on the frontline when it comes to bullying." As an example, when North Dakota teenager Jeremy Brown described himself as an "out, proud, kick-ass gay kid," he brought the house down.
"Coming to terms with my sexuality was difficult," said Luis Veloz, who was Student Advocate of the Year, "but it was made easier by the people I was with."
Among the speakers/presenters at the dinner -- which honors companies and individuals who have made a difference in areas of diversity and inclusion and promoting safe schools – were actors Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, Amy Adams and producer Brett Ratner, who spoke about GLSEN's Think Before You Speak ad campaign and alluded to his problems last year with the Oscars joking “this is a lesson I’ve learned myself.” Ratner spearheaded a contest to select a winning PSA submission.
True Blood's Joe Manganiello made the Inspiration Award presentation to Slate PR executive Simon Halls and his partner White Collar's Matt Bomer, who spoke of being a gay adolescent in a small Texas town where he "did what any self-protective 14 year-old would do: sign up for the school play and the football team -- to cover my tracks."
Marilyn Katzenberg and husband Jeffrey, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, received the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Bob and Harvey Weinstein were presented with the Chairman's Award. (Only Bob was able to attend. Their mother in New York is ailing and Harvey stayed behind.)
At the reception, Jeffrey Katzenberg mentioned the Weinstein's film 2011 Bully, about bullying in schools, and said, "when they do something they go at it 110 percent. That film did more to put the topic in the national conversation than anything else."
When the dinner ended, Bob Weinstein chatted and though he said he "wasn't used to being the one quoted" he spoke about Bully and said "there's always a film on our slate that has nothing to do with being commercial but is about passion and the message. And that’s the truth."
The night raised a record-breaking $1 million for the national education organization. Other co-chairs of the event were Entertainment Tonight executive producer Linda Bell Blue, Fandango's Dave Karger, interior designer David Phoenix and film producer Bonnie Curtis.