Publicists throw H'wood praise-a-thon

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Career kudos, bawdy jokes and Bob Barker were among the highlights of the ICG Publicists' annual awards luncheon Wednesday as "Borat" and "Ugly Betty" grabbed film and TV campaign honors, respectively.

George Lucas presented publicist-turned-producer Sid Ganis with a lifetime achievement award at the Beverly Hilton event.

"It's testament to his skills that ('The Empire Strikes Back') is considered the best 'Star Wars' film, even though it was the worst," Lucas joshed.

"The only reason I am standing here is what I learned, mimicked and copied from my mentors and my bosses," said Ganis, who added that his current role as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a "PR gig if ever there was one."

The union publicists bestowed on Barker the ICG President's Award, with ICG IATSE Local 600 topper and cinematographer Steven Poster introducing the iconic game show host.

"I don't usually get that much applause without giving away a refrigerator," said Barker, who is set to retire as host of the long-running "The Price Is Right."

A well-known animal rights activist, Barker couldn't resist adding his usual reminder, "Help protect the pets population and have our pets spayed and neutered."

Luncheon emcee Jimmy Kimmel had some repeated fun echoing that line and also riffed on the professional lot of Hollywood publicists. He noted how publicists recently helped smooth over ABC's image woes over a homophobic gaffe by a "Grey's Anatomy" cast member.

"They acknowledged it, they apologized, (and) they got him checked into gay-A," Kimmel deadpanned. "And now it's like it never happened."

The publicity team for Fox's "Borat" was honored for its campaign on behalf of Sacha Baron Cohen's highly un-PC comedy. Stunts to promote the film included Cohen's prancing around Cannes in a green leotard and a faux Kazakh parade down Hollywood Boulevard.

"Pushing the envelope has really been the edict, and it was fun doing it," said Fox's Breena Camden, who accepted the team award along with colleague Hilary Clark.

Union publicists at Touchstone Television were honored with the campaign award for ABC's "Ugly Betty," with Ellen Gonzalez and Jaime Fischer Factor accepting.

Other kudos went to Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman-CEO Michael Lynton, who with co-chair Amy Pascal accepted the Motion Picture Showmanship Award from Will Ferrell.

"I hope I don't throw up," Ferrell said, explaining that the excitement of the event was getting to him.

Lynton said, "We actually consider it a good day when we don't see our names in the paper."

Pascal noted, "I'm married to a journalist, so I know how hard your job is." Her husband is former New York Times reporter Bernard Weinraub.

CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler accepted the Television Showmanship award from Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Tassler thanked several mentors including "a man who occasionally gets some ink, Mr. Leslie Moonves."

Rogers & Cowan executive vp Alan Nierob, who handles publicity for Mel Gibson and other celebs, was honored with the Les Mason Award, given annually to an ICG member for professional excellence.

Bonnie Tiegel of "Entertainment Tonight" was honored for journalism excellence, and U.K. journo Mike Goodridge got the international media award. Zade Rosenthal was lauded for his unit still photography.
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