Relief, hope in air at WGA East show

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NEW YORK -- A sense of relief and hope was in the air as the WGA East put on its annual award show in midtown Manhattan Saturday night, but the day's tentative strike settlement was the subject of various comments and punchlines.

WGA East president Michael Winship kicked off the night at the Hudson Theatre saying to great cheers that he is "hopeful" that the union is "on the cusp of a revolutionary deal for all of us."

He also lauded the "new incredible solidarity" of writers that he urged union member not to squander.

Winship launched the night's punchline fest when he recited famous quotes from Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher before pinpointing his single most important quote of the strike: "We have a binding agreement with World Wide Pants."

Walter Bernstein, who won the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for contributions that have brought honor and dignity to writers, echoed Winship's political sentiment in accepting his award. He lauded the level of "pride and solidarity (of recent months) that I've never seen in all the years I've been in the guild."

Bernstein also quipped: "If I have brought honor and respect to writers, I apologize (since it's the last thing they need). What they need is money."

Host and strike captain Seth Meyers received from Winship a special Strike Time Achievement Award. He also set the tone for an evening of fun -- strike-related and otherwise -- when he quipped to his fellow strikers: "I can't begin to express how sick and tired I am of all of you."

He went on to say he was nervous about hosting at first.

"But none of you are producers and can't affect my career," he added to wild applause.
Meyers also promised a short awards presentation before joking that it will really only end when Hollywood bosses "decide it makes financial sense."

Meyers also shared with the audience advice from the WGA that writers should not let down their guard now. "At 10 p.m., striking will resume and go on forever," he quipped.

Richard Belzer presented some awards and turned political again. "We are symbolic of the labor movement," he said, arguing that since the Reagan administration unions have been under pressure. "We will not be crushed," Belzer promised to many cheers.

During the awards presentation, Rachel Dratch made a well-received special appearance Saturday night as Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke. Joked Meyers: "If this strike is indeed over, no one of us will ever go to your Web site again."

In another special appearance, Triumph the Insult Insult Dog quipped that the WGA had to reach a deal "to get all the ugly writers off YouTube."

The Robert Smigel character also poked some fun at strike organizers, saying the guild's negotiating committee wrote such hilarious things as "Futurama," "In Living Color" and the strike rules.

The "Pencils down!" mantra was one of the things that entertained Triumph. "We all wrote our spec scripts for film," one punchline said.

Triumph also wondered if strikers had too much fun. "Wednesday we picketed at Sony. It was Hawaiian Day," the puppet said before suggesting "Take your dignity to sewer day."

The 60th annual awards show was a stripped-down and fun version of the program. Instead of the usual rows of seats, it featured mainly standing room and an open bar.

Off-stage, many attendees didn't want to discuss the latest strike deal developments.
"After 3 1/2 months, I'm just here to have fun with my friends," one said, echoing many peers.
Feature writer Ben Mintz also had a chance to kick back. Winship put the spotlight on him Saturday night as the guild member with the best picket line attendance record.

"We're thrilled there's a resolution to the strike, New York City film commissioner Katherine Oliver said on the sidelines of the WGA East awards show. "Hopefully (more) productions can start again soon."

She said she was out to show support for creatives given that New York production was at record levels before the strike.

Reached on a work break Saturday, ThinkFilm head of US theatrical Mark Urman also chimed in with a laugh. "I'm on vacation in Arizona and didn’t even know they settled,” he told The Hollywood Reporter . “I have nothing to say except ‘Another martini, please.’”
Gregg Goldstein in New York contributed to this report.
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