What an extraordinary sense of LGBT history in one place at the 8th annual Outfest Legacy Awards Saturday night, Oct. 13 at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Out producers Bruce Cohen (Milk) and Nina Jacobson (The Hunger Games) - who co-founded the out entertainment group Out There in 1995 that linked gay Hollywood with LGBT non-profits - co-chaired the Legacy Awards with out director Bryan Singer (X-Men).
The event showcased a sneak preview of the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation's most challenging restoration yet - the 1919 Weimar Germany era silent film DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS (ANDERS ALS DIE ANDERN), which is believed to be the earliest surviving film made explicitly about gay people.
Outfest also included in the stream of that history the extraordinary producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron of Storyline Entertainment.
I met Zadan and Meron in 1995, during a screening for their NBC movie Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story in which - gasp! stars Glenn Close and Judy Davis shared a brief onscreen kiss. During a subsequent interview, the team told me they were driven by basically three objectives: bring back the musical; produce bio-pics; and promote diversity and challenge cultural norms.
(Award-winning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. Photo courtesy Storyline Entertainment)
As their six Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, 11 Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, a Grammy Award, two Tony Awards, and 73 Emmy nominations have proven - they have successfully far-outreached their original grasp. Consider such smash hits as Chicago, Hairspray and TV's SMASH; turning The Bucket List - a black and white buddy film about dying (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) - into part of the American lexicon; making Cinderella and Steel Magnolias African American and Drop Dead Diva overweight; upsetting common versions of history with Life With Judy Garland and The Reagans, in which President Ronald Reagan expresses disgust with gays during the AIDS crisis, to mention only a few. In a piece for the Huffington Post, I suggested that the team re-created Promises, Promises with Sean Hayes as a subversive argument for marriage equality.
Earlier this year Zadan and Meron were presented with GLAAD's Vito Russo Award at the GLAAD Media Awards in New York (see Zadan's acceptance speech here) - and they were recently named as producers of the 85th Annual Academy Awards to air on ABC Feb 24, 2013, with Seth McFarland hosting.
"We are honored and humbled to receive the Visionary Award from an organization as important and crucial as Outfest. We hope we can help spread the word that the community needs to embrace and support this outstanding group that does so much to enrich the art and lives of LGBT people everywhere," said Zadan and Meron in a pre-event statement. (Read their great Legacy Award interview with AfterElton here.)
At the Legacy Awards, Glee star Darren Criss - who made his Broadway debut in Zadan and Meron's revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (in a role also played by Daniel Radcliffe and Nick Jonas) - presented Outfest's Vision Award to the team. And he put a gay twist on the show's quintessential straight song, "Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm."