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April 03, 2000 09:44am
Gay media group honors Elton John, ``Boys Don't Cry''
Source: Reuters/Variety
by: Chris Michaud

(NEW YORK, NY) -- A week after Hilary Swank won the best actress Oscar for ``Boys Don't Cry,'' the film about a real-life woman who lived as a man received a top honor from a gay media watchdog group.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which was founded in a Greenwich Village church basement 15 years ago to combat sensational coverage of AIDS and gay issues by New York tabloids and local television news, also presented special achievement awards to gay rock star Sir Elton John and actress-activist Marlo Thomas.

John, wearing a leather blazer and pants and red eyeglasses, accepted his award from Judy Shepard, the mother of gay student Mathew Shepard, whose 1998 murder has become one of the gay movement's most potent recent symbols.

Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was lured from a Laramie bar by two young men who pistol-whipped him and left him tied to a fence outside of town. He was found some 18 hours later by a passer-by and died in a hospital five days later on Oct. 12, 1998. His two assailants were each given two consecutive life sentences.

John, known for such hits as ``Pinball Wizard'' and ''Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,'' said he keeps of photo of Shepard in his kitchen. ``It breaks my heart to look at that photograph,'' he told the audience of some 1,500 at a Manhattan hotel.

``That he had to die - but he didn't have to die in vain,'' he said. John performed in June in Laramie, Wyoming, to raise money for a ``Justice for Mathew'' rally.

The award to ``Boys Don't Cry,'' which told the story of Brendon Teena, a woman who lived as a man and was murdered when friends found out, was for best film in limited release. Swank was on hand, as was the film's director, Kimberly Peirce, who told the audience she tried to cast the role for three years before finding Swank just weeks before the start of shooting.

Other awards went to ABC's ``20/20'' for a segment on gay former Major League Baseball player Billy Bean; MTV for its advertising campaign which featured a man reflecting wistfully about his male ex-lover; Time Out New York, a New York City weekly magazine, and the play ``2.5 Minute Ride'' and the cabaret act ``Kike & Herb: Have Another.''

The New York Times declined its award in a statement that cited its policy against accepting honors that recognize content that might be perceived as having a point-of-view.

Several of the presenters, who included Brooke Shields, Elle MacPherson, Kevin Bacon, Julianne Moore, Willem Dafoe as well as John and Thomas, commented about GLAAD's campaign against the forthcoming Paramount television show featuring Laura Schlessinger, who has expressed anti-gay views on her popular radio show.

``Just when we've almost forgotten Anita Bryant,'' another anti-gay campaigner, ``along comes Dr. Laura,'' said Thomas, who with her husband Phil Donohue has been among the entertainment world's earliest and strongest campaigners for gay rights.

John was more forthright, suggesting a possible, vulgar use for his award which pertained to Schlessinger, adding ``I just pray that all her kids turn out gay.''

The singer, knighted by Queen Elizabeth, also praised the gay media group, saying Britain needed a similar organization. Blasting the tabloid Daily Mail as a ``disgusting rag ... (which) hates everybody,'' John vowed to ``fight them every inch of the way.''

The organization will present more awards honoring television programs, wide-release films, radio programs, comic books, magazines and other publications at upcoming ceremonies in Los Angeles, Washington and San Francisco.

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