Who: VN Senior Editor Elizabeth Castoria
What: The Genesis Awards and day-after brunch
When: March 27–28, 2009
Where: Beverly Hills, Calif.
Why: Um, fancy parties celebrating animals are pretty stinkin' fun!
The Scoop: In years past, the VN crew has had a ball at the Genesis Awards. This year, it seemed like said good times might not roll at all, since the majority of the staff had scheduling conflicts. Thankfully, at the last minute, it all fell into place, and I headed south.
The thing about the Genesis Awards is that you know celebrities—and celebs who care about animals, no less—will be there. It's amazing to be in a room full of people who are being recognized for bringing animal issues to the forefront of public view through their television shows, documentaries, feature films, news reporting, etc., and to know that for every nominee, untold numbers of people were made aware about animals and the often horrific lives they endure for our amusement, food, and clothing. So, amongst the stars that made me starry-eyed were Emily Deschanel, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Joe Mantegna (who did a Fat Tony bit while presenting an award!), Jorja Fox, Marg Helgenberger, Ginnifer Goodwin, Carol Leifer, and my new husband, Nigel Barker. OK, fine. No, he's not really my new husband, but Mr. Barker, shortly before beginning casting for the next cycle of America's Next Top Model, has been working overtime to stop the Canadian Seal Hunt. What can I say? Saving seals makes me swoony. This year's entire awards ceremony was dedicated to that very cause.
So, after mingling a bit at the VIP reception, we sat down for dinner and the awards presentation. My tablemates included Rey Ortega, Jill Hahn, Billy Hulting, Jonny, Kristine, and Milan Vasic, Dave Rutan, Lisa MacMillan, and Ramy Hassan.
The dinner was, of course, absolutely delish. What else would you expect from Tal Ronnen? Baby bok choy, vegan chicken scallopini, and black-rice risotto kept all the guests sated during the awards. Considering the graphic nature of many of the clips from nominated works that were shown, it was especially comforting to have a completely vegan meal, knowing that even attendees who aren't vegan didn't contribute to animal suffering that night! The presenters were lively (it seemed like maybe a whopping five percent of them actually read from the teleprompter, while the rest went a little improv-crazy). Beginning with Jarrod Cooper and continuing through the evening, Michael Vick's surname was modified at liberty, most often by replacing the "v" with a "d." One of the more memorable off-script speeches came from Ellen DeGeneres. While accepting the Wyler award which she co-won with her wife, Portia de Rossi, Ellen said that she was cautious of attaching too many labels to herself, since as a public person she doesn't want to be misunderstood. "But," she said, "I've been openly gay for a while now, and that's going pretty well. So, I'm openly vegan!" The crowd did indeed go wild.
After all the awards, we moved to the silent auction and after-party. Um, let's just say that partying in a room filled with some of the most amazing animal activists on the planet is pretty freaking awesome. From HSUS, Wayne Pacelle, Paul Shapiro, Mike Markarian, and Dan Paul, just to name a few, kept things lively. VN columnist and professional cutie-boots Rory Freedman, Matt & Nat founder Inder Bedi, artist Gretchen Ryan and her husband Peter, and all-star activists Ari Solomon, Mikko Alanne, Kath Rogers, and Bryan Pease made the evening utterly fun.
The next morning, in the sunny, seaside beach chalet of Moira Nordholt and Ron Proulx, a festive group gathered for the traditional post-Genesis brunch. Co-hosted by Moira, Ron, and Susan Weingartner, this was exactly what you think of when you think of brunch. Amazing food, outrageously fun people, and a love for animals all around. Could the weekend have been more fun? No. Can I hardly wait for next year? No.