If you’re a lover of television, as I am, then the Paley Center For Media is the place for you. It celebrates television of all kinds past, present and future and on November 12 in Los Angeles, it will celebrate the impact television has had on LGBT Equality.
The Paley Center L.A. Gala Benefit will feature a lineup of some of the biggest names in television today including Portia de Rossi, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Sean Hayes, NBA player Jason Collins and television visionary Norman Lear. ESPN is a co-chair for the event along with co-chairs Ellen DeGeneres and de Rossi as well as Hearst Corporation and Viacom & Paramount Pictures.
To find out more about the Gala, I talked with Maureen J. Reidy, the President and CEO of the Paley Center for Media, about what we can expect from the gala and if they’ve heard any negative feedback from non-LGBT folks out there. Let’s see what she had to say.
Why was now the right time for the Paley Gala?
Maureen J. Reidy: The Paley Center for Media is the leading non-profit cultural organization that showcases the importance of media’s role in our society. For over six decades, television’s depictions of the LGBT community have helped to change the country’s perceptions and increase its understanding of the challenges facing the LGBT community. There is tremendous momentum right now moving the country toward achieving full LGBT equality, and we felt it was the perfect time to recognize and celebrate the many creative leaders, programs and companies that have made history with groundbreaking roles and historic moments on television.
How would you describe the Gala itself? Will there be awards given out?
MJR: The Gala will showcase six decades of LGBT images in media as archived within The Paley Center for Media’s LGBT Collection. The evening will celebrate five genres of programming including: Comedy Series, Drama Series, TV Movies / Miniseries, News / Documentary / Reality, and Sports Programming. Each segment of the evening will include a special video presentation highlighting the historic and groundbreaking moments showcased on television – many for the first time. Each segment will be introduced by a well-known and respected media figure that will provide insight and a touch of personal perspective.
Tell me about the LGBT media collection housed at The Paley Center.
MJR: The Paley Center has been collecting LGBT media milestones within its archive since we opened our doors in 1976. These include the earliest known representations of the community on television including: the 1963 anthology series “Espionage,” which featured the first use of the word “homosexual” in an American drama series, “That Certain Summer,” the first made-for-TV movie to depict a gay relationship, and countless more. It’s a fascinating history of the evolution of the way the LGBT community has been portrayed on television up to the present day.
Our Gala Benefit affords us the opportunity not only to preserve the titles already existing within the archive, but to secure hundreds of hours of additional LGBT programming such as key episodes of series including “Orange Is the New Black,” “Faking It,” “Looking,” “American Horror Story,” ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” plus a wealth of other sports programming in this watershed year for LGBT athletes.
LGBT representation is very present on our televisions now but how do you think someone like Norman Lear is a key person to where we are today?
MJR: Norman Lear remains one of the most important figures in terms of bringing socially relevant themes to television. His series including “All in the Family,” “Maude” and “The Jeffersons” changed the way we think about a variety of issues because they made them part of a national conversation. “All in the Family” featured the first openly gay character on an American sitcom, and “The Jeffersons” featured the first Trans character on an American sitcom. Lear accomplished both of these milestones in the early to mid-1970’s, giving the LGBT community an incredible platform since both series were amongst the most popular on television at the time.
Have you gotten any negative feedback on the Gala given not all people are supportive of the LGBT community?
MJR: Happily, the Paley Center has received nothing but praise since the announcement of our plans for the Gala. We’ve received overwhelming support from our Board of Trustees, many of the major media companies and wonderful organizations such as GLAAD.