Last night, at a cocktail gala at the Neue Gallerie on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the groundbreaking PBS gay and lesbian newsmagazine In The Life celebrated the start of its 17th season.
The affair raised $110K for In The Life -- a show which, ITL Media Executive Director Michelle Kristel explained, receives no funding for its production from the government or from PBS. But last night's tally is enough, she said, to pay for two episodes of the informative -- and for gay and lesbian teens, sometimes quite literally life-saving -- program.
In other ITL news, Kristel also announced that the show will once again return to a half-hour format, partly in order to accommodate changing media habits, such as viewing many of the show's reports individually online. And, even more noteworthy, this year, the show will produce new episodes each month, leading up to the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June 2009.
No more endless repeats, Kristel promised -- and that was good news for the night's honoree Kate Clinton, the legendary lesbian comic and author who was the program's first host when it debuted in 1992. "I've been on LOGO more times than The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," she joked at the podium as she accepted In The Life's first annual Pioneer Award.
In her short but incredibly funny speech, Clinton -- who continues this month on her nationwide, political-themed "Hilarity Clinton" tour -- joked about the banking bailout, where "the only thing left to my bank was the free pen." "People said that gay marriage would end the world," Clinton teased. "But we didn't do this!"
But Clinton turned serious and incisive when it came to stressing the importance of In The Life and the effect the show has already had on the U.S. and the world. After last week's shameful Vice Presidential debate, when both Joe Biden and (unsurprisingly) Sarah Palin took such cowardly stands, polls in California showed a four point increase in support for that state's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. When such hatred is "legitimized" from the top, Clinton noted, voters feel more comfortable taking bigoted stands themselves. But luckily, she enthused, there is In The Life, which has produced several videos in support of gay marriage, which in the age of the internet will spread virally and hopefully help defeat the hateful ballot measure.
Clinton's remarks were cheered by the well-heeled New York crowd, which included former ITL host Katherine Linton and the show's newest (adorable!) face, that of Sirius' OutQ's own Michael Billy (pictured with partner Matthew Argenti.) Michael makes for an amazing host both on air, and as she showed last night in emceeing the proceedings, off as well. I look forward to many more seasons of Michael and the very enlightening Life!