By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
Joan Garry ends her eight-year run as executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation June 30.
Ms. Garry said she felt the time was right to move on. “I think we’ve met a lot of goals, made a lot of progress, but I have a family I’d like to see. I’d like to travel less. A day won’t go by when I don’t still care about GLAAD,” she said.
Her legacy includes the huge growth in the organization and in the GLAAD Media Awards, which now attract a combined total of 5,000 people at the three ceremonies-in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Back in 1990, when the GLAAD Awards were created to honor positive and thoughtful portrayals and programs, there were only a handful of TV shows with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters and few “out” actors or other celebrities.
The 2005 awards ceremonies-two of which were held earlier this year while the third, in San Francisco, was scheduled for June 11-will be telecast this summer on Logo, a cable network targeting the LGBT demographic.
“Those of us who have been attending this have seen it grow in the public eye, as it should,” said Rob Eric, executive VP of creative for Scout Productions, whose “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” won the GLAAD Award as best reality series last year and tied for the honor again this year.
“It’s been like discovering a rock band before they sell 10 million records,” Mr. Eric said. “First you knew the GLAAD Awards were happening, but there was little coverage. Then the trade publications started to cover them. Now it’s going to be televised.”
Although GLAAD’s yearly research study indicates the number of LGBT characters on regular broadcast network series declined last season, the sense of the LGBT community being part of the fabric of the media has expanded along with GLAAD.
“GLAAD is the organization most recognized for working toward accurate portrayals of gays and lesbians in the media,” said Alan Poul, who won this year as executive producer of “Six Feet Under” and has won five times before-twice for that show and once each for “Tales of the City,” “More Tales of the City” and “My So-Called Life.”
“The GLAAD Awards are a nice way of getting a little back from the community for the things I’ve tried to do for it,” he said.
“In some ways you would say it’s a chillier environment for gay and lesbian images in the media,” Ms. Garry said. “On the other hand, there has been enormous progress in the images we see and [what we] read about lesbians and gays. We’re seeing this in broadcast and we’re seeing [this] in particular in cable. Cable television’s roots are in serving underserved markets, originally rural America. Cable finds niche markets and takes more chances overall.”
“Receiving a GLAAD Award means an organization you have a lot of respect for says you did a good job,” said Frank Valentini, executive producer of the ABC daytime drama “One Life to Live,” which was honored this year at the New York ceremonies.
“GLAAD is a powerhouse; it’s like the silent cowboys in our community,” Mr. Eric said. “When you turn your back you know they’re there to protect us.”
“Gays and lesbians are now a part of the TV palette,” Ms. Garry said. “And the GLAAD Awards celebrate that. Even more, I think this is an event where you will see stars showing up not because their studios told them to or because they have a new film to promote, but because it is GLAAD. It is an award that says the real indecency is intolerant, inaccurate images.”