Animals are big winners at Humane Society's Genesis Awards (but Tippi Hedren, 'The Cove' filmmaker and more humans are honored too)
The Genesis Awards was an Oscar-style gala with tuxedos and glittery dresses and celebrity presenters, but at the end of the night, as befits an event honoring TV shows, films, documentaries, and news programs that highlighted animal welfare issues last year, the guest that attracted the most attention was a dog.
Hewing to the dress code, he did wear a taupe bow-tie around his furry neck. "Nubs," the vaguely German shepherd-looking mix (named for his mutilated ears), was swarmed by human guests after the show, which was presented by the Humane Society of the United States on Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
During the "Tribute to Dogs," Marine Maj. Brian Dennis recalled how Nubs adopted him as he patrolled the Syrian border in Iraq in fall 2007. "It was kind of a tough time for both of us," Dennis said onstage.
Later, Dennis had to relocate to an outpost in Iraq 70 miles away. "One of the hardest things in my life was to leave him behind that time," Dennis said.
If Nubs' biggest accomplishment was tracking Dennis, perhaps his second was getting a seat -- well, a spot on the floor -- at the elegant dinner. After the show, animal welfare advocate Cheri Shankar and her husband, Naren, an executive producer of "CSI," chatted with Dennis and stroked Nubs' fur.
Dennis, who co-wrote a children's book about his devoted dog, "Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle," smuggled him out of Iraq through Jordan. "That was like its own adventure," said Dennis, who deploys for Afghanistan this fall.
Dennis wasn't the only dog lover recognized Saturday night. Joe St. Georges, the L.A. firefighter paramedic who dangled from a cable out of a helicopter to rescue a dog from the L.A. River during a January rainstorm, got a standing ovation. St. Georges, whose dramatic rescue was broadcast live on the news, smiled and stood at his seat.
The frightened dog so deeply chomped into his right thumb that St. Georges was sidelined from active duty. Saturday night, his bandages were off; he's back on duty. He held up a swollen thumb with a regrowing nail. "Not bad, huh?" he said.
Among the award winners were the feature films "Hotel for Dogs" and "Up," a news report on the cruelty of shark-finning, and an HBO documentary, "Death on a Factory Farm," about animal abuse at an Ohio hog farm. The documentary film award went to "The Cove."
"We witnessed a crime, not just a crime against nature but a crime against humanity," said "The Cove" director Louie Psihoyos -- who two weeks ago won an Oscar for his film about Japan's dolphin slaughter.
Psihoyos gave a nod to animal activists he works with who went undercover recently to expose the illegal serving of whale meat at the Santa Monica restaurant the Hump. Facing federal charges for serving endangered whale meat, the restaurant announced a few days ago that it would close. "I'm very proud that the ops team -- that could fit in a mini Cooper -- helped bust a sushi restaurant here," the director said.
This crowd wouldn't dream of dining on surf or turf. Instead, asparagus and beet salad and Gardein filled with sundried tomatoes were on the menu. The nearly 800 guests were a mix of Humane Society benefactors, animal welfare advocates who devote their lives to humane issues -- and those involved in animal issues who are better known for their day jobs in entertainment (actresses Emily Deschanel and Persia White) or even politics (Matthew Scully, the former George W. Bush speechwriter, whose animal-welfare cred comes from writing "Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.")
Rory Freedman, co-author of "Skinny Bitch," her tart-tongued guide to getting thin, looked skinny-bitchy in a sleek pink and black dress.
"I've always been thin," said vegan Freedman, "but giving up meat and dairy was what made me lean, lean, lean."
She convinced me to "pinky swear" that I would try, at least, to go vegetarian for a month starting April 1. But it was late in the evening and she was distracted by high heels that had made her feet sore, so maybe she'll forget. (If not, I have laid in a supply of tofu.)
The Genesis Awards will be air on Animal Planet on April 24 and 25.
-- Carla Hall
Photos, from top: Maj. Brian Dennis with Nubs; firefighter Joe St. Georges; Tippi Hedren with daughter Melanie Griffith and son-in-law Antonio Banderas; "The Cove's" Ric O'Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Lincoln O'Barry and Kate Tomlinson. All photos by Long Photography via the Humane Society's flickr stream.