Last Thursday, more than 1,100 people packed the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Midtown for the 32nd Annual Muse Awards of the New York Women in Film and Television. This wasn’t your typical ladies-who-lunch affair, as a dazzling gaggle of silver screen honorees were acknowledged for their “outstanding vision and achievement.”
The Observer has attended many a high-powered New York City event, but at this one the atmosphere seemed a bit more genuine with enthusiasm and pride. And no wonder, given how deserving those honored were. Awardees filmmaker Lisa F. Jackson, Kim Martin of WE TV, Lucy Liu and Mariska Hargitay were all celebrated for being women who have persevered, not only having achieved professional success, but having demonstrated commitment towards improving the lives of others. For an industry famed for its self-indulgence, celebrating these women for the opposite was a welcome change.
Debra Zimmerman, executive director of nonprofit Women Make Movies, received the Loreen Arbus award.
Ms. Hargitay delivered a poignant speech and spoke of her late parents, noted body-builder Mickey Hargitay and film star Jane Mansfield. Tearfully, she told the assembled: “I miss my mom today. On the back of the chair she had on movie sets was not her name but her measurements: 40,” 21,” 35.” That’s not all she was!
“I embrace a different kind of measurement. I’m a woman of dimension. I’m grateful for my muses who have made this journey possible. My role as Olivia Benson has helped me to do more: I founded the Joyful Heart Foundation to help address the needs of women who have been the victims of sexual assault and suffer deep trauma. Last year I went before Congress to urge the lawmakers to address the backlog of thousands of unexamined rape kits.” Her passion for the cause was clear, and the enraptured crowd soaked up every word.
Afterwards, away from the dais, we asked about her years in the role of the professional, yet sympathetic cop Benson. We were especially curious after The Observer’s recent “Law & Order SVU” feature, which discussed the show’s regular confrontations with sex crimes.
Laughing, Ms. Hargitay told us, “I look at early segments and am amazed I wasn’t fired back then!”
Assuming all good things come to an end, we prodded about future acting plans, intrigued to find out whether or not the actress was planning her next career step to be a little more PG13.
“I’d love to do Broadway!” was all we got from the gorgeous Ms. Hargitay, although her apparent penchant for singing and dancing seemed to suggest that a more lighthearted role might be in order.
We caught her husband, actor Peter Hermann, beam satisfactorily with approval.
Perhaps, after all, that’s all we needed.