Have You Seen ‘Chelsea, Lately’?
Laurie K. Schenden
Does a ballroom full of gays make Jay Leno a little nervous? He gave a graceful and touching speech, presenting the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award to Wanda Sykes at the 38th annual LA Gay & Lesbian Center Gala, pledging his support to the gay community and for gay marriage.
But about the funniest thing he said the whole evening came when he misspoke Cindy Lauper’s name as Cindy Lapper.
Comedian and recently out lesbian Wanda Sykes was my schmooze target for the evening, but she was running late and wouldn’t make a red carpet entry. With time to kill, I explored the swanky Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City—not an uncomfortable place to hang. I found a near-vacant ladies room two floors up from the noisy crowds of conservatively dressed LGBTs and their supporters, who were schmoozing over the goodies at either the silent auction or the bar.
The lone person in the loo was a stunning blond decked out in red shoes, black cocktail dress and hair spun atop her head. In seconds I recognized her as Chelsea Handler, star of “Chelsea, Lately,” on E!. We stood shoulder to shoulder, both getting one last look at our red carpet facades. Reflecting brilliantly in the mirror under a golden light, I had to say something.
I had prepared enough questions to fill a roll of Charmin, but she had an urgent mission for me, to find Steven. Sure, find “Steven” in a room full of gay men; that narrowed it down to several hundred. I couldn’t find him. Was it a wild goose chase to get rid of what she perceived as a crazy stalker in the can? Probably.
Later, in the glare of the red carpet lights, Handler joked about our restroom rendezvous when I asked why she was here.
“I was actually coming out in the bathroom,” she said. “No, I’m here to support the gay and lesbian community because it’s always fun, it’s always a good time, and nobody expects me to be too serious. I think a lot of people confuse me with actually being a lesbian. I’m just going with it. I mean, everyone’s a lesbian for at least a night, right?”
The more she talks, the more I like her.
Lorrie Jean, Chealsea Handler and Coco Peru (from left)
“You want to help the people who aren’t getting their voices heard necessarily by mainstream media. And I have a platform, I have a show that runs five nights a week… so I feel I should be doing the right thing. I go around bad-mouthing so many people, I should say something good once in awhile.”
Later during emcee duties, Handler jokes that a big lesbian hit on her backstage.
That was followed by the best news of the night from the Center’s CEO Lorri Jean, announcing that the LAGLC was among 14 youth support organizations out of thousands to get a $200,000 federal grant. Robust applause followed, after which Handler didn’t miss a beat.
“That’s the woman who hit on me,” she said, to big laughs from the crowd.