Catholic Media recognize 'Ugly Betty,' comedian Dick Van Dyke at 2007 CIMA Awards
By Paula Doyle
BEVERLY HILLS, Nov. 14, 2007 (www.the-tidings.com) - Comedy icon Dick Van Dyke and the "Ugly Betty" television series were among those receiving honors at the 15th annual entertainment industry awards luncheon sponsored by Catholics in Media Associates at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Nov. 4.
Nearly 400 film, television, radio and new media professionals attended the event, which opened with a concelebrated Mass in the hotel's international ballroom. Capuchin Franciscan Father Tony Scannell, a founding CIMA member and former Tidings' publisher, presided at the liturgy where he used a carved, lit Halloween pumpkin dubbed "Charlie" as a storytelling prop during his homily.
"Tell them," said Father Scannell playing the part of imperfect Charlie, "it's not what people look like on the outside that counts because we don't have a lot of control over that. It's what we look like on the inside that makes a difference because we all have a little light that we were given on the inside, and that's what can make us beautiful.
"No matter what people say about us, whether we're all scarred up or ugly, or a little lumpy, it's how we let that light shine through our face from the inside," said Father Scannell, who was later honored at the event with The Christophers' Spirit Award given in recognition of his leadership in Catholic communications.
"On very rare occasions, the Christophers present The Spirit Award to an individual in the media world we believe has used his or her gifts over many years to exemplify the commitment to lifting the human spirit in the creative arts," said Christophers' president Dennis Heaney, who presented the bronze medallion to Father Scannell at the start of the awards ceremony following the Mass and luncheon.
In accepting CIMA's television series award for "Ugly Betty," executive co-producer (and current NBC Universal Television chairman) Ben Silverman, flanked by cast members Tony Plana and Vanessa Williams, said they were all honored by the award.
The ABC hit comedy starring America Ferrera playing a fashion-challenged, good-hearted Latina secretary working for a shallow, high-fashion publisher "tackles issues unapologetically," Silverman noted. "I think that's what CIMA is all about [celebrating] the goodness in all of us, wherever you come from, whatever you're about, and 'Ugly Betty' defines that every day," he added.
"Just as Father Tony illustrated with the pumpkin, 'Ugly Betty' allows us to show our light every week," said Williams, who portrays the stylishly selfish Wilhelmina. "There's always a good ending to the story no matter what navigational tool we're trying to use to get through this crazy life that we all lead."
"If you really try to define what 'ugly' means on our show, it means we're imperfect, and because we're imperfect, we have the capacity to love [as well as] be loved," said Plana, who plays Betty's father on the show. "Betty greets every day with such optimism, compassion and joy. As her father on the show, I see her practicing her faith whether it's consciously or unconsciously: it's someone trying to become a little better and to help the people around her do the same."
Legendary comedian Van Dyke --- who accepted the CIMA Lifetime Achievement Award from his good friend and neighbor, Franciscan Father Warren Rouse of Serra Retreat Center in Malibu --- said he was "so pleased and proud just to be here and be among you.
"Are there any other octogenarians here beside me?" quipped the white-haired comic and five-time Emmy winner, who continues to perform in fundraisers for favorite charities such as L.A.'s skid row Midnight Mission and the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement home.
"You're going to hear some older person like me saying to you that 'Your generation's going to hell in a hand basket'…but you have to understand it is our duty, a tradition thousands of years old passed down…not that there aren't a lot of reasons for optimism. But that's not my job, that's your job. My job is to tell you how to live," Van Dyke joked as the ballroom roared.
On a serious note, he spoke on what's happened since film censorship "went away. Some of the producers in movies got the freedom and took the responsibility that went with it. However, a lot of other ones took that freedom and took license. Unfortunately, that's one of the things that's happening [today]," said Van Dyke. "It seems to me there's not enough people angry about it."
Repeating that the CIMA award "means a great deal to me," Van Dyke left the podium saying, "I guess lighting one candle is about all each of us can do --- as many candles as we can." He encouraged the audience to "love powerfully."
Director/writer/producer Paul Haggis accepted the CIMA Motion Picture Award for "In the Valley of Elah," a film starring Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon which examines the impact and aftermath of war on families and the nation. "A Marine in my movie said, 'The first victim of war is humanity.' These [service men and women] are offering up their humanity for us. We need to take care of them. We need to listen to them and hear what's happening…," said Haggis.
In accepting the CIMA Board of Directors' Award for the film "The Nativity Story," producer Marty Bowen said he and his co-producer, Wyck Godfrey set out to "humanize Mary and Joseph --- two people who are often put up on a pedestal."
The Good Shepherd parishioner told The Tidings he made the movie "for my mother, for the people I care about." Bowen noted, while it was a great experience to make a movie for people of faith, it was also gratifying to dramatize the Nativity for those unfamiliar with the salvation story.
Tom Allen, accepting the CIMA Documentary Award for "Champions of Faith --- Baseball Edition," said he wanted to publicly thank the baseball players who spoke so "heroically" about their faith.
"What we want to do is a whole series of these films where we go to the different sports. They're lining up now. It seems like maybe it's a moment where high profile Catholics can step forward and speak beautifully and lovingly about the faith that we treasure. I believe the church needs it at this moment in time, and it's just been very gratifying to run into a great group of men who were willing to do that," said Allen.