Dan Savage Sets Awards Lunch on Fire

Shots and stripping and savage humor

With the help of two nearly naked waiters, a bottle of Jim Beam, and the passion for instigation that’s made him famous, Dan Savage turned the AAN awards lunch Friday into a post-collegiate boozing match, exposing more sagging middle-aged cellulite than a Coney Island sauna.

Savage’s introductory fatwah required all first-place award winners (or their representatives) to remove an article of clothing before downing a shot of Jim Beam. “Belts are sex toys or accessories,” Savage decreed when winners tried that old strip poker ploy.

And Independent Weekly Publisher Sioux Watson, whose paper racked up two first-place awards and five in all, was quickly lashed for trying to remove her glasses.

One could only wish the Oscars moved with such alacrity, as Savage turboed through the winners’ names with a telemarketer’s regard for pronunciation.

The first AANie to shed his shirt was Folio Weekly’s John Citrone, who traded two pieces of garb to make up for not drinking. Shoes, shirts and some impressive jewelry from LA Weekly’s Laurie Ochoa were shed and brought to the podium by Savage’s local boys, culled Thursday night from a Madison gay bar.

Some AAN members, like New Times Senior VP Scott Spear, were reluctant to let it all hang out, shedding only a shoe and a company hat before obliging the crowd with a shot. Others were only too eager to doff their tops, like Isthmus publisher Vincent O’Hern, host of this year’s Madison convention, who flexed his burly torso with delight.

Gambit Weekly’s Michael Tisserand amazed the crowd less with his torso than with a shot swilled from a certifiably skanky Converse sneaker. Tisserand was in serious jeopardy with Gambit’s four first-place awards, and refused to shed his pants when Katy Reckdahl’s first-place in news feature was announced.

“It’s not an option,” Tisserand said.

“What? Are you free-balling it?” Savage shot back.

Doing his part for the cause was the host himself who downed no less than nine shots on an empty stomach, swilling for absent winners and just for the hell of it.

As the pile of plundered garb grew larger, Savage basked in his achievement. “I can’t believe you’re all playing along. The power of one pushy fag in AAN — it’s amazing.”

Savage’s corrosive wit is as unsparing in person at it is in print.

“The winner of the best newspaper name that kinda makes you think about pooping goes to Creative Loafing.”

When Washington City Paper Editor Erik Wemple threw up his shirt, Savage went straight to the well-worn armpits. “What? Do you have steel-wool in your armpits? We could clone you with this thing!”

Village Voice Media Executive Vice President Albie Del Favero served as Savage’s punching bag for VVM winners. While Savage did succeed in getting Del Favero’s pants off, it was only towards the end of the festivities that he learned his name was not “Mike Albie.”

Whoops. Who cares?

Other prominent editors to lose their shirts included Creative Loafing’s Ken Edelstein, and the Bay Guardian’s Tim Redmond.

When the last award for photography was handed out, editors and publishers shuffled to claim their duds still buzzing from Beam and wondering if it will ever again be safe to win an AAN award.

Dan Savage, he got us drunk, naked, giddy with laughter and completely grateful that some NPR twit, as AAN’s Lyda Phillips said, “lost his Palm Pilot.”

John Dicker is a freelance writer based in New York.