Neal Pollack Tosses Smarties to Award Winners

New categories proposed for awards

Neal Pollack, the self-professed “greatest living American writer,” throws like a girl.

Granted, the aerodynamics of the Smarties candies he hurled at AAN award winners yesterday afternoon would’ve given Roger Clemens a run for his millions.

But pitching skills notwithstanding, the one-time Chicago Reader staffer and Austin-based satiric wonderboy ran a restrained, almost dignified awards ceremony. At least compared with last year’s bacchanalian romp, courtesy a certain Seattle sex columnist.

Laying to rest fears that he would again force AANies to drop trow, Pollack proclaimed, “I am not Dan Savage… Dan Savage is dead.”

To address the somewhat contentious issue of judges failing to pick winners in certain award categories, Pollack coined a few of his own. These included:

— Best story about a local librarian and/or bookstore owner who is heroically combating the evils of the Patriot Act.
–Most egregious use of a Bruce Springsteen reference in a headline or editor’s column.
–Most passive-aggressive review of an ex-girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s band and/or art opening.
–Most sentimental article about an old restaurant and/or retail establishment that best represents the true character of the city.

After inviting the audience to come up with categories of its own, Pollack began the presentation, though he did warn that he might be interrupted by an important call from The New York Times.

”I have my phone on vibrate. I always do, but this is for a different reason.”

So as the awards were passed out, the dentrose citric acid sugar pills went flying, occasionally plinking and splunking their way onto the tables of the LeBateau/King’s Gardens ballroom. Pollack’s wry and dry remarks peppered what can otherwise be a plodding litany of names.

Pollack’s windups were not observed too often because of the voluminous number of candies tossed to New Times’ designated catchers Cleveland Scene staff writer Tom Francis and New Times Executive Associate Editor Andy Van de Voorde, who were seated in front of the podium. According to Francis, the rest of the chain’s top brass were busy merging with a few lunchtime libations.

When Alex Abatie of the Santa Barbara Independent tied for honorable mention in Cover Design, Pollack told the paper’s representative, “You have the fourth best design for alternative weeklies under 50,000 — tied for fourth best. Give your mom a call now!”

Eventually, a few lunchers pitched in with award categories of their own. These included:

Best editor’s or publisher’s note about a paper’s redesign.
Best savaging of a competing daily newspaper, radio conglomerate or rival alt weekly under the guise of protecting vital public interests. (Nomination given to the Cleveland Free Times and the Cleveland Scene.)

Even if Pollack can’t pitch, one AAN editor can certainly catch. Gambit Weekly Editor Michael Tisserand — who notoriously drank Jim Beam from his sneaker at last year’s ceremony — executed a deft one-hand grab and later followed it up with the festivities’ only coffee-cup catch.