Laudatory awards shows are the routine stuff of Hollywood, and Friday's 17th Annual Women in Film luncheon easily could have fallen into instant hazy memory if not for the uninhibited remarks by recipient Michelle Pfeiffer.
Taking the podium to accept her Crystal Award, the last of several given out during the ceremonies recognizing individuals who "represent the highest ideals of the film and television industry," the actress admonished some of the people there to honor her.
"So . . . this is the year of the woman. Well, yes, it's actually been a very good year for women. Demi Moore was sold to Robert Redford for $1 million, Uma Thurman went for $40,000 to Mr. De Niro, and just three years ago, Richard Gere bought Julia Roberts for. . . . What was it? . . . $3,000? I'd say that was real progress," she said of three movies--"Indecent Proposal," "Mad Dog and Glory" and "Pretty Woman"--each of which features female characters whose bodies are sold for sex.
Pfeiffer's comments drew wild applause from the sold-out crowd of 1,300 at the Beverly Hilton. Yet it didn't go unnoticed by many attendees that seated just to the actress's left was Paramount Pictures Chairman Sherry Lansing, the producer of "Indecent Proposal" and the event's mistress of ceremonies, and seated at a table not too far away was the movie's star, Demi Moore.
The film, while a blockbuster hit with grosses nearing the $100-million mark, has engendered considerable criticism for what some see as its age-old women-as-chattel story line.
"Fortunately, our values as individuals and women are not determined by our culture but by ourselves," Pfeiffer continued, praising WIF's efforts in gaining increased power and influence in Hollywood and for, in turn, creating more career options for her. On the packed, two-tiered dais with her was publicist-powerhouse Pat Kingsley; Fox Broadcasting Chairman Lucie Salhany; independent producers Kathleen Kennedy Marshall ("Jurassic Park"), Paula Weinstein ("Fabulous Baker Boys") and Lauren Shuler Donner ("Dave"); and USA Network President Kay Koplovitz, among others.
"I know that I am here because many of you have been here before me creating my opportunity, and I can't think of another opportunity that I would have to thank all of you for the struggle you've all fought," the Oscar-nominated actress said.
Pfeiffer's comments followed an hour's worth of mostly how-far-we've-come, how-far-we-still-must-go speechifying by other WIF board members, presenters and recipients--a message well-received by this largely female audience. The banquet's organizers said 600 people were turned down for tickets.
Crystal Award recipients Mike Ferrell and philanthropist Peg Yorkin looked to the larger picture of social activism outside Hollywood. Other winners--documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple, actress Julie Andrews and Koplovitz--spoke of their individual quests to affect change for themselves and other women through personal efforts. Catherine Deneuve, WIF's International Crystal Award winner, was absent.