With an ebullient crowd cheering her on, Gloria Steinem took the stage at Barnard College at a special awards dinner celebrating the 10th Athena Film Festival. Steinem was especially proud that the idea for Athena was born in her living room, “I am going to put up a plaque,” she exuded, and went on to explain how Julie Taymor got her to agree to make “The Glorias,” a film about her life: “When Julie calls, she’s such a genius, you just say yes.”
While Taymor could not attend, we got a preview of “The Glorias,” so lively with Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, and others portraying the feminist icon, much the way several actors played Dylan in Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There.” Bette Midler is boisterous as Bella Abzug. Lorraine Toussaint, the film’s “Flo Kennedy,” introduced the clip. The center of “The Glorias” is political activism, Steinem’s insistence on getting voters out, on changing the lives of women. We do get a glimpse of Vikander in a Playboy suit, as Steinem challenged “the male gaze.” Feels like that discourse has reached its moment.
If the evening’s mood was buoyed by the week’s victory for women, Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction, that was left out of the conversation, not to disrupt the real business at hand: honoring Beanie Feldstein, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, and Effie Brown for their work in the film industry. Greta Gerwig took a break from writing and caring for her toddler to sing Feldstein’s praises, “easy to do,” crowed Gerwig. At the “Lady Bird” audition, “I felt like an old-time producer, that kid’s gonna be a star.” And Feldstein came back with how she can brag she co-starred in Gerwig’s directorial debut. Her first love, though, was Barbra Streisand, and at three years old, she had a “Hello. Dolly!”-themed birthday party.
On video from a job in L.A. she was not at liberty to reveal, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson hailed the women at Athena “Superheroes.” And Effie Brown spoke about her biggest truth-sayer, Big Effie, her grandma, a Florida woman who had seen a thing or two. Uh-huh!
This warm, intimate night could have gone on longer.
I got a chance to speak to Steinem about getting onstage with Michael Moore for his Broadway show. He brought her onstage for a chat opening night, a surprise. “Good thing you knew your lines,” I joked. She replied, “Good thing he didn’t give me any.”