Blond, bespectacled comedian Bruce Vilanch has never visited the Bluegrass, but he hears good things.
"I have never been to Lexington, Kentucky, but Lady Gaga tells me it is a very nice place," Vilanch said from Hollywood, which he referred to as "the intellectual capital of the universe." (As far as we know, Lady Gaga has never been here either.)
Vilanch, a longtime writer of the Academy Awards and former writer and participant on Hollywood Squares, will be in town this weekend to host Lexington Fairness's annual Fairness Awards.
Vilanch, who is gay and from New Jersey, expressed his excitement about a gay community in Kentucky.
"I'm thrilled that there is an LGBT community that's organized," he said, using the abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. "It's fresh turf. It's so hard to find virgin territory anymore — it's hard to find virgin olive oil."
At the awards ceremony, which comes a day before Saturday's larger, free Lexington Pride Festival, Lexington Fairness — Central Kentucky's non-profit gay and lesbian advocacy group — will give out four awards to community leaders in Kentucky who are working to spread fairness or equality, or working to make the gay community more accepted. It's the fourth year for the ceremony, said the group's leader, Craig Cammack.
"Bruce's comedic style is perfect for this event, and he's a great supporter," Cammack said. "We want to bring in people who we know are interested in supporting the LGBT community."
The Emmy-winning Vilanch, 62, spoke with the Herald-Leader about hosting the Fairness Awards, his views on same-sex marriage and why you'll never see him without his signature specs.
On same-sex marriage: "I'd love to find someone of the same sex to marry me; that may be why I'm going to Kentucky ... it's new turf. But I've always found it's a civil rights issue and there's nothing but tired religious dogma that stands between gay people having their civil rights. Step by step, we get closer to it.
On pride festivals and the 2011 Fairness Awards: "I think pride festivals are vital because the fight is about visibility. We have to keep reminding the community at large that we're out there, that we're part of the mainstream, ... the fabric of life."
The Fairness Awards are "honoring people who are examples of what we are looking to have in society. It's important that they be recognized, that the whole idea of equal rights be recognized."
On diversity in the gay community: "We also have to keep reminding ourselves, as gay people, we all come from different walks of life. We're not all drag queens.
"I'm a white Jewish guy. I have black lesbian friends that wouldn't normally be in my wheel house. ... That's diversity. It's important to know we are united in this struggle with people who aren't quite like us in other areas."
On whether he has considered contacts: "No. My father was an optometrist, and when I was little, I wanted them and he said, 'No, you're too irresponsible. You'll lose them.' Now I'm so deeply into glasses.
"When I was on Hollywood Squares, I had all different kinds of glasses. When I got off TV, ... I decided I may just go with a couple of pair, a single look. Lately, they have been red ones, but I'm going to try and branch out now because people are bringing up the Sally Jesse Raphael comparison."
On his favorite comedian: "I am! (Laughs.) But other than me, ... you know, I kind of like vintage guys. My all-time favorite is Patrick Dennis. He wrote a series of social satire in the '50s that was hilarious. Today, there are so many people, I can't pick out a favorite. I guess Tina Fey.
On picking a favorite late-night talk show host: "There's Letterman and that's about it; Letterman and Jon Stewart. The thing about Letterman is he's an oddball. He's so interesting to watch, ... the only one on a regular basis because he's just so quirky, and his attitudes come from so many different places. He's never predictable."
On what he'd like attendees of the Fairness Awards to know: "I'm still single, as I was at the beginning of the conversation."