- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Networking, praise-singing and friendly hugs marked the 10th annual Women of Vision Awards Gala at the Capital Hilton Thursday night. The event, sponsored by Women in Film & Video, honored actress Ruby Dee, WETA President and Chief Executive Officer Sharon Percy Rockefeller (joined by her husband, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV), ABC News correspondent Carole Simpson, and broadcast media executive and documentarian Ricki Green.

WIFV (referred to as “whiff” by members) is a 24-year-old, 1,300-member nonprofit group that helps women in the entertainment and TV news industry find jobs and professional training. Proceeds from the ticket sales — $170 to $200 each — and the silent auction were earmarked for the organization’s educational programs and general operating budget.

Above all, WIFV is a tightly knit organization. Aviva Kempner, creator of the movie “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” called it “a warm, compassionate, supportive group of women helping you.” (Her latest film is “Today I Vote for My Joey,” which she described as “a tragicomedy” about voting confusion in Palm Beach, Fla., during the 2000 election.)

The black-tie-optional gala had an insider feel: Many of the 400 guests had worked together or given each other a leg up in the industry throughout the years. Mrs. Green amused the crowd with a story about how Mrs. Rockefeller had hired her on the spot during a job interview at WETA — based on the recommendation of a colleague who later confessed that she had confused Mrs. Green with someone else.

At the pre-dinner VIP reception, Mrs. Simpson noted that WIFV was, unfortunately, still a necessary tool for women in an industry that continues to have discouraging vestiges of the sexism she experienced in the 1970s.

“I never would have thought that in the year 2003 we’d still have three white men doing the mighty newscasts on the three major networks,” she said with a sigh. “I thought that because I fought, my daughter wouldn’t have to — but she does.”

Her daughter, 33-year-old Mallika Marshall, who attended the event as well, didn’t seem too worn out by the fight; she’s a lovely, smiling clone of her 62-year-old mother and a correspondent on the WBZ evening news in Boston.

The awards, doled out with lengthy remarks during a dinner of salmon and chicken, reminded guests that media personalities naturally relish the spotlight. Because the list of those honored was in reverse order of star power, Miss Dee, of course, came last.

Miss Dee is a petite woman with large, gorgeous eyes who gained fame in the role of Ruth in “A Raisin in the Sun,” and she was a natural magnet for every camera-toting guest. (Past star recipients have included Sharon Stone, Tipper Gore, Roseanne Barr, Kathy Bates and Mary Steenburgen.)

After Jim Lehrer presented an award to Mrs. Rockefeller, the next to be honored was Mrs. Simpson, who amused the audience by comparing herself to a duck. Why? Because, even though she may be gliding serenely along in her career, beneath the surface she’s paddling furiously.

ABC’s weekend anchor also knows when to let the water roll off her back and when some loud quacking might be necessary. Even now, “I’m still a duck at ABC News,” she told the audience, which also got a few parting words of advice: “Don’t get complacent and remember the duck.”

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