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The New York Awards 2000

Coming up with the winners of our annual New York Awards is not as simple as, say, tallying votes. It's a matter of art, not absolutes, and it requires that the selectors use their discretion. Which is not to suggest that the process isn't foolproof. Whether for comedy (Saturday Night Live's Jimmy Fallon) or for community service (Brad Lander) or for Lifetime Achievement (that other great communicator, Regis Philbin), our awards celebrate the dream of making it in the big city -- and changing the city in the process. And when that happens, wherever it happens, however it happens, it's absolutely unmistakable. Case closed.

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LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Regis Philbin

By 1972, Regis Philbin had so thoroughly defined his own character -- friendly! hearty! avuncular! -- that Woody Allen cast him as himself on the mock game show in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex. Since then, Joey Bishop's former sidekick has received ten Emmy nominations and made "Is that your final answer?" the most popular question since "Where's the beef?" by hosting the most popular game show in television history. Now that Kathie Lee Gifford has left his morning show -- and ratings have gone up 19 percent -- Philbin is proving his comic range by trading quips with everyone from Sisqó to Don Rickles. By last year, he was wearing his icon status so effortlessly that he was moved to title his second best-selling memoir Who Wants to Be Me? No one else is up to the job.


NEW YORK AWARD: FASHION
Kenneth Cole

Since 1982, when Kenneth Cole completed his first line of women's footwear, he has gone from selling stone-washed-denim boots out of a broken-down trailer to running a design empire that's a triple threat: classy, affordable, ubiquitous. But just because Cole is everywhere doesn't mean he's like everyone else. His outspokenness on social issues is as well known as his shoes. One of the first members of the fashion community to take a stand in the fight against aids, Cole promotes idealism over consumerism -- "To be aware is more important than what you wear." But his company has been on a roll since the day he went public in 1994, proving that being rich and righteous is a stylish combination.


NEW YORK AWARD: THEATER
Mary-Louise Parker

Catherine, the woman she plays on Broadway in David Auburn's Proof, spends a lot of time on the back porch talking with her beloved, albeit deceased, father. But it's Mary-Louise who haunts the Walter Kerr Theatre with her feral, fragile portrait of a character she seems to live in as edgily, and as completely, as the home Catherine is about to lose. Parker's sly, fearless sexuality, her off-kilter way around a joke, are qualities she's brought to every role she's played, on Broadway (Prelude to a Kiss) and Off (How I Learned to Drive). And they're the stamp of an actress for whom stage work isn't slumming, for she is that rarest of talents, an actress who has made a life in the theater -- our theater, in our city.

NEW YORK AWARD: BUSINESS
Darien Dash

When Darien Dash launched his company in 1994, his capital was as modest -- $200 -- as his goals were ambitious: to bridge the digital divide. Expanding Internet access to the black and Hispanic communities, Digital Mafia Entertainment Interactive Holdings (DME) became the first publicly traded African-American-owned Internet company. After clients like VISA and HBO came calling, the Bronx-born, New Jersey- raised 29-year-old decided to give back to the community: As the technology chair of a Harlem school district, he gave thousands of students access to computers. This year, his efforts were recognized by Bill Clinton, who chose Dash to accompany him on his third "New Markets" tour to strategize ways to make the information superhighway available to everyone.

NEW YORK AWARD: SPORTS
John Franco

A devastating change-up makes this lefty one of the greatest relief pitchers in baseball history, but the Mets' faithful fans identify with John Franco's other traits. He's tougher than guys twice his size, street-smart bordering on wise-ass, and more loyal than a firehouse dog. This October, after seventeen big-league seasons, that loyalty was rewarded with his first trip to the World Series. Franco was flawless: four appearances, no runs, and the Mets' only win. Last month, when the Phillies begged him to come south, the kid from the Marlboro projects in Bensonhurst, who now lives atop three acres on Staten Island's swank Todt Hill, said no. Sure, his odds of winning a ring are better here. But Franco's orange Sanitation Department T-shirt, the one he wears in tribute to his late garbage-man father, just wouldn't look right peeking out from beneath any jersey but that of the New York Mets.

NEW YORK AWARD: TELEVISION
Edie Falco

Before Edie Falco brought both femininity and ferocity to Carmela Soprano -- and won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for doing so -- she was starting to wonder if she'd ever really make it. Despite roles on all the good TV shows -- Oz, Law & Order, Homicide -- and appearances in more than twenty feature films, the 36-year-old went virtually unrecognized until the name "Tony" started coming out of her mouth on a regular basis. Falco's relentless intelligence and affecting sensitivity illuminate all her characters, recently the struggling, thirtysomething actress in the Sundance darling Judy Berlin. Success has been a long time coming for Falco, as for Judy, but this actress proves that sometimes it's worth waiting to be a made woman.

NEW YORK AWARD: FOOD
Wylie Dufresne

Though a new restaurant opens nearly every day in millennial New York -- 311 Zagat-worthy chefs stepped up last year alone -- none has commandeered the food fanatic's imagination as surely as Wylie Dufresne's 71 Clinton Fresh Food. Why? Because Dufresne -- despite training with that most cosmopolitan of New York chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten -- hasn't opened a "New York" restaurant at all. Following the example of brash young Parisian cooks who decamp to remote arrondissements and forge their reputations in tiny, uncompromising dining rooms, Dufresne planted his flag in the Lower East Side hinterlands and watched the foodies rally around him. His restaurant's name tells the story: an out-of-the-way address and the promise of seasonal ingredients exploding with simple, unforgettably intense flavors in illuminating combinations. As more restaurants open, his idea seems even fresher.

NEW YORK AWARD: COMEDY
Fallon

Jimmy Fallon always manages to bring something memorable to his performances, whether he's being "retahded" with Ben Affleck on Saturday Night Live, fast-talking Billy Crudup as a bespectacled manager in Almost Famous, or just standing, bigger and hotter than life, on a billboard in a pair of Calvins. That gleeful openness has prompted his boss, Lorne Michaels, to say that "Jimmy represents sunshine." Having gone from unknown to "Weekend Update" co-host in three years, the Brooklyn-born 26-year-old seems well on his way to following in the footsteps of his idol Steve Martin, another wild-and-crazy guy who knows that humor is only half the battle and warmth wins the war.

NEW YORK AWARD: CIVIC
Brad Lander

If you want to know what Brad Lander is up against, step outside the office of the Fifth Avenue Committee and stroll down its namesake thoroughfare, considered "fringe" Park Slope only a few short years ago. Swanky bistros like Vaux and Al Di Là have sprung up alongside hip clothing boutiques -- delightful for the incoming waves of moneyed Manhattanites, less so for longtime working-class residents suddenly faced with $1,800 rents. That's where Lander and the FAC come in, working to minimize gentrification's collateral damage. Under Lander's direction since 1993, the FAC has fought to keep low-income and elderly tenants in their homes, developed more than 300 units of affordable housing, founded small businesses like the Ecomat laundromat, and provided job training for local residents. At a time when everyone's watching the bottom line, his passion for affordable housing is every bit as bullish as the local real-estate market.

NEW YORK AWARD: MUSIC
Lou Reed

By the end of the sixties, rock and roll was clearly here to stay, but a lot of it was still about peace, love, and going to San Francisco with a flower in your hair. Which is fine if you live in California. Lou Reed has spent more than three decades bringing rock a New York sensibility -- literate, gritty, and painfully intense -- and like the city itself, he shows no sign of slowing down. In February, he published Pass Thru Fire: The Collected Lyrics, putting a hard cover on one of rock's few bodies of work truly deserving of that permanence. In April, he released Ecstasy, an album as powerfully self-revealing and nuanced as any he's ever made. Much of the rest of the year he spent on the road, mixing the confessional and the confrontational as only a true New Yorker can.


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