On Monday, Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer was honored for his longtime support of human rights and civil liberties by the ACLU of Southern California at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Other honorees included MTV executive Amy Doyle and the former executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, Ramona Ripston. The evening was emceed by comedienne Paula Poundstone.
When he accepted his award onstage, Zimmer said, "Being here in this room makes me feel like a triangle player's understudy in the LA Phil..." He added playfully: "musician's joke!" The audience roared with laughter. He looked out at the banquet hall, which was filled with Los Angeles activist and non-profit groups as well as civil rights leader Rev. James Lawson (he was Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s expert on nonviolence theory and tactics), first amendment activist Larry Flynt, and middle-class champion Professor Elizabeth Warren of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (who had flown cross-country to introduce Zimmer). He thanked the ACLU for their dedication to the protection of civil rights and liberties, as well as his staff for their support.
Chelsea Handler presents the Bill of Rights 2010 award to MTV's executive vice-president Amy Doyle. Handler playfully asked the ACLU to consider the fact that some people "don't deserve rights:" 1. Larry King doesn't deserve to get married again. 2. Justin Bieber shouldn't be allowed to have those bangs. 3. MTV shoudn't let Ke$ha run around wearing garbage.
The evening's honorees: ACLU's former executive director Ramona Ripston, composer Hans Zimmer, and MTV's Amy Doyle. Hans Zimmer on the connection between art and justice: "I don't think you can have justice without art, and vice-versa. Even through very tough times, even dictatorships, art has always triumphed by being subversive, by showing beauty, or by connecting people."
Economist Elizabeth Warren poses with honoree Ramona Ripston, Emcee Paula Poundstone, and Chief Charlie Beck of the LAPD.
Norman Lear presents Ripston with the inaugural Ramona Ripston Liberty and Justice Award. Norman Lear on the ACLU: "I'm a lifetime member of the ACLU. What inspires me about it is that I really like America. I love the Constitution, I love the Bill of Rights, and I don't know of any organization that stand more firmly for my First Amendment and my protection."
Civil rights leader Rev. Lawson, actor Mike Ferrell, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, chairman of the ACLU/SC Foundation Stephen Rohde, Alan Toy, president of the union. Anthony Romero on the importance of the Southern California branch of the ACLU: "Los Angeles is really ground zero for so many of the issues that we work on. It's been, really, the experimental training ground for new lawyers, for pushing new types of cases, for broadening our understanding of civil rights and civil liberties, and this office has just done remarkable work in a politically difficult environment."
Later, comedienne Chelsea Handler honored the second Bill of Rights winner, MTV's Executive Vice-President of Music & Talent Amy Doyle, for her work in expanding women's roles in the music industry. Doyle was celebrated in a star-studded tribute video with thank-yous from Kanye West, Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Nicki Minaj. Handler praised Doyle for mentoring young women in the entertainment industry and drew a humorous parallel between herself and the honoree: "Mentoring young women is the whole reason I wrote a book about one-night stands!"
Finally, a slew of people, from producer Norman Lear to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, honored Ramona Ripston, former executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. After working 38 years for civil liberty through her work at the ACLU of Southern California, she was presented with the inaugural Ramona Ripston Liberty and Justice Award. Speakers credited her as the reason "prisoners in wheelchairs no longer have to crawl up stairs" and "farmworkers have the right to a drink of water" in soaring temperatures. Her lawsuits to desegregate schools, condemnation of the LAPD during the Los Angeles riots, and vigilance on behalf of Muslim-Americans after 9/11 were lauded, as well as her impeccable style and grace. As she accepted the award, she said, "I'm both embarrassed and thrilled to say aloud the name of that award. I hope I'm worth of it." And, not to be outdone by all the professional comedians and actors in the house, she threw in a joke about her retirement: "Now, when I call you for lunch, it will not necessarily mean [I'm asking] for a donation."