All Creatures Great and Small Celebrated at the Genesis Awards

Photo by Margie Barron

Tippi Hedren at the Genesis Awards.

It wasn’t difficult to bond with the celebrity crowd that gathered to celebrate all creatures great and small at the 24th Annual Genesis Awards. After all, who doesn’t love animals? So that’s what we all talked about: cats and dogs, plus turtles, birds, fish and other pets that enrich our lives and bring us closer to nature.
But among the many, there were a few special people who have taken their love and compassion to a higher level, and made an impact that has helped the plight of animals, some on a global scale. It was humbling to hear their stories as the awards were given out in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
The annual Genesis Awards event is produced by the Hollywood office of the Humane Society of the United States. It honors the entertainment industry and news media for raising awareness of animal issues, and those who have worked tirelessly for animal rights. Wayne Pacelle is the president of the HSUS.
Tippi Hedren received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The iconic star of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” talked about becoming an animal advocate after making the 1981 film “Roar” with a cast of big cats. Tippi explained that her heart was touched by the lions and tigers, “and after we finished filming, we didn’t know where the cats would go. So I founded the Shambala Preserved on the land we used as our movie set in Acton, California.” Today the 80-acre wildlife refuge is a sanctuary to more than 60 big cats. Tippi said her wish for all animals is to see them “run if they have legs, swim if they have fins, and fly if they have wings.”
No one was more proud than her daughter Melanie Griffith, who cried when she presented her mother with the award. Tippi cried too when she recalled working together with the late Gretchen Wyler, founder of the Genesis Awards, on the first event 24 years ago.
There were more teary-eyed moments at the awards thanks to the unbelievable dog stories from a soldier and a firefighter. Major Brian Dennis shared the stage with his dog Nubs, a stray he rescued from Iraq. After the unit changed positions, Nubs traveled 70 miles through the desert to find the new outpost. So Major Dennis made sure Nubs would make it home with him. And Los Angeles firefighter Joe St. Georges was honored for rescuing a dog named Lucky from the L.A. River during the heavy rains.
The feel-good Oscar-winning Pixar animated movie “Up” won a Genesis award for showing the special bond between humans and animals. Co-director and co-writer Bob Peterson accepted in the voice of Dug the dog saying, “To the Humane Society, I have just met you, and I love you.” “Up” shared the honor with another family-friendly film “Hotel for Dogs,” which used many rescue dogs as part of their canine cast.
Young actor Jordan Nagai (the voice of Cub Scout Russell in “Up”) happily told me he has a pet turtle, “which has a good personality and is easy to care for, especially when I have to go to school or auditions.” Jordan and Teri Hatcher presented the TV Film award to the CBS movie “A Dog Named Christmas.” Among the other celebrity presenters were Pierce Brosnan and his wife Keely Shaye (who has two Genesis trophies for her work with animals), Jeff Corwin, Wendie Malick, Kristen Bell, Moby, “Glee”’s Jessalyn Gilsig, Hawthorn’s Michael Vartan, “NCIS”’s Pauley Perrette, “Two and a Half Men”’s Jennifer Taylor, “Big Love”’s Gennifer Goodwin and “Twilight”’s Booboo Stewart. Jon Lovitz opened the show with his usual sharp humor.
“Bones” star Emily Deschanel presented and accepted an award for an episode of the Fox series titled “The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken,” which she called a great way to educate people. But Emily humbly added, “I want to dedicate this award to everyone who is dedicating their lives to helping and saving animals, and may not get acknowledged or win an award like this, but are doing way more than we did. We’re very proud of our show, but it’s nothing compared to the people who have dedicated their entire lives to this cause.”
The Genesis Award for Documentary Film went to director Louie Psihoyos for “The Cove,” which also won an Academy Award for the news-making documentary about the slaughter of dolphins. In the category of Reality Series, Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” was recognized, also “Family Guy”, “The Today Show”, and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” received awards for putting the spotlight on animal issues. Not surprising, the menu for the event was strictly vegan, which pleased all of the animal advocates.
The star-studded Genesis Awards ceremony will air April 24 and 25 on Animal Planet. Tune in.

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