by Leta Rector
Beverly Hills, California (NFIC)

I arrived at the upscale Beverly Hilton Hotel at 2:00, but not in my capacity as a reporter. Journalists were not allowed until the 5:00 press conference. I was nominated by the First Americans In the Arts for Best Actress in a Stageplay for my lead role in Honor Song for Crazy Horse a few years ago. This qualified me to be a presenter and this year’s awards was my second time for such an honor.

Funny, I’ve attended the awards since the maiden voyage in 1993, but only this year it struck me what a one-of-a-kind show this is. Founders Dawn Jackson and Bob Hicks were kicking around the idea of a ceremony for Indians honoring Indians back when Dances With Wolves came out.

They enlisted some of their hard-working friends such as Mark Abbott, Maura Dhu, Sherri Foster, Selina Jayne and Harrison Lowe. They put up their own money as a deposit and, as they say, the rest is history. Where else can you see producers, casting directors, musicians, comedians, directors, recording artists, tribal dignitaries and Indian beauty pageant royalty in one elegant welldressed evening? Stars of stage, screen and television, of course, goes without saying. It really is a one of a kind show. There’s nothing else in America like it.

I arrived early in the afternoon for rehearsal and found my fellow tribesman, Oklahoma Cherokee Wes Studi, hard at work rehearsing with the sound crew. Studi has performed the hosting duties several times and is always a favorite.

After the show, I saw him standing in one spot as a line of fans one by one came up and stood by his side for photos that will be treasured in hogans and tipis across the country, even the world. He’s always such a good sport about it, too. It is probably one of the most thrilling components of the show – the fact that anybody from anywhere can buy a ticket and see her/his favorite Indian stars.

I was greeted by members of the Jacalyn Kane Production company who were courteous and helpful (not two qualities often found in show biz). The company did an excellent job and the show went without a hitch, even with a full evening of film and video clips. I rehearsed my lines onstage and they said, “It’s a wrap.” I was off to pluck my eyebrows.

I was thrilled to see that my old pal and fellow journalist David Robb was deservedly being honored this year. Robb is the one reporter in Hollywood who took it upon himself to cover American Indian issues way back in 1983 when the late Will Sampson formed the American Indian Registry for the Performing Arts. Robb came to our offices and set up an interview with Hanay Geiogamah, Bob Hicks and me.

Robb had the class to remember them and thank several members of the Indian community by name. He was also one of the few – if not the only – members of the press who reported on the 1996 incident on the set of the TV show JAG when Indians were insulted.

I headed back to the Green Room to fire up my curling iron and ran into my old friends Michael Horse and Charlie Hill. Charlie pointed to Michael and to himself and told me, “Charlie Horse.” You can see why Charlie was a favorite of Johnny Carson and has appeared several times on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.

Derrick Davis, world champion hoop dancer, was getting ready next to me. He had a little box of jewelry so I sheepishly asked him if I might borrow some earrings because I had been a dummy and didn’t wear any. He said he’d rather wear his medicine wheel earrings anyway, so much to my relief he loaned me some. “So you’ll quit calling yourself bad names,” he teased me. His fellow dancer Leon Thompson looked like he was only skimming across the surface of the stage when he was doing his business of fancy dancing. “How do you do that?” I asked him afterwards in the Green Room. “I run all the time,” he confessed.

The beautiful volunteers, dressed to the nines, did not buy the $125.00 meal tickets and so had only a bowl of green apples to sustain them. I snuck a basket of our head table’s dinner rolls back to the very grateful teenage models. (I hope the Beverly Hilton isn’t reading this!)

It made me giggle to see Lindsay Wagner so intently studying her lines. Even then, when she got onstage and tried to pronounce “Mdewakanton” she sheepishly asked the crowd, “Was I even close?”

It was also a joy to see old pal Adam Beach at the top of his game. I met Adam when he was a newcomer to Hollywood at an American Indians in the Media conference hosted by Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. He took me and his agent to a screening of his first movie Cadillac Girls in 1993. Even then, it was apparent by his dazzling smile that Beach had a sparkling career ahead of him. You go, Adam!

Then there was the afterparty. I had two free tickets (I LOVE being a presenter!) one for me and one for my 16-year-old cousin Jerry Wolf Sellers (oh, yeh, he’ll be the next Adam Beach, trust me.) Jerry Wolf is busily involved not only in water polo, baseball and every kind of sports at Malibu High, he also works in his spare time at the juvenile prison teaching the teenagers improvisational comedy!

At the end of the – very long – day, I couldn’t see anyone who wasn’t having a great time. See ya February 2004!

Award-winning journalist Leta Rector has covered the FAITA awards since the inaugural ceremony in 1993. A member of Actors Equity since 1994 and Screen Actors Guild since 1987 she kicked off her career in Mystic Warrior. Her screenplay made the first round of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. In 1984 she was one of the original members of Will Sampson’s American Indian Registry For the Performing Arts. She toured China as an exhibition fancy shawl dancer and is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma from the Scraper and Knightkiller families. She can be reached at <>.