2015 Experience, Strength And Hope Award Post Event
Mackenzie Phillips, Sharon Lawrence, Daniel Baldwin, Dan Fante, Julian Velard, and comedian Mark Lundholm were among the Stars who honored JOE PANTOLIANO as the author received the Experience, Strength And Hope Award from Writers In Treatment on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Last year, I was drinking diet Mountain Dew and chain-smoking Marlboro Reds like some Appalachian tweaker on my way to the 5th Annual Experience, Strength and Hope Awards at the Skirball Center. But this time, I was only vaping and drinking yerba mate so I was pretty chuffed with my progress. I’m a writer (read: loner) and sober (read: riddled with social anxiety) so I was equally terrified in spite of having another year of sublime sobriety under my belt. I was glamorously dressed to the nines in all red, but my blue eyes were wide and anxious as I floated around the packed catered reception with a pad in my hand and a pen in my mouth like a waitress at a truck-stop diner.
There was a step and repeat where people posed for pics and interviews. I spotted Andy Dick chatting away to an interviewer as paparazzi shot photos. I grabbed a BBQ chicken lollipop, surreptitiously took a hit off my vape and looked around for my first victim.
This year’s honoree was actor and writer Joe Pantoliano (a.k.a. Joey Pants), best known for his portrayal as Ralph Cifaretto on The Sopranos. Joey is good friends with Robert Picardo and since Robert was busy doing a musical at the Annenberg Center, he brought along Robert’s daughter, Nicky, as his so-called date. Nicky was a pretty young brunette with glasses and an eyebrow piercing who looked as uncomfortable as I felt. She was sitting alone, playing with her phone when I sat down next to her and started to interrogate her….in a friendly way of course.
Joey came up to the podium and his honesty was staggering. He explains how the trauma of 9/11 “kicked up unresolved emotional dust” that he had buried. He had thought that success would make his pain go away, but once he had surrounded himself with all the “stuff” (wife, money, success, Emmys, whatever) and was still depressed, he turned to alcohol. He’s written two books, Who’s Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-Up Guy, and Asylum: Hollywood Tales from My Great Depression: Brain Dis-Ease, Recovery, and Being My Mother’s Son. He is also the founder and president of “No Kidding? Me Too!” – a foundation created to “stomp the stigma of mental illness” with documentaries, personal appearances and events.
Actor/director Daniel Baldwin takes the stage to receive the “Audience Favorite Award” for his film, The Wisdom to Know the Difference, described as the “craziest intervention story.” “I’m more proud of this movie than the 125 films I’ve done.” he said.
All-in-all, an inspiring and amusing night, I thought as I grabbed my gift bag and hobbled around the parking lot for 25 minutes looking for my car. Some things never change even when you’re sober. It was wonderful to be around “my people” and I look forward to next year.
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The charity event is a celebration of the benefits of clean and sober living and the importance of humor in the recovery process. All proceeds benefit Writers In Treatment’s Jewelle Sturm Memorial Scholarship Fund.
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