Tracey Offers Her Praise

Night at the museum
Ang Lee toasts James Schamus


The Museum of the Moving Image's annual benefit gala April 30 at the St. Regis passed breezily thanks to several pleasant surprises.

Ang Lee, on hand to toast honoree James Schamus, killed with 10 minutes of deadpan comic riffing. (Who knew?) Showtime topper Matt Blank, the night's other honoree, saluted boxing promoter Don King, who waved from his seat but opted not to hijack the evening with a multisyllabic monologue. And the whole affair, which ditched the usual clip reels and fawning speeches, ended before 10 p.m.

Tracey Ullman offered a wry tribute to Blank, whose net is airing her new show. Using a Washington metaphor, she called him the "minority leader of a premium cable network." HBO execs "have kissed babies and eaten cheesesteaks and you've done spft porn and caged wrestling. You've really paid your dues."

Blank drew chuckles with a question for Schamus. "Just as an aside, James, do you have any movies available?" a reference to a pay-TV channel being launched by Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM.

Lee, whose impassive facial expression never changed, recalled meeting Schamus and then-Good Machine partner Ted Hope in 1991. "James looked like a professor and a used car salesman," he said. "I gave them ($400,000 toward the production of 'Pushing Hands') and hoped they were not crooks." Long pause. "I could not tell."

Said Schamus, "You've just gotten a taste of a guy I've known since he couldn't speak English. And boy was life easier then."

Also mingling in the intimate ballroom were notables such as Ron Meyer, Jeff Zucker, David Linde, Leslie Moonves, Michael Barker, Andrew Karpen, Ira Glass, Michael C. Hall, Edie Falco, Michelle Byrd, Variety prexy and publisher Neil Stiles and the museum's Rochelle Slovin and Herbert S. Schlosser.