And the little naked man goes to ...

Tom Wolfe, Kevin Spacey and Tom Hanks pick up their prizes at the fourth annual GQ Men of the Year Awards.

Published October 25, 1999 8:00AM (EDT)

1999 GQ Men Of The Year Awards

Oct. 21, 1999

Beacon Theater, New York

Grazing at the edges of the red carpet and milling about the seats at the Beacon Theater, at least a half dozen women at the GQ Men of the Year Awards show wore coats made of faux cowhide. It's astonishing that in the name of a trend, fearless fashionistas will dress up like Ben & Jerry's mascots. It could have been a pasture out there.

The rest of the crowd, both the privileged, comped and swanky on the lower level and the off-the-rack and paying $65 apiece in the balcony, dressed a little more to code for the venerable men's magazine. The event was ostensibly held to promote the magazine's forthcoming Men of the Year issue, which allows readers to pick 16 alpha males in categories like chef, film director, music band and fashion.

But GQ, of course, wins all sorts of points with the men the magazine already writes about -- just by giving them little crystal statuettes of a naked man. They also score with the men who read the magazine. (Celebrity journalists are nothing if they don't get to hang out with the people they write about.) The show, sort of the Golden Globes of the magazine world, was taped for the Web and for VH1. It airs this Friday.

For the most part, the program was standard award fare, with scrambling seat-holders, nervous nominees and presenters like Gwyneth Paltrow, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Brokaw. Because there was no backstage area, A-listers like Cindy Crawford (who presented) and TV star Dylan McDermott buzzed around like celebrity flies.

The night began with a video screen with clips from GQ Awards from past years. The montage played several clips of model Tyra Banks fumbling her lines. For some reason, host Dennis Miller reprised the joke for the rest of the night. Miller was mediocre, if typically sardonic, in his host role. Most of his targets were pretty easy ones. When portly chef Mario Batali took the stage in plaid shorts, Miller glanced over his shoulder. "Well, we know where all the food has gone."

Some of the winners: Tom Wolfe won for literature; Yankees manager Joe Torre won for coach; Oscar De La Hoya won for individual sport. Kevin Spacey took home a theater award for his role in the Broadway play "The Iceman Cometh." Tom Hanks beat George Clooney, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers and John Travolta, among others, for film actor.

Calvin Klein won in the fashion category. As presenter Dustin Hoffman handed Klein one of the crystal bod awards, he slipped him a pair of tighty-whitey underwear with "Dustin Hoffman" printed across the waistband. Klein accepted the underwear in good humor, but suggested that having your name printed on briefs across America isn't always a good thing. His daughter, he said, would rather not see her daddy's name every time she takes a man to bed.

The Christopher Reeve moment, the segment where the audience swells up in a burst of appreciative pathos, went to Tour de France winner and testicular cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. The short video that captured his trials was actually chilling. Armstrong himself warmed up the crowd a bit when he accepted the award for courage, and talked about being excited to get home to his new baby boy.

A golden angel designed by David Yurman went to Steven Spielberg for his humanitarian work, especially with Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, a project documenting the experiences of Holocaust survivors. He also won a director's award for "Saving Private Ryan." Spielberg accepted both awards with surprising humility, talking about other great directors and crediting his humanitarian side to his wife.

Will Smith wasn't around to accept his best-dressed award. But he, too, credited his wife from a beamed-in video. "I just wear what Jada lays out on the bed."

The Goo Goo Dolls, Garth Brooks and Lenny Kravitz all provided musical interludes. Instead of introducing his bizarre Chris Gaines alter ego, Garth sang as Garth. Weirdly enough, he turned in a cover: the Youngbloods' "Get Together."

The crowd was more or less still as Kravitz took the stage. Kravitz waved his arms around in an attempt to shake up the audience, which actually worked down front. At least for Kevin Spacey. During "American Woman," remade by Kravitz for "The Spy Who Shagged Me," but also a major moment in "American Beauty," Spacey drum soloed on his lap. At one point, he leaned forward to make eye contact with co-star Wes Bentley. They both lip-synched.

Kravitz played about six songs as the show wound down. The Beacon bouncers, of course, made sure that all of the bottom floor, still packed with celebrity types and models, was able to comfortably exit to their waiting limos. The folks up in the balcony, however, weren't so lucky. They got held up there like the coach class in "Titanic." The cow coats started making a lot more sense.

By Lauren Weymouth

Lauren Weymouth lives in New York and works at Salon.

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Lenny Kravitz Steven Spielberg