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The Webbys: Now with Weird Dancing Crap!
Jul 19, 2001 :: Lance Arthur

The theme for last night's Webbys seemed to be, "Wow, weren't we all just a bunch of stupid idiots who got what they deserved except they aren't us because we're still here to celebrate the fact that the Web is just such a great place for people like us and not those icky, icky, patooie VC-funded numbskull marketing geniuses!" If that sounds convoluted, confusing and at odds with itself, it sums the evening's festivities up perfectly.

The Webbys tried their hardest to make us remember that they've been around since the go-go 90's, when ecommerce still had a hyphen, "Pre-IPO" was mistakenly thought of as a pregnancy test and no one had ever heard of iMode. There were jokes at the expense of Webvan and laments about Kozmo. As usual, the presentations and set-ups went on too long, but I suppose if you're a multimedia company with access to all of Getty's images and stock Harold Lloyd footage, you're going to want to make the most of it.

Tiffany Shlain, she of the glow-stick fetish and maven of taste for all things Web (which means we should all be dressed in black spandex and bat our eyes a lot) opened the ceremony with a sedate look back at the past year of groans and sad stories, making us all feel better by explaining that "we're still here" in case we had doubts sitting in the audience. I was wondering where I was, because it felt like some moist, uncomfortable hell of overzealous usherettes in their 50's making sure no flash photographers were recording images of the same stage set-up as last year. Then her partner came out and together they gushed at length that they even had sponsors, and how great the remaining sponsors were, and did we mention the sponsors?

Mayor Willie made his usual glad-handing, big-smile speech about the importance of the Web and particularly the Webbys and how jealous all the other cities are of San Francisco for managing, somehow, to keep the show here. I bet you Chicagoans and New Yorkers are all kicking yourselves over that.

And then... On with the weird dancing crap!

I suppose someone, somewhere, somehow understood the relationship between the interstitial modern dance pieces and awarding Web sites which have almost nothing at all to do with modern dance, or a celebration thereof, or bad lighting effects and music that only John Cage in his dotage could love -- because by then I suspect he was deaf and wouldn't have been brought to tears and teeth-grinding by the blippy-blooping cacophony that accompanied these nonsensical herky-jerky spandex routines.

What. The hell. Was that?

As anyone who's ever attended a Webby Award show knows, the Webby Awards themselves are secondary, or tertiary, or whatever comes last on a list that include Shlain self-aggrandizement, product placement, bad musical numbers, technical glitches galore and an audience so sedate that you'd think we were at a funeral.

Oh. Well. Yeah, I get that now.

Moments after an award was presented, I already forgot who won. Or what the award was for. Or why was I here again? Oh, yes, dancing. And hairdos. And those women pelting the winners with roses -- and I do mean pelting. I think they actually attempted to stab Dancing Paul to death. And though I was hoping for chaos, I got entropy instead. There was one bright moment when a gas-masked men jumped the stage to grab a Webby, mumbled something into the mic from behind his gasmask and then leaped from the stage. "Ah," I thought, "disorder. Confusion. Hysteria. Just what we need. Not more of this regimented smiley survival instinct. Throw some shit at the wall! Take off your pants! Live, damned Webby, live!" But no, the Webby Police had the award back in the hands of the "winner" moments later -- it helped that Alan Cumming mentioned that there were stacks of them backstage anyway.

So for two and a half hours (because, yes, I looked at my watch a lot) I sat in row G trying to figure out if anyone in the whole place really cared, or if they were there out of curiosity just to see what they could pull out this year in the face of the black death that's shrouded everything here in the City at Bay. Mostly, it looked just like last year. Same bat host, same bat screen, same bat Tiffany. She's just trying to hold onto her job like everyone else, drumming up support for her own initiatives in the face of incredible ennui and almost complete disregard by the press except for, which I suspect has a contractual obligation to support Satan since they're owned by Disney.

All I can say is next year, I want one. Now that everyone - including the Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences itself - has fessed up that it was all a joke anyway, that nominees are chosen by whim and happenstance and no one cares, really, what happens, man I want one of those golden springs. I want to run onstage all breathless and sweaty and grin and kiss the damn thing (assuming I can find surface area large enough to do so) and dance about like I've just got my ticket to heaven. I want to rend my clothing and cry and faint. Because only now does it really matter. Now that it truly doesn't.



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