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Amy Poehler, Rachael Ray And MTV’s McGrath Headline Gracie Awards

gracies.jpgLast night in New York City, the Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television presented their 34th annual Gracie Awards honoring the top women making entertainment for women.

The night’s biggest winners were Amy Poehler, who took home the 2009 Dove Real Beauty Award, Tribute Award winner Rachael Ray and MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath, who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. And the red carpet was graced by more media celebrities who won or presented awards throughout the evening, including Suze Orman, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Ann Curry, Bob Schieffer, New York Housewives Jill Zarin, Kelly Bensimon, LuAnn de Lesseps and Alex McCord, Oprah‘s BFF Gayle King and Maya Angelou.

Photo: Host Niecy Nash, reality star Ruby Gettinger, Kathy Griffin, Orman and Ray. Courtesy Larry Busacca/Wireimage. Check out some photos from inside the Gracies here and here.

Read on to find out who we talked to inside the Marriott Marquis ballroom


The first television commentator we spotted during the cocktail hour was “Today” show contributor Jean Chatsky. The personal finance guru, who also has a show on Harpo Radio and a column in More magazine, tied the knot with Hearst‘s Eliot Kaplan last month and the newlyweds were aglow. “It’s been great,” Chatsky said of married life. Later, she presented an award to CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan, who was unable to attend the event because she was covering President Barack Obama‘s trip to the Middle East.

Katherine Kelly, Harpo Radio’s operations manager flew in from Harpo’s homebase in Chicago to celebrate the channel’s two Gracies, awarded to Maya Angelou for outstanding talk show — for the second year in a row — and legendary producer Corny Koehl. The channel has won Gracies every year since its inception three years ago, Kelly pointed out.

Speaking of Angelou, her speech was, not surprisingly, the most eloquent and moving of the evening. Quoting Roman playwright Terence, she said, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” Later in the evening, winner Amy Poehler, who was accompanied to the event by her husband Will Arnett, started her speech in the same way then feigned embarrassment. “Maya Angelou and I have the same speech,” she said, before going on to recognize her Web TV series “Smart Girls at the Party” and thanking those involved.

We also ran into “Face The Nation” host Bob Schieffer, who was chatting with longtime friend Susan Zirinsky, executive producer of “48 Hours.” Zirinsky, who was thanked by a few Gracie recipients throughout the night, was the inspiration for Holly Hunter‘s character in film “Broadcast News,” Shieffer said. He also let us know that his band will be performing next Tuesday at the National Press Club, and they’re always on hand to perform on his show if he can’t get a guest for some reason.

During the award dinner, we crashed at a table with AWRT board members Valerie Blackburn of CBS Radio and Kathleen Ross of Arbitron. Blackburn told us that next year’s Gracies will be hosted in Los Angeles, before the show’s host Niecy Nash announced the news to the crowd, who cheered loudly.

Near the end of the night, Suze Orman accepted her sixth ever Gracie award following a highlight reel that honored her for winning more Gracies than any other individual in the history of the awards.

“I’m a woman and I’m so proud to be a woman, and I’m proud to do programming for women,” Orman said in her acceptance speech. “But we need to build each other up, not tear each other down…We all have to make sure that women rule because in my opinion they most certainly do.”

Minutes later, Orman returned to the stage to present a Gracie to Kathy Griffin for “My Life On the D List.” Griffin’s speech was hilarious and peppered with profanity, just the kind of pick-me-up the crowd needed as the three-hour ceremony headed towards its conclusion. “Suze Orman is full of s***,” Griffin said after Orman extolled the reality show star’s caring and giving side. “She warned me that she was going to make me seem nice, but it’s a career killer.”

Other winners of the evening included Mariska Hargitay of “Law & Order: SVU,” who sat with her husband actor Peter Hermann, CNN senior executive producer Kelly Flynn; daytime drama “All My Children” and actress Debbi Morgan, CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton, WE-TV’s “High School Confidential” and executive producer Sharon Liese, Jane Pauley and AARP TV special “Picking Up the Pieces,” as well as the AARP radio documentary “Picking Up the Pieces,” Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson, VP” and teen actress Keke Palmer, “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” executive producer Alexandra Wallace, PBS correspondent Maria Hinojosa and NBC Sports producer Molly Solomon.

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