Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — The 2002 Matrix Awards on Monday, sponsored by New York Women in Communications, had a little politics, a little sex and a dash of controversy thanks to Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour.
While the mood of most of the award winners was upbeat and gracious, Wintour, who received a Matrix Award for magazines, took a defensive tone in her acceptance speech. She noted on her first day as editor in chief of Vogue in 1988, “a nationally syndicated gossip writer said that an alleged affair with my boss had got me my job.”
That has been followed by reporters constantly pitting her against other female editors. “I believe none of this would have happened if I had been a man,” said Wintour. She took offense to a reporter who wrote a story in the New York Times recently saying that “nobody actually reads women’s fashion magazines.” And she believes there’s no contradiction to being an intelligent woman and dressing well.
“I applaud Matrix for working against these biases,” said Wintour, noting that Vogue has done several themed issues recently, such as one on dressing well at any age and another on body types. Wintour also told the packed house that Vogue is much more than a magazine; it also is a platform for good works, such as its fund-raising efforts for AIDS, breast cancer and the CFDA/Vogue “Fashion for America” campaign, which raised funds for victims of Sept. 11 and was a public awareness effort to get people to shop. Meanwhile, Walter Cronkite, special correspondent for CBS News, thought he had it pretty good as the only male seated on the 18-member dais. But that was until Bill Clinton showed up.
Clinton snuck up on the stage after Cronkite had presented a Matrix Award for newspapers to Helen Thomas, former correspondent for United Press International and currently a Hearst Newspaper columnist. The audience was stunned and gave Clinton a standing ovation.
“How is that for being upstaged as a presenter?” asked Cronkite.
A tanned and fit-looking Clinton, dressed in a navy blue suit and red tie, seemed to blush when he took the stage. He said he had always dreamed of becoming a reporter and might have gone that route had he not gone into public service.
“When I was asked to come here today to be a surprise witness, two things crossed his mind. One is I always wanted to scoop Helen Thomas and two, when I was a boy I dreamed of being Walter Cronkite’s back-up,” said Clinton.
Clinton recalled how hard-working Thomas was when she covered the White House.
“I would go jogging before 7 a.m., and the White House press would cover me. Why would they cover an aging overweight man jogging along the Tidal Basin? Did they think I would be shot, or drop dead of a heart attack?” And it wasn’t the 20-year-old kids who were out there watching, but Thomas was always there, he said.
Barbara Walters, who presented a Matrix Award to Kati Marton for books, took the stage after Clinton.
“How have I sinned?” asked Walters. “I have to follow Walter Cronkite, Helen Thomas and President Clinton.”
Robin Burns, president and ceo of Intimate Beauty Corp. and Victoria’s Secret Beauty, presented the Matrix for public relations to Madeline DeVries; Paula Zahn presented the advertising award to Peggy Conlon, president and ceo of The Advertising Council, and Diane Sawyer gave an award to Meg Whitman, president and ceo of eBay in New Media. In accepting her award, Whitman thanked her husband, a brain surgeon, who helps her keep everything in perspective.
“What I do is not brain surgery,” she said.
However, she recalled the big day when eBay went public — “an entrepreneur’s dream” — and she went down to the NASDAQ and watched the stock shoot up from $18 to $60. “I called my husband on the phone and he told me, ‘I’m really excited for you, but I’m actually doing brain surgery.”‘
And finally, Rosie Perez gave a long-winded speech, using the word “vagina” at least a dozen times as she presented the arts and entertainment award to Eve Ensler, the playwright and activist, whose works include the critically acclaimed “The Vagina Monologues.”
But some members of the audience had already gotten restless. In fact, Helen Gurley Brown, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan’s international editions, had already left — but not before carefully wrapping her cookie in a napkin and sticking it in her handbag.

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