Legendary Producer Barbara Gaines Awarded for LGBT Work by the Forward

Legendary Producer Barbara Gaines Awarded for LGBT Work

Image by Getty Images

It took all of five seconds for the former executive producer of the Late Show with David Letterman to get the hundreds gathered to honor her rolling in the aisles with laughter.

“I’m Barbara Gaines and welcome to my Bat Mitzvah,” she said. “I don’t [know] what’s stranger…the fact that I’m wearing my father’s tuxedo or the fact that there’s lip gloss in my pocket.”

Gaines, 58, was lauded Saturday evening with the Trailblazer Award at the Women’s Event 18 for her work in the LGBT community.

She said she was surprised when told she had been selected and wrote the night’s organizer:“You really must be at the bottom of the lesbian barrel.”

“She didn’t hesitate to return my email right away to say ‘We’re not scraping the bottom of the lesbian barrel — we’re at the top of the lesbian heap.’”

“I didn’t believe her but after being married 24 years i am happy to be in any part in any lesbian heap — top, bottom, middle, whatever!”

The evening was put together by New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, the nation’s largest.

Gaines, 58, is a board member of New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) and married to Aari Blake Ludvigsen; they have a son, Simon Michael Ludvigsen Gaines.

She became Letterman’s executive producer in May 2000, two decades after she started as a production assistant on “The David Letterman Show,” the funnyman’s NBC morning program. She worked on all 1,810 “Late Night” broadcasts on NBC and all 2,600-plus episodes of the “Late Show” on CBS.

As top producer, she was was nominated for eleven Emmys and won five consecutive ones for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002).

Gaines said her old boss was always supportive and even took a humorous dig at the 2009 sex scandal that rocked the show.

“Have I changed any lives?” she asked. “I don’t know…maybe one person…a couple of interns.”

The crowd inside New York’s swanky Capitale ate it up.

There was a special tribute to another Jewish trailblazer during the event: marriage quality pioneer Edith Windsor, 86, who was at the top of The Forward 50 list in 2013.

Windsor is the Jewish lesbian activist whose Supreme Court battle successfully overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

The case brought by Windsor — demanding the same federal tax benefits after her life partner died Thea Spyer — is credited with laying the groundwork for a case brought by the 49-year-old Jim Obergefell and several other plaintiffs.

In June saw the U.S. Supreme Court rule that all states must grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.

Honored with a Corporate Impact Award was Citi Managing Director Lisa Davis.

Singer Janelle Monae got an Equality Award “acknowledging her immense talent, dedication to artistic expression and commitment to achieving equality for the LGBT community.”


John A. Oswald

John A. Oswald

John Oswald is The Forward’s deputy digital media editor.

Legendary Producer Barbara Gaines Awarded for LGBT Work

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Legendary Producer Barbara Gaines Awarded for LGBT Work

Thank you!

This article has been sent!