04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
Before she presented her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, with the Excellence in Media Award at Monday night's 12th Annual Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in New York, Natasha Richardson told PEOPLE: "I'm so proud of her. It's a very cool thing right now to play gays and lesbians, but she was doing it long before it was the cool thing to do." Among those at the all-star banquet: Gina Gershon, Sharon Gless, Richard Hatch, Susan Lucci, Kathleen Turner and Joan Collins, who told the 1,700-strong crowd, "If Anne Heche can play a lesbian, so can I. I think I have done my bit for heterosexuality." Evening honoree Liz Smith, the gossip columnist, noted her own past role as a non-activist and said, "I haven't been one of the brave ones who threw themselves on the barricades. But if I was never the groundbreaking lesbian of your dreams, I did try and write about issues, such as AIDS."