The tributes – and probably some tears – will go on until Meredith Vieira officially steps down as co-host of "Today" on June 8, leaving her reported $10 million salary to wake up much later and spend more time with her family, while Ann Curry slips into her seat next to Matt Lauer on NBC's top-rated morning news show.

Vieira started her farewell tour several weeks early as she collected a prestigious Gracie Award as best anchor.

This 36th annual edition of the awards ceremony was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and will be televised later this summer.

Hosted by Patricia Heaton and presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation and title sponsor Dove, the Gracies honor exceptional programming and individual contributions of those who create portrayals of women in all forms of media, including radio, broadcast television, cable and new media. The awards program also encourages the realistic and multifaceted portrayal of women in entertainment, news, features and other programs.

This year's gala dinner ceremony started off with a bang as the outstanding anchor statuette was awarded by actor Zachary Levi to Vieira. Taking the stage in a flowing red gown, Vieira used the occasion to thank and say goodbye to a list of her colleagues at "Today," although whether mistakenly or by design, she neglected to mention Curry in her kudos.

Among the other honorees who took home one of the 36 Gracie Awards: NBC news correspondent Anne Thompson for outstanding reporter, Amber Lyons for outstanding investigative program, "Sold on Craigslist," Shonda Rimes for outstanding drama, "Private Practice," Joan Lunden for outstanding talk show, "Taking Care with Joan Lunden," Yvette Nicole Brown for outstanding performance in a supporting comedy role for "Community" and Chelsea Handler for outstanding talk show, "Chelsea Lately."

Handler, whose latest book is topping best-seller lists, joked onstage but she was honored to be awarded anything and then closed by saying, "Men, your time is over." She was spotted making an early exit in a chauffeur-driven SUV.

Julie McCarthy, who had just won a Peabody Award for her work in Pakistan for NPR, talked about the importance of telling complex stories in accepting her Gracie.

Access Hollywood weekend co-anchor and correspondent Shaun Robinson was honored with the 2011 Dove Real Beauty Award, created to honor an individual who best embodies and expresses the "substance and spirit" of real beauty through her life and career.

The prestigious Gracies Tribute Award for 2011 was presented to Emmy Award-winning journalist and bestselling author Linda Ellerbee by former CNN anchor Aaron Brown. She was recognized for her unparalleled career defined by intelligent journalism, innovative television programming and inspirational messaging.

Other presenters included ESPN's Erin Andrews, ice skating icon Peggy Fleming, Holly Robinson Peete, Kim Delaney, Brenda Strong, Morgan Fairchild, Dennis Swanson, Christy Turlington Burns, Scott Herman and Maria Menounos.

The Gracies will air on the Hallmark Movie Channel on August 8, 2011.

Hillary Atkin is an award-winning journalist who began her career as a television news writer, reporter and producer at KOB-TV. As a broadcast producer at KCBS in Los Angeles, she won numerous Emmy, Associated Press and Golden Mike Awards for live coverage and entertainment special events programming, and then produced and directed biographies on Robert Duvall, Elizabeth Montgomery, Linda Darnell and Nicolas Cage for A&E and E!. She can be reached at hillaryatkin@yahoo.com.

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