Bay Area Reporter
Life is a cabaret (to fight AIDS)
by Donna Sachet
Last week’s eighth annual Cabaret to Fight AIDS at the Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko was an unqualified success with a sold-out house, extraordinary musical performances, and significant funds raised for Project Open Hand. Producer Sean Ray not only gathered his loyal and talented singing friends together for this annual event, but also pulled in members of the traveling Broadway production of Wicked, namely Kendra Kassebaum, Natalie Daradich, and Angel Reda . From humble homespun beginnings, this cabaret has risen to new levels of professionalism and musicality. This year’s instrumental ensemble, Michael Grossman, Daniel Fabricant, and Erika Johnson , added tremendously to the production. The attentive audience was taken from rousing group numbers to tender ballads, from bawdy solos to touching duets, and from a cappella voices to dazzling production numbers. In addition to money raised from ticket sales and four fabulous raffle prizes, a single guest was moved to toss a check for $1,000 into the pot. This is grass roots fundraising at its best!
We are not usually seen toting a bag from Target, but when that bag is a gift bag from the AIDS Legal Referral Panel’s Advocates Club thank you party, then thank you Target! Major donors gathered at Robert Fountain’s elegant setting in Portrero Hill to honor David E. Hopmann with its 2009 James C. Hormel Philanthropist Award and the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation with its 2009 Community Partner Award. Cocktails and delectables from Laurel Timm ‘s Catering were enjoyed as The Cottontails provided the perfect musical atmosphere for the group, including Supervisor Bevan Dufty , Superior Court Judge Gail Dekreon , Pollo del Mar, Ken Henderson & Joe Seiler, and ALRP Executive Director Bill Hirsh.
Afterwards, we dashed to the Castro for a volunteer thank you party where Supervisor Dufty, City Treasurer Jose Cisneros , Emperor Jacques Michaels , Shannon Murray , and many others joined organizer Patrick Carney as Toad Hall’s Les Natali presented a check for $3,000 to support the annual installation of the Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks for Pride Weekend. Looks like that inspiring sight will return again this year!
The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus brought back the nostalgic 1960s with Tune In, Turn Up, Sing Out last week at Davies Symphony Hall. Guest Conductor Dr. Timothy Seelig and Executive Director Teddy Witherington led the retro fashion show as the chorus took to the stage for the first act attired in more tie-dye, poly-faux-fur, and bell-bottoms than ever pervaded Haight Street. The Whoa Nellies proved the perfect musical guests with strong solo vocals from mini-skirted Connie Champagne and leisure-suited Leigh Crow. During intermission, we found ourselves surrounded by Dean D’Onofrio, Stu Smith , Charlotte Coleman , Roberta Bobba, Russell Kassman, Tommy Taylor, and a slew of past chorus members. The second act presented the chorus in stunning formal tailcoats, beautifully harmonized orchestrations, and humorous small ensembles. After historical readings from Jan Wahl and Hank Plante, special guest Joan Baez shared Woodstock memories and haunting musical renditions from that era, while the chorus drew moving parallels between the civil rights struggles of the 60s and the LGBT challenges of today. At the conclusion, the capacity crowd clambered to their feet for a deserved standing ovation.
This Sunday, May 31, the AIDS Emergency Fund’s County Fair returns to the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. Last year’s first attempt at this fundraiser, including carnival games, ongoing lively entertainment, comical contests, auctions, and casual food and drink, was such a hit that it is back, bigger and better! Also back are hostesses and emcees Sister Roma and your humble columnist, keeping the fun coming while honoring some of the many heroes in our community with AEF Awards. From 3-7 p.m., relive the carefree childhood days of county fair fun with a decided adult twist.
Yes, the raging rumors are true: Television’s Dancing with the Stars may be over, but San Francisco’s Dancing with the Drag Stars is just beginning! Saturday, June 6, is the first of three events at Cheryl Burke Dance Studio, 1830 17th Street, where trained professional dancers have been paired with flamboyant drag personalities to compete for attention from the panel of celebrity judges, including Cheryl Burke herself, Hollywood’s hilarious Bruce Vilanch, and local celebutante Bebe Sweetbriar. Sister Roma hosts, Caroline Lund performs, and this humble reporter emcees. Wunderland hosts the official afterparty. Get ready for a wild night of dance, dish, and devilment!
Postscript: Thanks to a matching challenge grant from MillersCoors, the Imperial Council’s reception for Judy Shepard earlier in the month yielded a grand total of over $12,500 for the Matthew Shepard Foundation! Congratulations all around!