SF Bay Times
Vilanch Adds Blonde Ambition to Help Is On the Way
By Paul E. Pratt
Published: July 19, 2007
Comedian Returns to SFâ€™s Palace of Fine Arts for Aug. 5 AIDS Fundraiser
Bruce Vilanch, mastermind behind the Oscarâ€™s night laughs, calls his quarter-century as one of Hollywoodâ€™s most hilarious staples largely luck. The industryâ€™s love for eccentricity has allowed the star to be outrageously â€œoutâ€ and still succeed.
Now Vilanch â€” who has appeared on a wide array of television shows and starred as Edna Turnblad in the Broadway adaptation of Hairspray â€” uses his unique wit and humor to fight HIV/AIDS. He returns to San Francisco August 5 for Help Is on the Way XIII. The star-studded Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF) fund-raiser brings such Hollywood luminaries as Law & Order star B.D. Wong, Xena: star Lucy Lawless and, of course, Vilanch to the Cityâ€™s Palace of Fine Arts.
In this interview, Vilanch explains why REAF performs a particularly valuable service to the community. In addition to touching on the ongoing seriousness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and questioning healthcare in America, the comedic genius takes time to poke fun at good friend Leslie Jordan and Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Photo: Gavin Newsom (hot, hot, hot)
(Bay Times) You are coming back to San Francisco for Help Is on the Way XIII?
(Vilanch) I am! August 5 at the Palace of Fine Farts. (Laughing.) Last year, Leslie Jordan and you had me in stitches.
Oh, I just adore Leslie! Heâ€™s hysterical. Heâ€™d just come off his Emmy win for Will & Grace, so he was the tallest heâ€™s ever been.
Which, quite honestly, is still pretty short!
Exactly. Knee-high. I wish we were back in that theatre. The Palace of Fine Arts is wonderful, of course, but last year it was like having the audience all around you. Itâ€™s that thrust stage.
Iâ€™ve never actually been to the Palace of Fine Arts for a show of this nature.
Itâ€™s beautiful. Itâ€™s absolutely beautiful. Weâ€™ve done the show there a number of times. I just loved last year performing atop Nob Hill, where I could walk out the stage doors and look out at the view and say, â€œSomeday Iâ€™ll own this town!â€ You could do it from that height.
What keeps you coming back to Help Is on the Way?
Itâ€™s a very worthwhile endeavor. It raises money for the Richmond Ehrmet AIDS Foundation, which is a clearinghouse for raising money for lots of smaller charities that canâ€™t afford to stage these big fundraisers but which need the money. The money from this can go to a small charity and cover a tremendous amount of their annual . . . nut, if thatâ€™s the word I want to use. Itâ€™s very worthwhile. And, of course, itâ€™s always worthwhile to do anything which points out that AIDS has not gone away. Thereâ€™s still no cure. The drugs people take to forestall the progress of the virus cost a fortune and a lot of people canâ€™t afford them. They need supplementary help. Itâ€™s all those things. There are a lot of people competing for the philanthropic dollar. Itâ€™s important to keep reminding people weâ€™re still there.
You mention how costly HIV drugs are. Itâ€™s impossible to believe those medication genuinely cost so much to produce.
Pharmaceutical companies are in business for a profit. It costs a tremendous amount to develop these drugs. They pass it on to the limited â€“ thank God â€“ group of people who need them. Itâ€™s the way itâ€™s structured. Itâ€™s not perfect. (Pause.) Look, weâ€™re no the first people to note that the healthcare system in America is bizarre.
Do you particularly enjoy performing for San Francisco audiences?
Yes. Itâ€™s a smart town. Theyâ€™re very hip. They keep up on things. Itâ€™s also great because the city has its own peculiarities which are quite exploitable.
I figure if I go up there enough times, Gavin Newsom will eventually work his way through everybody in town and get to me.
Itâ€™s true! You are blond, and he seems to have an affection for that these days.
Yeah, baby! And Iâ€™ll be blond forever.
For info, visit: www.RichmondErmet.org