We Got Bruce!

Vilanch Attends Anne Rice Fundraiser

November 16, 2008
Rice estate hosts fundraiser
Betty Francis
Special to The Desert Sun

“I can’t believe I’m standing in Anne Rice’s house,” said comic Bruce Vilanch, who has already stood in some pretty impressive places, including Broadway stages and the Emmy winner’s circle.

But last week’s assembled crowd of more than 200 cheered in agreement, obviously feeling pretty special themselves as they strolled the rolling grounds of Rice’s estate overlooking a private lagoon and the twinkling lights of Rancho Mirage far below.

Anne and her son Christopher greeted their visitors warmly, but she spent part of the evening resting in her study, where she recently completed her 28th book, “Called Out of Darkness — A Spiritual Confession.”

The book is in full distribution now but Rice’s national promotional tour had to be canceled after a diabetic episode hospitalized her a few months ago.

“She’s fine,” said Rice’s executive assistant Sue Tebbe, “but the rigors of New York TV appearances just didn’t fit into her doctor’s recovery plan” she added with a laugh.

The party was a fundraiser for the Lambda Literary Foundation, founded in 1996 , and the country’s leading advocate of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) literature.

Christopher Rice, a respected novelist in his own right, is now working on his fifth novel and credits Lambda with helping him when he most needed it.

Bruce Vilanch’s talk ranged from the very funny: “ Sorry I’m late, but I write for the Oscars and last year’s show is just now ending” to the very serious: “It took from 1968 to 2008 for blacks to get from Martin Luther King to Barack Obama. It may take that long again for the LGBT community to win our civil rights.”

Following Vilanch, but holding her own, was Patricia Nell Warren, author of the groundbreaking book “The Front Runner” in 1974. Now, with eight LGBT-themed novels, her book sales have passed the 10 million mark.

Warren also said, “I can’t believe I’m in Anne Rice’s house and that she paid for this entire event!” Then she added, “All nonprofit groups are suffering from donor fatigue, but no one does what Lamda does. It is our written words that will be heard by the world, and no one else can do what Lamda is doing for our authors.”

Lambda’s executive director, Charles Flowers, recently moved the charity’s headquarters from New York to Los Angeles and is working with desert libraries and colleges to create some local events.

“We hope to have an active desert program soon,” he said, “concentrating on the many fine LGBT writers in this area; but right now we are fighting for survival. The current political and economic crises are testing us as never before.”

Among the guests were Jamie Kabler, who hosted Vilanch at his Palm Springs Leisureland estate, photographer and producer Michael Childers, the Rev. Joseph Lund and Jim Kelly, Dr. Peter Scheer, Cheryl Crane, Josh LeRoy, Ron Willison, Christina Gantz, Julie Warren, author Richard Alther and Ray Repp.

At one point, a large group of locals was voicing opinions on everything from the recent elections to next year’s high season, but there was one thing they all agreed on, “We can’t believe we’re standing in Anne Rice’s house.”

Lambda information: (323) 936-5876 or lambdaliterary.org

Betty Francis manages the society pages, photos and guest-reporter program. She can be reached at 341-4080 or BECHA1@aol.com.