Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An Inspiring Event for LGBT Seniors on a Beautiful Day

Dr. Betty L. Sullivan with pioneering lesbian activist Phyllis Lyon

The grandeur of the St. Francis Hotel’s Alexandra Penthouse on the 32nd floor was the setting for openhouse’s 5th annual Spring Fling luncheon on April 19, 2009. Sixty-foot, floor-to-ceiling, French cut windows with magnificent San Francisco views and dramatic lighting to heighten the penthouse’s gold and cream art nouveau d├ęcor, were breathtaking. More than a few guests remarked on how the lighting (and wine) also heightened the looks of the other guests.

The Spring Fling luncheon began with co-chairs Laura Spanjian and Tim Wu warmly greeting the diners. Executive director Seth Kilbourn then welcomed everyone by thanking them for attending the event on such a beautiful Spring day. openhouse provides housing services and programs for LGBT seniors, and sets a standard on how LGBT seniors should be treated. Kilbourn discussed the current economic situation and said that the delveloper of 55 Laguna is determined to complete the project, which will house LGBT seniors.

Lesbian activist pioneer Phyllis Lyon was introduced and the sold out event’s diners erupted in applause. Other notables included Charlotte Coleman, who battled the police, the State Alcohol Beverage Control Office (ABC), and politicians to open the first lesbian-owned legal San Francisco lesbian and gay bars. She was joined by friends Robert Bobba and Mary Sager. Assemblyman Mark Leno and Supervisor Bevan Dufty stopped by to greet openhouse’s supporters, and the Sheriff Office’s Susan Fahey and political analyst Wayne Friday table-hopped to visit friends.

Honoree Carole Migden with Charlotte Coleman and Mary Sager

California State Commissioner and honoree Carole Migden was introduced and praised by executive director Seth Kilbourn for her work on behalf of seniors since she headed Operation Concern, which has evolved into New Leaf. And her efforts to strengthen domestic partnership laws were credited with the building of the same-sex marriage movement. Commissioner Migden accepted her trophy and pointed out other activists throughout the room, and how they had furthered LGBT seniors’ rights.

Founder Marcy Adelman spoke and early board members were also honored: Arthur Hurwith, Warren van Eck, Matile Rothschild, and Jan Faulkner (in memoriam). Their time and efforts in setting up tables for hours, speaking at hearings, and communicating with seniors to organize the largest survey of LGBT seniors’ needs, were appreciated.

Honoree Anne Kronenberg

Seth Kilbourn quoted Harvey Milk’s comments of contempt for people who did not respect seniors, and especially LGBT seniors, when he presented a trophy to Milk’s campaign manager Anne Kronenberg. Anne Kronenberg spoke about how much Harvey Milk cared about seniors and their rights, and how he spoke with them about their needs at community centers and nursing homes. And she playfully explained how her mother was not impressed by the stars she worked with and how she was portrayed in the “Milk” film, and how that may change with the openhouse honor and her upcoming NYC Pride grand marshal honor.

The event’s finale was a soft touch lesbian cruise fundraising auction and announcements of silent auction winners.