Friday, May 22, 2009

Body Image and Self-Esteem Forum at the LGBT Center

The Community Initiative, which used to be called the San Francisco Gay Men's Community Initiative, presented a Body Image Forum at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on May 20, 2009.

During his introduction coordinator Lewis Nightingale thanked the 70-plus member audience for passing up the “American Idol” finale.

The panelists were diverse and carefully chosen:
Therapist Mark Paterson Estrada, who wants people to make an effort to have a better body image, and to be aware of the danger
of crystal meth, personal trainer Patrick Baressi, who is also an actor, activist, and teacher, self-identified Bear Phil Siegel, drag performer and actor Trauma Flintstone, academic and erotic film star Derrick Hanson, student and activist Smoke Man, and HIV testing counselor Blue Buddha.

MC Tom Orr, who is a well known and provocative composer, singer, actor, playwright, and erotic film star, spoke seriously about how young men are missing mentors due to the death of so many older men from AIDS. Many of the young men need guidance in dating, building a household, and establishing a career. Then he sang his own version of “I Feel Pretty” which stated that most of our community’s problems are related to poor body image and low self-esteem.

The Community Initiative is able to receive funding and contributions because the rising STD and HIV rates were connected by surveys to alienation among queer men. Events with bonding rituals, a series of interesting projects, and a high level of coordinator consciousness has made the Community Initiative a role model for groups that want to being everyone together.

The subject of the forum drew much of the audience, and others were drawn by their appreciation of the film appearances of Derrick Hanson and Tom Orr. They have given a lot of men a lot of pleasure. And both are tireless charity fundraisers for combating AIDS and crystal meth. And Hanson and Orr are spokesmen for the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s “Sex Without Meth Is Hot Sex” campaign.

Derrick Hanson was put on the spot because panelists and audience members felt that he is so good looking, muscular, and sexy that he cannot relate to their difficulties. Hanson responded that he was a skinny, openly queer youth in school and was widely hated. He also mentioned that he has been in the sex industry since age 12, and that he sees beauty in everyone with whom he comes in close contact.

Phil Siegel made an observation that after a certain age, men become invisible in the Castro. And Blue Buddha spoke about the Bears judging each other’s clothes, behavior, and body shape. Phil Siegel responded that people want to belong to a tribe, and since there are so many open gays, there is going to be subdividing.

Panelist Mark Peterson Estrada said that he wants people to treat each other better, and not go along with bad behavior. Patrick Baressi mentioned that even when guys work out a lot, the idealized shirtless men in advertising discourage them. Tom Orr responded that the men in the ads are discouraged also, since their images are heavily enhanced.

Blue Buddha and Smoke Man spoke about their experiences as African-Americans, and an audience member suggested a forum high-jacking since the event was to discuss body image and not race. The Community Initiative is credited for their racism forums.

Trauma Flintstone spoke about the importance of the wide acceptance of flamboyant “American Idol” contestant Adam Lambert, and how effeminacy is in the range of male image, with its supposed opposite — that of extreme macho Tom of Finland posturing. Then he sang “What Makes a Man” to sustained applause.

The panelists each spoke a couple times, and there was a lot of audience input, which is the mark of a successful forum.

The finale featured MC Tom Orr flexing himself into butch poses and then flinging his arms into showgirl stances on the edge of the stage. It was beyond brain-twisting.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

API Wellness Center’s Successful Bloom Party

Jan and Al Nakatani with API Wellness Center executive director Lance Toma

The Asian & Pacific Islander (API) Wellness Center presented their best Bloom Party yet at The Galleria on May 19, 2009. The Galleria is known for being the site of the notorious film “Can’t Stop the Music” and a series of large, famous parties from the disco era up to the present.

The evening’s entertainment was continuous and high quality, and it and the ceremonial program was well coordinated by consultant Kim Teevan. The Ali Akbar College of Music’s musicians set a wonderful mood at the beginning of the party.

API Wellness’ Executive Director Lance Toma welcomed the guests, and he was followed by Associate Director of Community Development Dr. Bhupendra Sheoran and a video message by CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

MC Tita Aida made a fashion statement in a slinky black Kimora Lee Simmons dress, and it was commented on as she glided from the stage to the VIP staging area. The Human Rights Commission’s Cecelia Chung made a fuss over a silent auction tea set, and GAPA’s Donald Masuda again made generous contributions of artistic items from his treasure trove to the auction.

San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting, California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, and former Assessor Mabel Teng made the rounds, and API Wellness’ Estée Longah had a new extravagant look for the evening. The Imperial Court was represented by Remy Martin, Cher A Little, and Fernando Robles.

The Ally Award was given to Pangea Global AIDS Foundation board chair Joe Garrett, who is also a board member of the AIDS Relief Fund for China, and he was the board chair of Project Inform. He is a long-time supporter of the API Wellness Center. Garret playfully told the story of when he told Compass Point’s highly regarded Steve Lew (the first Miss GAPA — who affected a Jackie Kennedy look) that he was receiving API Wellness’ award, Steve Lew said that he would not be receiving the Steve Lew Award.

Good-natured encouragement by activists working with other activists to do more and work harder for others was the point of the story. Joe Garrett’s friend from school Tom Kelley, who is a board member of Project Inform, was the award presenter and he had choice comments about Garrett.

Jan and Al Nakatani, who lost two gay sons to AIDS, and a straight son to gun violence, gave a special message to the audience. They had been awarded a Hero Award at API Wellness Center for their long-time child protection activism the night before, and said that the employees at the API Wellness Center are the real heroes. Al Nakatani said that they are in the trenches battling HIV every day.

The Good Asian Dancers singing duo were funny and quirky and talented, and they touched on the gritty nightlife of Chinatown. Board members Mike Rabanal and Tien Bui made acknowledgments and then there was a mad dash to check out the silent auction listings.

There was a glow of accomplishment among API Wellness Center employees and volunteers as the evening came to an end, and Executive Director Lance Toma was complimented for a successful fund-raising party.

[Photo caption: 5/18/2009 — Jan and Al Nakatani receiving a surprise Hero Award from API Wellness Center executive director Lance Toma.]

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Show, a Discussion, and a Q&A with Armistead

Acclaimed “Tales of the City” writer Amistead Maupin appeared on May 17, 2009 at a Theatre Rhinoceros and Word for Word Performing Arts Company triple play show at Theater Rhino’s 16th Street locale for a “three on a Party” presentation, on stage through June 7.

Calling Maupin “our muse,” Theatre Rhinoceros Executive Director John Fisher affirmed his admiration for Maupin’s work while the two relaxed on stage chairs after the play performances.

Repeated references in Maupin’s tales to new age obsessions drew nervous knowing laughter from the audience, and the revelation that he was so conservative in his youth that he worked for Jesse Helms drew muffled gasps. Maupin explained that closeted gays submerge their sexuality in homophobic and hateful surroundings to “keep the lid on.” He let on that conservatives do not mind gays, as long as they hate themselves. Moving to San Francisco was a conscious effort for sexual evolution and for freedom from inhibitions.

An allure of “Tales of the City” was that the gay lead character did not die in the end, and that gay sex can be uplifting and fulfilling. San Francisco is on display with all of its beauty, outrageous characters ---
many of whom are sexual acrobats, and the guessing of which character relates to a real person, and who they interact with kept interest surging when “Tales” was a serial in the San Francisco
Chronicle. But the gay men and their friends who swarmed onto the #8 Market bus in the morning and tore through their Chronicles to read the latest installment of the “Tales” did not know that prudes at the newspaper censored Maupin for certain words and situations. Maupin said that he saves 300 trees a year by reading the Chronicle online, and he said sorrowfully that he is part of the problem that newspapers face now.

It was a warm evening and the auditorium was stuffy, but the audience stayed throughout the three-hour, three-part play presentation and to witness the discussion between Armistead Maupin and John Fisher, a Q&A, and a reception that featured Maupin’s friend, artist Don Bacardy, who was Christopher Isherwood’s lover. Their attention was awarded by Maupin’s revelation that he is working on his 8th “Tales of the City” novel.

When asked, Maupin said that marriage equality is inevitable, though gays have never needed a certificate to signify their commitments. And he said that a commitment can be separate from fidelity. As for gays in the military, Maupin related the blatant homoeroticism that he experienced in the navy. Gay naval tailors even enhanced the butts of gay sailor’s uniforms to intensify their allure.

Asked about Tennessee Williams, whose play and one by Gertrude Stein preceded Maupin’s during the evening, he said that while he was in the closet he avoided Williams’ work because of all the beatings and stabbings of gay men trying to sexually devour “rough trade.” This was a continuous shock on stage that night. After coming out Maupin admired Williams’ work and met him at a party in San Francisco. The dangers of fame was evident at the event as young men jumped next to Williams to have their picture taken, as if they were acquainted with the playwright. Later Maupin and Williams shared a quiet moment outside with a hemp treat.

A reference in Armistead Maupin’s play “Suddenly Home” to a Gay Shame and ACT UP protest at Nordstrom’s in 1988, where 300 activists swarmed onto the spiral escalators to chant about the firing of an HIV-positive employee, is among the best of the pictorial flavor of Maupin’s literary art. Maupin’s play is the third in the three-some, and it is the most accessible.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Maitri Bliss: Compassionate Care Benefit in the Woods

Maitri hospice celebrated their 8th Bliss party and 22nd year as a model for compassionate care for HIV/AIDS patients at San Francisco’s historic Golden Gate Club in the Presidio on May 3, 2009. The earthy scent of eucalyptus groves surrounded the stylish setting for the event, and it was the site of the signing of the U.S. and Japan 1951 security treaty that instituted an alliance of friendship and peace in the Pacific. Bliss is known for its terrific cause, fine wines and cocktails, excellent cuisine, and spectacular entertainment. This year topped all the others and it drew a huge crowd of supporters into the well-preserved former military base.

Maitri is dedicated to the belief of its founder Issan Dorsey: that no one should suffer and die alone. The hospice is well known as an ideal resting place for those who at the later moments of their life. It is located near the corner of Church Street and Duboce Avenue, and it is a well-designed and comfortable mecca for clients and visitors. Caregivers and residents receive respect and caring that is dignified and follows personal choices. Unconditional love is a goal for employees, board members, and volunteers, with the belief that those who serve also receive a gift of caring.

The event began when Jana Drakka led a ritual procession of Issan’s Monks through the club porch for a blessing. The women of Heiwa Taiko sent rhythmic sound waves through the party and set the pace for the continuous array of tastes and sights.

The fashion highlight was cultural icon Juanita More in shimmering gold and ultra chic 60’s wig and makeup. Miss More brought three provocative Moreboys along to suggest tunes for her Beauty Bar DJ’ing endeavor. Elevations Salon sent a squad of talented artists to makeover women and men, and across the room massages were being applied. A woman was moving her elbows into a man’s back, and surprise — the man looked up and it was San Francisco City Supervisor Bevan Dufty with a satisfied expression on his face. Couples lounged on white Barcelona couches and rotated to a table where they could write messages to hospice clients on leaves and hang the leaves on a naturalist shrine.

A unique tea ceremony by Soko Omachi featured an interpreter who explained the tea preparation and the Japanese treats to a roomful of curious guests. Throbbing drums led the audience into a presentation of the Manuia Polynesian Review, with its gyrating dancers and South Seas tunes.

Executive Director Tim Patriarca greeted the guests and thanked them for supporting Maitri. Then he welcomed California State Senator Mark Leno to the stage, where a state proclamation was presented. Senator Leno praised Maitri and thanked them for their good work.

Event co-chairs Alan Ratliff and Georgia Fuller then introduced musician Joey Altman, who coordinated a wildly successful live auction of a week in Hawaii and in Paris, with the motivation that the bidding will help Maitri thrive. Gold donor Erich Pearson joined San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros to welcome Maitri Treasurer Walter Parsley and MUMC President Steve Adams to the festivities.

The stage finale starred San Francisco’s premiere singer Paula West, who joined Joey Altman’s Back Burner Blues Band in an sublime “Fly Me to the Moon” as some guests danced, and others joyously gathered up their silent auction prizes.