Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Great District 8 Chili for Chile Challenge to Benefit Chilean Orphans

Josh Jacobs, candidate Rafael Mandelman, and Kale Parker

It was an "only-in-San Francisco" event on May 23 to benefit the rebuilding of a Chilean orphanage that had collapsed in a recent earthquake, and again it was the Rainbow World Fund that had mobilized the LGBT community to help out the children. The Fund has been effective after the earthquake in Haiti, floods in Guatemala, and throughout the world when disasters strike.

Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence hosted and welcomed the throng to the Most Holy Redeemer Church. Openly-gay San Francisco City Supervisor Bevan Dufty was scheduled to co-host, but like hundreds of other people that day, he was also going to the AIDS Emergency Fund's Castro County Fair at the San Francisco Armory that afternoon, so he arrived later.

Linda Leu and candidate Rebecca Prozan

Openly-lesbian and gay candidates for San Francisco District 8 City Supervisor Rebecca Prozan, Rafael Mandelman, Scott Wiener, and Bill Hemenger were invited to present their versions of chili for tasting and judging, and each brought a sizable entourage of supporters to help out with the raffle and silent auction.

Candidate Rebecca Prozan enlisted volunteer Linda Leu to serve her chili samples. Candidate Rafael Mandelman brought out friendly Josh Jacobs and Kale Parker. Jacobs’ bare hairy legs distracted guys throughout the afternoon. Candidate Scott Wiener enlisted cute Adam Taylor to serve, and candidate Bill Hemenger's samples were distributed by his impressive, hunky campaign manager Geoffrey Murray.

Adam Taylor and Tom Philips with candidate Scott Wiener

The origins of the chili were surprisingly complicated, and this journalist was happy not to have to look at calf brains on a buffet table next to the chili (as seen in the film “Giant” and on visits to rural Texas). Prozan served up her own recipe. Mandelman said that he had “lots of help.” Wiener had the assistance of Texas friend Henry Kennedy and a Kennedy family cook-off recipe. And Hemenger said that it was a team effort with his partner Frank Lambetecchio.

The judges, who were assumed to be chili taste experts, included Andrea Shorter of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, Trigger bar owner Greg Bronstein (who started his hospitality empire as a waiter at Chevy’s), over-the-top drag entertainer Ethel Merman, Betty Sullivan of Betty’s List, and drag persona Bebe Sweetbriar. Most of the guests liked all of the chili samples, so they did not take the judging very seriously. That also could be the result of stiff drinks served by the high-energy bartenders. Mandelman and Wiener tied for first place and Prozan and Hemenger tied for second place, and a couple guests were inspired to enjoy more chili later at popular Orphan Andy’s restaurant in the Castro.

David Serrano with candidate Bill Hemenger and campaign manager Geoffrey Murray

There was some controversy initially in the choice of venue, since the Most Holy Redeemer Church is a part of the Catholic Archdiocese, with its molestation scandals and escalating homophobic attacks, and the Sisters of Pertpetual Indulgence bingo game that was recently evicted from the church. The eviction of the Sister's popular bingo fundraiser resulted in sharp revenue declines for more than two dozen charities and non-profits that the bingo games benefited until a new venue was found in the Green Room of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. Readers can sign up at for the next game.

Jeff Cotter, the resourceful founder and president of the Rainbow World Fund, was able to present the chili cook-off at the church hall at no cost, which alleviated much of the rancor.

The event was a fine example of the LGBT community getting involved to help alleviate suffering around the globe, and the Rainbow World Fund and Cotter deserve accolades for their ability to zero in and help out quickly during disasters, and to have fun doing it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Internet-Inspired Poetry Book Release Party at the LGBT Center

Musician Andre dos Santos Morgan, author Robert Philipson, and drummer Nancy Geimar

Cool music and a friendly audience saluted author and videographer Robert Philipson at his poetry book release party at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on May 22 — Harvey Milk Day in California.

Even though the new holiday honoring Harvey Milk drew large crowds to more than a dozen venues, Philipson was fĂȘted by a sizable group of fellow Oakland citizens, and some fans from Marin and Danville. His family also joined to hear jazz/R&B musician Andre dos Santos Morgan on keyboard and Nancy Geimar on percussion before Philipson read, Q&A’ed, and then mingled in the Center’s 4th floor Ceremonial Room.

Morgan was exceptional in creating a mood with his unique music, and the sound system that was brought in certainly helped. His CDs are something to be experienced and are highly recommended.

The book “Very Good-Looking Seeks Same: Gay Profiles in Search of Love” is inspired by the male-on-male personal ads on the internet. There was a lot of lust and sexuality to wade through to get to the love part, and the gathering enjoyed the humor. The direct approach to the narrow types that were wanted was harsh but also realistic for many.

This journalist may be too used to Bruce Vilanch jokes that are more biting and topical with multiple meanings, and Tom Ammiano political humor (“Those gay Republicans! Their motto is We’re Here! We’re Queer! We’re Sorry!”) to relate to the book.

The wine and taste treat reception following the reading was jovial and books were signed and introductions made all around. Jack Vincent, the partner of much-missed acclaimed filmmaker Marlon Riggs made an appearance and greeted fellow Oaklanders, as did author Philipson’s editing teacher Peter Freund.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fundraiser to Benefit Pets Are Wonderful (PAWS) at the Palace Hotel: People and Dogs Happily Mingled at the Dog Condos

It is a tradition since the Gold Rush in San Francisco to intertwine charity fundraising and a fantastic party, and Pets Are Wonderful (PAWS) did that and more at the Palace Hotel Petchitecture party on May 15. The event was centered around the unusual architecture of the dog and cat pet condos from Anshen + Allen; Greg DeLory AIBD Architecture; Gensler; Goren Architecture + Design; Huntsman Architectural Group; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP; TSAO Design Group + Axelrod Design; and Zinc Details.

PAWS President/CEO John Lipp moved quickly through the 3 large rooms at the hotel greeting the 800 plus patrons and guests, and their 250 leashed dogs. The central space was the Garden Court, one of the grandest rooms in The West that resembles a vast 3 story high Victorian conservatory with its glass panel ceiling and large palms. It has been the essential venue for Sunday brunch in the city for decades. Lipp has had extensive experience working for non-profit organizations for over 22 years in the health, arts, and animal welfare fields. He served as an interim executive director of San Francisco’s Positive Resource Center and the Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose, and he worked as a consultant with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Washington D.C. based Points of Light Foundation. His acclaimed book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Recruiting and Managing Volunteers” is a masterwork for anyone who wants to know how to recruit, train, manage and retain volunteers in a an era when non-profits survive by their unpaid help. Lipp has been with his husband Peter for 13 years, and their family includes dogs Promo and Marty and cat Rex.

Throughout the evening passionate MC Jan Wahl from KRON TV entranced the large audience with her expressions of pleasure in meeting them and their pets. Shrimp salad, lavish displays of roast beef and turkey, and wine and champagne delighted the guests, and there were snacks throughout the venue for the well-behaved dogs.

PAWS volunteers at the party who have been with the organization for years spoke with each other and guided visitors to the entertainment, exhibit, and buffet areas. PR wizard Lawrence Helman was situated at a Garden Court entrance and provided invaluable assistance to passersby. Liz Shaw petted a guest’s poodle and described her joy working as a PAWS volunteer. She is a personal assistant and concierge at her Going Places For You business. Gail Columbo brought her rabbit Vivienne, one of the few non-canine pets spotted, and she manages a cat health business called Cat Faeries. Last year’s PAWS fundraiser featured a cat in a dog costume and a chicken, which drew quite a bit of unwanted canine attention.

Notable guest included spectacular singer Paula West and her bulldog Satchmo, Wells Fargo Bank’s Mario Diaz and his dog Mia and friend Katy Johnson, and PR consultant Mark Rhoades. Clothier Wilkes Bashford was there with a glamorous entourage, and he has been especially generous to PAWS since its founding. This journalist photographed a chinchilla, an iguana, a parrot, and various show dogs and cats for a promotional PAWS show in Bashford’s store windows during the organization’s early years, and it drew a lot of volunteers and donors.

PAWS is a non-profit that helps people with illnesses keep the companionship of their pets. Volunteer opportunities include pet food delivery, dog walking, cat care, and rides to the vet. Check out for more information.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Special Mama’s Day Benefit at the Eagle Tavern

Curtis Michael Brown, Sandy "Mama" Reinhardt, Boy Tyler, and Mark Paladini

A huge crush of Levi/Leather people and their friends were pressed against each other for a special Mama’s Day beer bust at San Francisco’s Eagle Tavern on May 16. The day was named for leather icon Sandy "Mama" Reinhardt, who heads a family of over 900 fundraising volunteers who have helped non-profit organizations for more than a decade.

The event was coordinated by Reinhardt and San Francisco Leather Daddy XXVI Ray Middling, with Jay Hemphill and Michael Holeman of the Alameda County Leather Corps working the front counter. The East Bay guys collected $10 for spaghetti dinner and all of the beer or soda that the guests could put away.

One of the most spectacular sights at the Eagle used to be the shirtless and unbuttoned blonde German stud who sauntered through the crowd with two pitchers of beer, pouring with a smile. That was ended by a sour Alcohol Beverage Control bureaucrat a few years back, who demanded that beer be dispensed only by bartenders who could evaluate states of inebriation.

There were lots of provocative men and some women at the beer bust, and the excitement level shot up when raffle sellers knelt and closed in to measure inseams with the tickets that benefited Locks of Love, a charity that provides hairpieces for low-income children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. The organization helps gives self-confidence to youth under 21 who have a medical need.

Reinhardt also coordinates the annual Mama's Family Breast Cancer Emergency Fund Gala with co-producer Mark Paladini. This year’s benefit will be at San Francisco’s City Forest Lodge on August 27. Faith Fancher, a former KTVU reporter helped to found the event with Reinhardt and Paladini. The fundraiser features a silent auction, amazing entertainers, and surprise guests. It is one of those events where the incredibly sexy men on the covers of the erotic DVD’s in the auction can be seen slinking around like hungry panthers.

LeatherWalk, another event coordinated by Reinhardt and Paladini, is the annual fundraising kickoff to San Francisco Leather Month that features hundreds of leather, S&M, and kink enthusiasts walking from the Castro to the Eagle with banners and a huge leather flag behind a truck with singers.

The December holidays are the time of the year for Reinhardt and her annual Mama’s Family Toy Drive. It starts with Reinhardt requesting toys for needy children, then more and more gifts pour into the door of sponsoring bars, and then she bursts into tears because of the outpouring of generosity. There is an intensity to the fundraising that is rarely seen in San Francisco, and the huge horde of volunteers are an inspiration to non-profits and corporations that seek to make a difference in people’s lives.

All of these events are planned months in advance, which results in successful, well-attended parties.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Celebration at the LGBT Center

Ramon Ramirez, William Romero, Jorge Chamorro and Ericka Guzman from Amor Sin Fronteras

Children and their families joined Latina and Latino activists
and friends to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on May 8. The holiday is a commemoration of the victory of Mexican forces over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, and it is an important milestone in the Mexican independence movement. The event was hosted by the LGBT Center, and its charming representative Joseph Peralta greeted guests and made introductions around the Rainbow Room. Peralta sings and dances with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and he made the co-hosts from Our Family Coalition feel welcome.

Joseph Peralta from the San Francisco LGBT Community Center

The event was co-sponsored by COLAGE and the San Francisco Department of Children Youth and Their Families' Community Conveners program. Delessio Market & Bakery joined Barefoot Wine & Bubbly to make the party a culinary success.

Ramon Ramirez, William Romero, Jorge Chamorro and Ericka Guzman from Amor Sin Fronteras were at the party handing out promotional flyers for their Latino Pride party to be held in Dolores Park in September. It is always a wonderful event. One year Mexican folkloric dancers were invited to the park and took a quick look at the celebrants and proceeded to pair off as same-sex couples. The men even placed bandanas behind each other’s necks to pull each other closer as they danced, and the audience wildly applauded.

Rudy Lopez, Contrandres and Erick Arguello from Aguilas

Rudy Lopez, Contrandres, and Erick Arguello from Aguilas, the support group for gay and bi Latino men, had a promotional table, and vivacious Erin Smith served at the Barefoot Wine table. Smith bartended at the recent Maitri Bliss party and Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation events, and she mentioned that Barefoot has served at the last 15 Academy of Friends galas. And Barefoot Wine has generously helped out at San Francisco LGBT Pride events for 20 years.

Erin Smith from Barefoot Wines

Sultry TJ Johnson, who said that he is “kinda gay,” spoke about his years with Dance Safe, an organization that tests party drugs for crystal meth outside of dance clubs, peer counsels youth about safer sex and dangerous drugs, and hands out culturally sensitive informational pamphlets.

The intuitive DJ knew exactly which Latin music would draw little girls onto the dance floor, and Jesi, Cecilia, Sofia and Diego from the Montesinos family enjoyed the tunes, buffet, and soft drinks. It was a memorable party that originated with a battle and Mexican pride and evolved into a celebration of Latino LGBT pride.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Tom Ammiano’s Campaign Party at the Triple Crown: Progressives Gather for Their Hero

Sal Rosselli, John Perez, Tom Ammiano and John Burton

There was an extraordinary gathering of progressives for California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s re-election campaign at the Triple Crown Lounge on May 6. A who’s who of the San Francisco Democrats showed up to enjoy stiff drinks and succulent hors d’oeuvres as they mingled with the politicos they knew and critically checked out the others.

The Triple Crown, situated just a half block away from the San Francisco LGBT Community Center at Market and Gough Streets, has hosted recent charity benefits put on by the Imperial Court and the gay erotic film industry. Last year about two dozen half-dressed porn stars caroused outside the lounge because the party, hosted by Sister Roma and Chi Chi LaRue, was such an extreme crush inside.

Ammiano is from working class New Jersey roots, growing up over a cab garage, and he has a feeling for service as an educator, civil rights activist, and legislator demanding justice and equality for the non-elite community. After moving to San Francisco he worked as a schoolteacher and his gayness was revealed after the principal of his school became ill and Ammiano served as the school’s interim principal. Lesbians and gays were not welcome by various groups within the teaching community until Ammiano allied himself with Harvey Milk and later with much-missed activist Hank Wilson and others.

The statewide No on 6 campaign that sought to save lesbian and gay teachers’ jobs by defeating the Briggs Initiative brought new awareness to the threats to LGBT rights, and Harvey Milk even succeeded in persuading then President Jimmy Carter and California Governor Ronald Reagan to join in — with the threat that if Proposition 6 passed, large numbers of teachers would sue and it would cost as much as $30,000 each to remove them. This journalist covered them as they rallied, agitated with the media, and stormed meetings until there was acceptance.

Against his wishes some lesbian friends mounted an Ammiano for School Board Campaign and he received more votes than many serious candidates. Acceding to their wishes, Ammiano ran and won a school board position on the next election cycle. Then his supporters induced him to run for a citywide supervisor seat in 1994, which he won, and he served there for 14 years, later representing District 9 when district elections were restored.

Hank Wilson led a Draft Ammiano for Mayor Campaign at street fair booths that was not endorsed by Ammiano. But after a short vacation, Ammiano returned to find a groundswell of support and he ran for mayor, putting a serious scare into Willie Brown operatives. Emily Morse’s excellent 2001 documentary “See How They Run” outlines how the Ammiano campaign not only came close to an election upset, but it also energized the progressives and later placed into power a majority of supervisors who were opposed to the status quo.

Today Ammiano serves as an energized state assemblyman, where his leadership in the campaign to legalize and tax marijuana — the state’s 14 billion dollar leading cash crop — has legislators and the national media taking notice.

While there are progressives who appreciate and admire Ammiano’s years of public service, there are others who receive almost as much pleasure experiencing theatrical rants from the radical right as they vent hysterically over the assemblyman’s supposed “socialist wrong thinking.” Imagine raised voices, stamping feet, and even a wig flopping up and down. They hate the fact that Ammiano is loved and respected for his support for the funding of health, housing, youth, seniors, and schools, and especially for middle and working class citizens.

Tom Ammiano and David Waggoner

The star attraction besides Ammiano at the Triple Crown party was gay Latino Speaker of the Assembly John Perez. The media was welcomed to the event, but they were barred by Perez from a recent San Francisco LGBT event because he supposedly did not want to hear questions about staff raises. California State Democratic Party Chair John Burton spoke about high-level business with Ammiano, Perez, and Sal Rosselli of the National Union of Healthcare Workers before the obligatory speeches.

Jane Morrison and John Perez

Former San Francisco Democratic Party Chair Jane Morrison, who just turned 90, handed out invitations to a May 23 brunch to benefit the Rafael Mandelman for District 8 Supervisor to activists Maggi Rubenstein and David Smith. Sharyn Saslavsky, the first prominent lesbian to support Harvey Milk’s election for supervisor was there, as was District 8 supervisor candidate Rebecca Prozan. Equality California’s Geoff Kors stopped by with New Conservatory Theatre’s Andrew Nance, and so did grant wizard Jeff Jones.

Tom Taylor, Tom Ammiano and Maggi Rubenstein

Tom Taylor, an expressive first-time candidate for the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (SFDCCC), was celebrating a Sierra Club endorsement with his lover Larry Cohen, while in contrast lesbian activist and retired Sheriff’s Department Captain Connie O’Conner congenially discussed her 30 years on the SFDCCC.

Consultant Esther Marks coordinated the event to her usual high standards and the tight squeeze of the 100-plus guests was a testament to her efforts and Ammiano’s popularity.

Kim Alvarenga, Tom Ammiano and Linnette Peralta Haynes

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Pressure of the Closet Explodes in Filmmaker’s Graphic Novel

Comic book creators John Hahn and Quentin Lee

Gay filmmaker and writer Quentin Lee joined artist John Hahn to introduce their mysterious graphic novel "Campus Ghost Story" at the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Main Public Library on April 29.

The setting for the event is a striking circular room with a marvelous
sepia-toned, trompe l’oeil ceiling mural by Mark Evans and Charley Brown that displays famous LGBT cultural icons that include authors Willa Cather and Gertrude Stein, Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, Prussian King Frederick the Great, and Turkish Sultan Suleiman I.

The Hormel Center is an LGBT research center that preserves historical and cultural archives.

The novel presentation began with a greeting from the Hormel Center’s Karen Sundheim, and then Lee and Hahn introduced themselves to an attentive audience. A slide show of the graphic novel’s panels was shown, and Lee and Hahn took clever turns playing the female and male characters as they read the dialogue aloud. The story by Lee is ominous and has a sense of doom, which is expertly illustrated by artist Hahn, and there is an ambiguous theme of the danger of the closet. The specter of a horribly murdered student haunts its way through the pages of the book, and it is suggested that the pressures of hiding in the closet conjured up that gruesome hallucination.

Lee explained that the graphic novel is a blueprint for a film, but that his efforts to produce his ideas onto celluloid have not panned out. And his description of the sometimes sordid complications of movie creation was educational and hair-raising, with a vast amount of money appearing and disappearing.

Quentin Lee

Lee's first film "Shopping for Fangs" is well-regarded for its quirky characters that include a young man who fears that he is turning into a werewolf. "Drift" is a local favorite, partly because of the inter-racial casting and because adored Mission beauty Desi del Valle has a part, and "The People I’ve Slept With" received a huge positive reception at the recent San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. Gay actor Wilson Cruz convincingly played a sex-crazed gay man, who also wants a lover, and Karin Anna Cheung played his friend who has sex with dozens of men but she must find out which one impregnated her. The SF Bay Times reviewed the film twice, and its theater screenings are eagerly anticipated.

Filmmaker Lee is presenting Little Love at the 2010 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival on June 26. It is a short film with a unique script — three gay Latinos are involved in a triad relationship — and knowing Lee’s technique it will be intense.

The graphic novel is available online at, and its creators will be appearing at the next Comic-Con Convention. Artist Hahn has had experience with the supernatural with his "Dungeons & Dragons" efforts and he has an “Electric City” comic strip.

The lead question of the Q&A, just before the book signing, was: “What will you be doing in 5 years?” They answered more graphic novels and more films, which drew one more applause from the fans, and then they rushed up to meet Lee and Hahn.