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.

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