Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Superb Week in San Francisco: Honoring Latino Heritage, a Harvest Banquet, and a Beer Bust

John Marez, Juan Dávila, Benjamin Bratt, and Erick Arguello

It was a superb week in San Francisco starting with honoring
Latinos and Latinas at City Hall, a Castro Country Club Harvest Banquet, and ending with a Leather Alliance Beer Bust.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom honored community leaders and organizations with Latino Heritage Awards at City Hall on Oct. 12. Numerous LGBT community members were honored, including Barbara García, Deputy Director of Health at the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH). She was recently named to succeed Mitch Katz, a gay man, as Director of the SFDPH. Lesbian Latina Dr. Sandra Hernández was also honored. She held the same job as Katz and García during some of the most torturous years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. She is now the CEO of the San Francisco Foundation. This is her week for well-deserved recognition since she also was honored with a Shanti Project trophy on Oct. 13.

Juan Mendoza, John Marez, Alfredo Pedroza, Micheal Nava, and Miguel Bustos

There was noticeable excitement in the air that could only mean a major movie star. Actor Benjamin Bratt was honored with his brother writer/director Peter Bratt for their film La Mission — a story that deals with the Latino Mission and gay Castro scenes and does not exploit or degrade either experience. GLAAD’s John Marez and Aguilas’ Erick Argeullo and stunning Juan Dávila managed to stop Benjamin Bratt for a group photograph. Juan Mendoza, Alfredo Pedroza, Miguel Bustos, and Marez posed with Michael Nava, a gay Latino candidate for judge, while enjoying the entertainment at the crowded event in the City Hall rotunda.

Michael Brandon, Jodi Goldstein, and Terry Beswick

The Castro Country Club filled a room at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Oct. 16 with more than 150 people for their Harvest Festival Banquet benefit. Controversy was averted when it was made clear that no rent was paid for the space. The Castro Country Club is a refuge for people seeking sobriety. It has occupied a building on 18th Street near Castro Street since 1983. The building is to be sold and the Keep the Steps in the Castro campaign — named for the club’s outside steps which are notorious for sunning and cruising — is underway to raise money for a down payment on the building.

The club saves lives and testimonials throughout the evening made its importance clear. Keep the Steps in the Castro campaign co-chair Terry Beswick worked with event coordinator Robbie Martin and silent auction organizer Jodi Goldstein to hopefully bring the building fund to the $100,000 mark.

The dinner was well executed by chef Jimmy Jardine, except for excessive pepper on the pepper steak. The waiters were excellently drilled by Maître d’ Frank G to outdo cater waiter acrobatic routines seen on "Will and Grace." The three-layer chocolate mousse truffle torte with wild berry compote was delicious and briefly distracted diners from staring at honored guest Michael Brandon, who is a champion charity fundraiser and provocative erotic film star and stage performer.

Robbie Martin, Billie Bertran, Ivy Drip, Terry Beswick, and Maître d’ Frank G

The other celebrity guest, Stu Smith, also a charity event fundraiser, enjoyed the company of his hunky partner Dave Earl. Speaker Billie Bertran was personally revealing and then gave a $500 check to Beswick, which drew applause.

DJ Robbie Martin spoke about his recovery and welcomed the San Francisco District 8 City Supervisor candidates, joking that they were seated far apart to avoid a food fight. At that point a table mate exclaimed, “It is the dirtiest campaign I have ever seen!” Candidate Rebecca Prozan worked the room and Scott Wiener made sure that he was seen smiling. Rafael Mandelman stayed for dinner with a group of supporters and campaign workers.

Impossibly cute and talented lyric pianist Paoi Ernest played his interpretations of Top 40 hits, and he actually calmed some of the more obviously agitated diners. The evening’s enigmatic MC Ivy Drip table-hopped and encouraged contributions to the club at the successful dinner, which drew to a close after multiple double non-alcoholic Sangría fizzes.

Leland Carina, Melissa Kennedy, Mirae Bouysson, and Kate McKinley

The San Francisco Bay Area Leather Alliance staged a beer bust at the Eagle Tavern on Oct. 17 with the handicap of a morning rain. Seattle and Portland denizens laugh heartily at Bay Area party types who do not go out on a rainy day, but it is a fact that even a morning sprinkle will depress attendance at events all day and evening. The San Francisco girls of Leather worked the grill and food line, and President Leland Carina, VP Kate McKinley, and members Melissa Kennedy and Mirae Bouysson represented their club well. Ms Tracey Wolf of The Exiles joined The Defenders’ Jim Remer, Alameda County Leather Corps’ Mark Ingram, and Independent Jim Sullivan at the front door, greeting guests and receiving their beer bust contributions. The Eagles’ bartender and resident Leather Daddy Gary Kenyon came from behind the bar to give the crew a pep talk and the men had a chance to check him out.

The Alliance is a coalition of twelve leather, motorcycle, and fetish organizations that enjoy the bonding and camaraderie that comes with being with others who are fulfilled by volunteering. President Dahn Van Laarz, who is a primal leatherman who wears only a heavy neck chain and black leather shorts and boots to demand attention as he coordinates SOMA fair booths, intuitively draws the best out of the Alliance members.

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club Fall Awards Ceremony: Activists Honored in a Futuristic Setting

California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, and San Francisco City Supervisor David Campos

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club honored their favorite activists at their 2010 Fall Awards Ceremony on Oct. 14 at the Infusion Lounge, which is around the corner from the Powell & Market cable car turnaround in San Francisco.

The Alice Club had its start at the Society of Individual Rights Gay Center on 6th Street when co-founder Jim Foster held meetings for lesbians and gays who sought their civil rights. This journalist attended some of those mid-70’s meetings and the first of his 30 Alice Awards Dinners was with lesbian pioneers Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin at the Palace Hotel in 1980. Honoree Jose Sarria entertained some guests and shocked others, including then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, with his explicit voter registration stories.

The setting for this year’s event is quite different from the Palace Hotel. The Infusion Lounge resembles a futuristic San Francisco club of the next millennium with its Asian-themed red and black décor. Even the bathroom is something out of the film "Starship Troopers," with its severe, metallic, unisex design that necessitates an eager young man to coordinate the use of the locked stalls for various genders.

The key person for the use of Infusion Lounge is Michael Costa, Alice’s treasurer and the coordinator of political events at Infusion. Costa was also the host of a special VIP Reception for Congresswoman Jackie Speier that preceded the awards party.

Speier is admired as a hard-working legislator who promoted legislation to insure privacy and limit banks’ excesses before those issues received national attention. She is also admired as someone who has had to endure horrific personal tragedies and managed to continue to superbly serve the public.

VIP Reception guests asked pointed questions about such topics as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and redistricting. Speier answered each question with deftness and a steady gaze. Her chief of staff Cookab Hashemi accompanied her and they left after Alice co-chairs Charles Sheehan and Bentrish Satarzadeh gave her the the Visionary Award, the first of the honoree plaques of the evening.

San Francisco City Supervisor Bevan Dufty and activist Kelly Rivera Hart

The Alice co-chairs bestowed the Legislator of the Year Award on San Francisco Board of Supervisors president David Chiu, and the Community Individual Award went to Kelly Rivera Hart. The Community Service Organization Award went to the GLBT Historical Society, which was accepted by executive director Paul Boneberg and newly-single board member Bob Mitchitarian.

Paul Boneberg and Bob Mitchitarian

Hart was hosting a benefit for the AIDS Emergency Fund/Breast Cancer Emergency Fund at Trigger Lounge the night of the awards and took a break to come by Infusion, as did activist Andrea Shorter, whose birthday was being celebrated at Lime as a campaign event for District 8 City Supervisor candidate Rebecca Prozan. The benefit at Trigger was hosted by Betty Sullivan and, again, the generosity of Trigger and Lime owner Greg Bronstein is remarkable and a fine example to other business owners.

San Francisco City Supervisor Bevan Dufty received the Public Service Award and upon ascending the lit-from-below, Arthur Discothèque-esque stage, Dufty asked the DJ to play a Pussycat Dolls song and wildly gesticulated, drawing a pained comment from the audience: “I can’t wait for Scott.” Dufty stated that he will be running for mayor full tilt all over San Francisco starting in January when his supervisor term is over. He thanked the Alice Club and especially District 6 City Supervisor candidate Theresa Sparks for his election victories.

Theresa Sparks, Rebecca Prozan, and Scott Wiener were introduced as the endorsed candidates of the club, and they received sustained applause. Prozan ebulliently mingled with San Francisco Young Democrats president Max Sazbo and board member Kai Feder and moved throughout the lounge greeting supporters. Guys seemed mesmerized by Feder’s dazzling, bearded, good looks and smile and surrounded him for most of the evening.

Honorees Michael Costa and Susan Christian

The Volunteer of the Decade Award went to Michael Costa, and Lou Fischer received the Volunteer of the Year Award. Both seemed surprised, though they should not have been considering their listed accomplishments. Susan Christian received the well-earned Leadership Award from California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and State Senator Mark Leno.

Ammiano announced that he had spent the night with Leno in Sacramento settling the state budget and that Leno’s hair did not move for one moment. That drew a big laugh and Leno remarked with a smile that he had been set up as the “straight man.”

The Ally Award was sent to attorney Eva Paterson, who had to send a video thanking the club and she suggested that they work together in the future. Paterson has worked to desegregate San Francisco schools and the fire department, and she bravely stepped into the racial divide after Prop 8 passed to calm the antagonists.

Anna Damiani and Reese Isbell from Leno’s office attended, as did Mayor Gavin Newsom’s aide Francis Tsang. The complicated congenial party was organized by Jason Chan, and it was one of the best Alice Club functions in recent memory.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Amazing Week of Events: Jazz Piano, Homosexual Conspiracy, Debate Tension, and Savage Drag Comedy

Jazz pianist Tim Styles

It was an amazing week of jazz piano in a satellite café, a homosexual conspiracy book event, a supervisor election debate with much tension, and a savage drag comedy show.

Jazz pianist Tim Styles played the first of his two October nights at the Caffe Trieste on Market Street near Gough on Oct. 6. He played lively renditions of 30’s and 40’s hits for an attentive audience and was dressed as if he stepped out of a movie of that period. His future performances can be found at caffetriestedowntown.com. The Caffe Trieste on Market is a satellite of the famous iconic Caffe Trieste on Vallejo Street in North Beach that has inspired artists, poets, writers, composers, and politicos with its atmosphere and fine coffee for half a century. Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, singers Tony Bennett and Chris Isaak, civil rights attorney Angela Alioto, and this journalist (since 1969) are regulars.

Sandra O. Noshi-Di'n't, comedy impresario Nick Leonard and author Larry-bob Roberts

Larry-bob Roberts introduced his book The International Homosexual Conspiracy at Modern Times Bookstore in the Mission on Oct. 7, and it was more than a compilation of his rants and raves from his holytitclamps.com website. It is a series of striking observations about mass taste and culture, and then a narrowing down into the depths and heights of queer tastes and behavior. Personal revelations from the all important source of the sfqueer.com events calendar also touch knowingly onto the reader, and there were nods of recognition at Roberts’ remarks. While much of the book relates to the unfortunate in “Annoying Personality Disorder” and “Anonymous (online) Cowards” but there is also the effervescent “Reasons to Live” section which exalts in: “The joy of love reciprocated. Fresh bread. An orgasm, whether self-administered or with the help of a friend. The pleasure of having created. A deep massage. These are a few of my favorite things.”

Scott Wiener, Rafael Mandelman and Bill Hemenger

The latest in a long series of San Francisco District 8 City Supervisor debates occurred on Oct. 8 at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy in the Castro. The unique feature was that the theme was for the candidates to describe how they related to the values and views of Harvey Milk. Milk had been the supervisor of much of what is now District 8, and his progressive views were more in line with his successor Harry Britt and current candidate Rafael Mandelman, and distant politically on many issues from present District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty and the three moderate candidates at the debate.

Three of the district’s neighborhoods are packed with mostly progressive voters, so if the progressive machine that placed four supervisor winners in the last election — including two in mostly conservative districts — get out the vote, Mandelman would win. This progressive machine election strategy was explained by candidate Scott Wiener’s consultant at a post-election political meeting. It would explain Mandelman’s buoyant optimism.

Candidate Scott Wiener has been tagged as dour but he managed to make a clever joke when he mentioned that no one wanted to answer the debate question about window displays of stores selling adult sexual items in the Castro. Wiener has enjoyed a beehive of activity in his campaign office and the endorsements of moderate newspapers and some right-wing organizations, but some of his support is based on an intense fear of a Mandelman victory.

Candidate Rebecca Prozan knows that she could do a good job as a supervisor, but seems frustrated that there are so many obstacles in her way. A secret poll or two place her in third place, but the polling is just a few hundred people with land line phones. She has the experience of working for Mayor Willie Brown and Supervisor Bevan Dufty and knows how to serve constituents.

Candidate Bill Hemenger reflected on his business background and agreed with Wiener on many of the issues discussed at the debate, including approval of the sidewalk sit/lie legislation.

The tension high point of the event was when Mandelman was asked if another candidate should not be supervisor. He said no. When Prozan was asked the same question at another debate she said that Mandelman should not be supervisor, which drew gasps mostly because of the geniality that had reigned and also because ranked choice voting leads candidates to at least pretend to be friendly to get second and third votes that could elect them in a close race.

Miss Coco Peru, Jackie Beat and Heklina

The Drag Queens of Comedy show at the Castro Theatre on Oct. 9 could have been more appropriately titled “The Un-PC Drag Comedy Show.” It was spectacular and there was some comedy, but there also was some racist "humor" from producer and performer Sasha Soprano, Shangela flaunted a stole made from three animals, and most of the jokes were caustic and aimed at small targets.

New York City’s Lady Bunny easily took the lead as the show’s star, and she received a sustained standing ovation for her explicit and sometimes shocking lip-syncing to her own versions of pop hits.

The other professional entertainer, Miss Coco Peru, hit heavily into political humor when she belted out that there was “marriage equality in Spain because they do not have Mormons there,” and that “the Mormons avoid coffee because it may sharpen their minds.”

Trannyshack producer Heklina of San Francisco had some glamorous moments during a screened montage and Jackie Beat heightened the savagery of the jokes.

There was a thrill that a lot of the audience felt with the “forbidden” comments from the stage, that they knew that they could not get away with much of what was said. Drag star Divine could have inspired much of the show with her outrageous screen and stage antics, and who can forget her in "Female Trouble" asking a crowd “Who wants to die for art?!” and then shooting a gun at them before they could answer or run out the door.

The drag stars greeted guests, cruised, and merchandised in the lobby afterwards, and there was an after party at Trigger, which was a great finale to an amazing week.

DJ Pinky Ring, show star Lady Bunny, and Puntanesca selling T-shirts, DVDs, and photo books in the lobby