Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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.

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