Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Tenderloin Tessie Christmas Day Dinner: A Friendly Dinner on a Rainy Christmas

Chris, Santa Rich, and Richard Shadoian

There was a heavy rain on Christmas Day Dec. 25 that deterred some diners who usually attend the annual Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinner at the First Unitarian Church. The count from board president and volunteer coordinator Michael Gagne was 865, which is quite a bit lower than the 1,000-plus Thanksgiving Dinner. Gagne, his crew, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence worked together to show compassion as they brought the long line out of the downpour and into the church.

Founded by eccentric San Francisco Empress Tenderloin Tessie, the dinners occur on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The guests’ thank you’s are sincere and the parting gift is appreciated.

Empress Chablis and Nikos Diaman

Activist Richard Shadoian was helped by Santa Rich and Chris with ham wedges in the kitchen, and perennial volunteers Empress Chablis and author Nikos Diaman enjoyed passing out pumpkin pie.

Sisters Roma, Adora Penthouse-View, and Pat N. Leather manned the entry and exit doors and served dinners. State Senator Mark Leno served punch with a smile from table to table at the Thanksgiving Dinner, but he was with his family during the end of December.

Tempting fundraiser and donations coordinator Aaron Baldwin is a go-between with the Tenderloin Tessie crew and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, because he is active with both groups. He helped make the holiday dinner a success despite the weather.

Fundraising and planning is already underway for the Easter Dinner. Volunteers and diners are welcome to check in with Michael Gagne.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Brothers Esteem Kwanzaa Celebration: Awards and Camaraderie at the LGBT Center

Tony Bradford, Vincent Fuqua, Micah Lubensky, Norman Tanner, Neil Giuliano, and Bob Rybicki

The warmth of the holiday season extended to include the Kwanzaa celebration at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on Dec. 18. It was sponsored by Black Brothers Esteem (BBE), a strong and vital part of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

The presence of the foundation’s new executive director Neil Giuliano and its VP of programs and policy Bob Rybicki at the event reinforced BBE’s importance to the community, and more than 100 celebrants showed up. The tasty chicken dinner and chocolate cake dessert were catered by popular Boston Market, and greetings were exchanged and inventive drag and Afro-centric attire were checked out and complimented.

There was a distinctive Kwanzaa altar on the stage and the community service implied in the holiday’s principles mirror BBE’s instilling of confidence and knowledge in its members so that they can be capable of far more than they imagined. BBE has classes in safer sex and general guidelines for physical and mental health. Graduation diplomas were handed out to continued applause at the dinner.

Inspirational BBE program director Tony Bradford, BBE community development manager Micah Lubensky, and co-founder Norman Tanner bestowed the awards throughout the evening with praise for individual members and their achievements.

Tony Bradford, Vincent Fuqua, and Neil Giuliano

Hardworking and charismatic Vincent Fuqua, a health educator at the San Francisco Department of Public Health's HIV Prevention Section, was honored for coordinating his job with BBE’s outreach to African American men. The San Francisco LGBT Community Center was honored for welcoming BBE to its Rainbow Room for the last couple years to enjoy Kwanzaa.

Black Brothers Esteem and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation are joined together to alleviate the appallingly high HIV/AIDS sero-conversion rate among African American men in San Francisco. The Kwanzaa party was a fine way to celebrate what has been achieved and to set goals for the future.

A Sit/Lie Protest at Harvey Milk’s Store Site: Youth and Transgenders Feel Targeted

Activist Gabriel Haaland

A series of angry speakers mounted a replica of the soap box that Harvey Milk stood on during his campaign stops on Dec. 18 in front of 575 Castro Street, the site of Milk’s Castro Camera store. The themes of their speeches included denouncing of the voter-approved Sit/Lie Law, which is seen by progressives as an attack on youth and the housing-challenged, and also the exclusion by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) of transgenders from their proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) legislation.

Union activist Gabriel Haaland spoke about his excursion to the HRC San Francisco Bay Area Gala Dinner that honored transgender activist Theresa Sparks and said that he and Sparks were the only transgender people at the event. He and others oppose HRC's plans to move into the Milk store site.

Jerry (The Faery) Berbier yelled that HRC assumed that progressives would forget that ENDA was being promoted without transgender inclusion and that activists surprised everyone by drawing over 300 picketers at the following San Francisco HRC Gala Dinner. He also spoke about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that is still missing from the HRC- and MCC Church-sponsored March on Washington.

Activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca shouted that Harvey Milk hated the type of rich people who attend HRC Dinners, though actually Milk hated people from a New Age cult that tried to take over the gay rights movement, as shown in a swimming pool scene in the film "Milk." And they are mentioned by name on a tape recording as people that Milk did not want to replace him if he was murdered.

The protest involved about two dozen people and most were anti-Sit/Lie activists and their supporters. Neither writer Dustin Lance Black or activist and former Milk aide Cleve Jones, who have been mentioned in the media as objecting to HRC moving into the Milk store site, showed up for the protest. The utilization of the 575 Castro space is under negotiation, and reportedly there will be compromises made by the people involved.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Michael Brandon Leather Benefit party at the Edge: A Contrast Between Volunteers

Michael Brandon and Boy Gabriel

There could not be much more of a contrast between the two groups of volunteers at Michael Brandon’s Leather Party benefit for Project Open Hand at the Edge Bar on Dec. 17. Open Hand’s volunteers who sold raffle tickets at the party looked like the casual, well-covered bar-hoppers that pack the local bars. Brandon’s volunteers looked and performed like erotic screen and stage performers and wore only bulging underwear and sneakers.

Go-go boy Element

The title of the event was “Edge-ing” which alludes to a torturous sex act and sexual magnetism was exuded by go-go dancer Element and Jello-O shot salesman Boy Gabriel. Host and primal erotic film star Brandon also danced provocatively in a jockstrap on stage when he took a break from MC’ing. Open Hand executive director Tom Nolan braved the packed heavy-cruising crowd to meet and greet the guests and he was happy to hear that $400 was raised for his organization. Bar manager Terry Penn was beautifully dressed as a voluptuous helper to Santa Claus and attentive party coordinator Gary Virginia adjusted the sound and staging. Leather Party co-founder Michael Dumont was introduced and he is well-known as someone equally comfortable in glamorous drag and in a leather uniform when appearing as a former Emperor of San Francisco.

Michael Brandon and Gary Virginia

In a neighborhood infamous for its Castro Triangle of bars that are not generous to worthy charities, the Edge stands out as a haven for non-profit organizations.

To see more of my photos off this event, visit flickr.com/rinkfoto.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Gay Men’s Chorus Pre-Holiday Concert: Jingling Bells and a Farewell

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

It was a night of jingling bells and a fond farewell at the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus pre-holiday concert the "21st Annual Home for the Holidays: A Soulful Celebration" show on Dec. 16 at the Castro Theatre. Ketel One Vodka provided large sleigh bells that could be purchased to benefit the chorus and shaken at appropriate musical moments, and some guys shook them at men that they wanted to get to know.

Popular conductor Kathleen McGuire announced her retirement from the chorus after ten years of leading and wrangling the varied personalities and talents of the hundred plus men, causing noticeable concern. There were three tribute pages celebrating her leadership as artistic director and conductor in the show program. She received a standing ovation and it is obvious that she will be missed. The show is a wonderful opportunity for fans who will be far from San Francisco on Dec. 24, when there will be three shows at the Castro Theatre, to experience a version of the holiday concert. There is more information at www.sfgmc.org, and the San Francisco Bay Times is a sponsor.

Soloist Ken McPherson

Superb principal pianist and associate artistic director Carl Pantle collaborated with McGuire and the chorus members to create the sound that brought the holiday music to life. Handsome Pantle’s breathtaking physicality as he played while flashing his dazzling smile drew the audience to him, and chorus members feel lucky to be in his presence and work with him.

The featured performer was the amazing dynamic singer Kim Kuzma, and the chorus and fans look forward to her performances and enjoy her new single "I Am Alive." Most of the songs were a celebration of Christmas, and there were also some Hanukah songs, though McGuire spoke to the throng about her belief that the music was not necessarily religious. The chorus members individualized their shawls, and those wearing Christian motifs were next to members wearing Jewish prayer shawls.

Santas Joseph Peralta and Michael Tate

There was an exciting can-can dance number that included Joseph Peralta and Michael Tate as prancing Santas, and there were sing-along numbers that drew waves of applause. Joshua Castellano and Ken McPherson delivered fine solo performances, and there was a steady buzz through the evening about the unique interpretations of holiday music, with anticipation for the Dec. 24 performances. A high point of the evening was reached when executive director Teddy Witherington staged a live auction for an audience member to direct the chorus with McGuire’s baton, and high bidder Steve Gallagher rose to the occasion, with crowd and chorus joining in enthusiastically.

Upcoming show info:
21st Annual Home for the Holidays: A Soulful Celebration
Friday, December 24, 2010 — 5PM, 7PM, & 9PM
Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco

To see more of my photos of the event, visit flickr.com/rinkfoto.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Project Open Hand Luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel: Commemorating 25 Years of Meals With Love

Tom Nolan, David Chiu, James Hormel, and Jan Wahl

Project Open Hand commemorated 25 years of meals with love at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco on Dec. 15 at their annual Hand to Hand Luncheon. Hundreds of well-dressed people enjoyed a gala reception followed by luncheon in the hotel ballroom.

Open Hand provides meals to people with HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and other critical illnesses, and seniors. The most vulnerable people in our community are cared for with delicious sustenance, and the holidays are a special time for the organization’s clients. Holiday meals include holiday decorations that include tree ornaments from Under One Roof, and that organization’s executive director Beth Feingold and some of her crew were at the luncheon. Open Hand Communication Manager Hannah Schmunk helped coordinate the luncheon, meeting and introducing guests as she described the work that goes into getting 2,500 meals prepared and delivered each day.

CBS News’ Kate Kelly cleverly MC’ed the event, and she introduced Open Hand executive director Tom Nolan, who has masterfully run the organization for 17 years. Notable guests included donor James Hormel and his lover Michael Nguyen, Open Hand board chair Laura Smith, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors David Chiu, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Positive Resource Center executive director Brett Andrews, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and Suzan Revah with her entourage from Real Bad. An expressive video that featured kitchen volunteers in dance routines that rivaled some current stage shows promoted the Open Hand food program, and it drew laughs of approval from the diners.

The luncheon is known for its diverse meal choices and this year 12 chefs prepared gourmet delights that included four different appetizers, entrées, and desserts.

Demetri Moshoyannis

Folsom Street Events was honored as the Most Outstanding Community Partner at the event. The organization’s executive director Demetri Moshoyannis spoke about the 27-year history of fund raising street fairs that started with visionary Patrick Toner. He also spoke about the $165,000 raised by the fairs for Open Hand and the $4.5 million raised for all of the charities. Moshoyannis is one of those rare executives who has yanked off his shirt to flip hamburgers over a hot grill at events while hungry benefit donors gather around him to have their buns filled and check out his muscles and tattoos.

The Walter and Elise Haas Fund was represented by Jennifer C. Haas, who is the granddaughter of the fund’s founders, who are descended from the Levi Strauss who sold jeans to 1849 Gold Rush miners. She accepted the Open Hand Most Outstanding Foundation Partner Award. The fund’s executive director Pam David was joined by Wally Haas at their table at the luncheon. Haas family members are well-known for their longtime generosity to Open Hand.

Open Hand’s angelic founder Ruth Brinker attended the event and she was awarded a new Visionary Award that in the future will be named for her. She is famous for caring for people with AIDS early in the pandemic. She realized that many were not accessing nutritious food so she started Project Open Hand to provide for them. Dozens of people took turns kneeling at her feet to express their admiration for her activism and for feeding their loved ones. Open Hand volunteers and Macy’s were also honored.

It was an exceptional event for an exceptional organization that compassionately cares for the needy and sets an example for altruistic groups worldwide.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Krewe de Kinque Leather Brunch at the Edge Bar: A Wild Imaginative Fundraiser

Gary Virginia, Brett Andrews, John Weber, Donna Sachet, and Mark Leno

Excitement and generosity reigned at the Edge Bar in San Francisco’s Castro district for the 14th Annual Holiday Leather Brunch on Dec. 11 that benefited the Positive Resource Center (PRC). Wild entertainment and fantastic food and cocktails were the big draws and the local Mardi Gras organization, the Krewe de Kinque, pulled it all together to let the good times roll.

Diva D and Deana Dawn

Eye-busting colorful finery and makeup on greeters Deana Dawn and her sidekick Diva D was the first sign that this was to be an imaginative event. Stoli Bloody Marys and Mimosas, the popular bottomless kind, were served by the Edge’s attractive bartenders thanks to the generosity of Michael Daniels and Terry Penn. The expansive silent auction had some fine bargains, including leather pants with sharp side spikes to hold back backbar horndogs.

The wonderful smell of fried chicken wafted through the venue and celebrants anxiously awaited sultry host Gary Virginia’s signal to advance on the bountiful buffet. PRC executive director Brett Andrews brought succulent Kickin’ Fried Chicken, a family secret recipe and the toast of gay New Orleans, Saybelline, and her lover Frank Fernandez brought their delicious Southern Fried Chicken. Both chickens got the thumbs up and moaning erupted when provocative Don “Ho” Tse’s amazing Jack Daniels Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie was consumed.

Jim Strano took a break from his Joan Crawford Texas persona to coordinate the food and drinks and hunky Julian Marshburn sauntered through the party and let people know that they could enjoy his lap when he will volunteer as Santa Claus on Dec. 24 at the AIDS Emergency Fund holiday dinner at the Green Room. And the Rainbow World Fund’s Jeff Cotter stopped by to promote his organization’s Tree of Hope event at City Hall on Dec. 15, where the Japanese and LGBT communities will join to honor their cultures and histories.

Donna Sachet stuffed contributions into Diva D's bodice while her tresses were teased by master stylist Cockatelia

The high point of the party was when master stylist Cockatelia teased Diva D’s tresses to incredible heights for contributed money, and again Diva D confounded people who assumed that he is a woman. He is a surprise gender illusionist and there is shocked disbelief when he introduces himself while out of female drag. Diva Donna Sachet MC’ed the event and she also generously sang live, as did tempting Mark Paladini who also bared his arms for guys who fantasize that he will wrap them around them. Former Emperor John Weber sang another excellent live performance, this time with Kitty Tapata. State Senator Mark Leno brought a state proclamation and he and supervisor-elect Scott Wiener extolled the event and its fundraisers.

It was a fine party — a merging of imaginative fundraising, costuming, and fun that brought in a much-needed $1,716 for the PRC.

To see more of my photos of the event, visit flickr.com/rinkfoto.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Censorship Forum and Emergency Screening at SF Camerawork: Another Clash in the Culture Wars

Coordinators Alison Maurer and Julia Haas, speaker Robert Atkins, organizer Rudy Lemcke, and QCC's Pam Peniston

Another salvo was released in the culture wars that started with the National Education Association’s (NEA) funding of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s work in the late 1980s. Mapplethorpe's thought-provoking "Self portrait With Bullwhip" was published on a show invitation to San Francisco’s 80 Langton Street Gallery in 1987, and was shocking even for the ’80s. To San Francisco and the gallery’s credit, that “Censored” exhibit had been barred from Manhattan galleries, but when it opened here a large enthusiastic crowd attended, and this journalist was there. The notation on the invitation that the NEA, a federal agency, was funding his work was more shocking and it resulted in a virtual tidal wave of controversy that continues to 2010.

It is astounding that federal money has not been spent on widely-promoted displays of LGBT artwork since then and until co-curator Jonathan David Katz was able to get permission to display the current “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., there has not been a major American museum exhibit of same-sex desire in portraiture. Censorship of a film from that exhibit was the subject of the forum packed with artists, photographers, curators, and activists on Friday, December 10.

The San Francisco censorship forum drew a surprisingly large crowd of over 160 people to SF Camerawork, and many of them were glad a film included in the Smithsonian show was censored because they feel that it will lead to a push-back by activists that will restore the film to the show and advance the cause of uncensored art across the country. Others were agitated because the national mid-term elections had brought anti-intellectual and anti-LGBT politicians to new positions of power and they fear that a hornets’ nest of censorship could be instigated that will set back proposals for public displays of LGBT-oriented artwork for decades.

The event was called an "Emergency Screening" and the film was artist/photographer/filmmaker/AIDS activist David Wojnarovicz’s “A Fire in My Belly,” an experimental effort that encompasses political, religious, cultural, sexual, and deeply personal themes. [To watch the film online for free, click here.]

What is remarkable about the sequence of events is that the show was approved, and that when the film was removed, religious offense was given as the reason. As Katz pointed out on a large screen in the front of the gallery space live on Skype from Washington, D.C., queers have become so accepted that to censor the film for being queer could not be attempted in the current era, so the image of ants crawling on a crucifix in the movie was used to object to the video art. Katz and others mentioned that the real offense was the intense close-up masturbation scene, but since times have changed from the ’80s and ’90s, there had to be some diverting of attention.

Katz and his co-curator David C. Ward deserve lots of credit for mounting the historic exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery and for continuing to defend it. Katz suggested that activists contact their Congressional representatives to demand that the film be restored to the exhibit, and that the rest of the exhibit remain on the gallery’s walls through the end of its run in February.

Writer Robert Atkins, who wrote an arts column in the Village Voice and who was the final speaker at the forum, seemingly taunted the throng to organize a protest march similar to the march being planned in New York City. Other activists jokingly spoke about one-upping New York activists by planning civil disobedience, as seen in the recreation of the 1968 Paris art riots in filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci’s erotic thriller “The Dreamers” (2003).

The censorship forum was conceived of by multimedia artist Rudy Lemcke, and event coordinators Julia Haas and Alison Maurer spoke while Lemcke filmed them and others with assistant Mic Sweney. Jennifer Sichel assisted co-curators Katz and Ward, and she added comments to the discussion, as did SF Camerawork’s Chuck Mobley. The Queer Cultural Center’s executive director Pam Peniston greeted artists and photographers, and she was happy to join SF Camerawork in sponsoring the successful event. The forum had national significance, as does the exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and it was obvious that another key moment of LGBT history is developing around the portrait show in Washington, D.C.