Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Bare Chest Calendar Auction: A Night of Restrained Debauchery

Mr. February Michael Rubinstein with hostess Donna Sachet

"Visual splendor" and "fine altruism" best describe the array of handsome men, generous donors, and resourceful party coordinators who enjoyed the 2012 Bare Chest Calendar Men auction benefit for the AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF) and the Positive Resource Center (PRC) at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on August 23.

Distinctive men included handsome filmmaker Philippe Gosselin, whose movie "The Rescue" was a hit at this year’s San Francisco Int'l LGBT Film Festival, and the devilish young Seth Watkins, who has overcome numerous obstacles to reach a new healthy point in his life.

Mr. December Philippe Gosselin

Guys chosen for the Calendar must agree to spend an enormous amount of time and effort at events where they promote the sale of the Bare Chest Calendar. Some guys such as Christopher Humphreys and Jay Laude have had extensive experience volunteering with non-profits. Humphreys is famous for going shirtless to make quick sales of Jello-O shots for charity.

Each of the men was lavishly presented by emcee Donna Sachet, who wore a golden goddess gown. Then masterful tuxedo-ed auctioneer Lenny Broberg pitted fans and the besotted in the audience to bid on the guys. They appeared first in hilariously boyish ensembles donated by Citizen/Body. And then Anya Montiel and Gerri Beauvais—helpful women who were beautifully gowned and accessorized—stripped off the Calendar men's shirts. There was a moment for the yelling-and-applauding crowd to run their eyes across the expanse of gym-toned muscles before a red bow tie and a leather vest from sponsor Miller Beer were slid onto the men's sweating bodies.

Lance Holman, Troy Anicete, [name and likeness removed by request] and friend

The competition was fierce, but also fun. Last year it was guided by the blinding fear that a magnificent and predatory Mr. SF Leather was trying to “buy” non-single studs. It went smoothly this year until the overtly primal Will Swagger assumed an athlete’s pre-pounce position and a seemingly mesmerized Sachet mounted the stage in response, but she was expertly led back to her seat by auctioneer Broberg. Stunning Andy Cross’ friends, a straight couple, astounded the other donors with a $10,000 winning bid, the highest of the evening.

The event featured two stylized climaxes. The first was when the winning bidders were joyfully invited onto the stage to join the Calendar men. The second climax shocked and pleased the audience, and only a glamorous Donna Sachet could seize the moment so well when she glided down the runway to Broberg in a luxurious satin bridal gown and veil.

Mr. October Will Swagger and Mr. December Philippe Gosselin

It was the best of San Francisco with the professional fundraising talents of Donna Sachet and Lenny Broberg and the expert guidance of coordinators Thom Grant (Mr. December 2007) and Mark Hollenstein (Mr. June 2006), along with the good-natured and alluring 2012 Calendar men in the historic and accommodating Sir Francis Drake Hotel, all for two wonderful charities.

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The 2012 Bare Chest Calendar men with hostess Donna Sachet (center) and host Lenny Broberg (right)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club’s Three Commemorations of Their 40th Anniversary

There was a historic meeting of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and the San Francisco Police Department on July 11 during a forum at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.

Alice’s founder, Jim Foster, partially conceived of the political club as an activist group to oppose police raids and threats. Foster got an eyeful of what less affluent gays faced at the Society for Individual Rights (S.I.R.) headquarters on 6th Street in San Francisco, and he thought that a more political organization would help when he founded Alice 40 years ago. Raids on gay bars and hang-outs such as Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderloin were common. A lesbian bar named Peg’s Place was attacked by an inebriated bachelor party that included police officers as late as 1979. The Alice Club was quick to denounce these outrages and local politicians heard loud and clear that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated.

Club co-founders included lesbian pioneers Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in 1955, and their house party guests feared a police raid every time the doorbell rang. Lyon and Martin were active with the Council on Religion and the Homosexual which hosted the “Meet the Lesbian and Gay Community Weekend” events at Glide Memorial Church. Social workers, physicians, psychiatrists, attorneys, priests, family planners, and police officers met lesbian and gay couples and were invited to join them in their homes and restaurants. In the early 1970s a passionate gay teenage couple was introduced to the Weekend conference attendees, and this journalist and his boyfriend were that couple.

From a time when LGBT police officers had to be closeted to the present when open recruitment of out-of-the-closet officers has resulted in increasing numbers of police who have an insight into alternative lives. LGBT-friendly San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr joined three lesbian police commanders at the Alice meeting: Lea Militello, Sandra Tong, and Denise Schmidt.

Alice member Terry Gauchet coordinated the panel and there was a lively Q&A. Over and over both Suhr and the commanders stressed that bring a police officer is the best job in the world because they can help people and see their positive impact on people's lives. Recruitment, maybe possibly from the ranks of the Alice members, was an ongoing theme of the evening. Another was the importance of police academy classes to add new officers that will replace retiring members of the department, and that the city budget should include funding for the classes.

The big news of the evening was that the SFPD will make an “It Gets Better” video to join the thousands that columnist Dan Savage and his lover Terry Miller inspired.

During a dialogue with Chief Suhr this journalist spoke about the early years in San Francisco when upfront gays were harassed by the police and when they were bashed by others, instead of helping them, law enforcement arrested them. The Frank Sinatra film "The Detective," which Suhr said he had seen, was cited as a view of that era. In contrast, now police officers are trained well in settling LGBT lovers’ and roommates’ disputes, and other sensitive situations.

Police deployment at Halloween in the Castro and Pink Saturday was discussed, and Suhr stated that he liked both events, but back when they were a few thousand neighborhood people and their visitors. Curtailment of publicity for Pink Saturday was mentioned as a logical action for 2012.

The Alice Club is also celebrating its “40 Years Together, 40 Years Strong” with a GLBT History Museum exhibit opening on August 1 which includes a visual history of the Alice Club and a recording of Jim Foster giving a lesbian and gay liberation speech at the Democratic Party convention that nominated George McGovern for president in 1972. Curator Nathan Purkiss’ phenomenal commentary about the Club’s history strongly affected the packed museum, and the people admired the event program which is crammed full of photographs and historical descriptions.

The following week there was a panel discussion about the Club’s history on Aug. 8, led by activist Phyllis Lyon, who spoke in detail about the founding of the Daughters of Bilitis, and about how its members were blue- and white-collar workers. She revealed that the group had been secretive during its early years,—they were more open later,—thanks to powerful political friends, some of the same friends that supported the Alice Club since its founding.

The courage of early lesbian and gay activists is astonishing, considering how much they had to lose, and Alice founders Foster, Lyon, and others deserve credit for their efforts.

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