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    Donna’s Chronicles

    By Donna Sachet–

    Once again, the Mr. International Freedom contest brought out a stellar group of contestants, a dazzling show and a boisterous audience! This third annual sold-out contest, benefiting the LGBT Asylum Project, was held at Oasis for the first time and we again co-emceed with the handsome Cip Cipriano. Both previous winners Mahdi Al and Liam Ocean attended. After great musical entertainment by Igor Chudak, Mitch Galli and the Homophonics, and a spirited and competitive night, Mitch Aaron Ballin was announced as Mr. International Freedom 2018! Okan Segun and Adam Sandel assembled a fantastic group of volunteers to pull off this amazing event and we heartily support their efforts. Don’t miss next year’s contest!

    Talk about success! OurTownSF and Paul Margolis are to be congratulated on Expo 2018, held at the Eureka Valley Recreational Center and attended by thousands of curious citizens. Over 150 nonprofit organizations, service providers and other groups were on hand to exchange information and to stimulate interest in the many ways we have to get involved in San Francisco. Along with Race Bannon, one of our personal heroes for his tireless work within the LGBT Community, we gladly emceed a portion of the entertainment, including performers BeBe Sweetbriar, Leanne Borghesi and a lively member of the Rice Rockettes. We were also pleased to acknowledge Senator Mark Leno, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Pink Triangle organizer Patrick Carney and everyone’s favorite audience member and supporter Linda Lee, before drawing the winning tickets for a tantalizing assortment of raffle prizes.

    The Hyatt Embarcadero became the new home for the annual HRC Gala due to hotel labor disputes that continue as we write this. Despite hours of last-minute machinations, this was again one of the best attended and politically charged events of the season. Gala Co-Chairs Jim Murphy and Lisa Allen greeted guests as they arrived in the sprawling modern lobby for cocktails and silent auction, as well-wishers crowded around number one celebrity of the night Senator Dianne Feinstein. On the steady arm of first-time escort Brent Marek, we exchanged pleasantries with Reigning Emperor Leandro Gonzales, Brian North, Jody Cole, Jerry Mai, Kevin Lucas and others, before joining our host Frank Woo, table guests Mario Diaz, Neil Sims & Timothy Lucas, and nearby Mark Rhoades, Linda Scaparotti, Rebecca Prozan and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. Laura Alber, CEO of Williams Sonoma, accepted the Corporate Equality Award, hilarious Nico Santos took home the Visibility Award, film maker Garrard Conley shared a preview of the amazing film based on his book Boy Erased, and dynamic Shea Diamond got the audience moving with her unapologetic energy and musical talent. Live auctions can sometimes drag an evening into apoplexy, but not with comedian Dana Goldberg on the microphone! The substantive highlight of the speeches was an inspirational address by HRC President Chad Griffin, emphasizing the urgency and importance of personal involvement in our political process at all levels. Long known as one of the best events for husband-hunting, the HRC Gala did not disappoint in that regard, but more importantly, sounded a clear call to many of us, weary of divisive rhetoric and shocking set-backs in our civil rights struggle, to turn out for the mid-term elections and to continue our rightful efforts. At the risk of invading the territory of our much more qualified fellow columnists, by the time you read this, we hope the political landscape will look quite different. The evening ended with finely dressed attendees displaying their dancing moves to the beats of stellar DJ christopher b.

    Last Wednesday, John Newmeyer opened his lovely Victorian home for longstanding supporters of the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation as they gave proceeds from their Help Is on the Way event to happy beneficiaries AIDS Legal Referral Panel and Meals on Wheels. Among the crowd sipping wines from the Newmeyer grapes were Richard Sablatura, Michael Montoya, Dan Joranstaad & Bob Hermann, Andrew Leas, Jeffrey Doney, Tom Ray, Lawrence Wong and LaTonya Smothers-Lawson. Don’t miss REAF’s next big event Help Is on the Way for the Holidays XVII, Monday, December 10, at Marines’ Memorial Theatre, with stars like Maureen McGovern, Debby Holiday, Shawn Ryan, Paula West, Sharon McNight and Constantine Maroulis.

    Then it was on to a weekend of festivities celebrating 40 years of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus! Tribute, the concert at St. Ignatius on Friday, surrounded the audience with poignant music in memory of the many chorus members and supporters lost during the AIDS epidemic and over the past four decades. For the first time, this concert was streamed live over the internet.  Executive Director Chris Verdugo introduced the program, emphasizing the special circumstances of this chorus returning to a Catholic Church where such a warm reception was not always the case. Remarkably, Artistic Director Tim Seelig, despite suffering a personal loss very recently, was proudly at the helm, directing the chorus with style and power and engaging those assembled with his signature grace and humor. In addition to moving solos from chorus members, soprano soloist Ellie Dehn added powerful elements to When We No Longer Touch, by Kris Anthony and Peter McWilliams. Also on hand, to our delight, were previous Artistic Director Stan Hill and composer Robert Seeley, both good friends and significant contributors to the legacy of SFGMC. It was impossible not to get lost in reverie as the church filled with such beautiful music and personal reflections. As the concert ended with Never Ever from Naked Man by Seeley, we were reminded of the incredible and irreplaceable value of each moment of our lives with those whom we love. 

    The next morning found many of the same people gathered in the AIDS Memorial Grove of Golden Gate Park for the unveiling of the Artists’ Portal, the first memorial spot dedicated specifically to chorus members and others from the artistic community lost to AIDS. As a light mist shrouded the grove, the SF Lesbian & Gay Freedom Band joined the SFGMC in music. Beautiful words were spoken, and a lone bell rang out in memory and appreciation, moments solemnly, but gladly, shared with Gary Virginia, Suzan Revah and other friends.

    Immediately following that event, the SFGMC and throngs of supporters headed back into Union Square and the Sir Francis Drake Hotel for a splashy luncheon in the Empire Ballroom. The mood was ebullient as Curt Branon of Beach Blanket Babylon, occasionally vocally channeling Dame Edna, Carol Channing and others, expertly emceed the proceedings, including slide shows of the past four decades, recognition of Legacy Chorus Members (dating back to the chorus’ origin), and a birthday cake and toast. It was amazing to feel the change of mood from melancholy to joy, fully encompassing the many emotions the SFGMC so wonderfully stimulates in its audiences and shares among its membership. Special guest Armistead Maupin shared some remarks with his well-known and beloved irreverence and candor.

    The next morning, nearly 100 from the chorus joined us at The Starlight Room for Sunday’s a Drag! Yes, the rumors are true: the origin of this columnist lies deep within the loving support of the SF Gay Men’s Chorus, awakened at a rustic retreat north of the City over 20 years ago. We collaborated with Holotta Tymes, Lady Tia and Mahlae to give them a show to remember! Of the many audiences we have welcomed over the past thirteen years, this was one of the most special; performing before one’s peers is sometimes challenging, but they were warm, appreciative and enthusiastic. What a perfect ending to a weekend of celebration and anticipation of another 40 years of musical excellence, community engagement and life-changing power!

    Donna Sachet is a celebrated performer, fundraiser, activist and philanthropist who has dedicated over two decades to the LGBTQ Community in San Francisco. Contact her at


    Calendar a/la Sachet

    Every Sunday
    Sunday’s a Drag
    10:30 am Brunch, 11:30 am Show
    The Starlight Room
    Sir Francis Drake Hotel
    $75 inclusive

    Saturday, November 3
    The Calendar Queens Are Back
    4–7 pm
    Midnight Sun

    Sunday, November 4
    Royal Grand Ducal Council Masquerade Ball
    5–9 pm
    Fioli Historical Gardens, San Jose

    Tuesday, November 6
    Election Day

    Saturday, November 10
    Power of the Purse II
    4–7 pm
    Imperial Court/Breast Cancer Emergency Fund

    Thursday, November 15
    Evening of Hope: Building a Future Within Reach
    6–9 pm
    Gallery 308, Fort Mason Center

    Wednesday, November 21
    4th Annual Empress’ Bake Sale
    6–8 pm

    Monday–Wednesday, November 26–28
    Donna Sachet’s Songs of the Season
    Hosted by Brian Kent
    8 pm
    Feinstein’s at the Nikko