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    Donna’s Chronicles, “Like it or not…”

    By Donna Sachet–

    Like it or not, the world has changed significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the many restrictions its contagion has wrought upon every one of us. While many may be happy to see 2020 fade into memory and enter 2021 with high hopes of a return to normalcy, we are convinced that many of these changes will be permanent or at least they will be woven into our social activities in a monumental way. Rather than clinging to long practiced social conventions and pining for their wholesale return, some in our community are seeking viable alternatives, constantly adjusting to the changing face of the pandemic and the public’s willingness to alter their behavior. Faced with the economic, social, and political ramifications of this devastating virus, we must find new and creative ways to address human nature and our deeply felt need for companionship. Longing for a return to the days of grand galas in palatial ballrooms with hundreds of guests or boisterous sports events in cavernous arenas packed with spectators is like hoping for a return to long phone conversations instead of abbreviated text messages or leisurely research in stately libraries rather than instantaneous Google searches. Social reality is changing just as sure as telegrams, fax machines, and cassette players have been replaced by email, computers, and Spotify. Are we going to become the next generation of grumps, wishing for the old days, or are we going to become part of the new social order, finding new ways to connect, stay in touch, and share experiences?

    The Rainbow Honor Walk recently hosted a group screening of I Am Divine, an appealing documentary of the life and career of drag star Divine. This is the organization responsible for the bronze plaques in the sidewalks of the Castro neighborhood honoring LGBTQ individuals for their unique contributions. Honorees range from writers and entertainers to political figures and sports icons and these plaques are a very visible reminder of the importance of our own LGBTQ history. In addition to the over 40 plaques already in place, another eight are scheduled for installation over the next few months, honoring Sylvia Rivera, Leonard Matlovich, Audre Lorde, Gladys Bentley, Maurice Sendak, Quentin Crisp, Vito Russo, and Divine. The movie screening via Zoom was designed to increase understanding of the life of one honoree while joining a group of like-minded people in a common experience. Nearly every participant learned something new about Divine, many of them gaining greater appreciation for the journey of his life. The event also served as a low-key fundraiser, free to attend, but with donations to the cause encouraged; they exceeded their modest financial goal, encouraging their ongoing project. Watch for upcoming additional events of this kind, when the Rainbow Honor Walk will focus on different honorees in a series of film screenings, panel discussions, and other formats. This is our history; if we don’t get it right, who will?

    The Imperial Court honored their Founder, the late José Sarria,on his birthday last Saturday that he happens to share with the Reigning Emperor William Bulkley. Starry Night was filled with historic information about José Sarria, a true civil rights pioneer and the first openly Gay person to run for political office in the United States. Tying into his popularity as a singer, the Emperor and Reigning Empress Mimi Osa invited live singers to send in video performances, demonstrating a wide variety of true talent, musical styles, and videographic techniques. The mix of seasoned performers and newer title holders co-hosted by Mr. Golden Gate Ashle Blow and Ms. Golden Gate Bernadette Bohan made for a delightful afternoon. Donations during the event and bids on a tempting silent auction supported the Monarchs’ Charity Fund.

    Up next was the SF Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s annual Dance Along Nutcracker, this year entitled The Nutcracker Express, offering a virtual train ride to past performances, beautifully performed music from the band, guest performances by CHEER SF and the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, and several celebrity cameos, including a chorus of staff, columnists, and friends of the San Francisco Bay Times singing “Jingle Bells.” Flynn De Marco played the part of the train conductor ushering us to different places and times, stirring up lovely memories of past Nutcrackers and keeping this annual tradition alive in the comfort and safety of your home. The design and visual presentation were colorful, fast paced, and appealing. We could picture loyal audience members dancing to the music in their bedrooms and living rooms, dressed exactly as they desired. This Nutcracker was free of charge, but online comments indicated generous donations were flowing in throughout the show. The late Lisa Canjura-Clayton, long-time band member,was remembered in a lovely video tribute. 

    Rather than miss their annual holiday show, the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation chose to assemble a lively presentation of highlights from 18 previous shows. REAF’s entire structure depends on performances of the highest quality by top entertainers in order to raise money for a variety of charitable causes, so this pandemic has decimated their operations. Nevertheless, Help is on the Way for the Holidays XIX: Virtual Holiday Gala & Concert showcased performances by Carol Channing, Sharon McNight, Latoya London, Sally Struthers, Karen Mason, Lisa Viggiano, Adam Lambert, Mary Wilson, Susan Anton, Shawn Ryan, Nancy Sinatra, Leslie Jordan, and others. Oh, the memories that welled up from so many years of not just performances, but also lavish receptions, meeting stars in person, and watching the dream of two mothers who had lost their sons to AIDS grow successfully. The arts in San Francisco and all those associated with performances, e.g. costumers, set creators, musicians, stage hands, etc., are hurting like never before. For all the beauty they give us, let’s keep their struggle in our minds and donate to local organizations like the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation.

    And finally, too late to recount in this column, is Songs of the Season hosted by Brian Kent and benefiting PRC. We produced this annual holiday cabaret for 25 years before Brian took it on, adding new talent, fresh energy, and professional experience. Faced with the impossibility of staging a regular production, Brian invited select performers to submit video presentations that he then edited into a new show. Loyal sponsors again offered their support, people like Lu Conrad & Jeff Stone and Mark Leno. We hope many of you tuned in, enjoyed the event, and made generous contributions to PRC. Our complete recap will appear in our next column.

    Several friends have commented recently that they just don’t enjoy the virtual events they have watched, missing the in-person experience, the spontaneity, the camaraderie. We certainly understand, but please, keep watching, keep donating, and keep engaging. We have so many wonderful organizations doing incredible work in this town. Their needs remain and perhaps have grown, but they are struggling for ways to keep their supporters’ loyalty. They need your support. The world is not what it was and may never fully be again, but don’t give up! Stay calm, stay safe, and stay optimistic! Better days lie ahead.

    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 empsachet@gmail.com

    Calendar a/la Sachet

    Thursday–Sunday, December 17–20
    The Golden Girls LIVE!: The Christmas Episodes
    Featuring Heklina, Matthew Martin, D’Arcy Drollinger, Holotta Tymes
    Virtual show with new episodes
    $30 & up
    www.stellartickets.com

    Thursday, December 24
    (At) Home for the Holidays, SF Gay Men’s Chorus
    Legendary Xmas Eve concert goes virtual
    5 pm
    Details coming soon
    www.sfgmc.org

    Wednesday, January 20, 2021
    Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. President,And Kamala Harris as Vice President!
    Announced theme: “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union”
    Details TBA

    Published on December 17, 2020