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    Donna’s Chronicles: San Francisco’s 50th Annual Pride & Celebration

    By Donna Sachet–

    San Francisco’s 50th annual Pride Parade & Celebration is this weekend, maybe not with the always fabulous parade up Market Street and thousands of celebrants in Civic Center, but nevertheless with a plethora of online and virtual events to keep you quite busy! Check out the websites of your favorite organizations to find out how they have swiveled to adjust to the COVID-19 world.  From Frameline Film Festival’s broad spectrum of movies, the GLBT Historical Society’s 50 years of photos, and the Pink Triangle lit atop Twin Peaks by Illuminate to San Francisco Nightlife Fund’s Quaran-Tea Dance, KPIX/CBS’s five hours of televised historical footage, and InterPride’s 24-hour Global Pride streaming event, you may never leave the house for the first SF Pride Weekend ever!

    At noon on Saturday, June 27, the 22nd annual Pride Brunch LIVE goes online, benefiting PRC and honoring the Grand Marshals & Awardees of the SF Pride Parade. This event holds a special place in our heart since we co-founded it with Gary Virginia and have watched it grow over the years to a major fundraiser for PRC, a unique opportunity for the Grand Marshals to speak to the public, and a beloved annual gathering of likeminded, fun-loving people. Pride Brunch was born at The Edge in the Castro in 1999, undoubtedly over cocktails with Gary and Rusty Gaspard of Stars restaurant. PRC had some major financial challenges, we all agreed that the Grand Marshals needed a more intimate event where they could share their thoughts with the community, and let’s face it, there was not enough already scheduled during Pride Week! (That last line is a joke!) Somehow, we dreamt up a brunch, sandwiched between the many other events on the Saturday before the Parade, and because of Rusty’s connections, Stars became an attractive and cost-effective location. Some of you reading this column remember that first Pride Brunch. Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin were Grand Marshals and attended and much to our surprise, so did Mayor Willie Brown, always the consummate politician, even taking the crowd off guard with a salacious remark on the microphone! 

    After one more Pride Brunch at Stars, Pride Brunch moved in 2001 to John Frank restaurant, before finding its long-time home at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, the historic temporary location of City Hall immediately after the 1906 earthquake and fire.  Suddenly we had a spacious ballroom in which to entertain our guests and we added a silent auction, raffle, and other money makers. That was the first year the Dixieland Dykes + 3 provided lively music, returning every year after. Who can forget Celebrity Grand Marshal Sir Ian McKellen and actress Sharon Gless who added star power, humor, and humility to Pride Brunch? And so began a long and productive relationship with Sharon Chism of the hotel, Adam Reeves of In the Bag marketing, Randy Arnold of Barefoot Winery, and Michael Daniels of Young’s Market Company. Pride Brunch program covers and posters took on a wonderful new look with the help of Kit Tapata, and Ingu Yun saved us considerable cost and trouble by sharing his Sundance sound equipment. Balloons a Go-Go added colorful décor and Tommy Taylor festooned the room with rainbow flags. We remained at the same hotel, although the name eventually changed to Hotel Whitcomb, for the next 14 years.

    Over the past 21 years, we are so proud to have raised significant funds for PRC (Positive Resource Center), much of that time under the incredible leadership of Brett Andrews. Those funds come from ticket purchasers, raffle ticket buyers, and auction bidders, as well as additional generous support from individuals including Lenny Broberg, Lu Conrad, Russell Kassman, Mike Proctor & Eric Bernier, Susan Fahey, Mike Floyd & Dean Carrico, Joe Granese, Dan Joraanstad & Bob Hermann, Walter Leiss, Kent Roger, Les Natali, and the Bob Ross Foundation. Many businesses have chosen to support Pride Brunch, including Sterling Bank & Trust, Community Thrift Store, AT&T, Google, The Edge, Marlena’s, Daddy’s/440 Castro, Metro Bar, and most especially Wells Fargo, Presenting Sponsor for the past 10 years.

    In keeping with our goal to give Grand Marshals of the SF Pride Parade an opportunity to share their thoughts, we have welcomed famous names like Alan Cumming, Laura Linney, Graham Norton, Alec Mapa, Bruce Vilanch, Reichen Lehmkuhl, Wilson Cruz, Dan Choi, Cloris Leachman, Andy Bell, Carmen Carrera, Dot Jones, Alex Newell, and Ross Matthews. From time to time, we have been surprised by the appearance of cast members from popular movies and television shows, like Looking, Milk, The L Word, Tales of the City, Pose, Strut, and Noah’s Ark. We’ve heard from national LGBTQ figures like José Sarria, Rev. Troy Perry, Jim Hormel, Stuart Milk, Shannon Minter, Armistead Maupin, Gilbert Baker, and Miss Major;and local celebrities, activists, and personalities like Jan Wahl, Heklina, Sister Roma, Juanita More!, Page Hodel, Stuart Gaffney & John Lewis, Julius Turman, Theresa Sparks, Dan Nicoletta, Zoe Dunning, Graylin Thornton, Yigit Pura, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Al Baum, Melanie Nathan, and BeBe Sweetbriar. Frequent attendees often tell us that these moments of unfiltered remarks are the most memorable part of Pride Brunch.

    Although we have always tried to steer clear of overt politics at Pride Brunch, we have been honored to have in attendance elected officials Mabel Tang, Tom Ammiano, Mark Leno, Jose Cisneros, Angela Alioto, Bevan Dufty, Carol Migden, Rafael Mandelman, Susan Leal, Ed Lee, Scott Wiener, and London Breed. It really says something when busy public officeholders choose to attend Pride Brunch.

    That brings us to Pride Brunch 2020! Although we could have taken a year off, we put our heads together with the staff of PRC to come up with an event that would honor the goals of the past two decades and provide an enjoyable experience for our loyal supporters.  On Saturday, June 27, at noon, we will join Gary Virginia in hosting our first virtual Pride Brunch with a lively program, featuring tempting auction items, cameos from special guests, recognition of some important anniversaries, like Pink Triangle’s 25th and CHEER SF’s 40th, and a hilarious Top Chef competition between the hosts. (Yes, I found our kitchen and Gary has no idea what is headed his way!) We’ll hear from Grand Marshals & Awardees of the SF Pride Parade Terry Beswick, Rev. Jane Spahr, Lance Toma, Okan Sengun, StormMiguel Florez, Lenn Keller, Mike Wong, Gabby Rivera, and Cleve Jones. In addition, our $100 ticket purchasers will receive a gift bag and the brunch of their choice delivered to their home by our new sponsor Uber Eats. This could never happen without Presenting Sponsor for the 10th year Wells Fargo, Media Sponsor San Francisco Bay Times, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Korbel California Champagne, and new sponsors Verizon and Flower to the People. And a generous 3 to 1 match challenge from two Board members and Tito’s Handmade Vodka triples all money raised during the program. What better time to support the vital work of PRC!

    We’ve seen many virtual events online over the past few months and we are confident that Pride Brunch will exceed your expectations, providing lighthearted entertainment, meaningful moments, and significant fundraising for PRC. We just couldn’t let San Francisco’s 50th anniversary Pride go by without Pride Brunch 2020!

    So, please get your ticket right away, since Pride Brunch is only a few days away. Everyone will be talking about it and you don’t want to miss out. Include Pride Brunch in your 2020 Pride celebration!

    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

    Published on June 25, 2020