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    Sister Dana sez, “Beware the Ides of March!”

    By Sister Dana Van Iquity–

    Sister Dana sez, “‘Beware the Ides of March!’ It’s a saying I never understood. Now I do. The Ides of March is a day on the traditional Roman calendar that corresponds to the date of March 15th on our current calendar. Today the date is commonly associated with bad luck, a reputation that it earned at the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. So, on March 15, I guess, avoid bad luck?!”

    ACADEMY OF FRIENDS celebrates 39 years of galas, glamour and giving. AoF has evolved over the past 39 years. Soon after the onset of the HIV epidemic, they dedicated themselves to the mission of easing the burden of the disease through fun and fund raising for direct care. The agencies they support provide direct care, education and support for those at risk for or living with HIV/AIDS—from policy and advocacy to prevention and treatment to youth and senior services, Academy of Friends has been on the front line. As the pandemic grew, thus did their scope: to help “ … where the need is greatest, until the crisis has passed.” It has changed, but it is not over. They have raised over $8.9 Million in support of more than 73 HIV/AIDS service organizations in the Bay Area. They are a trusted and knowledgeable source for allocating charitable funds.

    That’s why I joined them for their annual ACADEMY AWARDS NIGHT GALA on Oscar Night at City View Metreon with the theme Neptune’s Fantasy. Trying to keep thematic, I wore a blue Hawaiian shirt with shell necklaces, pretending to be a lost sailor on a shipwrecked island.

    Sister Dana sez, “Hi, simply hi from Tinseltown North, this is your intrepid reporter!” Coming off the elevator, we noticed Hollywood Walk of Fame stars going all the way up to the entrance, which had jellyfish and other sea creatures prominently displayed. We walked the elegant red carpet to be greeted by living male golden Oscar statues. My escort Tom Boyer and I enjoyed a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, as mermaids and mermen floated on by. Everyone joyously sang along with Adam Lambert and Queen as they opened the Oscars with “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” perfectly setting the tone. Fellow celebs in our VIP area were jazz chanteuse extraordinaire Paula West, the lovely Donna Sachet in an Oscar black sequined gown, Krewe de Kinque King Gary Virginia, current reigning KdK King Gooch & Queen Miss Chief and several past and current kings and queens and royals and imperials. OurTownSF’s Paul Margolis and husband Donald Grant were scary pirates attacking us with love. AAARRRH! We sampled so many delicious dishes, my faves being octopus sandwiches and caviar canapés with champers. Yum! Senator Scott Wiener reminded us of the wonderful works the AoF accomplishes and reminded us that AIDS is far from over. It was so divine hearing the Divine Miss M Bette Midler singing that sweet song from Mary Poppins Returns. We all went gaga when Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper cuddled and crooned the Oscar-winning love song, “Shallow.” Kudos to Barbra Streisand who aptly noted, “Truth is especially precious these days.” But I always dread the “In Memoriam” segment, sadly reminding me of the over 100 friends I have lost to AIDS. Death is a real beeyotch. But nun-the-less we danced the night away with our fellow seaworthy friends. Oscar indeed rocked us!  

    Rest in peace, comic extraordinaire Gerri Lawlor, because we loved you to pieces, and you took a piece of our hearts! Accordingly, THE GERRI LAWLOR MEMORIAL was held on February 25 at SF Oasis to a packed house. It was a gathering of her family, friends and fans. The one time I ever acted with Gerri, I was so star-struck that I couldn’t do a very good job of improv with her. But she carried the show flawlessly. This night was filled with reminiscing and full of entertainment, hosted by Joshua BrodieKevin Fagan on guitar (and Steve Rubenstein on harmonica) sang Tom Petty numbers Gerri enjoyed and joked about the time she was supposed to be a partner in a corporate production but kept mugging and stealing the scene. Ken Newman played guitar and sang Gerri songs. We saw delightful video excerpts of Gerri in the Cockettes show, Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma, and with the Fou Ha Has in An Edwardian Ball. Hilarious! Matthew Martin put on his tap shoes and sang “It’s a Jolly Holiday with Gerri,” tapping up a storm! He reminded us of the crazy role Gerri played with him in Baby JaneRonKat Spearman gave us the funk on guitar that Gerri adored. Margaret Cho was not just a fellow comic but a longtime friend of Gerri’s since school days. Margaret joined her band of six in several rockin’ numbers, including one that she and Gerri frequently sang together, “Keep Your Electric Eye on Me,” and also some Pink Floyd that they used to get high with. Margaret also gave us some amazing, funny impressions of Gerri. The band finished with a song from Harold and Maude, another frequent fave. Connie Champagne sang a special song to Gerri, Connie’s signature “Over the Rainbow.” The band returned for a grand finale and sing-along to The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Joshua related to us the wishes Gerri expressed for her funeral—to be surrounded by a band doing Queen tunes, lowered into her grave (and joking “taking the band down with me”). So, the band and us fans all sang Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” and stomped and shouted so loud that Gerri in heaven could no doubt hear it!  

    We experienced the true spirit of Mardi Gras with San Francisco’s KREWE DE KINQUE Mardi Gras club! Our annual BAL MASQUE, with the theme “Bohemian Royalty: A Glam Rock Revolution,” was held at the spectacular Castro nightclub The Café on Saturday, March 2. KDK King & Queen XV Gareth Gooch & Miss Chief reigned over an exciting night of wild costumes, outrageous performances, regal Kings & Queens & sexy shenanigans by the West Coast’s authentic krewe. KDK Queen VII Sister Dana distributed colorful bead necklaces to attendees. We celebrated Mardi Gras with stunning Bourbon Street & Glam Rock decor by Balloons A Go-Go, music by DJ Jimmy Strano, a second line parade led by Celebrity Grand Marshals Michelle Meow & her spouse Tookta, a costumed tableaux show emceed by Donna Sachet, the crowning of KDK King & Queen XVI and professional staged photos by King Gareth Gooch.

    So here was how the night started out. “Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler” (French for: “Let the Good Times Roll”) with DJ Jimmy Strano, KDK Queen IV Joan Crawford Texas. Welcome by KDK Founder, King I & Ball Captain Gary Virginia. Introduction of King XV Gareth Gooch & Queen XV Miss Chief. National Anthem performed by KDK Member Aaron Priskorn on the horn. Okan Sengun, Executive Director & Co-Founder of THE LGBT ASYLUM PROJECT—Center for Immigrant Protection (our special fundraising project). Celebrity Grand Marshals who gave us a rousing pep-talk and some glorious singing, and then led us with the traditional Second Line Parade. Mistress of Ceremonies—KDK Member Donna Sachet—sang a scintillating “Sweet Dreams” and then introduced these amazeball entertainers. “I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night” was sung and shouted out by KISS band KDK Queen X Kitty Tapata & KDK Members Lori Howe, Nic Hunter & Sarah Chase. Then my KdK mother (she and many others are responsible for my being Queen VII Sister Dana), the vivacious KDK Queen VI DivaD, made us “Stand Back” in awe. “One Way or Another” was grinded out by the bodacious Miss Golden Gate 2018–19 Tye Olsen. But I must say I was astounded to see and hear “Raspberry Beret” performed by KDK Queen XIII Garza in full-tilt Prince drag. Pruplicious! Then came “When the Saints Go Marching In” and a whole lotta bluesy jazz by KDK Member Aja Monet-Ashton followed by an explosive “Cherry Bomb” by KDK Member Kelly Rose. Hmmm … I wonder why those two were paired. My my my. 


    After intermission, it was time for Act II, starting out with “A Bohemian Serenade,” an original composition by KDK King X Kippy Marks & Izabella (his Violin). What could follow that but “Lovergirl” cranked out by KDK Queen II Deana Dawn & KDK King IX Tony Leo, and I believe behind that mask was Queen Cockatelia. Giving us “Fashion” was KDK Queen XIV Lady Cuki Couture in her fashionable new gown. Then for stepping down from her current reign, we really enjoyed a wild interpretation of “Wild Things” by KDK Queen XV Miss Chief, followed by his stepping down of “Children of the Revolution” by KDK King XV Gareth Gooch with us fellow protesters raging and carrying protest signs to “RESIST” (and this sister resister kept smacking “Donald Trump” on the head). Bringing us back to a party mood, “Slave to the Rhythm” by KDK Queen IX BeBe Sweetbriar got us going. Finally, it was time for the crowning of KDK King XVI & Queen XVI, and as I hinted above, it was revealed to be my fabulous friends and yours, King Aja Monet-Ashton and Queen Kelly Rose! Let the good times roll!

    Next up was the annual KdK MARDI GRAS BUS & BAR CRAWL on Fat Tuesday (translation of “Mardi Gras”) on March 5, with a second line parade into each gay bar led by the new King and Queen.

    Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) is one of the nation’s oldest and largest association of LGBTQI persons in the field of law. Founded in 1980, BALIF represents its members’ interests in the wider San Francisco Bay Area. BALIF held their GALA, celebrating 35 years, at the Bentley Reserve on March 1. Welcoming everyone and introducing the Board of Directors were Gala Co-chairs Tyler Alexander and Austin Phillips. I ran into the Sisters’ lawyer back in the day, Michael Fiumara, who now practices in Napa County. Also, there was my buddy and our Treasurer Jose Cisneros. Presentation of Community Service Awards were given to SF BAY AREA BLACK AND PINK. Presentation of Legal Service Award was awarded to THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS (NCLR). Closing comments were by BALIF Co-Chairs Sarah Davis and Annick Persinger. We learned that 35 years ago, the world was a different place. The BALIF newsletter and directory were sent out in brown envelopes, lest the recipient be outed and be the victim of discrimination. The name BALIF itself was selected because “Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom” did not reveal the queer identity of their members to outsiders yet nevertheless emphatically proclaimed the goal of the organization. The evening closed with tunes spun by DJ Juan Garcia and his dancing ladies, as we gleefully danced along.

    Sister Dana sez, “Rain, rain, go away! Come again some other day! And what’s with this weather term, ‘Pineapple Express’? I thought that was a strain of marijuana! Anyway, don’t let the rain keep you away from these upcoming events!”

    STRUT held their First Friday March Art Opening reception on March 1, celebrating the work of Ashish Kumar aka Axeishguy entitled ANG RASIYA. South-Asian in origin, Ashish Kumar is a gay man currently living in San Francisco. He is a self-taught digital artist and has been drawing male nudes and gay themed sensual art since 2016. This is his first solo show. “Ang” means body, and “Rasiya” can be translated as an epicure. “Ang Rasiya” is about celebrating gay men sensually expressing themselves via a wide range of sexual activities. Through “Ang Rasiya,” one can get a glimpse into a rich cultural world of Indian gay men. His artwork depicts his life journey of coming to terms with his sexuality and his perspective of how amazing and queer the world can be. My faves are “Affection” with 5 couples loving one another; “Mystique” with a phallic touch; “Delicate Freedom” bare-chested man surrounded by beautiful butterflies; “Be Embraced” with embracing; and also pillows as art were on display. This amazing exhibit will remain all month long at Strut, 470 Castro Street.

    Larger-than-life New York politicians are all the rage now, so this 42ND STREET MOON production of FIORELLO, one of the most acclaimed bio-musicals in Broadway history, is sure to be both wildly entertaining and thought-provoking. The mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945, Fiorello H. La Guardia was a charismatic publicity hound considered by many to be one of the greatest mayors in American history. His upbeat spirit and pledge to help those less fortunate is portrayed in this Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical at the Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, now through March 17. http://42ndstmoon.org/fiorello/

    SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DRAG? is a competition and drag show fundraiser for HARVEY MILK CIVIL RIGHTS ACADEMY on March 16 at The Cafe, 2369 Market Street. Featuring special guest Laganja Estranga from RuPaul’s Drag Race, along with many of San Francisco’s best entertainers. VIP tickets include meet & greet with Langanja and the cast, plus delicious bites! Doors at 4 pm/VIP meet & greet at 4:30 pm–5:30 pm. Drag show and competition at 6 pm. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/so-you-think-you-can-drag-tickets

    March 17 is ST. PATRICK’S DAY, so as a gay Irish nun, I will kiss the Blarney Stone and also get stoned on green bud and green beer. Do support your local gay bar, drink Irish and wear green! Begorrah!   

    Sister Dana sez, “President (T)Rump traveled halfway around the world to make nicey-nice with monstrous murderous Kim Jong Ugh, and came back with nothing. Although Prez did manage to denigrate the Obama administration as usual. It really Hanoi-ed me!”