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    Donna’s Chronicle: The AIDS Memorial Grove

    By Donna Sachet–

    The AIDS Memorial Grove marked the eve of World AIDS Day with a beautiful night under the stars, but protected by a huge translucent tent, offering over 500 guests a delicious buffet and full bar as The Klipptones provided rich music. The highlight of the program was when CEO John Cunningham introduced Mayor Art Agnos to present the Lifetime of Commitment Award to Cleve Jones. Never have we heard Cleve speak with such emotion, inspiration, and power! It was impossible to leave this very special place without a clear sense of where we have been and powerful hope for the future.

    Drag Queens on Ice was another smashing success in Union Square at the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink, surrounded by twinkling decor and the massive Macy’s tree. Our returning co-emcee, Robert Keith, was in great form as our straight man, adding wonderful energy to the event. Skaters included Jota Mercury, Princess Poppy, Tara Lipsyncki, Jubilee, Dusty Porn along with her young friend Luccia Panelli, Mahlae Balenciaga, and Khmera Rouge and they demonstrated a wide variety of skills, stage presence, and drag realness, as a crowd three and four deep gathered around the rink and onlookers stared from surrounding hotel rooms, offices, and Macy’s. Even Mayor London Breed came by, staying for the entire show. This is one of those truly “only in San Francisco” events! Afterwards, all the skaters, their companions, and the staff coordinating the event adjourned to CityScape Bar & Lounge at the Hilton for cocktails and nibbles. More excitement awaits at the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink on New Year’s Day when the brave and daring don their bathing suits or holiday attire for Polar Bear Skate.

    Emperor William Bulkley produced a wonderful tribute to the late José Sarria, who would have been 100 this year. From rotating celebrity emcees and historic slides as a back-drop to entertaining performances and video and live speeches of significant importance, this event brought the memory of this iconic pioneer to life! Oasis was packed with generations of José supporters, friends, and associates. Occasional audio recordings of José himself hauntingly reminded us of his leadership, humor, and talent. This once-in-a-lifetime event was closed out beautifully by the Honorable Mark Leno with personal memories of José’s significance and how important his role was in everything we do today. It was truly an event that will long be remembered and José was an individual who will long be cherished!

    We returned to Grace Cathedral for the official lighting of the stately, origami decorated Rainbow World Fund (RWF) Tree of Hope. Although he was called away on a family emergency, Founder Jeff Cotter assembled a strong program and entrusted it to us to host. The San Francisco Boys’ Chorus opened with a short concert, followed by comments by RWF Board member Karen Kai and origami expert Linda Mihara. Additional music came from angelic soprano Leberta Loral, pianist and singer Tammy Lynne Hall, and popular drag performer Dulce de Leche. Honey Mahogany, Reigning Emperor Brent Daddy Munro, and Reigning Empress Ehra Amaya shared their thoughts on hope and we read some of the hopes written on the origami decorations with students Carmen Iwamiya and Hana Cornish. Bishop Marc Andrus also spoke about hope before exchanging origami cranes with Ayae Yoshimoto from the Consul General of Japan. Finally, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence blessed the tree, ending with a countdown and the dramatic lighting. The description here hardly does justice to this event and the wonderful feeling of hope it generates. Some recent immigrants from Saudi Arabia put it well by saying, “I could have never guessed a year ago that I would be in San Francisco, surrounded by every letter of the LGBTQI … . This level of acceptance and love is hard to grasp.” Welcome to San Francisco!

    The following two nights, Songs of the Season, presented by Brian Kent, came to Feinstein’s at Hotel Nikko. This event, which we created as a holiday cabaret benefiting PRC, is now in its 30th year! The lovely, intimate room was packed with supporters both nights to hear music and comedy from Brian, this columnist (ably assisted by visiting Drew Cutler), Leanne Borghesi, Kenny Nelson, Effie Passero, Charles Jones, Kippy Marks, Sister Roma, and instrumentalists Russell Deason, Roberta Blake, Victor Serda, and Michael Grossman. Both audiences roared with laughter, applauded with vigor, and melted with nostalgia as this very talented cast gave them their all. As they gathered on stage for the finale, the holiday season truly began.

    We rounded out our holiday events with the SF Ballet’s Opening Night of Nutcracker, Golden Girls LIVE, and Holiday Benefit for SF Knockers. Nutcracker was nothing short of spectacular with glorious music, elaborate staging and costumes, and incredibly talented dancers. As Act I ended, gentle snow fell on the delicate ballerinas, a spectacle both precarious and mesmerizing. You simply must include this production in your holiday schedule! Heklina, Holotta Tymes, D’Arcy Drollinger, and Matthew Martin at the Victoria Theatre once again brought the Golden Girls to life with great sets, costumes, characterizations, and unexpected surprises. Truly a unique San Francisco experience! And Sunday’s Knockers benefit returned us to the Castro and some of the best drag performers dazzling the crowd at Beaux.

    When we wrote in our last column that the holiday schedule looked daunting, but welcome, we were right! With a couple of weeks still to go, get out of the house and experience some holiday cheer with your friends! Check out the adjacent calendar for upcoming opportunities and make these weeks special by sharing events with your loved ones. After years of pandemic caution, political turmoil, and civic uncertainty, we all need a little holiday cheer!

    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

    Saturday, December 17
    Nice or Naughty Holiday Party
    Fun with friends, sexy elves
    Russell Deason on piano & Donna Sachet hosting
    The Academy, 2166 Market Street
    7 pm

    Saturday & Sunday, December 17 & 18
    Dance Along Nutcracker: Snowbound
    SF Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s fabulous Nutcracker
    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street
    3 & 7 pm Saturday, 11 am & 3 pm Sunday
    $25 & up

    Sunday, December 18
    Bill Graham Menorah Lighting
    Union Square
    4:45 pm Lighting
    2–6 pm Dreidel House Crafts, Children’s entertainment, SHAMATI

    Wednesday, December 21
    Empresses’ Bake Sale
    Holiday treats from the kitchens of SF Empresses & friends
    Benefiting the Empresses’ Fund
    Lookout, 3600 16th Street
    6–9 pm

    Saturday, December 24
    Holiday Spectacular
    SF Gay Men’s Chorus concerts
    Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street
    5, 7, 9 pm

    Donna’s Chronicles
    Published on December 15, 2022