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    Donna’s Chronicles, “As we look back on six months of this unexpected pandemic…”

    By Donna Sachet–

    As we look back on six months of this unexpected pandemic, what an amazing change it has brought to so many of our lives. We have watched and participated in numerous online, virtual events, reimagined to maintain their essential roles of fundraising, community building, and artistic expression. San Francisco has developed such an extensive network of organizations that provide the framework for the life we love here; it would be a shame to let an unprecedented pandemic upturn everything and rob us of the essence of this community. These events have occurred with mixed results, varied levels of proficiency, and a tremendous range of creativity and we can now confidently say that a way forward has appeared.

    Horizons Foundation’s annual gala was a professionally produced online experience, true to its origin, its mission, and its unique position in the world of charitable organizations. In advance of the event, they surrounded the invitation with creative touches, like recipes for signature cocktails to enjoy during the show and a Page Hodel music playlist to get you in the mood beforehand and to dance to afterwards. The gala was full of reminders of Horizons Foundation’s intersection with so many of the social, service, and arts organizations within the LGBT Community, providing essential financial assistance, totaling over 50 million dollars in their 40 years, and most recently, nearly one million dollars in COVID-related grants. Prerecorded messages from a variety of SF individuals and celebrities like George Takei, Sandra Bernhard, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, provided familiar context and Michael Tate returned as emcee, keeping he program running smoothly and encouraging online donations. 

    EqualityCalifornia combined events typically held across the state in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, Palm Springs, and San Francisco into the Golden State Awards, resulting in a jam-packed, fast-paced event beautifully emceed by Angelica Ross.  Awards were presented and accepted online by groundbreaking television creator Norman Lear, political superstars Pete & Chasen Buttigieg, and Laverne Cox’s Netflix original documentary Disclosure. Celebrity appearances by Rita Moreno, Gloria Estefan, Keiynan Londsdale, Rufus Wainwright, and Chelsea Gray added star power, while familiar faces like Bevan Dufty, Leslie Katz, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, State Senator Scott Wiener, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi represented the local political front. Adding to the entertainment value were performances by Melissa Etheridge, Betty Who, Alex Newell, Shea Diamond, and Robin S. A touching tribute video to the Honorable John Lewis provided appropriate gravity and balance to what was otherwise a celebration.

    Having attended both EQCA and Horizons Foundation’s galas in person many times, we applaud both organizations for maintaining an event vital for fundraising and visibility in a compelling and watchable format. Both events found us searching for a credit card to make an online contribution and reflecting afterwards on their long and significant roles in the health and vitality of the LGBTQ Community. Mission accomplished! 

    Based on the success of these and other online events, we begin to wonder whether the glamorous galas attended by hundreds of people will become a thing of the past. We always run into people at such events who express their hesitation to attend, reluctant to dress up, not interested in social hobnobbing, or simply bored with the sameness of galas. If even organizations as large as AIDS Walk, EQCA, and Horizons Foundation can raise the money they need, convey the message they want to spread, and maintain the high profile necessary, with virtual events viewed via computer, why stage lavish and expensive events in huge ballrooms? We offer the following answer. Given the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to re-think established norms and to pivot towards online events, but the LGBTQ Community will always be drawn to opportunities to gather together in person. In general, we love to dress up, we enjoy elaborate productions, we relish contact with celebrities, and we yearn to see each other face-to-face, eye-to-eye to celebrate our successes and to unite in confronting ongoing challenges.  Creative virtual events may continue to find a place in the post-pandemic future, but properly conceived and executed in-person events will always triumph. And personally, we can’t wait for them to return!

    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, September 26
    Mr./Miss/Ms. Golden Gate Finale
    Imperial Court’s virtual title conclusion
    4 pm

    Wednesday, September 30
    PRC AIDS Walk check distribution
    Online ceremony presenting proceeds
    10 am

    Saturday, October 10
    Mr. & Miss Gay Pageant
    Imperial Court’s virtual event
    7 pm

    Friday, October 16
    Reunion: Making History
    GLBT Historical Society’s virtual gala
    Hosted by Peaches Christ & Marga Gomez
    6 pm–7:30 pm

    Saturday, November 7
    MIGHTY REAL: PRC’s annual gala
    Online event with special guest Patti LaBelle
    6 pm

    Published on September 24, 2020