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    Donna’s Chronicles, “At precisely 6:30 pm, a roar of motorcycles shook Market Street…”

    By Donna Sachet–

    At precisely 6:30 pm, a roar of motorcycles shook Market Street as members of the Dykes on BikesÒ drove up in formation to The Academy closely followed by a bright blue convertible bearing birthday gals, Betty Sullivan and this humble columnist.  Windblown, but beaming, we disembarked to an uproarious welcome from those gathered on the sidewalk, especially the energetic CHEER SF. We wound our way through well-wishers inside the club and out onto the back garden patio, packed with supporters as DJ Christie James pumped up the familiar San Francisco anthem. Before we could even acknowledge all those assembled, co-emcees Carolyn Wysinger, President of SF Pride, and Gary Virginia, stalwart fundraiser, event producer, and community leader, welcomed Artistic Director Tim Seelig and members of the SF Gay Men’s Chorus to sing a couple of crowd-pleasing songs. As if by magic, we were suddenly face to face with ABC-TV’s Dan Ashley, City Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, and gracious Mayor London Breed. Each spoke briefly but warmly and specifically about Betty and ourselves and the crowd roared its approval. As the chorus made its exit, Marching Band Leader Mike Wong led the SF Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band in a raucous march to the patio. Somehow, we found ourselves back up on the staircase just in time to sing along with the band a few stanzas of Hello, Dolly, wryly modified to say “Hello, Donna,” while printed signs appeared among the crowd emblazoned with “Donna.” As a beautiful traditional birthday cake of white with red trimmed icing was presented, the band led us all in a spirited rendition of the birthday song.

    Betty spoke to the room first with gratitude and a couple of significant stories from our years of friendship, followed by a few remarks from ourselves, and the patio filled to capacity, many generously donating to the night’s beneficiary, Rainbow Honor Walk, on whose Board of Directors we proudly serve as President. Direct contributions, raffle ticket sales, and auction bids raised nearly $3000 during the event. Watch for eight new plaques to appear in the sidewalks of Market Street this month. Many guests remained afterwards to dance to DJ Christie, sip Bacardi specialty cocktails, nibble on Extreme Pizzas and Kokak chocolates, congratulate the birthday honorees, and catch up with each other.

    While the above may serve as a fairly accurate description of the course of events on April 28, what it doesn’t adequately describe is the amazing connections represented by this celebration. Co-Publisher of the Bay Times Jennifer Viegas carefully orchestrated the entire event, lovingly constructed around the two of us. We don’t just share a birthday week with Betty, but a stimulating professional relationship as a valued columnist for the Bay Times, a proud partnership as a bold fellow advocate for recognition and celebration of our diverse LGBTQ+ Community, and an abiding friendship forged over decades of common experiences and daunting challenges. No event description can completely convey the honor of sharing this year’s birthday celebration with such a diligent, creative, and caring friend.

    In addition, every component of Thursday’s event tied directly to us in a very personal way. We are so proud of the bold and persistent battle for recognition of the Dykes on Bikes and we have glowingly introduced them on live television to lead the SF Pride Parade for at least 12 years. CHEER SF captured our attention in the nineties, often raising the energy of a community gathering and eventually dubbing us an official honorary member. We were born from the SF Gay Men’s Chorus, where during a choral retreat we first displayed our drag efforts at a private talent show. At the time, we were only lip-syncing and performed a Donna Summer number, assuming the name Donna Winter as a humorous reference to our different racial identities. But as we left the stage from that first and admittedly unrefined performance, an audience member shouted, “Look at her sashay!” The rest is history! The Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band has been a part of our life since our earliest visits to Colma with the Founder of the Imperial Court System, José Sarria, to visit the grave of her late husband Emperor Joshua Norton, and we have proudly performed with them and relished their music in concert, at Dance Along Nutcracker, at City Hall’s Rotunda, and more. The presence of a popular television anchor suggested our many years of co-anchoring the live coverage of the SF Pride Parade as well as various media appearances. The attendance and words of elected officials reflect an important aspect of our life, namely our political activities, from serving on the Board of EqualityCalifornia to working on candidate and issue campaigns for years. We love the fact that we have personally known four of the five Mayors of San Francisco, each of whom has formally recognized us, in addition to Vice Presidents, Senators, Congresspeople, State Senators and Representatives, City Supervisors, and more. 

    And the choice of co-emcees felt so perfect: one representing SF Pride, an organization whose activities inspire and engage us, offering us a variety of opportunities to share our pride in San Francisco with the world; and the other a close personal friend for over 25 years with whom we have raised money, supported worthy causes, created fabulous events, developed networks, and shared years of successes and challenges with determination, creativity, and integrity.

    We fondly remember Frank Capra’s 1961 filmPocket Full of Miracles, where the character played by the legendary Bette Davis is a penniless socially invisible nobody who must transform into a proper lady for the sake of her daughter’s impending wedding.  With the creative support of a host of other characters, she finds herself one evening surrounded by the City’s elite, rubbing elbows with the Who’s Who of New York, and even being lavished with adoration. In the back of her mind, however, she remains the same ordinary person without any particular talents or having made any significant contributions, pretending to be something she is not. We must admit feeling some similar sensations, knowing that we are just one among many, doing what we love for the community and city we love, and deep down questioning the praise and attention. This may come as a surprise to readers less familiar with our personal side, but despite decades of congratulations, we still doubt our significance, relevance, and contribution, feeling deep down like a very lucky girl and absolutely amazed at the life we lead.

    Last Thursday was a warm and spectacular reminder of the love that surrounds us and inspires us to continue our current course and always to keep an eye out for those less recognized who are doing important work. This wonderful city and community that we have come to love is made up of so many extraordinary members, many of whom were there that night and many others who flooded our mail, telephone, and social media with well wishes. Unfortunately, space limitations and the danger of accidental omission prevent the listing of more names, but please know that you were seen and deeply appreciated. The two words “thank you” are simply incapable of expressing the depth of gratitude we feel, but hopefully the contents of this column have given you a better picture.

    Immediately after that extravaganza, we flew to Palm Springs with Gary Virginia to celebrate the housewarming of John Rivett & James Holloway, dear friend to both of us. Yes, we loved the laid-back lifestyle, period buildings, and celebrity aura that hangs over this location, reuniting with San Francisco expatriates Johnny Hedges & Gerry McBride, Lenny Broberg, Tom Ray, Rod Wood & Roger Hunt, Brian Ashby, Damon Holzman, Carl Hack & Jeff Mauk, Marc Huestis, and many more. Yes, we know we missed many others and look forward to catching up net time. Yes, we poked our nose into the White Party in an appropriately white and creative ensemble, culminating in a dazzling display of fireworks practically above our heads. And yes, we met Audrey Joseph, David Perry & Alfredo Casuso, Larry Harshberger, and Heklina at the glamorous new AsiaSF Palm Springs location for a top-notch, not-to-be-missed show and meal.But no, we are not relocating.  We returned to the city we love and look forward to an increasingly busy calendar full of events that celebrate, elevate, and inspire. We’ll keep an eye out for you!,

    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, May 5
    Cinco de Mayo

    Saturday, May 7
    House of M’s BarrelHouse Brunch
    Drag talent from MGM Grande, Alexis Miranda, and more
    Midnight Sun, 4067 18th Street
    2 pm
    Free!

    Saturday, May 7
    Emperor 32 A.N. Fernando’s 20th Anniversary Cinco de Mayo
    Hosted by China Silk, emceed by John Carrillo & Alexis Miranda
    The Cinch, 1723 Polk Street
    4–7 pm
    Free, but an Imperial Court fundraiser

    Saturday, May 7
    An Evening of Stars
    Grand Duke Scott Rice & Grand Duchess Bobby Friday
    Gregg Starr & Linda Royal
    Beaux, 2344 Market Street
    5–8 pm
    Free, but a Ducal Court fundraiser

    Sunday, May 8
    Mothers’ Day
    Take time to reach out, reflect, and appreciate

    Sunday, May 8
    Mama: A Rainbow
    Vanessa Boussay, Nicolas Perez, Emma Peel, and more
    Benefits Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners
    Martuni’s, 4 Valencia Street
    7 pm
    $25

    Monday, May 9
    John Waters’ Liarmouth: A Feel Bad Romance
    Personal appearance & book signing
    Green Arcade Bookstore & McRoskey Loft, 1680 Market Street
    6:30 pm
    $10

    Saturday, May 14
    The Academy’s 5th Anniversary
    Live music, specialty cocktails,
    The Academy, 2166 Market Street
    7 pm
    Free for members, $25 others

    Sunday, May 15
    Mark Abramson Book Reading
    Fabulosa Books, 489 Castro Street
    4 pm
    Free!

    Thursday, May 26
    Divas & Drinks
    Bay Times co-hosted monthly social
    The Academy, 2166 Market Street
    7–10 pm
    $10

    Published on May 5, 22022