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    Donna’s Chronicles, “Soirée on the Bay II, benefiting Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation, once again swept several hundred guests into a night of glamorous cruise ship living!”

    By Donna Sachet–

    Soirée on the Bay II, benefiting Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation, once again swept several hundred guests into a night of glamorous cruise ship living! We arrived at the spacious Pier 27 building recently opened to greet the many large cruise liners that visit our City, welcoming them in modern comfort. As you approach the pier, you are overwhelmed by the size and scale of the ship, in this case the Celebrity Eclipse, over 1000 feet long, holding 2850 passengers plus crew, and with 12 guest decks packed with restaurants, shopping, spa, pool, waterfalls, and more! We were welcomed into the Solarium by LaTonya Lawson, Regional Marketing Leader at Celebrity Cruises, and Joe Seiler & Ken Henderson of REAF, as mermaids and mermen swam in the adjacent pool and floated inside oversized transparent beach balls. Ship tours were available also during this cocktail hour. Among those on board were Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Gary Virginia, Ken Hamai, Beth Schnitzer, Ludmila Kisseleva, Shelley Hann, John Newmeyer, Andrew Hirst, Casy Kretzer, Lawrence Wong, Charles Sanderson & Kelley Wagg, Adam Sandel, Mark Pressler, Matt Buchanan, Greg Wick, and John Hunter. 

    At 7 pm, everyone ascended to the Sky Lounge where refreshments continued and intermittent entertainment delighted the crowd. Emcees Dan Ashley and Dion Lim guided us through a brief program, including an award to Okan Sengun of the LGBT Asylum Project that has been doing amazing work for the past few years under his leadership. Besides the high-energy performers from Celebrity Cruises, special guest Franc D’Ambrosio sang a moving medley of songs from the long-running Broadway show The Phantom of the Opera in which he starred for years. Party organizers began to despair of a certain high-profile guest’s absence when, sure enough, Mayor London Breed arrived, having just left dinner with Governor Gavin Newsom.  (We were personally given permission to include that detail in this column.) The response was wonderful, especially when she presented not only REAF with City recognition, but also LaTonya and Celebrity Cruises. Needless to say, photographs flashed well into the night!

    As amazing as being on the Celebrity Eclipse was, gazing back on the City we love was breathtaking! Rarely are you so close to the skyline and at such an elevation so that you feel surrounded by the Bay Bridge, sparkling buildings, sloping hills, and Coit Tower crowning Telegraph Hill. That clear night provided the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves of the magical place in which we live!

    The conclusion of a week-long celebration of the birthday of Absolute Empress XXV Marlena came last Saturday at Twin Peaks, long a favorite bar of Empress I José Sarria and the entire Imperial Family. Friends appeared from all over the Bay Area and beyond to wish her well. We joined Emperor Brian Benamati on the balcony above the crowd to lead the birthday song and Marlena thanked the assembled with brief, heartfelt remarks. A classy birthday for a magnificent person!

    As we turn the corner into another Thanksgiving, we know the festive holiday season is upon us, so let’s look at some of the upcoming events you simply must attend! Join us on Sunday, December 1, for the first of three holiday shows at Sunday’s a Drag at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. This show only happens December 1, 15, and 22 this year, so treat yourself to a sumptuous brunch buffet starting at 10:30 am and celebrate with Mahlae Balenciaga, Lady Tia, this humble columnist, and our weekly guest stars at 11:30 am. The following evening, we light the Castro holiday tree at 6 pm right in front of Bank of America with members of the SF Gay Men’s Chorus, the Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, and the Lesbian/Gay Chorus. This is a community favorite event, full of revelry, music, an occasional elected official, and Santa Claus himself. Rise and shine early the following day for the SF AIDS Foundation’s ACTivate Breakfast at 8 am at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The event is free, but contributions and pledges to support the important work of this organization will be welcome. Come see what SF AIDS Foundation is all about and get involved.

    Drag Queens on Ice is now in its tenth year bringing fabulous ice-skating drag queens to Union Square! On Thursday, December 5, you’ll thrill to the talents of Kylie Pop, Mahlae Balenciaga, Kylie Minono, Paju Munro, Khmera Rouge, Dusty Porn, and Mutha Chucka with yours truly, as always, not on the ice, but on the mic, joined this year by the Foodie Chap Liam Mayclem. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will be there to add to the mayhem. On Friday, December 6, 6 pm, we hope to see you at Home for the Holidays, a benefit cabaret for Tenderloin Tessie Dinners at First Unitarian Universalist Center, 1187 Franklin Street.  Vanessa Bousay and Michael Gagne host and the list of entertainers is broad and exciting.

    The SF Gay Men’s Chorus presents Holigays Are Here: Ring Them Bells, Friday, December 6, 7:30 pm, and Saturday, December 7, 3 pm & 7:30 pm, at the Sydney Goldstein Theater, 275 Hayes Street. No holiday is complete without seeing and hearing this legendary chorus, all 300 of them, as they pay homage to traditional religious music and poke fun at the whole season with their wry humor and choralography.  If you can’t make either of these dates, they also appear in three concerts 5, 7, and 9 pm, Christmas Eve at the Castro Theatre. Take the whole family, whatever that means to you; you’ll be glad you did.

    Toys for Tots has gathered thousands of toys over the past 15 years for children who might otherwise go without. This year, the stellar host committee invites you to bring three or more new, unwrapped toys to the Fairmont Hotel on Sunday, December 8, from 4–7 pm and join a heart-warming holiday party with like-minded people. This is a party where you definitely want to dress up; you’ll be glad you did. The very next night, Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation presents Help is on the Way for the Holidays XXVIII at Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street at 7:30 pm. We can’t say enough about this show!  The stars include Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lisa Vroman, David Hernandez, Darnell Abraham, Shawn Ryan, Sony Holland, Steve Knill, Jessica Coker, Lisa Viggiano, and members of the cast from the touring company of the Broadway musical Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. It all benefits Project Open Hand and AGUILAS. And, as always, after the show, VIP guests and most of the performers celebrate at a reception, this time at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

    A couple of years ago, we officially retired Donna Sachet’s Songs of the Season after 25 years of performances benefiting the AIDS Emergency Fund. Last year, however, Brian Kent boldly stepped forward asking if he could produce this popular event, adding his own professional experience and contacts while maintaining the beloved community touches. We appreciatively agreed. This year, for the second time with Brian at the helm, Songs of the Season returns Tuesday and Wednesday, December 10 and 11, 8 pm, at Feinstein’s at the Nikko. Performers include Leanne Borghesi, Breanna Sinclaire, Kenny Nelson, Kippy Marks, Dan O’Leary, and Frenchie Davis (Tuesday, December 10, only). The intimate venue of Feinstein’s will embrace you in luxury and comfort. Word has it that Sister Roma will have a role this year and yes, Brian will sing and perhaps he will convince me to sing as well. Now benefiting PRC, which provides essential services to a wide spectrum of those impacted by AIDS, substance use, and/or mental health issues, Songs of the Season will bring you the warmth, humor, and music of the holidays.

    With this sampling of our favorite holiday events, we hope you are as excited as we are to enjoy first class entertainment while offering financial assistance to worthy organizations that keep our City thriving. Don’t let your holiday schedule overwhelm you!  Take charge. Select your events judiciously, keeping in mind you own energy level, financial means, and social involvement. Put together some fun outfits and join in the cavalcade of holiday merriment! Above all, spend your holiday leisure time with those whom you love and those who love you. We’ll be seeing you soon!

    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

    Published on November 28, 2019


    Calendar a/la Sachet

    Every Sunday
    Sunday’s a Drag!
    The Starlight Room
    Sir Francis Drake Hotel
    10:30 am Brunch, 11:30 am Show
    $75 inclusive

    Monday, December 2
    Castro Holiday Tree Lighting
    Music & community
    Bank of America, Castro
    6 pm

    Tuesday, December 3
    ACTivate Breakfast
    SF AIDS Foundation
    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
    8 am

    Thursday, December 5
    Drag Queens on Ice, 10th year
    Safeway Ice Rink in Union Square
    8 pm

    Friday, December 6
    Home for the Holidays
    Cabaret benefits Tenderloin Tessie Dinners
    First Unitarian Universalist Center, 1187 Franklin Street
    6 pm
    $25 & up

    Friday, December 6 & Saturday, December 7
    Holigays Are Here: Ring Them Bells
    Music and laughter with SF Gay Men’s Chorus
    Sydney Goldstein Theater, 275 Hayes Street
    3 pm & 7:30 pm
    $25 & up

    Sunday, December 8
    Toys for Tots
    Donate toys & mingle
    Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason Street
    4–8 pm
    Bring a toy!
    Free, but limited space, so RSVP

    Monday, December 9
    Help is on the Way for the Holidays XVIII
    REAF benefit for Project Open Hand and AGUILAS
    Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter
    7:30 pm
    $45 & up

    Tuesday & Wednesday, December 10–11
    Brian Kent presents Donna Sachet’s Songs of the Season
    Holiday cabaret benefiting PRC
    Feinstein’s at Nikko, 222 Mason Street
    8 pm
    $60 & up