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    Donna’s Chronicles, “What a few weeks it has been…”

    By Donna Sachet–

    What a few weeks it has been! And through it all, we’ve been reminded that this marvelous City continues to give us extraordinary opportunities. As reported in the last issue of the San Francisco Bay Times, Queen Máxima of The Netherlands visited San Francisco and purposefully included the Castro in her whirlwind tour. Security was tight and the strings we pulled to be introduced to the Queen were unsuccessful, but we resolutely arrived in front of Twin Peaks in the Castro the morning of the announced visit and dutifully waited for her arrival. Soon the entourage appeared crossing Castro Street at 18th from the GLBT Historical Society Museum and after a brief stop in front of the iconic Castro Theatre, the Queen came into sight, elegantly swathed in hot pink, hair swept up on the sides, and wearing designer sunglasses. As she neared Twin Peaks, Mayor London Breed caught our eye and gestured to the guest of honor, saying, “Oh, you have to meet Donna Sachet!” Thanks to that generous moment, Queen Máxima turned to us, the cameras flashed, and we shared a couple of minutes of conversation. We thanked her for her bold support of the LGBTQ+ Community and her encouragement of music programs in schools. (A little research is always beneficial, just in case opportunity knocks.) Although brief, we found our conversation with Queen Máxima substantive and attentive, ending with her taking our hand in a parting handshake, an unusually personal gesture from a member of European Royalty. We have labeled some of our rare experiences as “pinch-me moments”; this was definitely one of those.

    The Fall social season officially kicked off on Friday, September 9, with Opening Night of the San Francisco Opera and this dedicated reporter was there to capture it for our readers. Our escort this year was the handsome Julian Marshburn, sporting formal leather head to toe. Festivities began at City Hall with a seated dinner in the Rotunda and cocktails and more casual dinner in the light courts, where we chatted with John Newmeyer (in elegant white tie), Mark Rhoades, Tony Bravo, Russ Fischella, and even Kate Brown, President of SF Dykes on Bikes. We then crossed Van Ness to the Opera House where gorgeous floral displays, again generously provided by Diane Wilsey, and Champagne awaited. This being the 100th year of the SF Opera, it was decided to change things up a bit and instead of a full opera, to present a concert. Reviews were mixed. We loved seeing the full orchestra seated on stage, offering the audience a rare chance to see the instrumentalists and to watch the skillful direction of Eun Sun Kim, most notably in the commissioned world premiere of Texu Kim’s fffanfare, a five-minute tour de force containing passages from 25 operas;but we missed the grand costuming, sets, and other visual aspects of a full opera. We enjoyed the insight and occasional humor offered by emcees Matthew Shilvoch, SF Opera General Director, and famed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade; but the format of musical segments grouped by the emcees did not best showcase the music included. And we relished the beautiful operatic performances of tenors Michael Fabiano and Pene Pati, baritone Lucas Meachem, and especially soprano Nadine Sierra; but the concluding renditions drawn from popular musical comedies seemed strangely out of place. The shock of the night was a haka, a traditional ceremonial dance and song of the Maori people, performed by Pen Pati, dressed in native costume. No one could miss the pride with which this artist shared his New Zealand roots, but audience responses ranged from silent shock to energetic applause. This was, after all, an audience there to celebrate 100 years of outstanding opera history.

    Following the program, we returned to the City Hall Rotunda where elaborate gowns and sparkling jewelry reminded us of more traditional Opening Night revelry. As is our habit, we shall give special recognition to the particularly stylish presentations of Komal Shah in strapless multi-tiered rich colors, Maria Manetti Shrem in a dramatic floral print, Vasily Vein & Rada Katz in theatrical fantasy-wear, and Mayor London Breed in shocking pink off-the-shoulder drama. (For the fashion curious, we changed our pre-selected gown to wear a black beaded slip dress with beaded shawl in deference to the recent death of Great Britain’s Monarch.) After a bit more socializing with the likes of Tom Horn, Joel Goodrich, Mark Calvano, John Rosin, David Laudon & Randy Laroche, we strolled into the crisp evening air, proud of 100 years of SF Opera and humbled by the opportunity to be included in Opening Night.

    We also attended two different title contests, both coincidentally held at the SF Eagle on different weekends. The Imperial Court concluded their vigorous Golden Gate Gaymes in Golden Gate Park with the crowning of the new Mr. Golden Gate Fernando Palacios, Miss Golden Gate Nikita Vega, and Ms. Golden Gate MD Bunni. Watch for them as they are out in the community raising money for worthy organizations a part of the Imperial Court. And after a vigorous competition between three contestants and judged by Jeffery Wayne, Caity Lynch, Brent Heinze, Howie Ramirez, and Reika Minxie, the new Mr. Eagle Leather is Mark Hankins, who will go on to compete for Mr. San Francisco Leather. At that contest, skillfully emceed by Tammy Lg Hatter and Daddy Ray Tilton, a special Leather-to-Leather award was presented to Lenny Broberg, International Mr. Leather 1992, on his 30th anniversary, but not before Sister Roma reprised her poem written for Lenny’s roast several years ago. Suffice it to say, the audience was in stitches with laughter! At both these events, we were thrilled to reunite with many in the Leather community, reminded of their strong bonds, fundraising acumen, and proud legacy.

    From rubbing shoulders with San Francisco’s elite to bumping into compatriots in the Leather and Drag communities, is it any wonder we so frequently express our gratitude to this incredible City, full of opportunities and bristling with hope?

    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

    Friday, September 30
    Divas & Drinks
    The Bay Times monthly party at The Academy
    Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider, CHEER SF,
    Transgender Law Center, pioneering marathon
    runner Cal Calamia
    DJ Rockaway, Bacardí drink specials, Name That Tune
    7 pm

    Friday, September 30
    Juanita: 30 Years of MORE!
    Opening Reception of Fashion Exhibit
    Continues through November 12, 2022
    SF Art Commission Main Gallery, War Memorial Building,
    401 Van Ness Ave.
    6–8 pm

    Saturday, October 1
    Folsom Street Fair
    39th year of Leather/Kink/Alt-Sex celebration
    Booths, demos, people-watching
    11 am–6 pm

    Saturday, October 1
    The Emperors’ 50th Anniversary: A Golden Jubilee
    The Imperial Council of San Francisco & Brotherhood of Emperors
    Historical moments, performances, food, & drink
    Oasis, 298 11th Street
    5–9 pm

    Donna’s Chronicles
    Published on September 22, 2022