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    Sister Dana Sez, “The Holidays are here!”

    Sister-Dana2By Sister Dana Van Iquity

    Sister Dana sez, “The holidays are here! I will not be enlisting in the Christian Far Right’s fight against the ‘War on Christmas,’ and will feel free to just wish everybuddy happy holidaze. But remember to keep the ‘X’ in “Xmas!!!”

    The Castro’s 2016 HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY was held at Castro and 18th streets (the site of the present Bank of America & formerly “Hibernia Beach”) for the annual event. On the heels of Thanksgiving, a crowd of over 200 revelers of all ages gathered to hear witty and wise remarks from emcee Donna Sachet and two of the Sisters of Perpetual IndulgenceSister Kitty Catalyst and Sister Dana, invoking an emotional blessing of the tree (reflecting on past queer history, our legacy, and hoping for a better present regarding the T-rump Administration. There was the highly anticipated arrival of Santa, escorted by the San Francisco Police Department, and even a cameo by district supervisor soon to be Senator Scott Weiner. Holiday music was provided by members of the S.F. Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, S.F. Gay Men’s Chorus, Lesbian/Gay Chorus of S.F. and Golden Gate Men’s Chorus as the 28-foot tree was lit up for the first evening of this year’s holiday season.

    On the eve of WORLD AIDS DAY, on this 25th anniversary year of the creation of the NATIONAL AIDS MEMORIAL GROVE, we were invited to the SEVENTH ANNUAL LIGHT IN THE GROVE fundraising gala, a one-of-a-kind occasion of remembrance and celebration. The mission of the National AIDS Memorial Grove is to provide, in perpetuity, a place of remembrance so that the lives of people who died from AIDS are not forgotten and the story is known by future generations. This iconic event offered a unique evening experience in Golden Gate Park; an outdoor celebration in a glowing clear tent, with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner, featuring music, performance artistry, and evocative light displays throughout the memorial. The site was specially lit along pathways and up in the trees—including trees with names of the deceased projected on and scrolled up the trunks. Dancers performed modern contemporary interpretations to the music piped in. The Circle of Friends (names inscribed on the cement of those who had died from AIDS and their friends) had votive candles placed in circular patterns amounting to a display of dazzling light.

    Inside the tent, the program began with music and song by Crystal Lee, who had also composed a number in honor of her mother who had passed from AIDS. Event co-chairs Kate Kendell & Martin Tannenbaum were emcees. It was a time for honoring San Francisco community leader Alvin Baum for his more than five decades of unwavering service as an activist and philanthropist dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS and the LGBT community at large. He received the “Lifetime of Commitment” award for his service as a board member or advisor at numerous organizations, including ACLU/Northern California, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Horizons Foundation, James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library, AIDS Research Institute at UCSF, and many more. Baum joked he had never been on the workforce in the memorial garden, because he “had a brown thumb and would kill the plants.” Among his many honors, Baum was named Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal in the LGBT Pride Parade in 2013. Senator Mark Leno presented his final proclamation—being termed out of the Senate—to Baum for his tireless years of volunteerism and philanthropy.

    “As we gather in this beautiful meadow, we pay tribute to the lives lost to this pandemic,” said John Cunningham, Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial. “It was within their struggle and the grief and pain that followed that the Grove was born 25 years ago. Today, we join together to honor their legacy and recognize some of the leaders who have made lasting impacts in the fight against AIDS.” Cunningham screened a video about the Grove and the many people honored there, including the grand diva singer/songwriter Sylvester. Entertainment continued with a delightful medley of Sylvester’s songs performed by the renowned disco diva Jeanie Tracy. We all got up and danced to her classic “Dance with Me,” as flaggers twirled huge silver flags outside the tent to the beat of the music inside. This was followed by a set of diverse tunes from golden oldies to new numbers by Josh Klipp & the Klipptones.

    The following afternoon, on World AIDS Day, the Grove held it 23rd annual WORLD AIDS DAY OBSERVANCE entitled HEARTS RISING.” The tribute focused on Jeanne White-Ginder, AIDS activist and mother of the late Ryan White, who accepted the Thom Weyand Unsung Hero Award on behalf of the national Hemophilia community, 50% of which perished between 1980–2010 due to a tainted blood supply. Paul Kawata, executive director of the NATIONAL MINORITY AIDS COUNCIL also received the National Leadership Recognition Award for his work to building leadership in communities of color to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. The National AIDS Memorial, in collaboration with HIV STORY PROJECT, also unveiled a series of personal video stories that captured the vast and diverse voices of the epidemic through personal stories by survivors aimed at inspiring future generations. This year, those personal stories focused on the horrific plight of the Hemophilia community and the tragedy and loss caused by a tainted blood supply. A first-ever “Powering Through” panel discussion was also held, bringing together leaders in the national Hemophilia community to discuss the need for a feature in the National AIDS Memorial to commemorate those infected by the blood contamination crisis and the ongoing processing of and healing from the disaster.

    “We have to honor and respect those who went through this horrible, horrible epidemic,” said White-Ginder. “Too many people we loved were lost and the Hemophilia community needs to come together to share our stories and communicate with one another the sadness and the sorrow, but also the joy that maybe nobody has to live with this again.”

    Recognizing that today’s youth will ensure past generations are never forgotten, ten college students from around the country were awarded scholarships as part of the NATIONAL AIDS MEMORIAL PEDRO ZAMORA YOUNG LEADERS SCHOLARSHIP AWARD PROGRAM to pursue their education and for their active commitment to fighting AIDS and taking on roles of public service and leadership in the community. The World AIDS Day ceremony concluded with supporters gathering for the reading of the names of those engraved this year into the Circle of Friends, which is now at capacity.

    We joined ACADEMY OF FRIENDS at their annual “HOLIDAY PARTY,” commemorating WORLD AIDS DAY, and helped them support Bay Area HIV/AIDS service organizations. Through the generous support of their sponsor WILLIAMS-SONOMA UNION SQUARE, we enjoyed live entertainment, festive cocktails, and bites prepared by the Williams-Sonoma chefs while shopping for all our holiday essentials. Matthew Denckla, AoF Vice Chair, called for a moment of silence in remembrance of those who had died from AIDS. He introduced Gil Padia, Board Chair, who spoke about the upcoming world’s premier “ACADEMY AWARDS NIGHT CHARITY GALA” as the centerpiece of its efforts to raise funds, award donations, and encourage volunteerism that benefit a diverse set of HIV/AIDS organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Save the date for their 2017 Gala, Sunday, February 26, at The Midway SF, 900 Marin Street, 5–11:30 pm. Everyone at the Gala will enjoy foods provided by the Bay Area’s finest restaurants and caterers, wine and champagne by amazing vintners along with a fun way to watch the 2017 Oscars. There is always incredible live entertainment, then DJ dancing until the doors close. 100% of ticket sales will be distributed to their six HIV/AIDS services beneficiaries: including AIDS Legal Referral Panel (ALRP), Aguilas El Ambiente, Maitri Compassionate Care, Openhouse, San Francisco Suicide Prevention: HIV Nightline and Spectrum LGBTQ Program at The Spahr Center/Marin Aids Project.

    To commemorate World AIDS Day there was a live two-light installation atop the third floor of STRUT in the Castro, which flashed at regular intervals, symbolizing the rate of new HIV infection (every 15 seconds with yellow light) and the rate of lives lost to the illness (every 20 seconds with red light). Strut is the home for health and wellness in the heart of the Castro. They are a program of San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and their three-fold mission is to promote the health and wellness of gay, bi & trans men, to strengthen the diverse communities, and to reduce the impact of HIV in San Francisco. To that end, the art reception, “GOODLUCK … MISS YOU TOO” included an installation performance by visual artist AARON KISSMAN. The artist’s statement: “My work regularly investigates modern day stigma centered on HIV/AIDS from a personal experience. Themes of negotiation of intimacy and diagnosis; questions of isolation, failed communications, apathy, and disclosure are all investigated and re-examined in a ‘post’ AIDS crisis environment. Through modes of photography, video, sculpture, and installation—I continue to unapologetically push the conversation through work that is both arresting and spectacular.” Kissman’s art remains on the Strut gallery walls, metaphorically illustrating his journey from first learning of his HIV diagnosis three years ago (“Goodluck”) in Hawaii (thus the lush foliage in the photo) to the present (“Miss You Too”—with an icy cold mountain top) of those who have died from AIDS.

    HELP IS ON THE WAY FOR THE HOLIDAYS XV was the annual holiday celebration for everyone. The RICHMOND/ERMET AID FOUNDATION (REAF)‘s 15th anniversary holiday gala took place at the Marines’ Memorial Theater. ’twas an evening of love, hope, and compassion—for this is the true spirit of the holidays and our hope for this nation. The tone for the evening was set while we still wrestle with post-election disappointment and anger, and with the Oakland Ghost Ship tragedy breaking our hearts. REAF producers Ken Henderson (executive director/CEO) and Joe Seiler (chairman of the board) opened the show. The star-studded night benefited the ASIAN & PACIFIC ISLANDER WELLNESS PROGRAM and LARKIN STREET YOUTH SERVICES. A special award was presented to decade-long board of director Beth Schnitzer for her service at REAF (and many other worthy charitable organizations) by former Mayor Willie Brown.

    Just a few of the talented performers included cast members from the Tony award-winning Disney’s The Lion King, cast members from the national tour of the Lincoln Center Theater production of Rodgers & Hammertstein’s The King and IJason Graae (as the singing sad Scrooge) and cast members from 42nd Street Moon’s Scrooge in Love. Broadway, TV and recording stars Maureen McGovern sang a lively Christmas medley & Sam Harris gave us two emotional pieces once requested by Oprah Winfrey for her “Songs of Healing” program airing soon after the horrible 9/11 catastrophe—becoming all too relevant again with the current Oakland warehouse disaster), “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and “Walk On: You’ll Never Walk Alone”).

    Cabaret stars included Paula West (with a silky smooth jazz version of “Chestnuts Roasting in an Open Fire”), Jason Brock (with an extremely uplifting “I Believe I Can Fly”—including an aside: “I believe we can overcome Trump”); Sharon McNight (with an hilarious song about being “Raised by Elves”);  & Carly Ozard (with the—at first cynical and then hopeful—”Just in Time for Christmas You Came Along”). Since most of the audience was gay or gay-friendly, it behooved two of the male stars from The Lion King to do a medley of Broadway show tunes. Ah, but not the male roles. Nope, the famous female roles and songs—ranging from Barbra to Angela Lansbury to every imaginable Lady of the Stage. The otherwise masculine duo released their inner stage actress to give us everything from “We’re your Dream Girls” to “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” Hysterical! McNight returned to the stage to sing the anti-holiday pessimistic, sarcastic “Laughing Matters”—giving a rundown as to why these dark days are no “laughing matters;” but positively concluding that this is why laughing matters so much these days. McGovern returned to sing “Ordinary Miracles” and then brought onto the stage the entire cast to sing “White Christmas” (the San Francisco version, of course”) and encourage all of us to sing along with gusto! After the show, we went to the lovely VIP after-party at the Clift Hotel to congratulate the fabulous performers.

    RAINBOW WORLD FUND held a private reception in the lovely home of John Newmeyer to welcome Orlando Pulse Nightclub survivors Ilka Reyes Malpica, Mayra and Daniel Alvear to San Francisco. RWF Executive Director Jeff Cotter introduced Ilka, Mayra, and Daniel who were in town from Florida to light the WORLD TREE OF HOPE at San Francisco City Hall the next night. In the attack that claimed 49 lives, Ilka survived nine shots, and Mayra and Daniel Alvear lost their beloved daughter Amanda. Also speaking was Iris Martinez Cintron, who was not in the club, but she had many friends who died, and she has become a huge support to the survivors—particularly the monolingual Spanish-speaking parents and family members. Mayra handed out sweet #Orlando United & #HugsNotHate rainbow bracelets. Mayra was also the stunning lead soprano when we gathered around the grand piano to sing carols and Broadway show tunes.

    RAINBOW WORLD FUND (RWF) invited the public to the 11th Annual RWF WORLD TREE OF HOPE OFFICIAL TREE LIGHTING CELEBRATION. This year’s tree was dedicated to the victims and survivors of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. There was a concert by the Grammy-winning San Francisco Boys Chorus to open the ceremony. RWF Executive Director Jeff Cotter introduced the emcees, Emmy award-winning journalist Cheryl Jennings and Donna Sachet. Orlando Pulse night club survivor Ilka Reyes Malpica and Mayra Alvear, mother of her slain daughter Amanda, spoke in an emotional account of the Orlando tragedy. Iris Martinez Cintron talked about being a needed volunteer in the days following the attack. Origami expert Linda Mihara instructed us in the making of paper cranes. Mayor Ed Lee was in China and could not participate this year with Consul General Jun Yamada exchanging peace cranes. Interfaith Consul Director Michael Pappas led a healing ritual. Students from the Japanese Community Youth Counsel read some of the wishes inscribed on the cranes. Rev. Debra Johnson spoke. A duo from the cast of The Lion King performed “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Veronica Klaus sang beautifully accompanied by Tammy Hall on keyboard. Sister Kitty Catalyst, Sister Guard N.O.Pansies, and Sister Dana of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence blessed the tree in prose and litany. And we all counted down dramatically from ten to zero for the very anticipated tree lighting.

    The RWF World Tree of Hope is a holiday tree decorated with thousands of white origami cranes, each containing written notes of hope & peace from children and individuals from around the world. The tree is a gift from members of the LGBT community to the world—given to inspire hope and promote peace, love and humanitarianism. It will be on display all through the holidays.

    ARTSAVESLIVES, the Castro gallery and studio, presented another glorious reception and party for more than twenty local artists’ works—curated by studio owner/artist THOMASINA DE MAIO. The show is hanging now through December the 31—open every day but Monday from 12 to 4 pm at 518 Castro Street. This is a non-commission gallery, where all sales go to the artists. The Friday night event was stellar as usual: Kristine Wilson emceed: opening with breathtaking opera by Julia Austenfeld; graceful modern dance by Scarlett Astrid; the Jefferson Airplane classic, “White Rabbit,” sung by Whitney Moses; a sing-along by Nancy Connolly; and one of SF’s famous drag CockettesCarl Linkhart, and his band, People, who rocked out with their Cockettes out.

    This year’s (31st annual) DANCE-ALONG NUTCRACKER included a dazzling array of local celebrities at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in a fun fundraiser for the SAN FRANCISCO LESBIAN/GAY FREEDOM BAND. Written by San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s own trumpeter Heidi Beeler, “THE FANTASTIC ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN NUTCRACKER” took us on a wild and crazy adventure in “Metro Cisco” as we were thrust into the world of villains and superheroes. Sister Dana wore a red, green, and gold ballet skirt with red shirt, green leggings, and red tennies—perfect for both dancing and fighting villains! Under the baton of SFLGFB’s Artistic Director Pete NowlenFlynn De Marco directed with choreography by Marilynn Fowler. It starred Ruby Vixen as Clara; Flynn De Marco (co-creator) as Captain Nutcracker & Father Stahlbaum; Dee Nathaniel as Fritz; Drew Todd as evil Dr. Ratopolis; Cameron Eng as Uncle Drosselmeyer; and Marilynn Fowler as Lady Moonshadow & Mother Stahlbaum. 


    SALVATION SISTERS is the annual takeoff on the Salvation Army bell ringers, but in the Castro on Saturday, December 17. This will be preceded by caroling in the Castro by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from 3–5 pm and then the Salvation Sisters bell ringing for donations, followed by more caroling. Please give to LGBTQ charities.

    Take 4 talented drag performers, cast them in two new Xmas episodes of the uproariously funny TV show: THE GOLDEN GIRLS, and you have an assured night of theatre for the entire family. The four drag stars playing the characters the entire world has come to know and love are Heklina (dry-witted, sarcastic Dorothy), Matthew Martin (over-sexed senior slut Blanche), D’Arcy Drollinger (dim-witted bimbo Rose), and Holotta Tymes (aged, wisecracking Sophia). Manuel Caneri plays three different gentleman callers, and Tom Shaw plays piano with carol sing-alongs during scene changes. THE GOLDEN GIRLS: THE CHRISTMAS EPISODES 2016 is superbly directed by Matthew Martin. Costumes have many changes by Daffney D’Luxe. Heklina’s voiceover will caution you not to talk or shout out familiar lines—lest you be sent to Shady Pines. However, feel free to sing along with theme song, “Thank You for Being a Friend.” Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street & Mission. Now through December 23, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 8 pm/Sunday, 7 pm. Xmas Bonus: 3 added shows December 21, 22, 23.

    In response to the tragedy of the Oakland Warehouse Fire on December 2 that caused 36 deaths confirmed to date, and survivor victims, (KDK) KREWE DE KINQUE‘s DECEMBER BEER BUST BENEFIT & SHOW will support the “FIRE RELIEF FUND FOR VICTIMS OF THE GHOST SHIP OAKLAND FIRE” organized by Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has been involved in the greater Bay Area artist community for the last 10 years. The fundraiser will be on December 17, 4–7 pm at the Edge. We also will have a Moment of Silence to honor the victims and their loved ones. To maximize our proceeds, our hosts Miss Eva Sensitiva & Absolute Empress XLII Chika Diva have assembled a fantastic show with tips going to the Fire Fund. We’ll have our usual $10 Beer & Soda Bust and usual KDK shenanigans. Our Festive Performers include: KDK Queen XIII China Silk, Miss Gay SF Piper McGroin, KDK Queen V Cockatielia, KDK Queen II Deana Dawn, Patrice Samek, Gem N’Aye, Leilani Price, Absolute Empress XLVIII Patty McGroin, & live singing by Mark Alan. KDK Queen VII Sister Dana will take your dollars at the door.

    KATYA … THE GYPSY IN ME is Monday, December 17 at 8 pm in The Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street. Join San Francisco’s favorite Russian red-head, the COUNTESS KATYA SMIRNOFF-SKYY at The Rrazz Room for her most favorite show, Katya’s Holiday Spectacular, an evening of song, storytelling, holiday cheer … and vodka … lots of it.

    The December GOLDEN GATE GAYME (3G) NIGHT is on December 21, 7–10 pm at Lookout bar in the Castro, 3600 16th Street. Come join Mr. & Miss Golden Gate if you’re ready for more games or join in on the holiday fun if you missed the last one! The vision of this event is to use their titles as the Golden Gates to “bridge” the community by extending invitations out to other groups/organizations to join 3G Night as a social mixer to get to meet and learn more about each other in a (mostly) relaxed and casual setting (some of the games can get a little wild!) This month they are featuring THE SISTERS OF PERPETUAL INDULGENCE. They’re at Lookout every 3rd Wednesday of each month with lots of games and game performance-enhancers (aka jell-o shots!) Net proceeds will go to the Rainbow World Fund. Drop by for some casual fun with great company!

    Sister Dana sez, “Happy HoliGAYS and have a Queer New Year!!!