|BeBe Sweetbriar, Beefy Del Mar (Mike Bonella), columnist Pollo Del Mar and Jimi Germilhac spoke at a memorial for Johnathan Gaffney, pictured with friends on the television screen in the rear, Saturday, Feb. 20, at Lookout. PHOTO BY MARQUES DANIELS
Notorious Sainted Glamazon About Town
The heater was cranked full-blast as I drove down Castro Street last Saturday afternoon. Despite a brief glimpse of the sun around noontime, the weather was mostly overcast, and it was downright cold â€“ you know, that damp, biting San Francisco cold â€” as I headed home. Still, the top was down on my car, blond hair blowing in the chilly breeze as I pulled to a stop at 188th Street. A crowd of spectators, some snapping photographs with their phones, laughed and cheered as Shakira blasted from my speakers.
Up and down the block, members of the Imperial Council of San Francisco and their supporters were still out en masse, hard at work campaigning for this yearâ€™s candidates for Emperor and Empress. Stephen Dorsey, the sole candidate for Emperor, heckled me from a bullhorn as backers of both Emma Peel and Renita Valdez, each seeking election for this yearâ€™s Empress title, joined in good-natured ribbing as well.
Despite the weather, and some less-than-ideal circumstances which had drawn me out that day, I felt great! After all, I love a healthy competition â€“ as this yearâ€™s Imperial Court elections have turned out to be â€“ and any opportunity, even sometimes sad ones, to spend time with my friends. And a good surprise along the way doesnâ€™t hurt either.
Several hours before, a large group had gathered in memorial of Johnathan Gaffney. As noted in this column two weeks ago, the former Mr. Gay San Francisco 2007 took his own life in shocking fashion on Feb. 8, leaving many to mourn his decision. Dozens turned out February 20 to remember him and celebrate a life which had touch countless people in the Castro and beyond.
It was emotional for all who entered the Lookout, where we were greeted by a huge collage of photographs of Johnathan collected from friends, coworkers and more. Additionally, two large television screens in the bar played many of those photos on a continuous loop.
So many familiar faces from the community were on-hand. Krewe de Kinque King I Gary Virginia, reigning Emperor Paul Maka Poole and Mr. Gay San Francisco 2008 JP Soto all showed up to pay their respects. Empress XLIII Cher-a-Little Smith looked like a ray of much-needed sunshine in a snazzy yellow jacket. Even Donna Sachet, sans the red or drag at all, made a brief, incognito appearance.
After mingling, sharing memories and more than a few tears, a collection of people who knew Johnathan including memorial organizer Michael â€śBeefy Del Marâ€ť Bonella, Ste Fishell, Jimi Germhilac standing in for Lookout owner Chris Hasting and I were asked to speak. There were very few dry eyes in the place.
For me, it was particularly difficult to watch my longtime friend BeBe Sweetbriar share about Johnathan. To see someone as strong, vivacious and spirited as Miss Gay San Francisco 2007 in tears moved me. It reminded me of an oh-so-amazing, and incredibly healing private moment she and I shared some ten days. Sitting on opposite ends of the telephone, we both pulled up photographs of Johnathan on our respective laptops and cried. For some reason, being able to have that moment of shared grief â€“ and healing â€“ is one of the most precious gifts to come from such a tragedy.
Emotionally drained by the experience, though, my plan was make my way to the Castro MUNI station, cast my Imperial Court ballot and head home. That took an unexpected twist, in part because of the freezing cold, when I wound up at Twin Peaks bar.
There I ran into Empress XXV Marlena, Miss Gay San Francisco 2006 Patrice (who generously offered to lend her amazing seamstress skills if ever I need them), the Ducal Courtâ€™s Bobby Ashton and more. We ended up gossiping, sharing our excitement about the Empress race and talking about fundraising efforts for the future.
I enthusiastically gushed, probably more than necessary, about my upcoming Hats Off to Ongina benefit for a collection of Bay Area HIV/AIDS service organizations. With proceeds going to the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Native American AIDS Project and the Black Coalition on AIDS, Ongina is joining the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco for a fundraiser at Club Trigger, 6-9 p.m., March 11. In addition to a meet & greet with the RuPaulâ€™s Drag Race star, the evening will include a drag show, raffles and an auction allowing people to buy either one of Onginaâ€™s trademark hats or dinner with the two of us afterward!
As I went on and on about to Cher-a-Little, I suddenly noticed a gorgeous man passing by outside. Maybe it was inspiration from the memorial â€“ where I truly realized exactly why we must live every moment â€“ or simply temporary insanity, Iâ€™m not sure, but I stopped mid-sentence. â€śIâ€™ll be right back,â€ť I told Cher, â€śIâ€™m going out to tell him how cute he is!â€ť
A half-hour later, I pulled up to 18th and Castro with the top down, the music blaring, a smile plastered on my face and that 25-year-old cutieâ€™s phone number in my hand. Oh, yes, Shakira, thereâ€™s a She Wolf in my closet, but thereâ€™s a cougar behind the wheel!
Follow â€śThe Glamazonâ€ť at Facebook.com/PolloDelMar or Twitter.com/TheGlamazonPDM. Email her direct at Pollo_DelMar@Yahoo.com.