|At the party: German Consul General Rolf Schutte, board member Sabrina Riddle, ED Thom Lynch, James Holloway, Elizabeth Falkner and Judith Cohen. Marha Wash sang (ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Raining Men!Ă˘â‚¬Âť) and then they danced the night away. Photo by Rink
The San Francisco LGBT Community Center, formed in 1993 but not built until 2002, is the nexus of the LGBT community in the Bay Areaâ€”offering facilities, a central location in San Francisco and vibrant programs in HIV prevention, information and referral, arts and culture and economic development in all parts of the community. Each month the Center serves over 9,000 visitors and hosts more than 400 eventsâ€”making it the busiest LGBT center in the world! So naturally a festive celebration on its birthday was in order.
Almost 500 celebrants gathered on March 18 at Terra Art Gallery for the fourth anniversary gala, celebrating its current location at Market & Octavia. The featured guest entertainer was disco diva Martha Wash. â€śAfter a rough start, we are on the mend, due to the communityâ€™s unwavering support, and most importantly we are having a tremendous beneficial impact within our entire LGBT community,â€ť said Thom Lynch, executive director of the Center. â€śEvery day, the Center continues to serve as an essential resource that touches the lives of everyone in our community, as well as offering a model and beacon of hope for LGBT people all over the world.â€ť
He told Bay Times after the event, â€śIt was the most successful event weâ€™ve had at the Center since weâ€™ve opened.â€ť The tickets, sponsorships, and silent auction items raised $95,000 above the cost of putting on the party. â€śThat means $95,000 goes directly to our programs of economic development, health and wellness, arts & culture, and the Charles M Holmes building program. Not only did we all have fun together, but we also raised some needed funds for the vital work we do in our community!â€ť
Attendees got to experience face painting, henna painting, fortune telling, and an oxygen bar (that was nothing to sniff at). After live entertainment by pianist Tammy Hall, Mayor Gavin Newsom took the stage in front of a continuous screening of slides taken at various Center events. â€śFour years. That ainâ€™t bad. It wasnâ€™t easy. Twelve million-plus dollars ago and we are finally where we are today,â€ť he said. â€śYou have made this dream a reality through the great work of Supervisors (at that time) Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano, Leslie Katz, and Susan Leal, and so many others.â€ť
Newsom had just come on board at the time. He joked that he was presently newly single when someone said he should bid on a date with a porn star, â€śbut when I walked over there, it turned out it was a guy. And the basket full of fruits was actually fruit-flavored lubricants!â€ť
He added with a chuckle, â€śThis is my kind of auction. Man, only in San Francisco! I just came from the Jewish Community where they had their silent auction. Nothing like this! Man, this is more like it!â€ť
On a serious note, he said that as a good practicing Irish Catholic he was stunned that in this day and age someone he admired, who represents literally hundreds of millions of people around the world, would state that if a child is adopted by a same-sex couple, that child has violence being done to them. â€śIt just shows how much ignorance there continues to be and how much education there needs to beâ€”here in the City, let alone outside in the world. We will continue to fight for equality.â€ť
City Treasurer Jose Cisneros said, â€śThe Center feels like my home away from home. Iâ€™m looking forward to a whole lot more fun, activities, and important events going on at the Center.â€ť
SF District Attorney Kamala Harris said, â€śThe Center has been so pivotal in bringing together all communities in San Franciscoâ€”specifically the LGBT communityâ€”doing a lot of work together. I look forward to continue working together, increasing public education and awareness of the importance of this vital community, doing everything we can to eliminate hate crimes and increase sensitivity around the beauty of the LGBT community.â€ť
Event Co-chair and three-year board member Craig Zodikoff explained how this was the first time the Center celebrated its anniversary outside the Center facilities, because they had such a big crowd and needed a bigger space at this huge fundraiser. â€śWe have a fantastic community of people who have stuck with us from the very beginning,â€ť said Zodikoff.
Event Co-chair Angela Bradstreet thanked Sen. Carole Migden and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who wrote personal checks for the event.
â€śAll over this country there are people who say the right wing has values that are important,â€ť said Lynch. â€śBut your testament has been that our values work and that we care about our own community and the rest of the world. Iâ€™m proud to work with every one of you.â€ť
Lynch introduced the two board co-chairs, Maria Jurosek and Lesley Weaver, who thanked the founders â€śwho eight years ago had a vision and invested in the Center in a way that didnâ€™t necessarily come back to their benefit.â€ť
Backstage, openly gay Consul General of Germany, Rolf Schuette, spoke to Bay Times. He arrived in SF just half a year ago. â€śThis is my dream post. I first came to San Francisco 30 years ago when I was a student,â€ť he said. â€śThis is a very popular post in German foreign service, so I am quite happy.â€ť He has been married to his partner for ten years, having registered their partnership as a civil union in Germany. He has visited the Center several times and was impressed by it, but at the same time â€śsurprised that a city like San Francisco had a center that is only four years old.â€ť He elaborated, â€śI would have imagined this center would be 30 or 40 years old at least; but, oh well, sometimes things come late but are nevertheless quite useful.â€ť
When disco diva Martha Washâ€”dolled up in a raging red dance dress trimmed in rhinestones with matching rhinestone cha-cha heelsâ€”took the stage, the crowd went wild. She opened with â€śGonna Make You Sweatâ€ť (â€śEverybody Dance Nowâ€ť) and upon singing â€śEverybody, Everybody,â€ť demanded everybody get up on the dance floor and shake their booties. She followed with â€śListen to the Peopleâ€ť and â€śCarry On.â€ť She queried, â€śAre we still having fun?â€ť Oh yes, we were. She wished â€śa very worthy organizationâ€ť a happy anniversary. â€śDonâ€™t just sit there lookinâ€™ cute on the stool, honey; you got to move somethinâ€™ too,â€ť she exhorted.
And thenâ€”could it be? Be still my beating heartâ€”for I thought I heard thunder. Yes, it WAS the intro to her classic â€śItâ€™s Raining Men,â€ť and we all went crazy nutso mad insane hysterical as she sang the opening lyrics: â€śIâ€™m gonna go out and let myself get absolutely soaking wet. Hallelujah!â€ť She turned the mic towards the crowd to sing back enthusiastically and ecstatically, â€śItâ€™s raining men! Amen!â€ť At that point, I felt I could go home to my maker, having already experienced a taste of heaven on earth!!!