|MC Donna Sachet, Assemblyman Mark Leno, REAFĂÂ˘Ă˘âÂŹĂ˘âÂ˘s Ken Henderson and Joe siiler and MC Tim Gaskin at Slide Night Sclub. It was all about Ken & JoeĂÂ˘Ă˘âÂŹĂ˘âÂ˘s 25th anniversary, fine performances and supporting the Richmond/Ermet AIDS F
Benefit magazine kicked off the new year with a benefit party for The Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF) at Slide, a 1920s style speakeasy and nightclub. Guests got into the spirit, donning their best â20s style duds to look like characters from the novel, Great Gatsby, as well as gangsters, flappers, and others in festive attire who came for a hot time to raise funds for REAF and celebrate the 25th anniversary of two of REAFâs founders, Ken Henderson and Joe Seiler, as life partners. It was also the 15th anniversary of REAF. The braver attendees (like myself and my escort Brad) chose to enter the party going down a huge, twisting wooden slide that sent us whizzing down into the arms of handsome helpers below, making sure we didnât bust our butts in the process. What a rush! If guests had failed to bring their boas (we of course wore ours), they could purchase colorful ones at the party to look fabulous and contribute to the charity at the same time.
Benefit publisher Tim Gaskin welcomed the guests, remarking on how happy he was to see so many show up for such an important charity and such a wonderful anniversary of the couple that started it. Gaskin verified that the venue had indeed been a speakeasy, and the slide was the only way one could get in (after giving the password, of course) and have a glass of illegal bathtub gin. Nowadays people can choose to use the stairs if theyâre not bold enough to risk the steep slide.
Assemblyman Mark Leno presented a certificate of recognition to the honored couple, saying that he had the great pleasure many years ago of being a part of REAF and its yearly fundraiser featuring stars from stage, screen, and recording studios. He was supervisor at the time and shared hosting duties of REAF events with then Supervisor Gavin Newsom. During that event long ago, Leno said he had wanted to do something special that would reflect the theme - Cole Porter night - as he presented a certificate to REAF. He chose to sing some off-color lyrics to the Porter tune, âYouâre the Topâ (such as âYouâre the breast of Venus; youâre King Kongâs penis; youâre self abuseâ). Leno said he turned and looked directly at Newsom to twist the actual last line into, âBaby youâre the bottom; Iâm the top.â Seriously, Leno noted, âIf it werenât for your 25-year relationship, we would all be the poorer.â He pointed out that REAF has given away over $2 million over the years. He gave a Jewish blessing: âYou should be like Moses and be together 120 years.â
The couple came out onstage, and Seiler was the first to speak. âI see old friends and new friends out there, although I really hate to use the word, âold.ââ âWeâre thrilled to see faces, not necessarily new or old,â said Henderson. He especially recognized Ken Abrams, who was there at the End Up gay bar on the night they met on New Yearâs Eve. Later on Abrams told Bay Times of his experience with Seiler and Henderson. âEVERYBODY met at the End Up in those days,â he said.
âI wish all of you the same experience that Iâve had,â said Seiler. âIâve found a person who is probably the best person you could know, and I feel very privileged.â They both hugged as everyone clapped. Henderson noted that the original REAF co-founder, Peggy Ermet, was no longer with us, and that Barbara Richmond was not feeling well enough to come to the party. These two moms of gay sons who died from AIDS joined forces along with Henderson and Seiler to create the Foundation. Henderson said the party was also a kickoff for their plans for 2007, including the next One Night Only cabaret at Club Fugazi (date to be detemined) with the cast from the hit musical, Jersey Boys. He announced the theme of this yearâs star-studded fundraiser: âHelp Is on the Way Goes to the Movies: the Music of Hollywoodâs Best Films.â The show will be staged at the Palace of Fine Arts on Aug. 5.
Co-hostess Donna Sachet brought to the stage San Franciscoâs hometown sweeties, the Diamond Dagger Gaiety Girls â âa queer carnival ride of 20th century foxes with shimmyinâ fringe, sequins and rhinestones, and good olâ bad-ass sass.â These delicious dames - featuring Nanny Fuller and Vidalia Paradise as Velma and Roxie from Chicago - were dolled up in red, including a red flapper hat and red rose to compliment their red-hot lingerie. They danced to the showâs âI Canât Do It Alone,â doing high kicks, Charleston dance moves, and just generally tearing up the stage as people hooted and howled.
Next on the bill was Tim Hockenberry, who has performed at many an REAF event. His sold-out performances have thrilled fans at places such as the Plush Room. That night he played piano and growled out, âNobody Knows You When Youâre Down and Out.â The lyrics stated: âIn your pocket, not one penny; and all them friends, you havenât any; but soon as you get up on your feet again, everybody loves you like a long lost friend.â
Meg McKay (dressed that night in black flapper dress and long, long strands of pearls) and Billy Philadelphia (in bold red and white striped shirt with matching suspenders and arm garters) are also longtime alumni of REAF functions, who did the very first fundraiser for REAF. She sang as he played piano to âItâs Very Clear (our love is here to stay),â as a tribute to the long lasting relationship of Seiler and Henderson.
Chanteuse extraordinaire Connie Champagne said she was randomly listening to the radio when she heard someone say they were a family station and were going to talk about music that will turn your child gay. âI thought Iâd certainly like to be more cheerful, so I listened to the list,â she joked. On the list were the Scissor Sisters, BeeGees, Elton John (a no-brainer), Nickelback (thatâs a shocker), and most of all Cole Porter.
Naturally she sang a Porter tune â âFind Me a Primitive Manâ from the 1929 movie, Fifty Million Frenchmen - and turned us all gay â especially when she sang a stanza in French. Henderson and Seiler took the stage to rip off their smokinâ smoking jackets and reveal glittery silver disco shirts and white pants a la Saturday Night Fever, which led into everyone dancing to Donna Summerâs âShe Works Hard for the Money.â We toasted them and ate cake with their 1982 likenesses on it. Donna Sachet closed with âThe Nearness of You,â with music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Ned Washington. The lyrics summed up the coupleâs relationship: âWhen youâre in my arms and I feel you so close to me, all my wildest dreams come true.â And REAF truly does make the dreams of many an AIDS service organization come true!Â