Another Human Rights Campaign dinner has come and gone. Another long evening at the Convention Center. Thousands of well-dressed guests, many paying the full $275 cost of a ticket. A lot of money to be generally bored senseless with so many speeches for so many hours. Ricky Martin looked hot and sexy; Bette Midler looked like Bette and Pink was hot, but among them not a note was sung.
All the movers and shakers in D.C. were there. John Berry the great director of OPM and Brian Bond our LGBT White House liaison who was also celebrating his birthday. Also there were some of my less famous but equally infamous friends — cutie Ray Quintero, Lane Hudson and his smart and incredibly good looking partner, medical student Dan O’Neill who is working hard to make sure that we all practice safe sex with his Fuk!t campaign. I walked in with the beautiful Jessica Katz, who is on the D.C. leadership committee of GLAAD and she sat with power brokers and new Florida residents Jim Walker and Lee Rubin.
In his speech, HRC President Joe Solmonese mentioned D.C.’s next Mayor Vincent Gray and Council member David Catania, both getting great rounds of applause. He also gave a salute to Eric Alva, a hero of the first order and to Charles Robbins the executive director of the Trevor Project. (The fundraiser for the Trevor Project on Friday night at the Duplex Diner raised more than $10,000 and congrats to the five young men who organized it.) But the money at the HRC dinner easily dwarfed that. Live auction items such as a $10,000 gift certificate to Mitchell/Gold furniture went for $15,000. A trip to Africa, a cruise on the Queen Mary II and another trip to Bali all went for more than $10,000. We in the LGBT community may not have equal rights but some of us sure have a lot of money.
To be truthful I was given my ticket so didn’t have to pay. I don’t always agree with what HRC does with all the money they raise but to be fair to them I think they need to remain strong. They are our inside group, the one at the table. We do need them but sometimes I think it would be helpful if they occasionally pushed away from the table with indignation and shouted, “It’s time for the talk to stop and time for the action to begin.” But then I guess that is what GetEqual is for.
At the dinner, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke. Jarrett saluted Tammy and Andrew, the mother and brother of Justin Aaberg, one of the young gay men who recently committed suicide and they received a standing ovation for being at the dinner and speaking out. If only the president would speak out maybe it would help. While it was a good speech with a focus on bullying it made me think of last year’s speech from the man himself, President Obama, and we know how that has worked for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” So even though Jarrett said the right things, you have to wonder what it all really means.
The most disappointing part of the evening for me was seeing Bette Midler, whom I adore, and who did look great, show up and then not sing. I first saw Bette at the Continental Baths in New York. That was before I was “out” and I was at the baths in a sport jacket and tie, pants on. I had gone with Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.) who I ended up working for, to a fundraiser and Bette sang with her pianist — Barry Manilow. I have gone to many Bette Midler concerts since then but none was the same as that. I don’t think I ever went to another Manilow show. I remember remarking to Bella about how I had been at the club before and she looked at me kind of funny and I realized she thought I had been there in a towel with all those beautiful men. I wish I had, but it was actually when the baths was in one of its previous incarnations as the Mid-Manhattan Health Club and my Boy Scout troop held their Sunday morning bagel breakfasts there. That same club later became the infamous swingers club Plato’s Retreat.
But enough of the past and back to the HRC dinner. It did go on and on. Two LGBT families, one being Reggie and Rocky and their two adorable twins, introduced the stars of Modern Family. They were funny but went on too long, but then everyone did. Reggie and Rocky were one of the three couples that got married at HRC after we approved marriage-equality in D.C. With the Republicans and their conservative leadership potentially taking over part of the Congress we will have to be vigilant to protect civil marriage equality in the District.
As it turned out the only entertainment all night was a group of women drummers called Batala and the sound system was so loud it was deafening. They were good but I think the applause was not only for their playing but for the fact it was over.
I think it may be time for HRC to once again look at the dinner and see if they can shorten or change it — maybe cut some of the speeches and add some entertainment. But then since it was another sold-out event maybe you can’t argue with success.