Since its inception 28 years ago, Food & Friends has provided more than 19 million meals to about 28,700 individuals fighting HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses free of charge in the D.C. Metro area.
Its signature event Dining Out for Life is now in its 28th year and will be held Thursday, April 28 with about 65 area restaurants having pledged to contribute anywhere from 25-110 percent of their proceeds that day to Food & Friends. Ristorante Tosca (1112 F St., N.W.) and Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse (1609 17th St., N.W.) are each giving 100 percent. And gay-owned Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd St., S. Arlington, Va.) is giving 110 percent. Last year, the event raised more than $200,000. A full list of participating restaurants is at foodandfriends.org/dol.
Michael Bento has been involved with Food & Friends since it started in 1987. He’s been a volunteer and donor and has been on the board for six years.
“Food & Friends began in crisis when the LGBT community organized to provide meals to our brothers and sisters with AIDS who were literally starving because health care workers wouldn’t bring them meals and family had abandoned them,” says the 55-year-old Tiverton, R.I., native. “And while HIV/AIDS will always be core to our mission, today more than half of our clients have cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The LGBT community built Food & Friends and it’s been our gift to the entire community.”
Bento plans to dine at Thally (1316 9th St., N.W.) in Shaw that evening. He’s been in Washington since 1979 when he arrived as a freshman at Georgetown University. He works by day at ENGAGE Strategies, his own marketing and communications company.
He’s single and lives in Crestwood. Bento enjoys travel, cooking and home renovation in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Since senior year of college. The hardest person to tell was my college girlfriend. Someone had outed me to her, without me realizing it. An awkward conversation followed, but we’re still very close all these years later.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Harvey Milk. Rodger MacFarlane. Barbara Jordan.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
The Fraternity House. Watching “Dynasty” there in the old days was a blast! Always friendly, always cruisy.
Describe your dream wedding.
The wedding that Kevin Kline threw himself in the movie “In & Out” — comfortable, personal and just a little off.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Structural racism and the pervasive hold it still has on American society.
What historical outcome would you change?
The election of Ronald Reagan. Coinciding with the AIDS crisis, he was the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The death of Princess Diana.
On what do you insist?
Having people in my life who can tell me when I’m full of shit.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
An overheard bar line. I listen carefully in bars, hear the most outrageous things, then immediately post them on Facebook. They’ve developed quite a following.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“This Is Not a Dress Rehearsal”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Deny it. If the Republicans can deny climate change, we should be able to deny any scientific discovery that would make us less fabulous.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe there’s something out there and I’m comfortable in the knowledge that it’s unknowable.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Realize that today’s accomplishments are based on the hard work and sacrifice of generations who came before you, who took bigger risks and paid higher prices than you have.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My dog, my family and my friends.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That we’re all good dancers. I’m horrible — like Elaine-from-“Seinfeld” horrible. But I still love to dance.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Victor/Victoria.” Toddy was a great role model for living life out loud, without compromise.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Following back on Twitter.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I really wanted to be Pope, but now that Francis has given away all the Prada, I’m rethinking.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How much fun was waiting just around the corner.
It’s the best of both worlds — a big cosmopolitan city with interesting and diverse people and a small town where it’s easy to find community.