June 16, 2010
U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Sherri Lewis
I have been living out loud, so let's get this party started!
I attended the 17th Annual Spirit of Hope Awards for Being Alive at the very glamorous, rooftop, poolside Skybar on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. It's more than worth mentioning that Being Alive was not only the first AIDS service organization (ASO) in Los Angeles, carrying the history of the darkest days of AIDS; it also is now the oldest. And like most AIDS organizations in these hard times with constant cutbacks and threats of losing AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) funding, Being Alive has held its head above choppy waters thanks to the generous donations generated by their volunteers, clients and their family members and friends. They truly embraced the spirit of hope.
Grey skies threatened rain all day, so the event was held in a white, sheer tent, making it even more beautiful as the sparkling lights of LA twinkled in the distance. Thankfully, the rains never came and the silent auction, followed by the awards ceremony, went off without a hitch. Presenters included Being Alive's executive director Kevin Kurth and board president Mike Murphy; the event host, comedian Justin Martindale; and presenter John Duran. The award recipients were producer, director, writer and activist Del Shores; psychologist and HIV/addiction specialist Dr. Neva Chauppette; the law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, LLP; and U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who I had the honor of meeting years ago at another AIDS fundraiser for Women at Risk.
Just as I was about to leave the Skybar, I was introduced to Jim Anzide, the founder of Out & About Tours, Hollywood's first and only gay bus tour. Perfect timing, just as I was beginning to explore ideas for the Pride blog.
To top it off, I was invited to participate in a musical fundraiser for the Van Ness Recovery House, a sober house in LA for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual people living with HIV. Suddenly my cup runneth over with Pride!
Then the big O hit! On my desktop, I received an e-mail from my friend and fellow blogger, River Huston, who submitted herself for "Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star" -- run by the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)! I watched, voted and thought, "Why aren't I doing this?"
Going into complete focus and overdrive, I got busy writing copy, imagining the show and reading over the rules. With the help of two positive friends, I made a great video and had a blast. Excitedly submitting the video, it bounced back like a rubber ball three times for reasons unknown. After edits and another submission, I expected another rejection. I was elated when I got the message: "Thank you for your submission. Your video can now be seen at 'Sherri's Audition: LIVING OUT LOUD - OWN T.V.'" Now I'm dancing as fast as I can for votes, so please follow the link, watch my video and vote for me (you can vote more than once!)! Living out loud is about not letting circumstances limit your dreams. I stand for we, not me.
Aid for AIDS' "Best in Drag Show" float in the LA PRIDE Parade -- the Best in Drag event raised $300,000 last year for Aid for AIDS. (Credit: Carlo Chupina)
Sunday, June 13, I was one of many in a crowd of thousands at the 2010 LA PRIDE Parade in West Hollywood. (See the latest from celebrity blog Greg in Hollywood -- "LA Gay Pride Parade: Grand Marshals Kelly and Sharon Osbourne Shout Down Anti-Gay Protesters.")
No coincidence that the first thing I saw in the parade was Out & About Tours' red, double-decker bus with drag performers waving at the crowd. I remember how, in my youth, I'd sit on my West Village, Waverly Place stoop in New York City, watching the parade march by from my personal perch. Yes, the dancing drag queens are still there, but no longer impersonators. Tattoos and pierced hipsters, leather, boas and lace, NO/H8-painted faces line the rainbow streets of Santa Monica Blvd.
How far have we traveled from the late '70s of sexy short shorts, shag hair, mustached men, drag impersonators, Stonewall and the early days of AIDS? No longer in the dark, deep depression that the devastation of AIDS left in its wake, a well-educated, younger generation marches forward into the future with their work cut out for them. Equality is equality for all. The passage of Proposition 8, which continues to fire up the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Pop culture's embrace of beloved, gay characters on network television and gay networks and media.
The Trevor Project and Point Foundation are just a couple of the great organizations that are making great contributions to the LGBT community. The 12-step recovery movement, Alcoholics Anonymous and Crystal Meth Anonymous are saving countless lives that in the past were in peril. The birth of gay family life has enabled the LGBT community to grow up.
I take a breath as I write, filling up with emotions, my face flush with tears, remembering my best friend, Richard Cheney, who painted a picture of me back in the '80s before he died.
Would Richard have gotten clean and sober? Having just celebrated my 25th year clean, sober and living with HIV, Richard's artistic vision of me is still the constant perfection of my own youth and his. For Richard will always be beautiful and always be young. And I get to be LIVING OUT LOUD for both of us.
Read more of HIV DIVA, Sherri Beachfront Lewis' blog, at TheBody.com.