During an emotionally charged evening of celebration and pride that included tributes to friends and lovers lost to AIDS, supporters of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center were honored Saturday at a gala that raised more than $450,000.
The center is the largest organization of its kind in the world, tending to the health, legal, employment, educational, cultural and social service needs of more than 18,000 clients every month, said Gwenn A. Baldwin, the center's executive director. More than 1,100 people–gay and straight–turned out in tuxedos and gowns for the center's 28th anniversary ball at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
In a moving, and rousing, acceptance speech, David Bohnett, recipient of the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award–given to one who has championed and enhanced the visibility of gays and lesbians–brought people to their feet, many wiping away tears. (Schrader, who died of AIDS in 1993, was the first openly gay lawyer in the Los Angeles city attorney's office and one of the state's first openly gay judges. He also was Bohnett's partner. Schrader was the first recipient of the center's Distinguished Achievement Award; it was later named in his honor.)
“Eight years ago I sat at the back of a ballroom as Rand accepted this award,” Bohnett recalled. “I loved Randy with all my heart. He was my beacon of truth. When he died, I did not know how I would go on. But I did.”
Less than two years after Schrader's death, Bohnett founded the Internet site GeoCities, which provides free home pages to Web users. This year Media Metrix, an Internet ranking firm, named the site as one of the four most trafficked on the Web. Six months ago, Yahoo Inc. acquired GeoCities for $4.5 billion.
Receiving the Corporate Vision Award for combating homophobia in the workplace and contributing to gay and lesbian communities was MAC Cosmetics, founded in 1985, and now owned by Estee Lauder. “MAC is more than a makeup company,” said John Demsey, M.A.C. president. “We're a company with soul and a strong supporter of individuality–all races, all ages, all sexes.” He added that in the last five years, MAC has raised more than $13 million for its MAC AIDS Fund through sales of its popular “Viva Glam” red lipstick and its “Kids Helping Kids” greeting cards program.
Guests included singers Lorna Luft and Nell Carter, state Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), Police Chief Bernard Parks and City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg. Comedy writer Bruce Vilanch hosted; entertainment was provided by singers Taylor Dayne, Sam Harris, Michele Lee and female impersonator Charles Busch.
Michael Quintanilla can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.