Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

Symphonic pride

On the Town

Audra McDonald (center) performed at the SF Symphony's Pride concert. photo: Cory Weaver
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Sometimes a large, seemingly unwieldy organization makes a mid-course correction that appears costly and perhaps ill-advised, but it is simply the right thing to do; such is the case with the San Francisco Symphony and its Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas.

When North Carolina began demonstrating an incomprehensible disdain for the civil rights of transgender individuals, the Symphony cancelled upcoming concerts scheduled there only a few months away with the full support of the board and membership. With amazing speed, Thomas' partner Joshua Robison and long-time friend State Senator Mark Leno rallied to the cause, co-chairing a local concert to benefit five LGBTQ related non-profit organizations. Within months, tickets were sold out for Symphony Pride and special guest Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald was booked to sing.

Attending the concert on Tuesday, April 4, was one of those surreal San Francisco nights, as we joined Joe Mac, Matt Lovell, and Alex Kleinberg for glorious music and empowering inspiration in spectacular Davies Symphony Hall.

The concert began with a rousing overture by Leonard Bernstein, and then short very modern pieces written by LGBTQ composers, preceded by video enhancements and one concerto by Michael Harrison that enlisted the skills of Michael Hay on the in-house pipe organ.

Soon, Ms. McDonald joined the orchestra on stage for some Broadway musical renditions and the house went wild. Even Mayor Ed Lee was on hand to speak to the audience before the break.

During intermission, it was truly a reunion of local LGBTQ movers and shakers including the Executive Directors of the five benefiting agencies, Larkin Street Youth Services, National Center for Lesbian Rights, San Francisco LGBT Center, Transgender Law Center, and The Trevor Project.

We chatted over Champagne with Sister Roma, Cockatielia, Don Berger, Chris Verdugo, Tom Horn, and many others. Remarkably, we found co-chair of the event, Mark Leno, mingling with the crowd and congratulated him on a splendid evening.

The second half of the concert began with comments from the co-chairs and the community's love of Mark Leno was obvious. We then heard a work by Aaron Copland inspired by the words of Abraham Lincoln, narrated by Ms. McDonald, and a stirring movement from Gustav Mahler 's Symphony No. 1 in D Major.

The evening ended, not with the anticipated musical encore, but with video presentations of individual LGBT members of the Symphony and statements of support for their civil rights. All in all, this evening had it all and demonstrated a wonderful spirit of solidarity from the City, the Symphony, its leadership and membership, and the many individual and business financial sponsors.


Best Drag King Alex U. Inn (right) performed with Tia Ludney at the 7th annual Besties, held at Oasis. photo: Steven Underhill

Besties & Soirée

Congratulations to all the Best of the Bay winners, celebrated at the Bay Area Reporter's party at Oasis on April 6 with food, drink, and a lively show emceed by local favorite Marga Gomez, whose comedy kept the audiences in stitches.

Veronica Klaus, Jason Brock, Tammy Hall, and Alex U. Inn all entertained us, and photographers went wild, snapping Heklina, D'Arcy Drollinger, Linda Lee, Tom Temprano, Erik Lopez, Ken Henderson, Mr. Bill, Grand Duchess Migitte Nielsen, Barbara Liu McDowell, and others.

Contrary to expectations expressed in our previous column, there was no noticeable bitterness among those who did not win in their respective categories, including yours truly, who finished first runner-up in two areas; after all, we're all winners in San Francisco!

The LGBT Community Center's 15th annual Soiree at Terra Gallery was definitely the place to be last Saturday, as community leaders across the spectrum gathered to celebrate.

We arrived with dapper James Holloway amid a flurry of friends, including Don Spradlin, Peter Witrak, Gudrun Witrak, Cicero Braganca, J. Conrad Frank, Alex Walker, Mike Young, and others. Juanita More! served as entertainment director and we enjoyed a joyful number led by Mr. David and a bevy of drag queens. The following morning, the official ribbon-cutting at the Center ushered in a new era of service for the newly remodeled and repurposed building on Market Street.

Miss Conception made her long-awaited San Francisco debut at Oasis last Sunday and the City adored her! This very talented drag star combines live singing, comic timing, and creative costumes into a spell-binding show. Don't miss her next engagement here or wherever you see her name.

Juanita More!, Leandro Gonzales and David Glamamore at the SF LGBT Center's 15th annual Soirée, held at Terra Gallery. Photo: Leandro Gonzales

Reigning Emperor Nic Hunter and Reigning Empress Mercedez Monro now officially have a court, formally invested on Sunday at Balencoire as the Court of Inclusion, Community, and Hope. Courtiers from San Francisco and around the country joined them providing entertainment and support for the new year.

Of the many titles bestowed that night, most notable were Imperial Crown Prince Terrill Grimes and Imperial Crown Princess Cameron Stiehl. Hopes are indeed high for an active, representative, and innovative reign and we wish them all the very best!

And finally, Empress Alexis Miranda celebrated her 50th birthday at Diva's a few days ago, and Empresses galore were there to salute her, including Tiger Lily, Renita Valdez, Galilea, Misty Blue, Chablis, and Reigning Empress Mercedez Monro. Also there with best wishes were Queen Cougar, Andrea Goldengate, Victoria Secret, Theresa Sparks, and the legendary Lady Herman.

Coming up in May is Spotlight on Broadway, Saturday, May 20, 8PM, at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, featuring Leanne Borghesi and this singing columnist with the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band! There will be plenty of opportunities to sing along with your favorite Broadway tunes.

If you haven't yet heard, let us be your source! Members of the cast of the touring company of Hamilton will perform at a One Night Only benefit concert for the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation on Monday, June 5, 7:30PM, at Marines' Memorial Theatre. Here's your chance to see this amazingly talented cast, not in the blockbuster show, but singing and dancing songs of their own choosing in solo, duet, and group performances. These events with touring Broadway casts are always a hit and include an after-party with the cast. Get your tickets now at

Also up on the REAF calendar is ManuStript: Literary Tales with Happy Endings, Sunday, June 18, 9PM at DNA Lounge, their annual salute to Broadway Bares, benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS & REAF. If last year's event is any indication, buckle your seatbelts; it's going to be a crowd-pleasing night!

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