“What a party, huh?” Gay bishop Gene “Dignified Delight” Robinson wasn’t the only one in awe of the thousands of gay- and gay-friendly folk who came out in support of equality Tuesday night. The Human Rights Campaign’s Joe “Head Over Heels” Solmonese greeted the sold-out throng at the Out for Equality Ball that his organization co-hosted with some two-dozen other gay rights organizations at the Mayflower Hotel. With open bar! And actually good buffet bites! Hearsay was in gay-heaven!
“This Inauguration isn’t just about Obama. It isn’t about Rick Warren. It is a little bit about Aretha Franklin’s hat,” Solmonese said, as the crowd roared its sartorial consent. Is it true the hat came from his closet? Joe, we hardly know you! “And it is about us, all of us, as a community,” Solmonese then added. And what a community! It was a moving and touching ball, even if the President never showed, too busy ball-hopping among the 10 official balls. The other balls can have the President and the First Lady though – though an in-person peek at her beautiful gown would have been nice. Those other balls can keep Beyonce and Bon Jovi, too. Equality really rocks, baby: Melissa “Yes I Am” Etheridge brought down the house as the headliner. It was a poignant performance. Etheridge noted that it has been exactly 16 years since she came out publicly at a ball during President Clinton’s first Inaugural. Time has only made her stronger, wiser, happier. Somebody bring her some water!
The firecracker Thelma “Highlight” Houston delivered a Motown medley, along with one of her newer songs and of course her disco classic, “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” She teared up as she talked about being from Mississippi, never expecting to see this day, when an African-American man was elected President. The crowd seconded that emotion!
Hearsay had much fun roaming among the “festive or formal”-attired masses, traipsing around with the many beautiful tuxedo-covered asses in search of more booze (did Hearsay mention it was open bar?) and more free grub and especially more spots to relieve oneself. Hearsay almost got lost in the Mayflower maze at one point. “Excuse me sir, what room did you say Governor Spitzer was in?” Turns out, Hearsay’s a year too late – and far too cheap.
But after a little celebrity-hunting among the crowd – Hi, Tammy “It’s Magic” Baldwin! Hey, look at you, k.d. lang! Well, Sir Ian “Full-Frontal” McKellen, what a nice surprise! And what was your name, hottie from Brooklyn? – it was back to the real entertainment. Though it wasn’t all entertaining. Rufus “Not Ready to Love” Wainwright was his usual too-dour-self in what was a completely celebratory environment. And though Cyndi “She Bop” Lauper made for a marvelous duet partner with Wainwright, on what has to be one of the very best pop songs ever written, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is not at all the hosanna its title suggests it is. “It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah” – and nobody felt cold or broken on this night.
Especially not with the Right Reverend Robinson in attendance. Robinson, whose official Presidential Invocation at Sunday’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial was not covered on HBO due to an error by the organizers, spoke eloquently at the HRC Ball about this momentous day. “I think, I hope we look back at this as the day that changed things.” But he wasn’t all rah-rah-rah. “As much as we love this President, we’re going to hold his feet to the fire to address our issues. We will not be thrown under the bus again.”
Keep us on the bus, and you’ve got yourself a party. That’s something Massachusetts Governor Deval “Happy Days” Patrick clearly understands. His state’s first African-American leader, Patrick came on stage with his wife and daughter to say a few words about the fight for marriage equality, which he fully supports. “As it turns out, I have a personal stake in this issue,” Governor Patrick said, pointing to his daughter Katherine, who came out publicly as a lesbian just this past summer. Mama Patrick hugged her close, and you could just feel the love. Massachusetts wins it again!