Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 25 / 22 June 2017
 

Groups planning gay
Oscar events react to uncertainty

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

The show will go on: Greeters get playful at the Academy of Friends Oscar Gala in 2000 at the Concourse Exhibition Center. This year's party will go on as planned, even if there is no telecast because of striking Hollywood writers. Photo: Rick Gerharter

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The San Francisco nonprofit that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to distribute to HIV/AIDS organizations plans to hold its annual Oscar gala Sunday, February 24, even if there's no television show.

The Academy of Friends, which has been having its party for more than 25 years, expects to raise about $500,000 in grants for 12 beneficiaries this year.

Because of the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, it's uncertain whether there will be an Oscar telecast this year. One strike casualty, the Golden Globes awards show, was a shadow of its usual self when awards were presented in a brief news conference January 13. The stars refused to cross picket lines, wiping out the red carpet arrivals, and the televised show itself. Instead, anchors from the various entertainment programs read the award winners in a nearly empty banquet room.

But if the Academy Awards show doesn't happen, Mike Horak, the Academy of Friends new executive director, said, "The only change is we won't broadcast anything." They'll still have fun, he said of attendees.

Typically, the Academy of Friends gala allows partygoers to socialize while catching the Hollywood action on one of many TVs at the venue. Sometimes, people are partying more than watching the show.

"The goal is to raise funds, so we want to have the event regardless," Horak said. "I think that's why the majority of people come to begin with."

The Academy of Friends gala isn't just about the Oscar show. This year's event, with the theme of "Shaken, Not Stirred," will include a red carpet ceremony, food and beverage tasting, a silent auction, and music. The nonprofit also will be raffling off a Mercedes. If the Academy Awards show does go on, there will be live video feed as in previous years.

Horak said about 2,400 to 2,600 people are expected to attend the gala. Underwriters and sponsors have committed to about 800 tickets so far, which he said is about normal for this time of year, and they expect a "big bump" once invitations go out.

The Black Coalition on AIDS is one of this year's beneficiaries. By helping find underwriters and sell tickets, beneficiaries also help put the event together, said Adrian Tyler, BCA's director of development and communication.

Tyler said he isn't concerned about Oscar's TV troubles. He said the group is moving "full-steam ahead to do our part."

Bill Hirsh, executive director of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, another beneficiary, said the group is "looking forward to another successful year."

Other parties

Events in other parts of the Bay Area are more low-key than the Academy of Friends gala.

In the South Bay, San Jose Pride, the group that organizes the city's gay Pride festival, had been planning to hold an Oscar party at the Hotel Valencia. On Wednesday, however, Stephen Cochrane, vice president and Oscar chair, said that the group decided to cancel the event "in a bid to minimize any financial loss we may incur should the broadcast not proceed."

Cochrane had previously said that the Academy Awards show is "our only draw."

In the East Bay, openly gay Hayward City Council member Kevin Dowling holds an Oscar party for his campaign committee every year. This will be the 11th year. He said about 100 people usually attend, and he raises about $5,000. Even if the Oscars are canceled, Dowling said he'd have a movie-watching event. If the Michael Moore documentary Sicko is nominated, he said they'll probably watch that.

"I just never thought other than World War III, the Academy Awards would get canceled," Dowling said.

The Academy of Friends Oscar Gala will be held at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. Tickets are $ 250. To purchase tickets, call (415) 995-9890.

Kevin Dowling's Oscar event will start at 5 p.m. at Hayward City Hall, Hayward, 777 B Street. Tickets are $25. For more information, e-mail Dowling at mailto:kjdowling@aol.com. Both events will be held Sunday, February 24.






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