Joseph steps out from behind Pride main stage
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Once before, back in the early 1980s, Audrey Joseph participated in San Francisco's annual Pride parade. That time she rode a motorcycle as part of the Dykes on Bikes contingent.
This year will mark her second time participating in the parade. As the inaugural recipient of the Audrey Joseph Entertainment Award, Joseph will be riding in a car as part of her own contingent.
The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee board initiated the award, which honors those who have made a significant or historical impact, or left an indelible impression, on the LGBTQ community and the movement for LGBTQ rights, through artistic expression, or through their contribution within the entertainment industry.
"Quite frankly, my place is backstage, not on the stage. I was embarrassed and humbled at the same time by the whole thing," said Joseph, adding that news of the award in her honor came as a complete surprise. "It was shocking; I was shocked."
For most of the past three decades Joseph, a member of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, has worked behind the scenes on the city's annual LGBT celebration. [Update: Joseph was nominated by the mayor for another four-year term. She is expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.]
"I first worked on the main stage then that morphed into helping with the motorcycle contingent. Then I did the dance stage and then I did the main stage," recalled Joseph, a lesbian and former dance club owner. "I have been working on Pride probably since 1983 or 1984 in one way or another."
As the longtime main stage producer at SF Pride, Joseph each year could be found at work in the Civic Center beginning at 3 p.m. the Friday of Pride weekend until 8 p.m. Sunday. This year she has finally stepped down and handed over the producing job to Jenn Stokes.
"Maybe I will take part in the Dyke March this year. I have only seen it once," said Joseph, who is hosting a VIP Pride party Saturday night [After this section wend to press, it was announced that the party was canceled.].
As it turns out, Joseph will not be sticking around Sunday afternoon for the Pride celebration post-parade. Instead, she will be racing to the airport to catch a flight for Chicago where she will be attending an entertainment industry conference.
She said she will "always miss" overseeing the main stage at Pride but is happy to let Stokes make her own mark on overseeing the entertainment lineup.
"I am very big on change," said Joseph, who declined to give her age. "I am very excited to see what Jenn is going to do."
It has been a challenging year for Joseph, who learned in early September she had ovarian cancer and underwent 18 rounds of chemotherapy. Her cancer is now in remission, and her hair is starting to grow back.
"At first I kept it a secret because I didn't want it to become a conversation on Facebook. But it has taught me a lot of things," said Joseph, who lost a close friend, Sashie Hyatt, to ovarian cancer in 1988. "It taught me about simplifying my life, making sure I don't put anything off to tomorrow, and to live my life to the fullest each day."
The ordeal also showed her the power of friendship and family, as someone was always with her over the course of her five months of treatment.
"It was an amazing realization about the world I live in and my community," said Joseph.