GLAAD Gala 2017: High Society In High Spirits

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GLAAD always throws great events and award shows—upscale mash-ups of political force, outspoken voices, civic engagement, and—let’s face it—some seriously creative outfits. And the San Francisco edition, held on Saturday September 9 at the City View at Metreon event space in SOMA, was all that and more some.

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From left, Don Lemon and Van Jones

First off, CNN’s ace correspondent Don Lemon was the event’s Davidson/Valentini Honoree, which was presented by fellow CNN reporter Van Jones, who called Lemon “a friend and mentor.” Jones criticized the present administration and praised Lemon’s journalistic integrity, telling the crowd, “To just tell the truth now is to be harassed on a daily basis. Don never complains about it; very few people are as courageous as Don. He’s the only one like him on the air.”

Lemon, accepting the award, told the crowd, “I’ve been a gay black man all my life. And I ain’t scared of nobody. I come from a single mom. I was told I’d never make it as a journalist. I remember when there was no Will & Grace, when actors on TV couldn’t come out. Now we have Rachel Maddow, we have Anderson Cooper. We can’t go backwards! Stand up against blatant homophobia!” As the crowd united in a standing O, he drove home the final blow: “And do you know how you handle a bully? You punch them right in the nose!”

The second big moment came when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi walked out to present the Ric Weiland Award to 32-year-old activist and Y Combinator founder and president Sam Altman (Y Combinator is a tech company that provides startups with seed money). Of course, Pelosi, much in the news lately for her deal with Trump over the debt ceiling, took the opportunity to rip into Trump’s transgender military policy: “I was appalled when President Trump decided to ban transgender men and women from serving in our armed forces. It’s a move that hurts and humiliates the thousands of Americans who serve in our military with strength and courage. All of us must respect that transgender Americans who have the patriotism and the bravery to serve our country in uniform must be respected.”

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Nancy Pelosi at the GLAAD Gala San Francisco

She also addressed her home town of SF. “People say to me over time, ‘Oh, you’re from San Francisco, it’s easy for you to be so tolerant.’ Tolerant’ is a condescending word to me. This isn’t about tolerance. This is about respect. This is about taking pride.” 

The evening had lighter moments too, provided by host Ross Matthews (his fifth time hosting a GLAAD event), singer Julia Michaels, 13 Reasons Why actors Katherine Langford and Tommy Dorfman, songwriter Justin Tranter, and the boisterous after party with DJ Zeke Thomas.

But for all of the wonderful on-stage talent, little diversion was required beyond the outfits of the guests. Heavily groomed guys in fabulous eyewear —a lot of clear light and navy blue horizontal frames or half-wire rim-half black frames—skinny suits (often in colorful checks and herringbones), white sneakers, and fade haircuts. One fellow attendee paired a silver disco paillette vest with pale grey jeans and grey sneakers. Ladies donned either black cocktail dresses or skinny suits. SF turns out, albeit in more subtle way than NY or LA—and perhaps a more flattering one.

The silent auction at the beginning featured fabulous getaways and even a trip to the new Will & Grace set. Sponsors included Google, Netflix, Wells Fargo, and official GLAAD spirit Ketel One, which provided a kind of alcoholic salad bar—where guests could line up to add strawberries, blueberries, mint, basil, lemon, grapefruit, etc, to their vodka sodas (Moscow mules were also available and piles of their hammered copper mugs littered the most boisterous tables).

Looking forward to next year, It will be difficult to top the night’s festivities—and yet, that hasn’t stopped them from doing it in the years prior.

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