Yesterday when I was waiting the press area of the LGBT delegate luncheon, Jed Hastings approached me to tell me how much he enjoyed reading the blog. Jed is Joe Solmonese's partner and Joe walked over shortly after. We chatted for a few minutes and exchanged business cards.
After the luncheon was over, Jed gave me a call and invited me to be his VIP guest at that evening's Rock To Win concert. While I had a press pass already, who gives up a chance to be a VIP? Jerame was going to the Hillary Clinton speech at the convention and my floor pass had fallen through so we agreed that he'd cover the speech and I'd cover the concert.
I rode the train back to our hotel room and dropped off my laptop and (heavy) bag of assorted swag and electronics and turned back around to ride the light rail back downtown. While figuring out how to get to the Fillmore Auditorium was a challenge (a train, a shuttle, walk a bit and then ride a bus the rest of the way), I still managed to get there shortly after it had started.
I picked up my press pass and then headed to the VIP check in. They gave me my credentials and I walked inside. The lower levels were packed already, but the upstairs VIP boxes had plenty of room to move about. Little did I know how absolutely amazing last night would be. Seven video clips of performances and some more pics after the jump.
Upstairs the alcohol and food were free, but the best part was the view of the stage. I apologize in advance for the fuzzy pictures, but flash photography wasn't allowed. I did manage to grab some video though of some of the acts.
Thelma Houston was performing when I arrived, but after she'd left the stage, a big screen dropped down for the attendees to watch Hillary Clinton's speech to the convention. Originally a security staffer told me that Hillary Clinton would be on stage with Margaret Cho, and several other folks thought Hillary would make a personal appearance too. We wondered with each other how she was going to speak at the concert and still make it in time to give her speech at the convention. When the screen dropped down, everyone figured it out.
The room had quite a few lesbians and gay men who had supported Clinton vociferously through the primaries and her speech was met with thunderous applause and quite a few of the concert-goers were in tears by the time the speech was over. While I'd supported Obama, I found myself choking up on occasion and nodding my head with almost everything she said. It was the best speech of Hillary's life.
Margaret Cho came on stage next and gave a short monologue about same-sex marriage. I clipped my favorite part for Projectors on video:
Rufus Wainwright's set came next. I was exchanging text messages with Jerame about this time and noticed Cyndi Lauper come on stage to do a duet with Rufus and whipped out the camera to record as much as possible for him. (You can hear Jed and I talking about Cyndi at the beginning while I recorded.)
Shortly after I stopped recording, I noticed that Susan Sarandon and Melissa Etheridge were sitting in the next box over from mine. I walked over and introduced myself and told Ms. Sarandon that she was one of my absolutely favorite movie stars and activists. I told her to continue her very important work and she gave me a kiss. *swoons* Shortly after Alan Cumming joined the group while Jed got the job of letting the stars have some privacy. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to record or take pictures with any of them since a lot of other people were also wanting to hang out with the celebrities. (After I made it up to talk to Ms. Sarandon, everyone wanted in on that action!) I left the area to go downstairs and smoke and text Jerame to tell him what I'd been up to.
The convention had just let out and knowing that Jerame is one of the biggest Cyndi Lauper fans in existence, I let him know she hadn't taken the stage yet. Jerame ran the almost 3 miles from the Pepsi Colosseum and made it just in time for Cyndi's set. He and I recorded almost every single one of her songs - including her performance of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" with her son.
Because Jerame is such a huge Cyndi fan, I didn't have much room left over to record any of Melissa Etheridge's performace. For our lesbian readers though, I did manage to catch the clip where she dropped down on stage and made love to her guitar. Funny side note: When I had my celebrity moment with Susan Sarandon and was gushing over her like a starstruck teenager, Melissa asked me, "What am I? Chopped liver?" Of course, I quickly told her that I loved her (and her music as well), but, well, I'd never had the chance to meet Susan Sarandon before!
I saw most of the queer movers and shakers running around the concert last night and not just celebrities. I chatted with a good portion of them and had a very nice time chatting with Jed and Joe about Bilerico Project and the tone of the blog concerning ENDA. I agreed that while trans folks have every reason to be angry at HRC for their stance on ENDA, at times the angry rhetoric had proven unhelpful for either side. (Anyone remember how Joe Solmonese was worse than Hitler? As has been pointed out to me by several non-HRC folks, that disgusting slur comparing the slaughter of millions of Jews by a demented bastard versus a political decision by a non-profit organization cost us quite a few readers - especially Jewish ones.)
I said to Joe that I thought the constant nasty remarks and bitterness wasn't helpful, but it was understandable. I told him that I was personally sick of the topic by this point, just because no one seems to be able to offer a solution or be willing to engage in productive dialogue as versus just assuming the worst intentions and smearing both sides with shit. While the topic is obviously relevant and important, after a while the constant berating and over the top comparisons has turned off some trans allies - including myself.
I told Joe that while I still firmly stood by my stance that ENDA needed to be fully inclusive and include gender identity, I wished some of our trans contributors would share more of the trans experience outside of ENDA. After all, I don't know the trans experience; I learn from Projecters on the site. When the topic stays the same and doesn't stay productive, I don't learn anything.
I invited Joe to rejoin the blog to share his opinion on queer issues. While I warned him that I was sure some Projectors wouldn't be able to respect our comment rules to be civil and not attack contributors or readers, I'd monitor the comments section to keep the comments on topic and, while possibly angry, not to the level of the disgusting Hitler comparison. I hope he'll take me up on my offer. The point of our experiment is to hear from all parts of our community, be respectful to each other and hopefully learn from each other.
As Jerame, Jed, Joe and I walked out of the concert to catch cabs home, Joe said he'd do a post about Joe Biden to test the waters. I agreed to go on the Agenda, his Sirius radio show. After all, communication is key; otherwise we're just talking at each other instead of with each other. I sincerely hope that our readers will extend the same courtesy. As anti-HRC as our blog has turned, I found it refreshing that Jed and Joe were still willing to extend a hand in friendship.
I accepted and while I still plan on keeping a wary eye on the political machinations necessary in the Capital, I hope Projecters will extend the same courtesy. After all, we're all on the same side - whether it's Susan Sarandon, Joe Solmonese or Jerame and I. We do this because we want the best for our community. We might have different opinions on how to achieve equality, but we have the same end goal.
As a wise man once told me, "Sometimes when you have a different opinion than someone, that doesn't make them the enemy; it makes them a friend you disagree with." If we're going to win, we'll need all the friends we can get. I'm glad to say that Joe and Jed get that - and we're still friends even through my own criticisms of HRC and those of our contributors. It shows their "true colors."
It was an amazing night of celebrities, good music and time spent with friends. I wish you all could have been there with Jerame and I to experience it all. I hope the videos and pics do it justice.