The spirit of diversity was emboldened at the Pacific Pride Foundation’s second annual Royal Ball “Elegant Underground” held at Bacara Resort & Spa. The benefit was a fundraiser for the organization’s programs and services and promised and succeeded in being an early vote for the “event of the year.”
The star-studded affair was completely sold out months in advance and the Royal Ball has followed a meteoric rise to become a top draw in Santa Barbara.
Native Santa Barbaran and PPF executive director David Selberg proudly talked about the growing success of the event.
“This is probably the biggest event that the Pacific Pride Foundation has done in its history,” Selberg told Noozhawk. “So we have over 600 folks who are attending tonight and it’s our second annual Royal Ball by Merryl Brown Events and we’re so happy. Last year, we reached almost 350 guests and this year we’ve almost doubled that, so it’s really quite amazing.”
The Pacific Pride Foundation has provided a wide range of services to the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities of Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast for 36 years, and the longtime support was clearly appreciated by guests in attendance.
Ongoing outreach programs and services, such as HIV Prevention and Education and mental health counseling are provided by PPF at a low cost or for free, and are offered in English and Spanish at offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.
The feeling of pride was electric as guests walked the red carpet clad in everything from stylish cocktail attire and black tie to fabulous costumes, stopping to pose for photos in front of a backdrop beside two shirtless muscle-bound hosts whose airbrushed torsos added to the fun.
Also in the welcoming spirit were hostesses in black capes with silver and gold staffs sporting purple and blue flower arrangements in their hair and bound in black and leather garb.
Inside the entryway, guests surveyed an abundance of silent auction items for bid that helped raise more than $100,000 for the organization. Some of the more unique silent and live auction items included a $45,000 event package with event planning by Merryl Brown Events for a Bacara Resort & Spa commitment ceremony package, a $7,500 painting depicting the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City by Los Angeles artist Baret Boisson, and a classic 1954 Ford V8 pickup truck valued at more than $20,000.
Partygoers enjoyed delectable hors d’oeuvres and sipped fine wines before the evening went into full swing inside the ornate ballroom.
Special guests and honorary co-chairs for the event included actor Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka; 20th Century Fox Television’s chairman Gary Newman with wife and Los Angeles talent attorney, Jeanne; plus actress Jane Lynch and wife Lara Embry; Iron Chef Cat Cora and wife Jennifer; producer and singer Shaun Cassidy with his wife Tracey; plus committee members Rob Lowe, Joanna Kerns and writers and producers David Krane and Jeffrey Klarik.
Lowe shared with Noozhawk the importance of supporting the community in such an enjoyable and dynamic manner.
“It’s an important evening anytime you can build tolerance and understanding among your community,” he said. “It’s always important, but equally important tonight is how much fun everyone is having.”
Another local star who made the drive up the coast from Montecito was actor Billy Baldwin, who discussed his inspiration for supporting the LGBT community.
“On Dirty Sexy Money years ago my character had an affair with a transgendered character who also happened to be a transgendered actress named Candis Cayne,” he said. “And that in a fun way sort of took it to a new level for me. I’ll always have a special place for Candis. I adore her and I don’t get a chance to see her and spend time with her like I used to when we did the show together.
“I always supported the LGBT community prior to Dirty Sexy Money but my love for Candis took the whole thing to a new level. I try to come out, no pun intended, and support the community and the cause as often as I can.”
Weaving in-and-out of the packed ballroom, butlers served cocktails on silver trays while some guests waited in line for specialty drinks, including nonalcoholic beverages, at one of the many ballroom bars.
Adding to the royal air for some sponsors were boxes ranging from $50,000 each for the Emperor and Empress box, plus two King and Queen Royal boxes each sold at $25,000, allowing guests to fully relish the evening in lavishly decorated settings.
“I am overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity of our community,” said Selberg. “These sponsorships will ensure that funds raised will go to our critical services in Santa Barbara County.”
Merryl Brown Events and Rrivre Works decorated the ballroom in dark opulence and the exclusive boxes were decorated with black couches enhanced by silver pillows, silver drapes, white coffee tables adorned with red flowers and floating candles, all framed by black columns topped by gold and mated with extravagant gold mirrors.
Performers entertaining guests and the royal court included dancers and stilt walkers with torque acrobats who created a buzz on the dance floor, including a performance by American Idol and The Voice contestant Frenchie Davis that continued with the sounds of Los Angeles DJ Mike Bryant who kept the crowd animated and dancing until 1 a.m.
Volunteer dance group member Karen Olson summed up the unique feeling for both guests and performers on this the magical evening.
“It’s been fabulous being here,” she said. “The people here and the event that they put together have been awesome.”
Established in 1976 as a drug and alcohol abuse counseling and referral center for gay men and lesbians, the Pacific Pride Foundation continues to provide sociocultural services sensitive to the needs of LGBT communities and also partners with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, the San Luis Obispo County AIDS Support Network, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, Equality California and homeless shelters.
Other important services include HIV/AIDS direct client assistance and education, including testing and syringe exchanges, and training for teachers in high schools throughout the county and instruction for students on how to address bullying and harassment of LGBT youth.
Upcoming Pacific Pride Foundation events include “Viva Pride!” on May 4 at Oreana Winery; a Harvey Milk Day film under the stars at Chase Palm Park Plaza with a presentation of Milk starring Sean Penn; the Pacific Pride Festival on the sand in July; the Get Out and Golf tournament and dinner in August; and the “Heart + Sole AIDS Walk” in October.