Santa Barbara County embodied the spirit of diversity at the Pacific Pride Foundation’s first-ever Royal Ball held recently at the Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbarabenefiting the organization’s programs and services.
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 38 years, and the longtime support was clearly appreciated from this festive and sold-out fundraiser held in Montecito.
“This is a groundbreaking event in Santa Barbara and to have so many people here at the Coral Casino supporting us is amazing,” PPF Executive Director David Selberg said. “Basically why we’re doing this event is because we have been hit hard by the economy both in our HIV/AIDS programs and our LBGT programs, and so we are working hard to keep our centers open and fully operating, which is really critical, and the festivities tonight will help us do that.”
Ongoing outreach programs and services, such as HIV Prevention and Education, youth services, Anti-Violence Project and Mental Health Counseling are provided by PPF at a low cost or free and offered in English and Spanish at offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.
More than 400 guests attended the extraordinary fundraiser, and despite the $250 ticket fee the star-studded affair was completely sold out two weeks before the event.
The atmosphere was electric and immersed in pride as guests walked the red carpet clad in stylish cocktail attire and fabulous costumes.
Upon entry attendees posed for photos beside two shirtless muscle bound hosts whose torsos were covered in shimmering gold glitter with unique airbrush designs created by makeup artist Adam Tenenbaum of Overlay.
Also within the entryway was an abundance of silent auction items and party books available for bidding on the seaside terrace that helped raise over $100,000 for the organization.
Pails of laughter poured over the crowed like fine wine as the patio filled with partygoers feasting upon hors d’oeuvres from a menu created by honorary co-chair and world-renowned chef, Cat Cora.
Butlers effortlessly swerved through the masses with cocktails on silver trays while some guests waited in line for specialty drinks, including non-alcoholic beverages, at one of the many ballroom bars.
The evening was indeed meant for royalty as sponsors such as Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin of Lynda.com, the Stephens family and Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree were part of the group who generously donated up to $20,000 and relished in lavishly decorated royalty boxes.
Part of the royal treatment included a special area with lavender and ivory décor, sofas draped in silk and chiffon, ostrich feathers and a stunning array of flower arrangements set under dazzling chandeliers courtesy of Merryl Brown Events and AOO Events. The unique seating areas also were equipped with a personal butler for the evening.
Performers on hand to entertain guests and the royal court included Cirque du Soleil performance artists and stilt walkers wearing outlandish wigs atop gold and sliver encrusted Versailles-styled gowns inspired by Marie Antoinette.
A fabulous drag queen named Sparkle sported a bustier with a rigidly corseted waist and flounced skirt, which doubled as an information and reference table for PPF that enchanted onlookers.
KEY News Chief Meteorologist Alan Rose was all smiles in one of the royal boxes as he mingled with friends who were also celebrating this special night.
“PPF has gone above and beyond to put on a wonderful event and all for such a good cause,” said Rose. “It’s unreal to see the community come together with gays, straights, politicians and people from all walks of life. It’s amazing to see such a cohesive unit of people supporting PPF and celebrating. It’s really impactful.”
Established in 1974, the diverse nonprofit organization continues to provide sociocultural services sensitive to the needs of LGBT communities and also partners with the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles, Equality California, San Luis Obispo AIDS Support Network and County Public Health Department, homeless shelters and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics in an effort to raise community awareness and promote vital services for the public.
“In our LGBT programs we have youth programs and services in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria where we get 30 to 35 kids each week in our youth group and it’s a safe place for them to be who they are and be supported by their peers,” said Selberg.
The organization also trains teachers in high schools throughout the county and instructs students on how to address bullying and harassment of LGBT youth.
“The suicide rate for LGBT youth is many times greater than the rest of the youth population,” said Selberg. “You open up the newspaper or turn on the television and you hear about all these tragic stories about these kids, so we go into the schools and work with them on taking care of our kids.”
PPF also provides emotional support and services for the LGBT elderly population who are often harassed, shunned and abused in nursing care facilities.
“A lot of seniors, as they grow old and frail, might have been with a partner for 30 or 40 years,” said Selberg. “And when their partner dies they end up in a nursing home and often time there are horrible stories that have come out where tending care staff will do prayers of salvation that it’s not to late to become straight. And, so a lot of LGBT seniors go back into the closet.”
This poor treatment also extends to fellow residents who provide an unwelcoming atmosphere to LGBT seniors within the facilities.
“Just recently I received a call from an 86 year-old lesbian at a senior facility in Santa Barbara who was crying with me on the phone because no one would sit with her in the dining room for lunch or dinner,” said Selberg. “So we go into these facilities and we do basic training on how to show respect and give dignity to LGBT seniors.”
The evening roared on with a whirlwind of live performances held in the sparkling ballroom as soul singer Tina Schlieske and the Graceland Exiles and flamingo dancer Timo Nunez worked the crowd into a frenzy.
Later, DJ Derek Monteiro dropped a tasty blend of techno pop and soul remixes that had the crowd dancing ‘til midnight.
Frenchie Davis from NBC’s “The Voice” was also among the performers and brought the house down with her soulful voice, take charge persona and hip shaking moves that set heads nodding, hands clapping and bodies gyrating across the dance floor.
Following her performance, Davis told Noozhawk that she was honored to support PPF and the gay community at large.
Davis shared how her earliest performing opportunities were at local gays clubs when she was a college student at Howard University in Washington DC, where she majored in theater and music.
“I don’t think human rights has a color or sexual preference or gender. And so it’s only natural that I would agree when asked to perform at an event like this,” said Davis. “Just the fact that PPF’s having this fundraiser here in Santa Barbara is an example of how America’s attitudes are changing slowly but surely and how people are learning not just tolerance but acceptance. I think tonight is a symbol and reflection of that ideal.”