By Jamie Wetherbe
Originally published on Advocate.com April 19 2010 11:45 PM ET
Linda Perry will again try her magic hand at philanthropy. The acclaimed songwriter and music producer will return as cochair for An Evening With Women: Celebrating Art, Music & Equality, to be held Saturday, May 1, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to benefit the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
“The center is such an important part of our community, and I am drawn to their amazing work,” Perry says. “We are all incredibly dedicated to making this event the best yet, and I’m excited about the support from the entertainment industry, whose contributions will help raise necessary funds to directly benefit the center and their programs.”
The charity event will feature silver-screen stars Renée Zellweger and host Gina Gershon, performances by music industry giant Heart and comedian Sarah Silverman as well as a silent auction, dinner designed by Top Chef contestant Jamie Lauren, and more.
“I want one more performer, but I don’t know who it’s going to be,” Perry says. “It can’t just be anybody — they have to mean something ... It’s got to be a whole package; I’m a believer in selling the whole package.”
All money raised from An Evening With Women benefits the center’s services for women — including legal assistance, domestic violence services, and cultural arts programs — but the night is also, with the center’s community awards, an opportunity to recognize lesbians and bisexual women who make a difference.
Known as L.A.’s premier event for lesbians, bisexual women, and their supporters, the annual event reached new heights last year under the direction of Perry and event producer Brent Bolthouse and raised more than $300,000 with Christina Aguilera headlining.
And this year Perry has set her sights even higher.
“Last year we raised $320,000, so it’d be great to double that and raise $650,000,” says Perry. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but a girl can dream.”
Perry also plans to double awareness for the event.
“I want people calling me three months before the event saying, ‘How do I get a ticket? Is there anything [you] can do, because there’s no tickets available,’” she says. “It won’t happen this year, but next year it will. ... The idea is to see a gay and lesbian center across the universe — we all need that; every city needs one.”
Perry — writer and producer for artists such as Aguilera, Pink, Gwen Stefani, and Alicia Keys— first became involved with the center in 2006, when she performed at the event then called Women’s Night and brought special guests Courtney Love and Billy Corgan to perform with her.
“It was just $10, and you learn some awareness at a dingy club — it wasn’t sexy. I mean, shit, I don’t even know if they were making money,” she says. “We needed to really take it up a notch, right down to changing the name,” says Perry. “I said, ‘Your center is far too important to be charging $10.’”
As cochair, Perry was involved in every aspect of the event, down to the flower arrangements and menu. “I was in the kitchen tasting the food, making sure we were serving good food ... and that the flowers looked beautiful and smelled good,” she says. “We all got together and created a very special event for people to walk out of and say, ‘Fuck yeah, I can’t wait till next year.’”
She got celebrities to sign up, upped tickets to $300 a pop, and her bet seems to have paid off. “The awareness we got last year was so wonderful and so massive that this year it’s making it easier for us to do it again,” Perry says. “A lot of people have been showing up to the table earlier on this year, so that’s been great.”
Even with last year’s success, the songwriter-turned-event-planner is feeling the pressure to raise money for a cause she so believes in. “The night before, I’m going to be pulling out my hair wondering if we’ll sell out because we have to do this for the center — there’s no reason to put a charity on if you can’t make money for them,” says Perry. “This is a human event; this is about not turning your back on people in need. The [center] doesn’t turn their back on anybody — everybody is welcome.”
Part of the reason Perry supports the center is to keep kids from suffering through something she hasn’t. “I told my mom I was gay when I was 16, and my mom said with her heavy Brazilian accent, ‘OK, but at least look good at it,’” Perry laughs. “She didn’t want me to be a big bull dyke; that was the biggest thing for her.
“And that’s the way it should be — I had a beautiful experience coming out,” she says. “I’m 44 and I’ve never had a problem being gay, and maybe I dodged a lot of bullets and maybe I’m one of the lucky ones. I want to make sure every kid can have that experience ... I believe in life and I believe that everyone should have a fucking great one.”
For more information visit AnEveningWithWomen.org.