Big names and
deep pockets were out Tuesday night at Ron Burkle's
Green Acres Estate in Beverly Hills. The straight
billionaire and former owner of the Ralphs supermarket
chain opened his home to a gala fund-raiser for No on
Proposition 8, the ballot measure that would amend
California's constitution to rescind same-sex marriage
rights. With Melissa Etheridge and Mary J. Blige
headlining and a host committee including producer
Bruce Cohen (Milk), San Francisco mayor Gavin
Newsom, and Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, the event,
with tickets starting at $500, was sold out.
The big donors
had a private dinner for 75 people at 6:30 with Barbra
Streisand in attendance. Guests then streamed into the
back of Burkle's estate, where ticket holders
sipped Kendall Jackson wine and beer and sampled a
buffet of sweets.
were a who's who of the entertainment industry.
Celebrity publicist to Ellen DeGeneres Kelly Bush
attended with her wife, Linda, along with director
Adam Shankman (Hairspray); Alan Poul (creator of
Swingtown); Dan Jinks and his partner, Matt
Whitney; Regent CEO Paul Colichman and his partner, David;
and celebrity manager Jason Weinberg even brought
Jared Leto as his guest.
the evening, Gavin Newsom took the stage to speak. Looking
and speaking like the presidential candidate he could one
day become, he rallied the crowd before introducing
Melissa Etheridge: "Am I ever gonna see my wedding day?"
She spoke like
Dylan, if he had a down-home drawl, about a time in the
future when her grandchildren would hear stories of when she
was not allowed to marry. She opened with
"Wedding Bell Blues" by the Fifth
Dimension but changed "Bill" to
"Jill" in the lyric "Marry me, Bill."
The audience screamed when she sang out, "Am I ever
gonna see my wedding day?"
She spoke at
length between songs, saying marriage is inevitable, because
before her performance she had put her kids to bed,
after going to the doctor that afternoon to have one
of them treated for an ear infection. She told the
crowd, "Marriage is in our hearts."
She talked about
how absurd it was that the Mormon Church, from another
state, had given millions of dollars to support Prop. 8. She
said that was a desperate act that must
"really mean that their walls are
crumbling." But she said that doesn't mean
LGBT people and their allies do not need to
raise money to fight this initiative. She announced
that for $50,000 she would sing any song anyone wanted, even
coming to someone's home. But she got no takers.
Just as she left
the stage, Bruce Cohen rushed up to say that he had
spoken to one couple who would give $50,000 if she would
agree to sing at their wedding in December, to which
she graciously agreed.
Next up, Los
Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center CEO and No on Prop. 8
strategist Lorri Jean took the stage to talk about the
fight's progress. She said opponents of the
measure had felt good about everything until two
weeks ago when polls put their side several points and
at least $15 million behind Yes on 8. In the two weeks
since, however, No on 8 has raised $10 million, she
said, and the night represented the big push to try to
bridge the gap and catch up financially.
At the start of
the evening, she said, No on 8 had already raised
$3.7 million, and since Burkle had agreed to finance every
dollar of the event's cost, all the money raised
would be going to the cause.
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Los Angeles mayor
Antonio Villaraigosa took to the stage and
announced the next and last performer of the evening, Mary
J. Blige. He said the event was almost sold out the
previous Tuesday, but when organizers announced that
day that Blige would be joining the bill, the
last of the tickets went right away.
A full band and
three backup singers began to play until she appeared,
sleek in a tailored dress, big dangling diamond earrings,
and six-inch stiletto heels and carrying a bejeweled
microphone. She started her set with "Real
Love," saying, "Isn't that what everyone is
really looking for?" Next she played "No More
Drama," and when she screamed out the lyrics
"I choose to win" the crowd was on its feet
and dancing. She was practically in tears as she
belted over and over again, "No more, no more,
no more drama."
Next up: a
rendition of U2's "One." Audience members
waved their hands back and forth, and couples
embraced as she sang lines like, "You act like
you never had love, and you want me to go without."
Blige closed with her recent hit single "Be Without
You," which, though about a relationship, was a
fitting end and felt like a rallying cry to not let
this proposition split couples apart.
stirred by Blige, Etheridge, Newsom, and others was
palpable, and as Jean took to the stage one last time
to beg for more money, several $25,000 donors
raised their hands, including actor David Hyde Pierce.
After a wave of
additional contributions, attendees were bid good
night and sent back to the chauffeured vans that had
brought them up to the estate.
All in all, the
event raised $3.9 million to fight the proposition.
(Corey Scholibo, The Advocate)