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Ron Burkle
Wrangles Hollywood to Raise $3.9 Million for No on 8

Ron Burkle
Wrangles Hollywood to Raise $3.9 Million for No on 8

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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. 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.

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.

In attendance 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.

Midway through 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.

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.

The emotion 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)

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