By Greg Hernandez
Love of family was a consistent theme among all of the honorees at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s 49thAnniversary Gala Vanguard Awards at The Beverly Hilton hotel on September 22.
Philanthropist Ariadne Getty was memorably presented with the Rand Schrader Distinguished Scholar Award by her son, August Getty, and daughter, Nats Getty, both of whom identify as LGBT.
“Our mother is a beacon of light, an example of what every mother should be,” her daughter said. “I can honestly say she has zero judgment and she gives with an open heart.”
Getty’s son drew one of the night’s biggest laughs when he shared how he didn’t really have come out to his mother. One day he just said, “Mom, I’m going out on a date with the room service guy.” She replied by asking, “Which one?”
While introducing her mother to the seated audience in the ballroom of The Beverly Hilton, Nats said, “There is no one in the room like her. She’s the best, she is everything. This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to publicly acknowledge her work. Tonight we get to celebrate all that she is and all that she does.”
Getty described a tour she took of the Center as “life-changing” and praised its various programs for LGBT youth “kicked out of their homes so brutally, left on the street to fend for themselves. But they have a place to go and that’s called the (Los Angeles) LGBT Center.”
“Seeing what happens there is something that I immediately understood,” she added. “This is a model that needs to be replicated in every city. A city cannot afford to be without a center, a place where there are so many things to do for every age category.”
While receiving their awards, prolific TV producer Greg Berlanti (Arrow, Riverdale) and retired soccer pro Robbie Rogers shared how the Center played a “small but pivotal role” in their journey from being friends to becoming a couple when Rogers suggested they donate some of their clothes to the Center.
“He showed up with a small bag of clothes and proceeded to empty half of my closet,” Berlanti recalled. “Not even my Justice League underwear made the cut.”
The couple, married last year, met shortly after Rogers came out publicly in 2013 and went on to become a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy. He retired from the sport in November after a series of surgeries and is now a television producer. Berlanti’s voice grew emotional when he spoke of his husband making history as the first openly gay pro soccer player in the U.S.
“He wanted LGBT kids to have someone to watch that was like them. He knew the power of representation because he didn’t have it when he was growing up isolated and alone,” he said. “I fell in love with Robbie Rogers for many, many reasons, but not the least of them was because of his grace and strength and compassion during all of this.”
Berlanti also spoke of his husband and their young son Caleb: “I didn’t think it was possible, but the universe has granted him a talent even more pure than his gift for soccer and that’s his skill at fatherhood. Watching him with all his tenderness and playfulness and patience and love is the single greatest joy of my life.”
Rogers praised the professional accomplishments of his husband who directed the gay-themed feature film Love, Simon this year and has introduced diverse characters in the record 14 television series he currently has on the air, including those on Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and The Flash.
The couple dedicated their award in memory to those who came before them—especially those who had died from AIDS-related complications.
“(Our) story—not just part of it, all of it—is the direct result of the work and sacrifice of the LGBT individuals who came before us,” Rogers said. “Sadly, many of their lives were cut tragically short by a plague before they got to see the results of their dream that so many of us get to live.”
Berlanti continued with the sentiment, adding, “Without the (Los Angeles) LGBT Center and the changes in the world it’s helped bring about, there’s no way our story and all the blessings that we’ve been fortunate to have, there’s no way that any of it ever happens.”
Honoree Ricky Martin also spoke of parenthood and shared how the 2008 births of twin sons served as the inspiration to come out publicly in 2010 after more than two decades in the spotlight.
“When I held them for the first time in my arms, I said, ‘I cannot teach you to lie. I have to be honest,’” he told the crowd. “Whenever they ask questions, I answer honestly. And if they don’t grasp the answer, eventually they’ll come back with the same question and I have to make sure that I tell them the same answer again and again and again.”
He added: “It just feels amazing to be able to be raw, honest, open, vulnerable.”
Martin was honored for his humanitarian work denouncing and exposing global human trafficking and for organizing The Puerto Rico Relief Fund after the catastrophic Hurricanes Irma and Maria of Puerto Rico in 2017.
“I work with kids that are forced into prostitution and most or some of these kids are of course, part of the LGBT community. And when I started my foundation 10 years ago, I was not connecting these two,” he said during his speech. “My mission is to go to those little towns in Latin America where the word gay is a curse, and [end this].”
“We are exactly what the world needs more of right now”
Center CEO Lorri L. Jean spoke about how the Center has always “dared to dream” during its 49 years and is continuing to do so as it kicks off an entire year of celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“All of you are a vital part of our Center’s courageous, resilient and visionary history,” Jean told the crowd. “We and all who have preceded us are the Center. A Center that is more than buildings; more than a collection of social services; more than soldiers for equality and justice. We are the stuff that dreams are made of.”
“We are the best that people can be. Kind, passionate, generous, hopeful and hilarious; living our lives honestly and caring for our fellow human beings,” Jean added. “We are exactly what the world needs more of right now.”
Celebrity guests in attendance included retired NBA player Jason Collins, YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous, NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, Tony Award-winning performer Sarah Jones (Sell/Buy/Date), actor Clark Moore (Love, Simon), actor Conrad Ricamora (How to Get Away With Murder), actress Tara Reid (Sharknado), and singer Nicole Scherzinger.
The event, which raises money for the Center’s vital programs and services, was hosted by Kelly Ripa (Live With Kelly and Ryan) and her husband, actor Mark Consuelos (Riverdale). Presenters included actors Nick Robinson and Max Greenfield.
Presenting sponsor was the Ariadne Getty Foundation and Diamond Sponsors were American Airlines, Audi of America and Wells Fargo. Platinum Sponsors were Comcast NBC Universal, HBO, Los Angeles Lakers, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and U.S. Bank. Gold Sponsors were 21st Century Fox, Anita May Rosenstein Foundation, Tess Ayers, David Bailey, AT&T, BCG Digital Ventures, CAA, Citi Private Bank, Ernst & Young, Alfred Fraijo, Jr., Gilead, June Street Architecture, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Eugene Kapaloski, Kathy Klovis, LabCorp, Barry McCabe, Media Rights Capital, Loren Ostrow, [email protected], Pacific Federal, Southern California Gas Company, Swinerton Builders, Tie the Knot, Warner Bros.