By Greg Hernandez
As Ariel Emanuel at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s 48th Anniversary Gala Vanguard Awards, the Hollywood powerhouse’s mind was on his gay cousin who passed away from an AIDS-related complications in 1993.
The Co-CEO of talent agency WME | IMG told a sell-out crowd at the Beverly Hilton Hotel that he wanted to use his award and his platform to honor his cousin Gary’s memory by telling the stories of those in the LGBT community.
“Gary needed to be able to look out and see a culture that looked like him, like young people do today,” said the recipient of the Center’s Vanguard Award. “He needed trailblazers like Jason Collins in sports, Tim Cook in business, Tammy Baldwin in politics, and Ellen DeGeneres and lots of others we could name in entertainment. We all need those trailblazers to tell their stories and tell them proudly.”
Emanuel was honored along with Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Obama. She received the Center’s Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award. The Saturday night gala, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, raised more than $1 million, a new record for the event.
In his speech, Emanuel also took U.S. President Donald Trump to task for his recent transgender military ban.
“In July, on the anniversary of President Truman’s executive order that banned racial discrimination in the military, President Trump tweeted that he’s going to ban any transgender person from serving in the military,” he said. “You know what he called this group of Americans, people who are willing to fight and die for our country? He called them a ‘burden.’ That’s not just a misunderstanding of history. It’s an attempt to take us back.”
Center CEO Lorri L. Jean also had strong words for Trump who she described as ‘a lying sociopath.’ She captivated the audience with a powerful message about the importance of fighting for change under Trump’s presidency.
A Memorable Encounter
In her speech, Jarret shared her memory of meeting a young gay man when she accepted an award for Obama from Out Magazine two years ago in New York City.
“A young man grabbed my hand and he whispered, ‘I came out today to my mother because of President Obama being on the cover of Out Magazine because he validated who I am.’ I gave him a big hug and when he pulled away there were tears on his face and I said, ‘How did it go?’ And he said, ‘It didn’t go well.’”
Jarrett told the young man: “It will get better. Your mom loves you. Just give her a minute.”
But now she admits: “I think about that young man all the time … I wonder, was it okay? I wonder if his mom let him stay at home or did she throw him out? I wonder if the rest of his family embraced him? Did he find a life partner? Did he go on to college? What happened to him?
“And that’s why the Center is so important. Because you provide that hope. You provide the encouragement. You provide the training.”
Bidding for Cher and Billie jean
A VIP Vegas Experience, including concert tickets and a meet and greet with gay icon Cher, sold for $24,000 in a live auction, but it was the New York tennis package, including two tickets to the 2018 U.S. Open and an exclusive meet and greet with tennis icon Billie Jean King, that fetched the most: $30,000.
King appeared via video to urge the crowd to bid high for the package. Her epic 1973 tennis match against Bobby Riggs is dramatized in the new film Battle of the Sexes.
Actor and comedian Jermaine Fowler was on hand to help select the winner of a raffle for a luxury European River Cruise from Uniworld, along with 400,000 American Airlines Advantage Miles.
Presenters at the gala included MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, television producer Shonda Rhimes, artist Mark Bradford and soccer star Robbie Rogers of LA Galaxy.
Among the celebrity guests were director J.J. Abrams, producer Greg Berlanti, actress Maureen McCormick, actor Wilson Cruz, rapper Milan Christopher, actress Naomi Grossman, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, director Peter Berg, actress Brenda Wool, reality star EJ Johnson, talent agent Patrick Whitesell, singer Michelle Bonilla, performance artist Karen Anzoategui, and actress Veronica Osorio, among others.
This year’s gala came at a critical time for the Center, a time when federal funding for many of its services, particularly those that serve the most vulnerable in our community, are threatened.
The event’s lead sponsor was American Airlines and the Presenting Sponsor was The Beverly Hilton. Diamond Sponsors were Audi and Wells Fargo and Platinum Sponsors were Ariel Emanuel, HBO and WME | IMG.
Gold Sponsors were 21st Century Fox, 3 Arts Entertainment, Amazon Studios, Anita May Rosenstein Foundation, AT&T, Barry McCabe, Belmont Village Senior Living, CBS, Citi Private Bank, Comcast NBCUniversal, Curt Shepard and Alan Hergott, FremantleMedia North America, Gilead, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hulu, June Street Architecture, LabCorp, LBI Entertainment, Media Rights Capital Studio, MGM Studios, Netflix, Pacific Federal and Paramount Pictures.
Additional Gold Sponsors wee Pauley Perrette, Perkins Coie LLP, Reed Smith LLP, Showtime Networks Inc., Sony Pictures Entertainment, Starz Entertainment, TNT & TBS, U.S. Bank, Viacom, and Warner Brothers.
Silver Sponsors were Beckson Design Associates, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, JPMorgan Chase & Co, OUT@WB, and Ralph’s. The Official Vodka Sponsor is Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Media Sponsors were Lesbian News, Pride.com, The Advocate, The Los Angeles Blade and Variety.