Saturday night the Damien Center of Indianapolis held their 22nd annual Grande Masquerade, the premier fundraising event for the city's primary HIV/AIDS support center. I was privileged to be one of many volunteers to help this event run smoothly, and it was great. For two years in a row the Grande Masquerade has been awarded the ISES (International Special Events Society, Indiana Chapter) PACE Award as the "Best Not-for-Profit Event with a Legacy."
We Had A Ball
Prior to the start of entertainment, a very brief presentation recognized that this year the Grande Masquerade garnered more corporate sponsors and more auction donations than any year in history. This is especially heartening at a time when individual donations are down and funding from state and federal agencies has been severely curtailed. A sobering fact was revealed about Indiana HIV statistics: in the past year, 37% of people with positive test results for HIV were diagnosed with AIDS at the time of the test. This speaks volumes for the need to be tested early. Events like this ball are necessary for the funding to get the word out.
Since I was behind the scenes helping process the registrations and silent auction bids, I didn't get a chance to watch most of the evening's entertainment. However, I did get to see the Indy Pride Bag Ladies do their thing. This ragtag band of men in drag danced and lip-synced their way down the center of the room, bold and sassy and full of fun. They have offered their special talents at a number of venues over the years, and I understand that this year they exceeded one million dollars in total lifetime donations towards organizations dealing with AIDS. That is amazing and a wonderful example of how grass roots efforts can have a strong positive effect. (Photo courtesy of Indy Pride Photo Guy.)
The evening ended with a surprise for me. I love any excuse to put on a costume, and this year I had a very special one, with the help of a good friend and excellent seamstress. I gained her assistance in making the iconic "curtain dress" worn by Carol Burnett as Starlet O'Hara in her "Went With the Wind" sketch. The moment that Burnett stepped onstage in that dress is one of the finest entrances in television history.
I was a little concerned that the crowd might skew young and not get it, but all through the evening I was asked to pose for photos, alone and with fellow revelers. The real treat came during the costume contest, which--to my amazement--I won. The fact that I won in a room filled with men in extraordinary costumes, glorious wigs and better makeup than I will ever wear was not lost on me at all. I was stunned. The best compliment came as the evening came to a close. An admirer congratulated me and I expressed my astonishment. He said, "Honey, in this room full of gays, tonight you were Madonna." Wow.
Jeremy York, Mistress of Ceremonies; runners-up; and finalists (All photos courtesy of Nuvo):