February 2004
By Steven M. Housman

Human Rights Campaign
Streisand To Receive Humanitarian Award
Craig Zadan & Neil Meron of Storyline Entertainment and Bienestar also set to be honored

(Hollywood) The Human Rights Campaign recently announced that it will honor Barbra Streisand with its Humanitarian Award at the organization’s annual gala at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles on March 6, 2004. Ms. Streisand is being recognized for her years of leadership, vision, and activism in the fight for civil liberties, including religion, race, gender equality and freedom of speech, as well as all aspects of gay rights.

“The GLBT community and the nation have been enriched by Ms. Streisand. Her passion and leadership are important to all Americans and we are overjoyed that she has agreed to accept this award,” said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. “Her appearance at the event is one of the highest honors we can imagine.”

Ms. Streisand has consistently been an outspoken advocate of GLBT causes. In 1992, while accepting an honor from AIDS Project Los Angeles, she took a brave and public stance denouncing Colorado’s anti-gay Amendment 2. Referring to the state’s mountains and numerous other recreational destinations, she asked people to “refuse to play where they discriminate.”

Ms. Streisand’s support for the community over time has included significant financial contributions to HRC as well as other GLBT organizations such as Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), LAMBDA Legal Defense and Education Fund, and The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. Ms. Streisand has also contributed millions to the fight against HIV/AIDS, through both her personal donations and her participation in fundraising events.

The Human Rights Campaign will also present its Corporate Award to Storyline Entertainment’s Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, Executive Producers of the Academy Award and Golden Globe winner for Best Picture of the Year, Chicago. Mr. Zadan and Mr. Meron are being honored for their sensitive and positive portrayal of GLBT characters in numerous projects including Serving In Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, What Makes A Family (both of which Ms. Streisand executive produced), and the new ABC television series, It’s All Relative.

Bienestar will be honored with HRC’s Community Service Award for its advocacy and outreach programs that specifically target traditionally underserved segments of the Latino/Latina GLBT community.

The Keynote Speaker of the evening will be Representative Christopher Shays, a Republican from Connecticut. Alan Uphold, the co-chair of the event has said, “ HRC recognizes the importance of working with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to achieve our goals, and Christopher Shays has a 100% voting record with HRC issues and we’re very pleased to have him join us for the dinner.”

I spoke with Mr. Uphold further to ask him some specific questions about HRC and the dinner. He said, “This HRC dinner is probably the biggest event here in Los Angeles. HRC has had larger dinners in other cities, but we anticipate that this LA event will be the largest we have ever had. The ballroom holds 1,500, and we expect to be filled to capacity. When I asked who would be the presenters to Bienestar, Mr. Zadan & Mr. Meron and Barbra Streisand, Uphold responded, “I wish I could tell you. At this point I have rumors, no confirmations for any of them. I can tell you that people will not be disappointed with the presenters. We’re talking about some heavy hitters.” I asked if it was all celebrities or a mix of politicians, Mr. Uphold said, “If everything goes the way I’m hoping it goes, it will be some of both. In the case of Barbra Streisand, it could be a politician or a celebrity, at this time nothing is confirmed yet.” Uphold informed me, “This is not unusual to be seven weeks out and not have definite confirmations yet. The fact that we have the honorees locked in is the important part.” When I asked if former Governor Gray Davis and current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger were attending, Uphold said, “I know that Gray Davis will not be attending and the Governor declined to be named as one of the people on the honorary Host Committee. He has not necessarily declined yet to come to the dinner. The fact that he’s not going to be on the honorary Host Committee doesn’t bode well for his attendance at the dinner. However, we can not officially say that he has declined an invitation to the dinner because he hasn’t been officially invited to have a seat at the dinner yet.”

Out of the 141 State, Federal and Local politicians, Mr. Uphold informed me “141 politicians were invited to be on our Host Committee. 118 said they would be attending, which represents that 85% of those who were invited to be on the Host Committee have accepted. That does not mean that they will necessarily attend, some of them have previous commitments, some just aren’t in the area that evening, so we won’t necessarily have all 118 politicians there, but what that represents is that these are politicians that support our dinner, that they are on our Host Committee and they support our issues. That’s a significant thing to point out because even though they may not be available because of their schedules, they’re showing support by being on our Host Committee.”

I also asked Mr. Uphold to add a comment about HRC to those who may not be completely familiar with the council. He responded, “Because HRC is primarily concerned with political issues and because 2004 is such a critical election year, we consider this to be a really seminal moment in the movement because of the issues we are confronting this year and the next four years of whoever is the President. Things like voter registration, get out the vote efforts, campaigning for politicians, and most importantly, lobbying our politicians to oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment are all going to be really crucial issues for us this year and certainly issues that we want everyone to be aware of. This dinner is going to be an opportunity to make as many people aware of that as we possibly can.”

On a lighter side of the evening, other than the exciting celebrity presenters that have been rumored, Renee Zellweger, Liza Minnelli and Cher to name three, and the riveting and lengthy speech expected by Barbra Streisand, the festivities also include a silent auction to be held. I asked Parker Williams, the Auction Coordinator, to give me some examples of what will be available to the guests that evening. He responds, “There will be about 150 items that evening, ranging in value from $200.00 to $17,000.00.” For example, the higher priced items included are a first-class trip to Paris for two with a one week stay at a private penthouse. A trip valued at $12,000.00 will be a one week’s stay at a private home in Costa Rica. There will be Spa Service for two at Jurlique of Beverly Hills valued at $10,000.00. A $2,000.00 valued item includes a Sub Zero refrigerator, and valued at $4,000.00 will be an adventure for two at Yellowstone National Park for the outdoorsy types. More moderate valued items include a trip to Boston for two in August to attend the Democratic National Convention. A Makeover from “Queer Eye’s” Carson Kressley, with a shopping spree down Rodeo Drive. Other items are a one-year lease on a 2004 Volvo. Even more moderate items include a gift basket from Timothy Jay Candles, A $250.00 gift certificate to Crustacean Restaurant in Beverly Hills, and a box at the Hollywood Bowl for the night and event of your choice valued at $325.00. In addition, I’ve been told that Ms. Streisand will donate several personal items from her collection that will be a delight for any moviegoer and most importantly a fan of Ms. Streisand’s.

Tickets for the Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles Gala Dinner are $350.00 for VIP seating and $250.00 for general admission. Sponsor packages are available starting at $5,000.00. Information about tickets and event sponsorship may be obtained by contacting Levy Pazanti Associates at (310) 201-5033.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

© 2004 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.