Sunday, September 25, 2011


"You can do all the meditation, know all the scriptures, but selfless service is the quickest and shortest way to get to Divinity.
Fill the Heart with Love, the Head with Wisdom and engage your Hands in selfless service. When you use your energies in selfless service, the Divine Power in you gets surcharged." ~ Sathya Sai

Happy Beginning of Autumn/End of September
I hope this finds you doing well. It is the first Sunday of autumn and the last Sunday of September. Summer is officially over and The Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Flea Market took place today in New York.
My day started here sipping my coffee and listening to La Cage Aux Folles original cast album. How could this not jump start your day? This gets me every time. It immediately takes me back to 1983 when this show first opened on Broadway. It still holds up! I was 22 years old, had just "come out" if that is the appropriate phrase to describe it.
I think a more apt description would be that I had just become aware of MY sexuality. It was a strange time for this to be happening. The AIDS crisis was front page news almost daily. Perhaps timing is everything. It made me a very cautious person at such a crucial time in my life. It was a scary time as we saw the complacency of our government in even discussing this because it was a gay "cancer". It was also sad to see those around us dying. It still baffles my mind that those born since 1983 have not known a world without AIDS/HIV!

I navigated the waters between 1983 till 1990 (when I met Danny) very carefully.
Im 1988, I was a piano bar junkie. I've written about this in previous blogs. I lived for the weekends where I could sing from Christopher Street (Sheridan Square to 46th Street and back again! It was at that time that I met so many people who are still close and dear to my heart: Mark-Alan, Cayte Thorpe, Steven Lowenthal (I was even his roommate for a brief moment), Karen Miller, Rochelle Seldon, Terri White...I was start out on the Monster on Friday night at 10PM. Stanley Keeler was at the piano upstairs in the wildest drag ever known to man with fruit platters on the piano, balloons everywhere, and a disco downstairs.
It was a party every weekend! With the late Sasha at the door, there was ALWAYS a long line to get in. If Sasha, ever caught me standing in line, he would always come and get me and lead me inside. I felt like Pearl Mesta leading everyone in song around the piano. I met so many friends around that piano.
any are long gone. So young and so sad. But when I think of them, I think of the songs we sang together in unison, not in competition. I would stay at the Monster till about 11 or 12 PM, depending upon the crowd and the fun and then I would go over to Marie's Crisis on Grove Street.
A different vibe from The Monster. A little bit dirtier and grittier than the Monster but just as musical.
Again, everyone standing around the piano spilling out onto Grove Street singing our hearts out. I eventually became a singing waiter there. A job I loved and also where I met Danny. I would stay about an hour there and then basically next door to the ORIGINAL Duplex!
(Might have been 1990 that it became Rose's Turn - that's the year the Phams bought it, I believe. And it was Mark-Alan and Cayte Thorpe
who gave Rosie the idea for the name.)
Spend an hour or two there and then on to The Five Oaks!
Marie Blake sings "Down In The Depths" at The Five Oaks - Feb. 1993
One of Marie Blake's signature songs during her long stint playing the Grove Street piano bars in New York's West Village. Here Marie is at The Five Oaks.(Thank you, Colin Lively for this)

God, do I miss that place! With the late great Marie Blake there the party continued and then on to Eighty-Eights with Karen Miller, Rochelle Seldon, and an incredible line up of singers. You could almost tell the time there by what song Karen was playing. She had it down to a science. If I was very ambitious, I would either cab it up or subway it up to DON'T TELL MAMA. If not, I would simply retrace my steps. No matter, what route I took, I almost always inevitably ended up at Tiffany's Diner at 5AM with friends, either old or ones that I met that night.
There was an excitement in the air that I miss tremendously!

Although I did not go there, I must also include Waverly-Waverly. Jerry Scott played there as well as Houston Allred for Sunday brunches. Scott Barbarino, now of the Duplex, was the manager.
It was located at the corner of Waverly and Waverly, just east of the Monster.

Paul Lucas: No pics, but I remember how we would crowd into the old Duplex, filling up the stairs, but would all fall completely silent when a wonderful or favorite singer got up to sing. I loved those days.

(Sybil photographed by Francesco Scavullo in Harry Winston and Chanel (1985).)

Sybil Bruncheon opened CAFE BERLIN at 88's in 1988 (how appropriate!), and then moved it to the DUPLEX where it ran for two more years.....I remember when the casts of Broadway shows started showing up in the clubs and would sing a few songs and pass around cans requesting money for people living with AIDS. This was the beginning of BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the theatre community’s response to the AIDS crisis. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the theatre community, on Broadway, Off-Broadway and across the country, BC/EFA raises funds for AIDS-related causes across the United States.

Since its founding in 1988, BC/EFA has raised over $175 million for critically needed services for people with AIDS, HIV, or HIV-related illnesses.
BC/EFA's grantmaking has two emphases.

The first is The Actors' Fund of America. BC/EFA currently supports five major social service programs at The Fund, each of which provides direct assistance to entertainment industry professionals and performing artists who are dealing with a variety of problems, including AIDS, HIV, and HIV-related issues. The second major grantmaking effort is the National Grants Program, through which BC/EFA makes grants twice a year to hundreds of community-based AIDS Service organizations across the country.
(Photo credit: James Sims from today's Flea Market)

In October, 1987, the Actors' Equity union founded Equity Fights AIDS, and in February, 1988, The Producers' Group founded Broadway Cares, both in response to the growing AIDS epidemic. The groups merged in May 1992 to form Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Between 1988 and 2006, the groups have granted over 77 million dollars to The Actor's Fund of America and various community-based AIDS Service organizations.

It was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre in 1993.

Broadway Cares has two major fundraising periods, The Easter Bonnet Competition (in the spring) and The Gypsy of the Year Competition (in the Fall).
Over six weeks of fund-raising shows on and Off-Broadway engage in a friendly competition to see which show can raise the most money for BC/EFA. Awards are presented to the shows raising the most money and to the winning presentation.

The 2010 Easter Bonnet Competition raised $3,265,700.

The 2010 Gypsy of the Year raised $3,776,720, the third-highest gross in the history of the event.

During this fundraising period, actors return to the stage after bows and ask patrons to donate as they leave the theater.

Some actors have objected to this, because they oppose asking patrons for more money, or because they do not wish to break character. The shows are in competition to raise funds, and use various approaches, such as auctioning signed memorabilia, to raise more than other shows.

The 2007 Broadway stagehand strike slowed donations to a near halt. BC/EFA started an online campaign called "Team Raiser" in order to continue the competition for "Gypsy of the Year". Through the "Team Raiser" program, Second Life residents opened a virtual office for in-world volunteers, located on Broadway Live Island.
Broadway Bares is an annual burlesque show fundraiser for BC/EFA, founded by Jerry Mitchell in 1992.

Broadway dancers and actors perform strip tease dances for the audience at Roseland Ballroom in New York City for two shows only in June. It combines the naughtiness of burlesque and the razzle-dazzle of Broadway. The Broadway Bares events have raised $5.5 million as of 2010.
Broadway Bears is a charity auction for BC/EFA, where teddy bears, each outfitted in original, handmade costumes by Broadway’s leading costume designers and representing memorable characters from plays and musicals, past and present. are auctioned to the highest bidder. The 2009 auction raised $152,116.
(Photo credit: Karen Seiger,

Another major event that Broadway Cares sponsors is the Annual Flea Market and Grand Auction in Shubert Alley each September. The theatre community sells props, costumes and autographed memorabilia to raise money for Broadway Cares. The second part of the day features a live auction where bidders can win anything from a walk-on in a Broadway show, to lunch with a star, to a visit to the set of their favorite TV show.

The event raised $7,758,752 from its inception in 1987 through 2008. This is going on today. Many of the photos in today's blog are from today's event. For many years, I used to host The Wheel of Divas on behalf of The Actors Fund.
(Photo credit: Gino Hawley)
The Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Flea Market and Grand Auction celebrates its 25th year with a new footprint today. Theatre lovers will now be able to treasure hunt into Times Square as the market wends its way into the pedestrian plaza and down 44th Street. One of the fall's most anticipated events, the flea market and auction offers tons of memorabilia donated by the theatrical community as well ample opportunity to meet and greet with Broadway's biggest celebs.

In anticipation of inclement weather, BC/EFA's exec. director Tom Viola says: "Come sunshine or drizzle the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction will go on. Only heavy rains in the morning would knock us out. Please check the website, Facebook and Twitter for an update."(10AM-7PM, Times Square and W. 44th St., info)

Again, Equity Fights AIDS was founded in October 1987 by the Council of Actors' Equity Association. Money raised through the efforts of Equity theatre companies across the country was specifically earmarked for The Actors Fund's AIDS Initiative.

Broadway Cares was founded in February 1988 by members of The Producers' Group. Money raised was earmarked to be awarded to AIDS service organizations nationwide, including Equity Fights AIDS.
In May 1992, Equity Fights AIDS and Broadway Cares merged to become Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The Board of Trustees of this newly established not-for-profit fundraising organization assumed the missions of the previously separate organizations and continues to fund the social service work of The Actors Fund and to award grants three times a year to AIDS service organizations nationwide.

My friend, Louise Dirkson became a nun today:
Unlike most other nonprofit, grant-making organizations, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS must raise every single dollar of our philanthropic budget every year in order to fulfill their mission. In turn, BC/EFA works hard to ensure that the money they raise is spent carefully and wisely on programs where these hard-earned funds can have the maximum possible impact.

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"Richard, for supporting the ARTS and calling attention to the STARS of yesterday. You are a STAR in your own right!! With admiration and friendship"
Arlene Dahl

Thank you to all who have encouraged me! Thanks to all who have tried to stifle my art. I have learned from ALL of you!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE day for ALL!

They are a Great Organization who were one of the First to address the AIDS situation with Love and Charity.
Thanks to Sybil Bruncheon, Colin Lively, Angela Dirkson, Gino Hawley, Ron Tunning, Markets of New York and all others who contributed to this blog today. Thanks to all who have contributed to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids over the years. I own no images and/or videos in this blog.
No copywrite infringement needed. The historical content of BC/EFA was lifted verbatim from Wikipedia. If you have any suggestions on how I can improve this blog, please contact me at

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Tomorrow's blog will be Peter Neufeld's new book, For The Good of The Show and a very special Actors Fund Event taking place on October 6th! You need to tune in tomorrow to see what it is!


Richard Skipper,

1 comment:

  1. The fighting goes on and the research continues and the only thing that makes it bearable is our ability to hope.