Free things are awesome, but sometimes paying pays off. As I wrote in a recent post, I shelled out some hard-earned cash to buy myself a half-price ticket to the Human Rights Campaign's National Equality Dinner, which was held last Saturday at the Washington Convention Center. Special guests included the cast of "Glee," Broadway star Gavin Creel, pop superstar Lady GaGa... & oh yeah, President Obama. It was, without a doubt, the swankiest event I've ever had the pleasure of attending.
For starters, the cast of everyone's favorite showchoir throwback,"Glee," did a little back & forth about equality. And then Lea Michele, who plays neurotic songstress Rachel Berry, sang a solo round of "On My Own" from Les Mis, which she starred in when she was little. It was great, though I couldn't help but remember Joey Potter's touching rendition of the same. Anyone? Anyone?
On my way to the bathroom, I literally almost bumped into Lea Michele, who was posing for a photo with a fan. I was without camera or iPhone, so I just mumbled a "You're great!" & shuffled away. In this Web 2.0 era, if there's no photo, it almost never happened, right? Blurgh.
President Obama was next. "It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady GaGa," he began. The acoustics from our balcony were less than stellar, so I probably heard less of his speech than those who watched it via C-SPAN did, but being in the same room as the President of the United States was a thrilling, goosebumps-inducing experience that I'll not soon forget. As someone said later in the evening, "It's such a relief to be able to drive past the White House now & raise my hand instead of my finger."
And finally, Lady GaGa. Bish is an alien, a total alien, I tell you - but she sure is a talented alien. She speaks almost painfully slowly & meticulously, like she's never spoken a word she didn't really want to say. She was even dressed fairly normally, in a long, blond wig with dark, John Lennon-esque glasses. And whaddaya know? She sang her own version of Lennon's "Imagine," reinventing a few of the lyrics to be more civil rights-centric. My favorite line? "It isn't equal if it's sometimes," she improvised.
And damn it, my memory card filled up before the song ended...
Even after all the celeb sightings, my favorite part of the evening was when Rep. Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, gave a tribute to his father & then presented the first Edward M. Kennedy National Leadership Award to Dennis & Judy Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, 11 years ago today, just for being gay. One of Sen. Kennedy's bills, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act - more commonly known as the Matthew Shepard Act - will pass the Senate this week after endless advocacy on behalf of his parents, the LGBT community & allies like me. "This legislation is alive & well on Capitol Hill & it still has a Kennedy behind it," Patrick Kennedy told us on Saturday night. If you weren't crying, you weren't listening.
Verdict? The food sucked & the dress I wanted to wear didn't fit right, but overall, I was honored to spend my Saturday night with some of the most dedicated civil rights activists in the country - AND THE PRESIDENT!