What: Human Rights Campaign National Dinner.
Where: Washington Convention Center.
When: Saturday, October 10. The opening reception kicked off around 5—though many attendees got there earlier to leave time for Secret Service security lines—and the event ended around 10:30, when guests hit the downstairs after-party.
Ticket price: $250.
Dress code: Black tie.
Who: More than 3,000 members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities flooded the convention center for an evening of fundraising and entertainment for the Human Rights Campaign. Highlights of the sold-out event included the cast of the popular and gay-friendly Fox series Glee, led by the very hilarious Jane Lynch; a performance by pop star Lady Gaga; Gavin Creel, star of the Broadway revival of Hair; comedian Dana Goldberg; and one last-minute addition to the program who brought live CNN coverage, fresh off his Nobel Peace Prize: keynote speaker President Barack Obama. Also in attendance were Tipper Gore and Representative Patrick Kennedy, who presented the National Leadership Award in honor of his late father, Senator Edward Kennedy, to Judy and Dennis Shepard, 11 years after their son Matthew was murdered. The event also boasted 32 corporate sponsors and 50 dinner sponsors, such as Paul Hastings, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Accenture, Microsoft, and Lockheed Martin.
The scene: For the 13th annual gala, on the eve of Sunday’s gay-rights march, the convention center’s grand ballroom was a sea of tuxedos and gowns. Colored spotlights illuminated the space, and three giant TV screens made sure every table got a good look at the speakers and performers. A cocktail reception opened the evening along with items up for silent auction. Walls and table centerpieces were dotted with HRC’s equal-sign logo and black tablecloths. Glee cast members Lynch, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, and Cory Monteith all spoke, and Lea Michele sang “On My Own.”
Between presenters, two of the main-stage screens flashed attendees’ text messages, including at least two marriage proposals and dozens of personal and political statements. Protesters outside didn’t keep HRC president Joe Solmonese and board members from offering encouraging words before the highly anticipated main event, when President Obama took the stage a little after 8. As Sunday’s news recapped, the President pledged his commitment to LGBT issues, including a promise to repeal the Army’s controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to a rousing crescendo of applause, celebratory hugs, and high fives around a table of guests in military garb.
After dinner, the usually flamboyant Lady Gaga made a demure turn, trading her usual face masks and crowns for a simple black dress and her sexually fused radio beats for a reworked version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” on a white grand piano. Gavin Creel gave a lively performance as guests nibbled on dessert. The official program concluded with a touching tribute to Ted Kennedy and the presentation of the first Edward M. Kennedy National Leadership Award to the Shepards in recognition of their gay-rights activism following their son’s 1998 murder. The inspired crowd then made its way downstairs, where the after-party was just getting started.
Food and drink: Guests dined on artisanal breads, a Southwestern romaine-and-jicama salad, a main course of beef tenderloin and seared medallions of chicken with tomato-and-herb confit, vegetable multigrain pilaf, and lemon-caper butter sauce, followed by flourless chocolate torte in raspberry sauce and Key-lime-and-coconut pie with pineapple relish and piña-colada sauce. Complimentary wine was provided by sponsor Beaulieu Vineyard.
Best line: Though Obama’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” promise made headlines, his opening line was also worth noting. “It’s a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady Gaga. I’ve really made it.”
Boldface names: 5 out of 5.
Swankiness: 5 out of 5.
Food and drink: 4 out of 5.
Overall exclusivity: 4.5 out of 5.
Total score: 18.5 out of 20.