After two years of different venues, the event returned to the Westin St. Francis. We came in early in the afternoon so we could drop off our Costume-Con donation for the silent auction. One info card an a fabulous art-print by didjiman, johno and karisu_sama were delivered and set up.
Since we had some time to kill, we walked around the Union Square area, picked up drinks at Cafe Fresco (at the Crowne Plaza), stopped at the Hannspree store to look at the weird TVs, and then went back to the room to clean up.
Note for the future. Showing up any less than 15 minutes late for the reception is pointless. Nobody is there except the bartenders and the silent auction volunteers.
The silent auction was a bit strange. There were far fewer physical items in the auction this year. There were a lot of certificates for services, certificates for dinners, certificates for hotel stays, certificates for flights... you get the idea. Minimum bids were set to 50% of retail value.
Decor in the auction lounge was... amusing. There was a definite "Cherry Blossom Festival" theme, with large origami cranes, shoji screens, and a few panels. There was a column of Japanese writing on one panel that was upside-down (no, I can't read Japanese, but I can still tell when it's right-side-up). Several info cards for large live-auction items were on light-box tables with inset Naruto pictures. Definitely a mixed bag.
The bar was as expected, all the Absolut you could drink. Fortunately, we didn't. lobolance showed up and we went over for a cocktail. Absolut Ruby Red makes a pretty good Cosmopolitan. Cocktails were spaced out with bottles of water in between.
Doors opened for dinner, and once again we were in the back of the house. Of course, so was Donna Sachet and a bunch of other folks. We were joined at our table by the auctioneer and his wife, and some folks (including some we know from San Jose) from Deloitte Consulting. Dinner was pretty impressive, starting with a vegetable (fava bean?) mousse, followed by stuffed chicken breast with artichokes and finishing up with a chocolate mousse.
The silent auction hadn't gone that well (our donation got no bids, and there wasn't really that much bidding going on), but the voice auction (for the big-ticket over-$5,000 items) was more successful; Doug (I never did get Doug's last name) got somewhere in the range of 80% of retail value for most items, and one went for only a few hundred dollars under its value.
Then there was the show.
Nobody stayed on-prompt. Well, nobody except Donna Sachet and Neil Giuliano stayed on-prompt. When Donna is the shining example of discipline on the microphone, it's not good. We could see the prompter from our table. When it started rolling from "Wind it up!" to "Wind it up now!" to "You don't have any time!" things got painful.
That's not to say that the show was awful. It just had awful moments. Most awful moments were presenters, not recipients.
Kim Coles was hysterical, and only went off-prompt with some short snarky asides. Sally Kirkland went off prompt to offer a rather long prayer for the event. Margie Adams stayed on prompt, and provided a powerful introduction for Phyllis Lyon (who, with her wife Del Martin, won the Pioneer award). Wilson Cruz went off-prompt with one of the only really relevant and meaningful tangents, about how GLAAD's work with Spanish-language media helped his relationship with his recently deceased grandmother. Too bad the show was already running long.
As for recipients? Phyllis Lyon was fantastic. The manager of the Emeryville Ikea (accepting for their award-winning advertisement) kept his acceptance short and to the point. Jacob Reitan, accepting for the MTV News series about The Equality Ride was excellent. Robert Gant had some really important things to say, and if other folks hadn't gone off-prompt and over time, he would have had more time to say them. Philip Krupp and Zev Braun, executive producers of A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story went long, and probably should have kept their mouths shut. Gloria Allred said more in two sentences than they did in several minutes.
So, yeah, not as good a show as in past years. They definitely need better talent-wranglers.
The post-party was up on the top floor again, and this year they had both lounges. One was set up for dancing, and the other had a chill DJ. Cocktail waiters carried around trays of cosmopolitans and lemon drops. The party was a bit slow to start, but soon the room was packed. I snagged our gift bags and hauled them down to the room, and then returned to the party.
We were smart. We left the party around midnight, instead of staying up until close and getting blitzed. Have to remember that option more often.
Sunday morning we got up, packed, did breakfast at the Lori's Diner down the street, and headed home via Alameda. With everybody worried about traffic because of the great freeway meltdown, it was clear sailing across the Bay Bridge.
All in all, a fun stay in San Francisco.