We'd be hard pressed to think of any other occasion where so many people were having so much fun while raising money for AIDS research. But that was the spirit during the second annual Spring to Life Weekend.
The opening night welcome reception at the Galleria at Lafayette Centre, produced by Michael Chaban, went flawlessly. The crowd enjoyed a sumptuous buffet catered by Occasions of Capitol Hill and enthralled in entertainment provided by the always amazing "a capellites" Betty, the thunderously funny Judy Gold and the elegant Maggie Moore.
The following night, despite uncooperative weather, the local partying brigade came out en masse. If you haven't partied at the Post Office Pavilion before, it's a nice, cavernous space. The Food Court was transformed into a very large dance floor, the mezzanine level served as a general observation deck, and an upper balcony functioned as the V.I.P. lounge. The atrium was decorated with colorful kites and hot-air balloons toting baskets of flowers.
The light show initially was a rather small, but intricate, display of Intellabeams filtered through a sheet of white gauze. Light tech John Niederhauser gradually picked up the intensity by adding pumping strobes, and eventually the rafters of lights broke through the gauze and coursed down towards the crowd.
By 11:30, Mark Tarbox drew the crowd down to floor with Janet Jackson, and by 12:15 his disco-ish sets had the floor packed. A lot of revelers got into the spirit of the evening by wearing flowers, including one fellow who lined his yellow jeans with daisies.
Overall, the word for the night was "butch." Muscles, muscles, muscles—from the looks of it, you'd think there was some sort of minimum pectoral and/or bicep requirement. A lot of these guys went with the "I'm man enough to get away with wearing a skirt" look as kilts and short skirts were everywhere. Andrew Donner said he was taking the look "one step further" with his African-print mini.
The special, top secret performer was... Chanelle who sang "One Man" and her hit "Work That Body." Talk about incendiary lung power! (We noticed DJ Darryl Strickland jamming around to her performance.) Chanelle was a good choice for a performer, and she made a point of mentioning her support for gay and lesbian causes.
One pre-party concern had been trying to entice people to come to Washington in a year that most people are planning to spend their vacations in New York. Well, it didn't seem to stop a soul as out-of-towners were everywhere. One partier flew in from Oakland, California, just for the main event. Our new associate, Ed Benz came down from Philadelphia for this and he didn't even show up for last year's March on Washington. Former D.C. native Richie Britt, came from New York expressly for Spring to Life as well, and the fabulous Kevin Aviance was flown up from Miami. He reported that he would be performing at the After Life party later that evening.
Publicity Director Scott Marker said that the Spring to Life Dance looked like it was turning out to be more successful than they had anticipated earlier in the week. As our associate, Bobby Serralta, said this was "Washington's chance to be 'in the circuit "' and it certainly seemed like Spring to Life rose to the moment as did the gay community.
More important was the fact that the revellers were partying for a cause: The funds raised go to The Robert Mapplethorpe Laboratory for AIDS Research, which is doing extraordinary research into the treatment of AIDS by using gene therapy.
"The kinds of funds generate here are tremendously powerful," said Dr. Jerome Groopman, director of the Mappelthorpe Lab, "because they're granted immediately. [Hence], we can apply them immediately."
By not being just another party, by trying to help with a cause, Spring to Life gains a significance not found on any other party on the major circuit...
It actually has meaning.