It was glittery, it was glam, it was Hollywood all the way. The 21st Annual Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation Help is on the Way Gala lived up to its “Hollywood Glam” theme and exceeded fundraising needs for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Meals On Wheels, thanks to hundreds of supporters and major donations from Assim Abdullah and Richard Blum.
The evening, co-chaired by Sophie Azouaou, Dr. Lisa Kang, Eric Rozendahl and Ashley McCumber, brought together over 900 theater lovers and cause-minded individuals for one of the summer’s biggest variety style shows of the year.
The event began with a VIP hour where guests were greeted by Lady Gaga and Marilyn Monroe wax figures from Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, in addition to a number of celebrity wax figures throughout the reception. Also on display were celebrity costumes and silent auction items, which guests had the opportunity to peruse while sampling food and wine from local vendors.
Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation [REAF] board chair Joe Seiler and Executive Director Ken Henderson, who also served as event producers, welcomed the audience and introduced Sophie Azouaou to the stage to read a proclamation from Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. She thanked Newsom for his efforts and leadership pertaining to marriage equality. Azouaou then introduced Richard Blum to read a letter from his wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, in support of the gala and acknowledging the work of REAF.
Following Azouaou’s speech were a bevy of Broadway, TV and film star performances. Susan Anton and the Help is on the Way ensemble opened the show with a song and dance routine to “Hooray for Hollywood,” which was followed by a flawless set of performances by Paula West, B.O.O.B.S! (Busty, Outrageous, Over-the Top Broads Singing), Jake Simpson and Loretta Devine of Broadway’s Dreamgirls, and many more acts. American Idol’s Kimberley Locke closed the first act with a standing ovation singing “This is My Life.”
A lively intermission was followed by act two, which opened with a live auction led by Emmy Award Winner Liam Mayclem. Auction items included dinner for 10 at Scoma’s Restaurant custom designed by Executive Chef Efren Sandoval; a 7-night Key West Adventure package; a weekend in the wine country at Chateau Moreau featuring a complete winemaking experience; and a 7 night trip to Puerto Vallarta at the beautiful Molina de Agua Condominiums donated by Puerto Vallarta Villas. The Fund-A-Need portion of the auction drew major donations from Richard Blum, who pledged $10,000, which was matched by the owner of the Emanuel Ungaro fashion house, Asim Abdullah.
Following the event, Sophie Azouaou expressed her gratitude for the donation. “I am deeply thankful to Richard Blum and his wife Dianne Feinstein and Asim Abdullah for their support. I am also thankful to all my friends, for their tremendous help,” said Azouaou.
The evening came to its peak at the start of the Hollywood Fashion show, which showcased original costumes from famous films modeled by socialites Elisabeth Thierot, Pernella Sommerville, Tatiana Takaeva, Teresa Rodriguez, Mariya Ruchka-Semikhatova, Svetlana Jilenkoand and Donna Sachet. After the fashion showcase, Lea Bourgade, the 16 year-old violin virtuoso and granddaughter of Richard Blum and Dianne Feinstein, gave an electrifying rendition of “Tambourin Chinois.”
The second half continued with American Idol’s Constantine Maroulis singing a rousing rendition of This is the Moment, followed by Comedic actress Carole Cook, who returned for her 18th year as REAF’s Grand Diva in a comedy routine. Constantine Maroulis closed the evening with ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables to honor all those lost to AIDS and other illnesses.
Following the show, the lobby of the theater was transformed into Club REAF, a nightclub-inspired cocktail/dance party where champagne flowed along with Ketel One, Bulliet Bourbon and Don Julio cocktails and attendees danced to the beats spun by star DJs Steve Fabus and Sergio Fedasz. After an evening of love, philanthropy and impeccable performances, guests walked away with eco-friendly gift bags filled with goodies from sponsors Earth Friendly Products, Shear Miracle Organics, Suki Skincare, Albert W. Chow, M.D., FSHN Magazine and Numi Tea.