Living the good life for a good cause: The 88forAIDS benefit cocktail party

Generosity knows no currency

I’ve never been to a cocktail party.  I’m not even sure I’ve ever felt the urge to attend one, despite living in New York City which must surely be one of the cocktail party capitals of the world.  I do, however, enjoy contributing to charity.  I enjoy it more, as many would also confess, when there is added incentive because, hey, we’re all human!  Cue my finding out about the benefit being thrown by GMHC on May 6th, 2010.  The purpose of the event was to help GMHC support the annual NYC AIDS Walk (occurring 10 days later) and was featuring special guests: two time Olympian/TV personality, Johnny Weir as well as the Senior Vice President of Bravo TV, Andy Cohen.

As I wouldn’t be able to participate in this year’s Walk, I enjoyed the thought of helping in another way, with the added bonus of meeting Johnny Weir.  He happens to be an extremely talented figure skater who many may only recall, sadly, due to that whole Olympics “underscoring” snafu that happened in Vancouver.  With two great reasons to attend, I gave my donation and made sure to acquire a pair of very comfortable heels.  A born and bred Bronx girl was officially going to her first cocktail party… in a penthouse in Tribeca… all for a good cause.

Cocktails + live music = good times

I was lucky enough to meet up with some friends who, similarly, had no idea what to expect or whether we were over/under-dressed; if I was going to feel out of place, at least I wouldn’t do it alone.  Up we went, straight to the top floor of 89 Reade St. and… into another world.

That whole only-on-TV experience of the elevator doors sliding open directly to the penthouse apartment?  Yeah, that’s entirely true, and mind boggling for a girl like me to conceive of.  Nevertheless, something was in the air.  Whether it was the charm of the roof-deck skyline view, the free flowing champagne laden with wild strawberries, or the live classical music…we all found ourselves feeling surprisingly at home after awhile.

The first thing we learned is that, yes, it’s best that one be fashionably late.  Otherwise, you’ll have to endure the dreaded “am I the only one here?” feeling that drives you straight to one of the open bars.  Here is where I feel it necessary to mention that said bars were being tended by the adorable specimens from   This, too, may have contributed to the draw and everyone knows that wet whistles donate more money.  We finally felt bold enough to go exploring, taking the stairs to the upper deck whose skylight looked scandalously down into the master bedroom.  I didn’t think it was the time or the place, but I wish I could’ve asked if this was standard practice in penthouses as I already know the view (of the skyline) was.

View from the roof deck

Bartenders, made to order

Once Johnny and Andy arrived and gave short speeches about the importance of the evening (“Open up those checkbooks!”), the musicians began, setting the party into full swing.  Now, originally, there were supposed to be breaks between each performance so that everyone could schmooze.  I don’t think GMHC realized just how popular Johnny Weir is and, therefore, how difficult that plan would be to carry out.  It was eventually announced that the performances would continue straight through, giving us time to mingle freely for the rest of the evening.  I’m not ashamed to admit that me and my cohorts snuck out after the first performance to try and speak to Johnny.  While I do love classical music, I was looking forward to fulfilling my dream of meeting a man sometimes known as “the Swan”.

I would love to write about meeting Johnny in a way that isn’t too gushy but that’s difficult for me to do.  Frankly, it would’ve been simple had the man seemed totally uninterested in the event and the reasons behind it.  It was clear that he was 150% present and fully committed to helping GMHC achieve their goal.  Then there was his attitude towards fans which is, without a doubt, patient and warm.  Loving.  Perfectly suited to the evening.

Meeting Johnny Weir is almost akin to meeting up with a long lost friend.  Not once does he make you feel unimportant, unwanted, or ignored and none of it is an act.  I know because I watched way before actually aproaching him, hoping to get the true measure of the man.  I liked him before; I adore him now, and it was a pleasure to see a celebrity living up to my expectations without even trying.

Every fan was given their small moment in the sun.  There were plenty of photo ops and gifts exchanged because something about Johnny makes you want to spoil him.  I, for one, gifted him with a Jonsi CD while a friend of mine gave him Season 1 of “The Mighty Boosh”.  Another friend gave him a set of Matryoshka measuring cups that made his whole face light up (Johnny is a HUGE Russophile), sparking conversation about his misadventures in baking.

"The Mighty Boosh" is serious business

Johnny's youngest fan isn't even born yet!

There was no reason for the fun to end once I’d had my chance to hang with Johnny either.  I also managed to run into an old acquantance from my “club kid” days, chat with an extremely talented FIT student, and bond with like-minded individuals that I may never have met otherwise.  All of that while trying to make a small difference in the world.  Yup, THIS is why I love New York.

  • GMHC has been on the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention since the beginning of the epidemic.  They work to provide education, awareness, and support.
  • Three-time US Champion, Johnny Weir, can next be found skating at “Skate For Hope” in Columbus, OH.  “Skate For Hope”, taking place June 19, 2010, is a charity fundraiser with proceeds going to Stefanie Spielman Fund at the Ohio State University James Cancer Center and the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.
  • You can also tune into Johnny’s Reality show, “Be Good Johnny Weir“, on the Sundance Channel.
    • Rob
    • June 3rd, 2010

    A really good friend of mine has been HIV positive for almost 10 years. This is one of the reasons I have a monthly paycheck allotment going towards HIV research. Thanks for this article.

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