At Sunday night’s benefit dinner for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, the star attraction wasn’t veteran activist David Mixner, nor was it the headlining performer Sandra Bernhard.
It was Heidi Fleiss.
The alleged madam to the stars made an entrance that dumbfounded even the paparazzi . The sound you heard around Beverly Hills was that of jaws hitting the carpet in the Beverly Hilton Ballroom. Fleiss’ appearance, which caught event organizers by surprise, left everyone wondering aloud: What’s she doing here?
Fleiss, in the company of her publicist, was being circumspect. “I think everybody should support this group,” she said. But why make one of her rare public appearances at this particular benefit? “This is an important cause to contribute to. Something has to be done.”
Even without the Fleiss factor, the gala would have been a success. It was fast paced, dotted with celebrities and studio types, with an emphasis on entertainment, conversation and short speeches. The evening was L.A.'s third annual benefit for the NGLTF, a Washington-based organization dedicated to ending discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and HIV status.
Torie Osborn, who moved to Washington in March to head the group, announced earlier this month that she was resigning effective Nov. 1, and her replacement, Teri Jude Radecic, was on hand for a symbolic passing of the torch. “We’re going to be focusing our energies on building strength at the state and local levels,” said Radecic, adding that the group will open an L.A. office to mobilize activists on college campuses here.
L.A. City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg presented activist Mixner with the group’s civil rights award. Mixner, a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, seemed to aim his remarks at the President’s position on gays in the military when he said, “Though we had intellectually reached the minds of policy makers, we have yet to reach their hearts.”
Guests included writer Jackie Collins and actors Judith Light, Kathy Najimy, Helen Hunt and “Married . . . With Children” star Amanda Bearse, who said she hasn’t received any negative reactions since coming out publicly last month as a lesbian. “The industry’s been very supportive. Plus I’ve gotten many, many letters,” said Bearse, “and a lot of them are from straight people.”
Entertainment was provided by Bernhard and David Drake, writer and star of the hit one-man show “The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.” Clad in leather, brassiere, big hair and with lots of exposed flesh, Bernhard brought the crowd to its feet with a set of music and monologue backed by her band, the Strap-Ons.
But even the presence of Bernhard in a brassiere didn’t keep the audience from talking about the evening’s Topic A.
“My girlfriend was joking that I’d run into Heidi Fleiss out here,” said Radecic. “Now I have to go back to Washington and tell her about this?”