Friday, October 06, 2006
PROJECT ALMA--CHICAGO Way back in March of this year, I got a call to participate and be a "Special Guest" in Chicago at the annual ALMA --Association of Latino Men For Action Fundraiser, dubbed this year "Project ALMA". Of course I said "Yes" for two reasons: It was a chance for me to return to Chicago and actually get to see some of this beautiful city (remember the last time I was there, I was a judge for Season 3 Casting) . The second reason was that I respect and believe in the cause that ALMA stands for. ALMA aids young Latino gay and bisexual men , especially ones newly arrived in the USA primarly from Mexico and Central America, who have been chastised and kicked out of their homes because of being gay and arrive into Chicago and do not have any place to turn to. ALMA helps them, amongst other things , giving them a sense of community and a feeling of not being alone. It also educates in trying to end the long-established homophobia that is prevalent in Latin America. My weekend began with a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant, DINOTTO. The owners of the restaurant were so kind, generous and classy, they had rolled out the "Red Carpet" for me, even going as far as having personalized Menus for us! We then went to a very "VIP" club , where for some reason I was greated by some of the most beautiful Indian women I have ever seen---It was like a "Miss India" pagaent or something. The club itself was very "upscale hip-hop". I joked that it was a club for gorgeous Indian women...and the African-American men who love them! After much champagne, David and I retreated to the House of Blues Hotel, where we were staying at overlooking the amazing Chicago skyline. On Saturday, my hosts, gave me a tour of Chicago, including "Boy's Town", of course, plus other neighborhoods. We also got to see Wrigley Field, and David's highlight of the tour, seeing the "Harpo Studios" , where the Oprah Show is filmed. That evening was the "Project Alma" event, which I co-hosted and schmoozed with guests and fans of the show alike. The event was held at the Flatfile Gallery in the newly-hip "Loft" area of Chicago. Speaking of Lofts--Chicago seems to have done the "Loft" thing right---as opposed to Los Angeles. There are great shops, tanning salons and "doggie-grooming studios", etc. in the street level of every renovated Loft--in former really bad neighborhoods. You come to Los Angeles, and at the ground level of every loft is a crack dealer pushing a cart! We have a long way to go here in Los Angeles, to achieve the level of "metropolitan living" that Chicago has achieved. At the ALMA Fundraiser, there was a great fashion show featuring several Chicago designers, of Latino descent. I was very impressed by the styles of these local designers seen on the runway. The event helped raise funds for ALMA with a Silent Auction as well, so it was all done for a worthy cause. I felt as if I was in NY in a fashion event in a SoHo gallery. The ALMA boys and girls should be proud of their organization and of the fabulous event they produced. It was a complete success and I was all too happy to have contributed to it with my attendance. I must thank all the oustanding members of ALMA, Carlos, Julio, Gus, Jorge, et al, for being such generous hosts and so kind and helpful. And , finally, Thank Chicago for being such a visually beautiful city!! I was amazed at the architecture, the lakefront views, as well as the warm people.