“The whole American pop culture started in Philadelphia with ‘American Bandstand’ and the music that came out of the city.” — Daryl Hall
Story, photos by Sharon Kozden
I’m old enough to remember “American Bandstand.” Dick Clark emceed a bunch of kids dancing around and rating records. It was then how we discovered the cultural zeitgeist of music, fashion trends, hair styles–you name it. That the program originated in Philadelphia meant little to me then, as the radius of my existence was probably ten miles in circumference. Now that I live in Philadelphia’s suburbs, it’s a point of pride and a great factoid with which to impress a random stranger when double-dipping my celery sticks in the veggie spread at some dinner party.
I thought I’d try out my impressive line on an October evening at Loews Philadelphia Hotel, the setting for Fall Ball, 2017, which is the signature fundraiser of the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, founded in 1981. For 35 years, the PGMC has been using music to spread its mission to “entertain audiences, support communities and foster acceptance through exceptional musical performance.”
Not surprisingly, my Bandstand opening gambit fell on deaf ears (read: flat), namely because everyone in attendance was obviously aware and branche (or plugged in, as the French say) to this bit of trivia. Had I attempted it as a pick-up line at Starbucks, I may have had better luck.
In the event’s program’s letter, PGMC’s President Adam Funck promised an “evening of fun and laughter you won’t soon forget.” No lie: it was easily in the top three of my 2017-attended galas. Everywhere and in every manner, the attention to detail bespoke the volume of planning and effort involving so many sponsors, staff, volunteers, committees and other individuals. Nothing was left to chance; the evening was one fluid movement from start to finish–much like a choral performance.
The VIP reception included an open bar with specialty cocktails, delish hors d’ouevres and entertainment by Pizza Wolf, who danced in keeping with the 50’s and 60’s era. At one point, she pranced into the crowd, twirling about in white go-go boots. DJ Jimmy DePre accompanied with music of the times. Guests mingled and chatted while sipping Tito’s Handmade Vodka’s creations, the Dick Clark and the Bandstand Boogie. Don’t get me started on the costumes, which spanned the sartorial range from dapper to drag to whimsical, fanciful and period.
Post VIP-reception, we all piled into elevators and descended from the 33rd floor into the ballroom for the main reception and silent auction. Just before entering the expansive space, some of that fun promised by Adam appeared in the form of a photo-op backdrop and fanciful props such a blow-up guitars and goofy signs and masks. Few passed up this opportunity; grinning faces indicated the pit-stop between reception and main event was on key.
From 8:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., the Millennium Ballroom was buzzing with uncontained excitement and a joyous good time. Again with the open bar, even more fabulous and substantive foodstuffs including gorgeous pasta dishes, a bountiful cheese platter, a mouth-melting prime rib carving station, shimmy-shakin’ dancing, live and silent actions and wall-hung televisions, displaying black and white American Bandstand performance clips. PGMC performed in addition to Hotsy Totsy, The Carouselles and DJ Jimmy DePre.
By evening’s end, I felt like some 60’s version of Cinderella, maybe Nancy Sinatra, and not yet ready to leave the ball. “Nothing gold can stay,” so I departed with the others, hoping the next day my Prince would show with a single white go-go boot in a size eight in which to slip my foot into.
After a decent lie-in, I awoke the next day and looked over the program, educating myself about this wonderful group and their contributions to our region. I discovered their outreach program, developed in 2014, when the PGMC aligned with community organizations at which they performed concerts “in local schools, fostering understanding and personal growth in our teenage audiences.” Additionally, they provide youth-directed support to all, no matter their self-identification status. The non-judgmental environment is akin to hitting all the right notes in a performance: our youth are able to sing out with pride, knowing they’re in a safe place with others who have their backs and then some.
Fall Ball, 2017 was an unmitigated success thanks to all sponsors, especially the presenting one, Geno’s Steaks as well as to the aforementioned participants and generous attendees who “outreached” deep into their coffers, contributing funds that support and enable PGMC’s no doubt life-changing outreach program to flourish and continue to expand its audience. Bravo and encore, PGMC. I give it a 100!
The gang’s y’all here. Seven of the 15 board members are pictured. From left, Brian Chaffinch, Joseph Ehrman-Dupre, Anthony Reisinger, Adam Funck, Sharon Kozden, Brad Strong, David Eric Miller and Chip Alfred.