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RSVP : Benefit Aids Gay, Lesbian Center


After the wine was poured, Tables 53 and 54 took a moment to toast a friend whose memorial service they had all attended that morning.

"Life in the '90s," real estate developer Loren Ostrow said.

The gathering that brought them together Saturday night was a fund-raiser for the Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center, an event that packed the Century Plaza's Los Angeles Ballroom with 1,100 supporters including Jeanie White, mother of the late Ryan White; Olympian Greg Louganis; AIDS activist Mary Fisher; Southern California ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston, and Sheila Kuehl, the first openly gay Assemblywoman-elect.

The center's services are balanced between HIV and AIDS care and gay and lesbian services such as counseling, legal aid and a 24-bed youth shelter. "The needs for the center grow and grow," said Ostrow, who becomes co-chairman of the board in January. "It's more than just an AIDS organization, though that's its biggest crisis."

Producer Aaron Spelling thinks so much of the center that he sneaked out of his wedding anniversary party to make an appearance. No one mentioned "Beverly Hills 90210" or "Models Inc.," two of his popular-fare series, but rather "And the Band Played On," the movie about AIDS, which he also produced.

Spelling said it's become easier to make television and film projects with gay-oriented themes (unlike the four years of network rejections he heard for "And the Band Played On"), but "it's not right yet.

"Some idiot once asked me if I've ever seen homophobia in Hollywood," Spelling added. "You don't have to see a bullfrog to hear it croak."

Appropriately, Spelling presented the center's Corporate Vision Award to Robert Cooper, senior vice president of HBO Pictures. HBO bought "And the Band Played On," which garnered an Emmy for the company last year. Cooper said HBO is dedicated to presenting the gay and lesbian perspective. Actress-comedian Rosie O'Donnell--who didn't leave her wife's anniversary party to attend, she said to the audience's delight--presented actress Judith Light, who portrayed Jeanie White in television's "Ryan White Story," with the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award.

Schrader, who died of AIDS, was an openly homosexual Los Angeles municipal court judge and a founder of the center.

"Oh, I was surprised," Light said of her honor. "I've been very active in AIDS-related causes and a natural offshoot seemed to be gay and lesbian rights.

"When people are discriminated against, something in the core of me reacts," she added. "I don't expect to receive anything for it, it seems right and natural to me."

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