AIDS Walk Los Angeles raises $2.9 million including $31,000 raised by reunited cast of “Popular”
Made it out to West Hollywood Sunday morning to cover opening ceremonies of the 28th annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles.
Was inspired by all the estimated 30,000 people, from so many different walks of life, who came together for this event and raised just under $3 million for AIDS education and prevention programs.
I positioned myself right next to the stage for the star-studded opening ceremonies and was happy to have any place to stand at all since it was the smallest press area I’ve ever been crammed into.
But hey, being a sardine for an hour is a small price to pay to be able to see the cast of one of my all-time favorite television shows – Popular - reunite for such a good cause.
This was the show Ryan Murphy created a decade before Glee and it launched the careers of Christopher Gorham, Sara Rue, Leslie Bibb, Bryce Johnson, Carly Pope, Tamara Mello, and Tammy Lynn Michaels – all of whom were on hand to do the walk.
Gorham, currently starring in Covert Affairs on the USA Network, told me the idea for the reunion for a cause came from Bibb and Mello who did the organizing. Gorham personally raised $9,000 while the cast as a whole raised $31,000.
Loved seeing them all together again and especially loved seeing Bryce Johnson in a T-shirt!
Other celebrities who took part in opening ceremonies were Michael Urie, Pauley Perrette, Andrew Rannells, BeBe Wood, Drew Carey, Sophia Bush, Dot Marie Jones, Jai Rodriguez, Barrett Foa, Michele Lee, Christa B. Allen, and Daisy Fuentes.
Jones, one of the stars of Glee, reminded the crowd how she had sold her T-shirt the previous year to Drew Carey and raised $500 for the cause.
“Last year when I took my shirt off, it kind of seemed like a good idea at the time,” Jones said. “Then I had to stand there in my bra which is not pretty for even me at home. I promise I’ll keep it on this year.”
She kept her word.
Rannells and Foa teamed up to co-host a portion of the ceremony as did Urie and Bush, Gorham and Bibb, and Jones and Perrette.
Foa, a Broadway star who is now a regular on NCIS: Los Angeles, told me after the ceremony that he was happy to be teamed with Rannells: “Andrew and I are old friends from Broadway in New York. We did a lot of benefits together – actually the Broadway Bares benefit. We were like the co-stars one year.”
“I’ve been walking these walks since I was in high school so it’s great to come around full circle and to be a host up on stage and to look out at the crowd and to give back and help spread the word,” Foa added. “That’s really important.”
Broadway and television star Michele Lee, best known for her 14-year run as Karen Fairgate MacKenzie on CBS’s Knots Landing, was on hand to walk with her fellow members of Actors Equity.
We had a chat in the backstage area after the ceremony ended.
“I think so many people think this epidemic is done and we’ve done all the work we can and everybody’s fine, everybody accepts everybody,” she said. “But, you know, even though we have gone so far, there’s so much more to do.”
“We’ve been supporting this from the very, very beginning,” she said of Actors Equity. “The support groups like APLA need everybody’s help for their support of other people who need support and medicine. I’m just happy that I can be here and enjoy the day with everyone.”
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villariagosa reminded the crowd of the terrible toll AIDS has taken over the decades.
“Sixty thousand people have been lost to AIDS in LA County. 60,000 people would fill up Dodgers Stadium,” the mayor said. “So today we walk, we walk for them. We walk for their families, we walk for the people who will be infected this year or the next. We walk for a cure.”
Broadway star Norm Lewis (Porgy and Bess), sent the walkers on their way with a rousing rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone.
I chatted with him after the performance.
“It’s the anthem, that whole meaning of you’ll never walk alone,” Lewis said. “I actually want this AIDS walk to end for the cause of AIDS and now I want it to just be an annual thing so we would just get together and have a party. It shows the camaraderie of everyone who cares about people living with HIV and AIDS and it’s wonderful seeing the sea of people out here.”
(Sorry about the lack of captions – I’ve mentioned most of the people in the photos in the story and I’m hoping you will know who’s who since most are fairly famous).