Pauley Perrette, Jackie Collins on hand for Art Project Los Angeles AIDS benefit

By Rene Thurston, Riverside Soap Opera Examiner

June 26, 2011

On Saturday, June 25th, the star-studded event Art Project Los Angeles was held at famed auction house, Bonhams & Butterfields to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Celebrities on hand included author and event host, Jackie Collins, actress JoBeth Williams, the lovely Pauley Perrette (Abby, NCIS), Michael Steger of nighttime soap 90210Bewitched star Erin Murphy, and my friend, actor Christopher Atkins, who starred on the primetime soap, Dallas.

Riverside resident, Anthony Thurston, who accompanied me to the gala, was in awe of the art donated for the fundraiser. "It's incredible to see so much diverse art in one place and know that all of it will be auctioned off for such a great cause."

AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) is one of the largest non-profit AIDS service organizations in the U.S., providing bilingual direct services, prevention education and leadership on HIV/AIDS-related policy and legislation. With more than 25 years of service, APLA is a community-based, volunteer-supported organization with local, national and global reach. In 2010, more than 10,000 people accessed their direct services, which includes return-to-work services, dental care, home health and mental health programs, Necessities of Life program which operates food pantries, treatment education and more.

The evening began with a red-carpet VIP cocktail party and silent auction of a variety of art works and mediums from both well-known and emerging artists, including paintings, kinetic sculpture, graffiti art, photography and mobiles from artists such as Stephen Holland, Brad Howe, Burton Morris and Robert Kuo. There were also guitars up for auction, signed by musicians including Alex Band (formerly of "The Calling"), Anjulie, Melissa Etheridge, Jennifer Lopez and Orianthi.

A delicious array of appetizers and desserts were on hand, provided by the fabulous Randy Furhman, including my personal favorite, the delicious smoked salmon on roasted potato bites. There was also a hosted bar featuring cocktails from sponsor Rokk Vodka. Snapden also provided a photo booth with a box full of hilarious props. Check out the gallery of photos from the evening with some hysterical candids of some of the attending celebs.

The room was buzzing all evening about the exciting news that gay marriage had been legalized in New York just 24 hours earlier. My lovely friend, Pauley Perrette, is a tireless advocate for gay rights and always makes time for pro-LGBT events and AIDS-related charities. As we were discussing the news, Pauley said, "I so wish I had been in New York last night!" She excitedly showed me a photo of the celebratory rainbow cupcakes being offered at Donna Bell's Bake Shop, the bakery she owns in New York City. The shop, which had its grand opening in April, is named after her late mother and features recipes from her collection.

Later in the evening, a live auction was held for signature pieces, including works from Andy Warhol, Robert Longo, Picasso and Keith Haring. Executive Director of APLA, Craig Thompson, took to the stage to thank the committee whose commitment and hard work made the evening possible, including Event Chair Ron Valdez, Curator David Golgano and Entertainment Host Committee Co-Chairs, Jackie Collins and Barry Krost.

Thompson also announced a new Health and Wellness Center will open in South Los Angeles later in 2011, offering comprehensive HIV care, prevention and testing, especially targeting gay men of color who are at a disproportionate risk of contracting HIV.

While the pieces were far out of a journalist's price range, we had a blast watching the bidding wars, including two best friends vying for the same piece. Final bids included a brown cow on blue background by Andy Warhol fetching $4800. In addition to art work, a lunch with Pauley Perrette and Jackie Collins was auctioned off, going for $5300.

Between the live auction and the room full of silent auction pieces, the organization raised over $300,000 for their plethora of important and much-needed AIDS-related services while all those in attendance had an incredible evening in the process.

To learn more about APLA and how you can donate or volunteer, visit www.apla.org. Also be sure to check out the slideshow in the left sidebar for photos of the evening.