Finally, we have someone as our Grand Marshall who has always been a part of the gay community. Always. And has fought with us and for us. Always.
Someone who has raised money for AIDS organizations again and again. She's one of my board members at Season of Concern.
Actually, one of my favorite Alex stories centers around Season of Concern.
After one of her performances in a play, she gave the curtain speech asking audience members to donate money to Season of Concern on the way out of the theatre. Money that funds direct-care services for people living with HIV and AIDS in and around Chicago.
As Alex stood in the doorway of the theatre with a collection can taking donations, a woman wearing a tremendous fur walked by and dropped in a one dollar bill. Alex said...
"Honey, that's a real fur.
I'm gonna need at least a fifty!"
The woman laughed and coughed up the money.
Of all the things I have done in my career, it is the criticism, advice and praise I've received from Alex that has really meant the most to me.
By criticism, I mean when she directed me in Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and told me that, when I looked at a Middle Eastern castmate on stage and called him "Osama bin Fucked-a-lot" - - a line I created - - it was "too much."
Coming up with a put down that was "too much" for Alexandra Billings made me very, very happy.
By advice, I mean the times that she called me up to warn me about people in my life, that they were hurting me and I couldn't see it. Like the day she met my ex-boyfriend. Or the night she called me to warn me about a woman I was working with. I guess I took Alex's warning a little too lightly at first, because she followed it up by saying...
"Stephen, I was a drug dealer. I was a GOOD drug dealer.
And I'm telling you that that woman is fucking with you."
And she was right. Of course. I should have listened to her about that woman and my ex much, much sooner.
And by praise, I mean the first time she called me up to sing at the Gentry. I believe she was hosting a benefit that night.
She didn't know me at all, but when I finished my song, I handed her the mic and she whispered what a good job I had done. And then got on the mic and told the audience how fabulous she thought I was. For awhile.
Praise from Alexandra Billings can get you through a whole lot of bad days.
Congratulations, Alex. I'm so proud of you and happy for you!
P.S. And I'm serious about the idea I left on your voice mail. If you want to dress up like Norma Desmond for the Pride Parade, I'll dress up like Max and drive the car. I've already got the bald head. I'm ready to go!!!