Nightlife » Local Events

Off to See the Wizard

by Adam Sandel
Friday Feb 28, 2014

Movie buffs have more than the usual reasons to attend the Academy of Friends' Oscar Night Gala on Sunday, March 2. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the beloved film classic "The Wizard of Oz," the theme of this year's gala is Return to the Emerald City. In its 34-year history, the organization has raised over $8.6 million to support more than 73 Bay Area HIV/AIDS service organizations, and their annual gala has long been known as San Francisco's most glamorous Oscar night event.

"For a lot of San Francisco partygoers, this is a big night of their year," says AOF Marketing and PR Chair Gil Padia. "It's great for people-watching, but it's a party with a purpose. My favorite part of the event is that it helps a lot of great organizations. The money that they receive really helps them to achieve their goals."

This year's beneficiary organizations include Clinica Esperanza at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Maitri, Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS), Project Open Hand, Shanti Project, and for the first time, LGBTQ Connection of Napa County. The support of the gala's underwriters and major sponsors ensures that 100% of the ticket sales will go directly to the beneficiary organizations. In addition to presenting sponsor Nordstrom, major sponsors include Mercedes-Benz San Francisco, Fitness SF, San Francisco magazine, Classic Party Rentals, Smirnoff, Ketel One Vodka, and Terra Gallery, which will become the Land of Oz for the evening.

"One of the main things that's going to be different this year is the movie-set decor and effects that will follow a lot of thematic elements from 'The Wizard of Oz,' " says AOF Chairman Howard Edelman. In addition to capturing the film's famous switch from the black-and-white Kansas to the Technicolor Oz, various rooms and floors of the Terra Gallery will be transformed into iconic Oz scenes, including the poppy field and the Emerald City. Guests will mingle among Oz characters as they dine on complimentary food and drink from the toast of Bay Area restaurants, caterers and wineries. But caution is advised before helping yourself to fruit from an unfamiliar apple tree.

Since "The Wizard of Oz" is especially beloved by the gay community, expect the guests themselves to be inspired to wear Oz-themed fashions as well. This is bound to be one year when it's not as difficult as usual to tell the difference between a good witch and a bad witch.

Kicking off the post-Oscar entertainment will be a high-energy fashion show sponsored by Members of Melange, which promotes diversity in fashion. Three designers have created original fashions that will reflect the evening's Oz theme. Peruvian Darignia Garcia will capture Kansas; SF designer Tuan Tran will evoke The Land of Oz; and couture designer and Dark Beauty magazine CEO Topher Adam will echo the Witch's Castle. As in years past, the post-telecast DJ dance party promises to be jolly good fun.

All eyes on 'Dallas'

AIDS organizations will not only be represented at the gala, but at the Oscar ceremony itself, thanks to the six nominations for "Dallas Buyers Club." Matthew McConaughey is certain to win Best Actor for his role as real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, who hatched a scheme to get life-saving drugs to hundreds of AIDS victims during the early days of the epidemic. While it may not score with its Best Picture, Original Screenplay or Film Editing nominations, the film is likely to win for its harrowing transformations in the Makeup and Hairstyling category.

Jared Leto is a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor in his role as the transgender character Rayon, who becomes Woodroof's inspirational partner in crime. If so, he'll join "Boys Don't Cry"'s Hilary Swank, who is the only other actor to win an Oscar in a transgender role. While several actors have been nominated for cross-dressing roles, the short list of actors nominated for transgender roles goes back to Chris Sarandon in 1975's "Dog Day Afternoon," and includes Jaye Davidson in "The Crying Game," John Lithgow in "The World According to Garp," and Felicity Huffman in "Transamerica."

The LGBT community may have a lot to celebrate come Oscar night, and what better place to do it than the Merry Old Land of Oz?

Return to the Emerald City, Academy of Friends' 34th Annual Academy Awards Night Gala, Sun., March 2, 5-11:30 p.m., Terra Gallery, 511 Harrison St., SF.

Tickets: $250 (online until Fri., 2/28), $300 at the door (if available), (415) 995-9890,

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