I was invited to attend the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation’s (WHCHC) 30th anniversary celebration. It was scheduled to be held on the rooftop of The London West Hollywood, below Sunset Blvd. With rain looming, the venue was moved into one of the hotel’s Grand Ballroom.
Walking into the hotel, I approached the reception table, stated my name and was given a program and table assignment card. Without my readers on, I thought it said I was at Table 5.
The crowd was abuzz with celebrities, WHCHC Board Members and politicians. The first person I recognized was one of my favorite comedic actresses, Lily Tomlin. I have fond memories of watching her in the 1970s with her breakout roles of Ernestine the snippy and snorting telephone operator and precious young Edith Ann on the variety show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. She was my favorite actress on the show.
Currently Tomlin stars with Jane Fonda on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie as Frankie Bergstein. She was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in the 2015 Primetime Emmy Award.
Once the doors opened, I walked over to Table 5 and sat next to Bobby and Jeffrey. I learned that Bobby would speak to the crowd of 200 people about his success story and involvement with WHCHC. He went from a homeless young man to now a husband and homeowner. “The people at WHCHC who build apartments for seniors, homeless and those with medical disabilities have compassion to help those in need,” Bobby said.
As the program was about to start and the first course was being served, Lily Tomlin and The Honorable Sheila Kuehl sat next to us. I pinched myself. One of my favorite celebrities, Lily Tomlin was sitting next to me. We chatted about the event and how she would be presenting the “Game Changer” award to the honorable Sheil Kuehl. We also discussed how West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath (present at the Gala) had just declared to the media that “Trump is not allowed in West Hollywood.” Tomlin shared with me that she was recently at an event with Mayor Garcetti, and while delivering a speech at the event, her microphone mysteriously was turned off.
The Gala co-chairs Karl Lott and Jason Illoulian introduced “WHCHC: 30 Years of Changing Lives.” We learned that for the past 30 years, WHCHC has developed safe, decent and affordable housing with the help of AvalonBay Communities in West Hollywood, Los Angeles and Glendale. They help those in the Los Angeles area that are struggling to find a decent and an affordable place to call home.
Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti presented the 30th Anniversary Community Vision Award to the City of West Hollywood. In the 1980s the City of West Hollywood gained local control of rising rents, public safety enforcement and to help LGBT and seniors living in what was an incorporated city in the County of Los Angeles.
Today there are 17 WHCHC apartment communities in the City of West Hollywood. Many are permanent apartments for people living with HIV/AIDS and older seniors. This includes two new apartment communities about to open in WeHo with 384 more units. They take parking lots and turn them into housing. Abandoned commercial spaces, become architectually significant housing communities. Their goal is to get people off the street and into a home. A healthy city is people living normal lives and being part of the community.
In the City of Los Angeles, there are an additional 209 units designated for seniors, families and homeless to give them a home away from the streets. Their goal is to stabilize their life and thrive.
While taking notes and talking with Lily Tomlin, I received a tap on the back and was told I was in someone’s seat. Shocked, I found my table assignment card, put on my readers, and read Table 7. Even though there weren’t name tags on the table and I really wasn’t in that woman’s seat, I was at the wrong table. Yikes! Without my readers it looked like a 5, but was actually a 7. I apologized, said goodbye to Ms. Tomlin, Ms. Kuehl, Bobby & Jeffrey and moved to Table 7. Unfortunetly all the seats were taken at that table, so I moved over to table 10.
Once Lily Tomlin presented Honorable Sheila Kuehl the “Game Changer” Award, I moved up to the front to take notes and photos. I learned that the big -hearted Sheila Keuhl was an actress, before she became a people’s politician. She became the first openly gay person elected to the California legislature. She was also the first woman in California history to be the Speaker pro temp ore in the state Assembly. In 2000 she was elected to the California State Senate. She wrote a Senate Bill 1234 to protect Californians from hate crimes.
During her current leadership, Keuhl makes sure that personal freedoms are protected and fights to keep marriage equality. Currently she is a Los Angeles County Supervisor working hard to protect and assist foster children. This women deserves multiple awards.
The WHCHC Board of Directors took the stage after Executive Director Robin Conerly presented AvalonBay Communities a “Building For The Future” award. Chair Karl Lott, Vice Chair Ed Campbell, Vice Chair and WHCHC resident and volunteer Clara Denson (this woman had a smile that lit up the room), Ken Sofge, Treasurer, James Duke Mason, Sectretary and others were on hand to congratulate all of the award recipients.
The evening was inspirational, enlightening and full of Hollywood glamour. At the end while waiting for my car, I met the talented and beautiful Kat Kramer, daughter of the late American film director and producer Stanley Kramer. Kat’s father tackled films about social issues including racism (in The Defiant Ones and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), nuclear war (in On the Beach), greed (in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), creationism vs. evolution (in Inherit the Wind) and the causes and effects of fascism (in Judgment at Nuremberg). His other notable films included High Noon (1952, as producer), The Caine Mutiny (1954, as producer), and Ship of Fools (1965).
She told me she was also booted out of table 5 by the same woman. I learned that Kat and Lily Tomlin are good friends and Kat has performed in two special Tributes twice for Lily Tomlin. Not only can this dynamo sing and dance, but like her father, she makes socially conscious and powerful films that include – Teach Your Children Well, dealing with bullying in schools. Her screening series includes The Cove, exposing the slaughter of dolphins in Japan; Elephants and Man: A Litany of Tragedy, about the suffering of elephants in captivity; and Barbra Streisand’s Yentl, which focused attention on women’s equality.
As the London West Hollywood valets brought our cars up to the main entrance, Kat and I exchanged cards and promised to keep in touch.
It was a night I will always remember and now a cause that I will passionately write about and support. Helping those in need to have a home and live productive lives with integrity, uplifted spirits and surrounded by people who care.
To learn more about WHCHC go to www.whchc.org