New SAGE Center Announced

Donors reach halfway point in raising money for city’s gay seniors

Terry Kaelber, director of Senior Action in a Gay Environment, announced that one year from now the SAGE Center for LGBT Services and Advocacy will open at 145 Avenue of the Americas.

“It will be the first full-service senior center for the LGBT community in the country,” said Kaelber at SAGE’s 25th anniversary awards dinner at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park before a crowd that raised a quarter of a million dollars for the organization dedicated to seniors.

Of the $6 million needed for the new center, Kaelber said that donors have already pledged $3 million.

SAGE’s “oldest anonymous donor,” who put up $50,000, and Manolo Blahnik, the shoe designer, underwrote the evening’s ceremonies.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), who helped secure a $600,000 city grant for the center, presented the Ken Dawson Advocacy Award to the City Council’s lesbian and gay delegation comprised of Christine Quinn, Margarita Lopez, and Philip Reed, all Manhattan Democrats.

Lopez said, “I’m making sure my predecessors in the LGBT community are taken care of.”

Reed, in a light mood, acknowledged having had a crush on the late Dawson, the executive director of SAGE who transformed the organization from being only a service provider to serving as an advocacy group as well.

“Advocacy continues throughout life,” said Reed, urging the audience to “advocate for everyone.”

Quinn praised SAGE for helping keep mainstream senior centers in her district operational when, according to Quinn, the Bloomberg administration tried to make a deal to provide funding for the new SAGE center in exchange for closing one of those centers.

Lifetime Achievement Awards went to playwright Arthur Laurents and Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Grammy Award-winning female ensemble. After a long clip was shown from the TV movie of his “Gypsy,” Laurents brought down the house by remarking “Bette Midler was just awful in that role.” He said he saw his life achievement not in his film and theater work, but as living as an out gay man all his life and loving the same man, Tom Hatcher, for 48 years.

Johnson Reagon, introduced by her daughter Toshi as a “fearless leader,” said she wished SAGE “was in every community in the world” and reminded us that “the world is waiting for you to create it.”

It was a star-studded evening. André Leon Talley of Vogue was the chairman of the dinner. Lypsinka went on synching for two hilarious numbers. And the audience was treated to the gentle rhythms of Sweet Honey in the Rock.

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