Monday, April 12, 2010

Sweet Charity

There have been a lot of news stories lately about celebrities showing up to raise awareness and funds for some of the areas of the world that have been ravaged by natural disasters. Most major diseases and political causes can usually count on a celebrity or two to fill the seats at a $1,000 a plate dinner. But what about smaller charities? Where do they turn when they need a name to put on the poster? They turn to people like me.

Let's make something clear right up front. I’m not a celebrity. I have no delusions about that. I’m just a guy who was on a TV show for a short while. According to IMDB.COM (a website that tracks how many hits a particular celebrity gets on a weekly basis), my “Star Meter” rating is 31,129 – meaning that there are at least 31,128 people more famous than me. Considering how many names there are in the data base, that ain’t bad. But I’m a long way from having my name above any titles.

Most of the charity events I’ve attended as a “name” have been small affairs. We’re talking “street fair” kind of events usually with paper name tags. Some have been nicer, in that there was an actual roof over our heads and the dinner was served on real plates. They’re usually fun and I don't think I've ever said no when asked.

A few years ago, I was invited to be the grand marshal of the Seattle Gay Pride parade and help raise some funds for a couple of Gay charities. I’d never been to Seattle, so I was excited. That is until I arrived and discovered that I had actually been invited to be "the guest of honor" at the Seattle Pride “March” which was a whole other deal.

The “March” was a much smaller, competing event that had sprung up because of a rift among Seattle’s Gay community involving the course of the parade route. Instead of sitting on a float or perched on the back seat of a convertible, I would instead be riding a segway through the Capital Hill section of town, followed by a half a dozen drag queens (also on segways).

Five minutes before show time, each of us received a quick tutorial on how to operate one of these wacky devices. We were strongly advised to stay far from the crowds lining the street in order to avoid any unfortunate accidents involving bystanders. Although I managed to hover toward the middle of the street, my royal court began to get cocky after the first block or so and started riding backwards and doing figure-eights, much to the delight of the crowd. Everybody loved it, but as my mother used to say, “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.” Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed a 3-drag queen pile-up.

Last summer, my friend Pauley Perrette (a gal who does way more than her share of charity events) called me up and asked if I would be her co-host at a Sunday afternoon fundraising event for an organization that offered “Equestrian therapy” for disabled kids. The event was deep in the valley and I was sure Pauley mostly wanted some company for the drive up and back. I was happy to tag along.

The fundraiser was held on a large patio of a local restaurant that I would later learn had been a popular hangout for the Hell’s Angels in the 70's. Neither of us knew until we arrived that the event was scheduled to run for five hours. Every hour on the hour, our job was to mount the stage, where an Eagles cover band was playing, and auction off stuff for the cause. After the first couple of beers, we got pretty good at it. In fact, when we ran out of stuff, we starting pulling things out of Pauley’s slightly messy car, which she would then sign; magically turning an old T-shirt or a coffee-stained "NCIS" script into a valuable prize!

In between sets, we mingled with the crowd. Everybody treated us like visiting royalty. Well, they treated Pauley like royalty – which was no surprise given how popular her show is. Plus it wasn’t really a “Boston Legal” crowd. There were lots of families and quite a few children with disabilities. Then they showed the video of these young people learning to ride horses at the equestrian therapy stables. To see these kids experience such freedom and joy on the back of a horse was tremendously moving. Pauley and I stayed to the bitter end and sold everything that wasn’t nailed down.

On the ride home, we talked about how grateful we are for the lives we’ve been granted. Not only do we get to entertain people for a living, but we are the beneficiaries of this great storehouse of unearned affection and loyalty. This allows us to ask our “fans” (AKA people we don’t even know) to come out for an afternoon, enjoy themselves and contribute to the lives of others less fortunate. I’m not a guy who has a lot of spare cash lying around, but I've learned something in the last few years. Although I can’t print money, I can actually make time. And time can mean quite a lot to the lives of other people. As long as I’ve got it, I’m happy to share it.

Copyright 2010 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at
www.partsandlabor.tv

Follow me on Twitter:
http://twitter.com/QuitcherBitchyn

2 comments:

Sarah L. Knapp said...

Thank you for a great reminder. And for all you do for others.
~ S.

Lisa said...

This posting made me laugh! I wish I could have been there to see you in the parade! I loved that you were just finding things in the car to sell! What you and others do, whether famous or not, is appreciated! I have a stepdaughter who has been doing horseback riding for several years as therapy. Thank you David!