Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gifts The Storm May Bring (Part Three)

Alright...I'm finally making myself finish part three of this blog that all two of you have been patiently awaiting! To read part one, click here and to read part two, click here. Or, just scroll down a bit. Or...A LOT.

So where we last left off..."Angels Over Nashville," the benefit I threw together for flood victims. Having lived there for twelve-thirteenish years, I was heartbroken over the devastation to the beautiful city I got my career started in. I HAD to do something. So, having had so much fun at my birthday party, my wonderful neighbors (Matt, Chris, Jen and Leslie) were agreeable to hosting a concert on our property (aka: "Riverton Bowl"). It occurred to me that it was much more cost effective than trying to get a venue in this pay-to-play town. This way, 100% of the cover goes to the cause and NOT the venue, parking's plentiful and free, there are no drink minimums and the atmosphere was casual and pressure-free. AND we could webcast it so our friends in Nashville could watch if they wanted.

The lineup that night was Illusionary (instrumental smooth jazz), Melissa Collins (adult contemporary/pop), Marie Pettit (comedy), Bobby Werner (neo soul/hip hop),  Kelly's Lot (blues/rock), HiTPLAY (Joe Hogue and Sean Peterson - pop/hip hop) and of course, moi. Not in that order, exactly. Here's the poster I made, which I'm pretty dang proud of for someone who has NO graphic art skills or owns Photoshop!

So I had decided NOT to send the money we raised to the Red Cross because they weren't actually dispersing the funds they raised to families in need. They delegated them to other things, which perhaps in some crisis is appropriate, but in this case homes were completely destroyed and no one in this landlocked state had flood insurance. Therefore many desperately just needed money to rebuild. They didn't need a therapist with a boxed lunch. I instead chose to send part of the money to MusiCares, because not only were they the only organization I'd heard was actually distributing cash to those who needed it, but they'd helped me out a little over a year ago when I needed it. I also decided to adopt a special family who qualified for no FEMA or tradtional charitable assistance but had $40,000 worth of damage to their family home and no way to pay for it. 

I cannot describe to you the many blessings that came out of putting on this event. My neighbors Matt and Chris built a stage complete with pretty lighting! Chris' brother-in-law, who works for the Ellen Show, donated our sound system and Illusionary donated the use of an FX mixer to round it all out. Kelly Z. of Kelly's Lot got Widmer Beer, who sponsors them, to donate beer for our event. We had amazing raffle items - photography sessions, makeup sessions, handmade jewelry by Gina Venturini Designs (my Tony jewelry designer), space organization sessions, original artwork by Gene-Manuel and Lori Bowen, signed CDs by our artists that were performing as well as my friend/cowriter and newly-minted Tony winner Levi Kreis, portable workout equipment, signed headshots from Booboo Stewart ("Twilight: Eclipse"), free voice lessons (of course from me!), baked goods from MandiCakes, acupuncture sessions, massages,, man so many things that I can't think of everything or possibly link to EVERYONE who donated goods or services. On my neighbor Jen's brilliant suggestion (as she works for the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce and her life is seemingly one charitable event/raffle after another), I ended up pooling together certain relatable items and creating three large raffle packages and those who purchased raffle tickets could bid some or all of their tickets on whatever package they wanted most to win. First, I made a "Zen Package" full of things that make you feel good (like the massage, acupuncture, MandiCakes, bath and body stuff, some artwork, etc.). Next  a "Supah Stah Package" full of stuff that actors and/or musicians could use (like headshots, makeup session, fabulous jewelry, voice lessons, etc.). And finally a "New Music Package" that contained all the autographed merch from the artists involved plus a few others. After that we still had a bunch of gorgeous jewelry and a few other items that we raffled off piece by piece.

The show itself went amazingly smoothly, considering I didn't know as of that morning who was emceeing (Neighbor Leslie stepped in and was FANTASTIC) or what I was singing or whether or not one of my artists would make it from a family function in time for his set. Most everything righted itself by showtime and the remainder did as the evening progressed. The webcast looked and sounded REALLY good (according to feedback) and we were blessed with absolutely perfect weather. Everyone was relaxed and enjoying themselves. 

As you can see, we had an AMAZING night! (See a whole bunch of more pictures here)

But at the end of the night, we'd only brought in about $700. We just didn't have the attendance I was hoping for. I was soooooo disappointed. I busted my butt to get the word out. I personally spent hours one day putting fliers on cars in my neighborhood and in Burbank (and was threatened with legal action for doing so by Bob's Big Boy...JERKS! BOYCOTT!). We had announcements on several podcasts and blogs (thanks to my friend Karen Brundage who helped with the PR). But, much of my fanbase is gay, and it was Gay Pride weekend in San Francisco (in case you don't know, San Francisco = gay Mecca). So lots of my friends/fans who may have come to the event otherwise travelled for Pride that weekend - with their "disposable incomes." I had a lineup of great talent, but mostly newcomers whose fanbases weren't established yet. Still, I had thought the perks of not raping my audience's wallets with drink minimums and parking fees - AND OFFERING FREE BEER! - would save us.

Alas, it didn't. Oh, L.A. Are you trying to kill me?

I was deflated. I knew MusiCares would be just fine, since even the littlest bit coming in from all manner of places adds up for them...but I definitely felt like I had let our adopted family down, the father of which happened to be an old friend from college. He assured me that even half of that would buy a hell of a lot of sheet rock and that they were just blown away that a bunch of strangers would come together to do something for his family 2000 miles away - but still I was inconsolable. The day after A.O.N. I just went to Karen's (aforementioned friend in P.R.) and caught up on that season's episodes of "Supernatural" so I wouldn't spend all day in bed feeling sorry for myself.

Because of course, this was all about ME, right? About God blessing MY efforts because I was doing a good thing and for Pete's sake no one else was bothering so all the good karma was on its way to ME, right?


Monday morning comes and I'm still enjoying my pity party. I get a phone call from someone who had attended the concert. She said she and her husband simply couldn't get our adopted family off their minds and felt compelled to do something more. She asked what the take ended up being and I told her. She then explained that they set aside money every year specifically for charitable donations and they wanted to donate enough to make our earnings for the event an even $2000. One condition: anonymity. Because "God asks us to give, but He also asks us to do so humbly," she said. I just burst into tears. I couldn't even believe it. As my little sister Mandi would say, "It's a Christmas miracle!" Christmas in June, at any rate!

And guess what? It was NEVER about me. DUH. Ah, creative types. We are terribly, terribly self-absorbed sometimes.

Give. And do so humbly.

Maybe JLo isn't the narcissistic hack I've always maintained (and heard). Maybe she does charitable things and donates gobs of money to the needy quietly, when the papparazzi aren't looking. How do I know she doesn't?

What? A girl can dream.

And so...there's not much else to say except that calling our adopted family to tell them was one of the greatest moments of my life. The one and only time I was more than happy to hear the words, "Shut. Up!" directed at me. I've never been happier to make a call in my life. And I detest talking on the phone.

My sincerest thanks to all involved - my amazing neighbors Matt, Chris, Jen and Leslie, all the wonderful musicians who donated their time (and merch), everyone who donated goods and services for our raffle, my dear friend Nick who designed the fabulous logo, Karen with the P.R. and especially our Anonymous Angels! I don't plan to stop there...I would like to write a song with Levi and record it and donate the profits to the ongoing relief effort. Nashville's doing much better, but there was $1 billion worth of damage and still thousands of families displaced. They will need our help for a long time. 

If you missed the concert or the webcast, you can still donate to help our adopted family, the Scoggins', or MusiCares at the following links:

To the Scoggins Family:
(Ms. Paige is Mr. Scoggins' sister)

To MusiCares:

And more pics here!

Storm: Nashville, literally.
Gift: Angels, everywhere I go, everywhere I am.

Life has just been such a wonderful ride lately. More stories to come! Thank you sincerely for reading!