Atlanta HRC Dinner set to dazzle on Saturday

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imageThe tux, taffeta and ticket sales are brisk for the granddaddy of gay galas. Come Saturday, the annual HRC Atlanta Dinner & Auction expects to top last year’s attendance with some 1,000 guests and high-profile honorees like Bravo’s Andy Cohen.

In addition to Cohen (top photo), the guest list includes “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star NeNe Leakes and Providence, R.I., Mayor David Cicilline. Other confirmed guests include U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, State Sen. Nan Orrock, as well as Georgia State Reps. Stacey Abrams, Simone Bell, Margaret Kaiser, Stephanie Stuckey Benfield and Rob Teilhet.

The list goes on with Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes, lesbian Decatur City Commissioner Kecia Cunningham, gay Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan and Former Atlanta City Council Presidents Lisa Borders and Cathy Woolard. Check out photos from last year’s star-studded event.

imageCohen the biggest gay honcho at the biggest gay network—Bravo, not Logo—will receive the National Visibility Award. Bell, the nation’s first openly lesbian African-American state legislator, will receive the Humanitarian Award. Vandy Beth Glenn (second photo), the trans woman who sued for employment discrimination in the Georgia General Assembly and testified before Congress in favor of ENDA, will receive the Community Leadership award.

Cohen says positive representation of gay people in the media is one of the places that Bravo’s and HRC’s visions intersect.

“HRC and Bravo are like-minded,” he says. “HRC’s mission is America being a place where all gay men and lesbians and transgender people are full members of American society. Bravo portrays that world without editorialization and without fanfare.

“Bravo has had a great evolution in portraying gay people because they’re talented or interesting, not just because they’re gay,” Cohen adds. “We’ve always been really invested in showing just every color of the rainbow in terms of who people are rather than what they are.”

As Bravo’s head of programming and an on-air personality, Cohen takes a personal interest in showing LGBT lives as part of the American rainbow.

“For myself, that’s my mission as a programmer, to put on shows that show people that fall into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender space,” he says. “I don’t want to hit people over the head with a hammer, but I have a gay point of view, and it’s something that means a lot to me to represent.”

As for his HRC Visibility Award at Saturday’s Atlanta dinner, Cohen says he’s proud to be out as gay and that high-profile role models remain as “crazy important” as they were for him in his youth.

“I look back on being a teenager in St. Louis, and the only gay people were Charles Nelson Riley and Paul Lynde, and then being obsessed when ‘The Real World’ came on…,” he says. “So as we’ve gone on with more and more gay people on TV, I just can’t underestimate the power of positive images of gay people, gay people just being out there in society.”

The 2010 HRC Atlanta Dinner & Auction takes place Saturday, May 1, 6 p.m. at the downtown Hyatt Regency. You can buy your tickets online now.

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