DOT benefit provides chance for meeting
For gay Dallas resident Jack A. Hancock, the Disciples of Trinity’s charity gala featuring Broadway star Chita Rivera on Saturday night was an opportunity not to be missed.
Hancock carried a photograph of him taken with Chita Rivera 30 years ago at a protest against singer Anita Bryant, who had outraged the LGBT community by speaking out against pro-gay anti-discrimination laws. He was hoping she would agree to autograph the picture.
Hancock had met Rivera in Cleveland in 1976 where she was appearing in a show. She agreed to attend a benefit at a gay club in support of the nationwide gay protest against Bryant, who had been a popular singer and a spokeswoman for Florida orange juice products.
At the Ohio benefit featuring an African-American drag queen performing “All That Jazz” a number from the stage production of “Chicago” that Rivera made famous long before the movie featuring Catherine Zeta Jones was made Hancock carried Rivera on his shoulders so she could see better.
“She couldn’t see because she is such a little person,” Hancock said. “I hurt my back, and I was off work for two weeks.”
Despite the pain of a strained back, Hancock said he relished every moment he spent with Rivera that evening in Cleveland.
“I was years younger, in my prime, just coming out and just getting politically involved,” said Hancock, who now is retired and volunteers for multiple local AIDS services agencies. “It was just unbelievable. I can’t even describe it.”
Hancock said he was ecstatic to get the opportunity to see Rivera performing in Dallas.
“It was really a big deal for me after 30 years,” said Hancock, a former hospitality industry and special events manager. “I was thrilled. The admission charge [of $150] was nothing. It was worth five times that to me.”
And after the show ended, Rivera made Hancock’s dream come true. She took one look at the picture, autographed it with a message and spoke to him for several minutes before she was pressed to meet other people.
“I thought she looked absolutely awesome,” Hancock said. “I was so nervous. I don’t get nervous for things like this, but for some reason when I was getting ready for this one I was just as nervous as heck. I don’t know why.”
Rivera said she didn’t remember the picture being taken or the event she had attended, but that she was touched Hancock treasured the photograph and sought her autograph.
“Of course, it means a lot to me,” Rivera said. “He knows a friend of mine. It brings back so many memories.”
Jim Davis, executive director of Disciples of Trinity, said Rivera had drawn the biggest audience ever to the benefit, including more LGBT people than ever before, he said.
It was the 15th year for the benefit, which event chairwoman Ebby Halliday noted had grown to become a major social function in the city. It was held at the Adams Mark Hotel’s Lone Star Ballroom.
“We started very modestly on the parking lot of a bank, and look where we are tonight,” Halliday said.
The event included entertainment by singer Linda Petty and the band Main Event, pianist Don Reason, Marilyn Monroe impersonator Bethany Wright, a live auction, a silent auction and a drawing for a new car.
The Disciples of Trinity operates a consignment store at 5810 Live Oak St.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 15, 2006.