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Blooming from the Ashes

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Despite catastrophic fire, ‘Diva Lotus Blossum’ says Love Party must go on.

By Don Maines

Carl Han feels the love.

The gay humanitarian, who is a Vietnamese immigrant, says an outpouring of kindness from Houstonians (both LGBTQ and otherwise) followed a catastrophic house fire in February.

A Fort Bend County duplex shared by Han and his roommate, “Big Papa” Gary A. Giddings, burned to the ground. Fire and water damage destroyed practically all of their possessions, and two beloved cats died.

“Word spread quickly because Gary was posting pictures online of the fire while it was happening,” says Han, who is widely known in Houston for his fundraising for LGBTQ youth, including his annual Love Party benefitting Hatch Youth and the Montrose Center.

“Immediately, friends got on Facebook and started to talk about holding fundraisers for me,” he says. “I said, ‘No, it’s okay, it’s okay.’ Finally, some people said, ‘I’m going to start one anyway.’”

Hundreds of people throughout Houston have donated money, clothes, food, and other supplies to help Han and Giddings get back on their feet.

“It has been unbelievable kindness,” Han says. “The community has shown me love I didn’t know I had.”

While the poster for last year’s 13th annual Love Party featured the national flower of Vietnam, in homage to Han’s alter ego Diva Lotus Blossom, he says he will wear a T-shirt with flames jumping from petals at this year’s Love Party.

“My new nickname is Diva Lotus Blossom Inferno,” he says.

The May 5 fundraiser, Carl Han’s 2018 Love Party: The Love Must Go On, will be from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at its grandest venue ever, Rich’s Houston, 2401 San Jacinto.

In the wake of the fire, Han admits wondering if he should continue organizing the Love Party. He also entertained the idea of not holding this year’s event after his mother passed away in January from a stroke.

On the morning of the fire, Han was cooking vegan food for an event at his late mother’s temple. It’s a Vietnamese tradition for a family’s eldest son to cook for weeks after a matriarch’s death.

“I forgot to turn off the fire on a giant pan of oil,” Han says. “I stepped into the other room for just a moment, and the kitchen went up in flames. By the time I realized it, it was too late. We lived in a duplex, so first I had to get the lady next door out, and her five dogs. Gary and I made it out, but we didn’t even have on our shoes.”

Left with nothing but the clothes on their backs, Han and Giddings were fortunate that they could move into the home of one of Han’s sisters about three miles away.

“We are living in my late mother’s bedroom,” he says.

Both men are self-employed, so they had to go back to work as quickly as possible. Giddings drives for Uber, while Han is a professional interpreter for Vietnamese-speaking parties in the Harris County courts.

“I canceled my job on Monday, but I was back to work on Tuesday,” Han says. “On Monday, I went to thrift stores, Ross, and TJ Maxx and got two sets of work clothes.”

Han was taking things a day at a time when he suffered another blow in early April—the sudden death of Chris Kerr, who was the clinical director at the Montrose Center.

“I started the Love Party in 2005 in honor of my friendship with Chris Kerr,” Han says.

The Love Party, with a suggested donation of $20, raises funds for Hatch Youth’s annual prom, which will be from 6 to 11 p.m. on June 3 at Numbers, 300 Westheimer. There will also be a VIP reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for adults.

What: Carl Han’s 2018 Love Party: The Love Must Go On
When: May 5
Where: Rich’s Houston, 2401 San Jacinto
Tickets: $20 suggested donation at the door. All money raised will go to the Montrose Center’s Hatch Youth program.
More info: tinyurl.com/loveparty2018

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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