Dana Goldberg brings the funny to LHI’s Celebration of Love
by Nancy Ford
by Nancy Ford
Lesbian Health Initiative–Houston’s most opulent and anticipated fundraiser, the Celebration of Love Gala, is undergoing a bit of a facelift this year. The signature dinner dance, held annually for the past 10 in conjunction with Valentine’s Day, this year moves downtown to the Doubletree Hotel.
Consistently attended by as many as 300 revelers, the evening is Houston’s signature formal event for lesbians and those who support them. But the new downtown location is not the only change to this year’s gala. Since the event is, after all, designated the Celebration of Love—not the Celebration of Couples—organizers are demonstrably extending the love to women who come “stag” to the event.
“This year there will be special tables for singles,” LHI president Ann Pinchak says. “You can designate that you want to be at a singles table when you order a single ticket online.”
Also new to the gala’s line-up is Mistress of Ceremonies singer/songwriter Ginger Leigh, who provides special music.
In addition to photo opportunities, an extensive silent auction, and a seated dinner, DJ Joy De La O provides dance music for the evening.
As in past years, LHI’s Celebration of Love is highlighted by a set delivered by a nationally touring lesbian comedian. This year, eligible bachelorette Dana Goldberg fills that slot.
“And I guarantee I’ll still be single by February 12, because I’m on a hiatus,” the newly unattached Goldberg says. “I’m ready for Houston—I hope Houston’s ready for me!”
The comedian, currently among the roster of lesbian entertainers that sets sail with Olivia Cruise lines, was also a contestant on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. But as much as for her comedy, Goldberg is making a name as one of the most altruistic women in her profession. A glance at her tour schedule reveals that the bulk of Goldberg’s performances are fundraisers benefitting the community that is helping her live her dream.
Dana Goldberg: Happy New Year!
Nancy Ford: Happy New Year to you, too! Now, what is the limit? How far into the New Year can we actually say that?
A week? I think Jews say it longer. I don’t know.
Well, I’m Presbyterian. I’m not sure what our rule is, but I’m sure it’s very rigid. So how is 2011 rolling along for you so far? [Laughs] Things are good. I’m happy 2010 is gone. I’m looking forward to this year, a lot.
Why did 2010 suck so badly, do you think?
It was kind of one of those years…. I just got out of a relationship about four months ago.
Ooh, that’ll get the material rolling!
I think it was Lucille Ball that said, “Comedy is time plus distance.” So once…that feeling of Jewish guilt doesn’t come through, [I can feel] I’m not being mean, I’m just being funny.
Comedy seems also to have taken the slot that music traditionally held, in terms of our role models—the Melissa Etheridges and kd langs and folks like this. It seems like there are a lot more comedians now who are either members or actively supportive of our community.
There’s a lot. I feel like they’re coming out of the woodwork, every day. I think more lesbians than gay men for some reason, but maybe that’s just because I’m around them more. I’m sure there are a lot of gay men that are coming out doing comedy, as well. But I don’t know [laughs]—I think women are funnier.
I see that in June, you’re pedaling on a 545-mile, 7-day trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of ?AIDS Life Cycle 10. Are you an experienced cyclist, or is this something new?
It’s definitely more of a hobby. I try to stay physically healthy, so it is a really good opportunity for me to get involved, raise money, and challenge myself physically. The energy at the event itself is so insane that it was one of those things where I have to be a participant.
Tell me about the Southwest Funny Fest [benefitting New Mexico AIDS Services] which you’re producing.
The Southwest Funny Fest is about to go into its fifth year. Albuquerque is my hometown, the community that supported me when I was starting. The show is produced in the theater where I had my first “adult” performance. I actually won my high school talent show there. It was where I got bitten by the comedy bug.
So it’s kind of a homecoming show?
It is the homecoming. My first event was in front of 650 people in a sold-out theater.
The first event? Wow, where do you go from there? Well, I guess you go to 750 people.
You’re also performing in London, in Hawaii, and on an Olivia cruise this year. Is it fair to say you’re living a dream?
I’m definitely living my dream. There’s so much more that I want to do, but I cannot complain about the fact that I get to do something I love and get paid for it, and also to be amongst such incredible women and men in these organizations. I definitely know that this is what I should be doing, and it feels great. I have no complaints, other than I would love to have more work. I was a bartender for 11 years, and I was finally able to stop doing that about two years ago—
—which is kind of like doing a stand-up routine, but in six-hour shifts.
Absolutely! And with a lot of drunk people.
And now is different how?
[Both laugh] Now they’re gay.
So I’m busy. I’m trying to book a 10-city tour to help benefit the Human Rights Campaign.
Do you ever do anything that isn’t affiliated with a charity of some sort?
[Laughs] I do! Sometimes I get selfish and do it for the money! It’s important to me to give back to the community that supports my dreams and what I’m trying to do.
That seems to be something that is a trait of gay and lesbian performers, especially. It seems like our community is very conscious of, as you said, giving back to the community that supports their careers.
I absolutely agree with you. If you can involve comedy in an organization or a more serious topic, it actually helps people support it. It lightens an event.
So you’re coming to Houston to Lesbian Health Initiative’s Celebration of Love—
—which, yes, is going to be fantastic. There’s a big push this year to get more single women to attend. Normally about 100 or 150 couples attend, so…
Well, I’ll try to send you a really hot picture of me for this story! [Both laugh]
Do you have a tasteful etching you could send us?
My point is, can you give some words of encouragement to the single women to attend, because sometimes they’re a little hesitant to come out “stag” to this big date night, to the “couples” event…
I think it would be an incredible place for single people to meet. First of all, if you’re going to meet someone that you actually have commonality with, it’s at one of these events. You believe in it, and it’s important to you, and you enjoy comedy, and you enjoy social events and things like that. Most of the people that would be going, I assume, would be professional. So what better way to meet someone who actually cares about her community, enjoys laughter, and probably looks great in a tuxedo?
Let’s name-drop a bit. Your website also states that you have “shared the national stage with President Barack Obama, Jane Lynch and the cast of Glee, Lady Gaga….”
That was at the national dinner for the Human Rights Campaign last year. We had the pleasure of listening to the president speak, and he was phenomenal.
Hard to believe how much things have changed for our community in just our lifetimes, right?
I think that things are becoming so less taboo with all the storylines on TV, like Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family and Ellen being in the spotlight. Which is really nice, because it allows people who weren’t necessarily able to go as far in their careers or in certain communities, to have the opportunity to do that.
Of course, one of my dreams is to be on a sitcom. I moved to L.A. this year, and I realized that I could have moved anywhere in the country if I’m not going to take advantage of the opportunities I have in L.A. So it’s time to do that.
Well, now that you’re free and single and have nothing to hold you back, you can proceed, full steam ahead.
Lesbian Health Initiative–Houston’s
Celebration of Love Gala
• With Dana Goldberg, Ginger Leigh, and DJ Joy De La O.
• February 12, 6 p.m.
• Doubletree Hotel Houston Downtown, 400 Dallas St.
• Tickets: $80+