[PARTY] There's something downright outstanding that Bruce Bastian, co-founder of WordPerfect and the richest gay man in Utah (hell, maybe in Wyoming and Idaho, too), continues to throw the state's best fundraiser every summer in his back yard, smack in the heart of Utah County.
A couple of years ago, at the first Human Rights Campaign dinner at Bastian's sprawling manse, anti-gay forces picketed out front and demanded all homos go home. That also was the same year Zions Bank had signed up as a major sponsor of the event, then caved to community pressure and pulled out just weeks before the dinner took place. No problem--California-based Wells Fargo was happy to jump in and remains a well-heeled underwriter of the national advocacy group for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
This year, I went to the Third Annual Human Right Campaign dinner on Saturday night at Bastian's Orem estate (don't you love the sound of those two words together), along with perhaps 2,000 other Utah liberals. I'd heard from friends what a regular par-tay this thing is, but until I got there I had no clue.
Bastian, who has given millions to carefully selected chosen charities since selling off his share of his pioneering software company, lives in the ultimate gay party house. Picture the marble floors and sweeping grand staircase of The Beverly Hillbillies. Then add several valuable etchings and abstract paintings of gorgeous male nudes. Add massive entertainment systems on every floor of the house, a dance floor with a mirrored ceiling ball in the basement and you get an idea. The bar was nicely stocked. The evening's entertainment came via Chaka Khan. By the time that ample '80s diva hit the stage, the crowd was well-lubricated and the gigantic party tent on Bastian's sprawling lawn turned into one mad scene.
Bastian is having the time of his life. A closeted gay Mormon, a husband and a father for the better part of his five-plus decades, the man is at last living on his own terms. With his home in Orem and another in Washington D.C., where he serves as board chairman of the Human Rights Campaign, he has more money than anyone's God--heterosexual or otherwise. Bastian is said to be second only to the old-money Eccles clan in Utah for funding arts, gay rights initiatives (he was a major donor in fighting the homophobic Amendment 3 campaign in 2004 that put a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.)
When we met Bastian for the first time Saturday in the entry way of his home, we fell all over ourselves complimenting him on the place. What else do you do? He smiled a little slyly and said: "Oh thank you. You ought to see my ex-wife's place!"
The HRC dinner also is becoming the place for good Utah liberals to be seen. Here are a few of them:
* Ralph Becker, Jenny Wilson, Keith Christensen: candidates for Salt Lake City Mayor.
* Rocky Anderson: lame duck mayor and crybaby.
* Peter Corroon: Salt Lake County mayor, in the process of launching his 2008 reelection effort.
* Jackie Biskupski, Democratic state rep.
* Babs DeLay, sassy lesbian, community activist and urban real estate powerhouse.
* Also: More artists, actors and local writers than I could count.
I'm telling you it was worth the price of admission, though I don't even know what that was because a relative paid for my seat at her table. All I had to do was dress up in, as the invitation requested, "summer elegance." (Holly Mullen)