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San Francisco’s Real Bad Party Does Good: $180,000 to Charity

by Jim Hauck
Tuesday Nov 15, 2011
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There are a lot of parties out there that raise money for charities, but few have the longevity and culture that has developed the San Francisco-grown and flourishing Real Bad.

This previous year, I had the honor of serving as the event chair for this party, and holding the torch on the legacy for Grass Root Gay Rights/West, the parent organization of this wonderful event. Real Bad has grown significantly from its roots as a margarita party. During the 1990s, organizers chose to raise funds for AIDS organizations, thus giving life to a tradition that fosters multi-year partnerships local and national organizations.

A carefully vetted process was followed for the beneficiary selection. Real Bad gave $180,000 this year, spread out to: Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center; Bay Area Young Positives; Native American AIDS Project; No Bully; Project Open Hand; and San Francisco Suicide Prevention. The 2011 donation brings the overall giving of GRGR/West and Real Bad to nearly $1.5 million.

So what makes Real Bad so special?

First of all, this is a completely volunteer run nonprofit organization. A host program lovingly called the Circle of Friends underwrites the costs of the party. This model has ensured that 100 percent of the ticket proceeds are donated to the selected beneficiaries.

The volunteer group, a hearty and enthusiastic team of twenty-five, dedicates large amounts of time, love and care to the success of Real Bad, which always takes place on Sunday night following the Folsom Street Festival. This group meets monthly from January through October to review plans, ideas, and important decisions related to the throwing of the party -- most certainly including the choice of DJ.

A vigilant management of budget and expenses has helped REAL BAD continue to minimize costs for party production, while a solid sponsorship program fosters long-term relationships. The close attention to managing costs while still allowing for a level of "creative magic" keeps the party fresh, making REAL BAD a model organization for the San Francisco community.

Another key to the party’s success is the host program. Year after year, the hosts are the only people allowed to sell tickets to the event with very few tickets being released for retail sale. The program creates an unique energy where nearly everyone who scores one of the cherished tickets is somehow connected, creating true magic and celebration on the dance floor.

The DJ selection process is another key element. The organization invites between 25 and 40 DJs to compete for the coveted main room slot. The top contenders are reviewed in a unique blind listening process to ensure that he or she is chosen on merit alone.

A requirement that the DJ has not performed at a large dance party in San Francisco creates a West Coast debut and always a sense of anticipation. The DJ is given the opportunity -- all too rare these days -- to spin the entire nine-hour party.

This allows for a showcase of a full range of music, from T-Dance and diva anthems to driving progressive and sexy late-night beatdowns, ending in the rarely-heard and much-loved morning music. The list of DJs reads like a "Who’s Who," including Susan Morabito, Michael Fierman, Warren Gluck, Lydia Prim, Reed McGowan and most recently Bryan Reyes.

The structure of the organization continues to evolve and change, growing to meet changing times, technology, and economic situations. Each year a new event chair is selected from the previous year’s eligible committee chairs. This year the torch was passed to multi-year veteran Craig Cochran. I am excited to see him lead the organization forward through the next exciting chapter and on to Real Bad XXIV.

For more information about REAL BAD, the beneficiaries, DJ selection process, hosts, sponsorship, and the history of the event, check out their website. And make friends with someone who has those coveted tickets, because otherwise you will be on the outside with your proverbial nose pressed against the glass.

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