43 Years ago in 1980 – about 30 new friends, most of them new to San Francisco, gathered in a small hotel suite to watch the Oscars. A wonderful evening of bonhomie and fun.
By 1984, Friends of Oscar was an annual gala.
By 1986, it had become a California non-profit with attendance surpassing 1000. More “dress up” than “formal,” everyone came in their own expression of fancy celebration…representing themselves, welcoming others, being San Franciscan.
By 1989, it had become a nationally known phenomenon and an Oscar Night Destination for Friends from LA, NYC, London… with post-ceremony coverage by ABC alongside the LA Events hosted by Wolfgang Puck and Elton John…
…at which time, Friends of Oscar was nicely asked by the Academy to change the name and avoid a copyright infringement suit. (They really were very nice about it.) Thus, Academy of Friends became the name.
Former SF residents would return each year to see old friends, remember together those we’d lost, to celebrate the glamour of the Oscars, to cheer favorite wins and boo the Bad Choices.
The nearly four-decades long arc raised several million$ for scores of Bay Area AIDS education and direct-care agencies, setting a new standard for 100% of the ticket price going to the beneficiaries, as the event was fully underwritten by the sponsors.
As part of a new community of heart-born organizations and agencies in San Francisco and cities and towns across the country, the exciting, powerful magnitude of the multiplied small contribution was introduced to a demographic largely new to philanthropy… We raised a shit-ton of money and looked damn GOOD, doing it.
All inspired by a shared passion for the Oscars and profound commitment to supporting loved ones dying of a mysterious disease and the dismissive neglect of our government.
Many good things do come to an end; and the lights ultimately went out on this phenomenon of Friendship after 2020. The spirit, the experience created and shared, the differences made, the easier deaths in loving arms, knowledge shared and ignorances eradicated, and the memories of those lost and still loved leave a resonance that remains in the memories of all who were a part.
Every year, at Oscar Time, a vast and textured tapestry of memories manifests in us; all those who stepped in and stepped up, bringing to our round table their personal commitment and their professional expertise, contributing in myriad ways to realize the vision far beyond anything foreseen at inception. It truly was a body far, far greater than the sum of the parts.
Built and embraced by San Franciscans and Friends as board members, executive directors, volunteers, sponsors, performers…
Thousands of them, all told. Each and all remembered, each and all appreciated.