One of the most prominent displays to remember AIDS is in the heart of Hollywood on the tallest tower in that part of Los Angeles—the Hollywood United Methodist Church.
On Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, it marked two decades that the church posted the two giant red ribbons on the 15-story towers with a vow to keep those as a reminder until the disease is obliterated.
Hundreds of people including local politicians and celebrities turned out to mark the 20th anniversary.
(See exclusive photos of the ceremony and a video above.)
The ribbon shows that “all are welcome” said Rev. Kathy Cooper-Ledesma. “This congregation was welcoming people with AIDS before there was AZT, before there was an APLA, before there was a Project Angelfood. We brought folks to the doctor, we wept, we laughed, we remembered.”
The progressive Methodist congregation offered the building now known as the Kids’ Cove as a place to help build the AIDS quilt. “It turned into a beehive of sewing activity,” the reverend said.
The church was the site of a national memorial service for AIDS activist Pedro Zamora from “The Real World” and led a campaign to a national diaper company to convince them they were wrong for not servicing babies with HIV. Every year, the congregation decorates bears in costumes to give to children in the local AIDS ward, and every year the congregation goes to Dodger Stadium to create a giant red ribbon.
When the ribbons got a bit faded, one of the more famous members of the congregation, actress Pauley Perrette (Abby from “NCIS”) got some of her friends in the entertainment industry to take down and paint the ribbon. The workers volunteered their time, and when I pointed to the actress on Sunday that the ribbons wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for her she scoffed, “No, it wasn’t me, it was everyone. But they were rather faded.”
That is why they needed to be fixed, but the church couldn’t afford it, and Pauley saved the day. “It looked like we may have been commemorating eggplant or something,” she quipped.
(Perrette is performing "Once Upon A Christmas" on Dec. 8 at the church with original stories and including other local stars and members of the congregation such as Geri Jewell from "Facts of Life," Rondi Reed from "Mike & Molly," Beth Grant from "The Mindy Project," Bill Brochtrup from "NYPD Blue" and David Dean Bottrell from "Boston Legal" among others. Go here for details: http://hollywoodumc.tumblr.com)
Rev. Richard L. Zaldivar put up his own AIDS memorial across town 20 years ago in The Wall Las Memorias (http://www.thewalllasmemorias.org) and said at the Sunday service, “For this congregation to do this 20 years ago was a courageous thing to do.”
He pointed out that if it weren’t for AIDS “we would never be marrying gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people, we would never have the president talk about it on a national scale” and more.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles City Concilmember Tom LaBonge and Congressman Adam Schiff spoke at the dedication along with United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson.
Adam Schiff said, “I look forward to the day that this ribbon can come down.”
“I think this congregation will find many other causes to work for,” added Yaroslavsky, who quipped that if he were Methodist, he would come here.
Rev. Kathy summed up, “There are still too many who look for the light in the darkness.”
(On a personal note, my nephew Dante Luna is playing the carillon that rings over the Hollywood Hills and did so this day on the World AIDS Day and commemoration. He was directed through the tiny window in the tower.)
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