Sexy Beast: A Benefit for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles

Sexy Beast: A Benefit for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles

(Keeping the L.A. Art World’s Priorities In Order since 2014) – The Theatre at Ace Hotel, 929 So. Broadway, Los Angeles 90015; (213) 623-3233

It’s the first post-Labor Day week-end and we’re approaching mid-September, which means one thing in Los Angeles (and New York, too, I guess – as we head into Fashion Week) – the start of the new arts and entertainment season. LACMA just unveiled an elegant exhibition of the crème de la crème of our own great fine art graphics and printworks house, Gemini G.E.L., celebrating its 50th anniversary. MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary is about to open Doug Aitken’s mid-career retrospective, Electric Earth, a gorgeous, immersive experience that utterly transforms the Geffen Contemporary space and promises to entirely reshape our notions of what is possible in that space. Then there are the 50 or 60 gallery openings throughout the city – down from the 100 or 200 of a year or so ago, since somebody finally figured out that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to launch a show on the same night 80 or so directly competing institutions across the smithereened cityscape might be doing the same thing. And the pre-Oscar race season begins, too (as the Emmys wrap), so we’ll all be fielding the calls from friends and frenemies – ‘hey have you seen….’? And I haven’t even touched on music and theatre and everything else.

Okay so don’t have a breakdown yet because I need to reach you here as a healthy, able-bodied art-aholic – because this is about health: women’s health, children’s health, community health (and that would include men), urban and regional health, national and global health. (Let’s not forget that we’re 50 percent of the global human population and we’re the delivery vehicles for the replacements. [Okay maybe not me….]) We’ll all be heading out to at least a few shows, and maybe some dinners, after-parties and other entertainments Saturday night (I’ve got at least a half-dozen on my itinerary); but SEXY BEAST 2016 is where we ALL have to wind up. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. – at The Theatre at Ace Hotel – and I would advise everyone to head over quickly as soon as you see the lights dimming, coffee served, doors closing, etc. Thanks once again to our friends at Night Gallery, there will be more art and entertainment there – serious art – Marilyn Minter, Sterling Ruby, Marcel Dzama, Barbara Kruger, Julie Mehretu, and Claire Tabouret, to name just a few of some 42 artists – which will be auctioned. And serious entertainment: WIFE, DJ Rashida; Andy Richter is hosting – which means there will be a serious staring contest between the two of us (if I blink first it’s only because I’ll be wearing eyelashes and a truckload of mascara); and the special honoree of the evening will be Dawn Porter, who co-wrote and directed the Sundance award –winning documentary film, Trapped. I like to spell it, ‘TRAPped’ because it’s important you understand what ‘TRAP’ means – especially to some of the women in need who depend upon affordable reproductive health and abortion services in some of the southern states documented in this important film. TRAP stands for ‘targeted regulation of abortion providers’ – there are moments when this seems to be half the legislative agenda as it applies to the women of these states, with their benighted legislatures and gerrymandered Republican majorities.

We enjoyed a moment of victory early this summer with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Another term for ‘TRAP’ might be ‘undue burden’ – essentially what the Texas legislature sought to impose upon all women of its state (including those who might have continued to enjoy access to the ten (10) remaining abortion clinics – because of additional wait time, delays and costs). The framework for the post-Roe standard applied to this manifestly unlawful ‘legislation’ came from the Court’s 1992 Planned Parenthood (of S.E. Pennsylvania) v. Casey decision – which didn’t stop the Fifth District Court of Appeals from willfully flouting it. Justice Breyer’s assessment of the scope of this burden that would “vastly increase the obstacles confronting women seeking abortions in Texas without providing any benefit to women’s health capable of withstanding any meaningful scrutiny” might easily apply to any number of legislative proposals scrutinized by Porter’s excellent film. At least four states backed off from comparable legislative initiatives in the decision’s wake. Planned Parenthood has led the way in dismantling similar remaining statutes.  

But that hasn’t stopped legislatures in roughly half the states from introducing legislation to restrict or ‘unduly burden’ women’s access to reproductive health services and abortion more specifically. There have been 445 such proposals in this year alone. In the meantime, five states are down to a single abortion provider for the entire state (and these are geographically extensive states). At least ten states have cut off or at least attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding. Regardless of the extent to which any of these (in most instances) flagrantly illegal measures may be sustained in the long term, in the short term, they are doing irreparable harm to those states’ most vulnerable and at-risk constituents. I’m not just talking about abortion access (which, when it’s needed, is usually critical), but ready access to contraception, HIV prevention and STD screening, cancer screening, pre- and post-natal care, parent-child counseling, guidance and continuing education.

The full frontal assault on women, their health, independence and mobility, of course, is not confined to these shores. And so, further undeterred by restrictions imposed legislatively on the federal government’s ability to facilitate distribution of information and contraception in developing countries and countries with large populations of women at risk (which essentially amounts to half the planet), Planned Parenthood also partners with organizations in Central and South America and sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., Nigeria and Uganda where the need is critical). PPFA further extends its global initiatives as a member of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (founded appropriately enough in Mumbai in the early 1950s, and similarly hamstrung by U.S. foreign policy, mostly during Republican administrations).

The electronic and broadcast mass media aren’t always helpful in clarifying the on-the-ground realities. We have to remind ourselves – celebrate – the scope of Planned Parenthood’s mission because of what it represents: the actualization of democratic and humanitarian principles that are among civilization’s highest achievements. It’s important to be reminded that in economically and culturally disadvantaged regions what stands between a woman’s (and for that matter her children’s) ability to further educate and advance herself is simply ready access to contraception and basic healthcare.

We probably don’t need to be reminded of what this costs. Sometimes I think it’s ‘gonna take a miracle’; but it’s definitely going to take millions. Above and beyond the ticket purchase ($525.) and whatever is bid on the art, there is no limit (unlike political campaign contributions) on what you can give. (You can make your bid for art on-line if you prefer.) I only recommend that you bring both an open heart and an open checkbook and share your generosity in full. The stakes are high: two (at least) human generations, a civilization, and a planet. What are you waiting for?

So get your Sexy Beast on – and I’ll see you tonight at the Ace Hotel.