Interview with Pam Grier for Dining Out for Life by Earle Dutton
Dining Out for Life is an annual dining fundraising event raising money for AIDS service organizations. Dine out and Fight AIDS this Thursday, April 24th. Find a restaurant near you www.diningoutforlife.com
Pam Grier took some time and spoke with us about Dining Out for Life and her personal life experiences.
Why did you decide to get involved with Dining Out for Life (DOFL)?
I have had firsthand experience with HIV/AIDS. There was a top hair stylist for actors in the nineties. I used to fly to LA to have him color my hair and do my roots. It is very dry in Denver so I always issues with my hair. One day I was in LA and went to see him at the salon and they said he was retired. He was 28. I knew he was successful but not that successful. I called him at home and invited him to lunch and he said he wasn’t really going out of the house anymore. So I asked if I could go visit him at home and he agreed. When I arrived, he was giving away his furniture and belongings. He was very ill and very thin. I had no idea why he looked that way. He actually gave me this amazing Japanese screen that I still have in my bedroom after twenty something years. I asked if he was moving but he said no he just needed to redecorate. He wouldn’t leave to go out to lunch so I volunteered to cook. His cupboards and fridge were bare. I couldn’t imagine how he was living with no nutrition in the house. I finally had to ask what was up. He said he wasn’t feeling well. I ended up calling a local deli and having some food delivered. He was just home and completely alone. No friends or anyone was around or calling. His life had completely changed and he was abandoned. I related to that because when I was sick with cancer a lot of people abandoned me. It just hurt my heart to see him like this. I think being part of this movement, this safety net we know as Dining Out for Life is just amazing and necessary.
Are you guys working on adding new cities to the DOFL lineup?
Yes, we are always working to add new cities and areas. Some of the organizations we support like Project Angel Heart here in Denver are not only HIV/AIDS organizations but support cancer as well. People are locked away in their houses that don’t have the strength or energy to get out need these places and volunteers to bring them nutrition. When I was sick with cancer in 1998 my mom had to take off from work to help me. Yes, I had the financial resources to hire strangers to take care of me. But my mom wanted to help me. It impacts your family, friends and employment as well. I remember sometimes my mother would not be able to help me. I didn’t have the strength to stand, cook, shop ore drive and there are millions of people in that situation. Organizations like Project Angel Heart serves 900 people a day. These organizations need us and our support. They aren’t just dropping a week’s worth of food at your door either. They visit and give them instructions on the preparation of the food and ask them how they are that day. This is a lifeline for these people. You get more than just a meal. You get hope.
Do you enjoy hosting events for DOFL?
Oh yes! I am a bit aggressive about it actually. I grab people off the streets. I talk to everyone in restaurants and ask them if they are participating in DOFL. I am like a panhandler. A well-dressed panhandler, if I might say so myself. I think Dining Out for Life should be every day. I know there are a lot of people that aren’t available on the one specific day. They can always put a check in the mail to a local organization and put Dining Out for Life as the memo. If you have a box of change, you know that change jar you throw all of your change in to would make a great donation. That’s probably ten or twenty dollars in change. Donate what you can.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
I have a brand new series that was written for me. It is based on a Homeland Security type theme. It will have a lot of serious drama and hypothetical situations but also a lot of truth. My character is very military staunch woman with a team working for her. They are sort of a motley crew and we bend rules but we have to win. Oh and I have an amazing German shepherd on the team. I can’t forget my dog.
Is there a message you would like to send the LGBTQ youth in our communities?
Thank God they are smart. They aren’t as fearful. They are curious and we have to keep our doors open for them. You know what courage it takes for a ten year old to say “Mom I am different.” I know of a few families that are going through that right now. Some families are open and some are critical. Some are not taking it very well. They don’t understand that it is everyone’s right to be who they were born to be. You would be surprised at the things that I hear. We need to be there as elders and let them know we understand and can help and guide them. Sometimes they have to leave their families to survive. I had to do the ’L Word’ to understand how unfair people can be to the LGBT community. There were people that told me not to do the show because people will think I am a lesbian and would lose all of my fans. There were people that would ask me at book signings if working on the ‘L Word’ made me a lesbian. As if it was catching or something. I am around horses all the time does that make me a horse? Because I am around white people a lot do I become white?