Story & photos by Chellie Bowman
Last Saturday night dozens of members from the community arrived at the Clark Opera House for OutMemphis’ annual fundraiser “Outbid 6”, including several of us from Focus. The theme this year was a Willy Wonka inspired design with candies, colorful pops of color, and hints of whimsy. Outbid is designed for folks to bid on donated items, raising critical funds that go directly to support OutMemphis and their many amazing programs. Lately I’ve been paying particular attention to their Metamorphosis Project which–through a youth emergency services shelter and their re-housing and emergency services programs–is aiming to eliminate LGBTQ youth homelessness in the Mid-South.
The evening started off with silent auctions on tables set up around the perimeter of the room. Folks perused and bid at their leisure for the first hour and a half. Although, it wasn’t quite as leisurely towards the end–many scrambled back several times to outbid others on whatever had caught their attention, from gift cards to local restaurants to framed art to memorabilia of sorts.
Attendees participating in the silent auction earlier in the evening
After the silent auctions ended the live auction began for the larger ticket items led by Bev Hart and Willy Wonka impersonator extraordinaire Joe Murphy. There were two items in particular our table was following–a guided tour for four of Oregon wine country and a priceless piece of original art painted by “Chickie”, an Sumatran Orangutan from the Memphis Zoo. All of us were wide-eyed and in awe when a certain mystery man in an ominous white hat pledged over $7500 total for the Oregon trip and a “Wine Snob Dinner” which was described as “an opulent five-course dinner with four eye-popping wine pairings” with local hosts Jonathan Cole and Paul Linxwiler. I wouldn’t mind being a fly in that chardonnay.
Chickie’s painting + the band
Willy Wonka (Joe Murphy) auctioning off an Outflix 20th Anniversary package
My favorite bit of fun for the night, however, was the wine pull. The wine list detailed many good bottles of wine–from roughly $7 to $80 in value. For a $20 donation you could randomly choose a bottle of disguised wine from the rack (all were wrapped in shiny, silver paper!), hoping to unveil an expensive vintage. Regardless, I think it all tasted good going down.
You takes yer chances at the wine pull!
Okay, I’m focusing too much on wine here. Not only was the evening about bidding on some great items, but also about remembering why these funds are so crucial for OutMemphis and ultimately for the community. Throughout the evening we heard from some amazing people, about their own personal struggles and the continued need to help those who might be facing similar issues of discrimination and homelessness because of their LGBTQ identity. Last I had talked to OutMemphis Will Batts was still calculating the final numbers from the evening, but no doubt they raised some serious funds that night.
Ellyahnna Christina Wattshall giving a moving speech about her own personal struggles