'Just stand up'

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Volunteers step out at 'Pretty In Pink' fundraiser for breast cancer

Beneath the disco ball, in a black-and-pink ruffled dress and pink hoop earrings, the volunteer stepped out from the crowd and took the mike.

"My name is Jenny Talia," she said, and paused with a smile as loud whistles, hoots and claps erupted.

The "ladies" of Pretty in Pink breast cancer fundraiser pose for photos by friends and family at The Zone. Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Beneath the disco ball, in a black-and-pink ruffled dress and pink hoop earrings, the volunteer stepped out from the crowd and took the mike.

"My name is Jenny Talia," she said, and paused with a smile as loud whistles, hoots and claps erupted.

"I'm here to support my grandmother and her sister, who both have cancer and have survived. ... Whatever we can do to help support, that's what we're here for."

The hoots from the crowd are heard again as "Jenny" moved to stand in the chorus line that also includes Nina Levin, Tara Risk, Foxy Glitter, Betty Boo Kake, Doris Anita DuchÉ, Bianca Boheme, Kai Kai Latise, Rhonda Lou Freebush, Siowanna Millionaire, Nina Mangina, Alaina Lauren, Polly Grip, Sharon Needles and Buba Licious.

(OK ... not their real names. We were asked to stick to their stage names.)

The only real name to offer is AJ Ducey, the woman who led the mixed line of gay and straight men dressed as women, actual male-to-female transvestites and even a couple of seasoned drag performers (like 2009 St. John's Drag Idol winner Bianca Boheme) in a shout-it-from-the-rooftops rendition of "Just Stand Up." The song was written for the 2008 television event "Just Stand Up to Cancer."

Giving it their best moves, the group took turns stepping out one at a time to jump around, dance and get the crowd singing along.

"If the mind keeps thinking you've had enough/ but the heart keeps telling you 'don't give up'/ who are we to be questioning, wondering what is what/ don't give up. ..."

With everyone singing out, Polly Grip bounces side to side while Betty Boo Kake closes her eyes and throws a hand straight up in the air.

"... Through it all just stand up!"

The volume, beat and laughter is infectious, and none of the 50 or so people watching are distant. Instead, they push in, singing and dancing along.

The song is just one part of an entire night of fundraising at The Zone in downtown St. John's, during a free-cover evening entitled "Pretty In Pink." The night was devoted to having fun while celebrating energy, life and dance - and also raising as much money as possible for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

It was dedicated to women facing breast cancer and organized by a regular DJ at The Zone, AJ Ducey.

"My aunt died of breast cancer. Her name is Brenda. She died seven years ago and I've done the run ever since," Ducey told The Telegram.

But the run can be a commitment for some people, she said. She wanted to try something new, something less "formal."

The idea was to have a relatively spur-of-the-moment fundraiser, with upbeat music, pink clothing encouraged, balloons, trivia, pink streamers, a few good men and a donation box.

"It just puts a lighter spin onto things, even though the cause is serious," said Ducey's girlfriend, Nicole Froute, who said she immediately wanted to take part.

Blondes, brunettes, redheads and raven-haired beauties, the volunteers all began to volunteer for the drag performance after hearing the idea, said Ducey.

Other friends jumped on board, like Walter Furlong, who decorated the bar. Karin Power went to local businesses looking for donations. Power received items from the Martini Bar, Rumpelstiltskins, Empire Theatres and others. The items were put up for raffle (three tickets for $5) during the night.

Professional Beauty Supplies donated makeup for the drag queens.

"People really donated a lot," said Ducey, also noting The Zone provided the space.

Another volunteer performer was Liam Parsons who - dressed as himself - sang a slower number before the queens went on.

The song was Kal Hourd's "When Pink Is Just a Colour Again." Parsons' sang with just his father playing piano beside him.

In fact, both of Parsons' parents, Bill and Shirley Parsons, came out in support of the event and took some time for a little dancing.

"We think (the event) is great. It's a really great idea," said Shirley.

In the end, songs like Cher's "Believe" and "Jump (For my love)" from The Pointer Sisters beckoned even the most rigid visitors - hiding in the corner near the bar with beer in hand - to step out onto the dance floor and bust loose, just like Hugh Grant in "Love Actually."

They went on past 2:30 a.m. and also dropped more than a few dollars on raffle tickets and into the donation box.

The "Pretty In Pink" event ultimately collected just over $1,000. The money, said Ducey, will be presented to Paula Tessier with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

"A lot of the drag queens want to do it again," said Ducey, who said the next night may be dedicated to another cause. "Now they're coming up with ideas," she said with a laugh.

Power said the credit goes to the organizer.

"AJ's awesome. To get this many guys out in a skirt? I mean, c'mon!"


Organizations: The Zone, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, The Telegram Empire Theatres

Geographic location: St. John's

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