Telluride AIDS Benefit Fashion Show: New Director, New Direction

[click “Play” to hear Scott Grossman speak about his direction of the TAB Fashion Show]

Scott Grossman

It’s the pitch perfect tribute, Robert Presley to a “T”: “Out of Your Comfort Zone/Step Out of the Box,” director Scott Grossman’s theme for the 2010 Telluride AIDS Benefit no-holds-barred fashion show. The annual event takes place at the Telluride Conference Center in the Mountain Village, Thursday, February 25 for the Sneak Peak and Saturday, February 27, for the super nova explosion. Doors, 7 p.m. Show time, 8 p.m.

Outrageous. In your face. Fearless. Talented, Funny. Smart. Generous. Those are just a few of the words Presley’s friends used to describe the man who inspired the AIDS awareness event and major bash that manages to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for HIV/AIDS interventions and prevention education around the globe.

Presley grew up the only boy of four siblings, but from the get-go, he crossed the Mason-Dixon line between boys and girls. Just a few months ago, The New York Times ran a feature in its “Style” section about a “new” trend: hip young men buying women’s clothes and visa versa. Presley was metrosexual before there was a word for the phenomenon. For him, clothes were never gender specific. They were just clothes. And people were just people. And AIDS was a global pandemic affecting everyone, not just gays.

At 17, when Presley was kicked out of the house for dating men, he moved into a house with a group of medievalists. When he wasn’t cleaning or sewing, he spent hours doing research on costumes, which became his favorite form of personal expression. After Presley and his partner Ron Gilmer (today TAB’s Grand Vizer) moved to Telluride, he continued to dye, slash, fray, and coax improbable materials into provocative designs, creations which never failed to breach the firewall between art and life.

Just months before he died, at TAB’s fashion show in February 1997, Presley told how he had been made to pay for having contracted AIDS in the mid-1980s while hanging out with biker gang in San Francisco. He talked about losing his friends, being shunned by his family, becoming a guinea pig for drug cocktails and being called “faggot” and “whore.” Then he donned a tiara and sash that said “Miss AIDS 1997” and strutted down the catwalk, a parasol topping off his mint green ensemble.

Can you top that?
Click the “play” button and listen to director Scott Grossman preview this year’s show in his podcast.

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