TAB's Fashion Show: Then, 2015, & More

“This year, I wanted to create a show that would live up to the expectations of theatrical shows of years past, but also reflect my own voice and vision. First and foremost, this is a fashion show to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS, relying entirely on the time and talents of local volunteers who spend hours and hours in preparation, which in itself is amazing. This is Telluride’s show and I wanted it to be exciting, theatrical, fun, and meaningful. And I promise it is going to be a Fashion Show like none other. Not only will we have the brilliant designs of our local designers, annual favorites and well known brands, but we are bringing in young designers from around the country. From Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and NYC. Their unique looks will be infused into the show with a theatrical story line that will take your breath away,” Michael Anderson, writer-director TAB 2015 & former Joffrey Ballet star.

Michael Anderson, former dancer with Joffrey Ballet, now writer, director, Telluride AIDS Benefit fashion show 2015.

Michael Anderson, former dancer with Joffrey Ballet, now writer, director, Telluride AIDS Benefit fashion show 2015.

Note: If you failed to score tickets for the fashion show, there is yet another opportunity to watch the action. The Town of Mountain Village plans to air the Gala live – on Mountain Village Cable Channel 15 and online at Saturday, February 28, 8 p.m.

And scroll to the bottom of the story for other ways to play and support TAB.

Telluride AIDS Benefit Fashion Show, Then:

Does the story of the Telluride AIDS Benefit and its fabulous fundraiser, the gala fashion show, begin in January 1983, when “the virus” was first announced in France? Or in April 1984, when it was announced in Washington, D.C. and throughout the rest of the world?

Let’s consider those details the preface.

Thirty+ years ago, when AIDS arrived on the scene, it hit the fashion industry like a sledgehammer decimating a broad spectrum of that universe: Among the famous names who died in the early dark days: Patrick Kelly, Angel Estrada, Isaia, Adrian Cartmell, Clovis Ruffin, Halston and Perry Ellis. Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, Tina Chow, Robert Rose, Peter Lester, Tim Hawkins, Sergio Galeotti, Robert Hayes and Laughlin Barker. But a full list of the famous, infamous, and mostly unknown who perished from the burgeoning epidemic would have required a compilation as thick as the New York telephone book.

Back then, AIDS was the equivalent of a medieval plague. It was a mystery at the black heart of which was one question: Who is next?

Back then, the pandemic was called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) because national religious leaders such as Pat Buchanan and Jerry Falwell preached the virus was cosmic revenge on homosexuals for crimes against nature.

The local chapter of the story opens in 1993, when a group of friends inspired by move-and-shaker Kandee DeGraw founded the Telluride AIDS Benefit to help a really good friend, who, yes, was gay, defray costly medical expenses associated with his battle against HIV/AIDS. The gala fashion show was the brainchild of DeGraw’s friend Daiva Chesonis.

Daiva Chesonis, founder, TAB’s fashion show, now owner of Between the Covers bookstore.

Daiva Chesonis, founder, TAB’s fashion show, now owner of Between the Covers bookstore.

TAB’s muse, Robert Presley, was an enfant terrible and gifted fabric artist, the life of the party and a one-man campaign for awareness education – because HIV/AIDS is 100 percent preventable either through total abstinence or, more realistically, through education and eyes open about safe practices regarding drug use and sexual activity. The first fashion show to raise funds to support Presley was held on the Opera House stage in 1994 and raised about $10,000.

“I make paintings in the form of garments,” Presley once told me.“My work allows people to literally step into the world of art, breaking the barrier between art and life.”

In February 1997, just a few months before his death, Presley fulfilled a lifelong fantasy. He donned a tiara and a Miss America-style sash and strutted down the TAB’s catwalk in a mint green ensemble with matching parasol. Bien sur. The crowds went wild for ‘Miss AIDS 1997.”

Robert Presley as Sick Man Pretending He Is Not Sick, image (and title), Ingrid Lundahl

Robert Presley as Sick Man Pretending He Is Not Sick, image (and title), Ingrid Lundahl


TAB’s fashion show continues to be a tribute to Presley and his flair for fashion fun and high drama. Lights, color, bold, unconventional, sometimes outrageous clothes, near-nudity, music, dance –  in the words of one old friend, “an atom bomb of fanTABulousness” – conspire for the singular purpose of raising funds to support TAB’s beneficiaries, a list which now includes the Western Colorado AIDS Project, the original and primary beneficiary; the Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program at Denver’s Children Hospital; Brother Jeff’s Community Health Initiative; Ethiopian Family Fund; Manzini Youth Project; Ubuntu Africa; and University of Colorado Hospital Foundation. Those nonprofits in turn work tirelessly to support individuals young and old and families living with HIV/AIDS on the Western Slope, Front Range, and all the way to Africa.

Since 1994, largely through the gala fashion show (aided and abetted by Barbel Hacke’s art auction, corporate sponsors, and private donations), TAB has managed to donate over $2 million towards HIV/AIDS education, advocacy, clinical care, and NGOs. Last year alone, the Telluride AIDS Benefit raised $177,000 for AIDS organizations on the Western Slope and across the globe thanks to a crew of nearly 200 event volunteers.

According to former executive director Stash Wislocki – drumroll please –  TAB is “per capita the most successful AIDS benefit in America.”

All that because a very hardworking group of Telluride’s best, brightest and buffest know how to shake what their mamas gave them – and because they care.

How much and why? (Really, it’s not all about 15 minutes of fame and the glamour.)

Several of the models – and one long-time member of the crew – weigh in:

Cynthia Sommers, wife, mother, philanthropist, Two Skirts fashion maven at your service:


Approximately 14 years ago, soon after I moved to Telluride, I had the pleasure of attending the Telluride AIDS Benefit with a few girlfriends and it instantly became my MOST FAVORITE event in the region. I remember standing on my chair for most of the show (along with the rest of the crowd) and having an absolute blast: the energy, the clothes, the music, the models and most importantly, The Cause, left me longing for more. I continued to attend every Telluride AIDS Benefit and in 2013, had the honor of becoming a model in the show. That first year on the runway was amazing and I have not looked back. Everyone, and I must say everyone, involved with the show, was and is top notch. I made new friends and deepened old friendships. I managed to gather the strength and courage to glide down the catwalk in front of hundreds of people knowing that I was doing my small part in raising money for TAB’s hard-working beneficiaries throughout the world. TAB has lit a fire in me to one day travel to Africa and work directly with one of our beneficiaries to bring their heart-warming stories back to Telluride. Once again, I am honored to be part of an event that has managed to raise the most money per capita out of all AIDS fundraisers in the United States…Go team!

John Young, lift operations manager, Telski

John Young

This is my Third Show.

The reason I initially tried out because I was talked into it. However the reason I continue to model is that the juice is really worth the squeeze. One hour of being nervous, stage fright, and in some instances underdressed, is totally worth it for the amount of funds that can be generated from the show, tickets, auction, and straight out donations.The numbers blew me away the first year.

Having met and talked with representatives of WestCap, CHIP, and Ubuntu Africa, I was again blown away at how close and how far TAB can reach. I am a bit skeptical other benefit groups, but TAB really takes a local look by offering free testing in Telluride; it has a regional impact with WESTCAP; and a statewide reach with CHIP and Brother Jeff’s initiative. The global impact comes from support of Ubuntu Africa, the Ethiopian Family Fund and the Manzini Youth Fund. 

I don’t want to sound redundant or cliched, but the personal time commitment is easy when the cause is this big – and the group this much fun.

Ian Bald, Rigger and volunteer with the crew that sets up the show for 22 years (Give this man a hand.):

Ian Bald

I originally got involved with TAB in the 1990s as a sort of tribute-payback for a couple of college friends who didn’t survive the first wave of the AIDS epidemic. Then there was wacky Robert Presley here in town. I’m the only crew that doesn’t see any skin, but they do give us lunch. 

Melissa Friedman, massage therapist & yoga instructor:

melissa Freedman


I started volunteering for TAB behind the scenes probably 15 or 16 years ago and was immediately taken by the level of passion and compassion that emanated from the organization. From then on, I was hooked. I started modeling for the show a few years later and was blown away by the way it felt to take one’s heart to the runway. Pairing art and creative expression with a desire to give back to the global community while putting on an amazing show that raise money for other nonprofits we know we are making a difference in the world, makes all the long hours of bonding, rehearsing, and strutting well worth it. This is my seventh year on the runway. I am so proud to be part of the TAB family. 

Molly Wickwire Sante, wife, mother, actress:

Nickoferguson- copy


My top 12 reasons for doing TAB 12 times:

1) I like to help people.

2) I don’t have any particularly useful skills or resources for helping people, but I can walk a straight line in high heels.

3) People who are suffering deserve compassion. 

4) Nuns are compassionate, but I’m not a nun.  I will dance in my underwear if it helps.

5) Sometimes I think I’m too tired to do the show another year, but HIV fatigue is real and many people are tired of managing, advocating, fundraising, or even talking about HIV/AIDS.

6) I’m not that tired

7) The clothes are pretty

8) I always wanted to be a super model, but I wasn’t built like one, a fact which my generous community kindly ignores once a year.

9) Once a year I get to hang out with the cool kids.

10) Kids who are born HIV positive deserve to live.

11) People who have the depth of courage to adopt HIV positive kids deserve all the help and support they can get.

12) I don’t have that kind of courage, but I’ll give all the help and support I can through TAB.

…….and I’m just lucky

Stacy Klotka, scientist turned business development manager, Telluride Real Estate Corp.:


This is my first year doing the TAB fashion show!

I have a scientific background: biologist by education; chemist by trade. I can gab on and on how HIV/AIDS effects the body and all about the chemicals used in pharmaceuticals to help HIV positive patients. Outside of a lab, however, I’ve never done anything for HIV/AIDS advocacy. I am excited to be a part of TAB and dedicate my time and energy in a new and important way.  

TAB Fashion Show, 2015:

When TAB was barely crawling, for five years starting in the mid-1990s another organization was ripping tour jetes in our backyard.

The Joffrey Ballet (then of New York, now of Chicago and in residence over five summers in Telluride) had established a worldwide reputation for technical pizzazz and a rich, highly innovative repertoire featuring a mix of traditional ballet, modern steps, gymnastics, and highly theatrical storytelling, executed by the company boasting a mix of fluidity, grace, playfulness, and athleticism.

Some of that poise and brio will be on display at TAB’s 2015 fashion show, written and directed this year by Joffrey alum Michael Anderson; choreographed by another former Joffrey dancer, Michael Smith; with creative director Quenten Schumacher.

“I am thrilled to be returning to Telluride this year to produce Telluride’s AIDS Benefit’s signature fashion show,” explained Anderson.”As a former summer resident while performing with the Joffrey Ballet, the beautiful mountain summers allowed me to meet lifelong friends and I have returned whenever possible over the years to enjoy skiing, the outdoors, and the cool mountain air. When I heard TAB was looking for a new concept for their annual fashion show, I was very interested in combining my collective talents in writing, directing, choreography, and fundraising to create this year’s show. When I first joined the Joffrey Ballet in NYC in the early 1990s, I became acutely aware of the AIDS crisis when I lost a fellow dancer and friend at the young age of 23. It was then I committed my life to do everything I could to create awareness and support for eradicating this epidemic.”

Michael’s concept for the 2015 fashion show involves the age-old theme of good versus evil. An Ice Queen represents the AIDS epidemic and a young Prince, hope for the future. In the end, love conquers fear, hate, and prejudice and everyone lives happily ever after.

“In the early years, the virus was a death sentence and devastating. But, as we have come together and worked together to find a cure, we have made significant progress in transforming HIV/AIDS into a manageable disease. Now, those who have access to retrovirus treatments are living healthy and productive lives. However, there is still a need for medications, education, testing and knowing your status.”  

Other ways to support TAB, have fun & practice awareness:

Get down:

After-party features DJ Jeff Cox:

DJ Cox, chillin'

DJ Cox, chillin’

@ 10:30 p.m. right after the gala fashion show, Sheridan Opera House, admission $30, 

DJ Jeff Cox, resident DJ at Cecilia’s Nightclub in Breckenridge, Colorado, has been a prominent figure in the digital music and party scene in the mountains of Colorado for the past 10 years. Jeff’s high-energy dance parties and natural ability to move crowds of all demographics has propelled Cecilia’s Night Club to legendary status and is widely known as one of the rocky mountain’s most exciting party night clubs.

After years of honing his craft close to home, DJ Jeff Cox brought his crowd-moving live sets to key markets across the country. In 2010, Cox was direct support for Pretty Lights on the Main stage of the first Powellapalooza Festival in Paige, AZ. He went on to crush sets at both the Uncle Uncanny Festival in Deer Park, Utah, and Satellite Beach, Florida’s Beach Bash in 2011. Over the last few years he has proven his qualification for large-scale DJ performances and his ability to entrance hordes of hungry festival and partygoers, sharing the stage with such legends as the Offspring, Pennywise, Taking Back Sunday, the Ying Yang Twins, PANTyRAiD, Q-Bert, DJ Green Lantern, Atmosphere, etc. Super stars have asked Cox to play private shows for the big-screen elite. Jeff Cox’s undeniable energy and unique ability to flow through tempos and genres is known for luring even the most timid listeners to the dance floor.


Get art:

Art Auction @ the Sheridan Opera House, Friday Feb. 27, bidding noon – 9:30 p.m. Free to the public. Reception and cash bar begin at 6 p.m.

Get new threads:

Trunk show @ Dolce, 224 East Colorado, featuring ready-to-wear, accessories, etc. Sunday, March 1, 4 – 6:30 p.m.

Designer sample sale @ the Sheridan Opera House, Monday March 2, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. All designer clothing donated to TAB and not sold in the live auction will be for sale to the public at great discounts.

Get tested:

FREE HIV Testing is available year round at the Telluride Medical Center by appointment. This service is paid for by TAB. On Saturday Feb. 28, the Medical Center is offering rapid HIV testing all day without an appointment.

More about Michael Anderson, Michael Smith and Quenten Schumacher:

Michael Jay Anderson, an accomplished fundraising professional, is a longtime advocate of arts and education.

Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson

Beginning his career as a professional dancer for the prestigious Joffrey Ballet, Anderson has since taken center stage as an administrative and fundraising professional, responsible for the promotion and financial development for organizations involved with higher education, arts and culture. And having spent 15 years as a professional dancer, Anderson understands not only what it means to support and promote artists, but what it means to be one. This unique perspective affords him a personal advantage in the promotion of arts-focused institutions.

Currently in his role as major gift officer at the Chicago History Museum, Anderson works directly with donors to secure the advancement of the institution.

In addition to writing, directing and producing the 2015 Telluride AIDS Benefit in Telluride, Colorado, Anderson serves on the board of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and Ron De Jesus Dance.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith

Michael Smith joined The Joffrey Ballet in 2001 as a company member after being one of the first participants in the Arpino Apprentice Program. Prior to joining The Joffrey, he was a student in the dance department at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, where he studied ballet with Anna Paskevska and Graham-based modern dance with Randy Duncan. Mr. Smith also studied dance at The Ruth Page School and The Joffrey Ballet School’s Midwest workshop.

During his time with The Joffrey, Mr. Smith enjoyed performing in various ballets including Les Patineurs, Les Presages,The Nutcracker, N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz!, Petrouchka, The Prodigal Son, Romeo and Juliet, Round of Angels, Le Sacre du Printemps and more.

In 2013, Mr. Smith retired from the Joffrey to pursue teaching and choreographic opportunities. Mr. Smith has had the opportunity to create works on the dancers of the Joffrey, in addition to Atlanta Ballet and Moveius Contemporary Dance Company. In addition to creating works for professionals, Mr. Smith has taught and choreographed in the Joffrey Ballet Community Engagement programs. After years of involvement with the Community Engagement Department at Joffrey, Mr. Smith joined the Community Engagement team full time in 2014.

Quenten Schumacher

Quenten Schumacher

Quenten has deep roots in the luxury fashion market as a former personal shopper and stylist. He is a Sr. Event Producer for a variety of corporate and social events all over the country and abroad and serves as Fashion Director for the Chicago House Brunch & Fashion show, as well as a consultant for a variety of fashion shows in Chicagoland.

“I’m thrilled to be working on TAB! It allows me the opportunity to combine my professional event capabilities with my love of fashion, all for a truly amazing cause.”

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