TAB: Condoms & Makeover, Making a Difference

TAB: Condoms & Makeover, Making a Difference

The Telluride AIDS Benefit begins Friday, February 19, 6-9 p.m. with the Student Fashion Show at Telluride’s Palm Theater. The Sneak Peek Fashion Show follows on Thursday February 25, 8 – 10 p.m. at the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village. TAB’s art auction takes place Friday, September 26, noon- 9 p.m., Sheridan Opera House.  The Gala Fashion Show takes place Saturday, February 27, 8 – 10 p.m. TAB events end with a sample sale of designer clothes, Monday, February 29, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Sheridan Opera House.

Can’t attend 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 – on 2/27, 8 p.m.


What in the world do thousands of condoms and one major makeover have to do with the ongoing fight against a deadly pandemic? And yes, there is yet another Holy Grail du jour, this one, an ovoid blue pill with a focused-group name, but is it The Answer?


Stay tuned please. We promise to connect the dots.

The annual Telluride AIDS Benefit and its fashion show – this year, Saturday, February 27, 2016, with a local’s preview on Thursday, February 25 –  was born out of concern for a beloved local named Robert Presley, whose escalating AIDS-related medical expenses inspired his friends to launch the nonprofit back in 1993.

Robert Presley, TAB"s muse at fashion show, 1997

Robert Presley, TAB”s muse at fashion show, 1997

From its Free Boxy roots, the fashion show grew into a runway theatre. Presley, an over-the-top personality, fiber artist and costume designer enthusiastically applauded (until his death in 1997).

This year, #23 – directed by Telluride Theatre’s executive director Colin Sullivan and Palm Arts’ Jessica Galbo – will once again feature fabulous (local) models, loud music, flashing lights and booty-shaking choreography. But that glitz and glamor is in the service of TAB’ seven beneficiaries, which all rely on TAB for a major leg-up (read dollars) in their efforts to help individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS from Colorado’s Front Range to Africa.

To be very clear, without TAB, hundreds, (thousands over the years), might not get the help they need to survive, including children, which means the efforts of the organization are just as important, just as relevant today as they were at its modest  street dancing start, perhaps more so.

And – drumroll please – here’s where we begin to connect the dots.

Two of the major supporters who get right behind TAB’s vision of hope and awareness may be faces in the crowd, but they represent the legions of artists, benefactors, contributors, sponsors, and volunteers who, without a second thought, give money, goods, time, and passion to the cause.

Jud Ireland donates 46,000 condoms to TAB & its beneficiaries:

Jud Ireland donated 46,000 condoms to TAB for its 7 beneficiaries and so designer kathleen Morgan could fashion her condom dress.

Jud Ireland donated 46,000 condoms to TAB for its 7 beneficiaries, and so designer Kathleen Morgan could fashion her famous, fabulous condom dress for this year – and in years to come.

Jud Ireland came to Telluride after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. He felt Telluride was the perfect escape from the chaos and materialism of his former address.

“I fell in love with the beautiful mountains surrounding the town and all the warm, interesting, caring people the region seems to attract.”

Although he now lives in Miami Beach, Jud still consider Telluride his true home, the home of his heart, so he continues to give back to the community whenever he can. Jud remains affiliated with several nonprofits in the area, including the Ah Haa School and the Telluride AIDS Benefit.

“TAB represents all my favorite things about my favorite town: the nonprofit has a focused and important mission; boundless intelligence; and great style with heart. I have always had my hand in several projects at any given time, still do, but for the past 20 years my passion has been to create and distribute the world’s finest condoms. And I am grateful that through TAB, the fruits of my labor will positively impact so many lives: a win for TAB and its beneficiaries is also a win for me.”

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Jud’s company donated 46,000 condoms to the Telluride AIDS Benefit: 33,000 will be dispersed to various nonprofits TAB helps to support; the rest go to local artist Kathleen Morgan, who will be using them to create a piece of wearable art and to TAB directors to use however they deem appropriate. Given a retail price of $1/condom, Jud’s donation amounts to a value of $46,000. But if his donation saves even a single life, the gift is priceless.

September Calhoun donates a celebrity makeover and more:

Texarkana and Telluride share two things, well, now three things: alliteration, a love of country music – and September Calhoun.

September arrived on the scene in 2015 and immediately made her mark, opening a business, The Beauty Bar, and becoming a generous supporter of local nonprofits, including the Ah Haa School for the Arts and now the Telluride AIDS Benefit.

September Calhoun, owner, The Beauty Bar & major donor to TAB.

September Calhoun, owner, The Beauty Bar & major donor to TAB.


“I was not then and am not now affiliated with one particular nonprofit, but I am following a model set by those I met along my path: when I see a need I believe in, I give. Not just for now, but for future generations.”

But September’s story is not the usual “I came to Telluride to ski or hike, fell in love and stayed” narrative. It is straight out of Alice Walker, rags to riches, the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, because September, a beautiful black woman who effectively integrated our Wonder Bread town, was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth.

The first of seven children all conceived by the time her mom reached maturity, i.e., age 21, September and her siblings grew up in poverty – Section 8 housing, $400 a month, food stamps – witnessing and experiencing daily abuse.

Getting the picture?

But at the local library, September devoured Town & Country and she dreamed big.

“Things were tough, as you can imagine, but I grew up making vows my life would be different. Today my goal is to live life to the fullest, which does not mean collecting things like homes and cars. It means making an impact.”

And there were always “moments of sunshine” that gave September hope.

Hope became September’s watchword.

Hope got September to Dallas and her first big job at Nordstrom’s and eventually a career in pharmaceuticals sales, where she earned enough money to make the move to Telluride with a son Isaiah – and yes, September is a single mom – now a high school senior. (A great student and athlete and September’s pride and joy).

“I always knew I would live in Colorado after my first visit four years ago, but I just had no idea where. After a tough year (2014), I remember looking at my son and saying, ‘We are going to have a great Christmas!’  I decided we would make it a White Christmas and called my friend in Denver, Colorado and said, ‘Ok, we are going to ski this Christmas, should we do that in Aspen, Vail or Telluride?’ Her answer was ‘Aspen is beautiful, Vail has great skiing, but I think you are going to like Telluride.’ I was reminded of an article I had read saying that being in Telluride on the gondola at night, the town looks as though it is lit by candlelight, so with that memory and my friends suggestion, I booked a stay at The Lorian. Upon our arrival, I felt a sense of peace and just knew I was meant to be here. I visited Telluride two more times one month later and we had our home in the Ski Ranches by March 2015.”

To support TAB, September bought four front row tickets for the fashion show, donated an additional $2,000 and put together The Beauty Bar Experience, described as follows on TABs website:

“In preparation for the TAB Gala, treat yourself and your friends to a full afternoon of beauty on Saturday Feb. 27th at the Telluride Beauty Bar! This experience includes blowouts, manicures, and makeup application for four, plus champagne, snacks and gift bags; and the fabulous celebrity hairstylist Derek J from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” – who will be on hand to help you with all your styling needs. Go straight from the Telluride Beauty Bar to the Gala looking and feeling your most fabulous!”

Derek J featured in The Beauty Bar Experience, which you can BUY NOW.

Derek J featured in The Beauty Bar Experience, which you can BUY NOW.

Why TAB?

“My connection to AIDS happened a couple of years ago. I had a friend who happens to be gay and was looking for a job. I consider myself a connector by nature and was able to get him hired with a pharmaceutical company. Shortly after, he was devastated to learn he had AIDS. When he let HR know he was sick, that was the end of his employment. After being let go, my friend was afraid to tell anyone of his illness and fell into a deep depression. To this day, he battles with talking about his illness with his loved ones and friends. In this day and age, AIDS seems to be of way less concern than it was, say, in the 1990s and even in the early part of the aughts. But this gentlemen, my friend, is in his early 20s and still needs support. Knowing this person reminded me that all lives matter. The fact that TAB continues to raise awareness about AIDS and supports those in need through a fashion show full of beauty and design felt like a good fit with me and my business, The Beauty Bar.”

HIV/AIDS, a brief update:

As September points out, AIDS is no longer front page news.

But TAB’s reason for being is ongoing.

Prevention education remains critical.

There is still no cure for HIV/AIDS.

According to the World Heath Organization, at the dawn of 2015, there were about 37 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. Of these, nearly three million were children under the age of 15.

Based on statistics put out  in 2015 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. alone, 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 156,300 (12.8%) who are unaware of their infection

While the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable at about 50,000, over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level,particularly among certain groups.

“Even today, despite advances in our scientific understanding of HIV and its prevention and treatment as well as years of significant effort by the global health community and leading government and civil society organizations, most people living with HIV or at risk for HIV do not have access to prevention, care, and treatment, and there is still no cure…,” explained WHO.

True, there are pills, antiviral drugs that control the virus so people with HIV can enjoy relatively healthy lives. There’s even a new blue oval pill with a promise built into the name, Truvada, which appears to lower the risk of becoming infected with HIV at all. In fact, the treatment, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, has become so common in the Bay Area’s gay community that it is frequently mentioned in social media profiles (as in I am on PrEP) from Facebook to Scruff.

“Since the first breakthrough research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, the once-a-day dose of Truvada has consistently been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by as much as 90 percent. The results of the most recent study, which was published in September, were even more encouraging: Not one of the 600 people taking the drug became infected over two years,” explained an article in the Washington Post.

However, fears of the drug’s possible side effects loom large, as does the worry about using Truvada as a party drug, not taking it regularly, or buying it on the black market as a way to justify not using condoms – and that makes the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases more likely. Plus, as a former director of the Telluride AIDS Benefit’s first and principle beneficiary, the Western Colorado AIDS Project, once explained:

“Before I joined WestCAP, I worked as a microbiologist. AIDS is one of the smartest viruses we’ve ever encountered. Unlike measles, which is dumb, AIDS morphs quickly.”

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