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It’s not easy for anyone to share an abortion story, but Andy Richter did just that on Sept. 10. Host of the second Sexy Beast, the art-themed fundraiser for Planned Parenthood L.A. (PPLA) held at The Theater at Ace Hotel, Richter took attendees at the event back to the early 1990s, when he and his then-girlfriend (and now-wife), comedian Sarah Thyre, were starring in Jill Soloway’s stage production of The Brady Bunch.
“I’d like to share a story,” he began. “In 1992, my girlfriend and I were having a rough time. We’d been performing in a show together for a couple of years, but it had come to an end, and we found ourselves living apart. She was in New York City working three jobs; I was in Chicago jobless and sleeping on my mother’s couch. The strain of living apart, and the stress of being two young people attempting to make a living as performers and writers was really taking a toll on its relationship. So when she called me to tell me that she was pregnant, it was not exactly happy news.”
“Luckily for us Planned Parenthood existed,” Richter continued. “My girlfriend knew that she was not ready for motherhood, and I knew that I was in no way prepared to be a father. I drove from Chicago in my battered old Toyota pick-up to be with her when she went to Planned Parenthood to terminate her pregnancy. Her choice to get an abortion was a choice that she made with assuredness. She knew that she was doing the right thing for everyone involved. But I can’t say it was easy. She was sad, and I was sad, and it was sad. But to this day, I know that she will tell you that she made the right decision.”
Richter’s story took another sad turn before a very happy conclusion. “Soon after I returned to Chicago, the strain of our long-distance relationship became too much for us, and Sarah and I broke up,” he said. “But then, what seems like five minutes after that, we realized that breaking up was the stupidest thing we’d ever done. So we got back together, and we got engaged, and we got married, and we had a couple kids, and a parrot and two dogs. And so far, we’ve been married for 22 wonderful years. Planned Parenthood gave two young struggling people the ability to do the thing that is in their name: We got to plan parenthood. When we could barely care for ourselves, much less a newborn, we were able to choose the time when we brought a child into our lives. Planned Parenthood allowed my wife to make the decisions she needed to make in order to control her body and her health, and maintain her life and her future. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.”
Richter — who took over this year from the inaugural Sexy Beast host, Jack Black — long has been an ardent supporter of Planned Parenthood, and made headlines back in November 2015 when he lambasted the right-wing sting video that “caught” Planned Parenthood workers selling fetal tissue. Those videos have since been debunked through several investigations by numerous states, and their makers indicted on federal charges, but the repercussions were disastrous. Richter’s comments came two days after the incident in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Robert Stewart Dear went on a shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood, citing the clinic’s “selling of baby parts” as his motive.
“I came to the attention of the organizers of this event, because a while back, I tweeted a few supportive words about Planned Parenthood,” Richter said during his host monologue. “I’m not going to repeat those tweets here tonight, but trust me, they were great. They were witty and poignant, and so rhetorically bulletproof, I’m surprised there’s still a debate about the organization. I thought those tweets would put it to bed.”
Richter echoed that sentiment when THR approached him after the event, and inquired whether he thought it was tricky for someone in the public eye to come forward in support of Planned Parenthood. “I don’t think it’s tricky,” he said. “It’s easy. Planned Parenthood helps a ton of people, and if they don’t agree with that, f— ’em. You can quote me on that. Tell them I said, ‘F— ’em.’ “
The organization, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in October, provides reproductive health, sex education and family planning services, as well as discreet, safe access to abortions for women across the country. The Los Angeles chapter is now in its 50th year of operation. The Sexy Beast event was attended by Rose McGowan, Matt Walsh, Jennifer Tilly, Breeda Wool, Vivian Bang, UTA’s Josh Roth and OWN’s Tina Perry-Whitney. Dozens of artists and art world luminaries also attended, including Alex Israel, Casey Jane Ellison, Orion Martin, dealers Esther Kim Varet, Shula Nazarian, and Jeff Poe and NADA art fair director Heather Hubbs.
Reached by THR after the event, McGowan expressed her support. “Sexy Beast is important to attend because women’s rights are constantly under fire and under threat,” she said. “Anything we can do to help Planned Parenthood push back we simply must do. Helping through art is a wonderful and giving thing and I’m so happy to have been a part of it.”
Co-chaired by Mieke Marple and Davida Nemeroff (both of Night Gallery) and Eliah Perona, the event began with a rousing performance by L.A. artists WIFE. Later in the evening, Richter presented producer Dawn Porter with the Sexy Beast Award for her film Trapped, a documentary that previously won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. “I am happy that I can tell my teenager that I am a ‘sexy beast,’ ” Porter quipped. “I welcome any chance to embarrass my children. But what I want to say to you tonight is that the real people who are the beasts, who are the fierce, incredible people that you should recognize and think about are the people who work at the clinics, day in and day out.”
Closing out the evening was a live auction called by Viveca Paulin-Ferrell. Bidders raised paddles designed by artist Math Bass for works by the likes of Sterling Ruby, Mira Dancy and Rirkrit Tiravanija. The live auction pulled in $299,000 for PPLA, which will be added to the silent auction results.
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