12:30am PT by Chris Gardner
Patricia Arquette Opens Up About Death of Trans Sister: "The Spirit of Alexis Will Always Be Alive"
Just when servers walked over to deliver long silver trays of desserts (butterscotch pudding and lemon tarts) for guests seated on the patio of NeueHouse's Paley Penthouse Thursday night, Patricia Arquette stood up to take the temperature of the 19 seated in front of her at a long rectangular table. "Should we go inside for dessert?" she asked. "It's getting too cold out here, right?"
Summer is weeks away in L.A., so guests agreed, and everyone — as if on the same cue — jumped out of their chairs to head indoors and avoid a brisk Hollywood evening that felt much colder than low 60s. Just then, the wind swept over the sixth-floor space, causing candleholders and empty water glasses to tumble over. Up until that point, the Oscar winner was gliding gracefully through a perfect and perfectly intimate dinner in partnership with Ketel One Vodka to honor sister Alexis Arquette, who passed away on Sept. 11, 2016, due to complications related to HIV/AIDS, at the age of 47.
Even that unexpected moment seemed perfect for Alexis, who, friends and family say, lived like that wind: fresh, cool and feisty, with a force strong enough to leave a mark on every room she entered. Patricia added the words pioneer and personal vanguard. "Alexis taught us all about acceptance and love," Arquette told The Hollywood Reporter during a one-on-one chat before the dinner. "To me, Alexis was really my great vanguard. I think, truthfully, every single trans person in the United States is a vanguard because it's a very difficult life to live."
Patricia will find out what it feels like to be called a "Vanguard" onstage when she takes home that award on Saturday night at the 28th annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Beverly Hilton for her longtime activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community. She already knows what it's like to be called a great host.
In addition to paying her respects to the chefs and the staff, Patricia offered kind words to each and everyone present at the dinner, walking seat to seat to say hello and chat. Guests included her boyfriend, artist Eric White; brothers, Richmond and David Arquette; drag queen and RuPaul's Drag Race star Detox; members of the media from outlets including Out, Advocate, ET, Extra and People; and GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. Patricia raised a toast before every course of the dinner using Ketel One cocktails crafted for the night's festivities, which came on the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility.
At any other dinner, the sponsorship could seem forced, but the vodka brand is a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ community and has sponsored the GLAAD Media Awards for seven consecutive years. The latter fact stood out to Patricia. "So often I go to corporations and ask them to do the right thing, and here I am at an event with a corporation that does the right thing on its own accord," she explained, adding that Ketel One has pledged to make a donation to the newly launched Alexis Arquette Family Foundation, which is spearheaded by sister Rosanna Arquette. "They come from a country [Holland] that's very progressive and was the first nation to pass gay marriage. It's nice to work with a brand that has a social consciousness that I agree with."
Back to Alexis. Thursday night marked the first time since her sister's death that Patricia has spoken at length about the loss. It's clear that she and the rest of the Arquette clan are still finding ways to cope with the void Alexis' death has left them with. "We are all really heartbroken about it," Patricia told THR. "It has taken me a long time [to talk about it]. I'm still not quite there. It's very raw and will probably always be hard, but right now, there is a mounting assault against the LGBTQ community, so ready or not, you have to talk about it."
And talk she did. Patricia expressed her frustration about a handful of topics, including the issue of trans women of color living in deep poverty, the LGBTQ question being removed from the U.S. Census and Donald Trump's lack of support for the community. "Donald Trump said he would be an ally to the LGBTQ community, and he really has not. That's dishonest and upsetting."
To shift her focus toward positive change happening in the world, Patricia said she looks to activists who are fighting the good fight. "You can see it happening in the world, and you can find it on social media," she explained. "There are good people in the world who are active and doing things that really matter."
Hopefully, she added, real change will come, leading the country to a place where LGBTQ folks are accepted in every city and place of employment. "Alexis talked to me about wanting to see a time when you could go into a real estate office and your realtor would be a trans man or trans woman. Or you could see a cop or a McDonald's employee that is trans. We are so far from that today," she said. Patricia then explained what it's like to move forward in life without her sister. "You have certain loves of your life, deep loves with people who really impact you. People you care so much about. They change you. Alexis was that to each one of us. The spirit of Alexis will always be alive."
Later, guests ended their night inside the penthouse, where there was no wind—but there was a nightcap. Coincidentally, to close out the night, there was a specialty cocktail created for the party called "Two Spirit" by Ketel One Vodka Perfect Pour bartender Garrett McKechnie (who once served an "intimidating" yet "sweet" Alexis at West Hollywood hotspot Fubar on a popular night known as BFD). He said that he mixed "Two Spirit" to match Alexis: "It's masculine and feminine."
— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) March 31, 2017