By Anne Haule
It was pre-pandemic when the Hillcrest Business Association launched its new beautification program. One of its projects, the LGBTQ banners along University Avenue, has put Hillcrest in the celebrity Twittersphere.
Cher, internationally famous singer, performer and supporter of the LGBTQ community, recently acknowledged the Hillcrest University Avenue banner of her son Chaz Bono, tweeting: “So Proud of Chaz… was beyond excited when I saw this. It’s in San Diego, on University Ave. YEAH!” Her tweet, posted on Feb. 6, has garnered well over 16,000 likes and put University Avenue (and Hillcrest) on the map!
The banner Cher is referring to is of her transgender son Chaz. In addition to a photo of Chaz, the banner describes him as follows: “Writer, musician, and actor. Bono has been a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign and director of GLAAD. Both Chaz and Cher are outspoken LGBTQ activists.”
The Chaz banner is one of 15 banners lining both sides of University Avenue from Park Boulevard on the East to First Avenue on the west. The other banners feature Anderson Cooper, Laverne Cox, Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga, Neil Patrick Harris, Elton John, Don Lemon, Ricky Martin, Janet Mock, Elliot Page, Wanda Sykes, Elizabeth Taylor, George Takei and Lily Tomlin.
The idea of lining the thoroughfare with banners was inspired by the Italian celebrity banners that are showcased in Little Italy. Using street banners to highlight the nature of the community seemed perfect for Hillcrest.
The Beautification Committee took the banner idea and decided to highlight the LGBTQ community of Hillcrest by displaying large, beautiful color photos of famous people who have been supporters of the LGBTQ community. The banners showcase a broad diversity of LGBTQ celebrities and supporters.
The HBA Beautification Committee, chaired by Trent St. Louis, includes Jonathon Lopez, Ben Nicholls, Cecelia Moreno, Gail Friedt, Patrick Santana, Sasha Varone, Jerry Strayve and Kirsten Randal. Once the idea was agreed upon, the committee went right to work — purchasing the licensing rights to use the celebrities’ images, drafting brief bios, and contracting with vendors to print and mount the banners. The result of the committee’s work is our own LGBTQ “Avenue of Fame,” highlighting the extraordinary cultural contributions of these individuals in supporting LGBTQ rights.
The next time you are walking down University Avenue to visit one of its delicious eateries, fun taverns or unique shops, take a minute to look up and give a silent salute to the courageous celebrities whose strong and colorful images remind us of the importance of supporting LGBTQ rights.
— Anne Haule is a writer based in Hillcrest.