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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 17, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 38
Purr's Barbie says, 'Thank you for being a friend.'
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Purr's Barbie says, 'Thank you for being a friend.'

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The 1980s were a decade when the television sitcom peaked. At the top was The Golden Girls. Week after week, for seven years, Americans tuned in to watch Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty play Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia. The show was an instant success; it ranked among the top 10 highest-rated programs for six out of its seven seasons. The Golden Girls has been listed as one of the greatest and most influential shows of all time.

Behind every episode was the theme of friendship. No matter what the catastrophe, no matter how disheartening the situation, the girls always got through it together. On September 14, that theme played out at Purr Cocktail Lounge. "Thank You For Being A Friend," an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Golden Girls, was far more than a sitcom viewing party; it was a night of community, friendship, and fundraising for a very important cause: combating breast cancer.

"My life was personally affected by breast cancer in May of this year," Barbie Humphrey, owner of Purr Cocktail Lounge, told SGN. "When I was diagnosed, it turned my world upside-down. I lost a close personal friend to this battle last October. My life instantly filled with fear."

During the viewing party, created by local events planner Art Ruiz and hosted by local drag personality Sylvia O'Stayformore, patrons bought raffle tickets for a chance to win prizes that ranged from concert tickets to Golden Girls-themed gifts. All of the proceeds went to The Puget Sound affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization dedicated to combating breast cancer at every front. Up to 75% of the affiliate's net income goes toward funding grants to local hospitals and community organizations that provide breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment programs for medically underserved women.

Barbie told SGN that her only option for a 100% cure was a mastectomy. She learned all of this days before her 45th birthday. She says she put off the surgery until after Seattle's 2010 Gay Pride celebrations so she "could tackle the cancer head-on."

"I opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction so I would never have to go through this fear again," she said. "Today, I am eight weeks cancer-free!"

"I've wanted to do something with Purr and Barbie for quite some time, but we wanted to make sure it was the right event," Art Ruiz told SGN. "Having recently installed so many flatscreen TVs throughout the bar, I knew the event would have to be a viewing party of some sort. Purr has a great layout, and it's very well-known that Barbie has a great staff."

Art says that he has recognized over the years that Barbie has allowed many different organizations to use Purr for their fundraising efforts. "I felt it was time for someone to do something for her," he said. "She's been open about her brave battle with breast cancer - it was only right to make Susan G. Komen Puget Sound the beneficiary."

"I've always been a big supporter of fundraisers. There are so many people who need help and sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day that we forget what is going on around us," said Barbie. "All it takes is for something to hit close to home to make you realize, 'What can I do to help?' I have had so many personal experiences in losing people far too young to disease we have no control over. It leaves you feeling helpless. By using my bar to host fundraisers, it allows all of us to relate, to give, to take away that helpless feeling."

In addition to charitable fundraising, Barbie says she is proud that Purr has become a place for various community teams and organizations to help raise money. "I feel this keeps community groups alive and creates a positive outlet for many people," she said. "The Gay community has been a true friend to me over the past 15-plus years. By providing a nice place for everyone to feel welcome, and by giving back as much as I can, it makes me feel like I'm doing what I can to help make a difference."

Art says that the decision to choose The Golden Girls as a viewing and party theme came quickly. "The Golden Girls dealt with so many provocative topics - which was ahead of its time," he said. "Episodes dealt with topics ranging from eating disorders and substance abuse to domestic violence and homophobia. In fact, they had so many Gay-related episodes that I feel it's what helped make them Gay icons."

The show celebrated its 25th anniversary on September 14, "and there was no way Seattle's Gay community could go without acknowledging it," he said.

"My favorite thing about The Golden Girls is it takes us back to a time when people laughed," reflected Barbie. "TV was much more lighthearted, but still dealt with some serious issues. The girls had an amazing bond that left you hoping to have such great friends the older we get. They laughed at themselves as well as each other, but at the end of the day, their friendship was the most important thing."

Friendship is something that Barbie says helped her battle breast cancer. "The overwhelming response and support I received from this community during my surgery and recovery was unimaginable," she said. "The love and thoughtfulness came out of the woodwork. Another Gay bar owner said to me, 'You're one of us. We're glad you're OK.'"

Art and Barbie say that they are very happy with the community response at "Thank You For Being A Friend." The event raised nearly $500 - and the duo isn't done yet.

"October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month so we have a couple more fundraisers in the works," said Barbie. "Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation aids in research and education in helping to find a cure. The plastic surgeon that is doing my reconstruction is on the Seattle board for Susan G. Koman. She is also a breast cancer survivor and had gone through the same diagnosis and overcame much more obstacles than I had to. I feel I'm a voice and a friend in this community that many people can relate to. Thanks to all for your continued support. Much love for many years to come."

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