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New York star power behind Md. same-sex marriage law

New York, New York (deep in Cuomo territory) -- With only a few moments to deadline, this reporter breathlessly topped a story with scenes from a fundraiser the James Hotel in SoHo Thursday evening. Not all of the good stuff made it into the paper, so here are some extras from the notebook.

The event was a fundraiser for Maryland's same-sex marriage campaign. The idea for it was hatched at a dinner a few months back with Gov. Martin O'Malley, actor Josh Charles and Brian Ellner, who ran the New York pro-same-sex marriage battle.

The venue was dramatic: A rooftop bar in SoHo. And it glittered with celebrities. For the most part, all were easy going.

Thom Browne, a fashion designer: First of all, he was wearing a really cool gray "shorts-suit" ensemble that included cashmere and pinstripes but was subtle and classy. It's unclear that most men could pull it off, but he looked so at ease and comfortable, maybe some should try.

He has a tenuous Maryland connection but came out to support same-sex marriage in the Free State because he thinks marriage is "a fundamental right."

He's evidently is buddies with Sandra Bernhard and her partner, as he was also trying to organize a dinner. Fun.

Bernhard chatted with me for a few minutes, saying that she thinks this is critical year for the same-sex marriage fight.

"Once one state goes, they all start going," she predicted. And that will give people more comfort with the issue, allowing people to get "more relaxed" about it.

Bernhard called Maryland "a mighty little state."

A longtime fan came up. They bonded. I wandered off. 

Later, I spotted Maryland First Lady Katie O'Malley having a fun-looking chat with John Waters. Waters totes around a card that reminds him how many days its been since he's smoked a cigarette. The number is very, very high.

Near the bar was Sean Avery, the ice hockey player, but he was uber-popular, making him a bit difficult to interview. He was repeatedly congratulated for being the first professional athlete to come out in favor of same-sex marriage.

That strand of conversation led to Brendon Ayanbadejo, the Ravens football player that Del. Emmett Burns tried to muzzle on gay rights. Ayanbadejo wasn't there, but lots and lots of people were talking about him.

And, the celebrity reporting part of the hour ended with a long chat with Susan Sarandon. She talked about about the opponents of same-sex marriage, predicting a "divide and conquer" strategy. "It is a very effective way to influence people," she said.

In recent years, she said, it has become "a lot easier for people to come out." Friends have gay kids. Kids have gay teachers. The more people are out, she said, the easier the message becomes.

And, just as I was filing my story, word went out that Barbara Bush -- the former first daughter -- had stopped by. She didn't want to be interviewed and didn't want her photo taken. But she did proclaim to love Baltimore, where her sister Jenna taught for a bit.

Possibly my favorite moment of the night came at the very end, when a man called "Richard" stumbled into the event just as it was wrapping up. Seeing Ed Norton, he focused his iPhone and snapped a photo. Norton was a little annoyed.

"Richard" (I'm not totally sure about his name) realized he'd committed an A-list faux pas and whipped out his wallet to donate the $250 cover charge to the nearest person -- who happened to be Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur. She has somehow configured her iPhone to take donations, so watch out.

Later a few women asked me to take pictures while they posed with Mizeur, saying they wanted an early shot with the country's "first gay governor."

Baltimore Sun photo of Sandra Bernhard and Tom Browne by Karl Merton Ferron

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