Out 100

11.9.2005

By Out.com Editors

There are years defined by a single event: a breakthrough in AIDS treatment, a Supreme Court ruling overturning sodomy laws, or a state legalizing same-sex marriage. On the other hand, 2005 was notable more for natural disasters in which we pitched in to do our part'with help from our Straight Allies and hindrance from new electees to the Hall of Shame. Here are some exclusive excerpts from this year's portfolio.

Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge has performed at the Grammys on numerous occasions, but before going onstage at this year's awards ceremony a strange thought went through her head. 'I just didn't want anyone to make fun of me,' she remembers. 'I had this image of someone with a fake bald head on Saturday Night Live,' she laughs, sort of. 'I mean, come on'that would've hurt my feelings.'

Joining with Joss Stone to perform a tribute to Janis Joplin'and making her first public appearance since being diagnosed with breast cancer'Etheridge delivered the kind of gutsy, high-octane performance that brings phrases like 'kick-ass' to mind. She got the invite in the middle of chemotherapy (or 'hell,' as she calls it) and thought she'd have to pass. Then the treatment ended, and much to her surprise she felt up to the task.

Etheridge's new short do made an appearance on the cover of her first greatest-hits collection, The Road Less Traveled, which was released in October. 'When I look back on this year, I'll think that's when the road went this way'in the sense of all that happened and the choices I had to make.' Another highlight: She and partner Tammy Lynn Michaels cruised cross-country in a swanky RV before hopping on board for Rosie O'Donnell's gay family cruise. 'It's such a blast, even if you don't have children.' Smith Galtney

Charlie David

This Canadian hottie scored his big break as Toby, one of several dreamboats on the Here TV series Dante's Cove, a guilty-pleasure mix of Melrose Place and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 'It was a tough decision,' the 25-year-old heartthrob has admitted of being out professionally, 'but I know it was the right one.'

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Maybe it was her 24 years in law enforcement, starting as a Kansas City, Mo., jailer and rising up the ranks to become a senior agent at the Department of Homeland Security. Or maybe shifting demographics and the whiff of scandal surrounding her opponent played a role. Whatever the reason, Valdez broke four barriers in one fell swoop'as the first woman, first Latina, first lesbian, and first Democrat in three decades to be elected sheriff in Dallas County, Texas. Being out in a conservative area can make the job challenging, Valdez says. But with self-effacing humor and lots of hard work, she has won over many critics and emerged as a role model to anyone faced with a would-be glass ceiling. 'We need to validate everybody, regardless of color, sex, sexual orientation, or class. Everybody, even people like me from very simple beginnings, can'be an asset to society,' she says. Daniel Hendrick

Doug Jefferies

As he watched the death toll rise from the Southeast Asian tsunami, Doug Jefferies felt that a simple donation wasn't going to cut it. 'They had plenty of money coming in'what they needed was the hands-on assistance,' he says. As the owner of the popular Results the Gym in Washington, D.C., Jefferies tapped into one of his greatest resources: his membership. He posted signs in his gyms' two locations, and immediately 21 people (most of them gay and lesbian) signed on to put their well-honed muscles to truly good use, working in Sri Lanka with Habitat for Humanity.

Jefferies, 38, and his fellow volunteers spent the sweltering month of August rebuilding houses in places where the infrastructure includes no electricity or running water. 'I'm not naive'I know we're living in the richest country and that when you travel in the Third World you're usually in this sort of bubble,' he says. 'But when you live and work and eat with the people, you realize how people are really living. We consume way too much as a culture and a society.'

Next, Jefferies plans to draw even more volunteers from his 10,000-strong membership to build houses for Hurricane Katrina survivors. 'It's affected my life forever,' he says. 'I'm so much more grateful for what I have, and I'm not going to take for granted the endless possibilities to better your life and the life of people around you.' Chelsey Johnson

Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy

The history of fashion is rich with tales of a designer and a business partner who together build a formidable fashion house from scratch, including Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berg', Calvin Klein and Barry Schwartz, and Giorgio Armani and Sergio Galeotti. Ever since Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy met at Jacobs's senior-project fashion show at Parsons in 1984, the two have been a powerful pair professionally (not personally). Now, designer Jacobs and business-minded Duffy are the owners, along with LVMH Mo't Hennessy Louis Vuitton S.A., of the extremely influential Marc Jacobs label, and they are directors at Louis Vuitton, where Jacobs designs the clothes, shoes, and bags.

What makes the business partnership work? 'We haven't had a strategy or formula,' says Duffy, phoning with Jacobs from Paris, where they are working on the latest Vuitton collection. 'We do what we believe in.' In the coming year that will mean opening 11 new Marc Jacobs stores around the world, launching a home collection, introducing a new fragrance, and continuing to support favorite charities such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Harvey Milk School, the first accredited gay high school in the United States. 'Robert appreciates what I do,' says Jacobs. 'He doesn't try to change it.' That leaves Jacobs free to explore his sometimes provocative ideas about fashion, which involve 'my continual play with proportion and volume'for instance, a silky, lacy sweater with a huge pair of twill pants, or a big coat with little buttons. A contrast of fabrics and textures and proportion makes a collection interesting.'

Although Jacobs says they both 'wanted at different times to give up or give in' and, reports Duffy, 'there were very, very difficult times when we each got separate job offers,' the two decided long ago to stick by each other. Neither man is close to his relatives; they are family for one another. 'I remember visiting Gianni Versace at his house in Italy,' recounts Duffy, 'and he said to me, 'Whatever you do, do not split up. You cannot go through this industry alone and survive.' ' Bart Boehlert

To see the other 95 of the Out 100, pick up a copy of the December issue of Out.

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