‘A STAARR is Born’

1920s costume gala to benefit sexual abuse recovery group

By Steven Mross, photography courtesy of STAARR

By Steven Mross, photography courtesy of STAARR

Hot Springs is a long way in space and time from Hollywood in the Roaring ’20s, but the founder of the former Committed to Freedom ministry is hoping to borrow some of the magical allure of that period for the launch of its new identity as STAARR (Sexual Trauma and Abuse Recovery Resources).

“This will be our coming out party. Our big ‘A Star is Born’ moment,” Sallie Culbreth said of the costume gala to be held at 6:30 p.m. June 30 upstairs at the Porterhouse Club, 707 Central Ave., to raise funds for STAARR’s services and its transition to being an online program provider.

“At the beginning of the year, we changed the name legally. Committed to Freedom doesn’t really say who we are. It’s always sounded more political or even militant,” she said, noting they didn’t want to be confused with groups like Amnesty International or Doctors Without Borders.

“We wanted to make what we do more accessible. It’s a big shift, but not so much in what we offer as how we offer it,” she said. “We felt it was time to back up and look at how we work and see if we could work more effectively.”

Their goal as always is to provide people with spiritual and emotional tools to move beyond childhood and adult sexual abuse, previously through retreats and live seminars, helping men and women on their recovery journey.

“For survivors to walk into a room full of people to get help takes more courage than most can imagine,” Culbreth said, noting that “you can get online and you’re not exposed. You are given tremendous anonymity.”FunCityChorus(1)

She said high functioning survivors can go to counseling, yoga classes, massage therapy and “get the help they need,” but for many low functioning survivors its difficult to do that. Among the general population about 20 percent have been sexually assaulted over the course of their life, whether it’s fondling, molestation, sexual harassment up to full on rape.

Culbreth said for 25 years she has traveled constantly. “After I spent two nights in an airport because of canceled flights I started thinking it was time for a change. I thought there has got to be a better way. Technology is our new friend.”

They are making the shift to online including being mobile accessible, such as cellphones and iPads, she said, noting “stats show there are fewer people sitting in front of a computer vs. mobile devices.”

Their programs offer three- to eight-minute lessons, “very short, very targeted. It’s not a talking head production. We use several different mediums. We take the concepts and find images to reinforce them.”

Cubreth stressed that their change is “a huge undertaking” and they are a nonprofit and “the reality right now is that since we’re not traveling, we’re not generating income from the sponsored events.”

Which is where the gala fundraiser comes in, which they anticipate will become an annual event. She also stressed the event “will have nothing to do with sexual assault. We’re not going to talk about it. We’re not going to show pictures. This will be a fun gala to give us the funds to do our mission.”

Culbreth and her daughter, Anne Quinn, STAARR co-director, chose the theme because “we love the 1920s. Especially Hollywood in the ’20s. It’s so glamorous and glitzy. It’s a fun opportunity to have a unique experience.”

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Sylvia Stems (alias Angie Ezekiel) in her 1920s costume

There will be musical performances from Don Gooch, Chuck Dodson, Sylvia Stems (alias Angie Ezekiel) and the Fun City Chorus as well as a DJ playing 1920s music in between the live performances.

“There will be so much going on. Like a three-ring circus. All the rooms will be filled,” she said. Courtney Speyer will be offering Charleston lessons and Madame Zaheera (alias Nan Cameron) “will be here with her plasma ball reading the ethers
on everyone’s behalf ” as well as Tarot card readings. “It should be highly entertain- ing.”

There will also be “Silent Film Karaoke” with Steve Helms. Participants can pick from three different story lines with some segments pre-filmed for each story.

“The person picks the story they want and they will be given two or three short scenes to film which are then edited in with the pre-shot material to make a two to three minute long black and white movie like the old silent films of that era. We’ll put it on a DVD for them to take home. It’s loads of fun.”

The event is sponsored by the Morris Foundation and Porterhouse, with Penny Gargano providing all the food for free. There will also be a cash bar and silent auction and portrait photography by Robert Brindley.

“I think it’s going to be a blast. A very sophisticated evening and all of this fun is to help us provide resources for survivors.” Tickets are $75 and available at www.STAARR.org or call 501-545-0791.

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