At “Dinner at Shibden Hall,” We Sure Did Dine!

On the evening of April the 25th, a flock of exceptionally hot and important queers assembled at the austere House of the Redeemer on the Upper East Side of New York City to celebrate the premiere of Season Two of HBO’s Gentleman Jack, hosted by Human By Orientation. Believe it or not, we were there and in fact had an exceptionally good time, as I’m sure Anne Lister would’ve wanted for us all.

Photobooth from Gentleman Jack: four photos of our group -- Elise, Riese, Christina, Drew, Kristen Arnett, Kayla Kumari

Autostraddle’s Event Crew: back row – actress Elise Bauman, Riese Bernard, Christina Tucker, Drew Gregory. Front row: novelist Kristen Arnett, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya (Not in the photobooth but also in our crew on Monday night: Anya Richkind, Jourdain Searles and Cora Harrington)

HBO, with light assistance from Autostraddle and our extended network of queer humans doing cool shit in New York City, created an event that celebrated queer community, queer love and queer art.

The festivities began when we started getting ready that afternoon but they officially began when we arrived at the House of the Redeemer at 6pm, at which point I took 45 photographs of Autostraddle writer Drew Gregory and her girlfriend, Lesbian Lifetime Christmas Movie legend Elise Bauman, in front of a Volvo that they did not own. This was followed by another photoshoot of the whole gang in front of a noted courtyard.

Group Photo of the Autostraddle group and a photo of Drew & Elise in front of a Volvo

Group Photo, L to R: Drew Gregory, Kristen Arnett, Riese Bernard, Christina Tucker, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya and Anya Richkind. Jourdain Searles in the front! /// Other photo: Drew, Elise & a Volvo

Once inside, we enjoyed small appetizers on golden trays and festive beverages also delivered on golden trays while entertained by a gay string quartet!

Portrait of Gentleman Jack, string quartet playing

It was clear from the jump that everybody at this party was very cool.

Three photos of party attendees "dressed to impress"

We immediately beelined for the Photobooth, where a plethora of related costume pieces were available for our direct engagement.

Our group posing at the photobooth

We then traversed a winding stairway, lit with tiny tea lights that none of us knocked over as we ascended into the upper levels of this very cool house!

Two pictures; Christina and Riese ascending the stairs, Kristen and Kayla ascending the stairs

In the upper chambers we found additional mingling, small-plates-consuming and imbibing, and also we waited to have our chance at doing yet more photography in a place my companions assured me had “great light.” They were not wrong!

Our Team posing in flattering light

Christina Tucker, Drew Gregory, Riese Bernard, Anya Richkind, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

The photoshoot was consequently interrupted by an announcement that the main event — the screening of Gentleman Jack Season Two Episode One — was about to commence, and we filed into a library that I wish was my own personal library in my own personal mansion!

Everybody sitting in an austere library

Once seated we got a rousing introduction to Season 2 with our very special screening of the season’s first episode. We celebrated, together, a delightful romp into mid-19th century lesbian courtship and mental health care, conflicts relating to the distribution and alleged theft of coal from land that belonged to Anne Lister, Anne Lister eating a plum while standing on a scenic vista and remembering hot sex with Ann Walker the night prior, the intricacies of purchasing a spry pony and the ethics of solidifying a subversive lesbian “marriage” by including one another’s lands in their will. This has never come up for me personally, but I am happy for them — we all were!

Two pictures: one of the HBO team introducing the screening in front of a "Gentleman Jack" logo projected on a screen & Ann Walker on the screen in the first episode of Gentleman Jack

We laughed and clapped and admired Anne Lister’s exceptional fast walking skills and ended the screening in hot anticipation of two things: Season 2 Episode 2 and dinner.

Earlier in the day we’d been playing “who will be at the event tonight” and Christina had wondered aloud, but certainly not in a serious way, “what if Melissa King is making the dinner.” In the past, Christina has shared a number of feelings about Melissa King in her weekly No Filter column on this website, including “I still have a crush on Melissa King!” (September 2020) and “Weird, My Last Name Translates to ‘Wife of Chef Melissa King!'” (October 2021) and “Two Melissa Kings Is a Dream I Once Had and Well – Never Mind!” (November 2021) so imagine all of our surprises, but especially Christina’s surprise, to hear that indeed MELISSA KING WAS MAKING US DINNER.

Melissa King is gonna make us dinner

As King later explained in her intro to the meal, after marathoning Season One, she’d prepared a multi-course meal inspired by the program — its love of pea soup, its iconic top hat, its short ribs.

We were READY TO EAT.

Melissa King making a bib salad

If I could take a moment for this soup??? It was perhaps the best soup I have ever consumed in my life?

Best Soup Ever: Pea-Coconut Soup: morels, Puffed wild rice, scallion oil

Everybody chatted and laughed and smiled and ate and was gay!

Selection of photos of the guests at the Gentleman Jack dinner party

collage from the dinner

Throughout the meal, in addition to delightful conversation with each other, people we’d just met, and also Cora Harrington (who was in our party but hadn’t arrived yet when we took the group pics, which is too bad because she came in fancy pajamas), we were treated to some delightful gay ballet in period costume:

collage of two queer Black ballerinas performing in Victorian costumes

… as well as the ongoing regalement from the quartet, who inspired singalongs when they broke into orchestral arrangements of hits including Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and “Mamma Mia” and Sia’s “Chandelier” and Lil Nas X’s “Montero.” Although I lament not recording these singalongs for posterity, here are more pictures of us at the event!

Collage of pictures from the dinner party

The finale of the meal, a Georgian chocolate cake shaped like a top hat, was the best cake I have ever eaten in my life, and also had the unexpected side effect of turning all of our tongues and teeth blue. We had just discovered this when Melissa King came over to talk to us but I think we all did great considering!

Melissa King and her top hat

In conclusion, a truly incredible and unforgettable night was had by all, and it was so lovely to be in community with so many cool queer people. I mean, even the florist was queer!

flower arrangements at the Gentleman Jack event

Thank you to Human By Orientation for having us! Everybody really ought to tune in to HBO’s Season 2 of Gentleman Jack, now streaming on HBO Max!


We keep Autostraddle majority free-to-read, but it isn't free to create! We need YOU to sign up for A+ to help keep this indie queer media site funded. A+ membership starts at just $4/month or $30/year. If you can, will you join?

Join A+

Riese

Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2946 articles for us.

23 Comments

    • Same. I may have spent a few minutes mentally running through my wardrobe wondering what I would have worn to this event, but I’m mostly just so gosh darn in love with the whole thing. What a cool evening filled with cool people.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!