Sonja Martinez hosts 29th annual Christmas AIDS benefit at OKC’s Angles Club

1. Entertainer Sonja Martinez. 2. At Sonja’s 20th Annual Christmas AIDS Benefit are Norma Jean Goldenstein. Roxie Hart, Kitty Bob Aimes, Sonja Martinez, Matthew Heath-Fitzgerald, Ben Williams, Renee Anderson and John-Martin Beebe. 3. Sonja with Jackie and Barbara Cooper in 1995 at her benefit. 4. At Sonja’s 2006 Christmas AIDS Benefit, Mr. Tony Sinclair. Photos provided.

by Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

In the early ‘80s, when AIDS was becoming a known issue in the Oklahoma community, Sonja Martinez was crowned “The Lady for 1984” at the Free Spirit Club. The club was in an old church building at 31st and Classen in OKC and was a popular gay gathering place of that time.  

“I was helping with blood drives at the Free Spirit Club on Classen,” said Martinez. “I had several close friends who were diagnosed, and many later died, and it became a passion. 

“While I was doing Barbara Cooper's nails during that time, we talked about her son having AIDS. I told her she could reach people who I would never reach. I decided I should also have something in the gay community.”

At that time, Barbara and Jackie Cooper began the well-known Red Tie Night, and Martinez started her annual Christmas AIDS Benefit.

Now in her 29th year, she has watched the event evolve in many ways.

“I originally started in Gusher's Restaurant,” Martinez said. “It was packed, and after two years, we moved to the COPA for more space. Originally it was all live singers, and then I transitioned into having female impersonators and some dancers as well as live singers.”

Martinez reflected on some of her past performers who have contributed their time and talent to this important event: Deb Roberts, Brian Garrison, John Beebe, Darenda Boswell, Todd Cotts, Alison Scott, Jacob Sparso, Su-Chiu Lo, Kirsti Pollard, Tori, Angie Simons-Brady, Clay Evans, Bernadette Martinez, Debbie Davie and Matthew Heath-Fitzgerald. Whew.

But there’s more! Tony Sinclair, Kitty Bob Aimes, Ben Williams, Roxie Hart, Renee Anderson, Norma Jean Goldenstein, Nikki B, Tabitha Taylor, Frank Thompson, Shantel Mandalay, Nelle Neptune, Renee Hilton, O'Dey Davenport Brooks, Michael Evans, Bebe Adams, Teekee LaRue, Shae Porter, Maria Isabel and Rachel Crawford.

But the show couldn’t be possible without the “behind the scenes" supporters who make sure the show gets produced, promoted and completed each year.

“Lee Burrus and Nick Post have always hosted the event,” Martinez said. “Rick Moses and Tony Foss have donated flowers, the COPA staff for all the hard work getting ready. Casey Christensen and Sue Akins and Teddy Compton have helped with pictures.  

“And my wife, Dee Goodwin, who keeps us in line!”

She added, “This event would not be possible without the wonderful support of the people who perform, the people who work behind the scenes, and the people who attend and support this important cause.”

Martinez said she would not be able to choose any one show that has been her “favorite” because “They have all been wonderful in many different ways.”

However, she did reflect on the funniest thing she remembered at one of her benefits.

“The year, I think it was my 20th, Kitty Bob Aimes and Norma Jean Goldenstein were doing a skit with a Christmas box. Norma Jean popped out of the box as an elf and somehow got hit in the face by Kitty Bob. He just acted like it was part of the skit, but I knew better! It was hilarious!”

Martinez said this event is important to her because she has lost too many friends to AIDS, and people are still dying. 

“I never expected to be still doing this benefit this long because I thought there would no longer be a need. I hope to help until we don't need to.”

Martinez chose the beneficiary of her event, The Winds House ASP after she began working with Loaves and Fishes, a food pantry for people living with AIDS.

“When things changed there once Sister Gail Addis left, Tony Sinclair, Camille Rohn, [co-owner of Tramps] and Dee and I went to the Winds House at the recommendation of Richard Ogden,” she said. “I liked what they did, so Tramps and I chose them at that point.”

After her soon to be 29 years of hosting this annual Christmas benefit and her performances year-round at various events, Martinez shared a fact about herself that most people may not know.

“I still get stage fright after all the years I have performed!”

The 29th annual Sonja Martinez Christmas AIDS Benefit will be held on Monday, December 9, from 6-10 p.m. at Angles Club, located in the 39th St. District (2117 NW 39th St, OKC). For tickets, visit and search “Sonja Martinez Christmas AIDS Benefit.”

Copyright The Gayly. 11/11/2019 @ 7:02 a.m. CST.