Don Lemon Spends the Weekend in Philly

The CNN Weekend anchor came to town for a journalism conference and wound up covering Hurricane Irene's impact on the area

CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon has I. Goldberg Army & Navy store to thank for his coverage of Hurricane Irene. Lemon, an NBC10 alum, was in town Saturday to address the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s 2011 national convention at Loews Philadelphia. On his own time and his own dime. Zesty move, Lemon.

Although on vacation, Lemon, 45, contacted his boss and volunteered to cover Irene from Philadelphia on Sunday. That night, he was scheduled to fly to Miami with his four-year partner, CNN producer Ben Tinker, 26, for some long-anticipated rest and relaxation. Shockingly, CNN said yes to Lemon’s offer of free work.

One small problem, though. He hadn’t packed his CNN rain gear.

No worries. With I. Goldberg just two blocks away, Lemon walked over and bought a yellow rain parka with matching pants for 60 bucks, on sale. Lemon yellow, to be precise. A coincidence, Lemon insists. The green and blue outfits weren’t available in his size.

After being auctioned off for a date at the annual NLGJA auction Saturday night, Lemon was up before dawn Sunday. When he walked into CNN’s satellite truck in his running shoes, a producer happened to have a pair of rain boots. Lemon-yellow rain boots.

Altogether, Lemon did five live shots, beginning at 5:15 a.m. Two with Anderson Cooper, two with John King, one with HLN. His Miami flight was canceled, so he dined with friends at Sampan, in the gayborhood. He got to Miami on Monday night.

Now about that auctioned date … Needless to say, a model-handsome gay network anchor didn’t come cheap with this crowd. Internet entrepreneur David Hauslaib won the bidding at $1,050. “When the auctioneer yelled, ‘Sold!,’ I said, ‘You can’t say ‘sold’ to a black man!,’” jokes Lemon.

The auction “was a bit embarrassing, but flattering,” he adds. “Everyone knows I have a partner, but I’m happy to do it for the organization.” (Full disclosure: I am a long-time NLGJA member and was inducted to its Hall of Fame in 2008.)

Lemon is based in Atlanta. Hauslaib lives in L.A., with his partner. Their $1,050 date is scheduled for early next month, when Lemon will be in L.A. for a photo shoot for Out magazine.

P.R.-wise, Lemon is practically flambe.

Jon Stewart profiled him on The Daily Show, followed the next night by a bit with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report. He drew headlines when he got all up in Senator Rand Paul’s grille for his use of Talking Points. And more headlines when he got elbowed into a golf cart by Michele Bachmann’s husband at the Iowa State Fair.

As for details of the big date, all Lemon will say is that he and Hauslaib discussed “whether we should bring our boyfriends and have them sit at a different table.”

Now that’s a hurricane I’d like to see.