I’m struggling to put pen to paper. The tragedy at Pulse and the man with explosives on his way to LA Pride in WeHo have changed everything. On Sunday, Micky’s was checking each and every person’s bags for bombs or guns. The Abbey is also upping the ante on its security measures. Orlando could have happened right here at home. At Monday night’s Public Safety Commission meeting I asked for a doubling down of resources for the Boystown district. We pay lots of sales tax to the city. The sheriff needs to have a greater presence in the nightlife area, including cops on the beat, patrol cars parked on side streets and surveillance cameras. The city council failed to act on cameras earlier in the year. Our community’s safety is more important than an individual’s civil liberty. It’s time to put the issue of surveillance cameras in public areas back on the agenda.
The parade was light. Only two to three people deep in many places along Santa Monica Boulevard. There were moments you could walk in both directions on a clear sidewalk. Chris Classen, president of Christopher Street West (CSW), which puts on the parade, said on CNN that he thought the parade was 100,000 persons light. But among those there, people held signs in support of both gay and straight people massacred in Orlando and showed the world we are together. Through the dust and ashes of tragedy the world showed its Pride. On the streets of London, on the Eiffel tower in Paris, from the White House to Tel Aviv, people gathered to honor those who lost their lives and show their Pride. Pride in humanity. Pride in liberty. Pride in community. Pride in the colors of the rainbow. The lost souls in Orlando are not forgotten. Their spirits are rising to paint planet Earth the colors of the rainbow.
Back here at home, the LA Pride Music Festival and Parade was prepared with fantastic security in place. Chris Classen declared: “The show must go on!” Sheriff’s Capt. Holly Perez called in the county troops. The ability to tap into county resources during a crisis was a big benefit and should put an end to those advocating for our own police department. SWAT teams were in plain sight. Many of us were standing on the parade route with tears in our eyes as reality tested our Pride.
Business was brisk for local merchants. My store, Block Party, posted its biggest day in history on Pride Sunday. After speaking to many neighbors it is clear that the Boystown district was popping. The LA Pride Music Festival and Parade was a commercial success for local businesses. People who refused to pay $30 to enter the festival stood on lines around the block for bars like Micky’s and Revolver. We probably won’t know if CSW also had a record Pride for months or years. We are still waiting on them to release their 2015 financials.
The questions that were raised pre-Pride still need to be answered. Let’s start with: Who is throwing this Pride festivity? On banners it says: “LA Pride Music Festival and Parade” and underneath in small letters “in West Hollywood.” The city’s $600,000 contribution should buy us top billing! Banners along the street should read “West Hollywood presents LA Pride.” The resources our city invests should give us top sponsorship. Yes, West Hollywood presents LA Pride! It is not LA Pride just using a venue in West Hollywood. It’s our Pride.
The city puts on One City One Pride, organized by city staffer Michael Che, which presents 94 events over 40 days. I was speaking with a senior city staffer and asked: “Do you think we can place 20 or so of those One City One Pride events into one day of programming over Pride weekend without stressing staff resources? Her answer was “not on Sunday but perhaps we could do it Saturday.” Then she said “Liberation Saturday.” I asked “can I quote you?” “No,” she said. “Just say the idea came from a dyke at city hall.”
The money that we save CSW by replacing its Saturday programming by One City One Pride events will be enough to provide free tickets to all West Hollywood residents. We also can work with the city’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission on an art budget that includes the festival. CSW is spending close to $30,000 in art for the festival alone. Working together we can get free tickets for West Hollywood residents by eliminating duplicate costs.
This year’s Pride festival is also reason to give a hats off to the transgender community. Too many wonderful hearts to mention, but Peter Cruz and Rachel Zoe stood up and would not be shut down or shut out. In the future, the city’s Transgender Advisory Board should be in charge of the trans-programming at Pride. Never again can our trans community be minimized or silenced in a day of gay liberation. My vote goes to another Transgender Day of Remembrance during the Pride Festival. Our transgender community is filled with leaders with heart and passion and integrity. Never again will CSW minimize or shut out the transgender voices. Pride needs to be inclusive. Pride needs to be accessible. Pride must include all.
Many of us old guys or gals that fought for gay rights and equality felt left out in the current Pride programming at West Hollywood Park. Plummer Park would be a perfect place for a Senior Pride event for us. There non-profits organizations should be on display and available to all. Hiding non-profits inside a festival that has a $30 admission fee — like that at West Hollywood Park — does not seem reasonable. The people who need these non-profit services might not have the resources to attend the festival. They should not be left out from a day celebrating community.
And then there are the things that we really failed at. There were almost zero porta-potties on Santa Monica Boulevard. The alley behind the shops became a “pissing zone.” And coming to work Sunday morning pre-parade, there was garbage all over the streets from the day before. I stood there with Adam Emarian from Micky’s asking “Can you believe the city would leave it like this for Pride Sunday?” The City of West Hollywood seemed to overlook these basic necessities.
The drunk-fest got nasty too. There were three fights in front of my shop on Santa Monica Boulevard on Saturday night. A female temp employee got punched in the face. A pickpocket clipped a cell phone from an employee and a brawl ensued. While in past years many community members have spoken that “it’s too much drinking,” this year was no different. Our local yogurt shop tied themselves to a non-profit to get a temporary liquor license. Signs read, “Strong Drinks, Cheap Prices” and a few members of the AA echoed their disappointment that their “safe zone” now was just another place to get a drink. Many other businesses raised their prices for the weekend to gouge the customers. And a city council member surprised some when he got up on the stage at the festival and said “Here are the rules: Rule One, get drunk. Rule Two, get laid. And Rule Three, get home safe.” Listening to him, the 18-year old niece of a friend of mine turned to her uncle and said, “I’m not old enough to drink” and “My mom said I should fall in love before having sex.” Perhaps that bully pulpit could have been used to call for unity or the importance of getting out to vote or even a personal experience in the fight for gay rights rather than getting drunk.
Lets move forward and count our blessings — this Pride was safe. Let’s work together on planning a more inclusive Pride with less emphasis on alcohol. Let’s honor those who came before us by appreciating their sacrifice and sharing their history. Let’s make sure Pride is a celebration of who we are as a community. Let’s begin work on the next Pride festival that will begin with “West Hollywood Presents LA Pride,” free tickets for West Hollywood residents, and “Liberation Saturday” — a celebration of the history of the gay rights movement. You can thank the dyke at City Hall for that one.