LA Pride Festival Founder Calls for Changes

Gay Pride Parade on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles, 1977. (Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, UCLA Library Special Collections)
Gay Pride Parade on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles, 1977. (Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, UCLA Library Special Collections)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Pat Rocco, the founder of the L.A. Pride festival and the first president of Christopher Street West, the non-profit organization that manages L.A. Pride, has written the following letter (lightly edited here for style) that he wants to be presented at Wednesday’s public discussion of this year’s controversial Pride event. That discussion, open to the public, will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the West Hollywood Auditorium adjacent to the West Hollywood Library on San Vicente Boulevard.

Dear community friends and members of the Christopher Street West board of directors and CSW President Chris Classen:

As the first CSW president and the first festival founder, among other things, I greet you from my home in Hawaii.

I’m preparing for a permanent move from Hawaii back to the city of West Hollywood in the next few months because I have always considered Hollywood and West Hollywood my first home as well as the first home of my partner of more than 24 years, and I was practically born there. My other home also has been Christopher Street West. Even though the past 27 years have been very successful for me here in Hawaii, it’s West Hollywood that beckons me to return to my first love

You are all being challenged today to comment on this year’s Pride events, and that’s a very good thing. Only through open discussions among yourselves can you achieve some understanding of recent events. I hope you’ll continue to have open meetings like this because they can do nothing but good for you and our entire LGBT community

Pat Rocco
Pat Rocco

After reading the lengthy article about Pride’s financial cost in WEHOville, I consider it my duty as a gay man to make some comments that I trust you will take to heart because that’s where they come from.


First, I was somewhat astounded by the huge amounts of money that was spent on the Pride events. I can remember my first ten years as the first CSW president, where NO ONE on the board or in the community paid or received any money at all from being a board member of CSW. We were ALL volunteers who wanted nothing more than to present our best results with our annual Pride events. We were a highly visible grassroots organization that wanted nothing more than to be proud of ourselves and equal in our community at large.

To do this, we often showed ourselves in parades, festivals, candlelight marches, sit-ins, demonstrations and by standing up to be counted in as many ways as possible. As time progressed and our major events moved from Hollywood to West Hollywood, we also grew as gay men and lesbians who were OUTSPOKEN and APPRECIATED and earned everyone’s respect.

Now, with years of these grass roots behind us, we are in a generation that has mostly been forgotten by the present one. However, that’s okay because progress is like that, and much of our past history can only be found in books. But that’s okay too, and we accept that.

But now, with all this growth, we have found that we have not only outgrown the past, but we have forgotten the thriftiness of presenting events, outspending ourselves and leaving huge debts in our path. Such is the situation that we find ourselves in today. I’m told that Chris Classen and possibly some board members are thinking of calling it quits and are going on to other things. This represents a huge loss to our community, and I hope they might reconsider.

I truly believe that Chris and his board of directors had the best intentions when they suggested changes for this year’s Pride events. New ideas are often good. But tried-and-true things from the past, even the far-distant past, might still be good enough for today. With this in mind, please consider some rather drastic ideas I would like to present to you to possibly get things back on track.

Money, or the lack of it, and the high cost of things, seems to be the biggest problem. Many of you may completely object to my following suggestions, but some might think they are wise enough to cause a positive reconstruction of the two major events and some of the smaller ones that are celebrated during the Gay Pride week. A list of the expenditures from this year has been published, and I’ll use this as a guideline for some of my comments.

Here we go:

1) We’ve out priced our expectations and ourselves in many departments. Admission tickets should go back to $25 for ALL except a few, selected and voted upon by organizations or groups, that deserve to have a cheaper price break or an outright “free fee.” We are here to not only help people but to also show that we really mean it at the admission gate. That’s who we are, and that’s who we should be.

2) Since revenue from beverage sales was down 65%, we’re getting a message. Therefore I suggest that all LGBT community booths that sell beverages should sell those drinks for 30% (or more) less than they were previously priced. Also, major sponsors who sell drinks should be encouraged to sell their drinks for less because their (higher) drink cost will cause lower income for them as other booths offer lower prices. In addition, bring back the 10′ X 10′ booths that can be rented on a first-come, first-serve basis by gay and lesbian organizations or groups.

3) While parade fees were up, there was no way for me to know which KINDS of groups had low, medium or high fees so that I could know what KINDS of groups would be helped by a 25% or more cut in their fees. Therefore I suggest that when there is a breakdown in the fees a vote be taken to see what KINDS of groups should have a fee cut.

4) A drastic cut in salaries for festival and parade producers and others is absolutely necessary. If they don’t realize this and go along with it, then we should get other people to do their jobs. As an example, the producer of the parade and festival gets $80,000 for his work. I believe that to be outrageous and suggest that they take a 50% price cut or be replaced.

A participant in West Hollywood's Gay Pride Parade June 28, 1982. (Photo by Anne Knudsen, Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)
A participant in West Hollywood’s Gay Pride Parade June 28, 1982. (Photo by Anne Knudsen, Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, Courtesy of the LA Public Library Photo Collection)

5) The operations manager should also take a 50% cut in his $24,000 salary or be replaced by another person who can charge considerably less.

6) With the success of the first DTLA Proud festival, we should all be appreciative of our nearly sisters and bothers who help to make it all come through. Congratulations to all of you who help to bring the values of equality to one of the largest cities in the United States.

7) The event coordinator who is paid $17,000 also needs to take a 50% cut in salary or be replaced.

8) The art and heritage coordinator who has received $12,500 should also take a 50% cut in salary or be replaced.

9) The parade production manager salary of $14,000 should also be cut 50% or the manager should be replaced.

10) $80,000 was paid to festival producer Jeff Consoletti, and CSW paid $20,000 to someone to book performers for the event and an additional $44,300 for another entertainment staff person. Those contractors should be named in the financial report. This is public information.

11) The consultant who now receives a salary of $44,000 (paid to Sam Borelli) should take a 50% cut or be replaced (by two or more persons). That salary cut may be divided to cover up to three consultants.

12) The publicity director received a salary of $37,000 and should be required to accept $30,000 for his position or be replaced.

13) Entertainment fees were $469,753 and must be cut by 50% or replaced with less costly entertainers. For the transgender celebration $4,550 was spent, $45,925 was spent on hip hop artists and hosts, $52,353 on Latin artists and hosts and $344,950 for general entertainment and hosts.

14) Christopher Street West, which has no fulltime staff, has spent $6,000 of a budgeted $13,500 to lease its small office at the Pacific Design Center and $30,731 to renovate the space. A savings could have been had with a smaller location in the area. An additional $4,230 was spent for parking and office utilities and internet and telephone service. This area can use some trimming.

Some people are bound to balk at these reductions, but they must be reminded that they are absolutely necessary. I can only hope that they will embrace the necessity, understand the reasons for it and pull together to make it happen. The rest is up to your own scrutiny and logic.

I present all of this to you hoping that you understand that it comes from my everlasting love of CSW and my wanting to see that it survives and thrives with the kind of love and understanding that it deserves from the bottom of your own mind and thoughts.

I will totally understand ANY changes, additions, or suggestions that you may take. My guidelines are suggested and promoted only by my love for the continued existence of the Christopher Street West Organization that I have loved through the years

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Edna Esfeld
Edna Esfeld
7 years ago

As a long standing So Cal. LGBT resident, a proud one too, I hereby second the motion to proceed immediately with Pat Rooco’s recommended changes to an important event needed still today. The goal that gay founder Pat Rocco foresaw back in the days before rap was promoted and when Anita Bryant became a household nightmare , has been lost, or buried. This goal, to empower a love between same sexes for same rights and acceptance, will always be the shinning star in the darkest moments of those who pioneered before us, bearing the brunt of discrimination and abuse from… Read more »

Ida Claire
Ida Claire
7 years ago

Aren’t there more thorough “job” descriptions” to help legitimize these expenditures? Such as one Sam Borelli’s $44,000.00 as a consultant? With whom & for what? What is the cost/benefit analysis? Some of these things it seems could not only be cut in half, they could be entirely eliminated. This sounds more like a political campaign than a “celebration”.

Don Azars
Don Azars
7 years ago

Good thoughts and suggestions from Pat. Basically GREED has taken over what was originally a protest-parade to obtain visibility for Gays & Lesbians. It protested bigotry, abuse (cops and others) and demanded equality, I say that again EQUALITY. It was NOT an opportunity for bars & other businesses to gain profits. Sure things change (gratefully) but the event which moved from LA to the West Hollywood area (now a city) also increased the opportunity for such profiteers to find new ways to increase profits instead of support the CAUSE and NEEDS of what we now call the LGBT community. Prices… Read more »