Sunday, June 26, 2016

Not Proud

New York City's Gay Pride Parade 2016
I just got back from New York City’s Gay Pride Parade and, I’m sorry to report, it was the worst thing you could possibly say about a gay event.
It was boring.
Maybe I’m just jaded, or maybe my feelings are being colored by my current financial/job situation or the recent mass shooting at a gay disco in Orlando, but I feel like I’ve reached a tipping point this year.
At first, I thought the reason I didn’t see any floats or hear any music for the first hour after I arrived was because it was a deliberate security measure. After all, there had just been the aforementioned mass shooting and, for the first time, police were patrolling the parade armed with machine guns.
Then, when the first float with music arrived shortly afterward, I realized it was because the parade’s organizers had just decided to front-load the parade with all the most boring groups first. I mean, I was happy to see Gays Against Guns (at least that’s political) and I love gay cops and firemen as much as the next guy, but—boring!
Maybe they figured that, since the floats are bigger and more cumbersome to move, they should place them at the end.
Note to Heritage of Pride (the parade’s organizers): this makes for a very boring parade.
This year’s parade was about as exciting as watching traffic try to pile into the Holland Tunnel (and it moved just as slowly).
Now, mind you, I have a very long history with New York’s Pride Parade. I attended my first parade in 1981, back when it used to start at Columbus Circle. I used to join in at the end of the parade—the place reserved for those unaffiliated with any official group—and march until the end of the parade route.
In the years since then (as the parade route got shorter and shorter), I was there every year (except for one year when I went to Los Angeles and missed both LA’s and New York’s parade), watching from the sidelines and lending my support.
I would be there (usually by myself), cheering people on and occasionally tearing up at the thought of all my friends and lovers who were no longer alive to witness this event.
In fact, I had gotten Gay Pride Day down to a science. I would watch the parade from the southeastern-most point at Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street, run home to take a disco nap and then go to the Dance on the Pier (which I can no longer afford), thereby avoiding the entire West Village.
Speaking of the Dance on the Pier: It took me years to build up the courage to go to this event (because it’s so crowded and I’m claustrophobic) and I only went because, when it began, it was a relative bargain.
But after years of price increases and not knowing who was performing until they went onstage (and then finding out it was some D-list disco diva from the ’90s), I stopped going. (OK, I went back a few years ago when Cher performed, but it was Cher!)
Now, the Christopher Street Pier (where the dance started) has been transformed into a yuppified park and the 14th Street Pier (where it moved) has been torn down to make way for an even more yuppified park, (ironically) financed by gay show business mogul Barry Diller.
But back to the parade.
From a purely aesthetic point of view, I feel like the parade’s production values have gone down in the last few years.
I can remember when every gay bar in New York—back when gay bars were still a central part of gay life—had their own float in the parade. I particularly remember Splash’s float one year, when they had a bunch of hot guys holding cardboard cutouts of palm trees. I don’t even remember what the rest of the float consisted of, the guys were so hot.
I also remember how gay designer David Spada (who died of AIDS) would have a float every year featuring his “freedom ring” costumes of rainbow-colored metal rings and how one year his float was preceded by an elaborate paper dragon. For years, I had a Stanley Stellar photograph (that appeared on the cover of the New York Native) on my refrigerator of some cute guy in one of his outfits.
Another thing that’s changed about the parade is its demographics.
While it’s always been the case that a lot of the most “fabulous” (i.e., wealthy and predominantly white) gays leave town for Fire Island or the Hamptons on Gay Pride Weekend (as they do on most summer weekends), there would usually be at least a smattering of fabulous gays left in town to both participate in and watch the parade.
Now the parade has become the province of predominantly young minority gays. I realize that sounds incredibly racist (and ageist) but it also makes sense, because these are the people for whom it’s still most necessary to march in a gay pride parade. White gays (and, primarily, white gay men) have gotten to the point where they can “pass” in straight society, whereas for a lot of minority gays, that’s still not possible. (It’s worth noting that a majority of the victims in Orlando’s mass shooting were Hispanic.)
Also, the parade has been almost entirely taken over by corporate sponsors. Their floats tend to feature a bland assortment of people dressed in T-shits bearing their company’s logo.
Is this a deliberate attempt to make the parade more “family-friendly” (like the Brooklyn Pride event I recently performed at where my material was deemed too “vulgar”)?
It makes one long for the days when you’d see some leather man sprawled across the hood of a car being whipped by another leather man.
Or that old guy who’d dye his poodle in rainbow colors and prance around with it.
Or, God help me, the Dykes on Bikes, with that old woman whose droopy bare breasts wouldn’t even appeal to a lesbian.
Surely, that would be preferable to floats dedicated to Diet Coke, Delta Airlines and Wells Fargo Bank.
But maybe that’s just me.
Maybe these are just the ravings of an over-the-hill gay white guy, and the young minority gays who are marching in the parade now think it’s great because they don’t know any better.
Yeah, and I won’t come in your mouth.