The 2013 LA Pride celebration in West Hollywood held June 7-9 was the largest in the event’s history, according to event organizers.
Exact attendance numbers are not yet available, but Rodney Scott, president of Christopher Street West, the group which produces the annual parade and festival, estimates more than 400,000 people participated in the weekend in some form, either through watching the parade, attending the Purple Party on Friday night or the festival on Saturday and/or Sunday. Scott said a breakdown of attendance figures will be available later this week.
Sunday after the parade is traditionally the busiest day of the festival and this year was no exception. About 4 p.m., the line to pay the $20 to get into the festival stretched far down Santa Monica Boulevard to the entrance to the Metro Transportation Authority’s parking garage, meaning a wait of some 30 minutes.
“The wait was just because of the sheer number of people,” said Scott. “The parade was packed and people were excited about coming to the festival, excited about the line-up of performers. There were also a lot of first timers coming to the festival, a lot of people from outside the area who wanted to see the festival, be a part of it.”
While the main gate was packed, the second entrance to the festival at the El Tovar parking lot, beside Tortilla Republic restaurant, off Robertson Boulevard, had much shorter lines. About 4:30 p.m., there were only three people waiting in that line. However, Scott said earlier in the afternoon that the line at that gate stretched to Melrose Avenue.
Scott also pointed out that this year’s festival was more diverse than ever before with a good share of Latino, Black and Asian attendees. The festival has been criticized in the past for being “too white.”
“We made a commitment that the parade and the festival would be reflective of the rich diversity of the whole LGBT community,” said Scott. “What I saw was that it was really diverse group there. I was really happy about that.”
Man falls from tree, rushed to hospital
While the music acts and the festival were the main attractions, some festival-goers had a frightening experience Sunday about 6:30 p.m. A 20-something man apparently climbed up one of the giant ficus trees in the park and fell asleep in an upper branch.
LA County Fire Department personnel, already on the grounds in case they were needed, cordoned off the area, brought a ladder over and tried to get the man out of the tree. After paramedics tried to get him to come down, he either fell or jumped out of the tree, landing on his back on the ground.
Paramedics rushed him to Cedars Sinai Medical Center where he was released a few hours later. Once released, he tried to come back to the festival, but people working the gate refused him entry, according to Scott.
“We’re glad he was well enough to be released but we turned him away,” said Rodney Scott. “Volunteers working the gate recognized him and told him they wouldn’t let him back in.”
Scott couldn’t confirm rumors that a pint of vodka fell from his pocket when he fell to the ground.
Calls to the fire department public information office to check on how many people were taken to the hospital during the festival were not returned by press time.
However, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said they made a total of nine arrests in and around the festival from Friday to Sunday. Charges ranged from drunk and disorderly conduct to possession of cocaine, reported Lt. William Nash of the West Hollywood station.
“We’re looking at [only having nine arrests] as a good thing,” said Nash. “We had a lot of extra precautions in place especially because of what happened in Boston [during April’s Boston Marathon bombing]. Overall, it was a good day and a good time for everyone.”
Gay bars, businesses report record sales
Beyond the festival, the sidewalks of the Boystown area were packed, especially between Palm Avenue and Robertson Boulevard. The bars and restaurants were full. The line to get into the Abbey stretched far down Robertson but moved fairly quickly. Similarly, Micky’s, Rage, Weho Bayou, Eleven, Revolver and Mother Lode all were full.
Plenty of people were bar hopping, some saying they were merely waiting for the line to get into the festival to die down. Others were heard saying they’d already done the festival on Saturday, so Sunday was about bar hopping.
David Fanarof, the owner of Z Pizza near the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente Boulevards, reported it was his best single day of business ever.
“It was a great pride Sunday,” said Fanarof. “Business was amazing.”
Larry Block, owner of the nearby Block Party clothing store, also said he had done record sales.
“People want pride merchandise and we had plenty of it,” said Block.
Meet the parade emcees
The parade down Santa Monica Boulevard stepped off from Crescent Heights about 11:05 a.m. with the last of the 130 contingents departing about 1:15 p.m. It took about an hour for each contingent to make it to the parade end at Robertson Boulevard.
As soon as the parade ended in each section of town, city crews were busy cleaning up the sidewalks and streets, complete with six street sweeping trucks. Within an hour, aside from the street barricades, there was little evidence a parade had happened.
Councilmember John Duran served as emcee for the parade (and broadcast on the city channel) from the San Vicente intersection. On the Crescent Heights end of the parade, Bert Champagne was the man introducing each contingent and telling jokes between contingents.
Champagne, who lives in Hollywood, has been serving as emcee for the past 23 years. He does it out of sheer love for the parade, he said.
“It is an honor to do it,” said Champagne, who also works with AIDS Walk Los Angeles. “You come out here because this is what we do, we give back out to the community.”
This year, Champagne was joined by first-time emcee Jade David, who said she loved the experience.
Protesters Find Jesus
The parade generally draws few anti-gay protestors and this year was no exception. One protestor stood at the south side of the La Cienega Boulevard intersection with his bullhorn urging gays to repent and accept the Bible. He blared his message for several hours before and during the parade. But he had an unexpected encounter with Weho Jesus.
Weho Jesus, whose real name is Kevin Lee Light, joined the go go dancers riding on the firetruck rented by Micky’s bar for their annual “Flaming Gay Bar” entry. Light, riding at the very back of the firetruck, was an unexpected surprise for parade watchers. And he proved to be quite a surprise for the anti-gay protestors.
“I’d sort of forgotten about the groups that come with the hate message, but then there they were,” said Light. “I could see the man with the microphone on his pulpit barking orders. He saw me. We looked at each other. I sort of spread my arms out and made myself bigger and gave him a smile and off we rode. I was sorry though that I couldn’t get down on the ground close to them. That would have been good. I love to stand close to them. I love to stand very close and make them sweat a little.”
Plenty of others got close to Light. As he wandered through Boystown dressed as Jesus, many people came up to hug him, tell them they loved him and pose for a photo with him. Playing Jesus, he doesn’t charge for photos. But if Light did charge, he would have made a small fortune on Sunday.