Angry LGBT Speakers Protest LA Pride Plans Before WeHo City Council

A transgender marcher in the 2015 L.A. Pride parade. (Photo by David Vaughn)
A transgender marcher in the 2015 L.A. Pride parade. (Photo by David Vaughn)

With some members of the LGBT community in an uproar over plans for L.A. Pride, its organizer has scrambled to make last minute changes.

Christopher Street West (CSW) announced at the West Hollywood City Council meeting last night that it now will make Friday’s festival free to those who arrive between 6 and 8 p.m. Previously it had planned to charge $35 for each single day ticket. CSW also said it would restore the country/western dance area, although it would be open only on Sunday. People involved in the planning for that at previous Pride celebrations said they had been told there wasn’t room for it this year. And CSW will give free weekend passes to members of the transgender community, many of whom expressed their anger Monday at what they saw as a reduction in transgender events.

The discussion before the Council was dominated by complaints about CSW’s decision to increase admission charges, a discussion made all the more confusing by misstatements about prices from CSW officials and Councilmember John Duran. CSW this year will sell one-day tickets online from June 3 to June 9 for $30, a 50% increase from last year’s $20 price for early ticket purchases. Tickets purchased after June 9 or at the festival gate will be $35 as compared to $25 last year, an increase of 40%. Tickets to CSW’s exclusive VIP area will be $150 if purchased in advance and $175 if purchased at the gate. Last year they were $50 if purchased in advance and $65 if purchased at the gate.

Speakers also complained about CSW’s efforts to make the annual festival a music event focused on Millennials, a term used to describe people ages 18 to 34. And residents of West Hollywood West, the neighborhood close to the festival’s West Hollywood Park site, complained that the focus on music and the Council’s earlier decision to let the festival stay open until 1 a.m. as well as its suspension of parking permits in the area could cause them problems.

Lesbian activist Ivy Bottini addressed CSW’s focus on Millennials in her comment to the Council. “That letter was probably the most ageist thing I have heard in this community since I got here in 1975,” she said referring to a letter that Classon sent to council members after an opinion piece in WEHOville by Larry Block that made much of the festival controversy public. In his letter, Classon said the festival’s target audience was young people who are best reached through music.

A number of transgender speakers also spoke, saying they felt this year’s festival was excluding them. They noted that in 2014 the festival’s theme was transgender rights and the LGBT festival and parade was rebranded by CSW as a “TLGB” celebration to emphasize that. One speaker, Rachael Rose Luckey, a transgender member of Stonewall Democrats, said she was considering organizing a protest against the event.

“Hearing that we were given two hours free feels like an afterthought,” said Jaden Fields, a transgender man, commenting on CSW’s initial offer of free admission on Friday during those two hours. Friday night in recent years has been when transgender events were staged. “It feels like we weren’t important any more …. I am a Millennial, and as a trans person of color I am tremendously disappointed in CSW …. We don’t need a gay Coachella.”

Peter Cruz, associate director of APAIT, a non-profit group that provides HIV focused health resources to marginalized communities, said he had met with CSW’s board of directors and had objected to the ticket price increase and CSW’s decision to reduce the time made available for the festival’s transgender celebration.

“This is a blatant commercialization of Pride,” Cruz told the City Council

Larry Block, owner of The Block Party apparel store and a former City Council candidate, noted that the city partially funds the annual event with an estimated $586,000. Because of that, he said, the City of West Hollywood should get several thousand tickets to give to its residents.

One speaker’s comments reflected the conflict that has been taking place on the CSW board over the changes to this year’s festival, “I was a CSW board member until two months ago. Unfortunately many disagreements happened and my leaving thus was prompted,” said Shane Nash, who accused Classen of lying to the LGBT community. Other board members have spoken to WEHOville about their objections to the festival on the condition that their identities not be revealed and create greater conflict with the board. Their complaints largely have been that this year’s festival will not pay appropriate attention to the history of the LGBT community and the LGBT equal rights cause, which sparked the first LA Pride parade in 1970.

CSW has undergone major changes in recent years. In 2013, Rodney Scott resigned as chairman following criticism by the City Council of the way Pride was managed. The organization had experienced a 5% drop in revenue between 2009 and 2013. And while it routinely claimed festival attendance of 400,000 to 500,000 people, calculations by WEHOville using CSW’s IRS reports showed only 28,000 paid for tickets to the 2013 event.

Scott was replaced in 2013 by co-chairs Steve Ganzell and Patti DiLuigi. Now CSW is largely controlled by Classen and Craig Bowers, his partner in Lyst, now renamed Svelte. Svelte is an organization that puts on events for affluent gay men at hotels and restaurants. In one sign of its change, CSW has left its modest offices at 8235 Santa Monica Blvd. and now is housed in at the Pacific Design Center.

After hearing the speakers the Council went ahead and appropriated an additional $20,000 for the Pride event. Of that, $15,000 would pay for 500 free tickets for Friday night that CSW will distribute to non-profits. The city would spend an additional $5,000 on its already planned postal mailer for the event, which it typically uses in place of social media or other digital advertising.

Mayor Lauren Meister pressed CSW President Classen to make the Friday festival free-of-charge from 6 p.m. until it ends at 1 a.m. Classen said extending the free hours would cost CSW $75,000 and it would do that if the city appropriated money to cover the additional cost. No decision was made on that request.

City Councilmembers John D’Amico and John Duran, who previously constituted a subcommittee to work with CSW to resolve the city’s issues with it, agreed to work with the organization in the weeks leading up the the June 10-12 event.

  1. So CSW moved into the PDC could’nt find more expensive “upscale” office space to fit your new image I guess. Anyone know the address of “Sveltman” or “The Incluence Agency”? RFID wristbands? What a ridiculous waste of money.

  2. Actually I can’t believe most of the WeHo CC is willing to be seen in a VIP section. It is very distasteful & terribly tacky at an event such as this. It might be right up Heilman’s & Duran’s alley, but the others not.

  3. The “evolution” of Gay Pride toward a wholly commercial endeavor for the young, affluent, and undesignated is painfully reminiscent of the recent Frontiers Media debacle where news, history, politics, and community — not to mention one of our most renowned LGBT journalists Karen Ocamb — were all banished in the service of millennial lifestyle marketing.

    Christopher Street West Hollywood has long suffered the same identity crisis as the LGBT movement as a whole. In the old days folks complained about too many fat white guys in buttless chaps or too many outrageous drag queens. Then AIDS and addiction moved front and center, with corporate t-shirt brigades from every Fortune100 that provided health benefits, every punch-bowl full of condoms, and everyone drinking a beer with their hot-links corralled in a cyclone cage at the far end of the lot.

    While to aspire to full acceptance by the dominant culture, I fear we are quickly forgetting who we are and where we came from. The assimilation process by its very nature delegitimates historical perspectives at best and at worst completely abrogates the spirit of sensual adventure cultural expression that underlies our very emergence as a community and a “suspect class.” Our rights and dignity were born of our identity as “a people” and that used to mean something.

    One of the most disheartening echoes from the Post Prop 8 uprising was the tragic ignorance among the “next generation” of would be lgbt leaders regarding our historical struggle and the price paid over the past two thousands years by those on whose shoulders we purport to stand. Amplifying the seeming disconnect between who we are, where we’re going – and WHY – was the oft-sounded refrains of “being gay is not that big a deal,” “it doesn’t define who I am as a person,” and “it’s nobody’s business who I love.” In my humble theological opinion (IMHTO), a steamier pile of horse-sh-t would be hard to find.

    On the other hand, given the utterly tasteless “slut-shaming” shooting from the lips of one Parade Subcommittee member towards the other at a recent City Council Meeting, perhaps it’s not so hard to find after all and just heightens the overall paradcx.

  4. Long Beach also needs to be restructured since it is now being run – down by greedy Selfish Board Members that love to spend more money on themselves instead of with the Community…… !!!

  5. I am 100% for the changes of PRIDE that CSW is making as a gay man. Everyone that is complaining on this feed seems to want something but not willing to pay for it. I love the musical acts they are brining in and the fact that they are gearing after the younger LGBT audience.

    THE TIMES ARE CHANGING PEOPLE and so must PRIDE!! It’s progression, It’s Life. IF things were to never change we would never be where we are at now as LGBT. PLEASE stop all the negative comments. What CSW is trying to do is please everyone while growing the audience of the LA PRIDE even more. I think that is AMAZING.

    Why must they host a Trans evening? A special Dyke event? Why is there not a gay mans stage event then? There is Trans Pride the following weekend. Why do we as the LGBT community want to separate ourselves inside of a festival for US?? WHY go to a festival that is brining us together to just be in our separate groups?

    We are LGBT. We are PRIDE. Have PRIDE. Stop the hate that is in this feed and in this community.

  6. APAIT has launched the NOT OUR PRIDE campaign in response to the changes made to the ‪#‎LAPride2016‬ festival by the Christopher Street West (CSW) Board of Directors. APAIT stands in solidarity with members of the LGBT community who feel that the changes made to this year’s event are a blatant commercialization of Pride.

    1) For the past seven years, the Friday night trans celebration has been a free event for the trans community and their allies. For many individuals, this night was their only opportunity to enjoy the Pride festival as they lacked the financial means to purchase tickets to the event. CSW decided to reduce the hours of the Friday night event to two hours, 6pm-8pm. We informed CSW that limiting the hours of the Friday night event would take away a celebration that has been an integral part of the community for many years. CSW stated that they had no choice but to reduce the hours of the Friday night event in order accommodate the expansion of the festival to three days for paying guests. Furthermore, CSW plans to place the Friday night event in the auditorium of West Hollywood park, rather than one of the outdoor stages where it has always been held. We join the community in expressing concerns over these plans as it literally shoves the trans community back in the closet.

    2) As noted in a recent WeHoVille article, CSW has decided to increase ticket prices up to 50% over last year’s prices. This price increase will prevent many LGBT individuals in LA County from celebrating Pride. We strongly disagree with CSW’s position that the price increase will have minimal impact on individuals since the daily cost of a 3-day pass is $18. What CSW fails to realize is that the $54 cost of a three day ticket is not affordable for many LGBT individuals who have limited financial resources. CSW also states that they will distribute free tickets to underprivileged communities. During their May 2nd meeting, the West Hollywood City Council voted to allocate $15,000 for 500 festival tickets to distribute to the community. The Los Angeles LGBT community is much larger than 500 individuals, and the current plans for distributing free tickets will still exclude a large portion of the LGBT community from celebrating Pride.

    3) This year, CSW decided to rebrand LA Pride as a music festival in order to make it more marketable to millennials and out of town guests. Pride is NOT a music festival. Pride is a community event that celebrates the diversity, resilience, and unity of the LGBT community. Branding Pride as a musical festival is disrespectful to the legacy of the brave LGBT individuals who stood up against harassment and discrimination during the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969. Furthermore, CSW’s decision to focus the marketing of this year’s event on millennials intentionally excludes a large portion of the LGBT community, particularly older adults and senior citizens.

    We support and stand with members of the community who are against a less inclusive and more commercial Pride. We ask you to voice your concerns on social media and let CSW know that we do not agree with their decisions, and that LA Pride 2016 is ‪#‎NotOurPRIDE‬.

  7. So fees are being hiked, noise and parking issues extended, vendors and community groups being held hostage until 1am, local bars having business cut, all to cater to, and line the pockets of, elitist profiteers. And this all at we taxpayers expense. This is bullshxt. The entire CSW Board needs to resign on June 30 and those Councilmembers who voted to give even greater support to this disaster need to be recalled.

  8. So to sum things up, the concessions made amounted to not nearly enough. Add me to the list of those opposing the VIP thing, nobody should be a VIP at Pride, except MAYBE the parade grand marshal. $35 admission is not acceptable for me. I would rather it be a big free gathering with no famous music performers.

  9. It’s time to take West Hollywood and CSW out of the equation entirely and move LA Pride to LA. Grand Park in DTLA would be a wonderful place for the Pride Festival and Broadway would be the perfect thoroughfare for the parade. DTLA is ridiculously easy to get to via subway so there are no parking or traffic issues and it’s closer to the center of the population of the entire LA area. West Hollywood has become Beverly Hills East and is now an inappropriate place to hold a Pride celebration in Los Angeles.

  10. Looks like pride has been hijacked by self promoting profiteers. We – the LGBT community – are being excluded from our own event.

    It seems Mr. Classen and Mr. Bowers have decided to take the ‘gay’ and the ‘pride’ out of LA Gay Pride. They need to be banished and CSW needs a total rethinking.

    Clearly, Classen and Bowers are using CSW to feather their personal business. But it is at our expense. $700,000 of city tax dollars should not be squandered on this self serving music festival. Where is the city oversight? City management is looking incompetent and reckless. This is a travesty to those of us who were pioneers in the fight for gay rights and who survived AIDS.

    As a homeowner in the vicinity, I strongly object to allowing them to use our residential streets as free parking for their private party. That is NOT what we agreed to.

    From the article: “Now CSW is largely controlled by Classen and Craig Bowers, his partner in Lyst, now renamed Svelte. Svelte is an organization that puts on events for affluent gay men at hotels and restaurants.”

  11. Does any one know how much the City of Long Beach gives to LB Pride, or San Diego to SD Pride? Is what City of WeHo gives comparable? Why are Prides outside of SoCal usually free and ours is so expensive?

  12. APAIT Statement Regarding #LAPride2016:

    For over 20 years, APAIT has been a part of the LA Pride Festival and Parade, along with our community partners at the API Pride Council.

    On Tuesday, April 19th, APAIT staff joined other community members at the Christopher Street West (CSW) Board of Directors meeting to express concerns about the changes made to this year’s LA Pride Festival; particularly CSW’s decision to raise ticket prices and significantly reduce the hours of the Friday night trans celebration. APAIT staff also expressed our concerns during the West Hollywood City Council meeting on Monday, May 2nd. Despite our numerous attempts to voice concerns on behalf of our clients and the LGBT community, CSW continues to insist that this year’s pride festivities will be inclusive of the entire Los Angeles LGBT community.

    APAIT strongly disagrees with CSW and feels that the changes made to this year’s event will make it inaccessible to many LGBT individuals in LA County. Therefore, we will not be participating in this year’s #LAPride Festival and Parade. We stand in solidarity with members of the LGBT community who are against the commercialization of our Pride.

    APAIT will continue to support the Pride celebrations in Long Beach and Orange County. We look forward to seeing you at these events.

    #APAIT #LAPrideMusicFestival #LGBT #WeHo #WestHollywood

  13. I find Woody McBreairty’s comments to be rather insightful & I have a feeling he has much more tp,say. He seems to have a lot of knowledge about West Hollywood as well. Very interesting even though I wasn’t born yet in 1970. Thanksr

  14. @Robert Chandler. I agree 100%. The message that those who have the means should get more is disgraceful to the history and spirit of the celebration and the City Council’s approval shows they are complicit with this sort of thinking. Then again, politicians needs a certain amount of entitlement (some healthy, mostly not) to run for office in the first place.

  15. Is anyone else bothered by the fact that our pride festival has a pricy VIP area? It sends a bad, elitist message. Everyone should feel very important there. I’m glad there was no VIP section when I went to my first West Hollywood pride festival as a teen-ager. And it seems like a very wrong message to everyone who has the courage to come to their first pride fest.

    LGBTQ or NOT.
    We LGBT LOST our PRIDE to the Rich and the fake Famous people.

    I Agree, let’s all meet in Plummer Park and start having

    LGBTQ, is more then drunk, drug users and sex.
    we must enjoy our real pride, our hearts.
    share our stories, sing our songs and respect and never forget our history.

    let’s talk about our amazing LGBTQ people they lost they lives to AIDS, fighting for us, so we can have a better tomorrow. let’s talk about our LGBTQ they sleep on our streets, some are living with AIDS and can not even get the HIV medications. let’s teach our young LGBT Youth and young men about our HEROES so one day they will be our voices.

    Let’s talk about who we are as proud people, let’s support our sober community. let’s talk, sing and enjoy what we deserve.

    Nir Zilberman

  17. There is nothing to be proud of regarding the way this festival is being cultivated and extracted by big money interests. I am already proud to be gay and do not feel like I need to pay $35 to prove it.

  18. Our Pride has been hijacked so if you care and want change or object to the ticket price email your council members,,,,, We have lots of tools and heart to put together our own Pride event that reflects the community, and free for all.. (Halloween is)., and returns money to our local non-profits. The city donates the space and $586,000, net last year. want to participate in the parade, $500 per car, $500 per band, $500 per float. Want to exhibit at the festival, booths are in the thousands, – non of this available publicly, add in $35 a head and sponsors such as Coca Cola, Delta, Budweiser and so many many more.. and some stages, etc, it’s all underwritten, there has got to be a Huge Profit or then all need to go! – most of the entertainment should be community- generated artists and locals, educational and non-profits, most are not getting paid or should be, I’d rather Lady Bunny be the MC! Programming gives everybody a voice but CSW left out many voices… Let CSW have this giant music festival on another day on Pride Month. But the festival is for all, not just ‘millennials’, it’s for seniors and disabled folks too, it’s for gay-owned products (small business is not allowed to register for a booth I’m told).. and , there are no financial documents online, its a 501c3, check out san fran pride or long beach pride, money goes to charity.. Let’s get OUR PRIDE back! An event where all of us from various generations come home to meet, a place that highlights all of our history, and educates all. A community event, and not a music festival production in its place…West Hollywood does not need CSW to have PRIDE. CSW needs West Hollywood!

  19. Focus on millenials?! More than not people of this age group have NO idea what it took to get our community to this point. Im meeting more & more people under 30 wanting to learn of our past. Our freedoms & rights often are taken for granted.

    I would like all people born before 1960 allowed in free! And a special ceremony of thanks for those that came before & recollections of our history by people who actually lived it while they are still alive.

    A fierce star-studded rave is wonderful, but in moderation. Do I sound old?

    It seems LA is the only community where Pride celebration is held hostage by big money.

  20. The expensive, elitist and convoluted pricing plans, the bait and switch to a “Music Festival, the monopolizing and commercializing of Gay Pride, the loss of focus from it’s original and unique purpose, the massive unmanageable and unfair inconvenience to residential neighborhoods and the marginalizing of those on the front lines of the Gay Liberation Movement……

    None of it makes me proud.

  21. Apparently John & John’s “subcommittee” to resolve issues between the city & CSW didn’t bear much fruit. So much for bureaucratic “subcommittees. I rode in the 1st “Gay Pride Parade” on Hollywood Blvd in 1970, albeit quite spontaneously & quite by accident, as well as a couple thereafter, & I’ve been thinking, My, how far this “celebration” has come in the last 46 years. Or not. From a small group of fed up men publicly protesting against the discrimination & hatred they had endured for so long to an elitist commercial enterprise with a huge price tag & admission fee, complete with inherent discriminations, not the least of which is the designated “VIP section” to make sure that the peasants don’t tread upon the sacred ground of the Pharaohs. This saddens me. Discrimination takes many forms & disguises, as does profiteering, & the over privileged will always find ways to make the under privileged pay. Maybe we haven’t come so far after all, just full circle.

  22. It is always about the money. Perhaps the City should offer an alternative site for the community organizations to reach out and inform about their groups. Pride for many over the years has been an opportunity to ‘come out’. To their family and friends and often times to themselves. Until they experience an event with THOUSANDS of other people ‘just like them’ they don’t know the feeling of being open about who they are. Every year, and I’ve been to 31 festivals, it seems we meet someone who came out on Pride. It is a huge catalyst and opportunity combined. And these folks that go to the festival often connect with another like minded group within LGBTdom. Gay bowlers? Gay tennis players? Republicans! Yes, it goes to all extremes. With the ticket cost now excluding many most in need of community is yet another black eye of Coolville. Open Plummer Park on Pride Sunday. Let organizations set up tables and allow folks free access to these interests.

  23. Pride?
    what pride?
    who are we kidding ?
    We as a community including our city leaders, needs to decide what pride mean?
    money is only one more thing we must remember, by the end of the weekends, we are talking much more money the city spend, SHERIFF, FIRE department and so much more.
    just to see people get drunk used drugs and having sex, most coming from CA.
    We forget this money can help our LGBTQ COMMUNITY everyday, all year long.
    just like our homeless, METH and this is just few… but again, welcome to our

    and I’m not surprise. iwe area city with RAINBOW with NO SOUL.

    i only can say one think, i would not pay this kind of money to support nothing but “show biz”
    i rather spend my time with those people living with AIDS on every corner of our streets,
    this is pride.
    Pride, is respect those millions men they lost the lives to AIDS and METH.

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