Opinion: Two LGBT Icons Argue for Moving LA Pride Out of West Hollywood to Downtown LA

It’s time to play L.A. Gay Pride forward. Speaking as gay and lesbian tribal elders, who between us have 100 years of service on behalf of the community, we strongly recommend that by 2019 the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the L.A. Pride celebration be relocated to DTLA, the emblematic, alive and all-encompassing heart of Los Angeles. If not by 2019, then soon thereafter.

DTLA Proud at Pershing Square

Why Downtown?

DTLA is a location symbolically representative of all of our rainbow colors and haves and have-nots—where East L.A. meets West L.A., where South L.A. meets North L.A. and

all the possible permutations in between.

It would not only represent a shift in location but also a historical shift in consciousness for the LGBTQ community, building a more enlarged, vibrant, and inclusive 21st century sense of community on the foundation laid by late 20th century pioneers.

It’s not the same downtown it was in 1970 when Gay Pride began. DTLA has transformed itself from a sleepy backwater into a bustling, vital, demographically diverse, and real hub of the city with a growing and visible LGBTQ presence.

Historically it would represent returning to our roots. The first manifestations of gay visibility, decades before a gay community was created, emerged in the 1950’s in the pioneering gay bars on Main Street and the small homosexual enclave on Bunker Hill that John Rechy poignantly wrote about in “City of Night.”

Gay Pride would again become the site of a grassroots and netroots march, not a parade with alienating floats by banks and liquor companies. It would again commemorate the Stonewall Uprising—the swish and rage heard ’round the world.

The weekend would celebrate everything we as gay and lesbian people have amazingly created and achieved since 1969.

After the downtown Pride March there would be plenty of time, people and money to sufficiently meet all the needs of those who primarily have a commercial or hedonistic investment in the Pride weekend.

Sometimes there is something historically and politically larger and more important than our parochial personal or financial interests that is calling us into action for the betterment and advancement of all. This relocation is one of those unique historical opportunities.

Why Not West Hollywood?

We invoke the wisdom of Sappho as we approach this loaded question. Here’s the problem. It comes in five acts.

First, West Hollywood now is not the same West Hollywood it was in 1973 when the Gay Pride celebration was relocated there from Hollywood. Then it was white, kind of small-townish and well off. Now it’s white, building luxury emporiums on a gigantic scale for privileged people and enormously wealthy. This trend will only speed-up in the future. Working and middle class people can’t afford to live there and are loathe to visit.

Second is a very practical concern. West Hollywood simply is too small and doesn’t have the space needed to handle this event any longer. In 2018 hundreds were turned away from the Gay Pride festival by the Fire and Sheriff’s departments for overcrowding. We have never before heard of people anywhere being turned away from a Gay Pride celebration.

The third problem is the demographics. While non-Caucasians make up about 70% of Los Angeles, they represent only 18% of West Hollywood. This was, and is, largely due to a de facto pattern of white preference. In the 1970’s there were even well-publicized Jim Crow practices that the WeHo power structure then did nothing to stop.

Today many gays and lesbians of color and other politically aware LGBTQ people avoid West Hollywood, labeling it “white boys town.” West Hollywood simply doesn’t look like the City of Los Angeles no matter how you slice it.

A fourth problem is that the raison d’être of the event— the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion—has been totally erased from the weekend. Gay people really do have a history they can be proud of. In WeHo, Pride has become just another large, mindless party.

It is estimated that the weekend generates $5 million in income for the WeHo hospitality industry (high end hotels, restaurants and bars) and the financial interests of the Chamber of Commerce and city government.

The City of West Hollywood has developed a well-funded, sophisticated infrastructure that promotes the city nationwide and globally as a destination for Pride in order to fill those expensive hotels, restaurants and bars. In the process, the event has devolved primarily into just another revenue stream for WeHo businesses and the city, devoid of acknowledgement of our long road to freedom.

Finally, a fifth problem is the opaque Pride organization itself. It appears to be in chaos, loaded down with debt and woefully out-of- touch with the larger community it purportedly represents.

For the last decade, attendance at the event has been dropping. Every year it’s the same-old-same-old, employing an outdated model that originated in the early 1970’s. Gay Pride critically needs revisioning and restructuring to restore its defiant and affirming spirit. Moving Pride to DTLA has the real possibility of making the event relevant again. It’s time to play it forward.

  1. Has Don Kilhefner spent much time downtown? Yes, there is a gay presence there but gentrification has hit DTLA so hard that most people cannot afford to live there, making it the high-priced mecca that Don professes to hate. It has priced out numerous hispanic businesses and shoppers and replaced them with people with money. Plus, it already has a pride event going now. Why doesn’t Don just stay in Silverlake (where he lives) and just leave WeHo events alone?

  2. I’ve been scrolling for a good minute trying to find someone ANYONE to mention it. The fact that it’s not even mentioned in the article speaks volumes of how tone deaf this conversation is. Completely one sided.

  3. DTLA Proud is a nice event and I hope it continues to grow but let’s not kid ourselves the logistics of Grand Park are even WORSE than WeHo Park. The parking is a nightmare, there were several sold out crowds of people locked out of the even when the tiny venue was at capacity and it was still only about one-quarter of the size of LA Pride in West Hollywood. Shutting down Pride in West Hollywood doesn’t end those problems, it would only exacerbate them as at least West Hollywood has added capacity of having exponetionally more gay bars/restaurants nearby for overflow crowds — which DTLA does not have but only a few bars adjoining skid row. Rather than trying to shut down West Hollywood Pride I would hope our elders would engage with the new leadership of CSW to address their problems with race and sensitivity issues as most evenings the Santa Monica Blvd is filled with as many if not more black and brown folks than white. If racism is an issue, then it needs to be addressed where the people are and not some theoretical utopia downtown.

    1. What racism, 90069?

      Are you suggesting that black and brown people be artificially gathered to balance out the white ones just for the sake of numbers?

      Too many of us have drunk the Diversity Kool-Aid! Let it be and it will work itself out naturally.

  4. I am very happy to read the words of two of our ground breakers and now elders. In essence they are right.
    That said: Pride is already in DTLA. It is in both places. DTLA Proud happens each mid to late August. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were one of the many organizations and businesses that helped get DTLA Proud off the ground 3 years ago and the party has been a joy filled, diversely attended, low cost to enter, community festival that remains focused on our inclusive LGBTQTTIAA population. Our own artists perform onstage. We see and meet each other. The elders are right: the location makes this festival easier to attend by the populations that surround it: black, latino, white, Asian communities are all around DTLA and we see them inside with each other.
    West Hollywood remains an important LGBT community. I was very happy to hear that CSW has new leadership. It is my hope that there will be a return to the focus on the actual LGBTQTTIAA people for whom the parade and festival were intended. If so, the Sisters may return to participate as we did for 20 years prior to the music festival scenario.
    It’s LA: we have room for many festivals: DTLA Proud, WeHo Pride, Long Beach Pride, OC Pride, Antelope Valley Pride, San Gabriel Valley Pride, and others (forgive me not listing all). I go to at least 4 of these every year and each one is utterly worthwhile and rewarding, and fun!

    1. What a beautiful, positive post that demonstrates exactly what community is all about – diversity, acceptance, and kindness.

  5. I don’t understand why the authors have made an either/or of Pride celebrations. I love Pride in Weho. The crowd seemed as though Weho couldn’t handle the festival anymore last year because , anyone that knows anything about the city knows there were construction barriers for this this year’s Pride, as the footprint , simply was smaller. It makes no sense to say that people don’t feel welcome, and then say we have too large of a crowd. CSW is under new leadership, by trusted citizens. I agree it was mismanaged for decades , and with the exception of Steve Ganzell’s tenure, Pride was very questionably “of the people”. The music festival was an error, and that nightmarish leadership is now gone. DTLA’s pride celebration is also a great experience. Why, as LGBTQ, must we sacrifice either? I go to both, and I really enjoy the fact that there are two special weekends of celebration. I am one of the founders of “SIZZLE” an extraordinarily popular sober destination at Weho’s festival. Taking that way alone, makes me question the dedication of the authors, who seem to have more sour grapes, than reality of our festival in Weho. No matter what happens, Weho pride will endure. It will not be dismissed or taken away because of some disgruntled folks who may or may not have much to do with Weho anymore. I support both celebrations.

  6. While I agree that there’s room for a healthy dialogue about what location best suits the event, much of the article is off-the-mark and a bit anachronistic in that CSW has already gone through a substantial shakeup and change in board and executive leadership. Since her appointment, I’ve been excited to see the vision that Ms. Cacciatore has already brought to the organization and look forward to hearing and seeing more. Unfortunately, the article and the ensuing commentary devolved into a bit of diviseness, as expected.

  7. A change to DTLA is a great idea! Much more central location will draw a larger, more diverse audience.

    It’s time!

  8. I agree that “Pride” (formally Gay Pride) has outgrown West Hollywood. But unfortunately the ones to make a good argument about that and facilitate a real discussion aren’t the two that wrote this opinion piece.

    To me it’s simple, the powers that be should consider moving the “Music Festival” to DTLA and keep the Pride Parade (formally Gay Pride Parade) in West Hollywood.

    Doing so spreads the party out, and would make the happenings in West Hollywood that much more special…..and manageable.

    1. Yes. This is the ideal solution. Move the festival downtown. Keep the parade in West Hollywood. Allows for the businesses there to reap the benefits on Sunday, and maintains quality of life the other days.

      1. Once West Hollywood Park Phase II is done, things will be back to normal, and hopefully people can settle down. It hasn’t “outgrown” West Hollywood. I think the complainers have outgrown West Hollywood.

        This isn’t San Francisco, where we have a gay ghetto that is less than a 10 minute train ride to downtown. DTLA is very far from West Hollywood. Once the park is complete, things will be better. Either way, can we not just celebrate our Pride and deal with this one weekend a year? Most people commenting on this thread probably didn’t even live here before this event was moved here from Hollywood. If you live in WeHo, and this is too much for you, then maybe plan a weekend out of town that time of year? It is a lovely time to visit Palm Springs or Hawaii. I live in the mid-city area, and I could go the entire weekend without even noticing that it is Pride. If you live west of La Cienega, this is what you signed up for by living there. I lived right above Revolver, for half a decade. I knew before I moved in that this was going to be part of my neighborhood, and I was proud to have it there.

  9. As a resident of West Hollywood who lives very close to where the pride festival is held, I agree with moving it out of WeHo to DTLA. I’m sick and tired of having to clean up trash and wash vomit and urine off my property during Pride weekend. While they’re at it, let’s move the Halloween Carnival downtown too!

      1. Ben, spot on. I don’t know how long J. Hernandez has lived here, but I’ve lived here for almost 20 years, and this is something I knew was here, and am proud to have in our community. J. Hernandez, you can’t put up with this for one weekend a year? Maybe you should move, or at least consider going out of town that weekend, if you don’t like it. Same with Halloween. These events have been part of the West Hollywood culture for decades.

  10. I’m getting really tired of the word “diversity”. Nobody cares about color or race, yet we keep getting reprimanded if there isn’t enough of it, according to those people who are keeping score, whose lives are apparently so pathetic that this is what they have to do to bring meaning and purpose to their existence.

    Please find something else worthwhile to do.

  11. On the one hand I’ve been of the belief that gay Weho has been on its deathbed for awhile. It’s now on life support as the Abbey has become a cool place for straight people to hang out and prices are too high to support anything remotely novel or underground or risk-taking. The newest bars are spin offs of establishments in other cities. But part of me says it’s premature to give up on Weho. With new forward looking leadership some revival is possible. But this would require new leadership and vision. The authors are right that the current direction of Weho pride needs to drastically change. It’s a tourist event with big business sponsors and really lacks heart. If we put our community first and left out Weho as a tourist destination things could improve.But with our current city council that will never happen.

  12. Thank you Steve Martin for being the voice of reason and pointing out that YES Los Angeles including what would later become West Hollywood did have an established precedent of racist “Jim Crow” policies. There are numerous sources that can easily be cited to confirm this, see L.A.’s Ugly Jim Crow History: When Beaches Were Segregated! A very good book on the topic published by the University of California Press that I read in one of my Diversity Courses when it was first published is Bound for Freedom Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America by Douglas Flamming.

    Many people of Color moved to Los Angeles to find a much better life than what they faced in South under “Jim Crow” Laws that served as a form of powerful “de jure” discrimination. Though California had some of the best laws on the books prohibiting discrimination according to race we find that these laws were largely unenforced and, allowed racist widely accepted voluntary norms to serve as an equally powerful form of “de facto” discrimination. From the last source I cited according to a survey done at the time only three of two hundred saloons would serve Blacks People. The majority of hotels did NOT accept Blacks either even though this was in direct contradiction to state law. The 2 biggest employers at the time Hollywood and the petroleum industry for the most part refused to hire Blacks, even for jobs as unskilled labor.

    All of the commentators who feel compelled to stand up in support of the system of white supremacy because they somehow identify as “white” need to realize that they are no more a part of that system and the people who run it than I’m a Saudi Prince! The reality is that ALL LGBTQ PEOPLE share the same interests as other oppressed groups of people. When Proposition 8 came out in the 2008 elections, the people behind it (right-wing white conservative christians) were completely willing to throw “white” LGBTQ People under the bus by representing the entire LGBTQ movement (including University organizations) as some sort of “white elite social club hostile to the interests of non-whites!” I witnessed it first hand and, tragically it was effective in gaining the non-white support necessary to pass. At the time I was actively pointing out to minority communities that the groups behind Prop 8 and homophobia in general, promote the most racist policies possible among their other activities. A few misguided LGBTQ individuals with unwarranted loyalties to white nationalists, made my work very difficult.

    The Great City of West Hollywood needs to not only lead in the Pride Celebrations but, we need to elect people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to office! ✊🏽

  13. Thanks to Don Kilhefner and Jewel Thais Williams for provoking a healthy discussion aimed at making Pride more inclusive and “relevant again” and for their decades of service to our multifaceted rainbow community. Sorry to see Weho on the defensive, as this is a distraction from the real “opportunity” of improving the festival. Weho is indeed historically important before and after becoming a city, and a vibrant regional center of culture and diversity. However, there is sooo much more to Los Angeles and to the future of Pride we could envision. Being colorblind and pretending we live in a classless society the dubious luxury of privilege. I say no to the continued commercialization and corporate opportunism, and yes to celebrating the vastness of all of our communities, past present and future. Isn’t that what the rainbow represents? Let’s think big and practice unity too.

  14. I wouldn’t go downtown for pride. Close off Santa Monica Blvd and make Pride bigger. It’s absurd to move it out of West Hollywood.

    1. I’ve been supporting this idea for years. We can survive for 2 days w/SMB being closed, for sure. People aren’t commuting on weekends, and for those that complain about space, this is an option. The only complication I see is which bars get to be in the event space, and which don’t. Perhaps a split down SMB, keeping the bars out of the event space, taking up the southern side of SMB in front of the Sheriff’s station, past the LA Metro station, where there aren’t any local businesses. And more use of the PDC space.

  15. Beyond all the posturing, isn’t it just a question of geography & accessibility? DTLA is central to the region in a physical/transportation way that WeHo is not. Everyone has his/her mythical sense of what LGBT/LA is with — one could even argue — places like Silver Lake and WeHo deserving of prominence even though most LGBT Angelenos do not (and never did) live in either place. If you don’t want to go downtown, stay home and let LGBT people living even east of DTLA pour into town.

  16. I agree the author of this article seems to have an axe to grind – grow up.

    Solution-let’s have 2 prides…WEHO in June, DTLA in October. Our city is large enough to support both, no reason to create competition between the WEHO & DTLA.

  17. Talk about being off the mark. The authors are due respect for their long service to the LGBTQ community, but their argument, based it seems in large part on charges of racism, is insupportable. First of all, WeHo was Los Angeles in the 1970s, and it’s irresponsible to make unsupported charges of racism against some vague WeHo “power structure”. And since WeHo was incorporated as a city in 1984, regional history such as the LA riots should make it very clear that patterns of white preference are not merely a WeHo problem. And make no mistake: for the last almost 40 years WeHo has been the loud in-your-face epicenter of the fights against AIDS and for LGBTQ equality. DTLA has its own pride celebration now, and the authors should work with that other organization.

  18. Try writing this article in a mostly black or latino or asian community, would you call them racists for having a high concentration of people within their same ethic group? I for one don’t like when people bring race into any subject for it just perpetuates the problem, like asking people on grindr or applications what race they are. It’s ridiculous and racist to ask. I found this article, very racist, very anti-white, as if being white is no longer welcome anywhere in the world. As far as gay pride festivals, I don’t care either way. I stopped going a decade ago. I don’t like crowds and it doesn’t feel safe or special anymore so have it wherever you want, or both cites.

  19. The March forward will continue regardless of venue. I currently domicile in WeHo and prefer the March stay in WeHo, however, WE have successfully reclaimed ourselves as the third rail (of the first order), and integrated ourselves everywhere and have thusly earned the right to March and to CELEBRATE anywhere and everywhere any day of the week, month or year!

  20. I agree that the footprint where they hold the Pride event is too small for what they are doing. its ridiculous that over sold tickets. its even more ridiculous that we do not have an appropriate space.

    Anyone that calls West Hollywood “White Boys Town” has not been out to the bars recently. Its more diverse than I have ever seen it before.

  21. The Pride festivities do need an overhaul but moving it to another location is not the answer. Have you tried reaching out to the “18%” of non-whites living in West Hollywood to get our thoughts on moving the pride parade and festivities or do you presume to speak for all of us?

  22. What a bunch of malarkey! The points made here are totally off the mark. Go out on a weekend in Weho, and you’ll see lots of people of color, everywhere. In fact, I would say that Mickey’s is primarily non-white. But I do agree the festival could be better, but the construction in the park messed it up. I think closing Santa Monica Blvd, like they do for Halloween, makes sense. And yes, the parade is not as hard-core politics, but I think there’s room for that, and fun. I miss the big floats all the clubs used to do, and, they definitely need to make the parade shorter. I’m glad downtown is improving, but if you think it’s more gay-centric, or the hotels are cheaper, you are very mistaken. And parking? They already moved the AIDS Walk there, which is fine, but a pain getting there, and parking, that day. How dare they downplay the history of Weho, and it’s importance. CSW needs to get it’s act together, that is all. Perhaps get consulting from other large cities who are successful.

  23. I very much respect these individuals. I grew up going to Catch, and the LGBT Center is one of the preeminent institutions of its kind. However, their argument seems to center largely around how commercial the pride celebration has become. While it’s easy to find fault with the evolution of the event, moving it downtown won’t change that. And I don’t find their argument — that downtown is the cradle of the LA gay movement — to be very credible. It just happened to be where everyone lived at that time. WeHo, in contrast, was truly a flashpoint for what became an openly fought battle for civil rights. People who feel the celebration has strayed too far from its roots should be fighting a battle to bring it back in line, not running away. If we run, we’ve just given up.

  24. You couldn’t pay me to go to downtown Los Angeles. Other than the VERY RARE splurge on Theatre, or a specific restaurant, there is nothing to induce me to go downtown. The traffic, parking, and now even prices are as bad or worse than in WeHo. Why go through the headaches and hassles of getting there to get the same things I can get minutes from home?

    1. You obviously have bad taste in food and things to do, as DTLA has the so much to offer. You can take the train and its parking is so much better is plentiful than WEHO even cheaper most of the time. WEHO is a headache now.

    2. Maybe bad taste, but a good sense of smell. Or course, the smell of piss could just be augmented even further by moving pride downtown. We could even run the parade through skid row so everyone can see how bad the city is rotting from within.
      At least West Hollywood has some level of cleanliness that downtown will not have without major changes.

  25. Wow, what a RACIST awful piece, worse I’ve ever read on here. The indoctrination camps sure got someone real good.

  26. I agree with the writers of this article. There needs to be a rethink of the whole pride concept. CSW and the city of West Hollywood have become complacent with the festival just doing the same thing over and over again.At the current time,the park in West Hollywood where the festival is being held is under construction,hence the unfortunate turning away of the participants in 2018.

    A different perspective is called for and I think a move to downtown LA might do the pride celebration a lot of good.Let the city finish its work at the park than decide if the celebration could come back.

    The pride celebration is not just for white men,but it is for everyone.West Hollywood is a great place to have a good time,but it is time to let other gay neighborhoods show their face.This would show that gay life is not just in West Hollywood.

  27. Wow Don. Did something personal happen to you in Weho to cause such resentment? Your previous pieces for Wehoville including ‘Weho Takes Pride Hostage’ show you love to lump an entire demographic together with just one narrative to generalize ‘what everyone thinks’. We get it, you don’t like WeHo. Hundreds of thousands of us do. Perhaps time to move?

  28. “This was, and is, largely due to a de facto pattern of white preference. In the 1970’s there were even well-publicized Jim Crow practices that the WeHo power structure then did nothing to stop.”

    WEHO didn’t become a city until 1984. It had nothing to do with the “well-publicized” Jim Crow laws. 🤦🏻‍♂️

    I agree it’s time to move it to a larger location, but get the facts straight please.

    1. The “Jim Crow” references relate to the policies at places like Studio One that discouraged patronage by people of color. Remember when places like the Speak Easy and Flippers that flourished before incorporation? For whatever reasons places that were welcoming of people of color disappeared from West Hollywood.
      But it is hard to place the blame for this on City Hall.

      There is nothing wrong with having DTLA and Boys’ Town Pride. We in WeHo don’t want to make it appear that we own Pride; it belongs to everybody so why discourage other events?

      1. Steve I’m aware of what the Jim Crow reference was about, I was simply pointing out the implication that the blame belonged on the City. All too often, people blame the City for things that the city has no control over.

  29. If today any gays and lesbians of color are avoiding West Hollywood, labeling it “white boys town” then they are being racists and need to get over themselves. And you wouldn’t know anyone of color is avoiding West Hollywood as when I’m out and about the people scene is very diverse. It’s a shame people are hung up on what color people are. Come, enjoy and have a good time…no one cares what color you are, what sex you are, or what orientation you are. You are you and West Hollywood welcomes you. Have fun!

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