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. 


newest oldest
Notify of
Kubla Khan
Guest
Kubla Khan

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?

César
Guest
César

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.

90069
Guest
90069

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… Read more »

Gimmeabreak
Guest
Gimmeabreak

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.

Sister Unity
Guest

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… Read more »

SE
Guest
SE

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

jimmy palmieri
Guest
jimmy palmieri

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… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

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.

Tom
Guest
Tom

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

It’s time!

kab1200
Guest
kab1200

Tom, since when has Pride not drawn a diverse audience? Are you kidding?

Manny
Guest
Manny

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.

carleton croninc
Guest
carleton croninc

A cool head and a reasonable approach. Gay Pride Parade belongs in West Hollywood.

Steve
Guest
Steve

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.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

I’ll agree with that.

Randy
Guest
Randy

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… Read more »

J. Hernandez
Guest
J. Hernandez

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!

No Way
Guest
No Way

Ageeed! Move it to DTLA

Ben McCormick
Guest
Ben McCormick

J. Hernandez, you could move.

Randy
Guest
Randy

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.

Gimmeabreak
Guest
Gimmeabreak

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.

JF
Guest
JF

exactly. The ones that bring race into every discussion are usually the racists.

Robert Zabb
Guest
Robert Zabb

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… Read more »

Cy Husain
Guest

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… Read more »