The sun finally came out. And I don’t mean that in the way that a many-decades closeted gay Hollywood star might feel compelled to come out after years of rumors. I mean the sun came out! It was a cloudy day, and then it wasn’t. It was the perfect weather for the Saturday edition of the LA Pride festival. The celebration of Trans, Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual culture, sponsored by Christopher Street West, is in its 45th year! It was a great day for the TGLB community and its allies of every stripe to join in for the biggest party going down in Los Angeles.
After securing the car at a super-secret parking location near Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood (no, I will not tell you where!), my boyfriend Matt and I joined the quickly-increasing throngs of revelers at West Hollywood Park. Here are some highlights of our day:
Everywhere, in all directions, were amazing people. The crowd started out as pretty mellow during the day, but by the time the sun went down, the energy was high, people were greeting total strangers like friends, and smiles were all around. Everyone had a great attitude, and nobody was even cutting in line. We were all taking pictures of people who took the time to put together an amazing look, like these guys:
And check out this guy’s glitter vest!
This guy wore his pride on his sleeve. Or, as a sleeve:
Every time I took a photo of someone, I gave them a pinback button I created that says, “be your own subculture.” Seemed appropriate for an occasion of celebrating who you are!
LA Pride staff were really great and helpful too, from the people at the Information desk to the taco vendors to security. At one point, when we asked directions, a security guard pointed, “Go straight.” “Go straight?” I asked in mock offense. She immediately realized what she had said in the context of where she had said it, and we shared a fun little moment of laughter. “I meant go that way!” she corrected herself, smiling.
Thanks, LA Pride attendees and staff, for being so fun to hang out with–all 60,000 or so of you!
People with the VIP ticket got drink tickets, a private area with seating and those cool lighted cocktail tables, private bars, a taco stand, and free access to the roller rink. VIP was pretty cool. And though those are attractive amenities, the best things about the VIP were a few little things that just made the situation easier to navigate or more enjoyable:
- The VIP bathrooms were top-notch porto-potties, cordoned off in a separate area by walls covered with faux clover. They had a light, a sink with running water, and ample soap and toilet paper. They were clean every time I went in there, and the lines were never very long. Something like easy, clean bathroom access made the whole festival more enjoyable.
- There was a separate VIP entrance line. As the night was heating up, Matt and I wanted to check out the scene out on Santa Monica Boulevard, so we left the festival grounds for a while. When we returned, there were tons and tons of people waiting to get in the regular entry line, and Matt and I just cruised on in through the VIP entrance.
- VIP attendees got a little treat from Coca-Cola. You know those new cans that say, like, “Share a Coke with David,” or whatever? They had a little machine where you could type in whatever name you wanted, and get your own personalized Coke or Diet Coke cans. My boyfriend and I got these cans emblazoned with our pet names for each other (we are totally adorable; don’t hate):
As the night wore on, there were not enough bartenders at the various VIP bars, and we waited a really long time in the drink lines later on. This was true throughout the festival. Next year, they could use double the bartenders at each drink stand. However, the VIP ticket is worth it.
Wow, Wilson Phillips. Those three chicks that sang that song you heard on the bus every day in 8th grade, and who have been profoundly made fun of by Harold and Kumar, as well as in the movie Bridesmaids. I think those experiences have worn on Carnie, Wendy, and Chynna, who gave a performance that was kind of like a photocopy of a Wilson Phillips performance. Chynna bemoaned that they had made a ton of money, and then lost it all, which seemed like a weird confession for a celebratory, greatest-hits kind of set. Then, when Chynna unconvincingly told Carnie and Wendy, “I love you guys,” Wendy said back, in a voice icy with contempt, “We love you, too.” Carnie stayed mum.
Okay, and then! Wilson Phillips did not have a backing band! They sang their greatest hits (plus “California Dreaming,” by Chynna’s parents, of The Mamas and the Papas) to pre-recorded music. So basically, Wilson Phillips was doing Wilson Phillips karaoke. It was very weird.
BUT! Then, that song came on, you know–that one that helped you through those adolescent days of being bullied, or, as Chynna mentioned, divorce or even cancer. That’s right, they sang “Hold On,” and suddenly, I found myself all teary-eyed at its simple message of perseverance. Thanks, Wilson Phillips.
If you were there for the cock rings, you could find them aplenty in the Erotic City, a sex-specific area located in an underground parking garage. An erotiquarium (I just made that up) dedicated to gay male sex, it featured sex stuff. The area also had a socially-focused feel: An organization dedicated to reducing sex worker stigma and helping sex workers find legal work was tabling there.
There were also a few art exhibits in the Erotic City. One was called “Confess.” You would go up to a little confessional window and tell a secret. The artist, who was sitting behind the screen, would type it out on a piece of white paper and pin up on a black velvet wall. The confessions ran from the criminal (“Every piece of nice jewelry I own is stolen”) to the romantic (“I am in love with a man who doesn’t love me”) to the heartbreaking (“I’m afraid my family won’t love me anymore if they know my true gender”).
Erotic City was interesting for its art and its openness, though Matt did briefly get into it with an overly-aggressive wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man:
The Thunderground was this great roller rink where you could skate around and listen to the music from the main stage. I had particular fun watching a drag queen dressed like a Hollywood High School cheerleader fan her way around the rink. At night, they lit the rink up with green lasers. Everyone out there was having a great time.
A diversity of music was represented at the multiple stages. The Main Stage had a pop feel. There were deep beats and a twerking contest on the Hip-Hop stage. That stage had a super-cool backdrop, adding to the summery feel:
At the Latino stage, you could listen to anything from EDM to funked-up traditional Mexican music. It was where the male go-go dancers were. I wanted to get a photo for you guys, and they gladly would have posed for one (especially if I stuck a dollar in their thong thing), but I felt a little uncomfortable approaching a slicked-up man in a banana hammock. I did get this shot, though:
But my favorite “genre” stage was the Country stage. I don’t know much about country music, and only marginally enjoy it, but there was some fun stuff going on in the Country pavilion: Everyone was line-dancing! I have no idea how to line dance. People were just coming off the sidelines of the high school gym-like pavilion and joining in. I asked the woman next to me, “How do they know how to do that? Are they psychic?” She explained that they probably go to line-dancing nights, especially at Oil Can Harry’s in the Valley. Watching them have such good-natured, low key fun made me want to try! I did not, however. I still haven’t gotten over that time in aerobics when I grapevined left when everyone else was kick-ball-chaining right. Here’s a pic of people doing it right:
Kesha closed out the Main Stage on Saturday night with a raucous, high-energy set that was more than a little filthy. The crowd loved it, shouting and dancing along to “Tick Tock” and her other party hits. To close out her set, she shot a massive cloud of golden glitter all over the crowd, anointing us all with pure fabulousness. It was a perfect end to the night.
Overall, the Saturday edition of LA Pride 2015 was an extraordinarily enjoyable cultural and community experience. There was all this, and that was just Saturday! There were plenty more moments to come on Sunday, with the Pride Parade and further festivities in West Hollywood Park. You HAVE to check it out next year! Congratulations to Christopher Street West on their 45th year of LA Pride!
Kari Tervo enjoys pop culture as a universal language. Sorry, Esperanto and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department: Bieber wins. She’s not sure if she’s supposed to be writing about herself in the first or third person right now, so she’s going to act like someone does this kind of work for her. Why ruin the mystique?
Kari reviews zines for Pop Culture Beast in her regular column, Blog Zine. She also provides pop culture opinion and analysis about whatever she gets the urge to write about.