Stashed somewhere in my apartment is an issue of David magazine, dated August 1973. It's really not much more than a glorified national bar rag, a prehistoric version of HX. In fact the ratio of drag queens to naked boys was pretty much the same then as it is today.
On page 19 there's a half-page photograph of the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade Rally in Washington Square Park. Yes, children, that's what it was called way back then. A march down
Sixth Avenue, and a rally in the park, attended by oh, several hundred. A beautiful warm and sunny June day. The photographer is shooting from the elevated make-shift stage, capturing a panoramic view of the large crowd of attendees enjoying the speakers and entertainment. Sprawled against the police barricades up front are a rather inelegant group of revelers, set slightly apart and thereby in relief from the rest of the mostly young, mostly long-haired throng. They've been caught in mid-cheer!
There's William, my very first boyfriend, standing a little apart from the group, looking bemused and skeptical. He's not sure the libertarian sentiment of the day meshes with the conservative rhetoric he usually spouts. There's Peter, the very first human being I came out to, the bright sunlight illuminating his halo of red curls. There's Liz & Eileen, great and good friends from high school who took me to my very first gay bar, and Miles, who I was crushing on real bad for a while back then. I even wrote a song about him. You'll never hear it. Oh yeah, his boyfriend is sitting on the barricades. I forget his name.
In the center of this group is me: tall and thin with aviator glasses, a fu manchu-type horseshoe- shaped moustache extending to my chin and black curly hair. I'm wearing a western shirt and my arms are straight up over my head applauding.
I have no idea who was on stage at the time the pic was snapped, but I do remember that it WAS a show. The stars of our small orbit, Alaina Reed, Sally Eaton, Steven Grossman and Miss Bette Midler competed with warring drag queens and militant lesbians for stage time.
My first celebration of Gay Pride and Liberation.
I marched the next year with Bobby, my second boyfriend. That year we marched up
Sixth Avenue to rally in Central Park. The following year I marched solo, but made out in a summer storm with Gary, whom I met at the rally. I remember licking the rain off his teeth. Funny how some details never fade. The next several years fade into a blur, and then I have no recollection of parades or rallies. Robert and I would spend late Saturday night deep into Sunday morning at Flamingo, 12West and later The Saint, and would be too wasted from the weekly ritual to partake in the yearly ritual.
Flash forward several years...a much less happy time. I'm completely cut off from anything that resembles a gay community, as such. My friends are either in the process of dying or have just up and done it. And I'm feeling the need to re-connect. With anything. In fact, I mentioned this to the woman I worked for at that time. Who told me it wouldn't be good for our business for me to attend the parade, and besides, people like us
didn't associate with that riff-raff. Or words to that effect. Needless to say, that Sunday I was down at the corner of 12th and 5th Avenue, and watched the parade from start to finish. I stood, covered with goosebumps during the minute of silence, and gasped, moved to tears, by the cheers that immediately followed. The young Act-Up boys and girls were tremendous; just what my anger needed. Was that the year they lay down in the street at various times throughout the parade route to dramatize our impending deaths? Perhaps their courage planted a seed in me to seek my own freedom again.
I went back to the parade, either by myself or with new-found, hard-gained friends in later years. Of course Tim and I went for a few years, and had the best time of all. We used to marvel at the recurrent themes: hideous Hispanic drag queens, topless lesbians in wheel chairs, muscle boys in ice cream colored wigs.
But Tim's been working the bar on Sundays for the past several years. And it's PRIDE now. On Christopher Street! Big business. It used to be his best day of the year, even if the work was grueling, and the bar never seemed prepared for the hordes of humanity that would descend, post-parade on the foot of Christopher Street and the river. He still does pretty well, but there are other, more popular bars now, and at least he's out of there at a decent enough hour.
So Pride has become an excuse for me to spend the day at the gym, or clean out my kitchen cupboards, or mope at home. I won't go down to the Dugout, it's just too insane, and I hate to see Tim so stressed. Valium only helps so far.
I think this year, I just might have to haul my butt down to Fifth Avenue, to be reminded how, yet again, everything changes and nothing does. It's my new leitmotif. It's so reassuring.
Anybody wanna join me?