LA Pride 2011 was one of the most successful in years, say officials.
The weekend-long celebration brought an estimated 400,000 people out to celebrate the event, which started off Friday night with the and capped off Sunday with a down Santa Monica Boulevard and the Pride Festival in West Hollywood Park.
The weekend saw brisk business at Boystown shops, clubs and restaurants. had lines to get in well down Robertson, while some restaurants had hour long waits for tables.
One young man from Bakersfield attending his first gay pride event seemed overwhelmed. “I’ve never seen this many gay people in my life,” said Andy Baxter.
“This is my favorite time of year,” said Weho resident Scott Davis. “Everybody’s in a good mood, celebrating and enjoying the party.”
Friday’s Dyke March up Santa Monica Boulevard from San Vicente to La Cienega and back saw 1,200 people marching (about a third of them men), at least double as in previous years. The marchers chanted, “We are lesbians. We are fabulous. We are here to stay” and “Lesbians rock.”
City Council members were on hand to greet march attendees, and Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Prang called the Dyke March a “signature event for West Hollywood.”
The free held Friday night on the old baseball field portion of West Hollywood Park saw about 2,500 people in attendance, capped off by a performance from singer Macy Gray.
This was the first year for the Purple Party and many said they hoped it became an annual tradition. “It’s a perfect way to start off Pride,” said one attendee. “Even better, it was free.”
The Saturday and Sunday portion of the Pride festival, also held in , cost $15 in advance, $20 to at the gate, per day. But the price didn’t deter people from pouring in. Saturday saw steady crowds coming through the gate, but Sunday, always the busier day of the two, seemed packed.
The main entertainment stage featured CeCe Peniston, Margaret Cho, Mya and many others performing, while the dance floor filled up at the Latin and rhythm and soul pavilions. The dance pavilion held in West Hollywood Park Auditorium had country line dancing.
Sunday’s parade stepped off shortly after 11 a.m. at Santa Monica and Crescent Heights with Dykes on Bikes, a motorcycle lesbian contingent, leading the way, as is tradition. The parade closed out at the Crescent Heights end about 1:15 p.m., with street/sidewalk sweepers going to work collecting trash within minutes of the crowd dispersing so they could reopen the street to traffic.
However at the Robertson end of the route, the parade didn’t conclude until almost 2:30 p.m., large gaps between contingents causing the delay.
City Council members John D’Amico, Abbe Land and John Heilman along with Prang waved to crowds from a float, while Mayor John Duran was busy at Holloway Street doing the announcing as the parade passed by.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also rode in the parade as did nine of the 15 Los Angeles City Council members, including openly gay Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the 11th District that covers Venice, LAX, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades.
Los Angeles 3rd District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky also rode in the parade.
Among the highlights of the parade were attorney Gloria Allred riding in a convertible surrounded by the “All Reds,” a contingent of about a dozen women and men in drag dressed in blond wigs wearing Allred’s signature red pants suit and white turtle neck.
Another hit among parade watchers was the fire truck with bar employees, including go-go dancers. Another clever entry was the U-Haul trucks driven by the Real L Word, a lesbian reality TV series.
Grand marshal Johnny Weir, an Olympic figure skater, waved to his adoring fans in what was his first gay pride parade ever. His hair coiffed, he had said at the news conference beforehand that his mother had picked out his outfit.
That news conference also saw attorney Allred honoring California corrections officer Andrew Johnson, who had filed a lawsuit to be allowed to march in the parade in uniform. Allred called him “a real hero in our midst” and reported that within hours of filing the lawsuit, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation gave Johnson permission to wear his uniform and announced that it would reevaluate its policy.
Johnson told reporters that he was “proud to be here and proud to be a corrections officer.”
Rodney Scott, president of Christopher Street West, which puts on the parade and festival each year, took the time to condemn comedian Tracy Morgan's recent homophonic rants. During a comedy show in Nashville, Morgan said he would stab his son if he told him he was gay.
“There is no comedy in threatening to stab your son,” said Scott. “All those who say we don’t matter, we don’t count, ladies and gentlemen, we do.”
Cho, who was honored by CSW with the Morris Kight Lifetime Achievement Award, also spoke about Morgan’s rant, saying, “We see how much homophobia pervades our culture with all of the things that have happened in the past week. What I’m so proud of is our community coming together and demanding an apology which came very, very quickly.”
Parade day started off with drizzle, but by late afternoon, the sun was blazing overhead, causing many at the festival to seek shade and water. Many also complained of aching feet from all of the walking.
Medical emergency officials reported that as of 6 p.m. on Sunday, they had taken eight people to the emergency room (six on Saturday, two on Sunday). They said that number was running slightly higher than in previous years. They also said they would likely take several more to the ER before the festival was over.
“We’re happy to be here if we’re needed,” said one paramedic on hand enjoying the music. “We’re happy to serve the community.”