My experience at the NYC LGBT Pride March this year was exhausting, but my camera was well-fed.
I was invited to march alongside the amfAR float by my generous friend John Stanton. We and all the other marchers had boss I'M EPIC (#BeEpicEndAIDS) T-shirts and Kenneth Cole sunglasses, and our float was guaranteed to grab some eyes since it featured both Kelly Osbourne and RuPaul's Drag Race Season 1 girl Ongina, who came out as HIV positive on the show.
DJ Joe Lynskey served up some Madonna on the amfAR float. Listen to him here.
We also had cute dudes in lab coats and hot pants for the people not into fashion or drag.
I loved our group, which was filled with friendly folks. Marching alongside a float gave me great access to move around within the parade, snapping away.
Before we even stepped off, I had several interesting encounters. First, I wandered past the press conference, so got to see some of the parade's grand marshals speak, including Gay Men's Health Crisis director of community relations Krishna Stone and a bit of Geng Le, a Chinese gay-rights activist. I missed Brooke Guinan, a trans FDNY worker, entirely, and the other marshal was an entity — the ACLU. But I was able to speak briefly to heroic Gavin Grimm, the trans kid whose desire to go to the bathroom at school has caused way too much consternation. He was a sweetheart and looked utterly overjoyed to be there.
Next up, as I was walking in a huge circle (they only let you cross Fifth Avenue at 34th or 42nd), I walked past Edie Windsor, whose court case led to the destruction of DOMA. She's always kind of difficult to grab, due, I'm sure, to her advanced age and how badly every LGBT person wants to share air with her, but I have to admit I was bummed by our encounter. She looked radiant in a magenta blouse over a slogan T-shirt, but when I asked if I could snap a photo (I had my pro camera), she said, “No way. Not now.” She seemed to think she was wildly late, but her wife, Judith Kasen, was gently telling her she had an hour!
I suggested I would just wait at the next corner, where she had to stop anyway, and snap a picture that way. (This is common with rushing celebs.) She deliberately rolled past me, avoiding eye contact. This was silly, honestly. She is a public figure, in public, a famous gay figure at the famous gay march! Soon enough, a lesbian photographer stopped her and they clearly knew each other. Edie relented for her, but even though she was standing still and posing for the other shooter, she steadfastly avoided giving me anything. Finally, the lesbian photographer told Edie, “I get you all the time. Why don't you give this gentleman a shot?” I was totally polite and patient — I promise I was not badgering in any way. She never did really do it, but somehow, while protesting and looking everywhere but at me, a few pictures turned out amazing! Then I left her alone. At parade's end, a friend, Mike Summers, Facebooked how lovely Edie had been when he grabbed a selfie with her! He said her people were shooing him away, but she was delightful and engaged.
Maybe she was just frantic when I caught her, but when you catch a newsmaker in the street, you don't wait until later, not ever.
After that, I ran into Seth Fornea, the thick ginger model and dancer. I had thought he was still practically married to Jared Fortna, but he was romping around in thin sweat shorts (no underwear) with a sexy Blatino dancer named Hugo; both had worked the previous night's Adonis nude party, featuring 35 lap dancers.
Seth was feeling no pain, and Hugo was making sure I got only good shots, and making sure I photographed his sign, which announced they'd just gotten married?! (See here.) A glance at a few Instagram accounts reveals they, Jared, and another man might be in a quad relationship. Four better or four worse!
I was happiest when I noticed that just a couple of floats down from ours in the holding area, a gaggle of shirtless studs milled about. When I arrived to take pictures and they removed their sunglasses, I recognized Joshua Michael Brickman, one of NYC's most beautiful creatures and nice to boot; Locky Brownlie, the insanely hot Aussie stud who stole this year's Broadway Bares and refused to return it; the dangerously sexy JuanFer De La Torre; and a bunch of other Insta-studs, each in a pair of underwear representing one stripe in the LGBTQ flag's rainbow ... and nothing else.
I was embarrassed not to have recognized Joshua and Locky instantly, but their sunglasses did a number on me. Both — all — were charming, and gave me great poses.
By then, I had interacted with Kelly Osbourne (we share a friend, with whom she is quite close) and I have to say that whatever you think of her various controversies, she was 100% game to be in the march, to engage with bystanders (particularly kids) and more. In fact, I asked if I could get her to pose with the Insta-studs and she said yes. I ran over and pulled the guys, convincing four to come with me before telling them what I had in mind. They were excited to meet Kelly and spontaneously hoisted her in the air. It made for a great couple of shots that were exclusive to me (“People! Us! Who will buy this?!”) ... until I later discovered her bodyguard or a friend had taken an iPhone snap and it went all over the Internet for free. Oh, well, it was fun setting up a great shot, and I was totally impressed with Ms. Osbourne's willingness.
(The day after the parade, Osbourne made headlines by scolding a Starbucks for not letting her pee, leading to her peeing her pants. The Starbucks was on 27th and we stepped off fro 38th. Given that I later filmed her dancing to Madonna's “Like a Prayer,” I couldn't and can't figure out how I missed her leaving the float in search of a public john — and am confused why she didn't use one of the Port-A-Potties en route. Still, I thought she was a great draw, definitely the parade's biggest star.)
Just before we started, one young man was lying in the road, making us wonder if he would be the first of many protesters trying to block the parade. MAKE AMERICA GAY AGAIN was over his chest. He lay on the asphalt for 20 minutes or more, eventually disappearing. Most of the protest groups actually led the march (THERE ARE NO QUEER-FRIENDLY COPS was one sign that people seemed to dislike), and I didn't realize there was a brief protest that delayed things until I read about it the next day.
What always strikes me about the NYC LGBT Pride March is the diversity. As a white gay guy, I know I am in a partial bubble, even if it's not a choice I consciously made, so I like seeing the array of people who show up for Pride from every borough and from many cities and countries far away. It used to be that Pride was top-heavy with shirtless musclemen, and while plenty were walking around (see pics below!), float-wise, I saw very few pieces of beef. I also felt like the drag presence was on the wane, while genderqueer and trans folks were out in force. Racially, it certainly didn't feel whitewashed. It felt like it always feels — unifying.
We marched all the way down to the Village, where I doubled back all the way to the start. There were still dozens of floats that hadn't stepped off by 3 p.m., but I was at my limit, so I took off for home ... only to decide last-minute to subway to Chelsea to mill around the booths of products that choke the streets down there each year. There were definitely some prime torsos and more-sos, but it was sad that one block had been shut down due to an apartment fire. I saw two people receiving oxygen and a shattered window still oozing smoke.
A happier image on a fire escape nearby was a cluster of boys gyrating several stories above Eighth Avenue, demonstrating the solidity of the argument: Dat ass, 'do.
After all that — and 1,000 pictures later! — I headed home zonked out entirely.
Keep reading to see a bunch more of my photos, and look for more over on Facebook ...
First Up, the Famous Faces of Pride:
Andrés Camilo, Insta-stud Max Emerson's boyfriend (who cleans up well, too)
And the rest ...