Pride this year was exhausting for me, and — I suspect — for many. WorldPride was extra, and the parade was still going on past midnight.
I couldn't cover the whole thing because I am a human being, my dogs need a modicum of attention here and there, and I had a ticket to see Madonna at Pride Island, but I did manage to show up around 11:30 a.m. and last until about 5 p.m.
First things first — had to con my way in. I got to a checkpoint and just asserted that I was a photographer and needed to get to the front before noon's step-off. Having a real camera always does the trick, and I found myself sprinting to the front to do what I always do — start at the beginning, march a long way, then slowly work my way back. Best way to get most of the notable participants and to see as much of the parade as I can handle.
The very first celeb I saw was none other than Rollerena Fairy Godmother, that C-Street staple who was created in 1972 by a boy from Gravelsnatch, Kentucky, who had been out since 1961. Now 70, Rollerena is still going strong — and on top of being a fashion guy-con, she's a Vietnam and Wall Street veteran, okay?
Next up, I made it to the very front, where I spent a lot of time shooting MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore and Dominique Jackson, the ladies of Pose. It was hard not to spend all day with them, as they were infectiously thrilled by the warm reception they received, even becoming emotional at times when the parade started and fans lost their minds upon seeing them.
MJ was worried about nip-slips, but was also grasping her chest in shock as onlookers begged her to come over for hugs — of which many were given. It was so satisfying to watch these women bask in the glow of adoration; the sense that things were not always this way for them was palpable, as was their humility. Vogueing is all about fronting, being what you're not or what you're not yet, but these glamazons were enjoying being exactly what they are in the moment — superstars, and esteemed members of the LGBTQ family who were among the grand marshals of the biggest, most important Pride parade in history.
The parade's other grand marshals — it was as competitive this year as a Gay Times cover, so they had a lot of 'em — were the Gay Liberation Front, members of which formed the org weeks after Stonewall to get people “out of the closets and into the streets”; Navy vet Monica Helms, a trans activist; Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, co-founder and exec director of UK Black Pride; and the Trevor Project, that invaluable resource.
I then found the Stonewall float, where my buddy Chip Duckett was holding court, surrounded by some of the most fabulous women in the world, namely Donatella Versace, Lorna Luft, Renée Taylor ... and Randy Rainbow.
Donatella was very game as long as she lasted (she had bolted by the time I caught up with the float again, deeper in the Vill), and looked radiant in her Pride-rainbow dress (which looked about as comfortable in the heat as the stuff the leather daddies were wearing). She posed for selfies and even did a quickie iPhone interview, and was accompanied by one of the cutest men at the event and the absolute handsomest bodyguard.
Lorna, with whom I had lunched this week at L'Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue (the conversation was as juicy as the meal), was in great spirits, and told Logo interviewer Scott Nevins, “My family is with you!” as part of her Pride message.
Considering the stories about how her mom's passing contributed to the Stonewall Riots, the movies her dad directed and the mark her half sis has made — not to mention's Lorna's stellar voice and having Grease 2 on her résumé — I think it's more appropriate to say, “We're with your family!!!”
The parade had some political moments, but for the most part was more about giddiness and community. Yes, it was very corporate, but I think when corporations see you as a commodity, you're winning — a point made very well in Buying Gay by David K. Johnson, which is all about the rise of the market for physique magazines.
Speaking of which, yes, there were plenty of hotties and plenty of bodies, but I also felt like this parade was less flesh-obsessed than some in the past. Maybe the organizers hid the male body parts until the end (my pal Tim, who runs the Adonis Lounge strip club, stepped off after 8 p.m.), but it was conspicuous to me. Plenty of people forgot their shirts, though.
There were plenty of politicians, notably Gov. Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio (both had handlers who wanted me the fuck away from them, but it was still easy to get close-up shots), Sen. Chuck Schumer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (whose gay boogie is now DeGeneres-legendary), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (in her famous first-responder jacket), Rep. Jerry Nadler and others. Many of those not there had contingents on hand to remind us that they're on our side.
Eventually, I made my way back uptown (I got down to close to the parade's termination before turning), where it briefly rained before I had to split.
Hope you enjoyed these — and if you recognize anyone, I'm happy to ID them.
Here are all my photos (including many not seen here), on FB:
Happy (continuing) Pride!