It was a really bad idea to bust up a gay bar the same week Judy Garland died. The police officers who raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in the early hours of June 28, 1969 -- the official explanation for doing so was to enforce a liquor law -- must have had no idea of the cyclone of emotion they were stepping into. Accounts of the event describe cops being pelted by lipstick tubes and compacts. They retreated into the bar, locking themselves in, and brutally attacked those who were trapped inside with them.
Hordes of gays and lesbians around the city were inspired by news of the Stonewall riot -- the "Hairpin Drop Heard Round the World" -- and took to the streets. Sensational accounts of the event tell of a high-kicking chorus line of queens confronting riot police with song: "We are the Stonewall girls/We wear our hair in curls/We wear no underwear/We show our pubic hair." Protests continued for five days. When gay bars were raided in those days, the names and workplaces of identified patrons were published in the newspapers, which often led to job termination. Identifying as homosexual was regarded as criminal behavior or sickness. Public demonstration was a monumental rejection of this stigma.
For the past five years, the Greater Pride of Fort Lauderdale has put on the Stonewall Street Festival and Parade in Wilton Manors, our own nationally prominent, gay-friendly city. "Pride at Five" will take over Wilton Drive on Sunday, June 20. GPFTL's director of entertainment, Greg Phelps, comments, "The entire reason that we celebrate Stonewall is in remembrance of the trials and tribulations that that group had to go through at that time. Those riots began a worldwide revolution. We are a viable part of society." Loud and clear.
Stonewall veterans Larry Vox and Joseph Guastella will serve as grand marshals of the parade. The massive rainbow flag will, of course, be present at Georgie's Alibi (2266 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors). Fun-loving establishment Hamburger Mary's (2449 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors) will throw a three-day, big-tent Pride event of its own from June 18 through 20. Expect a Hamburger Mary look-alike contest (hosted by Tiffany Arieagus), a dance contest, and drag performances. "A lot of people just assume that gays across the country have equal rights, and they don't," says Mary's co-owner John Zieba, reflecting on the tense debate over gay marriage. "The election year is gonna be huge for rights for everybody."
GPFTL's Phelps separates Pride from politics. "This is a celebration, not a demonstration," he says. "By continuing festivals of this nature, we can become a visible force. In a hundred years, people will look back and say, 'What was the big deal?'" -- Courtney Hambright