Into The New York City Gay Pride Parade
by Ruben Thomas
Program Manager/Producer/Actor (Justin)
Sunday, June 24, 2007 was the New York City Annual Gay PrideParade, which took place in Manhattan, along Fifth Avenue, thefamous thoroughfare that divides the numbered streets of theborough of Manhattan (known to the world as New York, New York)into east and west. It was Eric Stephen Booth’s first timepromoting the Strange Fruit and Fruta Extrana franchises in thisvenue with a float, which comprised of a small, however modest,pick-up truck. The Strange Fruit banner, which is the same banneryou see on our web site, was draped about the vehicle for theentire world to see.
The parade began officially at high noon. I arrived shortlybefore a quarter of 12 to find that we were not only travelingdown Fifth Avenue, but that we were one of the first floats to beseen by the spectators. It was also evident of how early we werein the parade in that when we finally arrived at Christopher andGreenwich Streets at about 4.00 p.m. (one of the last streets wewould cover); the last of the floats would eventually hit thatsame corner well past 6.00 p.m. --- OVER TWO HOURS LATER!!
Along for the fun, support and representation were Michael Lynchand Appolonia Cruz, who performed such remarkably superbperformances at the Bronx Academy of Arts of Dance (841 BarrettoStreet, Bronx, New York 10474,http://www.bronxacademyofartsanddance.org/) on the weekend of the day ofthe parade (Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23 respectively).Michael and Appolonia, along with Rubi di Glamour, a friend ofAppolonia’s, graced the parade-goers with their very beautifuland colorful outfits. Believe me as you read this: they were veryeye-catching ensembles, for later that day and evening, the localNew York television channels showed on their news broadcast,among many of their chosen clips of the parade for their viewers,one of showing our float with these three divas representingStrange Fruit and Fruta Extrana, while charming the crowds.
Many of the Strange Fruit cast and crew were also on hand toproudly march in the parade: Robert Preston (Robert and CockneyDai), Carol Madron (Delores), her real-life life partner IsabelGonzalez (Madame Zelda), and Damon White (stage performer, voiceactor and one of the cameramen for Strange Fruit and FrutaExtrana), who graced the spectators with their presence.
Also, on the float and march doing same were: Nicholas Lopez (whohad a major role in Eric’s movie Tell Tale Lives, and performedin music videos for Strange Fruit TV), Daniel DelValle (aprominent photographer whose work you see on our StrangeFruit/Fruta Extrana web pages), James Monaghan (Brandy Alexanderand Jeffrey Cunanan, Baby Detective), and myself (Justin), whorecorded the coverage of the parade onto a tape recorder forlater Internet broadcast. And especially, last but never least--- Eric Stephen Booth, who drove the float. (I would like tomake note that Mr. Monaghan, during my interview with him forStrange Fruit Radio, was very proud to say that he has marched inevery parade [except two] since its trailblazing inception in1970. He detailed how difficult it was in the beginning and howthe parade has changed since.)
Accompanying the cast and crew and Ms. di Glamour, we hadadditional Strange Fruit and Fruta Extrana supporters, friendsand life partners taking extra pictures and marching along withus: Rubi di Glamour’s boyfriend Michael Wark and Robert Tucker.Both Wark and Tucker are photographers.
Also on hand, but on another float, which would arrive aroundChristopher and Greenwich well over an hour after our passingthat corner, was Cheer New York (http://www.cheerny.org/), in which TeddyAlexandro-Evans, one of the hosts of Fruta Extrana, is a memberand was marching with. Mr. Alexandro-Evans, along with some helpfrom Mr. White, taped an installment of Fruta Extrana before, andafter, the parade.
Cheer New York, to quote their website, “is a non-profit all-volunteer cheerleading squad that combines cheers, gymnastics,dance and acrobatic stunts into a professional and exhilaratingcrowd-pleasing performance.” It is also described in a GoogleSearch as “a volunteer cheerleading and dance squad by and forthe LGBTS community.”
The Strange Fruit/Fruta Extrana float began and turned down 56thStreet and 5th Avenue a few minutes after 12 o’clock in theafternoon. The weather was just perfect; it was sunny, therewasn’t a rain cloud in the sky and the temperature was justright. The spectators went wild as our float paraded past them.They waved and cheered as they took pictures and videos of us.
Being on the float and marching, rather than being in the crowdwatching the procession from any generic 5th Avenue streetcorner, I was astonished by the incredibly huge oceans of peoplethat came out to see the parade that sunny day.
There was such a great mixture of male and female spectatorsalike: individuals, couples, groups, entire families withchildren in tow, from all walks of life, were standing behind theparade barriers, many of them grasping onto them as if for dearlife, and taking in what passed them on the street with suchamazement that reminds me of children walking the humungousaisles of a huge toy store on Christmas Eve.
Many of those there watching the parade was captivated in manyways by the presence of the marchers and other paradeparticipants. Some appeared to be spellbound; others wereecstatic, while still others were hysterical with glee and proudof the fact that we were all there in full effect. Honestly, ifthere were any opposition in attendance at the parade, theyobviously would have been drowned away into obscurity by thejoyous screams of happiness that emanated like the never-endingdance party on the Welcome Pier on the shore of the Land of aThousand Dances. People were on their tiptoes and jumping up anddown in the crowds to catch glimpses of us. Many even held way upin the air their digital and video devices (some were tiltingtheir viewfinders back to earth to be personal broadcasters tothe people immediately around them), turning themselves intosorts of human periscopes to capture what they can, much in themanner of being in the belly of a submarine in the deepest depthsof the Pacific Ocean, observing, searching and surveying for whatmay be around them.
As we passed 23rd Street, and especially toward and going past14th Street, I was amazed at the change of population on thesidewalks; not so much as what kind of people was there as muchas how many people were in attendance. At this point each side of5th Avenue seemed to have swelled to the level that thereappeared to be almost no sidewalk for passersby to get to theirdestinations if they were not witnessing the yearly event.
It was evident that folks walking down this avenue in these areaswould be better off using Broadway, Madison and Park Avenues(east of Fifth Avenue), and 6th & 7th Avenues (on the west ofFifth Avenue) instead of attempting their way through the crowd.I am very sure all of those businesses along the entire strip (aswell as nearby areas) profited very, very well that day.
I must say that this was a very impressive parade that I’veenjoyed coming to for the last several years --- but this time Iwas a participant. It is also a landmark experience in my life asthis was the first time I ever marched in the New York CityAnnual Gay Pride Parade.
In other words, instead of me being the spectator, THE SPECTATORSWERE WATCHING ME!! (Among others, of course!)
Thank you, Eric, for helping me found the guts to do what I did.The decision I made was very last minute and is one I have notand never will regret. I can’t wait for next year and the yearafter that and the year after that, and so on!!
Ruben Thomas Friday, June 29, 2007