“Did Dana Rohrabacher ever bring one of these over?” asked Congressman Harley Rouda at Laguna Beach Pride Fest on June 1.
“No!” roared the celebrants, their loudest response at that point.
According to Craig Cooley, president of Laguna Beach Pride! 365, he and fellow board members Jonathan Colliflower and Michelle Volz expected the first certificate they received that night on behalf of the California State Assembly. But Rouda’s nod from the House of Representatives took them by surprise.
Before presenting the certificate of special congressional recognition—and after a brief yet slightly manic introduction by Laguna Mayor Bob Whalen, who declared him “the most productive guy in the first hundred days, getting more than nine bills passed out”—Rouda (D-Newport Beach) took the mic, looking dapper in a plum-colored jacket over a black shirt. Then he gave an update on things in D.C.
“This idea that all Democrats want to do is investigate is just fake news,” he said, speaking quickly as if in sync with what the DJ had been spinning. “I will tell you that at the end of last week, the House had passed 115 bills, the vast majority of them bipartisan, and the Senate has only acted on 20 of them. Mitch McConnell and the Republican-held Senate are forbidding our country and our communities from moving forward, and we know that we got to keep fighting to get bills through like . . .” And here his voice rose, then paused for suspense before calling out loud and clear, as if expecting everyone to hit the dance floor: “HR 5, the Equality Act!”
Co-sponsored by the congressman and now in the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, House Resolution 5 aims “to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.”
State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) and Rouda are both Laguna residents. While Petrie-Norris, who beat a two-time Republican incumbent in the 74th Assembly District in November, sent a surrogate, the two politicians’ messages were similar, both thanking Laguna Beach Pride! 365 for fostering inclusivity in their hometown.
The three-day celebration included hikes in Laguna Canyon, a bingo brunch and Sunday’s West Beach party on the sand and under the June gloom. Who was invited? According to organizers, “Everyone—families, singles, gay, straight, locals and visitors alike, love is love is love!” Indeed, I saw one child and one dog attending the party at the old Art-a-Fair, tucked against the steep canyon walls where fire goats were busy chewing up spring weeds.
All that political business transpired quickly and in high spirits. Then MC duties returned to Wilhelmina Caviar, who used the B-word as a term of endearment. “You’re the winner, bitch!” was how she cheered fellow queen Nomi B. when doling out raffle prizes. Attired in sparkling black with magnificent shoulder wings and a towering fascinator, G Licious G had trouble wrangling all her tips, with bills dropping to the floor. “Collect your money, girl,” Caviar encouraged.
The entertainment pavilion had a runway stage backed by DJs, and out front were go-go platforms that anyone could use for snapping pics when the pros weren’t gyrating. By nightfall, it transitioned to a dance party. Multicolored lasers cut through smoke machine-generated fog and the occasional sparkler fountain. Onyx Black could be seen twerking in a tie-dyed, thong-cut leotard under a globular crystal chandelier/disco ball. By then, the queens had changed from their elaborate performance ensembles into party wear, sweetly posing for photos with anyone who asked.
The event photographer was a natural at getting people to grin broadly, capturing the joy and friendliness pervading the party. He was thrilled by how many people showed up from Long Beach and all over, in support of “bringing the gay back to Laguna.” Those words were the impetus behind this second Pride Festival. In 2017, a group of businesses, residents and then-Mayor Toni Iseman gathered to discuss how to “bring the gay back” and formed the Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Committee, which supports Laguna Beach Pride! 365.
Cosplay was minimal—this wasn’t a parade, after all—but a dog mask encasing a guy’s head and a red velvet-clad king in crown and cape in the classic storybook or King Vitamin style both caught my eye.
The funniest performer I encountered worked the food stall for Them Balls, where you could get chicken meatballs layered on tots or fries in the following flavors: B-Boi Q, Buffalo, Banh Mi or skewered with waffles. She kept patrons apprised on their orders’ progress: “Your balls dropped; you’ve reached puberty!” “Jessica, get your hot balls out of my hands!”
More colorful, yet inedible balls beckoned nearby at the cock-ring toss. I saw no vulva-related games or lollipops. But Long Beach singer/songwriter Jennifer Corday began her set by asking, “Where are the lesbians?” They gathered as she played a few originals and a bizarre selection of covers, from “Sweet Caroline” and “Leaving On a Jet Plane” to “Whole Lotta Love.”
I’d met Brett and Anthony on the trolley—at least I think his name was Brett (it was so loud on the trolley, I could barely hear him)—and Brett astonished us by naming Corday’s oldies after just a note or two. “It’s like my parents are here,” he chuckled, explaining how he was so quick to name that tune.
Before leaving, I checked out the vendors: Catmosphere was giving away cat-ear tiaras, and Caribee CBD offered soft-gel capsules (I think I ended up with four or five packets). The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) booth also had giveaways, including totes, temp tattoos and stickers featuring its logo of a yellow equal sign on a blue square. I picked up “Transgender Visibility: A Guide to Being You,” a practical and encompassing pamphlet for anyone of any age.
If there was any mention that June 28 will be the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, essentially the first Pride, I missed it. But as I read the pamphlet later, I remembered that LGBTQ people of every color fought police in Greenwich Village half a century ago, and I’m glad the HRC is still “fighting for change.”
Considering I went alone to a party at which I knew no one, I had a fabulous time. I even met the Weekly’s new art director, Federico Medina, there to shoot the cover for this, his first issue. I had told my buddies from the trolley I wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye, but I couldn’t find them. So, goodnight, Brett and Anthony, wherever you are!