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Drag’s pivotal powerhouse, Brian Butterick, aka Hattie Hathaway, dies at 62

Behind the scenes maven who nurtured some of drag’s most famous talent

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Brian Butterick, at 2017’s 3 Teens Kill 4 album reissue launch at Howl! Happening gallery. (Photo by Yoon)

Brian Butterick, 62, who performed in drag as Hattie Hathaway and played a pivotal role in defining NYC nightlife from the early 1980s onward, is being remembered by friends and colleagues as the definition of kindness and generosity — a far-reaching creative force in his own right, who gave others a public forum in which to both express themselves and evolve.

Butterick passed away in the early hours of Jan. 30. “Under treatment and fighting lung cancer for the past six months, he was surrounded by all the friends who loved and cherished him,” read a notice on the website of Howl! Arts, Inc. — a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the past and celebrating the contemporary culture of the East Village and Lower East Side.

“His warmth, intelligence, wit and friendship, have sustained all of us throughout his many years as a fierce, visionary creative force in the community,” the message noted, further praising Butterick as a “provocateur, satirist, and magnet for brining together diverse individuals.”

In recent years, Butterick served as a Howl! board member, alongside Chi Chi Valenti, co-creator of Jackie 60, the 1990s Meatpacking District-based nightclub where Butterick worked, after his years at the Pyramid, on Avenue A.

In written remarks accompanying the 2015 Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project gallery exhibition, “Secrets of the Great Pyramid: The Pyramid Cocktail Lounge As Cultural Laboratory,” legendary columnist and nightlife chronicler Michael Musto described the club as “the jewel in the East Village crown, a hotspot with a unique set of anything-goes ethics and its own stable of stars… filled with oddballs, outcasts, and fabulosities angling to throw on some tinsel and get their attention-hungry asses on that stage.”

As a producer, curator, and creative director at the Pyramid, it was Butterick who fed that desire to perform.

NYC-based drag queen Lady Bunny, in a Jan. 30 Facebook post, called Butterick’s demise “the first time that queen ever ‘passed’ in her life!” Recalling the Pyramid as “a crazy yet inspired East Village dump which provided a home to many a fledgling drag queen,” Bunny noted the club’s function as a proving ground, and said there “definitely would be no Lady Bunny or Wigstock without the environment which Hattie fostered.”

Deee-Lite, They Might Be Giants, Dean Johnson, Baby Gregor, John Kelly, Billy Beyond, Wendy Wild, Page, Christine, Mr. Fashion, Alexis Del Lago, Tabboo!, Barbara Patterson Lloyd, French Twist, RuPaul, Tanya Ransom, Frieda, Lypsinka, Ebony Jett, Kestutis Nakus, Tom Rubnitz, Peter Kwaloff, Flotilla Debarge, Sweetie, Linda Simpson, Madame, The Now Explosion, and Ethyl Eichelberger were among the artists who “honed their crafts” at the Pyramid, Bunny noted. “On invites, the Pyramid proudly proclaimed that it was ‘Drag queen owned and operated.’ Although my favorite thing about the Pyramid was that both its staff and clientele were mixed.”

Hattie Hathaway in front of the Howl! float, at NYC’s Pride parade, 2017. (Photo by Yoon)

As for recollections of Hattie, Bunny noted “Ya hag!” was among her favorite greetings, “and she was queen of the eye roll, typically with a cocktail in her hand” — a “smart cookie” and a “rocker at heart” who would “often ‘mistakenly’ book a rockabilly band or trans jazz singer Stephanie Crawford to perform on the upbeat Sunday night disco party called Whispers. It was as if Hattie wanted to challenge the disco dollies with something she felt had more substance. And it worked…. Curating all of this was Hattie’s genius. Try booking a rockabilly band or Jayne County or Gwar or ESG at a Hell’s Kitchen gay bar today.”

In his written contribution to the “Secrets” exhibition, Butterick noted, “Certainly we had no idea how this would all begin on that cold day in early December 1981. We were a young confused group, like many, searching for something — anything that would shed some light on the murky future that stretched before us… We knew we were dissatisfied. We left what we felt was an oppressive atmosphere. What New York’s West Village had become. And the Castro, and Hollywood. And countless other places. We headed East. Unlike the men who flocked to those places, we loved women. And we rejected labels.”

Speaking to the Pyramid’s own take on drag, Butterick noted, “Certainly, we embraced drag and what was then called cross-dressing, which many at the time insisted was a crude parody of all things female. And although we embraced parody wildly because we always loved a good ‘send-up,’ the drag we did was deconstructive. More like gender-fuck at first. Ripped fishnets with hairy legs, panty hose beneath Wall Street suits. Women in top hats and tuxedos.”

Blurring the lines of gender, and “beginning to erase the binary world,” the performing artists and patrons of the Pyramid “came to realize (more through instinct than intent) you had to own your own gender, sexual preference or role. And this was the last great revolution of the Twentieth Century. The beginning of what we now call ‘Queer,’ though it didn’t have a name then.”

All of this, Butterick noted, “was played out against the horrifying backdrop of the AIDS crisis, and yet it was a time of great joy and revelry.”

In a 2016 interview for PAPER Magazine, Butterick recalled the creation of his drag persona, telling Musto, Hattie “was originally Loretta, something that Faye Runway and I had concocted as a country singer. Loretta Nicks became plain old Loretta, and then Loretta B. DeMille as a joke because of all the spectacles we supported.”

One New Year’s Eve, he put $25,000, made from $10 per-head door charges, in a suitcase labeled “Hattie Butterick” (his grandmother’s name), and hid it under the stage. Butterick “came back sober the next day and paid everyone… everyone saw ‘Hattie’ and thought it was the funniest thing on earth, so they started calling me Hattie. And one day [drag performer] Hapi Phace called me Hattie Hathaway, because Jane Hathaway — Nancy Kulp — had just died.” (Kulp, Musto duly noted, for the uninitiated, played Miss Jane Hathaway on the ’60s sitcom, “The Beverly Hillbillies.”)

Declaring him as “one of downtown’s unsung heroes” and “a lovely combination of been-there and totally optimistic” who was “basically sweet and ultra-likable, never mean,” Musto said Butterick’s embodiment of “the ‘Let’s put on a show’ ethic that makes nightlife so great” was the impetus for his 2016 interview.

“I felt he hadn’t gotten the proper chance to tell his story, from doorman to promoter/drag queen/impresario and beyond,” Musto noted. “He was never trying to get famous, just to be part of an event well worth leaving the house for. Hattie truly represented the satirical and bold spirit of the Pyramid club and evolved to reflect the more sophisticated themes later espoused at Jackie 60, where there was a dress code, a theatrical stage, and an abundance of smart references.”

L to R: Richard Move, Chi Chi Valenti, Brian Butterick, and Paul E Alexander, circa 2012, at Alba Clemente’s birthday party. (Photo by Johnny Dynell)

Paul E Alexander, whose 2017 play, “Trinkets,” had as its centerpiece a club reminiscent of Jackie 60, said, “To me, Hattie wasn’t very much different than Brian — smart, witty, sarcastic. Harsh, but very funny, very fair, very honest… an East Village person you just don’t find anymore, the art for art’s sake kind.”

At Jackie 60, Alexander shared emcee duties with Hathaway. “We hit it off from the minute he hit the stage,” Alexander recalled. “We’d make jokes, and puns, and innuendos… We had this Burns and Allen routine going, where we could volley, hit the punchline, and move on to the next thing.”

As for his kinship with Butterick, “I just liked him,” Alexander said, “because I felt he was a fair person, hardworking — and I never really saw him angry at anybody, or cursing them out. Of course he must have gotten angry, but he wasn’t a bullying or bitchy personality. He was very even-tempered, from my perspective, and I like that in a person.”

Doug Bressler said, of his days with Butterick while members of the early ’80s band, 3 Teens Kill 4, “We were pretty loud, hard-rocking… very primitive, a mix of conventional rock instruments, beat boxes, toys. Our sound was ‘post-punk art rock no-wave.’ ” 

Although Bressler said Butterick was “a brilliant singer, songwriter, and performer,” the “most amazing thing about Brian was the acts he booked. He was asked to bring performers together, and he did this absolutely phenomenal job… Brian was the person who could handle the people better than anybody. He was unflappable; this stage mother who could take all the slings and arrows, and had this unique ability to make the kind of environment where everyone was welcome, as long as you weren’t a hater… He was a giant in the LGBT community. He gave these amazing people the opportunity to perform.”

The Jackie 60 contingent, at NYC’s Pride march. At far right, Butterick, standing, with cigarette. (Photo by ©Tina Paul, 1992, all rights reserved)

Jane Friedman, founder of the Howl! Happening gallery, rhapsodized about Hattie’s ability to “solve problems and get you where you need to go” — qualities that came into play when the two of them, along with Marguerite Van Cook, put together the HOWl! Festival, a neighborhood-centric celebration of the arts, held in Tompkins Square Park, from 2003-2013. 

“He was a very exciting person and had great ideas all the time,” she said of Brian/Hattie’s work with the festival. “He was able to do every single chore or job there was. He did the bookings, the poster artwork. He directed a lot of things, and participated in performances… He was just a very amazing human being.” 

Regarding that widely held assessment, Bressler provides a fitting coda, calling Butterick “this sweet, gentle guy — clear-eyed, and unflappable. You could almost say he was like a nun, because he basically had taken a vow of poverty. The guy could have been a millionaire, with all of his talent, but he always put other people before himself. He was wonderful, and generous.”

A memorial service will be announced in the next few weeks, at howlarts.org.

Brian/Hattie gives remarks at the opening of the 2015 Pyramid exhibition at Howl! Happening gallery. (Photo by KC Mulcare)

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Michael Kearns, the Godfather of LGBTQ+ authenticity

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level

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Michael Kearns by Keida Mascaro

HOLLYWOOD – The arc of LGBTQ+ history over the past 50 years has been one of constant upheaval and evolvement. From a period when it was both illegal and insane to be gay, through the achievement of being able to serve openly in the military, to marriage equality and the ability to create families to today’s fight against the tyranny against Trans people, the movement has not stopped to take a breath.

Michael Kearns, the first recognized “out” actor on the Hollywood landscape, has been a visible presence through it all. More importantly, he has always” been visible on the gay scene. In the seventies he epitomized the free love and erotic freedom that many gay men lived. He was featured in classic gay porn movies and did a PR stint as the face of the “happy hustler.”  

“That was my introduction to a lot of people,” Michael told me when we sat down for a chat on Rated LGBT Radio. “I kind of captured the zeitgeist of the times, the freewheeling seventies. We forget that there was that period of time when sexuality was joyful and exciting and thrilling.”

In the eighties he was visible in mainstream media as a gay man playing gay men characters. In 1983, Michael was cast in a minor role on the Cheers Emmy winning episode “the Boys in the Bar.”  He was instantly recognized for his gay sexual iconic status by LGBTQ audiences, even though the population at large did not know who he was. The casting director who fought for his casting was Stephen Kolzak, who would himself become a prominent AIDS activist before he died at 37 in 1990. Stephen casted Michael to make a statement. He wanted to signal to the LGBTQ community that Cheers had our backs. “He was one of the only ones that had the guts,” Michael remembers.

“There were a lot of stereotypes in television regarding gay portrayals. I was pegged and cast in some of those roles. I did play the stereotype, but rather than a straight guy playing those roles, I brought authenticity. I was real. Straight guys playing gay would always spoof the role. They were always ‘winking’ and signaling to the camera ‘I am not really that way.’  So, the performances are by in large horrible, even with some academy award winners. The actors were constantly saying that it was not who they were—if they weren’t making that clear on the talk shows, they were doing it in the performance itself.’ Michael says.

Michael soon morphed into an HIV positive man playing HIV positive characters, while off camera becoming a visible and vocal AIDS activist. “It was a new kind of cliché. They had to always make me look horrible. The ghastlier the better. They could not have an HIV character who looked normal—as I did when I arrived at the set. Finally, I had enough and refused to do that anymore.” Michael then immersed himself in theater where he found greater character honesty and truth.

 As gay men captured their identities in the 90s as husbands and fathers, Michael was there too—becoming one of the first gay men to adopt a child.  It is that role, as a father, that Michael has said is his greatest.

Today, Michael has been a driving force behind QueerWise, a multigenerational writing collective and performance group. Through QueerWise, Michael gives poetic voice to talent that would otherwise be voiceless. Its members include published poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, playwrights, singers, musicians, social activists, dancers, actors artists and teachers. 

This weekend, on Sunday October 17th, QueerWise launches its latest work, The Ache for Home. 

“The Ache for Home is a video presentation of heartfelt stories from formerly homeless/unhoused individuals in and around West Hollywood. It was developed through a mentorship program facilitated by QueerWise members. The production represents citizens-turned-writers who share their inspirational stories from those glamorous streets and sidewalks, ranging from soaring self-acceptance to narratives of truth-telling defeats,” states Michael. The production can be seen on QueerWise’s YouTube Channel starting 5pm October 17.

The Ache for Home features a young cis male with a passion for music and art, who finds joy “when I can put a smile on someone’s face and give back”, a retired mixed race bisexual government worker who is a voracious reader and literacy advocate, two trans males share their experiences of living on the street, and a former resident playwright who was homeless for 44 days and nights in the city. “I am thrilled at our inclusion of transmen in this work,” Michael says. “It is a poorly represented community within a poorly represented community.”

On current controversies with media and transgender targeting, particularly the Dave Chappelle issue, Michael remarks, “I am glad it is generating passion. It is bringing up conversation on the plights of black trans women who are victimized at an alarming rate, we should not say victimized… we should say murdered. I am glad we are shedding light on that.”

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level. The Ache for Home takes its inspiration from the Maya Angelou quote, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Michael Kearns work has always encouraged us to go, and live, “as we are.” He is the amalgamation of eroticism, grief, healing, and appreciating the richness of life itself.

He is the godfather of LGBT+ authenticity. In earlier days, he may have represented sex, he may have walked us through a period of darkness and death into the arms of the creation of the new family. He has now brought us home, and when we look at him, we see a new quality.

Wisdom.

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Rob Watson is the host of RATED LGBT RADIO, a national podcast and he’s one of the founders of the evolequals.com.

A gay dad, business man, community activist and a blogger/writer, Watson is a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade covering entertainment, film, television, and culture with occasional politics tossed in.

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Listen to the show here:

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Schock treatment: an interview with Gina Schock of the Go-Go’s

Drummer on her new book and upcoming Hall of Fame induction

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Too much of the Go-Go’s is never enough. In the 40 years since the all-female punk band burst on the scene with its unforgettable debut album “Beauty and the Beat” to some of the band members’ solo careers that followed its break-up to its ongoing reunion and the eye-opening 2020 documentary about the band, we just can’t get our fill. 

But wait, there’s more! Gina Schock, the Go-Go’s legendary drummer (she’s got the beat!), has just published a sensational coffee-table book, “Made In Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s” (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2021) that features photos from Schock’s own stock, as well as her own personal recollections of her life in music. She made time for an interview before the publication of the book as well as the Go-Go’s long-awaited induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month.

GREGG SHAPIRO/WASHINGTON BLADE: I’d like to begin by congratulating you, as well as the rest of the Go-Go’s, on your upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How do you feel about it?

GINA SCHOCK: It took so long for this to happen, and at first we were sort of like, “Hell’s bells! We don’t even care anymore.” Every year, we’d think “Maybe it’s gonna happen next year,” and it just wasn’t happening. Then it happens! We were all dumbfounded. We couldn’t really believe that we were nominated and then we got inducted! Everybody was pleasantly surprised. This is kind of great, kind of neat. I’m really happy about this now [laugh].

BLADE: At the same time, your memoir “Made in Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s,” is being released. What did the experience of writing such a book mean to you?

SCHOCK: Actually, Gregg, it’s not a memoir. Kathy (Valentine) wrote a memoir. Mine is actually a book of photography.

BLADE: Right, but you also tell your story in the book.

SCHOCK: There’s a lot of writing in it, too. But I basically put this together because I had tons and tons of photographs. I’ve been moving them all over. Putting them in the closet here, under the bed there. I was like, “I have to do something with this. All these years of taking photos of the band.” Of course, everybody in the band was like. “Gina, you really need to put a photo book together!” I finally found the right guy to do it with and he helped me get it together, organize it, and help me work on the book. I couldn’t believe that along with the list of my credits will be photographer and author. It’s kind of mind-blowing. Things that you don’t think you’re capable of, and then when you have an opportunity to do something and maybe make a difference…certainly for The Go-Go’s. This needed to be out there. This is way long overdue; a book of photos with all of us. Photos that I’ve had that people have never seen. Also, you’re getting these photos from a band member’s perspective. With writing from one of the band members about what was going on during that period of time.

BLADE: I’m sure that looking at the pictures brought back lots of memories, but were you also a journal or diary keeper?

SCHOCK: Check this out! I don’t have a journal, but since 1978, Gregg, I have been keeping daily planners every single year. I’ve written down things that were going on during that time period. Not big, long stories, but this happened today, that happened yesterday, next week we’re going to be doing this. I used that as my reference. It was invaluable in the process. I now need to make room for them in the closet. I’ve got them all in drawers in cabinets in my office. It’s like, “OK, there’s no more room here [laughs]!” They were invaluable, like I said, in putting this together. What exact date did this happen? What was going on in November of ’83? It was important to have.

BLADE: Do you see the book as an extension of Alison Ellwood’s 2020 Go-Go’s documentary?

SCHOCK: No, but I’ll tell you that 99% of the photos in Alison’s documentary are mine.

It’s not an extension of that. This book has been in the works for decades. I just needed to find the right person to help me get it together. But when Alison was interviewing, I’d show her a photo and she would say, “Gina, can we come back and get some of these photos for the documentary?” I was like, “Of course, you can!” The majority of what you saw are my photos.

BLADE: The book is full of marvelous personal history details, such as performing with the late Edith Massey, known to many from her performances in some of John Waters’ movies. What do you think Edie would think of the book?

SCHOCK: She would be, [imitating Massey] “Oh, Gina, I’m so happy about your book! Finally, it’s about time!” Bless her heart and soul. I was doing an interview yesterday and I said, “If it wasn’t for Edie, I don’t know if The Go-Go’s would exist. Certainly not in the way that they have for the last more than 40 years. Things happen in a magical way, how it all comes together. No one really knows why somebody meets someone on that particular day at that particular time, and then something comes out of that that you can’t believe. Edie gave me the opportunity to come out to LA and San Francisco and New York and actually play in clubs. We got to play at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s; what a thrill that was. Then to come to LA and do three nights of the Nuart Theater and then play The Warfield up in San Francisco. That was the first time I’d ever been on a plane! After doing that with Edie, the minute I got back to Baltimore I realized it was time to make a move. It gave me the courage to believe that I could go back to any one of these places and I’m going to do something! By the way, Edie was such a lovely person. A sweetheart.

BLADE: Another scoop for the readers that I loved was the part about the Go-Go’s performing with ska in the early 1980s, leading to the collaboration with Terry Hall on the song “Our Lips are Sealed,” which was a much bigger hit for the Go-Go’s than for Terry’s band Fun Boy Three. Do you know how he felt about that?

SCHOCK: I have no idea how he felt, but I’m sure he was happy because all Terry Hall  was hearing was “ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching [laughs].” I think Terry was quite happy about that. I would be. When Jane brought in the song, she was scared to death to play it for us because it was basically like a love letter that she readjusted a little bit lyrically and put some chords and a melody to. She played it for us, and we were like, “Jane, this song’s great!”

BLADE: We are all saddened by the recent passing of Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones. In your book, you wrote about the Go-Go’s opening for The Rolling Stones. Can you please say a few words about what Charlie meant to you as a fellow drummer?

SCHOCK: There were two drummers that were my heroes growing up. That was Charlie Watts and John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin). Those two guys are part of the reason I started and kept playing drums. To think that many years later I actually got to meet my hero and talk to him. I got to sit on his drum kit! I talked to his drum tech!

That was one of the biggest thrills of my life. Then to be able to just open for the Stones, I mean, God! Wow, what a thrill! He was, of course, a gentleman. Very quiet kind of guy; soft-spoken. A lovely guy; very personable, very sweet. I didn’t have a lot of time to talk to him, but when I did my heart was pounding. I couldn’t believe it. Meeting David Bowie was the same sort of thing. You have such adoration for these people. The impact they have on your life in many ways, not just musically.

BLADE: You put some personal thoughts and experiences in the book, including your open-heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect, yours and the band’s encounters with drugs and recovery, the break-up of the band and issues with songwriting revenue. Was it painful or freeing to revisit these subjects?

SCHOCK: It was a little bit of both. It brought up some really heavy things that went down. But all those things have been ironed out and taken care of. Everything is good now and it has been for many years. The songwriting splits were a big part of why the band broke up. It seemed very unfair to me. I have to tell the truth [laughs]. I have to be honest with the people that I’m working with. They are my family, and nobody can hurt you worse than somebody in your family. I think I explained it all in the book the best that I can.

BLADE: Following the original break-up of the Go-Go’s, you formed the band House of Schock with Vance DeGeneres, brother of Ellen DeGeneres. What are the chances that, aside from the Smothers Brothers, two funny people would come from the same womb?

SCHOCK: Yeah, right [laughs]? It’s crazy, right? Vance was fresh out of New Orleans and I don’t know how I met him; (through) a friend of a friend or something. We hit it off right away. I don’t like to do anything by myself, Gregg. I always want a partner in crime. I like a team! That’s why I always want to be in a band. I never want to be a solo anything. I like being in a band. I like having other people to bounce ideas off of. I’m not the greatest at anything, but I’m pretty good when you put me with somebody else who’s talented as well. Vance and I worked great together. Ellen had just come to town and she was just starting out in the comedy clubs. We’d meet and have dinner. She’d ask me lots of questions about who I thought was a good agent to see. It was very sweet to watch everything happen for her. One of the funniest things, I told this to somebody the other day, I’ll never forget this. Ellen said to me, “Gina, do you think if I make a lot of money one day, would you sell me your house [laughs]?” I don’t remember what I said, but I’ll never forget her asking me that. Because Ellen could buy a city block!

BLADE: In 2018, the Go-Go’s went to Broadway with the musical Head Over Heels, featuring the band’s music. What was that experience like for you?

SCHOCK: That was another unbelievable moment being in the Go-Go’s. To think that this punk band, so many years later, has a musical on Broadway is absurd. But it happened! It’s another crazy thing that just happened! There’s a lot of work involved, don’t get me wrong, and years and years of being in this band and working our butts off to achieve the status that we have in the industry. But it was still an incredible thrill. To meet all the Broadway actors and all, my God, those people can really sing and act! I was never a big fan of Broadway, but I am now. I was knocked out! They’re so fucking talented. It’s such a thrill to watch them interpreting our songs woven into this 17th-century short story.

BLADE: Recently, Belinda’s son (James) Duke (Mason), posted a happy birthday message to you on social media in which he referred to you as his “Auntie.”

SCHOCK: Yes! I love Dukie! I watched that little boy grow up. I just adore him. I will always be in his life. He’s very precious to me.

BLADE: When Duke came out, Belinda became a very outspoken advocate for the community. Would you mind saying a few words about your connection to the LGBTQ+ community?

SCHOCK: I don’t know what my relationship really is. All I know is that I’m who I am. I’m a musician and I will fight for anything or anybody that has had a difficult time in society. Just live your life. Society creates its own do’s and don’ts and rights and wrongs for people, which is just a load of crap to me. Everyone should be allowed to be who they are, and love who they want to love, and marry who they want to marry. Love is love; it has no gender. It’s the most important thing we can give to one another. It’s what this world needs now more than ever. Never think for a second you haven’t got the right to love whomever you fall for because love is always right. It is a human right! 

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Everything you need to know about WorldPride 2021

Party in Scandinavia with the happiest people on Earth

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Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

By Mikey Rox| NEW YORK – It’s been two years since Stonewall 50 – WorldPride NYC 2019 became the largest international Pride celebration in history, but the “bye” year of 2020 wasn’t due to the pandemic. 

The global celebration has been held every odd-numbered year since 2017 given its massive logistical undertaking (with sporadic celebrations in 2006, 2012 and 2014 before then), and WorldPride Copenhagen – Malmö 2021 couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Hundreds of thousands of cooped-up queer revelers and allies will flock to the twin host cities in Denmark and Sweden, respectively, from Aug. 12-22, to party with the happiest people on the planet, a delightful distinction provided to the Scandinavian countries by the United Nations’ famous World Happiness Report. (The United States ranked No. 19 in the most recent report, FYI.) 

So what’s in store for this year’s all-out progressive-flag-flying festival? Read on for more.

Two LGBTQ anniversaries in Denmark

If you can believe it, it’s been 70 years since Danish doctors in 1951 performed the world’s first successful genital reconstruction surgery, a medical marvel that provided hope to transgender people the world over. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Gay Liberation Front’s Danish chapter, which has been instrumental in blazing trails toward equality for the country. Look how far it’s come.

Opening ceremonies kick off in Copenhagen

In conjunction with Copenhagen Pride, WorldPride will officially start late afternoon on Aug. 13, but in adherence with COVID-19 protocols the opening ceremony won’t be held in WorldPride Square (at least not as of press time; things could – and probably will – change). That potential snafu notwithstanding, Denmark welcomes vaccinated U.S. travelers, and if any testing is needed, both PCR and antigen tests will be available free to everyone, including tourists, 24/7. Copenhagen is OPENhagen again.

WorldPride Square will be open for the rest of the fest

WorldPride Square, a makeshift village of sorts (similar to the Olympics) located within Copenhagen’s main square, will provide a gathering place for all attendees that have traveled far and wide. LGBTQ+ and non-governmental organizations spanning the globe will set up shop in the square to greet pedestrians, provide information, and invite folks to get involved. Art exhibits also will be a centerpiece of the village, alongside a street-food market and bars with plenty of space to relax. 

EuroGames will be held simultaneously

If you enjoy watching athletes compete in variety of sports that range from boxing and badminton to dancing and dodgeball, add the spectator-friendly EuroGames to your list of to-dos while you’re in Copenhagen. If you want to get hands-on, consider signing up to become a volunteer at the games, to be held Aug. 18-20; EuroGames’ website is currently accepting those applications. 

Spread out and explore other WorldPride villages

While WorldPride Square will serve as the jump-off for the 10 days of festivities, other available villages will allow crowds to spread out and explore their individual interests. In addition to Sports Village for EuroGames athletes and fans, other villages will focus on kids and families, youth, women, and the queer community, among others. Programs and content of these villages will be target-audience specific but open to everyone.

You might have a brush with royalty

Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, Countess of Monpezat, is patron of Copenhagen 2021, making her the first-ever royal to serve in the role for a major LGBTQ+ event. Say hi if you spot her; she knows a queen when she sees one.

Despite pandemic protocol, the show will go on

Organizers have said in an official statement that despite some COVID-19 restrictions, they’re “continuing to plan for full delivery of all Copenhagen 2021 events taking into account the guidance and recommendations” of government agencies. Doubling down, organizers have promised they will not cancel or postpone events. 

Now there’s only one thing left to do: Let’s go!

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels)

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