With three days of jubilant programming across multiple stages and performance venues, LA Pride attracts hundreds of thousands of parade spectators and attendees. This year’s #JUSTUNITE theme embraces the idea that the work the LGBTQ community does together is ultimately what will make it stronger and more resilient.
Making the event as vibrant and unique each year is always a challenge, but Christopher Street West’s (CSW) new executive director, Madonna Cacciatore passionately endeavors to try. This year, beyond the entertainment staging areas, Madonna has spearheaded a few changes many hope will make the festival more vibrant, interactive and accessible.
About 2019 Pride
The City of West Hollywood, the West Hollywood Chamber, and local businesses have all been great partners in inspiring a revitalized LA Pride. There are many new elements this year, including Pride on the Boulevard, a weekend block party and LGBTQ stage, all of which are free to the public. Guests can gather and watch local performers on both Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9 from 12-7 p.m. The block party will be located on Santa Monica Boulevard between San Vicente and Robertson Boulevards.
“Our community really spoke to us about wanting free access to LA Pride,” Cacciatore told the Los Angeles Blade. “With the support of our sponsors, businesses, and city and community partners, we were able to make that happen. There will be pedestrian only traffic between Robertson and Hancock on Santa Monica Boulevard. The businesses along that part of the street and beyond are excited to activate even bigger this year.”
The ticketed portion of Pride gets you inside the festival, where all the music headliners are, along with numerous food vendors like Trejo’s Tacos, Jacko’s Pizza, Farmboy Foods, Fat Dragon, Oatley, Vurger Guyz, Deli Doctor and Middle Feast.
Cacciatore and her team also added Oil Can Harry’s at the Robertson Beer Garden, and The Palms’ lesbian bar in Koontz’ parking lot. The two new beer gardens include historic bar pop-ups, creating spaces that connect important elements and locations within LGBT history to today’s consumer. “There will be no cover charge to get into either bar but you must be 21+.”
The Robertson Beer Garden will have a giant Ferris wheel, which is $5 per ride.
The parade is bigger and better than ever this year, with more contingents than in recent history, and a live broadcast by the festival’s sponsor, ABC7. VIP Backstage Experience ticket holders will also have new benefits this year, which include viewing the festivities in the CHE | Palihouse |LA Pride Garden, at the Sal Guarriello Veterans Memorial Park near Holloway and Santa Monica Blvd.
“Friday night, there will be an official opening ceremony with a blessing by a Two-Spirit Tongva leader, which is free,” enthused Cacciatore. “Both stages will be open with programming that includes a vogue ball, DJs, a performance by Todrick Hall, and a one-hour show by Paula Abdul. Verizon will present “5B,” the inspirational documentary about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, which will premiere on the Plaza Stage.”
Jewel’s Catch One, named in honor of lesbian activist Jewel Thais-Williams, (check out the Netflix documentary on her) will be inside the ticketed festival and will feature programming by Delta Airlines and the Grammy Recording Academy. “It was important to us to bring our 49-year history to Pride this year,” noted Cacciatore, who is in her first year as executive director.
Cacciatore is especially excited about Pride’s micro experiences, like the Trans Galleria, a collaborative trans community space.
“With the leadership of CSW board members Alexandra Magallon and Johanna Padilla, this is an expanded version of last year’s amazing event, which features artwork by artists from the local transgender community. The art will be for sale and there will be a silent auction. Proceeds go directly to the artists.”
Exhibitor Row is also going to be bigger this year, added Cacciatore. “In addition to non-profit tents, education, games, music, and art, we are bringing back LGBTQ-owned small businesses. There will be more than 70 on the boulevard and 20 inside the festival on San Vicente.”
CSW Board of Directors member Mistress Cyan is once again curating and programming Erotic City, an adults-only (18+) zone celebrating leather and eroticism and the BDSM community.
Held at the West Hollywood Auditorium, Erotic City will feature interactive areas hosted by Sanctuary LAX, Avatar Los Angeles, The SoCal Men’s Bondage Club and C-Men during the day. Participants get the opportunity to watch, learn and experience bondage, flogging, erotic massage and more in a safe environment. There are also vendors with various lines of fetish and BDSM gear ranging from leather harnesses, corsets, floggers and more. The Bullet Bar will host a Cigar Lounge for those Leathermen and women who enjoy cigar fetish. A cash bar will also be on site.
For those who do not want to drink, there is #SIZZLE!, an alcohol free oasis dedicated to promoting and celebrating sober living. With the carnival games theme and alcohol-free bar, expect lots of fun, games and education.
LA Pride’s seasoned vets help
Jeff Consoletti, the founder and principal of events production company, JJ|LA, has worked on Pride for 10 years. He pointed out that Pride is as much about history as it is about celebration.
“As a younger generation comes into Pride knowing a much more supportive and embracing LGBT experience than the previous decades, ensuring we are paying homage to leaders of yesteryear and the struggles the community has endured will be important,” he emphasized.
When Consoletti first came into CSW, LA! Pride was struggling with corporate sponsorship engagement, lagging ticket sales and a lackluster entertainment program, he acknowledged.
“The event was often criticized by city and community leaders for not really showcasing the community positively. Realizing that LA is one of the top markets in the country and one of the most LGBT-friendly cities, especially within West Hollywood, I was determined to change that,” Consoletti stated.
“We revamped the guest experience to create a clean, accessible and inviting event with eye-catching design and decor that got guests excited,” the veteran events producer said. “We took a deep dive into the entertainment program, identifying supportive allies and out and proud artists that could help to drive ticket sales and publicity opportunities to the show. As audiences grew, so did corporate engagement. We looked to on board brands that wanted to showcase their support toward the LGBT community rather than billboarding, by encouraging immersive, guest-facing activations that got consumers excited.”
LA Pride’s success has been in the numbers, noted Consoletti.
“When we first took over the show, merely 20,000 guests attended the event over the weekend. Today, we have hit crowds upwards of 75,000, with more guests simply coming to celebrate in West Hollywood and watch the parade. We’ve grown and sustained a corporate sponsorship program upwards of over $2MM annually,” he enthused.
LA Pride is an anchor event, bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the city who spend millions of dollars. The economic impact of the event simply can’t be overstated.
The City of West Hollywood continues to refer to a 2015 study that indicates that LA Pride Parade and Festival was responsible for $5,106,900 in direct spending in West Hollywood.
But of course, it’s Pride all over Los Angeles and people come here from around the world to celebrate. This year, they are bound to get their money’s worth and so is LA.
If you’re heading to Pride, of course you want to make sure you look amazing, especially if you are looking to meet someone new.
“Pride is a day to shine bright and this starts with your hair,” enthused Bleu 52 Salon’s gay owner, Rob Fuentes. “When you look good you will feel good! Always remember, hair is your number one accessory.”
So whether you want to style your drag wig, get a sexy, fresh barber cut, bleach and tone, check out the Weho salon. For any attendee, show your ticket to Fuentes during Pride Week and he will take 20 percent off all services.
People love to bring their pets to Pride, but with the heat, loud noise and crowds, it’s not always the best idea, acknowledged Brian Watson, owner of Weho’s PoshPetCare.
“It’s much less stressful for Fido if he is in an air conditioned daycare facility where he can celebrate Pride with other dogs! So while you dance away your day, your dog can play and get pampered with our amazing hot oil spa treatment.”
There are lots of special events around town too, like the Sunday party with Paul Presents at Doheny Room West Hollywood, from 3-9 p.m. Also, EVITA Presents Pride Friday at sbe hotspot, Nightingale. The brainchild of legendary queer party promoters Oly Innes and Andres Rigal, EVITA is the destination to celebrate love, unity, and unique individuality with its diverse and inclusive lineups of local and global talent.
If you want a break from the festivities, head to Mondrian for a fantastic brunch. Or go hang out by the pool at Skybar; they’ve created a special Pride infusion cocktail, with vodka, lime juice, lemon juice, fresh strawberries, Rekorderlig, strawberry cider, cane sugar and Skittles.
At its Third Street location, D’Amore’s Pizza is doing buy one, get one on their delicious free slices for Pride Parade day.