Last Thursday’ Los Angeles Blade Best of LGBTQ LA event was special for a lot of reasons, but one moment that deserves to be singled out was the presentation of the Blade’s first annual Pat Rocco Award. The inaugural award was presented to Jeff Consoletti.
The award is named for Pat Rocco, a pioneering filmmaker and activist who passed away at 84 in 2018. Besides producing a body of work, ranging from gay erotic short films to documentaries of the early gay rights movement, he was a pioneer in the local LGBTQ community who, among other leadership roles he took on, co-organized the very first LA Pride parade. Los Angeles Blade has designed the honor to recognize an individual who has elevated the community while honoring the history and legacy of West Hollywood and LA Pride. “The most important thing we can do is kick off the run-up to Pride every year by remembering where the event came from and honor those who are carrying its traditions forward,” says Los Angeles Blade Editor Troy Masters.
As the first recipient of the honor, Consoletti was being acknowledged for his game-changing efforts as the producer of LA Pride.
Founder and principal of the events production company JJ|LA, he has worked with LA Pride for 10 years. He told the Blade last year, “In 2010, I approached LA Pride with a suggestion for a contract position to help them with their special events, entertainment booking and sponsorship as they began planning their 40th Anniversary, and they bit.”
The gig was the birth of JJ|LA, and since then he has built a roster of clients, from big brands to nonprofits and across multiple industries, and is known nationally for the events he executes. He now has offices in LA, New York and Boston.
When he first came on board, LA Pride was struggling, suffering from problems with corporate sponsorship engagement, lagging ticket sales and a lackluster entertainment program. Nevertheless, his efforts shone through it all, and when the new LA Pride team of President Estevan Montemayor and Executive Director Madonna Cacciatore took the festival’s reins, Consoletti was there as an indispensable and seasoned hand.
“We revamped the guest experience to create a clean, accessible and inviting event with eye-catching design and decor that got guests excited,” Consoletti told the Blade. “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 shows. 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.”
The result was a 2019 Pride that left a lasting buzz at LGBTQ events throughout Los Angeles and online that it had been perhaps the best ever, and pulled an event that appeared near collapse back from the financial brink to make it one of the world’s most well-financed and successful Pride organizations. It was for his contributions to that remarkable turnaround that Consoletti was being honored Thursday night.
On a deeper level, though, it was also an expression of gratitude – a heartfelt “thank you” from a community that has been raised higher by his work. It was a sense of community that permeated the entire evening, and it seemed to reach its peak when he received the award.
Fittingly, it was Montemayor and Cacciatore who joined Masters for the presentation of the award to Consoletti. The pair were met with enthusiastic cheers from the crowd before launching into their introduction.
Montemayor spoke first:
“Madonna and I have been getting a lot of credit the last few years, for the changes that you’ve seen here on the Boulevard, but there has been one person specifically that has been an unsung hero in making West Hollywood and LA Pride such a beacon of hope for so many people, and that’s our friend Jeff Consoletti. Jeff has, for the last ten years, been the foundational change that has made LA Pride such a significant event in LA County and throughout the country.
“Jeff is not just our producer, Jeff is not just our friend – he’s our family. And if you’ve seen the lights out on the Boulevard that the City of West Hollywood copied from Jeff, you can be very proud that this creative mind probably is going to one up everything this year, this June.”
Cacciatore then took the mike, beginning her speech with a joke. “I call Jeff every now and then, I say, ‘Hey Consoletti, it’s Cacciatore,’ and then we say Italian things and then we yell at each other.”
Then she went on:
“He is an amazing human being. I love him because he’s a passionate, incredible man who cares so very much for our community, and for making LA Pride the best it can be. Jeff Consoletti, nobody deserves the Pat Rocco Award but you. You’re getting the very first Pat Rocco Award, named after a man who documented our history and whose work continues to live at One Archives, and in our hearts.”
Then Masters offered some remarks of his own:
“Pat Rocco’s work is all over the place in here [Rocco’s Tavern]. He documented LA Pride in the early days, and he actually ran the organization like Estevan is running the organization now, and helped found this community, and helped found West Hollywood. And what Jeff is doing is elevating everybody, and for that elevation he deserves the connection with Pat Rocco.”
Masters later commented to this reporter, “When I first approached Rocco’s about partnering with us on this event, we had a lot of fun discussing how proud Pat would be to know a bar was coincidentally named after him on this location, a location that has always been the gateway to LA Pride.”
When Consoletti came to the stage he was met with cheering and applause from an audience who knew him as one of their own.
When handed the cup-shaped trophy, he quipped, “Is there a cocktail in this?”
He then gave an acceptance speech:
“Wow, thank you to my dear friends from Christopher Street West and LA Pride, thank you to the LA Blade for recognizing me. It’s not often that work as an event producer, and someone who is behind the scenes, creatively directing things that are happening and hopefully orchestrating them in a really good way, is getting recognized, so I appreciate this. I think what makes it more important for me is that, I’ve lived in this community for a long time, I’ve had a voice behind the scenes for a long time, I’ve really tried hard to make my community proud as I’ve grown as an entrepreneur, I’ve been really fortunate to travel the world and make a lot of change – but to come home and feel that my community is proud of what we are doing right here, is probably the best thing that I can be grateful for. I really look forward to what we get to do in West Hollywood every year – thank you for coming out and supporting LA Pride and being very visible in the community.”
He ended by thanking his new husband, Rob (the couple were married in November), and his team at JJ|LA, joking to the audience that if they ever saw a JJ|LA event, “just tell them you know Jeff, you’ll get in.”
It might have seemed an extravagant promise, but given the overwhelming feeling of camaraderie Consoletti engendered with the rest of the people in Rocco’s Tavern that night, and the lengths to which he strives toward the betterment of his community, it felt like a personal invitation that he had every intention of honoring.