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40 things you don't know about Gay Pride

It's the 40th anniversary of Stonewall! To celebrate, we've got more queer factoids than you can shake a rainbow flag at.

Photograph: Suzanna Poli

RECOMMENDED: Full Gay Pride NYC coverage

1 The first annual march was called Christopher Street Liberation Day.

2 Though many people refer to the Gay Pride March as a "parade"—and though the permit it receives each year from the city is in fact a parade permit—it's really actually a march, insists organizing group Heritage of Pride. "We will call it a march until we have full equal rights," says HOP operations manager Phil Mannino.

3 The Dyke March—the 17th annual of which steps off at 5pm Saturday 27—brings about 15,000 women to Fifth Avenue each year. Still, it has never sought a permit from the city.

4 The Dyke March organizers say they do not seek a permit because the rally is a demonstration of the First Amendment right to take to the streets in demand of civil rights.

5 While HOP is run by approximately 50 volunteer members, it takes closer to 1,500 volunteers to make the Gay Pride events happen each year.

6 It costs approximately $70,000 to produce the Gay Pride March.

7 More than 300 contingents will make their way down Fifth Avenue in this year's Pride March.

8 There are several longtime regular solo marchers—including Rollerena (of Studio 54 fame), the older guy with the multicolored beard and poodle in a baby carriage (or duck in a cage) whom we couldn't track down, and this guy: Erik Mortensen, a 44-year-old nurse practitioner who lives in Chelsea. This will be the 19th march he has done in a fairy suit. "It catches people off guard and brings unexpected joy," he explains. "Plus there's so much dead space in the march. I try to liven it up!"

9 His first fairy suit was one he found at a garage sale. The current incarnation—which he will wear this Sunday—was custom-made for him by a friend out of three ballerina outfits rescued from a Dumpster.

10 Mortensen, who began his career as an AIDS nurse, first started making public appearances in his fairy suit when many of his friends were dying of the disease, and he would wear it to the hospital as a way to cheer those friends up.

11 The first New York City mayor to take part in the Gay Pride March was Ed Koch in 1984.

12 All subsequent mayors have participated in the March; most have been booed.

13 The longest a Gay Pride March has ever lasted has been seven and a half hours, says Mannino.

14 The post-March Dance on the Pier started in 1986 on the Christopher Street Pier. "It was supposed to be a onetime thing," says Mannino. This year is the 23rd.

15 In the late '90s, someone made fake tickets for the Dance on the Pier, which created chaos by bringing 3,000 extra people to the party's entrance. Many disappointed folks had to be turned away.

16 Beginning in 2003, NYC promoter and Dance on the Pier talent agent Mark Nelson began securing (without payment) celebrity divas to make surprise appearances at the party. His first get was Janet Jackson. Others have included Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Hudson.

17 Any hints about this year's surprise Dance on the Pier guest? "Don't break my heart," Nelson says. "Just go and find out for yourself."

18 HOP added Saturday's Rapture on the River, the pier dance for lesbians, to its event lineup six years ago because the Dance on the Pier, which had been coed for many years, had become seriously male oriented.

19 In 1994, during the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, there were actually two Gay Pride Marches—the one organized by HOP, and an alternative breakaway march that followed the original route, starting at the Stonewall and marching uptown to Central Park.

20 In 2007, HOP's Pridefest was canceled for the first time because the city would not issue a permit for it to be held in a new Chelsea location.

21 This year, TONY will make its debut in the Pride March.

22 The gay rainbow flag was created in 1978 by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker, who sewed and dyed the material for the first one himself.

23 The Stonewall riots occurred in 1969 and the annual Pride March began after that, so it would seem that this year's should be the 39th annual Gay Pride March, not the 40th.

24 So why is it the 40th? Because the very first march actually took place on the one-monthanniversary of Stonewall, in July, moving from Washington Square to the Stonewall Inn.

25 Christopher Street Liberation Day had 2,000 participants in 1970.

26 Christopher Street Liberation Day actually marched up Sixth Avenue, from Sheridan Square toCentral Park, and concluded with a "Gay-In" in Sheep Meadow.

27 The march reversed directions, starting uptown and moving down, in the early 1970s, due to the efforts of Stonewall manager Ed Murphy, who wanted to bring more business to the Village's bars.

28 The Stonewall Inn's first incarnation was as a tearoom that was popular with lesbians.

29 That tearoom was called Bonnie's Stone Wall, named after an anonymous 1930 lesbian memoir,These Stone Walls.

30 Bonnie's Stone Wall then became a straight bar before a fire in the 1960s left it sitting empty for several years.

31 The bar was reopened by the Mafia in 1967, this time as a gay watering hole.

32 That gay bar comprised not only the current Stonewall Inn space, but also what is now the nail salon next door.

33 The Mafia had an office upstairs at the Stonewall Inn, and from it the organization ran a prostitution ring that it used to ensnare and then blackmail bar patrons.

34 The famous riots began after the Stonewall Inn was raided on June 28, 1969—for the second time in a week—for operating without a liquor license, and the attending officers harassed many of the patrons.

35 Violence erupted after the bar customers poured out onto the street; a cop shoved a drag queen, the queen hit the cop over the head with her purse, the cop clubbed her, and the crowd went wild with anger.

36 The riots lasted for six days, with days one, two and six being the most violent.

37 That violence was partially a reaction to the tone of reportage by The Village Voice, which used phrases like "limp wrists" and "Sunday fag follies."

38 The Village Voice was, at that time, housed a few doors down from the Stonewall in what is now the Duplex. An angry mob came close to burning it down during the riots.

39 When the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee disbanded in 1984, Heritage of Pride (HOP) formed and took over operating the annual Gay Pride March.

40 Contrary to popular myth, there is no evidence that grief over the death of Judy Garland, on June 22, 1969, had anything at all to do with the riots. "The Stonewall boys and girls could care less about Judy Garland," recalls writer and early gay activist Perry Brass. "They were into Diana Ross, Motown and radical street politics."

The NYC Pride March is Sun 28.


Susan D
Susan D

Regarding #1 above, the first annual march was called Christopher Street GAY Liberation Day.