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 coverage of Gay Pride NYC

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.


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