(L-R) Systeen, Sublime Ricki, Dee Daye and Rozwell get ready to take the stage showcasing their Diva-ness. Photo Credit: Talyn Sherer
Utah Pride is the weekend genderqueer people of the Western states wait all year to come out for. This is the weekend of benders, brunches, bloody marys and bare skin, all of which are important functions of a successful Pride. Because of the massive turnout and absolute madness, it is a weekend where the planets of the LGBTQQ community collide and become one constellation of beautiful people. Some people that attend the festival will be closeted for the rest of the year, a fact I learned at the festival’s press conference on Friday. Each year, the festivities get gaudier and more imaginative, and the culture of Utah gets more and more tolerant. Though this year didn’t have any watershed moments of Utah queer history, like last year’s participation of Mormons Building Bridges, Utah Pride 2013 was a solid tolerance bender, that one would hope stretches all throughout the coming year.
For the past three years, Pride weekend has begun Thursday night with the Miss City Weekly Pageant. Last year’s Miss City Weekly was my Pride initiation—previously I’ve either been in the closet or out of town. It’s an event presented by City Weekly (in name only, sadly), hosted by local drag luminaries and judged by local celebrities. Gorgeous Jared and last year’s Miss City Weekly, Willard, hosted this year’s event. There were about half as many contestants as last year, which made for a less exciting pageant. Miss Willard relinquished her crown bootyliciously, with a performance that showed off a perfect understanding of drag performance—surprise elements, playing to the crowd, twerked-up insanity. After performances by the contestants and a Q&A session from the judges, Angela Saxon was crowned the ’13 Queen, while Ravenna and Mona Wilder were named runner-ups.
Immediately after Angela Saxon performed her first number as Miss City Weekly, nearly all of the crowd moved towards Metro Bar in whatever way they could. For the past year, Metro’s Dance Evolution has defined Thursday nights in Salt Lake City. This Pride, they hosted a kick-off party to showcase what makes them such a vibrant force in the community—great music, a diverse crowd and the Bad Kids. Two of the organizing members of the Bad Kids, Klaus and Cartel, performed at 1 a.m., to ensure that everyone could see both Miss City Weekly and themselves. Klaus was a demon on stage, exorcised by a campy Mormon missionary. Cartel, looking like a deranged Bozo the Clown in fetish clothes, performed to that summer anthem, Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” and the post-punk classic “Warm Leatherette,” (the Peter Murphy and Trent Reznor cover), all while wheeling around a gimp in a wheelchair. Vain Hein, a Bay Area performance artist, spent the weekend here in Salt Lake and dazzled the crowd with a beautiful performance set to original music. Vain Hein was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. She walked on stage and reminded me instantly of a metallic bug, shrouded in a silver cape, orbited by bulbous red, blue and green lights. She began shrieking into a filtered microphone, manipulating the voice to sound metallic and robotic and thrusting the microphone towards the speakers to create high frequency feedback. I felt like I was watching a cyberpunk cabaret performer straight out of Blade Runner. After the incredible performance, the house music dropped for about 15 minutes of dancing, Marilyn Manson’s signature tune, “The Beautiful People” included, until closing time.
A gay Friday night in Salt Lake usually includes a trip to Club Hydrate (formerly Püre) with all of your under-21 gay boys. It’s a playground of lust that I’ve outgrown, but is still fun to watch from the sidelines. Or, if you identify with the butch/dyke/lesbian community, Paper Moon’s White Party is where you’ll be on Pride Friday. For better or for worse, I chose sleep over folly.
I began Saturday in the true gay boy way— with a late brunch (after sleeping in, of course). Regardless of where or when the meal takes place, breakfast food is where we gather, gossip and gorge. After brunch, I walked in the annual Trans March for the second year in a row. It’s part of the Trans / Dyke / Interfaith March that parades the downtown streets towards Washington Square and officially opens the Festival grounds. Each group starts in a different spot and meets on its way there. This year, there was apparently some controversy surrounding the Dyke March—some wanted to rename it the “Lesbian March,” aiming to remove the stigma of being called a Dyke. Obviously, most people embrace such terms rather than being overrun by them—thus, dozens of people were carrying DYKE signs.
I took a nap before committing myself to the festivities. I came back to see Cartel and Klaus’s band, The Femme Medea, that played on the main stage in the afternoon. It was great to see the two, and their drummer, show off their musical talent. I hung around the stage long enough to catch RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants Pandora Boxx and Ivy Winters. Honestly, I don’t watch the show nor do I have any clue about who’s who among the contestants. Pandora and Ivy, though certainly much more conventional than I pay attention to, were interesting entertainers. Pandora dressed as Hermione Granger and danced over a medley of magic-themed music and then told some raunchy dick jokes. Ivy wowed the crowd by juggling flaming objects and swallowing fire.
Saturday evening some friends and I crashed an exclusive, specifically non-Pride related art gala where Willard was invited to entertain. A number of friends dressed up Party Monster style and proceeded to freak out the wealthy patrons of the Utah Art community. Willard performed for them, face masked like Leigh Bowery, covered in foil and balloons. He brought in Vain Hein as well, also covered in foil, who performed to the eurodance song, “Be My Lover.” After the performances and after nearly being kicked out by the event security, we regrouped to settle on a Saturday night Pride activity. Jam is the place to be on Saturday night—during Pride, this means high cover, expensive drinks, and guys glued to Grindr. Our party went instead to Urban Lounge for another non-Pride event, a refreshing counterpoint to the essentialist leanings of any Pride scenario.
Sunday is the daylong climax of any Pride weekend. More people are off work and able to participate in festivities (parade, brunch, mimosas, bloody marys). More people are “out” (in costumes or underwear). Most are tired, hungover and probably still drinking. (It’s St. Patricks’ Day at the end of the rainbow, of course we’re still drinking). I marched with SLUG this year for my first ever Pride parade. Our fearless editor Angela Brown and gorgeous Princess Kennedy were our emcees, surrounded by a bike gang of the fiercely real SLUG family. We had tall bikes, fixies, wagons, straight bros and homos alike entertaining the thousands gathered along 2nd South to watch the parade. After the parade turned on West Temple and dispersed, I walked back against the flow of the floats, met up with the friendly Metro kids on their float and did the parade thing all over again.
After an hour-long power nap, my company and I regrouped at the Festival’s West Stage to see the Bad Kids Review. It was a great community event featuring nearly all of the performers who have been involved in the scene this past year, and some promising new faces. The premise was expressing Utah’s queer history with a review of queer culture from the five decades since the beginning of the queer movement in the 1960s. Connell O’Donovan, an organizer of some of Utah’s first Pride events, addressed the long tradition of Utah’s genderqueer history, beginning with the infamous tranny son of Brigham Young. It was a passionate speech that highlighted the struggles of gender non-conformists, what the Utes call the “beautiful people.” From the ’60s to the ’00s, the Bad Kids did each decade right—Judy Garland and Nancy Sinatra in a reenactment of Stonewall resistance, disco and glam rock, a Barbara Streisand ballad, a moving tribute to HIV/AIDS victims, Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, ending with an invitation for all types of performers to join them. If they keep it up, the ’10s will be known as the era of the Bad Kids in Utah’s queer history.
After wandering the festival for a few hours, I went home for a nap. When I awoke, I realized that I had missed the Bad Kids send-off performance at Metro and gay Latin@ night at Karamba in Sugarhouse. Overall, it was a glorious, campy Pride, hopefully as fulfilling for everyone as it was for me.