The Revolution Will Be Televised

Photos: AP. The first Christopher Street West Parade, 1970.

For the first time ever, the L.A. Pride parade will air on live television. 

When the first Los Angeles Pride parade hit the streets of Hollywood in 1970, the world was experiencing a crisis of contradictions. When it came to gay identity, things were changing. The Stonewall Riots of the year before gave way to protests all across the country, led by people who were sick of being treated like second-class citizens. The Black Cat demonstration in L.A. in 1967, along with the Cooper Donut riot of 1959, laid the groundwork for a new generation of activist gays who weren’t content to be shoved around, targeted and violently harassed by the police. 

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Christopher Street West was formed, in part, as a response to the need for action and visibility. At a time when gay sex was still illegal in most parts of the country and the AIDS epidemic was still a decade away, America was trying to figure out how gayness, and openly gay identities, fit into its identity as a free speech-loving, yet vocally conservative, country. So the parade happened in Los Angeles, and then in New York. But these celebrations, as the surviving images show, were full of queens, leather daddies, go-go boys and folks generally unconcerned with respectability politics. Perhaps it was for this reason that the Pride parade was never televised. It couldn’t have been treated with the same level of interest, the same pomp and glamour and bizarre gaudiness as a Macy’s day parade. 

Today is another era, of course, and while the people currently running our country may wish to harken back to a simpler, straighter, whiter time that never, in fact, existed in America, the people who live here are ready for this yearly celebration of gayness to be broadcast out to the world. Or at least, to greater Los Angeles. 

In a historic deal with Southern California news station KABC, Christopher Street West has signed onto a three-year contract to televise the L.A. Pride festival, as well as the famous West Hollywood parade. 

The live coverage of the parade will be co-hosted by  the beloved (yet controversial) Raven-Symone, along with KABC regulars Ellen Leyva and Brandi Hitt for a special two-hour broadcast on June 9. 

A protestor fights against the controversial Briggs Initiative, a measure that would have made it illegal for LGBTQ+ teachers to work in schools, in 1978.

“I am honored to be a part of this year’s Pride celebration,” Community Grand Marshall Phill Wilson said to CSW. “The LGBTQI community has come a long way in the last 50 years. It has not been without heartache, pain, sacrifice, and growth. I am humbled to be among such a powerful and diverse group of grand marshals. Together we represent how much stronger we are when we celebrate all of what we are.”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with the opening of a new Senior Campus, will take the role of Organizational Grand Marshal. 

“We are humbled and honored to have Phill Wilson and the Los Angeles LGBT Center serve as the Grand Marshals for LA Pride 2019.” said Estevan Montemayor, CSW Board President, in a press release. “Together, these people and the organizations they represent have made an indelible and important mark on the LGBTQ+ community that has improved and enriched the lives of many individuals who have faced so much adversity. Our grand marshals inspire us, empower us and are examples of how to unite our community. We are so excited that KABC is here to increase the awareness of our grand marshals and LA Pride.”

There’s no denying that the queer community has come a long way since the early days of the parade, when you could still get booked for a blow job. With queer and trans rights currently under attack by the Trump administration, the show of support, optimism and pride might be just what the community needs to see on small screens everywhere. 

“We’re proud to bring the L.A. Pride Parade celebration to viewers across Southern California,” Cheryl Fair, president and general manager of KABC, told Deadline. “Our collaboration with LA Pride is a commitment to reflecting and serving the diverse communities that represent our audience.”