Pride names celebrity
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee has announced celebrity grand marshals and other honorees expected to join this year's parade.
It has also scheduled a community meeting for Friday night (May 31) to discuss its decision to rescind a grand marshal honor to the gay soldier who leaked a large cache of U.S. State Department cables and other documents to the online site WikiLeaks.
This year's celebrity grand marshals are out lesbian Tabatha Coffey, host of the Bravo TV show Tabatha Takes Over; out actor, singer, and songwriter Cheyenne Jackson (Glee, Xanadu); gay actor Alex Newell (Glee); gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts; and gay Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence, God Loves Uganda).
The 43rd annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and celebration is set for June 29-30.
Pride CEO Earl Plante said in a statement, "It is a great privilege and honor to salute the official 2013 celebrity (grand) marshals as they particularly reflect this year's distinctive theme of 'Embrace, Encourage, and Empower.'"
In an email from a spokeswoman, the 44-year-old Coffey said, "I have always enjoyed visiting San Francisco and I am honored to be the grand marshal" for the parade. "I hear SF is one of the best Pride events in the world and I can't wait to be a part of the parade," added the Australian-born hairstylist.
Along with the parade, main stage performances are usually another focus of the Pride festivities. Current events are expected to have a special impact on this year's programming.
Around the time of the Pride celebration, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce whether it's found California's Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. It will also determine if a section of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act should be struck down, thus allowing federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
"There will be a huge production number" concerning the Supreme Court's decision, said Main Stage Producer Audrey Joseph. The plan is to "celebrate or protest," depending on what the justices decide, Joseph said in an interview.
"This is a very, very important year for San Francisco," she said, noting that the Prop 8 case was prompted by events in the city. In 2004, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom kicked off what became known as the "Winter of Love" when he announced that San Francisco officials would perform same-sex marriages.
Joseph said she's working on getting a gospel choir to perform, and she's hoping to enlist Newsom, current Mayor Ed Lee, and state Attorney General Kamala Harris as speakers. Harris, who refused to defend Prop 8 in court, is a 2013 grand marshal.
This year's Sunday main stage line-up will feature plenty of musical acts, including Peaches and Herb, best known for the 1970s hits "Reunited" and "Shake Your Groove Thing." Joseph is expecting the duo to be part of the marriage production number.
"The only song they do that has nothing to do with marriage is 'Shake Your Groove Thing,'" she said.
Other announced performers include DWV, LoveSick Radio, Raquel Rodriguez, Nina Sky, American Idol alum Kimberly Caldwell, and Xavier Toscano, who is gay and lives in San Jose. Toscano, whose music is dance-urban pop, will also perform this Sunday, June 2 at Santa Cruz Pride.
In a Facebook message, Toscano wrote, "I just want people to have a good time. Obviously, since it's Pride, I would be rewarded if they felt joy that day. I want to be a part of that experience, and part of those happy memories from that day."
Previous Pride performers have included Lady Gaga and the Backstreet Boys. Joseph acknowledged the lack of a well-known main act this year.
"I'm still negotiating for a headliner, but it's very difficult," she said. "… We are a free event, so we are constricted by our budget and time. We compete with other Prides that are not free and that have a larger budget."
(Although entrance to the Pride celebration is free, a donation of $5 is requested.) Joseph said her budget for two days of entertainment is $20,000.
More grand marshals named
In a release last week, Pride announced that Al Baum, a "longtime civil rights leader, philanthropist, and HIV/AIDS activist," has been selected as lifetime achievement grand marshal.
Pride officials stated that they are "proud to recognize Baum for his tireless dedication to the LGBT community." According to the organization, Baum is a psychotherapist, Harvard-trained lawyer, retired city planner, and board leader with numerous community organizations.
This year, Pride's board also created the Jose Julio Sarria History Maker Award to recognize Jay and Bryan Leffew, a legally married gay couple, and their two adopted children, Daniel and Selena.
After Prop 8 passed in 2008, the Leffew family began posting their home videos on a YouTube channel called Gay Family Values to show how normal and loving a gay family could be.
The Leffews "depict everyday Bay Area people who make extraordinary changes in the way society views the LGBT community," Pride officials said in a statement.
Sarria was the first out gay man to run for public office in California when he sought a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961. He founded the Imperial Court System in 1964.
Pride officials also recently announced the group's general membership selected Crystal Jang to be another grand marshal. According to Pride, Jang is a lesbian who has advocated for "greater visibility in response to witnessing racism in the LGBT community." Pride organizers said Jang is the first out Asian/Pacific Islander teacher in San Francisco.
Manning meeting set
The Pride board and committee have been looking to draw attention away from the debacle about Bradley Manning, the gay Army private first class whistle-blower who leaked 700,000 classified government documents to WikiLeaks.
Since April 30, a few days after the Manning controversy began, it has been rolling out its main stage line up and celebrity grand marshals with daily announcements on its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoPride.
The drip-drip-drip rollout has not dampened attention, though, from the organization's announcement late last month that Pride's board had rescinded the vote by its electoral college to make Manning a grand marshal.
Days after his selection was announced, the nonprofit said he hadn't been eligible because he wasn't local. Widespread protest quickly erupted, and Pride officials have fumbled in their responses to the issue.
Last week Pride announced plans for a community meeting to address the Manning controversy. The gathering is set to start at 6:30 p.m., Friday, May 31 at Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco, 150 Eureka Street. The facilitator will be Scott Shafer, host of KQED's California Report. The meeting can't run later than 9:30.
In another effort to clean up the mess, the electoral college, a group of former grand marshals, recently chose drag chanteuse BeBe Sweetbriar as an individual community grand marshal instead of Manning.
Sweetbriar, a San Francisco resident for nearly 20 years, has dedicated her talents to raising funds for local LGBT community-based organizations, according to a Pride release.
New rainbow flags to fly
Each June, rainbow flags adorn lampposts along Market Street to mark Pride Month.
But the city's main thoroughfare serves as a wind tunnel, and the 500 flags Pride hangs take a beating over time. It launched a fundraising campaign last year in order to buy new ones.
The goal had been to raise $20,000 to replace the worn banners, but Pride CEO Plante said the campaign netted about $14,000. New flags have been ordered, however, and will be in place by June 3, he said.
Flag contributions can still be made through www.sfpride.org.