Everyone remembers their first Gay Pride Day. It’s sort of a coming out day for many people. I remember mine. It was 25 years ago on July 13, 1986. Back then there was no gay parade in Utah. That would come eight years later. It was simply a day in the park. People came to picnic, listen to music, watch performers and visit various organizations’ booths. However the greatest part of Gay Pride Day was, as it is today, simply the gay people and allies who attended.
The 1986 Gay Pride Day committee consisted of mainly Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire members who had reorganized Pride Day three years earlier but was passing it off to Beau Chaine. He was co-director of the newly organized Gay and Lesbian Community Service Center and Clinic and was chosen director of Gay Pride Day ’86, when no one else stepped up to the challenge.
Chaine secured Pioneer Park for the festival which was an interesting choice. It was at the heart of a very seedy neglected part of Salt Lake City and seemed to be the last refuge for alcoholics, drug users, homeless people and others down on their luck.
It had but one restroom located at the east edge of the park that was a well-known homosexual cruising spot. An old locomotive engine anchored the northeast corner. But on the upside it was also only blocks away from the 200 South gay bar district that contained the In-Between, Backstreet and The Sun, and to the south of the park on 300 West was The Deerhunter.
Gay Pride Day ’86 was truly a community event. The bars were instrumental in providing a flatbed trailer for a stage, sound equipment and their disc jockeys. The headline act was the Saliva Sisters whose fee was donated by Joe Redburn, owner of The Sun. Redburn had given the campy novelty act their first break by booking them in his club and the Saliva Sisters in turn have been loyal to their gay appreciative audience ever since.
Other performers were Ron Richardson with the Salt Lake Men’s Choir, Walt Larabee who performed a puppet show imitating “Waylon and Madame,” Julliard-trained pianist Steve Oldroyd and singer Darrel Rojoit.
Various community organizations set up booths to provide information about their groups or to raise funds. No rental fees were required. These groups were The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ, the AIDS Project Utah, Wasatch Affirmation, the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church and the Triangle magazine. The lone local artist was Richard “Ragnar” McCall, who sold his pagan figurine artwork. He died at the age of 35 on Oct. 3, 1994 of AIDS.
The keynote speaker was Joe Redburn, who spoke about unfair legal harassment of gay people by the Salt Lake Police Department.
The only trouble at the event was run- ins with transients. One resulted in a gay man bringing charges against an intruder for threatening him with a knife.
As a member of Wasatch Affirmation, I was there, among the 200 or so souls who attended, to sell “Whole Wheat Mormon Faggot Cookies” which I had made as a fundraiser for the group. This is my memoir of the event:
“I brought with me about 30 giant cookies I called “Whole Wheat Mormon Faggot Cookies” which I was selling at 50 cents apiece. I made $12 for Affirmation after two cookies were stolen by drunken transients, and I had given away four more. It turned out that I was the only one to have brought anything for the Affirmation booth’s Bake Sale. Russ Lane was already at the park by the time I arrived and he was in a tizzy because Affirmation’s booth was in the direct sun without any cover. So I said let’s just move it to where you want it so we did, beneath a shade tree.
They were supposed to police the park during the fair but I didn’t see any. I did see two transients steal cookies from me and a Native American with a knife chasing another through the booths. Beauchaine intervened and took the knife away so no one was seriously bothered. All in all most transients kept to their side of the park and the faggots kept to our side of the park.
My pal Marc Lamar came dressed as Alice Foxx. When he saw me, this 6-foot-3-inch former Marine slash drag queen came running at me and just scooped me up into his arms. That was the most excitement I had all day! Later I asked Jon Butler if he would run me home because no one thought to provide folding chairs and I didn’t want to stand all afternoon.
As we were leaving I spotted a car driving slowly around the park with a photographer leaning out of the car taking pictures. We drove up next to them and yelled “what the hell are you doing?” and they sped off; but not without us getting their plate number. We gave it to Willy Marshall, who works as a dispatcher, to trace. He later said that they traced back to some undercover officials.
It was kind of a fun day with nearly 200 people attending. I recognized more people than I thought I would. The Libertarians had a booth with Bob Waldrop, Beauchaine had his food concession, Duane Dawson had set up for the Utah AIDS Project, Bob McIntier was holding down the Restoration Church booth, Bruce Barton and Bruce Harmon were at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church’s table. There were some others but I didn’t recognize what their organizations were.
I sat at the Affirmation booth for most of the afternoon while Russ Lane proselytized. However, when the Saliva Sisters performed I went to the makeshift stage to see them better. They were great!
It was hot in the park and at one point I left with Lon Wright and Jon Butler to get some drinks. I bought Russ a soda and some California coolers for me which I poured into my bota bag. I guess after a bit I was getting pretty smashed having not eaten anything but a Faggot Cookie since morning.
I asked Russ if he wanted a drink from my bota bag after he had finished his soda and he assumed that it was only water. I, on my part, assumed that he knew that I had been pouring coolers into my bota bag, but evidently not. After the first mouthful, he spit the wine out, and made such a fuss about a little wine and breaking the Word of Wisdom. I almost burst out laughing. I told him he had worse things in his mouth.
Anyway, I then said I was sorry and that I thought he knew what I had been drinking since I had told everyone else what was in the bota bag. Well maybe if he would have paid me a little more attention he would have known.
By late afternoon I was pretty smashed and when the shindig was over Jon Butler took my drunk butt home. Lon Wright had left the party early in a huff, mad at Jon for not giving him enough attention.
My first Pride day.”