Far from Beads and Glitter: I Helped Organize a Pride March 30 Years Ago and It Was the Most Frightening Night of My Life

by Legendary Lew

Recently, there have been reports of corporations co-opting Pride Parades and non-profit groups using the events as marketing tools. In an astute article written last year, Nico Lang wrote about the problems of taking Pride events for granted. Marches were direct actions focusing on violence and intolerance against LGBT people. A case in point was the protest march I helped organize.

Thirty years ago, I lived in Rochester, NY, a young gay man not too long out of the closet and wondering how I can make a difference during the first wave of the nation’s AIDS crisis. President Reagan wasn’t mentioning AIDS and, at first, had health advisers so inadequate some of them believed HIV could be acquired via toilet seats. Through the AIDS panic, attacks on LGBT people skyrocketed nationally in a few short years.

It was in this climate that the Rochester chapter of the activist group ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) decided to have a protest march on Stonewall Day in 1987.

We had no celebrities, no major politicians, no corporate sponsorship. This was a bare bones event and a serious reminder of the rights not yet gained. As the media spokesperson during that march, I can tell you, it was the most frightening night of my life.

I agreed to be a designated monitor for the group, heading up the back to keep the marchers close together. It’s commonplace that potential assailants seek out march stragglers as targets for harassment.

The hostility towards us, a group of people peacefully marching for rights, was the most intense I have encountered in any protest before or since, and I’ve been to at least 30 different rallies. Hours before the march began, we received a voicemail message stating there would be snipers on nearby roofs ready to shoot us. Across the street from our starting point, a red pickup truck entered a parking lot. Out of the vehicle emerged three young men carrying baseball bats. One of the armed individuals wore a T-shirt with “I Hate Fags” emblazoned on the front.

Since there were about 70 of us marching, we had to use the sidewalk. Don’t ever underestimate how ironically safe it is to march on the street. A street can offer some buffer, but when forced to march on sidewalks, you have many more interactions, good or bad. You are literally inches away from a sucker punch.

How bad was that night? We had eggs thrown at us, rocks hurled at us, people passing by in cars and yelling out obscenities. But we also had some very brave people join us during the march and at the end rally of 120 people.

The night’s most disturbing sight was the hatred of a man who brought his son and daughter, both no older than about 8 years old. He was screaming at the top of his lungs about how we were all going to Hell and all the et cetera that comes with the typical anti-gay faction of presumed Christianity. Screaming bigots cloaking themselves with the false armor of Biblical verse was nothing new. But I felt sorry for the children who had to be subjected to his psychological abuse. I will never forget the terrified looks on their faces.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Wow, we’ve come a long way since then!” You would be partially right. A lot of good has happened over the last thirty years in regard to Pride marches.

Companies are evolving in their LGBTQIA stances and policies. Huge billboard ads, TV and magazine ads celebrating LGBT couples were unheard of just a short time ago. Straight allies are marching with us and demanding equal rights. After a straight male friend marched with me in a Pride parade many years ago, I told him it was my proudest moment of our friendship.

With unity, however, comes responsibility. It’s one thing to recognize equality and attach your company’s logo or associate your non-profit’s mission to it. It’s entirely something else to co-opt a Pride Parade for marketing purposes.
A Pride Parade is not a tool to hide polluting industries and contributions to anti-gay politicians–an incredible irony, since the first pride marches were counteractions against the concealment of the closet. It’s not a marketing scheme template designed to attract more millennials hungry for music festivals.

A Pride Parade should reflect the ongoing struggle from outside our communities and call for a look at the rifts inside them as well. This is a continuous movement that will hopefully remain true to its roots now and for future generations. It’s not for any one entity to seize for their own purposes.

Remember the basic common courtesy when you are invited to a party. You’re the guest. Not the host.

 

Legendary Lew is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex. An out gay man for over 35 years, he hosts Mediatrocities, Strike That Line! and has presented award-winning midnight movie screenings. He’s also a movie critic and game inventor.

Results of March 2017 Board Game Night at The Thrillo Pad

by Legendary Lew

We had a good group for our March edition of The Thrillo Pad Board Game Night. I made a brief video discussing how it went down and the general consensus of the classic board game, “Showdown Poker” by T. S. Lowe.

Watch:

Nemesis of the Controversial Documentary “Tickled” Dies

David D’Amato speaking to Tickled co-director, Dylan Reeve at a film screening

by Legendary Lew

David D’Amato, the subject of last year’s controversial documentary Tickled has died, according to the film’s directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve with confirmation via The New York Times’ Obituary section.

D’Amato was alleged to have been behind a fetish film company called “Jane O’Brien Media,” which paid lucrative sums of money to young men for tickling films. The documentary uncovered bullying tactics and blackmail perpetrated against some of the men appearing in and assisting with the tickling fetish shorts.

With legal and even thinly-veiled personal threats against them, Farrier and Reeve set out to discover who was behind “Jane O’Brien Media.” That trail led to D’Amato who, according to Tickled, was the sole source of funding for the fetish films. D’Amato’s past disturbing criminal history was also exposed in connection with the creation of tickle fetish films.

The news of D’Amato’s death was a bit of a shock, given that Tickled was only just given a very broad release on HBO. (Last year, it was granted a limited theatrical release and available on iTunes and Amazon on Demand).

With D’Amato’s passing and personal legal threats left behind, I have a feeling more accusations may pop up. A number of posts on TKLFrat and Tickling Media Forum (TMF), two outlets for the tickling fetish community, have expressed condolences.

Others expressed no sorrow. One case in point: the post by TMFJeff, a co-founder of TMF who was on the receiving end of one of D’Amato’s lawsuits. He explained how he was practically forced to censor any discussions about D’Amato on his website, in order to keep the forum from being shut down:

Years and years ago, after he got out of jail, he sued a bunch of Internet companies including Google and Yahoo, for five million dollars. Among those named were me personally and the company that was hosting the TMF at the time. Nobody wants to be sued for five million dollars, but I wasn’t that worried because it was an obviously ridiculous suit.

But our hosting company wanted no part of it. I got a call at about 8:30 AM one day from their lawyer who said I had four hours to take down the TMF. It wouldn’t have been a huge deal, just a few days of downtime while we found a new host, but who needs that headache? So I said “What if I just put his name and alias into my spam filter, and make it impossible to have discussions about him on my site? Would that satisfy you?”

They agreed, so that’s what I did, and that’s why he’s been on the blocked list for so long.

David D’Amato may be dead, but I have a feeling some of the stories of his damage may continue to emerge.

BTW, I interviewed Dylan Reeve last year regarding the movie Tickled. Be sure to give it a listen right here.

Legendary Lew is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex, host of “Mediatrocities” and the upcoming “Vital Media Show.” An avid collector and expert of weird movies, music and TV, he also hosts monthly rare board game nights and invites you to join us in Chicago!

 

Muslim Ban Protest at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport

by Legendary Lew

I arrived at O’Hare Airport too late last night for any protests. However, I made it there tonight. Here’s a group of pictures of the crowd. There were easily hundreds there on a very cold Sunday night. I’m proud of Chicago! #NoBanNoWall

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Mike Pence on Trump’s Muslim Ban: “Offensive and Unconstitutional”

by Legendary Lew

Vice-President Mike Pence forgets that videotape is forever. As Governor of Indiana last year, he described what he felt about Donald Trump’s plan for banning Muslims from the United States. Can we begin impeachment now?

Latest Entertainment for Donald Trump’s Inauguration Announced

by Legendary Lew

I’m “proud” to announce the latest entertainers to join the Inauguration Day ceremonies. Here’s a video of one of their previous performances. It promises to make the day quite special.

Female Trouble The Musical?

by Legendary Lew

I’ve long been a fan of John Waters’ trashy classic Female Trouble with its amazingly crazy dialogue and situations that still hold up today.

That’s why when I first heard the Mel Henke classic swinging lounge album “La Dolce Henke” (described as a Playboy Magazine on record), I knew his wild rendition of “All That Meat” somehow fit with the film.

It’s been a few years brewing in my head, but I finally decided to make my very first musical mix combining the two great pieces. This is my way of convincing John Waters’ and others that Female Trouble should indeed become his second musical.

Hope you enjoy it!