By Mike Sugnet
“Wanna Change the World, There’s Nothing To It!!” That was the theme for Kansas City Gay Pride this year, and if any one group of people can have bragging rights to this statement, it certainly would have to be John Koop, aka Flo, and the Gay Pride Committee—along with over 100 volunteers, 120 exhibitors, and the countless entertainers who rocked our world this past weekend in Kansas City. Under blue skies, with little humidity, and—thank you, Mother Nature!—only a slight amount of precipitation early Sunday, we were left with the impression that, yes, we can make a difference in the way we, the LGBT community, are perceived in Kansas City.
We don’t need a parade with every stereotypical character reinforcing what the “straight community” perceives the LGBT community to be about. We throw a giant Street Blast right in the middle of the crossroads district of downtown Kansas City and invite everyone attending First Friday to join us in the celebration. Then we take over one of Kansas City’s best-known monuments to World War I, Liberty Memorial Park, and invite everyone, from every walk of life, to share in our Pride Celebration—Free of Charge. Did we have to dodge bullets and witness shakedowns and drug arrests, as happened at this year’s St.Patrick’s Day Parade? No. Although the police were present to maintain the peace, the only time I saw them use their authority was to ask the picketers to stay off the festival grounds.
Unfortunately, I will not have any pictures of Gay Pride this year, because this technically challenged queen pushed the delete button on her camera by mistake after filling my memory card to overflowing. The good news is that people much more talented than I—and much better looking (Tyler, that means you!)—have captured the event and you can find their pictures displayed elsewhere in this publication.
I don’t know how many of you were able to witness my first, and last, attempt at riding the mechanical bull that the MGRA ( Missouri Gay Rodeo Association ) so graciously provided at the festival. I am pleased to inform my readers that I managed to hold on to a slim lead in the contest to see who would ride the bull, over the likes of Mandy Barbarelle, Flo, Missie Koontz, and Missie B’s Wendy.True, it took a $20 bill from my sister to put me over the top—thanks, sis. I really think she just wanted to get back at me for all those years of listening to mom say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” If only mom could know how true that statement became for us later on when my sis came out of the closet and did become more like me.
I will have a lot more to say about Gay Pride in future articles, but so much has happened in the past month that I must move on.
Happenings Around Town
As usual, the month of May was jampacked with events, including the first-ever in Kansas City IGBO (International Gay Bowling Tournament), for which over 600 LGBT bowlers came from not only the United States but also Canada and other countries. I was a willing participant, but the only trophy I managed to carry away from the banquet was the waterfall centerpiece from the table!
While I’m on the subject of Camp, notice the picture on the cover of the Pride edition of our honorable Mayor Kay Barnes, who graciously accepted our invitation to pose in a June Cleaver outfit and serve up a generous portion of Pride cake. I think I speak for the entire LGBT community in saying a sincere thank you to her for good- naturedly posing on our cover. I can’t tell you how many people from other cities came up to me during Pride and praised our mayor for posing, something that would never happen on the cover of their LBGT newspapers.
On May 24, I was invited by my good friends Larry and Lewis to attend a special luncheon, “No Place Like Home,” a benefit for SAVE Inc. which was well attended by over 400 generous participants. The lunch was excellent and the video that was shown to the guests was not only informative but heart-rending. SAVE Inc. will be holding open house tours throughout the summer, and I would urge all of you who are not well informed about the function and scope of SAVE Inc. to call 816-531-8340 and make an appointment to take one of these tours. You will not be disappointed.
Thursday, May 25th, brought more pre-Pride activities in the form of a “wet shorts contest” at Bootlegger’s Bar, upstairs from Missie B’s. As you can see by the picture shown, Sonny Delight was very generous with the water can. This young hottie, Jeremy, not only won the contest but also has managed to win John Koop, aka Flo’s heart as well. I had to crank up the old pacemaker after that contest!
As if all that male pulchritude weren’t enough, along came the bartenders’ auction at Buddie’s, which raised money for Pride. Finally, it was off to Bar Natasha for one final fundraiser for Pride, “Dress to Impress.” A lot of money was raised during and after the auction of the donated artwork and clothing that was modeled by members of the Gay Pride Committee.
I want to alert my readers to an annual event that will take place July 13th -17th, Pridefloat. The Pridefloat honcho, Jeff, informs me that over 350 happy campers are expected over the four-day period. The theme for this year’s event is “The Niagua Valley PTA” and participants are encouraged to bring appropriate costumes and tent decorations. There will be prizes for the Best Enchanted Evening Camp and the Best Themed Camp. I have not attended one of these float trips but my friends tell me that it is a fantastic weekend filled with lots of activities for all—and maybe just a little debauchery thrown into the mix. You can get all the details at www.pridefloat.org–but hurry, because the deadline for registrations is July 5th.
One other event taking place in June, “A Homecoming,” by the Heartland Men’s Concert at the Folly Theater promises to be a fitting tribute to the 20th anniversary of the chorus. This will be its first concert since Joe N., the choral director, was dismissed from his job at St Agnes Parish essentially for refusing to renounce his being a gay male. It seems so archaic to me that such ignorance still exists, not only in the world but also in our city, which has just witnessed a joyous celebration of Gay Pride. I know that I will be in the audience June 11th to help the chorus celebrate and also support such a wonderful organization.
Please take the time to shake the hand of any of the Gay Pride committee members you might run into who worked the whole year to bring this magnificent three-day event together. I was totally blown away by the cooperation and teamwork that is displayed at each and every Pride meeting throughout the year. There was such total dedication that there was little or no sleep for the volunteers who worked diligently from dawn to way after dusk for the entire week preceding Pride. I was fortunate enough to have been asked to participate on the committee and hope to continue next year. I can honestly say that John Koop has taken Gay Pride to a new level, free of the controversy and debt that plagued past Pride events.
Congratulations on a flawless Pride. And now let us begin the journey toward Gay Pride 07.
By Mike Sugnet