Some traditions start local: a gay Saturday in the Magic Kingdom, everyone wearing red.
Initiated in 1991 as a way to get gay families together,
Gay Days rapidly escalated (and evolved)
into a national circuit party tradition that’s now a international
juggernaut bringing well over 140,000 attendees to Orlando while
pumping more than $100 million into the local economy during the
first weekend in June.
That’s about twice as many people as those attending the
state’s largest Gay Pride Festival (which just happens to be in—St.
Petersburg). In fact, some people consider Gay Days/One
Mighty Weekend to be their Pride
Festival. After all, it’s in June—and filled with every species of
gay person imaginable, with a particularly high percentage of
jaw-dropping specimens of beauty. There are people who wouldn’t
think of missing the first weekend of June in Orlando (we met people
who were back for their ninth year in a row, as well as people who
save all year long for this vacation)—and this year’s edition of One
Mighty Weekend was hotter than ever.
On Saturday, it was
sizzling—literally. One of those East Coast heat waves that boiled
up the Eastern seaboard. At the Reunion Pool Party at the
Buena Vista Palace (ground zero of Johnny
Chisholm’s One Mighty Weekend entertainment empire) the boys wore as
little as possible—and sometimes less. Chickens were searing. The
pools were packed with boyz bobbing like fruit in a punch bowl.
Introduced by JP Calderon,
Jeanie Tracy was onstage (is she the
hardest working woman in show biz?), inciting the sweaty mass into
near pandemonium. Everywhere we looked, everyone was smiling—and
everyone was there: boyz from Providence and New York, Los Angeles
and Michigan, Jacksonville and D.C.—as well as anyone you’ve ever
known in South Beach (would the last person leaving South Beach
please turn out the light?)
For some, the Reunion Pool Parties are the best deal of the weekend.
It’s all about the flop on the grass, the pose in the pool, throw
back a cocktail, and pop the question, “Wanna get naked?” Back and
forth, upstairs to the suite and back—boyz coming and going,
flittering like Tinkerbelle.
David Knapp kept the soundtrack very
upbeat and “Boogie Nights”—so that everyone was a porn star for the
afternoon. It was Saturday afternoon on the first weekend in
June—and there was Pride in the house.
Part of what makes
One Mighty Weekend so alluring is the
sense of carefree abandon that, if you were lucky (and gay), marked
your childhood. Perhaps it’s something that hovers in the
atmosphere around Orlando: all
those children who’ve come here to play, releasing joy and wonder
into the air—for us to breathe anew.
On Saturday night,
the Magic Kingdom was filled with
fairies—so many of us that any lurking ogres had to stand back and
marvel. With flashing Mickey Mouse ears, we took over the parking
lot trams—and headed to Hollywood Studios for One Mighty Party.
Waiting for the gates to open, the boys were giddy with
anticipation, ready to surrender to the magic of Mickey’s Sorcerer’s
Hat—and when at ten p.m., the signal was given, the boys burst
forth—and thereafter, we were lost in playland.
If you haven’t been to
Disney World since you were a kid, you
might have forgotten the attention to detail, the cleanliness, the
manicured flora—and even the fauna who seem anthropomorphic (a bunny
rabbit runs out toward an oncoming tram and all the waiting queens
scream in horror—before Thumper turns back—and the queens clap with
relief). It’s no wonder it feels as if we’ve found the Gay Home
There must be something in that water. Something that
makes all the Disney elves and dwarves so friendly and chipper—and
before you know it, you’ve let go of your inner snark. You can’t
seem to wipe the smile off your face—and all around you, you’re
seeing the little boy in all your adult friends. The boy next door,
the happy-go-lucky boy, one gleeful hot Brazilian exclaiming, “Look
at this! It’s like Christmas.”
And there you are, walking down Main Street,
USA—and it’s totally gay! Boys walking hand in hand, laughing and
smiling, off to see the wizard. At last, at last—the Magic Kingdom,
our home planet, where we can dance all night—to two deejays,
DJ Joe Gauthreaux and
DJ Eddie Baez, working “Touch My Body,”
“The Boss,” and this year’s ubiquitous anthem, “Bleeding Love.”
There’s too much to do.
Taylor Dayne’s onstage and there’s food
and booze—and rides like Aerosmith’s Rock-N-Roller Coaster to make
you lose your dessert. It’s Alice’s Wonderland—and all your friends
are in the rabbit hole—with you: Alex and Chris, Edison and Nestor,
Hilton and Mel, Ric and Kevin, Patti and Roland, Chad and Leo, Jake
and Jesse, Rob and Mark, Andrei and Andrew, August and Parzham,
Wendy and Shane and Victor, Steve, and Joe Caro, Christian and Eric,
and everyone else you’ve ever confessed to on a dance floor. It’s a
circuit family reunion—all come home to play.
Meanwhile, over at VIP @
the Brown Derby, that Hollywood bastion of
insular privilege, a setting so adult and retro, so stylized and
chic, you feel inclined to be on your best behavior—like the time
your gay uncle first took you to
the Plaza. Cocktails flow—and boyz pose
for photos—and then outside, you hear the fireworks. And you hurry
out, staring up at the sky with thousands of boyz all around you,
awestruck and wonder-filled, as the stars explode overhead. It’s
too much, too extreme, too excessive, such abundance, such visceral
overload—and you couldn’t be happier. You’ve never been so
happy—and right then you know for sure: you’re coming back again
next year. Back to
the Magic Kingdom for another
One Mighty Weekend.