“People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up,” President Obama said last week about his health care plan. Hell, he could have been speaking about Congress, drones and climate change—in fact, any myriad of challenges where we the people seem content with inaction. Apathy is a strange state of mind. I think public apathy is way more powerful than public opinion.
In 2011, West Hollywood voter turnout was just 25 percent, and last March, in a kind of ‘don’t vote, you’ll only encourage them’ mindset, the blasé proletariat neglected the count down to 20 percent. So there we go. Eighty percent of WeHo residents don’t vote, and surveys show 80 percent of Americans don’t read recreationally. Let’s hope it’s the same 80 percent.
In the 264 columns I’ve written over the past 11 years, nothing came close to making readers wiggle more than my Oct. 14 take on how lousy our gay Pride festivities are. Emails, phone calls and even over-served assaults at parties all overwhelmingly supported my assertion that “Pride as we know it in the entertainment capitol of the world is broken.” But that’s where it stops. Always does. The hot-wired, heat-seeking, warm-hearted cool customers all don’t like it, but they don’t wanna do a damn thing about it. They are content with inaction. The mantra is ‘I don’t know, and I don’t care.’ It’s a drag to assert an opinion demanding innovation, feel a very real surge of support and have nothing occur. We practice procrastination made easy for the apathetic.
And come June, the discontent rabble will again bitch and moan over the parade, prices for the festival, the talent singing, the grand marshal waving and virtually every element of Southern California’s preeminent celebration of our giant family. And why not? Historically speaking, no one is listening, and betterment has been a sad breach-of-promise issue. I’ve often thought Pride’s principals believed both promises and eggs were easily broken.
For months now, Councilmember John D’Amico has used his bully pulpit in an attempt to forge some agreement of change for the better from the Pride people. In November, on the cusp of some semblance of an accord, Pride President Rodney Scott unexpectedly stepped down after 12 years and has been replaced by two longtime board members, Steve Ganzell and Patti DiLuigi. Feeling a bit like a good 80 percent in town, I figured we were in for more of the same.
So I was expecting little when I jumped on the phone the other evening with Mr. Ganzell. Seventy-five minutes later, I had hope. I had never spoken with him before, yet he did recall I brazenly called him a “galoot” in an earlier column. Steve was brutally honest and forthcoming about his perception of Pride. Even with my relentless criticisms, we found a wide swath of common ground. I was taken by his openness and straight talk and hung up the phone truly convinced he and his co-president are committed to having a real impact on future Pride celebrations. He expressed a sincere desire to reach out to dispassionate niche pockets that make up our family to get their take on improvement.
We spoke about the parade and the talent and grand marshals and all the elements that have made so many of us grumpy. He was conciliatory yet not condescending, and unless he has me skunked, I believe he is open to both transmutation and reformation. We agreed that people would forget what you say and what you do but people never forget how you made them feel. For all the souls who attend Pride, that responsibility to move the masses now falls on Steve and Patti.
These two are the zookeepers. They must attempt to control the wild, restless and often delusional monkeys and their bundle of absurdities. Former Pride spokesperson Sam Borelli still to this day will tell anybody 450,000 people attend Pride. Nonsense. And a paid consultant in charge of past parades presents press clippings from Singapore to bolster his claim that our parade is “the best of all Pride parades.” Lord have mercy.
But numbers and specifics don’t matter right now. What matters at this moment is that Christopher Street West and gay Pride has a bona fide rare opportunity to alter its course, listen to voices and attempt to deliver something fresh and new. Improvement is what is required to re-engage the giant element of apathetic skeptics that has all but left Pride for dead. Let’s offer the benefit of doubt and give this new leadership a chance. Even if we won’t lift a finger, let’s at least let our eyes open our minds. I just hope you care.