At first, the scene Saturday and Sunday at this years Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Festival in West Hollywood was familiar: tens of thousands of guys in Abercrombie & Fitch shirts, girls in leather vests, and various and sundry drag queens making their way up and down Santa Monica Boulevard before heading toward the Erotic City pavilion and line-dancing tent on a closed-off San Vicente Boulevard. (The weekends biggest political statement: a sea of Howard Dean stickers The Doctor Is In!) But in the back corner of West Hollywood Park, right across from the alcohol- and tobacco-free dance zone, was a cordoned-off area for gay dads, lesbian moms and their exponentially growing number of kids. There were arts and crafts, a toddler toy corner, popcorn- and snow conemaking stations and, the most popular attraction, an inflatable Scooby-Doo moon bounce. I wanted Spongebob, admitted organizer Arielle Rosen, as she watched kids careen with glee inside the nelliest of cartoon dogs.
The kids zone is called the David Reed Gamboa-Brandhorst Childrens Garden, renamed in 2002 to honor 3-year-old David and his dads, Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa, who died returning to L.A. from a Cape Cod vacation on United 175, placing them among some of the first victims of 9/11. Organized for the past three years by Rosen, family-services manager for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the childrens garden represents a quiet but profound revolution in the queer community.
There are over 1,000 families on our mailing list, said Rosen, while doling out bags of chips, and every week I get requests from a lot of perspective parents.
I vividly remember coming here 15 years ago and being drunk the entire day, said Helene, mother of 3-year-old Brenner, who was playing with his friend Destiny. She and Destinys mom Amanda were chatting about how much their lives have changed since they had kids. L.A. Pride, Amanda noted, used to have a bad rap for not providing family services, but now is considered a good place for gays to bring their kids. Helene nodded, then looked fondly at the 20-something women exploring the more earthly delights of the festival on the other side of the fence. All those baby dykes, said Helene, beaming. Theyre so cute and theyre just starting.
On Sunday, one of the best-known L.A. gay dad groups, the Pop Luck Club, arrived en masse to the garden, after marching in the parade. Pretty much every family at the garden belonged to some kind of gay or lesbian family play group or support organization. Pop Luck Club member Josh, who also facilitates a group called Maybe Baby, has three adopted sons under 5. His boys all wore matching and easily identifiable striped shirts, a good strategy in a public space with thousands of people. That was the idea, he noted.
I like that stroller, one dad said to Josh. Check out the wheels.
Its an SUV, Josh replied. I got it from Bobs in San Luis Obispo. Its the Dually. The other dad was intrigued. Is it foldable?
The conversation halted when Rosen announced that Hiccups the Clown was done making balloon animals and was starting his magic show. About a dozen kids and their parents made their way to Hiccups, who was doing fancy tricks with helpers from the audience. The money shot of one trick produced a metal canister of Skittles and M&Ms.
Skittles come from rainbows! Hiccups shouted as the kids clapped with glee. Sitting on benches, watching their children, more than a few rainbow-bead-wearing gay parents nodded with approval.
Crowd Control: Waiting for Harry
The new Harry Potter books come in plain white cardboard boxes. The boxes are stamped with a warning: Do Not Open Until June 21, 2003. It is June 20, and I am at the Barnes & Noble in the Westside Pavilion, squashed into an aisle between Current Affairs and Biography. At the stroke of midnight, the cash registers in this store and booksellers all over the city will ring up the first public copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I havent seen a line this long since Introduction to Biology, college textbook, circa 95. My cousin Wendy was supposed to meet me here, but instead shes at some other Barnes & Noble, at some other mall, with some other friends. My cell phone beeps.
We brought beer and drank it in the parking lot, she says. Were having a Harry Potter tailgate party.
Would Ron and Hermione ditch Harry for beer? I say. No. I dont think so. Harry Potter is about loyalty. Only two hours to go. All the little kids have been given black plastic eyeglasses to wear while they wait. They banshee up and down the escalators. A boy in a cape with a fake scar on his forehead bumps me with a pet-store birdcage. Inside is a stuffed owl. Harry Potter is about adversity. Too bad the malls already closed.