Queer Town: Good Craziness in West Hollywood

At West Hollywood Park, across the street from the Pacific Design Center, Mayor Jeff Prang stood underneath the shade of a palm tree in a navy blue suit with a gold-and-blue striped tie. He had been talking to journalists from all over the world and needed to take a breather before the press conference at eight-thirty in the morning. Prang had only been mayor since April, less than a month before the California Supreme Court ruling made same sex marriage legal.

"For me, it was a fortunate roll of the dice," he said. "This is a huge moment in the LGBT movement, so it's a humbling moment for me. The eyes of the world are upon us."

A few minutes later, Prang was cutting a ribbon with the rest of the West Hollywood City Council, welcoming hundreds of couples to the same city that passed the first domestic partnership law in the nation. This time, the gays were getting married.

Queer Town: Good Craziness in West Hollywood

(Mayor Jeff Prang, far right, held a pair of big scissors as photographers snapped away.)

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As people from Mrs. Beasley's Bakery passed out free gay cupcakes, Prang looked around the scene and remembered the first time he met his boyfriend, Raymundo Vizcarra, five years ago at Gay Pride.

"We had set up a 'Meet the Mayor' booth," said Prang, who, with West Hollywood's rotating mayoralty, was the top dog at the time, "and Ray came by and said, 'I want to meet the mayor!' I said you're looking at him. He said, 'You're not the mayor!' I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. He didn't think I looked very mayoral."

Prang now expected to marry Vizcarra sometime before November.

"He's waiting to see how romantic I'll be," Prang said with a smile.

Prang moved to West Hollywood in 1987 from Warren, Michigan, at the age of 25. He was a graduate of Michigan State University, and when he was a student, he read about how a group of gay men and women were working to turn West Hollywood into a city.

"California seemed to have a more comfortable life for gays and lesbians," he said, "and I always wanted to live in West Hollywood. After I read about the incorporation, I knew it was where I needed to be."

Then Prang followed the media crush into the West Hollywood Auditorium for Star Trek's George Takei, who was getting a marriage license with his boyfriend Brad Altman. Prang stood off in the background as Takei and Altman were surrounded by TV camera crews and photographers.

Queer Town: Good Craziness in West Hollywood

(George Takei and Brad Altman were swamped by the media as they filled out a marriage license form.)

Other couples also paid the $70 fee for a license. One of them was Wendy Averill and Marilee France, who had been together for 23 years and lived in West LA.

"I think it's internal," said Averill about the right to marry. "It's an internal joy to be given the same kind of thing straight couples have enjoyed for all of these years."

France nodded and said, "It's an acknowledgment of our relationship..."

Averill jumped back in, "And there's a respect that comes with marriage. You tell people 'domestic partnership,' and they say, 'Uh, uh.' Marriage is more respected."

The couple then took a seat in the front row of the auditorium and waited for their papers to be processed. Ten minutes later, the media was ushered outside, where Prang stood in a parking lot, drank a cup of coffee, and waited for the next move.

"We get a lot of press in West Hollywood," he said, "but I've never seen anything like this. The paparazzi were here, pushing me out of the way for George Takei."

Sometime around eleven o'clock, the first gay couple were married underneath a white tent at West Hollywood Park. Paul Park started to tear up as his new husband, Dean Larkin, fitted a ring on his finger. "He's such a great guy," said Park. The throng of photographers took their pictures, too.

Queer Town: Good Craziness in West Hollywood

(Paul Park, left, and Dean Larkin after they said, "I do.")

For more coverage of the gay marriage scenes at West Hollywood, check out Variety Managing Editor Ted Johnson's blog at Wilshire & Washington.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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