Gay Pride Fest got off to a rocky start in Long Beach
Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Celebration and Long Beach Pride Parade started as an effort by the local gay community to make its own identity while living in the shadow of Los Angeles’ pride event.
The pride festival and parade is now the city’s second most attended event (The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is first with 175,000 spectators over three days) as well as the second largest gay pride in Southern California (West Hollywood is the largest). It is the nation’s fourth largest (behind San Francisco, New York and West Hollywood).
In 1983, when the festival was still an idea, then-Pride Vice President Mary Martinez attended a City Council meeting and listened to arguments against the festival. One city councilman, upset supporters would be watching the parade, said, “I don’t want a bunch of queers in the trees.”
In 1984, the first Long Beach Pride Parade lasted 30 minutes, and the two-day festival drew 5,000 people. Before marching in the parade, Pride President Judy Doyle — who had received death threats — donned a bulletproof vest, she has said.
When Pride applied for a permit the following year for the second parade,
it ran into the first of a series of roadblocks. The city recommended a one-day event. Organizers also were told they needed to come up with $1 million in liability insurance.
A national search failed to come up with a company willing to back the event, and the festival was held without a permit, organizers say.