It took 20 years, says Philly Pride Presents executive director Franny Price, but Margaret Cho is finally taking the stage during the 30th annual Philly Pride parade and festival. Cho started performing around the time Philly Pride was finding its feet, but for a variety of reasons through the years, booking her just kept missing the mark.
How happy is Price about Margaret Cho and 30 years of Pride?
“I’m excited about Margaret! She won’t tell us who her opening act is yet and that person has to introduce her, but I’m really looking forward to Margaret being here.”
Cho has never performed at the Philadelphia Pride, but has appeared at a variety of local venues over the years, most recently at The Fillmore Philadelphia in 2017.
As for the three decades years of Pride events, Price told PGN that she is looking at retirement.
“It’s not fun anymore,” she said. “You used to worry about the rain. Oh please don’t rain, don’t mess up today. Then the protestors showed up and you gotta worry about that. Then they sue you, too, and that takes money and time. They sued me individually, and [Pride advisor] Chuck [Volz] individually and the [Philadelphia] police.”
That single lawsuit was filed by Michael A. Marcavage, director of the anti-LGBT Christian organization Repent America, which is based in Philadelphia, following the Pride organization’s OutFest in October 2004. All defendants considered it a nuisance lawsuit that nevertheless dragged on for more than four years. The outcome was the city paying a settlement of $4,000 to Repent America in 2009.
Asked who might take the reins whenever she leaves, Price said she hasn’t decided exactly when retirement will start; perhaps after OutFest this year or maybe the day after Pride in 2019.
“Next year is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall,” she said. “No matter who does it, it’s going to be special.”
Price said one of the unique things about Philly’s Pride is that it’s less of a merchandise-selling event and more of a networking day. Nonprofits regularly take up more than half of the vendor spaces at Penn’s Landing. Incremental changes through the years have expanded and varied the experience.
Throughout the history of Philly Pride, the organization has also followed the tradition of Philadelphia as a city of “firsts.” Nationally, Philly Pride had the first Youth Grand Marshal and first Friend of Pride ally, the first free HIV testing at the festival and the first televised commercial on cable television, among others. This year’s grand marshals have not yet been announced.
In addition to Cho, Chris Weaver from “The Voice” and independent musicians Jason Walker and Sophia Ramos are scheduled for the Penn’s Landing stage. Announcement of the winning parade groups and the singing of the unofficial gay national anthem “I Am What I Am,” drag performances, dancers and Henri David as host and emcee will continue as usual.
This year, the Gayborhood bars are changing the way they participate in Pride and OutFest. Tabu co-owner Jeffrey Sotland shared a new plan for the bars and their participation in both events. The venues were traditionally been saddled with Pride’s agreed-upon sponsor, whether the bar served that product or not. The bars included in the agreement are The Bike Stop, Boxers, Knock, Tabu, Tavern on Camac, Toasted Walnut and U Bar.
“Historically, when it’s come to the distributor sponsorships, it’s been a case of the tail wagging the dog,” said Sotland. “Now we’re going to coordinate that piece.”
For the Friday-night block party and OutFest, each business will have an external bar and the usual beer and pink lemonade stands scattered throughout. The bars will still provide their sponsorship fees to Philly Pride Presents.
“The distributors are thrilled to work this out with the bar owners,” said Sotland. “And there can now also be a uniform price for everything. If you pay $6 for a drink at one bar on the street, you’ll pay six dollars for the same drink outside one of the other bars.”
The bar owners will also contribute a percentage of the revenue to a nonprofit organization, as yet undetermined. Currently, the beer, wine and alcohol list includes Absolut, Barefoot Wine, Corona, Angry Orchard, Ballast Point and MillerCoors, which offers Blue Moon.
The crowning of the 30th-anniversary Miss Philly LGBT Pride recipients Les Harrison, Finesse A. Ross, Sandy Beach and Marcello Brening Barrera will be held at 10:15 p.m. April 5 at Bob and Barbara’s. Other announcements for Pride weekend are forthcoming. For more Pride information, go to phillygaypride.org. n