The ARGRA weekend was a bit of a disaster for us, but by no fault of ARGRA’s. From what we saw, everything went smoothly and attendance was strong, particularly for the dance on Saturday. The weather was beautiful, if not a little too hot – many people got sunburned despite applying sunscreen. Unfortunately, with fuel costs so high, we didn’t see as many regulars from the US, but it seemed to make room for other new faces.
Our friend Don was along with us for the weekend to help out with transportation and other tasks while Steve and I were out covering the rodeo. He was hoping for a holiday but with all the stuff we needed to ask of him, I’m not sure if it turned out exactly that way. He did a great job of looking after us through thick and thin, and in the end I hope he got a few quiet moments to enjoy himself.
We had a camper on the grounds again, as we needed a home base with electricity in order to accomplish this year’s goals. We did something special as an experiment – something that we may be able to build on in future years. We had a big-screen projector located in the beer tent, showing a presentation of live footage we were filming from the arena. During dead-time we would flip over to a slideshow presentation with photographs and video clips from previous years, with current sponsor logos.
Our intention was to record the live footage as we were broadcasting it, but due to some technical difficulties, we were unable to do so on Saturday. Steve and Don had to pop into town to try and resolve the issue, leaving me videotaping and photographing from my little perch atop a picnic table beside the bleachers. Despite the fact that I was shaded by a lawn umbrella, I still felt myself getting cooked by the heat, as I guzzled water to remain hydrated. I escaped getting a sunburn – unlike Steve whose sunglasses left him looking like an inverse raccoon – but perhaps a mild case of heat stroke left me vulnerable enough to catch a cold that day.
By the evening I was feeling totally wiped out, yet there I was taking photos of the evening drag show in the basement of Driftwood Hall, while Steve made the rounds at the dance upstairs. We were both amazed at how busy things were – the drag show was so packed that I had to sit on the floor to get photos. Meanwhile, the dance floor and surrounding areas were bustling, and even the courtyard was a challenge to get through with the amount of people out enjoying the cool evening air.
The next day was round two for the rodeo competitors. I joke that this is a before-and-after challenge, to see how well they can compete with their hangovers from Saturday night. As for me, I had definitely come down with something as my throat was sore…in a bad way. At least our technical problems were resolved from yesterday and we were able to set up our laptop to capture the video as we broadcasted it to the beer tent again. Everything was going well, and there were only three events left when the big disaster of the weekend struck.
My picnic table perch had its back against a rustic wooden wall, with the grilling area for the concession stands on the other side. I had been hearing some squealing and laughter from behind me throughout the day, but didn’t clue in what was happening until I heard a clatter at the fence behind me, followed by the sound of water splashing to the ground. I quickly turned around to check our equipment to find that it had all been doused in the water that came through between the uneven horizontal boards. I leaped to the wall to yell over the top at the people on the other side, and saw that a girl in a turquoise shirt was closest and just in the process of walking away. I had to yell twice to get her attention as she was still laughing, completely oblivious.
I quickly went to work drying everything off with my T-shirt, praying the water hadn’t had a chance to soak in yet. For a moment I thought everything was okay because the laptop display was still on, but as soon as I tried pressing a button I realized it was frozen on that frame. Nothing as dramatic as sparks or blue smoke, but it was a sign that the water had definitely gotten in deep enough to cause a short circuit. I quickly unplugged all the equipment to prevent further damage, and phoned Steve to let him know what happened…more like I barked at him to get over and check the equipment immediately.
By now I was already in some kind of anger-autopilot that I didn’t even know I had in me. The main goal in my mind was to find the girl in the turquoise shirt and get some form of identification so that I could report her to the management of Symon’s Valley. I marched around to the front of the concession stands and easily located her, though she was trying to look inconspicuous. I proceeded to demand her name, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. When she tried to deny that it was her fault, I demanded that she tell me which of her co-workers was responsible, reminding her that I had specifically seen her on the other side of the wall after the water was thrown. Some of her fellow employees came to her defense, not understanding why this angry guy was after her, so I gave an explanation of what had happened. They gave me the number of the manager and I phoned it on the spot, realizing my hands were trembling badly as I tried to dial the numbers. All I got was voicemail, and so I returned to trying to get the girl’s name.
By that time Steve came running up, and soon to follow, an ARGRA official with the manager of Symon’s Valley in tow. As soon as I explained to the manager what had happened, and my goal was accomplished, my anger turned off like a switch. Steve left me to continue taking photographs of the last few rodeo events while he dealt with the aftermaths.
As I photographed, I contemplated what had just happened and felt both a little scared, surprised, and perhaps even a little impressed with myself. All things considered it was probably one of the most controlled flip-outs to be witnessed in the gay community. My mind may have been on a single track but I never once swore, threw an insult, had a tantrum, or said something that I would regret afterward. If my “Mr. Hyde” is just direct, loud, and bossy, then I’m pretty happy. Still, by raising my voice I had no doubt caused a scene, and probably shocked a few people who thought a friendly, mild mannered person like me was incapable of sounding so pissed off. On the other hand, Steve has seen me angry more times than anyone, and he later commented that he wasn’t worried about me at all. I was surprised to hear from him that anger makes me go from my usual shy and passive self to someone who takes charge of a situation and deals with it swiftly. So hey, I learned something new about myself.
Nonetheless, my main fault in the myopia of the moment was trying to place the blame on the girl in the turquoise shirt when really I couldn’t be sure if she was on the throwing or receiving end of the water. She was just a kid in her mid-teens, and had no idea how to deal with an angry person barking at her other than to evade. Regardless of whether she was responsible or not, I knew the whole incident hadn’t been intentional, and it’s a rather horrible feeling when a little innocent fun gets you into big trouble. I can identify - my early childhood in a nutshell.
Anyway, to make a long story short, the Symon’s Valley computer technician verified that the laptop was indeed damaged from the water to the point where it was unusable, and a representative of Symon’s Valley kindly agreed to reimburse us for the damages. When I later bumped into one of the employees that I recognized from the concession stands, I decided of my own accord to apologize for my behavior so that they could pass it along to the girl I had blamed. I would have apologized to her myself except I was told she had gone home – I hope because her shift was over, not because I had upset her that much. Even if my reaction was understandable, or even justified, it was still an unpleasant stain on the weekend that I didn’t want to leave behind.
Unfortunately, with that machine out of commission and so much of our time eaten up dealing with the situation, we were unable to provide the other services we had promised for the ARGRA weekend. As we had done the previous year, we had planned to put together a slide show for the awards ceremony, and as well a presentation for the dance with pictures and video clips from the past two days. For Steve, it was a difficult lesson in letting go - we had struggled so hard to try and make everything work perfectly, and in the end our hands were tied almost completely. Word had gotten around quick, as it always does, and there was a lot of sympathy from people who approached us afterward. ARGRA was also very understanding, knowing that things sometimes happen that are outside of anyone’s control. Perhaps the forces that be just wanted us to have a quiet evening at our camp site to relax and take in the ARGRA experience.
June felt like a relay course for Steve and I.
Things started off with the Lesbian Dance Party at the Marquee Room – I decided to check this venue out for the first time since the dance was listed as a Pride sanctioned event. It’s a really nice space with a dance floor and some DJs I would later see at the Pride Dance. A pretty big crowd for a Wednesday night!
Thursday was the Fake Mustache show at The Soda. I always seem to forget to talk about it in my publisher’s column, even though I’ve meant to - only because it’s so early in the month that it gets lost in the shuffle in my brain. The Drag King troupe has come leaps and bounds over the past few years, and like previous months they had some pretty phenomenal performances. But after one performer played an emotional serenade to her girlfriend, she dropped a bombshell and asked her hand in marriage. The whole crowd gasped and cheered, not a dry eye in the house.
Friday was the Mr. Priape Wear competition at the Calgary Eagle, followed the next day by the Military ball. Both days saw Calgary’s 2nd largest gay bar with lineups out front, and this happened a third time for Pride the day after! In the middle of it all was AFQOL’s summer fundraiser entitled “Artistes Del Fuego” (Spanish for “Artists of Fire”) at the Backlot. It was a BBQ, silent auction, and show (featuring Justine Tyme) where once again they had a stage with performances, videotaped and broadcast live through the televisions so everyone could see.
The days prior to Calgary’s Pride Parade were plagued by consistent rain, and we later learned that it had interfered with the construction of a number of floats that sadly couldn’t be ready for the Parade. It was spitting lightly as Steve and I made our way out on the morning of the 8th, but miraculously only minutes before the parade started, the rain stopped!
Unfortunately it was a fairly short procession due in part to the missing floats, but the spectator turnout was still pretty strong. Olympic plaza was bustling, though the overcast weather wasn’t conducive to the same amount of frolicking in the wading pool as last year. I’m told that some neo-Nazi protestors came to picket the street festival, but were shooed away by police before they could do much. Part way through the afternoon it decided to start pouring with rain which dissipated the crowds.
As usual, Steve and I made our way around to photograph the after parties at all of the gay bars, with one exception (more on that later). MPs in particular had all sorts of colorful decorations, and Toni Vere and other live bands played in the beer tent out back. At the end of the day, Steve and I met up again and took a little time of our own to party. It was a good day – I haven’t let myself loose like that in a while.
The next Friday, Steve and I set out for Edmonton together to arrive in time to photograph the Edmonton Pride Awards, the Kate Reid show at Prism, and the Manhunt Party at New City later that night. Saturday was just insane, with the Pride Parade in the early afternoon, ending off in the street festival at Sir Winston Churchill Square. The numbers were just incredible – the beer gardens with a capacity of 750 people still had a chocker-block crowd around the fence and on the stone steps to watch the drag performances on the main stage. At a few junctures it looked like it might rain, but in the end we were spared the downpour of last year.
What impressed us was that despite some of the bar politics in Edmonton, Buddy’s and Boots, whether intentionally or not, did a drag queen swap – the queens from the Buddy’s show performed as guests at Boots, and the queens from the Boots show performed as guests at Buddy’s.
The next weekend Steve was up in Edmonton again, while I stayed behind in Calgary – both of us covering the Pride Dances in each respective city. Calgary’s dance at the Chinese Cultural Centre began a little slow, but gradually built up to a packed house and was still holding strong when I left after 1am. I did not have the guts to continue on to the after hours after party at the Warehouse. Steve reported that the dance in Edmonton was in a unique format – live Mardi-Gras music.
So how did Calgary and Edmonton Prides compare? Steve and I figure that Edmonton’s Parade and Street Festival was better attended than ours, but Calgary’s dance did a better job of bringing out and keeping the crowds. So it’s anyone’s guess who is further ahead this year.
We have A LOT of photographs to publish this month, so we’ve needed to do something a little different to accommodate them. We’ve broken off a couple of events to have their own separate pages away from their regular photo sections.
I mentioned earlier that during Pride, we covered the after parties at all the Calgary gay bars except for one, and I probably don’t even have to say its name for people to know which one I mean. Now, the people that were there for Pride weren’t any less deserving of celebrating Pride, or even any less important to be included in this magazine, expressing what it is to be out and proud. The sad fact is that the venue itself made the one-sided decision back in February of this year that GayCalgary photographers are no longer welcome on premises, but it hasn’t been brought up until now because there hasn’t been the need to get into it. But in fact, according to the sign at their front door, no photography is allowed in this establishment whatsoever (but don’t tell those people with photos proudly displayed on Facebook).
As hard as GayCalgary and Edmonton Magazine strives to highlight the entire GLBT+ community in our two cities, there is little we can do when a bar owner goes out of their way to ensure their staff, customers, and drag performers are excluded. I can’t speak to exactly what they thought this would accomplish…perhaps they want to make it look like we are boycotting them, and not the other way around? But the main flaw with this plan is that they don’t truly have power over anything but their venue, and by presuming to own the people that support them - their staff, customers, and performers – those people seemed more determined, this month especially, to make a clear statement of their free will by asking us to photograph them at other venues.
Erecting a wall makes a prison as readily it does a fortress, and I’m sorry but people cannot thrive if they feel they’re being held captive. So this silly, self-imposed “iron curtain” is an obstacle that most self-respecting people simply don’t have time for. The community has to move forward, because there is no other direction to go – so if you decide not to be a part of it, don’t be surprised when people get used to life without you.
We’ve gotten over the hump in the yearly cycle, as gay community activity goes. From here things slow down to a low point in August, and then pick up again in time for Christmas. As this magazine’s content is so closely linked with what goes on each month in the GLBT scene, it’s only natural that we change our size with this ebb and flow. Last month we had an amazing 88 page issue, and ran through our magazine reserves alarmingly fast – of course this is June, traditionally our busiest month, and that size of magazine can’t be sustained without the draw from the many major events that happen this time of year. Being thinner does have its advantages though, as we don’t have to pay so much when sending copies of the magazine by Canada Post!
The Calgary Stampede and Edmonton’s Capital Ex are the main attractions for this month, but check out our online Events Calendar for more information about special events, as well as your usual weekly and monthly ones: www.gaycalgary.com/events
Steve Goes Mainstream
It’s an occupational hazard when you run a gay media outlet that the mainstream media will come to you when they are curious about the gay community’s views on issues that they become aware of. In the past, Stephen Lock has put himself out there to comment on such issues, and we have forwarded newspapers and TV stations to him for comment. In turn, we have dealt with numerous angry phone calls, E-mails and letters, all saying something along the lines of “who put him in charge?” Our response – “Give us your name and number, and next time we’re contacted for comment, we’ll forward them to you.” Aha, all of a sudden not so brave.
Understandably Stephen grew tired of this thankless responsibility, and lately Steve and I seem to be among the few suckers available to say anything at all from a gay perspective. Last month we were contacted by both the Calgary Sun and the Calgary Herald regarding the recently released statistic that Calgary has the highest number of reported hate crimes in Canada.
I muddled through the best I could with the Calgary Herald, making certain that it was clear that my views were informed by my own personal experience, and not those of the gay community as a whole. I ended up saying I thought Calgary was getting better, in essence agreeing with the assertion that this trend is a result of better reporting practices, and that maybe Calgary isn’t as “red neck” as it once was. This is ironic considering what ensued.
Steve decided to take the interview with the Calgary Sun, who had left a voicemail message for us to get back to them. By the time he phoned, it was already too late for the article, but nonetheless Steve got to chatting with the reporter about some of his personal experiences growing up in Calgary, good and bad. At the end of the conversation, the reporter asked Steve if he could write an article about what he had just said, and Steve agreed with a couple of parameters on what information was sensitive and not on the record.
We were up in Edmonton at the Mayor’s Brunch when the Edmonton Police Commissioner told us that he had read the article. By that time we’d all but forgotten about it, so as soon as we got back to home base we looked it up and read it. Though it brought up some really good points (I loved his description of the “Maxim Test”), it still missed the point of a few of Steve’s stories, and failed to mention all of the good experiences that Steve had told him about, that indicated Calgary was changing for the better. I mean, nobody’s perfect, but we definitely got the impression that the author had wanted to slant it in the direction of saying that Calgary was still very much intolerant.
Okay fine, so writer bias is sometimes unavoidable, and mistakes happen (the Herald once published that a research student in my computer lab at the University was the inventor of the Sony AIBO, one of those artificially intelligent robot dogs…now that’s a pretty big mistake).
The entertaining part was reading the letters to the editor, in response to the article. Person #1 criticized Steve for complaining at all that Calgary was a red neck city, and person #2 basically proved Steve’s supposed argument. Seeing these two completely opposite viewpoints, both of whom complained so vehemently about things that weren’t actually the case (according to #2, we force our distribution points to carry and display gay pornography against their will, and he won’t stand for it), we were amused to see that reader bias is just as much a factor in the mainstream media as it is in our own publication. It’s like an inkblot test: no matter how carefully you word things, a careless reader will only pick up what they expect to see. And especially when it makes them angry, they may not go back for a closer look prior to acting out.
The Chelsea Boys are Back!
We haven’t seen the cartoon strip in a while, so out of curiosity we contacted the makers of the Chelsea Boys to find out what was going on. They informed us that they have stopped making new comics, and that no publications for the Alberta market were interested in starting to run the series again from the beginning. Apparently they have produced enough comic strips to last 13 years, if only one is published per month. That means that Calgary and Edmonton have only seen the last 5 years of the cartoon, give or take.
It was an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up. The Chelsea Boys are back, and now we get to see how it all started!
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