|by Bill Sievert
|Enjoy Gay Days on $4 a Day
Once again this year Gay Days in Orlando drew more than 125,000 men and women to the theme-park capital of the world. Many of the participants, who came from far and wide, paid upwards of $1,000 each to take in the attractions at Disney and Universal Studios, as well as a plethora of pool parties, concerts, comedy shows, and circuit dances. While many of us who live in the area enjoy partaking of the 18-year-old celebration, we can't afford to blow big bucks on so many events every June.
This year, a handful of us came up with a way to have a thoroughly enjoyable Gay Days experience on Saturday, and it cost us a total of only $4. We decided to center our attention on the only free-admission event, the Gay Days Expo. Held at the host hotel, the Royal Plaza (there was also a Girls @ Gay Days fair at the nearby Regal Sun), the 10th-anniversary Expo was reminiscent of a giant home show or the exhibit hall at many a state fair. Nearly 100 GLBT-owned and gay-friendly businesses, as well as political and activist organizations, had booths. However, unlike any home show I've ever attended, almost all of the booths were worthy of a lengthy visit.
We were able to sign up to oppose Florida's anti-gay marriage amendment, to volunteer for Obama, to support the work of HIV education and patient support organizations, and to save the greyhounds. Some of us learned that we have our own gay pharmacy in Central Florida and that numerous churches clamor for our participation. We were invited to visit the gay Mecca of Manchester, England. We took in cooking demonstrations and fashion showsand we entered drawings for tickets to Cirque du Soleil, travel packages and door prizes from Macy's. (John won a cap and t-shirt, though he was disappointed that his gift bag didn't include the stylish underwear he had been eyeballing.)
Our group felt like kids on Halloween night, filling bag after bag with complimentary goodiesmagnets, coasters, key chains, lubes, condoms, temporary tattoos, bumper strips, pins, magazines and CDs. A few of us temporarily put aside our resolve against spending to acquire a piece of jewelry, a book from gay romance publisher MLR Press or one of the latest dance collections from Centaur Records. But those purchases didn't count against our entertainment budget because they were optional.
Besides, we had already been awarded so much free stuff that we felt a little guilty.
Best of all, the freebies included all the cocktails we could even imagine drinking. The crowd's favorite booth ours, toowas the martini bar sponsored by Purus Vodka and Delta Airlines. All day long, hunky bartenders sweated nonstop, toiling to pour complimentary pomegranate martinis, apple-tinis, cosmos and bloody marys. Each beverage was served in a classic metal martini shaker, which kept the drinks perfectly chilled andbetter yet which we were allowed to keep. By late afternoon, our party had accumulated a total of 26 of the shakers, which sell in a local import shop for $7 apiece. As I was calculating the retail value of our group's drink containers ("we're up to $182"), our friend Bob ran up with his 12th shaker. "My Christmas shopping is complete!" he exclaimed.
"It's no wonder the airline industry is in trouble," I moaned, realizing that whatever the valueI'd had about enough.
Still, after hauling our second set of overflowing shopping bags to the car, we adjourned to the hotel's deck, with complimentary glasses of wine from Barefoot. Hundreds of handsome men and women were dancing around the pool, having paid $10 a head to get near the water. But our group was able to procure one of about a dozen patio tables between the pool and the entrance to the Expo, where we were able to enjoy the music and the passing eye candy free of charge. Our table even had the advantage of a close-up view of the official swimwear booth where we generously applauded many of those stepping out of the dressing area wearing their new purchases.
Ultimately, other than a side trip to the House of Blues in Downtown Disney for lunch, our only expense for the day came at about 5 p.m. Parched from the sun and all those cocktailsJohn and I went back into the Expo in search of a drink of water. We found plenty more free alcohol, but the only water available was priced at $4 a bottle.
"Outrageous!" I complained, and we agreed to split one.
On the way home, our group decided that next year we'll rent a bus and promote a very special trip to "Gay Days on Less than $5 a Day." We might even provide complimentary water.
In other news of these gay days: Norway has become the sixth country to legalize gay marriage, following The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain and South Africa. Fifteen other nations from Croatia to Finland, from Iceland to New Zealand offer civil unions providing at least most of the same legal protections as marriage. So, how enlightened about relationships is the land where you pay taxes and homage?...In England, which recognizes gay domestic partnerships, the military has announced that soldiers and airmen will be allowed to wear their uniforms to this year's gay pride march in London on July 5. The British Navy has let sailors participate in uniform since soon after the country began permitting gay people to serve openly in the military in 2000. So how enlightened about military service is the land where you pay taxes and homage?...
In Berlin, Germany, the government has unveiled a public monument to gay victims of the Nazis. Inside the pavilion-sized concrete memorial, which also is intended to serve as a reminder of the ongoing struggle of GLBT people, visitors can watch a video clip of two men kissing. So where is the national monument to GLBT heroes in the land where you pay taxes and homage?...In Sao Paulo, Brazil, more than 3-million people turned out for this year's GLBT pride festival. I have been privileged to participate in huge gay gatherings from San Francisco to Sydney, from New York to D.C., but that number is enough to make me stand up and pay homage.
Bill Sievert can be reached at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 08 June 27, 2008