I did a radio interview today and when asked about last comments I was almost stumped – or really too tired to speak, but after a brief silence and prompted by the simple words of my friend Christine O’Leary “be kind to each other” I was reminded of some very simple concepts – “Act like you do on the day of Pride – where diversity is celebrated, our advances in equality are acknowledged and our fight is recognized.” Just imagine the difference in the world if we considered that sentiment with everyone we met. Even after a long Pride weekend here in Florida and beyond the tiredness the important reasons of Pride ring clear.
So I thought I would take a look back at some of the more notable times I’ve written about Pride and the ideals behind it. Even among continued social network conversation and complaints about Ru Mors in Myrtle Beach using, or should I say abusing, the gay community, it’s important that we pull together – LGBT and straight alike to continue to live each day with these ideals and our united goals in mind.
Back in 2009, I spoke with the owner of Time Out!, Ken Eschenbach about the bar’s 20th anniversary. “Of all the memories though, one clearly sticks out in my mind – my first gay bar…. That first major step through the door, also became the first major step toward coming out of the closet and it all happened in downtown Myrtle Beach where a rainbow flag still waves proudly above two glass doors marked with the bar’s name.”
In 2006, residents and visitors alike left the bars and flooded the Pavilion on its closing weekend with red shirts showing their solidarity. “This past Saturday represented what the views in this state should be about. With the closing of the iconic Pavilion in downtown Myrtle Beach, families from across the region came out to enjoy beautiful weather, the rides, friendship, memories and family tradition. Among the many attendees who visited … red shirts adorned a small but proud minority group. Gay Days at the Pavillion was also about families – gay parents and their children, gay couples who have committed themselves to a long-term relationship (even when not given the equal right to do so legally) and friends, both gay and straight alike, who have formed families of support for each others’ equality.”
Pride celebrations have come and gone in Myrtle Beach through the years. Myrtle Beach residents will likely never forget the anti-gay statements and actions that occurred surrounding the 1998 Pride festival. The city would not see another official Pride event until 10 years later when Myrtle Beach Pride returned with a festival at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot in 2008. Then last year, Myrtle Beach Pride announced it would cease all operations and cancelled the 4th annual event. According to an e-mail I received from Pride organizer Wesley Tyler, the organization was set up to eventually form a new community center following the closing of The Center Project a few months before the 2010 Pride event. Tyler wrote that “now we are losing our current fiscal sponsor, the Horry County Arts & Cultural Council” and cited “money and participation problems” as another reason for the decision by the organization. The non-profit arts organization announced in March that it would be closing its doors at the end of that June – also due to lack of funding.
I was saddened to hear about the closing of the event, but community members pulled together to form a new type of celebration going back to the old name from the Pavilion event of Myrtle Beach Gay Days. Micki Strickland, owner of the Rainbow House, called on the people of Myrtle Beach to band together in a unique way to show people that the LGBT community is proud. Strickland said, “On Saturday, August 13 at 2 p.m., let’s make the largest human gay pride flag anyone has ever seen.” An estimated group of 170 people formed the flag at the Grand Park complex on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base and posed for a picture. Before and after the photograph, people enjoyed music, local drag entertainment and games. This year the events that make up the official Myrtle Beach Gay Days Festival are scheduled for the second weekend in August.
One lesson learned from the inaugural event was the importance of the community pulling together and setting aside our differences and egos to make a better Myrtle Beach that is more accepting of its LGBT residents and tourists.
It reminded me of the conversation I had with Lady Chablis, of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” fame, in 2007: “There is not enough unity in the gay community right now. Gay Pride is about unity with everyone – gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual.” She’s right and we often forget that in the process of event planning. It’s easy to do, but should always be on our list of improvements.
So one year later, and 13 years after the infamous 1998 Myrtle Beach Pride, I’m reminded of something I wrote in 2010 at the beginning of the 3rd Annual Pride celebration. “You should all celebrate your pride and the great distance the LGBT community has come in its fight for equality. Yet, remember the reason why we still have to fight. Remember the reason behind Pride is not the big party – it’s the celebration of the community that stands together in spite of adversity.”
So as many Pride month celebrations across the country come to close, and Myrtle Beach and South Carolina start gearing up for their upcoming festivals – let’s remember to live each day as we would at Pride and as my friend O’Leary said quite simply – “Be kind to each other.”
OUT & ABOUT
Friday, July 6 – The First Friday Happy Hour group will meet from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pomodoro’s Trattoria & Bar, 364 Robert Grissom Parkway in Myrtle Beach. First Friday is a gay professionals after work happy hour where everyone is welcome. For more information, e-mail FirstFriday@GambleLivingston.com.
Friday, July 13 – Join S.C. Pride on July at the Koger Center for the Performing Arts in Columbia welcoming comedic legend and icon, Joan Rivers. Tickets range from $30 - $60 and are available online at www.capitoltickets.com or by calling 803-251-2222. As the S.C. Pride Web site says, “Joan has enjoyed an illustrious career spanning more than four decades and we are proud to add ‘performing in South Carolina’ to that list.” The main South Carolina Pride Festival will take place on Main Street in Columbia on Oct. 20. For more information, visit www.SCPride.com.
Aug. 10-12 – Myrtle Beach Gay Days has been announced for the second weekend in August. According to a recent post on the organizing group’s Facebook page, more info will be coming forth this week but the weekend promises to include three days of family fun, two dance nights and “one strong community.” Last year, nearly 200 people gathered at the park at The Market Common to create a human rainbow flag. For more information, visit www.MyrtleBeachGayDays.com.
Live proud every day
Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Chris Rudisill an e-mail to SouthernGayWriter@gmail.com. You can also follow along on Facebook.com @SouthernGayWriter for more news and events.