The Importance of Being Inverted: Gay Days at Amusement Parks, Part 2

(Continued from Page 1)
by Tony Phillips

Exclusively Gay or Mix In? The Debate Continues

The big-ticket Gay Days necessitates some price shopping since as a vacation, it’s not cheap. A six-day park hopper ticket is currently more than $350, and that’s before you calculate the cost of daily pool parties: Chi Chi La Rue’s Saturday night extravaganza is $30 at the door and the cheapest room that’s left at the Doubletree host hotel is $145 per night, provided you don’t mind sleeping in the "Bear’s Wing."

That’s not to say every Gay Days attendee can or will want to do everything on the official schedule. "When you’re talking about that many people and a resort that that’s big, there’s enough to support everybody’s agenda," says Eddie Shapiro, organizer of Gay Days Anaheim.

"You see tons of people in the parks and you can tell just by looking at them, they have no intention of going to any of the parties. And then you go to the parties and see people who haven’t set foot in any of the parks," says Shapiro. "They spend their time at the pool parties all day. Then you see hybrids who do a little bit of both."

Shapiro is adamant that his events and events like Gay Days Orlando always were and will remain what he calls "mix-ins." Before he launched Gay Days Anaheim, a company called Odyssey Adventures used to rent the Anaheim location after dark for a private party they called Gay Nights.

"I went with a friend and we hated it," Shapiro remembers, "because while it was fun to be there with all of the gays, not all the rides were opened, the restaurants were closed, the stores were closed, there was no parade, no fireworks, no characters. It was a half-assed Disney experience, like, yeah, after our normal guests go home, we’ll let you people in. When we founded Gay Days, we wanted it to be very much a mix-in with other people and we wanted it to be the full Disney experience."

The Debate Continues

Not everyone agrees. Mark Nelson, a self-described "entertainment architect," has been running, a private, queer-only night called Fairgrounds at New Jersey’s Great Adventure that’s coming up on its tenth anniversary this September 7. "I’ve had some nasty emails about discrimination," Nelson says, rolling his eyes, "but I’m not discriminating. We’re trying to go for bigger numbers."

"If people want to bring their kids," Nelson continues, "we have the kiddie rides open. How often can you go and celebrate? You really can’t go to the Pier Dance with your kids. It’s like a door policy. I want people to feel comfortable. If they want to flame out, I don’t want them to get a dirty look from some homophobe that’s just not comfortable with it because it’s the middle of New Jersey. It’s a wedding, okay? And not everyone is invited."

This is probably the only point upon which Shapiro and Nelson agree. "I love watching marriage proposals," Shapiro enthuses. "It used to happen every couple of years, but now it’s happening every year. People let us know that there’s going to be a marriage proposal in front of the castle and those are always amazing to see." But does Shapiro ever envision a time when the betrothed can make good on that proposal and actually get married in the park?

"Sure," Shapiro answers, "you can do that now! That happened in 2007, Disney has something called Fairy Tale Weddings where they do marriages in and around the resort and in 2007 they opened it up to same sex couples." Two lesbians recently became the first same-sex couple to tie the knot last March in the park’s Tokyo outpost even though gay marriage hasn’t gained a legal foothold in Japan. "So yeah," Shapiro concludes, "you could do it, now. You’d just have to sell them your kidney, but you could do it."

Tony Phillips covers the arts for The Village Voice, Frontiers and The Advocate. He’s also the proud parent of a new website:

This article is part of our "Summer 2013" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»


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