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Bay Area shows Pride

By Jim Emerson, Special to the Daily Planet
Monday July 01, 2002

Police steal show at SF’s
27th annual Gay Parade


With thunderous applause, police upstaged transvestites, Dykes on Bikes, patriotic bodybuilders, leather folks, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Grand Marshall Sir Ian McKellen and thousands of others marching in Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco. 

One police officer walked holding hands with a buff shirtless companion, as men and women in uniforms clearly proved to be the darlings of the day. 

More than one million spectators were estimated in attendance at the 27th annual parade, which was followed by a festival at San Francisco’s Civic Center, featuring live entertainment, dancing, arts and crafts and food vendors. The official theme: Be yourself, change the world.  

Less than a generation ago, police were often targets of scorn during gay pride celebrations, as marchers condemned police discrimination and violence. Not this year. 

The Bay Area’s gay community commemorated Officer Jon Cook, who two weeks ago became San Francisco’s first openly gay cop to die in the line of duty. Cook was killed in car crash while chasing a domestic violence suspect. 

A blaring police car siren following police officers whipped crowds into a cheering and clapping frenzy.  

No other group received as much applause as the cops, except maybe sheriff deputies and firefighters, though this may have been residual applause, as they marched directly behind the police contingent. 

In front of police, marchers advocating medical marijuana and legalization of marijuana hardly raised an eyebrow. The crowd barely reacted to the marijuana marchers, including those from Berkeley. 

This year’s marchers seemed more in the mood to celebrate than fight for equal rights compared to the vocal expressions of passion and angry protest signs characteristic of marches in the 1980s and 1990s. Though there were muffled cheers for groups advocating for civil union rights or same-sex marriage. 

As the parade has become more mainstream in recent years with corporate sponsors promoting the likes of alcohol and breath mints, public displays of nudity, bare breasts and bare-chest men have been less common sights. 

Mayor Brown said the parade and related events promoting diversity and sexual freedom is economically beneficial, generating more than $150 million in business for the city. 

Despite the abundant sunshine and balmy temperatures the mostly 20- and 30-something men and women mostly kept their shirts on, which surely disappointed voyeurs. 

Among the best dressed in the parade were colorfully-costumed gay Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and a handful of marching bands. Only about half the marchers dressed in parade costumes while politicians, political activists, AIDS groups wore regular street clothes. A few floats passed with dancers wearing nothing but Speedos, and one passed with buff bodies covered by skimpy shorts with American flag patterns, accompanied by red, white and blue tassels adorning their muscular legs. 

The biggest display of naughtiness marching in the parade this year was a giant two-headed penis, which stretched the length of about six cars and was held aloft by nine people. Other naughty revelers included a naked man seen parading past 555 Market St. and a few female marchers with the Extra Action Marching Band wearing dildos strapped over their costumes.