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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Chicago Pride Celebrations Part One: 1970 - 1984
by Sukie de la Croix

This article shared 3803 times since Wed Jun 14, 2000
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One year after the June 28, 1969, Stonewall Riots in New York City, Chicago lesbians and gay men declared June 21-28 Gay Pride Week, with the first Gay Pride March taking place June 29, 1970. At noon that day, 150-200 people gathered in Bughouse Square with flags and signs and shouts of "Gay Power."

The crowd included members of Gay Lib, the Women's Caucus, Mattachine Midwest, and some out-of-towners from gay groups in Detroit and Minneapolis.

After listening to speeches, the group marched along the sidewalks, down Dearborn Street to Chicago Ave., then east to the Water Tower, then down Michigan Ave., to the Civic Center—where there were more speeches and some dancing.


The second year was more of a parade than a march. The parade set out from the harbor, along Diversey, then south on Clark to the Free Forum at LaSalle Street. The Mattachine Midwest Newsletter suggested, "If you have a kazoo, bring it along. Whoever heard of a parade without a marching band."

Gay Pride Week lasted from June 18- June 27, and during that time they had the first "film festival" at the Chicago Gay Alliance Community Center at 171 W. Elm. For a dollar you could see King Kong, Son of Kong, Phantom of The Opera, and The Lost World—well, there weren't many gay films around in those days!


During the afternoon of June 25, there was a Gay Pride picnic at Belmont Rocks, then about 5 p.m., the parade assembled in the Belmont Harbor parking lot. With balloons, banners and floats, the crowd headed west along Belmont, south on Broadway, then Clark, finally ending up at the Free Forum in Lincoln Park. The largest contingent in the parade was Chicago Lesbian Liberation, and the crowd swelled to 1,000 by the end of the march.

Along the route, there were one or two incidents of high school kids throwing eggs and rocks, but they were quickly stopped by the police. One straight male onlooker was heard to say, "I've never seen so many fairies in all my life."

Among the speakers were Murray Edelman of Gay Lib, Tony Johnson of the Transvestites Legal Committee, and Richard Chinn of the Fiery Flames Collective.


According to the Mattachine Midwest Newsletter this was the BIGGEST Pride Parade ever. On June 24, 1,000 people marched, along with floats and cars. Two thousand or more attended the rally at the end. One observer claims the two policemen leading the parade were holding hands, until someone pulled out a camera! Speakers at the Pride Rally included Rev. Bill Johnson from Houston, the first admitted homosexual to be ordained. He quoted from The Well of Loneliness ... "We are coming, we are still coming on, and our name is legion, you dare not disown us. We have asked for bread, will you give us stone? You God, in whom we the outcast believe, give us also the right to our existence."


The parade June 30 was less political this year and had more of a Mardi Gras atmosphere. The Beckman House float was a huge mock Coca-Cola carton with people inside that announced "Gay Love —It's The Real Thing," and the Man's Country float handed out cold Pepsi-Colas from a bathtub.

A streaker on a bicycle made it three blocks before he was arrested, and the parade followed a lavender line that had been "mysteriously" painted overnight down the middle of the street from Belmont to Diversey. The parade formed at Belmont and Lake Shore Drive, and at 2 p.m. trailed west along Belmont, down Broadway, Clark, east on Fullerton, then Stockton Drive to 1800 N. in Lincoln Park.


An estimated 6,000 people either watched or took part in the 1975 parade; the first year that prizes for "Best Float" were awarded. First prize in the commercial category went to Man's Country, with honorable mention to the Snake Pit entry. In the organization category, a $25 cash prize went to The Gay Crusader, with honorable mention to the Gay Horizon's VD Clinic. Speakers at the rally included Mark Segal, founder of the Gay Raiders, Nancy Davis, co-author of the book Heterosexual, and Ken Martin, pastor of MCC/Good Shepherd Parish. The rally ended earlier than planned when an onlooker pushed a gay man into the lagoon. As the man couldn't swim, an ambulance with a resuscitator was called to the scene, and the crowd was dispersed.


Estimates for those who marched in the 7th annual Gay Pride parade ranged from 1,000 to over 5,000. Speakers that year included Jim Bussen, chairman of the Pride Committee for 1976, Valerie Bouchard from Good Parish/MCC, who said, "I believe that God loves everybody," and lesbian lawyer, Renee Hanover, who counted off the legal victories of the past year, then said, "Let us hope that next year we can again report on other small progresses that will have been made."

On June 24, as a part of the Gay Pride week celebrations, a rally was held outside the Civic Center, which was disrupted by a group of anti-gay "Jews For Jesus" chanting "Gay is not the way—Christ is the way."


Slightly larger than 1976, the theme this year was "Gays In History," and the parade had a more serious tone than previous years. There were 12 floats and military activist Leonard Matlovich walked the whole route behind the lead car, urging people on the sidewalk to join him 'in the street.' There was a large contingency of Gay Socialists, and a Latin group carried a coffin and signs that read, "Bury The Hate."

Matlovich spoke at the rally after, as did Miriam Ben Shalom—both had been discharged from the military for being gay.


The theme of this year's parade was "Our Time Has Come." Gay and Lesbian Pride Week took place June 16-25 and featured many events, including the annual interfaith religious service June 22 at 824 W. Wellington. The service was coordinated by Dignity/Chicago with the assistance of Good Shepherd Parish Metropolitan Community Church, Integrity/Chicago, Lutherans Concerned for Gay People and Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church.

On the same day the annual Mr. Windy City Contest took place at the Radisson Hotel, 505 N. Michigan. The contest was sponsored by two bar owners, Eddie Dugan ( Bistro ) and Richard Farnham AKA Mother Carol ( he operated Carol In Exile at the time ) .


This year the parade had an estimated 4,000 people attending, and it also saw the debut of a Gay Pride Marching Band. ( The president was future Hall-of-Famer Nick Kelley ) . The band won the top award for organizational entry in the parade, and ( Chuck ) Renslow & Associates took the top plaque for the business entry. During Pride Week, the Gay Chicago awards took place, with Delilah Kenney voted Female Personality of The Year ( Kenney passed away a few weeks ago ) , and Ron Helizon ( The Polish Princess ) as Male Personality of The Year. Michael Shimandle, now manager of Buddies' bar and restaurant, won the Trash award.

Women's events during Pride week included "Lesbian Coming Out Workshop," hosted by Blazing Star newspaper, and "Sisterblues and the Blue Suede Dyke Band" performing at Holy Covenant Church, 925 W. Diversey.


Five thousand out and proud lesbians and gay men marched through New Town in a parade marred only by a couple of egg-throwing incidents. The parade this year started at Addison and Halsted, and was so long that when the front end reached Diversey, there were still people waiting to set out at the back. The winner for the best float was Stitch & Bitch, a men's sewing group.

The parade ended with a music festival, and the acts included Tricia Alexander, Ginni Clemmens, Dev Singh, Paula Walowitz, the Chicago Gay Pride Band, and the Windy City Gay Chorus. This year the Pride Committee decided to have no speakers.

One homophobic onlooker was heard to remark, "If I had a gun, I'd shoot them."


The 12th annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade was the biggest yet, with police estimating 8,000 people participating, and another 17-18,000 watching. Because of the size of the parade, the police for the first time blocked off both sides of the street. Up until now the parade was designated one side of the street; although it usually spilled over.

This was also the first year a Chicago mayor officially recognized the annual event. Mayor Jane Byrne designated the day as Gay Pride Parade Day. As a part of the Pride celebrations, Tricia Alexander and Lori Noelle were voted Entertainers of The Year, and Gay Horizon's Joe Loundy and Lee Newell were presented with an award for Organization of the Year.


There were 30,000 people this year, partly due to the Milwaukee Pride parade being canceled, and also, for the first time, non-gay groups were invited to participate. The 1982 Gay and Lesbian Pride Week Calendar was the most comprehensive and well-organized yet, with a women's Picnic at the Rocks ( June 19 ) , a workshop on racism coordinated by Black and White Men Together, and the "Opening Game" of Lincoln Park Lagooners social volleyball season ( June 26 ) .

The theme was "Gay and Lesbian—Love, Pride, Rights." The parade entry fee was $25 for profit-making businesses, and $15 for non-profits. In accordance with city ordinances, there was no alcohol consumption, no drugs ( including pot and poppers ) , no animals or nudity. Music was permitted in the parade, but had to be turned down when passing churches on the route.


A record number of entrants participated, with 92 businesses, organizations, and individuals officially entering the parade. There were an estimated 40,000 people watching and 10,000 participants. Former Mayor Jane Byrne was in the march, riding in her daughter Kathy's convertible.

At the rally, when Richard Pfeiffer mentioned that Mayor Harold Washington was unable to attend because he was out of town on, there was a chorus of booing from the crowd. Featured speaker Harley McMillan, executive director of the Howard Brown Memorial Clinic, focused on the AIDS crisis, although he only mentioned the word AIDS once.


About 138 organizations, businesses and political candidacies were represented in the parade this year.

The "Best Float" award went to Hunter's Bar of Elk Grove with its theme of classical beauty meeting modern energy.

Mayor Harold Washington was a no-show again this year, but was represented by his liaison Kit Duffy.

Entertainment was provided by Linda Mitchell, the Artemis Singers, Christopher Street, and the combined voices of the Windy City Gay Chorus and the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, who, among other things, sang "We Are A Family" from Dreamgirls.

The all-women Artemis Singers sang a "mock scary" song called "Here Come The Lesbians."

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