Arts & Entertainment
15 min

Your Pride 2008 primer

The parties, promoters and performers

Credit: TJ Ngan photo

Last year’s Pride weekend saw the disappointing cancellation of the Rapture events that left partygoers stranded on the streets of the West End trying to beg, bribe and charm their way into whatever clubs they could squeeze into.

This year, not only has Rapture returned for its much-anticipated resurrection, but a gaggle of other event producers have also been hard at work planning their contributions to our biggest party season of the year.

The result: parties abound for just about every taste bud this weekend, stretching from the West End to the Drive and beyond — all yearning to be packed with the hot, the sweaty and the proud.

This weekend’s 30th anniversary Pride celebrations kick off with the Davie Street Party on Fri Aug 1. Starting at 7 pm, the heart of the gay village will be blocked off to traffic on Davie St between Burrard and Bute Sts on either side of Thurlow for Koodo’s Big Night Out.

It’s going to be a massive street party with a caged beer garden, sexy go-go dancers and a giant game of Twister in the middle of the road. Start your Pride weekend with a little drunken contortion to catch the eye of whatever boy, girl, bear, master, slave or furry woodland creature catches your fancy.

On Friday night you can also check out Kristine W at Celebrities or march over to Gorg-o-Mish for Big Roger’s Hard Party. For the lesbians there are a couple of debaucherous cruises launching that night, not to mention the Bride of Pride party for kinky women into queer, woman-to-woman BDSM.

Saturday starts with the Dyke March on the Drive, followed by the festival in Grandview Park. There’s also the Wild ‘n’ Wet Patio Party at the Pacific Palisades Hotel on Robson St, Rapture Ignition at the Majestic, the Pride Concert Series, and parties up and down the Davie Village.

Sunday, of course, is parade day — the centrepiece of Pride.

If you do just one thing for Pride this year, make sure you attend the parade. The Vancouver Pride Society is expecting close to 500,000 people and a record number of parade entries. The parade starts at noon at the corner of Robson (yes, Robson!) and Thurlow St, heads west to Denman, where it turns south and heads towards Sunset Beach where the Pride Festival will also get underway at noon.

When the parade is over and you’re all festivalled out, more parties await throughout the gay village. Or head to the Mansion for the always popular women’s Chicas party at the Macaroni Grill.

Or hop a CruiseyT cruise. Or check out the Bear Bounce, the Naked Heaven party, or the youth dance. Choices abound.

Later that night, the places to be are Big Roger’s Global Pride party with DJ Abel at Science World, or the Rapture Rebirth party with the legendary Peter Rauhofer at the Commodore.

This Pride don’t sit on your ass wishing you could see what Montreal or New York does for Pride. The big parties are right here. Just open yourself up to the world-class entertainment coming your way.

Amanda Lepore

Oh Ms Lepore, how fabulous you are.

She’s been billed as the number one transsexual in the world and has undergone extensive amounts of plastic surgery for the big breasts, big lips and big personality that light up New York’s club scene.

She’s been the muse of photographer David Lachapelle and the fabulous design team Heatherette.

With her first album almost complete, Lepore has been touring the world singing “My Hair Looks Fierce” and “I Know What Boys Like” and will be gracing Celebrities on Wed Jul 30. Bow down, bitches.

Xtra West: How exactly did you come up with your look?

Amanda Lepore: I’ve always liked movie stars like Old Hollywood bombshells. I like pinups a lot, I like drawings of pinups like Jessica Rabbit and it kind of all came from there.

XW: How would you define Pride?

AL: Well, I think it’s great that they involve transsexuals. It’s good to have pride in yourself and be proud of who you are. Of course, I do that all year long.

But for others, and especially for kids who just came out, it’s really good to see role models being themselves and being successful at being themselves.

XW: Does Pride play a big role in the songs that you sing and the show you put on?

AL: Definitely. I’ve made a living out of being myself.

I certainly struggled for a long time. I really didn’t make that much money but I became successful. Maybe it’s hard at first to come out and be openly gay or transsexual but in the end you become a winner by being yourself. If you try to be somebody you’re not, your life kind of goes downhill, even if it’s easier at first.

DJ Nick Bertossi

Vancouver DJ Nick Bertossi has had one hell of a year.

He’s gone from being a bouncer at The World to getting monthly gigs there and at Celebrities. He’s spun in Greece and opened for some of the biggest DJs to come through the city, like Stephan Grodin and Hector Fonseca.

This year, Bertossi will be playing at Celebrities’ Envy My Music on Thu Jul 31 and History V on Aug 3, as well as opening for Hector Fonseca once again at the Rapture Ignition party on Aug 2 at the Majestic.

XW: So what’s the deal with Envy My Music?

Nick Bertossi: It’s like a circus. It’s supposed to be a visual, audio and entertainment night. They have circus performers, extravagant makeup, costume design, and a pretty wide selection of DJs. Groove Rebels comes from Germany and he spins a pretty European new age house sort of sound. He’s very good.

And then Skillah plays a similar style — funky house — and then I’m kind of high-energy tribal music.

XW: Is that your sound? High-energy tribal?

NB: Funky, high-energy tribal music. All the music I play is hard, like heavy metal, but house music with female vocals.

Davie Street Party

One of the biggest dance parties this Pride won’t be happening in a bar or a club but on the very street where the heart of the gay community lives.

On Fri Aug 1 between 7 pm and midnight, Davie St will be closed off and transformed into beer gardens and dance areas that will allow 6,000-8,000 people to shake their asses and play a drunken game of Twister or two.

Vancouver Pride Society president John Boychuk gave us the low down.

XW: Why do you think the Davie Street Party is going to be the place to be on Friday night?

John Boychuk: People are tired of the old, usual, standby events. They want something fun and new and we’re hoping that by having live entertainment, DJs, a big Twister game, and by having more interactive things on the street, that people will be curious. They’ll want to participate in Pride.

Bride of Pride

The Bride of Pride women’s kink party has been making women writhe since 2006. Organized by a loose conglomerate of women, this naughty but oh-so-nice sex playparty has something in store for any kinky woman who is into queer woman-to-woman BDSM. Dress in whatever makes you feel good, bring your toys and grab your playpartners. Organizer Elaine Miller had this to say about what she and her brood have in store this Pride.

XW: What is a Bride of Pride party?

Elaine Miller: We decided to throw the kind of party that we would wish to go to if we happened to be kinky, freaky women who really liked having sex and playing with other women, which in fact we are.

We don’t just throw up a few ropes and put in the furniture. We come in and we hang drapery and we arrange corridors where people have to wend their way through odd little surprise areas so it becomes necessary to explore.

XW: And what does a surprise look like when you round the corner?

EM: For instance, at the Easter Party we had a surprise confessional with everything set up. A little screen through which one could talk and that was hidden behind the coat check. There’ll be, like, a space with a mattress for people to play with or have sex on, and then the next time you look there will be a little spot with two little tables and four little chairs where you can sit and socialize quietly.

XW: Is there anything you want people to know about your parties that they might not have a clue about?

EM: Yes. The question that I get asked most often is will it be okay to come to party if you’re not experienced and you don’t know what you’re going to do and you might be too scared to play. Yes, it is absolutely okay because that is where you start. You come, you meet people and you socialize. It’s not necessary to be an experienced player. It’s just necessary to be friendly and polite.

Big Roger Events

Colt model Big Roger and his partner Sunil Sinha say they’re all about big parties. Their Global Pride Weekend promises to pack five high-energy events into three days to make the most of Pride. They’ve even dared to book venues outside the West End for a taste of something different.

XW: While other companies are sticking to locations like the Commodore or the Majestic, why did you venture out to the Biltmore and the Telus World of Science?

Sunil Sinha: We felt that Vancouver has grown and that the Pride event is huge. So we thought we needed to get a bigger venue and we wanted to get a venue that was near to the community and that we knew was fun. Other events are just repeating the same venues every year. We thought the city is growing and we need to do some changes.

XW: You’re bringing in some pretty heavy circuit DJs and performers. Are your events geared towards the circuit party crowd?

SS: They’re for any member of the community that wants to go out and have fun. You’ve got be careful not to label an event. People think that you’ve got to be this or that to go and that’s not true. If Madonna comes here, that doesn’t mean you have to be a fag hag or a fag to go to it. A lot of our decision-making in these events have been input from members of the community and out of town guests.

XW: How are you supporting Vancouver’s Pride scene?

SS: I think we’ve got the largest combined capacity for all five events. It’s the largest combined event ever in Vancouver’s history. The lineup that we have is really in sync with Montreal Pride, Toronto Pride and Gay Days. So we are really putting Vancouver on the map with the number of events and the talent that we are bringing in. That was our goal. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it grand. We’re Big Roger Events, let’s be big.

DJ Hector Fonseca

Hector Fonseca’s sound has been described as New York’s take on the world.

The former model turned DJ was recently named 2007’s hottest DJ by Out Magazine, and has been signed to New York super-DJ Peter Rauhofer’s label, Star 69.

On Aug 2, he will be spinning his signature brand of Elektribal music at the Majestic nightclub as part of the Rapture Resurrection weekend.

XW: What can we expect from the gig you’re going to be playing?

HF: Well, it’s Pride so there is a little bit of a Pride theme but I’m not the kind of person that likes to be obvious about that kind of stuff. I feel like the energy for Pride is always festive and uplifting but I try and add style to that and keep things sexy and fun all in one.

XW: Your brand of music, Elektribal? Is that what it’s called?

HF: Yeah, people are calling it that. A couple of years ago I was playing electro in small rooms and tribal in the bigger venues. I started mixing the two together and it became a unique thing for me. It’s funny because I just got a bunch of new tracks sent to me and they all have that sound. It’s nice to see that catch on.

DJ Alyson Calagna

DJ Alyson Calagna has made it a point to stop by Vancouver every year for the last five to play the Chicas party at the Mansion.

This year she’s also doing a set for the boys at Big Roger’s Hard party at Gorg-o-Mish on Fri Aug 1.

With 16 years of DJ experience, Calagna knows how to read a crowd and make a dance party feel like a multiple orgasm.

XW: You’ve been coming to Chicas here since 2003. What keeps you coming back?

Alyson Calagna: When I did that party for the first time I was like, “Whoa!” I couldn’t believe believe that there were lesbians that got off to dance music like the boys got off to it. It’s just such a refreshing scene. Ever since then I was like, “That’s my party.” And I look forward to it every year.

XW: Is there really a difference when it comes to something like the Chicas party and the boys’ parties?

AC: It’s like night and day but I love both sides. I’m such a music junkie. It’s amazing because in that weekend I’ll be able to play my yang side on the Friday and my yin side on the Sunday so it’s like you get the whole gamut from side to side.

Flygirl Productions

Who says debaucherous dance parties are just for the boys? Anyone who has walked by the Macaroni Grill on Pride Sunday has seen the hordes of lesbians ripping it up on the lawn of the mansion. Flygirl parties are such a big deal that heavy-hitting girl DJs come back year after year, claiming they would sooner retire than give up Chicas.

XW: What are some of the main highlights from Chicas?

Leigh Cousins: It depends on what you like. If you like house music, you’re going to love what Alyson [Calagna] is up to. There are sweaty, naked women on dance podiums. It’s like the boys’ parties only it’s women.

I think the highlight of it is when I go upstairs and look out onto the lawn and see all these women with their beautiful faces and they’re all smiling and joyful. That’s what works for me. That’s what I like.

Mandy Randwala: The ice sculpture is a killer. It’s the torso of a woman. You pour booze through her top and you can take a shot out of her vagina. It’s a total hit. We have two of those. There’s one outside and one inside and the tequila just pours. Girls take bottles of beer and they bet who can have the whole bottle through the body.

The Flame And The Dame

Tommy Dolanjski and Anna Thorsen have taken on the task of bringing back Rapture with an impressive list of performers that includes Hector Fonseca and the legendary Peter Rauhofer. Here’s what they had to say about their vision for Pride’s new, resurrected playground.

XW: Why did you guys decide to redo Rapture?

Tommy Dolanjski: We decided that it would be really amazing to bring it back because it has been around forever and I think it would just really suck to see it go away. Everyone looks forward to it. It’s known everywhere. It’s the Pride brand of Vancouver. We were really up to the challenge. I think we’re going to do a great job.

XW: How are you approaching the task of bringing Rapture back to its glory days?

Anna Thorsen: Just have fun with it. Have a good time and get all the energy going with it. That’s kind of the overall feeling of how we want to work.

TD: When we walk into a place we go, ‘What kind of a playground can we make today?’ and those who come just come to play on the playground. You’re supposed to have crazy things happening, beautiful scenes, amazing dancers and crazy drag queens. It’s supposed to be that. That’s why we do it.

DJ Peter Rauhofer

Since his early days of smuggling dance music into a very musically restricted Vienna, DJ Peter Rauhofer has known what’s hot and makes a great dance hit.

In 1995 he moved to New York with a string of successful tracks under his belt and has gone on to produce some of the hottest remixes from artists like Madonna, Britney Spears and Depeche Mode.

Rauhofer is a legend in the business with a Grammy under his belt and even his own record label, Star 69, which churns out hit after hit albums.

Catch him at the Commodore on Aug 3 for the Rapture Rebirth Party.

XW: What do you think is the hot sound right now? Tribal? Electro? Deep house?

Peter Rauhofer: It’s difficult to pinpoint the sound as there are so many good styles of music out now. On any given night you might hear me play everything from tribal to electro.

XW: Does the Pride season influence what you’re going to play?

PR: Yeah, I love to play themed events and I always have special Pride tricks up my sleeves.

XW: Hector Fonseca is playing the same weekend as you are. Why should the Star 69 parties not be missed?

PR: Our parties are just too fierce to be missed!

Bear Bounce

More than just a teddy bear picnic, Vancubz’s Bear Bounce boasts the most all-inclusive experience for all body types. There’s no attitude, just a bunch of fun-loving bears ripping off their shirts and pawing each other on the dance floor. Eight DJs will be spinning everything from punk to electro, so you’re bound to see more than a few grizzlies cutting loose at the Scotiabank Dance Centre after the parade. Vancubz’s Matthew Allan gave us the scoop on what makes a good bear party.

XW: How does Bear Bounce differ from any other kind of gay party?

Matthew Allan: It’s a post-parade event for bears, cubs and anyone else who wants to be part of the most inclusive dance floor in town. What we’ve found is that the crowd we get is a little less circuit party and a lot more drinking beer.

XW: So it’s not like you’ll get the go-go dancers or anything like that?

MA: You might get go-go bears but it’s more of a do-it-yourself kind of crowd. I think it’s the bear draw. Guys feel more comfortable in that environment, especially if they’re bigger. It’s kind of a moniker for a more relaxed crowd.

XW: Do you think Vancouver has a solid bear community?

MA: It’s definitely growing back together. More and more people are definitely coming out to bear events. We get the bears, the cubs, big super chub guys, Asian guys. But we also get lesbians, straight people. The community is sort of diverse but really inclusive.

DJ Abel

When it comes to hip-shaking tribal beats, no one comes close to DJ Abel and his signature cha-cha style.

As the resident DJ of New York’s Allegria events, Abel’s tribal progressive house sound has made him one of the most sought-after DJs in the world. He will be bringing a taste of one of New York’s biggest parties to Science World on Sun Aug 3 for Big Roger’s Global Pride Party.

XW: So tell me about the Allegria event.

DJ Abel: Allegria is the name of an event held at the biggest clubs in New York. Right now we are at Webster Hall, which is a legendary theatre from the 1800s. It’s usually held in very special areas.

XW: Since you’ll be bringing that sound to Vancouver, what can we expect?

DJ Abel: It will be nice if Vancouver is open to a new experience. I don’t know if I can do that same sound because Allegria is a 15-hour event so it’s hard to stuff all the things I do at Allegria into a night that’s over at three in the morning. I think they’ll have a sample of what Allegria is like and my personal taste in music.

XW: Is that the famous cha-cha?

DJ Abel: A lot of people came to call it cha-cha because that’s what I’ve called myself because of the style that I use. My sound is a tribal influence, vocal house, progressive house; it’s a mix of everything.

Crema Productions

Crema Productions is quickly becoming known as the company that packs hundreds of hot women onto a boat for its Hot & Wet Pride cruise. As a long-time supporter of Vancouver’s queer and drag communities, Crema knows what lesbians want and how to live up to her reputation as a premiere party thrower.

XW: What has made your women’s boat cruise so successful over the years?

Crema: The fact that it’s on the gorgeous Britannia and that it was the first one started and people are still enjoying it. The Britannia is one of the larger ships in Vancouver. We have two floors for dancing and an incredible barbeque on board. It’s more than your simple little boat cruise.

XW: And the Chicklets party is something that goes on all year, right?

Crema: Pretty much. This is going to be my first Pride Chicklets.

XW: Do you have anything especially planned for the occasion?

Crema: I just brought in this gorgeous DJ from Portland, Wildfire, and it’s only $10. It’s the most reasonable party of Pride.

XW: What would you like people to know about your events that they probably don’t know?

Crema: They’re basically women’s events and they are open to everyone in the community. One thing that I strongly believe is that if there are gay men or whatever that want to come to my party, I’ve always had those open. It’s not just women and they’re fun and not pretentious.

The Odd Ball

Whether you’re gay, straight, queer, trans or a stripper on stilts, the Odd Ball has a spot reserved for you, whatever your bag. After four years of successfully carving a spot for alternative parties in the queer community, this year’s Super Queer-O party will go down as the Odd Ball’s grand finale for Pride. Amber Dawn, one of the organizers of the event, had this to say about underdogs, misfits and heroes.

XW: What is the Odd Ball all about?

Amber Dawn: The Odd Ball is a lower-cost Pride party with $10 admission for the night that is an anything goes, down-home, non-pretentious dance party. Some people have called it sock hop style. There will be some live performances throughout the night, which is a mix of drag, burlesque and a live MC.

Super Queer-O is our theme this year and we’re telling people to come in costume and put a spin on your favourite comic book character or just any over-the-top expression of gender or of queerness. We don’t really try to tell people what heroic or super should be, it’s just whatever sort of super persona they want to take on for the night.

XW: So why did you decide that this was going to be the last one?

AD: I think Odd Ball’s got a recipe. I know that our partygoers like it but I think we’re ready to change and move on to a different kind of thing. When we started Odd Ball, all four of the organizers thought that we didn’t want to drop a ton of cash on Pride and we wanted to be in the East End. We really saw a need for it. But now I think there are parties that are starting to get established that are in East Van and are low cost. I think we’ll continue to see that kind of party even if Odd Ball isn’t around.

CruiseyT

For the past 17 years, CruiseyT has been sailing homos up and down Indian Arm and around Vancouver to enjoy beautiful scenery, great tunes and good times on the water. This Pride, you can choose from the up-tempo Go-Go Cruise or the Denim and Leather Cruise on Pride Sunday or chill out on the Pride Party Cruise on the Monday.

XW: How can people choose the best cruise for them?

James Steck: For the Go-Go Cruise, we have a great lineup. DJ Zach Shore is on the boat and drag divas Joan-E and Carlotta Gurl are on the boat too. This year we might do something a little bit different and move the drag show downstairs so the party upstairs doesn’t stop.

The Pride Party cruise is a little different then the cruises on Pride day. The ones on Pride Day are really hardcore party cruises. But by Monday, it’s more or less for the locals and the staff. It’s much more laidback. We have a saxophone player. It’s really an amazing touch to end Pride weekend.