Disneyland Makes Up to Gays With AIDS Fund-Raiser
Not too long ago--in 1980, to be precise--Disneyland security officers tossed a couple of gay men out of the theme park for dancing together in the Videopolis disco, citing an official policy that prohibited same-sex dancing.
Although an Orange County Superior Court decision in 1984 struck down Disneyland’s ban, gays have long avoided the Anaheim attraction, even after park officials announced in 1985 that the ban had been removed and that same-sex dancing would be allowed in all Disneyland clubs.
But Friday night, Southern California’s biggest tourist attraction teamed up with AIDS Project Los Angeles on a private party for APLA’s staff, membership and friends--an affair that attracted thousands of gay men and women to the Magic Kingdom.
It was a move calculated to soothe hurt feelings and make a contribution toward assuaging the AIDS epidemic, said Disneyland officials contacted this week.
“We’re happy to have them raise funds for their cause here,” said Bob Roth, the park’s spokesman. “We don’t see any controversy about this because we want to make a positive statement about AIDS care and also dismiss finally all the nonsense that’s happened in the past. We’re gladly serving as a place where they can have their fund-raiser.”
sh ‘Flattered and Pleased’
APLA spokesman Andy Weiser said the AIDS relief and research group was “flattered and pleased” by Disneyland’s decision to go along with the idea of an APLA night at the park.
The group was not put off by the park’s prior antipathy toward gays congregating there, Weiser said. "(Disneyland officials) treated this affair not at all like a ‘we have to do it because they’re paying for it’ kind of thing,” he added. “Instead, a lot of us at APLA were surprised how excited they seemed about getting it together.”
Both Weiser and Roth dismissed rumors that the private party had not sold well in the gay community.
“Last time I looked, we had sold more than 7,000 tickets to the event,” Weiser said. “Our contract with Disneyland stated we couldn’t advertise it ahead of time, but it’s amazing the way word-of-mouth sold tickets for it. It was a total grass-roots effort. We couldn’t even put up posters.”
Disneyland’s Roth said that forbidding public advertising, with posters or other means, is “standard for our private parties. . . . If Rockwell (International) was having a party here, they wouldn’t advertise in the newspaper, they’d advertise through their employee newsletter.”
sh 7,000 People Expected
Roth said the group was expecting around 7,000 people to attend the party, for which tickets were $25 each. He called that “about average for a private party,” adding that 10,000 would be the maximum.
“Sales to this event were surprisingly good, considering the diversity of the group,” Roth said. “And there was an added incentive to sell tickets on our end, because we were very interested in doing our bit to increase awareness of AIDS, especially in Orange County.”
But Roth insisted that the park and its staff were handling the event the same way they handle every other function at the park: with legendary Disneyfied courtesy and maximum efficiency.
“To us, there’s no real difference between a fund-raiser and a normal private party here,” he said. “The staff is just doing business as usual. The only difference is, the guests are paying a premium to get in because part of that is going to help fight AIDS.”