ALONG FOR THE PRIDE : The O.C. Gay and Lesbian Festival Celebrates Fun the Old-Fashioned Way

<i> Benjamin Epstein is a free-lance writer who contributes frequently to the Times Orange County Edition</i>

Free child care and a variety of support groups for parents are offered. Church ads fill the program, and presentations include “Proactive Religion.” The police pass out recruitment literature, and it takes place in Irvine.

This is one festival that prides itself on family values.

“We’re working hard to fulfill the need for child care so our gay and lesbian parents can enjoy the festival knowing their child is within reach,” said Tom Heilman, president of “Stonewall 25: A Global Celebration.” The Orange County Gay and Lesbian Pride event is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday on and around the UC Irvine campus; the theme is shared by all Gay and Lesbian Pride celebrations across the nation this year.

Live entertainment, business and service organization booths, a coffeehouse, arcade, food court and art expo will be in Aldrich Park. A parade led by Grand Marshal Amanda Bearse--she’s Marcy d’Arcy on “Married With Children"--will begin at noon on Sunday on the campus perimeter.


John Breitweiser will be named O.C. Cultural Pride’s Man of the Year at an awards presentation Sunday afternoon at the coffeehouse; Julie Tanit is Woman of the Year, and KFI Radio talk show host Tammy Bruce will receive the media achievement award.

Breitweiser will also speak at a “gay issues awareness tutorial” on Saturday and display his paintings at the art expo. Several of his paintings, including “Traditional Family Values?,” will be made into T-shirts for the event.

He described one of his more recent works:

“A baby’s highchair is pushed against a wall,” Breitweiser said. “Different size plates and lunch pails are arrayed in a fan shape on the wall. All have epithets about us on them.


“One of the greatest dangers of homophobic ideas is to kids, to how they view themselves. (Epithets) affect kids in horribly destructive ways and (cause) self-destructive behaviors. Aberrant lifestyle, sodomite, repugnant, fairy . . . people think these epithets belong to us, and as youngsters, we’re force-fed these ideas. We’re raised on a diet of self-hate.”

Other featured speakers include John Good of the Catholic Church of Orange Outreach and Jerry Lail, an active member of the Irvine United Church of Christ.

Lail will focus on how gays can constructively channel what they feel are the hurtful and “hateful” messages of the religious right. Said Lail, “Many in the gay and lesbian community have been robbed of a life-affirming spirituality . . . in the name of religion.”

Tanit, best known for her leadership of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club and currently Special Projects Coordinator for the AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County, said she views the event as a celebration of diversity, especially the diversity within the gay community.


“Some like to disco, some like to two-step,” Tanit said. “We have booths from business organizations and organizations run by gays and lesbians for gays and lesbians. There will be support groups for people dealing with coming-out issues, for parents dealing with their children’s coming-out issues, and for parents dealing with their own coming-out issues.”

Tanit will be found at the Democratic Club booth, or in the dunk tank--"It helps when you have someone being dunked that many people know,” she said.

The celebration is in its sixth year--this is the fifth at Aldrich Park--and according to Breitweiser, it has evolved “in incredibly positive” ways. Increased attendance is only one of them: Fewer than 2,000 attended the first event at Santa Ana’s Centennial Park; 15,000 are expected this year.

Said Breitweiser, “Most gay people get information about ourselves and our community from mainstream media such as The Times . . . . Most gay people don’t read (the gay magazine) the Blade. Our visibility (in the mainstream media) is what has changed.”


The first celebration, he said, unfolded in “a very threatening environment.

“There had to be 50 anti-gay protesters saying that we deserved to die,” Breitweiser recalled. “Although we still have those protesters, we’re not intimidated the way we were that year, when it was a totally new experience. Our visibility has empowered us.”




What: “Stonewall 25: A Global Celebration.”

When: Saturday, Aug. 13, noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 14, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: Festival at Aldrich Park, UC Irvine. Parade on Campus Drive between Berkeley and Bridge streets.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the University Drive exit and head west. Turn left on Campus Drive.


Wherewithal: $10. Children under 10 get in free.

Where to call: (714) 637-7768.