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Pride Parade a blend of whimsy and serious

June 26, 2006 - Chicago Sun-Times - LINK


Chicago's Pride Parade featured a Sulu, a boo-boo, woo-woos and goo-goos. To translate that Chicago-ese: "Sulu" is George Takei, the actor who played Mr. Sulu in the original "Star Trek" TV series. He came out as gay last year and was grand marshal of Sunday's Pride Parade.

"Goo-goos" -- good government types -- might be what some politicians call themselves. The pols were out in force to work the crowd, estimated at 400,000 by the Mayor's Office of Special Events.

A slight rain made attendance dip from the estimated 440,000 last year, said parade organizer Richard Pfeiffer.

The "boo-boo" seemed to be a decision by handlers for state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka as she reached the end of the parade. Rather than let the Republican gubernatorial nominee press the flesh or address media questions about a foe's criticism, they rushed her away. (U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky claimed at the parade that Topinka has failed to back domestic-partner benefits.)

Gov. Blagojevich also took part in the parade.

'Equal-opportunity rebuker'

"Woo-woo" was the predominant, appreciative shout at the parade's transgendered, men in short shorts, and women in everything from fairy costumes to leather.

The 37-year-old parade has settled into a mix of impudence and gravitas. Alongside the glitter, feathers and bumping and grinding, there were floats for corporate titans British Petroleum, Toyota and Wells Fargo; churches, and a synagogue. Many floats called for equal rights and tolerance.

Debate raged at parade's end, where police ringed a sawhorsed-off section that protected about 10 anti-gay protesters.

"You are illegal,'' shouted protester Ruben Israel, 43, of Los Angeles. He said he plans to return in July to demonstrate against the Gay Games, and that his group also protests at Mardi Gras and spring break celebrations: "We are an equal-opportunity rebuker.''

"Go to heaven by yourself!'' retorted one parade watcher.

'We need to learn from history'

Members of the Gay Liberation Network stationed themselves next to the protesters and tried to drown them out. In a nod to the impact of the film "Brokeback Mountain, they shouted "Brokeback! Brokeback!'' -- accusing the protesters of being closeted homosexuals.

Town Hall Lt. Robert Stasch said one person was arrested for throwing a bottle at anti-gay protesters.

Takei was warmly greeted by the crowd, especially those old enough to remember the original "Star Trek" TV show, which debuted in 1966. Younger audiences may know him as Howard Stern's radio announcer.

He separated his fingers in the Vulcan salute, intoning in basso profundo: "Live long and prosper,'' as well as a catchphrase from the Stern show: "Hey, now.''

Takei said he came out a year ago when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to back same-sex marriage.

Takei, one of many Japanese Americans interned by the United States during World War II, said his experience made him fight for civil rights, including gay rights.

"As a Japanese-American child, I was confined behind barbed-wire fences without trial, without due process," he said. "We need to learn from history."


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