The dearly departed Auckland Hero Parade, which began in the 1990s to howls of outrage from some concerned citizenry and a majority of the horror-stricken city council – who seemed to fear a mass outbreak of homosexuality – ended in 2001 with the Prime Minister and up to 200,000 people in attendance.
As an experiment in the growth of moral tolerance it was a superb success. Sadly, the
parade’s sociological and philosophical accomplishments were not matched by financial acumen and the event eventually collapsed in a welter of debts – a kind of gay version of the Global Financial Crisis where everyone woke up after the party and realised they’d spent too much and their line of credit was exhausted.
I had done my bit to help as then editor of Metro magazine. Before the parade, the wowsers on the council had pulled their funding for it. I realised we still had, I think, $40,000 in the magazine’s marketing budget and so we stepped in to sponsor it. That act of charity had the unintended and embarrassing effect of stimulating a long line of well-built half-naked boys in tight hot pants into leading the parade down the length of Ponsonby Rd wearing photo-masks of my ugly mug.
The embarrassment was compounded when a gay magazine proclaimed me “Gay Man of the Year”. This confused my wife and me, as we’d been living under the impression I was stridently heterosexual. “Gay? I’m not even mildly cheerful!” I kept proclaiming to people who mentioned it, only to be treated to lectures on how we now lived in different times and, ‘It’s okay, Bill.”
I needed a decade to get over all that and so we were happy to wander up the road recently on a Saturday afternoon to watch the reconstituted Gay Pride Parade along Ponsonby Rd.
A gay friend came with us and there was a fair-sized crowd lining the pavements to watch. He had been talking about an iPhone app called Grindr, where gay blokes sign on and, using the phone’s GPS, can track other nearby blokes who fancy a bit of rumpy pumpy. “Turn it on,” I suggested. His phone went into meltdown. “Oh my God! There’s one five metres away. Another at 10m, 15m …” His head began wildly revolving 360 degrees trying to find potential Grindees.
For those who may be interested but of a different persuasion, there is a similar app for all orientations called Blendr. Actually, there is apparently also a Facebook app called Bang with Friends, where you can hook up with Facebook friends you had never realised wanted a bit of slap and tickle. I am not on Facebook, thankfully.
I digress. Full marks to the parade folk for giving it a go but it was a much more “family-friendly” occasion than the old school, much-raunchier Hero parades of the past. Starting it at four o’clock in the afternoon in bright sunshine does rob it of a bit of naughty ambience. It was like Walt Disney’s version of the Rio Carnival on a low budget, with Colin Craig as stage manager. It had none of the late-night frisky frisson that affected all sexualities on Hero Parade night, and was the poorer for it.
What Auckland needs is a Rio-style carnival. One that celebrates sexuality in all its forms, where everyone can dress up and party hard. Why should LGBT folk have all the fun to themselves?
It’s all very well for the Mayor and council to harp on about making Auckland “the World’s Most Liveable City”, but a liveable super-city needs Super Fun. The annual Santa parade and the Chinese Lantern Festival are, surprisingly, not enough. If they insist on calling it “The Big Little City”, let’s have a Big Little Carnival and change the city’s slogan to “Party on, dude!”