The lady with the booming voice belted into the microphone under the scorching noonday sun? ". . . It ain't nobody's business what I do!"
That was the theme song of singer Carolyn Gaines at yesterday's Fourth Annual Gay Pride Day block party, and she offered it as the theme for the day. And if the rousing applause was any indication, the gays who came down to celebrate were taking the attitude that being gay was really nobody's business but their own.
About 5,000 people packed the area, which was blocked off from the intersection of 20th and S streets NW and extended at least two blocks in either direction. Some lived in the area "and just came down to party," some were just passing through, but most were gay, and they were there to celebrate.
Yesterday's Gay Pride festival - a noon-until-dusk block party with food, live bands and dancing in the streets - was the beginning of a week of gay pride activities in the Washington area. It was part celebration, part a show of gay solidarity, and very much a political event.
Festival coordinator Jeff Carillon said "the only political statement we make is by the number of people who show, by our solidarity and our numbers," but he added "It is a political event."
The festival in part, was also a rally to show support for City Council Bill 2-317, a measure that would prevent the District of Columbia's liberal gay rights laws from coming up to a referendum and possible recall. That was what happened in Dade County, Fla., last year, when that community's liberal gay rights law went before the voters and was repealed, largely through the efforts of singer Anita Bryant, an adamant opponent of homosexuals and gay rights.
The Dade County recall - and Anita Bryant - were very much on the minds of the gays and gay supporters at yesterday's rally, as the singer and former Miss America contestant became the butt of all the jokes. T-shirts bore the message "A day in the closet is like a day without sunshine," in reference to Bryant's television orange juice commercials.
"Oh, Anita, thank you for the beautiful sunshine," Carillon said to open the festivities. Then poet Chasen Gavin dedicated a rhyme to all the people who voted for repeal in the Dade County referendum and similar bills in St. Paul, Minn., and Wichita, Kan. The name of the poem: "Straight To Hell."
Mayoral candidates Marion Barry and Sterling Tucker both showed up to shake hands and garner support. For Barry, a past supporter of gay rights and author of bill 2-317, it was a meeting of old friends. Barry campaign aides said they collected close to 500 new signatures for the candidate's nominating petitions.
Barry wasted no time in reminding the crowd of his past record on gay rights, saying, "I'm not here solely because I'm running for office. I was here last year and the year before."
For all the politicking, most people were just there to party. A few passed a joint of marijuana and some others guzzled from bottles concealed in brown paper bags.
"I just threw on a few old rags," said Lucille, a six-foot dag queen with a beehive hairdo. She, along with Queen Diane Warren, were part of the Show Stoppers, a group of female impersonators peddling tickets for their next show.
Also on hand was "Jean" - who declined to give her last name - who at 81 year old called herself "The mother queen of Washington" and a veteran of gay events.
Besides the festival, yesterday, other events scheduled for the week include showings of the cult film "Gay USA," a Tuesday night poetry reading, and a Fantasy Ball next Sunday night.
Towards the end of the festival, Carillon told the audience "There is a big discussion on the politics of today. I look around and see all these people and I'm amazed. You're the politics.