A few years later I scurried back to Europe for another multiple shot of continental pride. This time my friend Patrick and I began in Berlin on the weekend of its CSD (Christopher Street Day) Parade, which draws a half-million viewers and ends at the Siegessaule, an important symbol for the city?s gay community, not least because it?s at the center of the Tiergarten, a traditional cruising spot. Later on, Patrick?s Austrian drag queen friend Dame Galaxis took us to the raw p ?Alternative CSD? in the no-nonsense Kreuzberg area. This much smaller but raucous and demimilitant Pride forbids commercialism of any kind, harkening back to our pre-sponsored liberation roots. Next we darted down to Vienna for EuroPride 2001, where the after-parade main stage was on the magnificent Heldenplatz, and the tr?s chic baroque closing party was set in the city?s newly reopened Kunsthalle, formerly the Hapsburg imperial stables.
Last year, on the 10th anniversary of its first go-round, Stockholm hosted EuroPride for the second time. Since Kalle and I are still great friends, and since it also marked exactly a decade since we?d met (not to mention his 40th birthday), it was a milestone we couldn?t pass up. We arrived to find the event again taking the entire city by storm. The dizzying roster of activities, from sober panel discussions on the plight of Eastern European gays to a riotously fun thousands-strong evening of outdoor schlager music, had grown so varied and popular that the Pride Park needed a second venue, the city?s Kulturhuset, to take up the slack with a Pride House. Never had I seen so many diverse types of queer people -- plus their children, parents, and other loved ones -- merging so magically (even in my now many years of Euro priding). Sure, maybe it?d all gotten a bit more commercial than the ?98 version, but the organizers had found sublimely tasteful ways to do so. Posh city center department store NK dedicated its streetfront windows to fabulous gay-themed displays by some of Sweden?s best-known queer artists and designers. (?It?s like gay Christmas!? we overheard one giddy Brit gush.) Both the EuroPride parade and its audience had also swelled dramatically. Some 50,000 marched while some 450,000 watched -- on a rainy Saturday, no less. No small feat for a city whose entire population stands at around 810,000.
As Kalle and I wandered along Stockholm?s gorgeous waterfront the next day, we bumped into Martha Wash, who?d performed to a tightly packed and delighted EuroPride closing party crowd the night before. At the time I didn?t even get the full flukiness of our impromptu meeting, that the only times I?d seen her before were as part of the Weather Girls at the 1998 Gay Games in Amsterdam and again at EuroPride Vienna in 2001. I cooed about how fab her Stockholm show had been and asked her if she was having fun in Europe. ?Oh, absolutely,? she said. ?I just love it over here.? Me too, Martha. Me too.
Part One | Part Two