WeHo honors Lady Gaga as Pride festival begins

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WEST HOLLYWOOD — The city began its 40-day One City One Pride celebration by celebrating Harvey Milk Day May 22.

The celebration began with the city issuing two proclamations, declaring May 23 Born This Way Day to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album and a separate proclamation to mark the 30th anniversary of The Abbey, a popular restaurant and bar.

Proclamations marking the official declarations were presented by Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath to Lady Gaga and to David Cooley, owner of The Abbey, respectively, on behalf of the City Council. Horvath also presented Lady Gaga with a key to the city with a note of thanks that said “Thank you for encouraging us to love ourselves and be proud.”

Lady Gaga is a well known supporter and ally of the LGBTQ community. Her “Born This Way” album, which featured the hit single of the same name, encouraged people of all sexual orientations, genders, ages and races to accept themselves and others, and to embrace differences, reject prejudices and feel empowered.

“Through her music and activism, Lady Gaga has become a cultural icon for our generation,” Horvath said. “The anthem ‘Born This Way’ has become an out-and-proud declarative stance for countless LGBTQ people. The Born This Way Foundation fosters honest conversations about mental health with young people and seeks to eradicate the stigma around mental health struggles.

“I’m overjoyed to declare today ‘Born This Way Day’ and, on behalf of the entire City Council, give a key to the city to Lady Gaga as we launch Pride this year in West Hollywood,” Horvath added.

To embody the spirit of the Born This Way message, a temporary “Born This Way” street-lane installation has been unveiled on Robertson Boulevard, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard. The letters spell out Born This Way and the design incorporates a pattern of colorful symbols representing LGBTQ Pride and the array of diverse LGBTQ communities. The installation is anticipated to remain on display through the end of June in recognition of Pride month.

The Abbey Food & Bar opened in West Hollywood in May 1991. Since then, it has become a social and cultural epicenter for the local LGBTQ community.

David Cooley, founder and owner of The Abbey, originally invested in a small, discreet space in West Hollywood that he renovated into a coffeehouse. During three decades, The Abbey has expanded five times, growing from a humble coffee shop to a 16,000-square-foot venue with multiple rooms, four bars and a full menu.

“David Cooley and The Abbey have made an indelible impact on West Hollywood,” Horvath said. “The Abbey is as much a community hub as it is a global destination. It generously gives back by supporting dozens of LGBTQ and nonprofit groups, including regularly hosting events to support local organizations.

“We are so lucky to have The Abbey in our community and I’m thrilled to celebrate its 30 years of success,” the mayor added.

In addition to a restaurant and bar, The Abbey serves as a de facto community center, often becoming a place to gather in protest or celebration of important milestones impacting the LGBTQ community, such as the passage of Proposition 8 in California or the announcement of the Supreme Court decision affirming the right of same-sex couples to get married.

The city kicked-off its One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival with a special online performance of Patricia Loughrey’s play “Dear Harvey: Stories of Harvey Milk,” which recounted the life and lasting impact of groundbreaking LGBTQ activist and politician Harvey Milk.

A complete list of this year’s One City One Pride festival events is available at www.weho.org/pride. Due to the coronavirus crisis, festival events have moved to an online virtual platform to respond to the City of West Hollywood’s efforts to prioritize health and public safety.

The city of West Hollywood is one of the most outspoken cities in the nation in advocating for the legal rights and full representation of LGBTQ people. More than 40% of the city’s residents identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The city also has become a thriving cultural center that has an unparalleled historical connection to music, entertainment, architecture, fashion and culture making. It is home to numerous groundbreaking music venues, hotels and restaurants that have over many decades, influenced cultural currents throughout the world.

However, this year the city will not host the L.A. Pride festival and parade.

The organizers of LA Pride have already announced two major in-person events for its Thrive with Pride celebration, including an LGBTQ+ Night at Dodger Stadium.

An LGBTQ+ artist will kick-start festivities before the Dodgers’ June 11 game against the Texas Rangers with a rendition of the national anthem, and fans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be welcomed onto the field to watch a fireworks show after the game, set to a special mix from DJ Bowie Jane.

Dodgers part-owners Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss will be in attendance, and the night also will include drink specials in the pavilion bars, a special recognition of frontline workers from Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ community and additional surprise guests, according to the team.

The Dodgers take so much pride in celebrating Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ community and are excited to host our eighth annual LGBTQ+ Night at Dodger Stadium, which continues to grow into one of the biggest Pride nights in all of professional sports,” said Erik Braverman, the Dodgers’ senior vice president of marketing.

A special event ticket package including a game ticket and an exclusive Dodger Pride-themed T-shirt is on sale at www.dodgers.com/LAPride.

All tickets available through the link will be located in the sections reserved for fully vaccinated fans, where social distancing will not be required and fans will be seated directly next to other parties. Face coverings are still required except while eating or drinking.

LA Pride is also partnering with Cinespia to present an LGBTQ+ movie night at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on June 26. Event details and ticket information will be announced online in the coming weeks.

The two events are in addition to the previously announced “Thrive with Pride” livestreamed TikTok concert with Charli XCX on June 10, a televised special on June 12 and the month-long Pride Makes a Difference philanthropic volunteer/donate activation.

It was always our intention to offer our community opportunities to safely celebrate Pride together in accordance with safety guidelines by both the CDC and Los Angeles County,” said Sharon-Franklin Brown, board president of the Christopher Street West Association, the nonprofit that produces the annual LA Pride celebration.

It’s been two years since we all came together to celebrate in person. We know our community wants to be together and we want to do everything we can to create these moments,” she continued. “This is why we’re providing other larger capacity, outdoor entertainment for all ages of our community.

We’re working closely with city officials and local organizations to make sure these programs provide adequate safety and accessibility as well as reflect the resilience of all our people.”

Last July, Christopher Street West announced that LA Pride would move its annual LGBTQ parade and celebrations out of West Hollywood after more than four decades in the city, but a new location has not been announced. The parade and festival were canceled for 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

More information can be found at www.lapride.org.

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