Catching Up With Eddie Shapiro
By Brent Ramsey
The 14th annual Gay Days at the Disneyland Resort is coming up Sep. 30-Oct. 2. Gay and lesbian Disney lovers from all over the country will descend on Anaheim en masse to party for three full days of events featuring Carol Channing, Frenchie Davis, Dustin Lance Black, Glee’s Dot Marie Jones, and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner, Raja! Discounted hotel rooms and park tickets, party tickets, and a full event schedule are available at www.GayDaysAnaheim.com.
Here, in an exclusive interview, co-author of Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks, Eddie Shapiro, gets the Gay Days scoop from the event’s producer, Eddie Shapiro. (Yes, you read that correctly. So please excuse the selfless promotion.)
Out: Hi, Eddie! You’re looking very handsome today?
You think? I feel haggard.
That’s so funny because I feel like I look haggard, too! But let’s talk about Gay Days; this is the fourteenth year, right?
And how many people are you expecting?
And they all wear red T-shirts?
They are all encouraged to wear red T-shirts, and we even start selling the official red shirt online months in advance. But some people always come wearing something else. Then they get there and they see the sea of red and realize that they want to be part of it. So the gift shops get overwhelmed by people lining up, buying red Mickey shirts. In extra small, of course.
How did the whole red shirt thing get started, anyway?
When Gay Days at Disney World began 21 years ago, the founder, Doug Swallow, decided that the gays should wear red in the parks so that they’d be able to easily identify one another from afar. And it really does come in handy. My friends will always say things like “there’s a pack of reds over there” or “here comes some red.” But the best thing about the red is that it makes our immediately numbers clear. It becomes very easy to see that we are the majority of the guests in the park.
How come Gay Days isn’t 100% gay? Didn’t it used to be that way?
There used to be something at Disneyland called “Gay Night.” It was an after-hours affair, after park closing, run by a private tour company. I went with a friend one year and we hated it! There were no fireworks, no parades, no characters, no restaurants. Most of the stores and some of the rides were closed. It didn’t really feel like the Disney experience. Plus it sort of had the whiff of segregation; after our regular guests go home, we’ll let you gay people in here. So we started Gay Days Anaheim, using the Orlando “mix-in” template.
But the Disneyland event is very different from the one in Orlando, isn’t it?
Oh yeah. Part of what makes Gay Days Anaheim so fabulous is that we have all of these events within the parks that you wouldn’t experience any other day. They don’t do any of that in Orlando. There are scavenger hunts, a group photo, a single riders gathering, a lesbian luncheon, a family luncheon, a bears meet up, tweet-ups, all kinds of stuff.
Orlando’s Gay Days has the reputation of being a big ol’ circuit party.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. But our experience of the Orlando event is that the parks seem almost incidental. The parties could just as easily be happening anywhere. We wanted Gay Days Anaheim to be centered around the parks and the resort. We have parties, too, but ours are a bit more inclusive to more of the community.
They are cheaper! But they also target a wider audience. You can come to our parties and not feel out of place if you have more than three percent body fat.
Tell me about them.
We have three big parties; Wonderland (which benefits The Trevor Project), Plunge! our fantastic pool party, and the biggie, Kingdom. Frenchie Davis is headlining that one. DJ Kimberly S. will be spinning, we’ll have drag queen Disney divas, and go-go boys outfitted by UnderGear. It’s pretty great if I do say so myself.
And you have some cool non-party events, too, right?
Yeah, on Sunday we are doing An Intimate Evening With Carol Channing, at which Carol will talk about her life and career and take audience questions. That one is a benefit for her foundation to put arts back into the public schools. And we are having our first-ever ladies night, featuring Suzanne Westenhoefer and an after-party/ lesbian lounge. And we have a Welcome Center open all weekend. People can go there to buy the official T-shirt or party tickets, to get free gift bags from our sponsors, or just to chill.
Is Disney supportive of the event?
Well, it’s not an official Disney event, so you won’t find it on the Disneyland website. But if you go into the Main Street bakery on Gay Days, you might find yourself looking at a case of freshly made rainbow Mickey cookies, which will only be sold that day! They have their ways of showing their support.
Do straight people attend, too?
You mean on purpose?
Yes. We get a lot of straight people who come to support. And, of course there are PFLAG families. But we also we get mail from straight families who say that Gay Days is the most fun they ever have in the park. People are very friendly at Gay Days. I guess it’s hard to cop attitude when you’re running to get you picture with Winnie the Pooh.
Why Winnie the Pooh?
I think it’s his red shirt.
What happens when straight people accidentally wear red?
They get a lot of extra attention! And some of them like it.
Visit www.GayDaysAnaheim.com for more information and for tickets.