LAGUNA BEACH Organizers of the party that closed out the recent OC Pride weekend considered it a test of whether Laguna Beach was open to re-embracing its gay culture.
And they got their answer: Thousands turned out for all-day festivities to celebrate lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender pride and history.
Outside the Boom Boom Room, the legendary anchor of a former one-block district of gay bars, drag queens entertained a long line of people, some waiting two hours to get in for the dance party and drag revue.
At West Street Beach, drag queens walked the sand like it was a runway and hundreds played volleyball.
The Main Street Bar & Cabaret, just across Coast Highway from the Boom and now the only gay bar in the city, was packed wall-to-wall, with the party continuing until the early morning hours.
“We were overwhelmed, blown away, thrown off the tracks,” said Craig Cooley, manager of Main Street. “There was so much support, not only from the LGBT community but the city, the police department and the fire department. It was unbelievable.”
The June 25 festivities marked the first time Laguna Beach, a city with a rich gay history, has thrown the closing party for OC Pride weekend. But it was also a barometer to see if the community, which some say has lost its “gay-friendly vibe,” was ready to welcome the LGBT community back.
Gay community leaders say the event’s rousing success has reinforced their vision for the recently formed LGBT Heritage & Culture Committee to make the city an LGBT destination.
Over the past several months, Chris Tebbutt, a local Realtor who formed the committee in February, Cooley and Larry Ricci, founder of Club Q, a senior LGBT group at the city’s community center, have been working with representatives from Visit Laguna Beach and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce to create opportunities for travel and business directed to the LGBT community.
By the next Pride Celebration in June, Tebbutt said he would like to see…