Fifty years ago this June, when police raided the New York City gay bar the Stonewall Inn, it sparked a six-night, sometimes violent protest that The Daily News, at the time, described as having “all the fury of a gay atomic bomb.” Fallout from that 1969 upraising resulted in the city’s first Pride parade and now, WorldPride NYC/Stonewall 50, a monthlong 50th anniversary party expected to draw as many as 4 million people to the city.
Of course, hustle and bustle have both always been part of Pride’s appeal. And, to that end, this year’s June 30 parade and surrounding parties and performances — Madonna is still rumored, while Whoopi Goldberg, Cyndi Lauper, Chaka Khan, Melissa Etheridge and Jake Shears are confirmed — won’t disappoint. But because Pride should always be about more than crowd control and velvet ropes, here are a few activities and sites to help you experience the spirit of the celebration without having to relive any of its riotous beginnings.
MARCH TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER
The heart of New York City will be pulsing with Pride on Sunday, June 30, as the parade heads down Fifth Avenue, through the Village, and then back up Seventh Avenue into Chelsea. But this largest, loudest, longest and oldest of parades isn’t, by far, the only march in town. The New York City Dyke March (nycdykemarch.com), billed as more protest than parade, takes over the streets between Bryant Park and Washington Square Park beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 29. The Trans Day of Action (alp.org), a rally and march for gender liberation, steps off at 4 p.m. Friday, June 28, in Washington Square Park. And the celebratory New York City Drag March (facebook.com/groups/drafmarchmadness) gathers at 7 p.m. Friday, June 28, at Tompkins Square Park before heading to Sheridan Square. Young people under 21 gather Saturday afternoon, June 29, at Central Park’s SummerStage for the YouthPride festival (2019-worldpride-stonewall50.nycpride.org/events/youth-pride), which is free but requires preregistration.
BELLY UP TO A BAR
A stone’s throw from the inn that helped launch an insurrection is a watering hole that played an even earlier role in the struggle for equality. Julius’ (877-746-0528, juliusbarny.com) was the site of a 1966 “sip-in” challenging a state law prohibiting bars from serving gay patrons. Today, the bar's Mattachine party — held the third Thursday of every month and named for the group that staged the sip-in — is among the bar’s most popular nights. The Cubbyhole (212-243-9041, cubbyholebar.com) describes itself as a “fusion neighborhood bar,” which means this lesbian tavern (one of the few in the city) is welcoming of people of all genders and sexual orientations. The Cubbyhole isn’t as old as Julius’ — it opened in 1994 — but its walls are so delightfully overstuffed with paper lanterns, holiday decorations and other colorfully mismatched knickknacks, that it’s hard to imagine it hasn’t been there forever.
TAKE IN A SHOW OR TWO — OR MORE
Just as they were at the 1969 uprising, transgender women are again center stage for the world premiere of “Stonewall the Opera,” with music by Iain Bell and libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winner Mark Campbell. It's the first opera to include a transgender character written for a transgender singer (Liz Bouk) and runs June 21-28 at Jazz at Lincoln Center (212-721-6500, stonewallopera.com). Meanwhile, the National Queer Theater (IRT Theater; nationalqueertheater.org) puts the world into WorldPride with its Criminal Queerness Festival, showcasing the top LGBTQ plays from Egypt, Pakistan and China. (June 13-July 7.)
STROLL BACK IN TIME
Who knew that, in 1926, Mae West was arrested in the Village for producing a pro-gay play or that there were gay secrets waiting to be uncovered at the Metropolitan Museum? You will after joining the “Gay History Walking Tour” (focused on Greenwich Village) or “Gay Secrets of the Met Museum” from Oscar Wilde Tours (646-560-3205, oscarwildetours.com). Each runs twice in June.
No tour of Greenwich Village should exclude the Gay Liberation Monument (nycgovparks.org/parks/christopher-park/monuments), outside the Stonewall Inn. But George Segal’s sculpture of two same-same-sex couples was so controversial when it was unveiled in 1982 that it took a full decade before it was approved for installation. Opened 35 years after the first reported case of AIDS, The New York City AIDS Memorial (nycaidsmemorial.org), by West 12th Street and Greenwich and Seventh avenues, rises from the shadows of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital (one of the nation’s first and largest AIDS treatment centers) and stands above passages from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” Just one block north, in a second-floor restroom in The LGBT Center (208 W. 13th St.), Keith Haring’s “Once Upon a Time” mural (completed just nine months before his death to AIDS) pays risqué yet poignant homage to the carefree days of free love.
STRIKE A POSE
As part of the Costume Institute’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” exhibit, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (212-535-7710, metmuseum.org) on June 11 is hosting a “Battle of the Legends” vogueing competition on its Fifth Avenue steps, featuring legendary competitors and Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour as a judge.
HIT THE STONEWALL EXHIBITS
Pride or protest, much of the past 50 years has been reflected in art. An extensive “Art After Stonewall” exhibit spans the space of two galleries — Leslie-Lohman Museum (212-431-2609, leslielohman.org) and NYU’s Grey Art Gallery (212-998-6780, greyartgallery.nyu.edu) — and includes more than 150 pieces by openly gay artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, David Hockney and Andy Warhol. “Love and Resistance: Stonewall 50” at The New York Public Library’s Stephen A Schwartzman Building (917-275-6975, nypl.org) charts the past five decades primarily through the work of photojournalists Kay Tobin Lahusen and Diana Davies (through July 13). The New-York Historical Society (212-873-3400, nyhistory.org) spotlights “LGBTQ Nightlife Before Stonewall” and “By the Force of Our Presence: Highlights from the Lesbian Herstory Archives,” imagery of past Pride parades in “Say it Out, Loud and Proud" (through Sept. 22). And the Brooklyn Museum (718-638-5000, brooklynmuseum.org) features the work of 22 LGBTQ artists born after 1969 in “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow.”
BONUS: After the New-York Historical Society, cross into Central Park to enjoy the Bethesda Fountain (at 72nd Street), designed in 1873 by lesbian Emma Stebbins. It comforted New Yorkers after the Civil War and, as portrayed in Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” through too many crises since then.
HOTELS FOR A RAINBOW CONNECTION
The James Hotel — Nomad (22 E. 29th St.), a World Pride sponsor, is working with the Stonewall Community Foundation to host an on-property exhibit that features New York City-specific icons of Pride and, wait for it, drag-queen makeovers. 212-532-4100, jameshotels.com
Pride packages at both the Moxy Chelsea (105 W. 28th, 212-514-669) and Moxy Times Square (485 7th Ave., 212-967-6699) include tickets to a Pride brunch on Sunday, June 23, Pride swag (think rainbows and glitter) and access to a tour of Greenwich Village for those staying in the hotel on Wed., June 19. moxy-hotels.marriott.com
For an entirely different perspective, W Hotels is welcoming guests to ride on the hotel’s float during the Pride parade. The package, which requires a three-night minimum including Sunday, June 30, includes swag bags and custom Pride garments. whotelsnewyork.com