It’s a couple dozen hours until the 2019 LA Pride Festival lifts its Rainbow Gates in West Hollywood. What could go wrong?
Thursday, June 6, 3:27 p.m. — Only three-and-a-half hours remain until San Vicente Boulevard shuts down to make way for 440 lanterns, 210 porta-potties, 76 white tents and miles of barricade fencing. T-minus six hours until singer Paula Abdul takes the stage for rehearsal. And just 27 hours until LA Pride opens to the public.
The Wild West. A city within a city. The circus. War. If the metaphors are true, then Jeff Consoletti is the sheriff, mayor, ringleader and commander-in-chief. As the festival’s producer, Consoletti is behind LA Pride’s growth spurt over the last decade. It’s been 49 years since Los Angeles hosted the world’s first permitted march supporting LGBT rights, and this year a projected 20,000 spectators will descend on West Hollywood Park for the three-day festival and parade.
After 10 months of prep and planning, Consoletti’s company, JJ|LA, is coordinating with vendors, city officials and onsite staff to put the finishing touches on LA Pride. Since Monday, the park has been transformed into a construction zone. Cranes bow and soar into the air. Forklifts honk and whiz by one another like it’s the 405. Everything is happening at once.
The calm before the storm: Workers at the JJ|LA offices in West Hollywood Park scramble to tie up loose ends before the LA Pride Festival is set to start. Photo by Mariella Rudi.
It’s the calm before the storm, according to Consoletti. Today is for tightening up the venue and making his rounds. Erotic City inside the West Hollywood Park Auditorium still looks ready to host a children’s dance recital and not an 18-and-over leather and fetish dungeon. But Mistress Cyan, the renowned L.A. dominatrix and BDSM educator, assures Consoletti through a toothless smile and battle-ready black eyeliner that it’s all on schedule. She’s just waiting on her bondage gear and puppy pit to arrive. Puppies, as in humans role-playing in latex dog suits.
If he had to estimate it, right now, the site is 50 percent ready to open.
Back at the West Hollywood Park Office’s Skyroom, JJ|LA’s improvised headquarters, Consoletti fields ticket requests. All of Los Angeles seems to be phoning in favors to get wristbands. He’s surrounded by the who’s who of West Hollywood glitterati, from talent and influencers to board members and sponsors, and Consoletti decides who gets what — All-Access, VIP, General Admission, or nothing — based off cachet or quid pro quo.
“We need Lisa [Vanderpump] on the red carpet by 5 p.m. on Friday. If he brings Lisa, he’ll get four VIP tickets,” he lobs at a staffer.
Everyone thinks they need All-Access passes when really what they mean is VIP.
4:41 p.m. — The JJ|LA department head meeting is wrapping up. Parade, PR, production — a couple of departments are running behind schedule and will have a late night ahead of them.
“We’re going to have a lot of inspections tomorrow,” Consoletti says. “The site needs to be ready by 5 p.m.”
There’s stuff. There’s always stuff. Right now, there’s a rogue semi-truck filled with 38 pallets of water bottles headed for the festival. To put that in context, JJ|LA currently has three pallets for staff and one for artists. It’s more water than they can store. Different solutions are hurled into the air. Onsite, someone is always tallying a mental assets and liabilities spreadsheet. Sidebar. Break. Go, team.
Next on the docket is the safety meeting with Director of Security Rob Weeks, who comes to LA Pride by way of the EDM-enchanted raves at Insomniac Events. Meaning he and his security team are no strangers to thongs and glitter. It’s all earthquake and active shooter protocol run-throughs until Weeks and eight other security heads walk into the Skyroom for trans-sensitivity training, provided by Christopher Street West (CSW), the non-profit responsible for organizing LA Pride.
Behind the scenes: The JJ|LA crew was responsible for transforming West Hollywood Park into a music festival, complete with food and drink vendors, sponsored stages and other attractions. Photos by Mariella Rudi.
“How many of you are familiar with the entire L-G-B-T-Q-I-A-2-S community?” asks Alexandra Magallon, the CSW board member and intersex trans-femme person at the front of the room.
The men, who look like bouncers, don’t raise their hand. They have questions of their own, like how to address someone non-cisgender without a generic, “Hey, you guys.” Hey, all of you. You there. Use they, not sir or ma’am or he or she, Magallon suggests.
“About 20 percent of tickets were allotted to the trans community,” Magallon says. “If you have to ask, just ask, ‘What’s your name and what’s your pronoun?’”
How to be a good ally while also doing your job: statistics, key terms and best practices. It’s a crash course in political correctness, sure, but they also cover California law, which now legally recognizes intersex, transgender and nonbinary people.
The clock is ticking and it’s time for final rehearsals. Photo by Mariella Rudi.
7 p.m. — “Some things are behind, so that creates a domino effect. The stages are behind. The MAC Cosmetics activation is behind,” says Luke Przybylski, head of production at JJ|LA and Consoletti’s number two.
It’s time to shut down San Vicente Boulevard. It’s a vehicular minefield and Consoletti is standing in the middle of it, directing drivers like a traffic cop. Metro buses and passenger cars and forklifts and sport utility vehicles come at him from all angles, trying to unload or pass through. From a bird’s-eye view, it’s a game of Tetris with a “Mad Max” spirit played in the streets between San Vicente and Robertson Boulevards.
“This is the part where people start to get angry,” Consoletti says.
As it gets dark, you can add reflective vests and hi-viz harnesses to the tacit dress code among the crew of concert technicians (or roadies, as you know might know them). With nicknames like Utah, Pickles and Cupcake, they sport septum piercings, carabiners, military shemaghs, utility belts, a walkie-talkie on both hips and cigarettes. The wardrobe calls for black or gray, strictly.
The onsite operations behind a music festival are rigorous mentally as they are physically. There’s no room for error. The crew is entrusted with making sure artists, concert-goers and anyone else who enters the festival grounds remain completely oblivious to the complicated systems in place and the hours of work that went into building the show. Some of them will be here all night.
8:26 p.m. — Paula Abdul and her people arrive for dance rehearsal.
9:26 p.m. — The Trans Galeria photo installation on San Vicente Boulevard is going up. The flower bed at the Pacific Design Center is finished. The MAC corporate runway-stage finally got its glitter.
10:16 p.m. — In a T-shirt and tights, Abdul takes the Park Stage flanked by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles singing “Rush, Rush” as cranes continue to work on the stage’s exoskeleton.
Friday, June 7, 12:26 a.m. — Consoletti heads home.
Jeff Consoletti, producer of the LA Pride Festival, walks the perimeter of the festival grounds checking in with the various department heads. Photo by Mariella Rudi.
12:27 a.m. to 4 p.m. — More meetings, walk-throughs and assembly. Sponsors start to activate, and food and beverage vendors load in. Giant equipment skates across the park. It’s starting to look like a music festival, and you almost forget where you are. But their work isn’t nearly finished. Unlike past years, JJ|LA is also closing down Santa Monica Boulevard and building “Pride on the Boulevard,” a free block party taking place Saturday and Sunday. Again, everything is happening at once.
4:03 p.m. — “By 5 p.m. I need all the machinery put away,” Consoletti tells his department heads. “I don’t know where it’s going to go, but it’s just got to be out of there.”
Work still needs to be done on the backstage, the step-and-repeat and signage. He says the Los Angeles Fire Department is coming back at 5:30 p.m. for the walk-through inspection and doors don’t open without their say-so. Remember: the site needs to be cleared by 5 p.m.
Elinor Goren of DLS Events, JJ|LA’s longtime concessionaire, gathers her rainbow-covered bartenders and cashiers for a final team meeting.
Vendors? Check. Stage sound? Check. After completing a myriad of tasks and clearing everything by the powers that be, the 2019 LA Pride Festival opens. Photo by Mariella Rudi.
“For the first time in history, we have buses that are going through our festival,” she says of the Metro buses that will use one half of San Vicente Boulevard for the night, while LA Pride uses the other half. “So watch yourselves.”
She reminds her staff of how much liquor goes in a single drink (1.25 ounces), a double (2.5 ounces), and under absolutely no circumstances should anything but beer go in a 24-ounce beer cup.
And please, she asks, don’t give the L.A. health department any attitude.
The LAFD is still assessing the perimeter. A misplaced bar in front of a fire hydrant needs to be removed. Emergency signs need to be posted. The entrance needs to be cleared. It’s almost go-time.
6:59 p.m. — The final word comes from Consoletti: everything has been cleared, and people can come in. The first Lucite platform heel hits the pavement.