I was just heading out to Greenwood to watch Kathryn Rathke's float in that neighborhood's Seafair Parade last Wednesday. I never expected to learn the real reason why the Freedom Day Pride Parade/March and Freedom Rally for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest--that's its full name!--stinks with such putridity. It's not because it fails to live up to the Halloween Parade in New York or the Pride Parade in San Francisco, though I'm told by those who know that it does, and how. No, it's because it fails to live up to any parade ever held anywhere.
Proof was delivered by the Greenwood Seafair Parade, a motley assortment of drill teams and parade floats slowly drifting down a benighted strip filled with low-rise '70s apartment buildings and parking lots. The roadside was covered with a swath of Seattle humanity you rarely see on the streets of this town's better neighborhoods: overweight, scruffy, mostly white, somewhat drunk. Lots of smokers.
As I said, I was there to see my friend Kathryn's float. She illustrates this column, and has been a friend of this paper since its inception. Her float, a prizewinner at various minor Seafair events, commemorates the Georgetown Garden Club, which attempts to green that tiny residential district wedged between multiple highways, railroads, industrial neighborhoods, and the Sea-Tac Airport. The float is a large green tank, covered with artificial flowers and accompanied by an Army-fatigued drill team armed with rakes, shovels, and nonmotorized lawnmowers. (It was banned from the main Torchlight Parade last Saturday because event organizers deemed it "political.")
The tank was a marvel, well deserving of its first-place award in the float category. But the rest of the parade was swell, too: A quartet of aged Freemasons strapped to the top of a lunar-landing-themed float? A flatbed truck full of barbecuing rowdies who claimed they were engaging in "a salute to the American hot dog"? Sexagenarian square dancers? More creepily attired JonBenet Ramsey knockoffs than are dreamed of at McNeil Island's Special Commitment Center? Old English sheepdogs? The Greenwood Parade had them all. But best of all, the Greenwood Parade had the brilliant Electronetts Drill Team, an army of sassy black girls whose chants, hip-shakes, and ability to do the splits on asphalt kicked ass over any other parade entrant. And they knew it.
When the Electronetts reached the end of the parade route, they passed by a smaller, less sassy, and mostly white drill team sitting on the curb resting. The Electronetts turned to face the curb and gave a little private performance just for them, just to show them what a real drill team was about. It was better than anything in Paris Is Burning, and certainly sassier than anything one sees at Seattle's Pride Parade.
A few years back, Dan Savage and some cronies attempted to save the Seattle Pride Parade by staging a coup. They flooded a board election meeting, got themselves all elected, and set about fixing things--until they figured out that being on the board made them financially responsible for an organization whose finances were, let us say, very dicey and largely undocumented. That organization is probably unfixable, but maybe its parade should be left to drown in its own p.c. phlegm, and a new parade should be started--an apolitical, possibly more sexually inclusive parade that would attract various creative types who aren't into the Fremont Solstice Parade's hippie values or the Pride Parade's dullness. Something that would inspire greatness, something that the better clubs and shops would want to sponsor floats in, something that theatrical designers and artists would want to create floats for. And it would have to include the Electronetts. They are the future.