Cassie reflects on parades past


Hello to all my babies and gaybies! Happy Pride! Because it’s Pride Weekend, I thought I’d reflect on some of my memories of what has to be one of the best events ever in the gayborhood, The Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

My first memory of the parade was not a very good one. I was maybe 15 or 16 years old and seeing some light coverage of the parade on the news. It was just maybe 30 seconds of footage that I watched closely while pretending I wasn’t looking at all, and all I saw were drag queens in feathers, dykes on bikes and big leather guys in harnesses. It kind of freaked me out. I did not see not one single regular-looking gay guy. So in my head I thought, “I will never be happy being gay.” At the time, I couldn’t see the vastness of our culture. They only showed the shocking things from the parade — things that the media thought would make good TV. I know that now, but at the time, it broke my heart. I wasn’t any of the things I saw on TV and had no intention of ever being them. Where were just the normal cute guys that I was attracted to? Where were young couples in love?

When I was 19 years old, I attended my first Pride parade. It was one of the best days of my life. To this day, it is still one of my favorite memories. I was dating a cute young man named Steven with a great big … personality. We were both wearing short-shorts and being our truly authentic gay-ass selves. Back then, I did not get or care about the whole drag thing but Steven was obsessed. He made me go to every drag show we could sneak into. He knew every performer’s name. He idolized Whitney Paige. He was a true fan of the art form.

Before the parade started, we were literally skipping from float to float or car to car, saying hi to everybody. We saw Valerie Lohr, who was Miss Gay America at the time, sitting in a convertible, fanning herself. I think it was the first conversation I had with a drag queen that wasn’t in a dark nightclub. She pointed to Stevie’s package and told me I was a lucky boy. I blushed and we skipped along.

We perched ourselves in the middle of all the gayness at Cedar Springs and Throckmorton and watched, in awe at the diversity of people we saw. Yes, there where drag queens, dykes on bikes and harnessed leather guys with their asses showing … but there were also lots of just regular guys and girls. There were so many beautiful people out that day. Hot guys and gorgeous gals everywhere. I remember seeing PFLAG in the parade and how great it felt seeing a redneck-looking guy holding up a sign that said “I LOVE MY GAY SON!” I saw a beautiful lesbian couple, both carrying little kids on their shoulders walking hand-in-hand.

The parade ended and everyone made their way to Lee Park for more festivities. Oh my Lanta! The park was packed. I had never seen so many gay people in one place. I remember standing near Arlington Hall and looking over the crowd — people as far as I could see. I saw an elderly gay couple holding hands. It was one of the best things I have ever seen. The normalcy of it was mind-blowing. There were so many couples showing affection with no judgment. I had a beautiful moment of clarity that I was going to be OK being gay. These were my people and I was home.

During the celebration, for that was truly what it was, I remember Valerie Lohr performing in front of Arlington Hall. She looked beautiful. She wore a fabulous blue beaded gown and made me believe she was really singing Whitney Houston’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” into “One Moment In Time.” Seriously, the emotion she had during that song left tears in many an eye. It summed up the emotion I felt that day. Truly a wonderful day.

The next year I was in the parade. I was a member of GLYA (Gay and Lesbian Young Adults) and we wore hot pink capes and told everyone we were our own heroes. Supergay! I don’t remember if we had our own float or if we just jumped on the DGLA float. Either way, it was a blast.

A few years later, I was doing drag full-time and let me tell you, doing drag at the parade is a completely different experience. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so damn hot. There have been years where it was cooler. I remember one year it rained and there where melted drag queens everywhere. You know, cuz sugar melts. We felt like that damn cake from the Donna Summer song, but it was still fun.

For a drag queen, getting to the float, waiting on the float for the parade to start and getting back to the start after it is over are absolutely horrible. But the time on the float waving and throwing candy or beads make it all worth it. It all happens so fast once we get going. I always try to take mental Polaroid’s for my memory of the fabulous things I see from up on our float.

I love it when I make eye contact with a friend in the crowd. There is this special split second connection with them that says, “isn’t this awesome” or “oh my God it’s hot,” or even “gay Pride! Woo-hoo!” I love hearing people scream, “Cassie Nova!” while frantically waving at me. It makes me feel like a genuine superstar.

I love to see people that don’t come out to the clubs as much anymore but never miss a parade. I only wish I could stop time for a moment and reminisce with them.

My memories of the parades over the years kind of run together. I remember one year the fabulous Bill Henderson aka Wilomena being pulled behind a boat on rollerblades like she was skiing. Fabulous! I love seeing the Round-Up do their Texas flag coin toss. The amount of giving and support during the parade is a beautiful thing.

Another beautiful thing? The number of shirtless, scantily-clad men doing the most to my hormones. I mean come on, the most beautiful men in the world are gay men.

As our community grows, so must our parade. There is more and more diversity every year. More families with more children every year. I love seeing all the kids who look at the drag queens with a mix of wow and WTF. I think it is just the bright colors. But I guarantee that child will be more well-rounded and well-adjusted just by being exposed to so many fabulous things.

This will be the first Pride parade without Paul Lewis, whom we lost this past year. He would always stand at the beginning of the parade route and make sure things ran smoothly. He was like the fairy godfather of the parade and to so many in our community. The parade is what it is today because of Paul Lewis and the people like him. Paul, you will be missed. So to all the volunteers and community leaders that make the parade happen: Thank you. And to everybody that is going to the parade, I hope you have a blast! See you there.

Remember to love more, bitch less and be fabulous. XOXO, Cassie Nova.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.