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QUEENS IN THE KINGDOMThe Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks
By Jeffrey Epstein and Eddie Shapiro
alyson booksCopyright © 2003 Jeffrey Epstein and Eddie Shapiro
All right reserved.
Gays 'n' Disney
Why do gay people love Disney so much?
People have actually written essays on this topic. But since you bought a guide, we'll spare you the academe in favor of a little dime-store psychology.
Fantasy: Let's face it, gay people love fantasy, artifice, and escapism: Hollywood, the theater, dance clubs-we like other worlds. And the Disney parks are all about transporting us to other worlds.
The Outsider Wins: Disney movies have always told stories of outcasts or underdogs who overcome and live happily ever after. From Dumbo to The Little Mermaid, Disney heroes are often thought of as "less than" by their contemporaries. Nowhere is that more clearly illustrated than in the lyrics of the late, gay Howard Ashman, who in Beauty and the Beast had the villagers crying, "We don't like what we don't understand. In fact, it scares us," as they hunted down the Beast. While anyone who has ever felt like a minority can relate to the lyric, the words especially resonate for gays and lesbians.
The "Family" Behind the Magic: It shouldn't surprise anyone that some of the biggest talents behind the scenes at Disney are gay. Steven B. Davison, creative director at the Disneyland Resort, who's responsible for such spectacles as Believe ... There's Magic in the Stars and "it's a small world holiday," acknowledges that "some of the best designs that have come out of here have been from gay men. Knowing all the designers who I grew up here with, the most evocative parades and the most stunning things you saw came out of a gay sensibility." And while the 15-year Disneyland Resort veteran gives praise to Disney's heterosexual employees, "a lot of straight men who are brilliant designers have a stiffer quality about [their designs]."
It's Over-the-Top: We love a bit of fanfare. Hell, if we didn't, would our pride parades always be so fierce? Would Madonna have ever been a success? Would Carol Channing have even existed? "I'd come here and I was fascinated by how over-the-top everything was," recalls Davison of his youth visiting the park. "To me, that's what gay culture embraces a bit, being very over the top."
You Get to Be a Kid Again: For many gay and lesbian adults, childhood was a painful time. Many were taunted for being effeminate or a tomboy, while others found themselves feeling like the aforementioned outsider as they tried to figure out their place in the world. The parks speak to the child within us, who's getting a second chance-with a little less angst. Amen!
Gay Days at Disney
We're sure many of you have already heard of the unofficial Gay Days at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. These take place without the endorsement of The Walt Disney Company. This is not because they hate us. It's just their policy not to endorse any groups that come into the park during normal operating hours. Disney has been very accommodating to the thousands of gay and lesbian guests who pour through their gates (it doesn't hurt that many of us have huge disposable incomes and tend to drop wads of cash while in the parks). Several area hotels and clubs get into the act with special parties and events to capitalize on the crowds. During those weekends, the parks are at their absolute gayest (and this book becomes almost irrelevant, as there's gay stuff at every turn).
Because Gay Days are unofficial, we blend in with all the straight folk in the parks. OK, so maybe "blend in" isn't the right turn of phrase. Gay Day attendees are encouraged to wear red shirts so that we can identify one another, stand out in the crowds, and show our strength in numbers.
Although we encourage you to visit the Disney parks at any time of the year, there's something unique about visiting during Gay Days. There's a relaxed yet giddy feeling in the air. You can hold hands with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You can cruise the hotties and be fairly certain they will cruise you back. For many people who find themselves somewhat repressed in their everyday lives (or in their everyday trips to Disney), it's a chance just to be yourself-and finally with family at America's number 1 family destination.
Gay Days at Walt Disney World Resort
When: The first weekend in June
Details: Visit www.gayday.com, www.gaydays.com Back in 1991, Doug Swallow suggested he and some gay friends from his bulletin board group (remember life before AOL?) meet up at the Magic Kingdom one day in June, a tradition was born. Now, over a decade later, more than 100,000 gays and lesbians descend on Orlando every June. From its humble beginnings, the event has become a weeklong celebration that includes tea dances, circuit parties, and private parties at the parks. The main day is at the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, where at the afternoon parade the "red" converges, forming a blurry scarlet mass.
One of the highlights is the Beach Ball (www.beach ball.com), a nighttime party at Typhoon Lagoon presented by Watermark Entertainment Group. While it has become a little more "circuit party" in nature, with top DJs and a huge dance floor, it's hard to keep up that circuit-y attitude when you're screaming your head off going down a water slide.
Jeffrey Sanker (www.jeffreysanker.com) presents One Mighty Party at Disney-MGM Studios, and while it's definitely a big circuit party, there's something really cool about going to one inside a Disney theme park. In the past, they've offered unlimited rides on the Twilight Zone(tm) Tower of Terror and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. We do not advise the consumption of alcohol or drugs before riding (not that we'd ever advocate drug or alcohol use!). One time, right before the drop on the Tower of Terror, one tweaking guy cried out, "My X is kicking in!"
Mark Baker (www.markbakerpresents.com) always puts on a private party at Universal on the Sunday of the weekend, with live acts, dancers, and a light presentation that keep us entranced-even when we're sober!
There are also Gay Days at Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Disney-MGM Studios (as well as Universal's Islands of Adventure and Sea World). Check out the Web sites for the details.
Gay Days at Disneyland Resort
When: The first weekend in October
Details: Visit www.gayday2.com
While a private company used to rent out Disneyland Park one night a year for gays and lesbians, the tradition stopped in 1997. In 1998 a new tradition was born: Gay Day 2 (the "2" indicates its younger-sibling status). After just a few years, more than 17,000 people flooded through the gates of Disneyland Resort on the first Saturday in October, and when Disney's California Adventure park opened in 2001, Sunday became the day to visit the new park.
Because it's only in its fifth year as of this writing, private events are starting but are not yet established traditions. The Wonderland party takes place on Friday night at the Disneyland Resort. Check out the Gay Day 2 Web site for more details.
And remember, wear a red shirt!
While Disney may be on the P.C. ball in many ways (e.g., it offers domestic-partner benefits to its employees), they are positively primeval in others. So if you want to have your fairy-tale wedding at either of the resorts, you may have to pretend it's a bar mitzvah. "Proof of a valid Florida marriage license is required prior to hosting your wedding ceremony at the Walt Disney World Resort," says a rep for the Orlando theme park. A Disneyland Resort publicist echoes the sentiment. "We require proof of a valid marriage license for a ceremony or vow renewal," he told us. "As you know, the State of California does not yet recognize same-sex couples in obtaining marriage licenses, so same-sex ceremonies just aren't held here."
Now, while we would never suggest boycotting our favorite vacation destinations (What? And risk losing book sales?), if you have a problem with this policy, we suggest you let your voice be heard. Hey, there was a time not too long ago when Disney didn't allow same-sex dancing!
(a.k.a. All the Stuff You'd Better Think About Before You Go)
If you want to see everything there is to see at the parks (and some of you may be perfectly happy not to-we don't understand you, but we know you exist), you pretty much have to allocate a day per park. In Florida, that means a minimum stay of four days; in California, two. If you have the time, we recommend spending a fifth day in Orlando, just so you can make it to one of the water parks, the golf course, or the outlet mall (a 10-minute drive to DKNY and Banana Republic at cut rates!). In California, unless you're heading out of Anaheim (Laguna Beach is half an hour away, Los Angeles is 45 minutes on a good day), there's not a whole lot to do in the area other than the parks, so two days is sufficient.
Obviously, this question is best answered by your vacation schedule. That said, for most of the straight world, this question is answered by the kids' school calendar. Christmas, Thanksgiving week, and the summer months are always mob scenes at any of the parks. Ditto Easter. The quietest months are October, November, and December (excluding Thanksgiving week and Christmas week), January, and May. Weekdays are always best, but if you must go on a weekend, the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park get particularly crowded on Saturdays (when the locals go). It's best to save those parks, if you can, for any other day of the week. And, of course, we always recommend going for Gay Days (first weekend in June in Florida, first weekend in October in California) because, even though the parks are crowded, lines are significantly less offensive when you can cruise and make new friends.
Now, before you start packing, there are some true downsides to going during the off-season. For starters, the parks open later (usually 10 A.M. instead of 8 A.M.) and close significantly earlier (as early as 6 P.M. in January). There are also many fewer shows and parades going on, and rides are frequently out of commission for refurbishment. Frankly, we think a "no line" park experience far outweighs another parade, but that's just us. The Disney Web sites provide daily schedules of both hours and entertainment so you can plan accordingly.
The weather in both Florida and California can vary significantly within a single day (a 20-degree split is not uncommon), so make sure that in fall and winter you have sweaters for the evenings. Summer months at both parks are hot. Florida takes the prize, however, with daily temperatures in the 90s. Factor in the humidity, and we recommend bringing only shorts, sandals, and a ton of hair product.
While we do profess to knowing everything, you may still have a couple of gnawing questions after reading the book (like our phone numbers). The Disney resorts can furnish you with additional help (although not our phone numbers-sorry). You'll also be able to use them as a starting point for making dining and room reservations.
Disneyland Resort (714) 781-7290
Walt Disney World Resort (407) 934-7639
While your airline reservations will probably be fairly straightforward, your ticketing options at the parks bear some thought. It's complicated, and what you choose wholly depends on what your agenda at the parks is. Options are as follows:
Length-of-Stay Passes: If you're staying on Walt Disney World Resort property, you can purchase an admission ticket good at all of the parks from the moment you check in until the end of the day you check out. This ticket offers convenience like you wouldn't believe. It means you can go back and forth from park to park as many times as you like within a day. Now, we know that from where you're sitting, that doesn't seem so important, but trust us, it is. On the day that you see Disney's Animal Kingdom, for example, you'll be done by 4 P.M. and will want to use those extra hours at the Magic Kingdom. Several times we've been with groups who start the day together and end up separated in different parks. The flexibility is terrific. Furthermore, a Length-of-Stay Pass at Walt Disney World Resort gets you into Pleasure Island (otherwise $19.95 each night), the water parks, Disney's Wide World of Sports, and DisneyQuest.
Hopper Passes: Hopper passes are different at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. At Walt Disney World Resort, Hopper passes come in two forms: Park Hopper and Park Hopper Plus. With either pass, you can float freely between the four parks. Hopper Plus passes include limited entry to the three water parks, DisneyQuest, and Pleasure Island. They come in five-, six-, or seven-day increments and allow you two, three, or four Plus choices, depending on which one you purchase (a five-day pass, for example, comes with two plus options, which would get you into Blizzard Beach and Pleasure Island once-additional visits would cost more). Standard Hopper passes come in only four- or five-day versions. The advantage of Hopper passes over Length-of-Stay passes is that Hoppers don't expire. If, for example, you only use five of your seven days, you can use the other two on a future visit (or give those two days to your Aunt Selma for her trip with her bridge club). And you don't have to stay at a Disney hotel to use them. The disadvantages are the limitations imposed on the Plus options and the fact that the minimum duration for a Hopper pass is four days. Length-of-Stay passes are good for as long or as short as your visit.
Disneyland Resort's Hopper passes are a bit less friendly. Available in either three- or four-day increments, they also allow free coming and going between parks. The bad news is that they expire 13 days after their first use.
Single-Park Passes: On both coasts, single day/single park tickets are available but, of course, you're restricted to one park only. That matters more at Walt Disney World Resort than Disneyland Resort, since Walt Disney World Resort has more parks.
Annual Passes: These are available at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland, and while they're pricey, they do pay for themselves if you visit the parks more than once in a year. And the total flexibility they afford significantly ups their value.
Tickets are available in advance via the parks' Web sites, at Disney Stores nationwide, or at any Disney hotel.
Excerpted from QUEENS IN THE KINGDOM by Jeffrey Epstein and Eddie Shapiro Copyright © 2003 by Jeffrey Epstein and Eddie Shapiro
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.