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50 Years of L.A. Pride, The World’s First Permitted Gay Pride Parade, in Posters

"PROBE Summer of 1980" float at Los Angeles Christopher Street West pride parade, 1980. | ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
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The L.A. Pride Parade and Festival in West Hollywood is a fixture of Los Angeles life. This year it celebrates its 50th anniversary. It would have been a grand celebration, but because of the pandemic, Christopher Street West Association, the organization producing the event, had to scramble to pivot virtually. The organization is going virtual this year, with a primetime special airing on a major network. Despite this, Estevan Montemayor, Board President of the organization, says L.A.’s LGBT won’t be beat. 

Half a century ago, Los Angeles’ pride parade began to commemorate the Stonewall uprising the year before. There were pride marches in New York City and Chicago, but Montemayor says L.A. was different: it was a parade, not a march. 

Learn how L.A. became the backdrop of some of the earliest support movemements for LGBTQ. Understand the history of The Black Cat on "Lost LA."

While it may seem like semantics at this point, by calling it a parade instead of a march (a constitutional right to assemble), the LGBT community opened the door to governmental regulation. “We had to get permits to close the street down, to have a parade go down Hollywood Boulevard. It wasn’t easy,” said Montemayor. “The [Los Angeles Police Department] wasn’t supportive at the time, and we had to fight LAPD unfairly targeting our community. They put incredible financial burdens on us, which would have made it financially impossible to parade.” 

Among the stipulations the LAPD put on was that the organization had to put up a bond for $1 million to pay out any damage to businesses incurred along the way on top of a $500,000 cash bond, as well as get 5,000 people to participate in the parade. 

In the face of such insurmountable financial burdens, the American Civil Liberties Union got involved and managed to argue Christopher Street West’s side effectively. The judge ordered the city of Los Angeles to “protect these people even if you need to call out the National Guard.”

Today, celebrations like L.A. Pride Parade and Festival may seem like such a part of the cultural fabric that it’s easy to forget how difficult it was half a century ago to even set foot in public as an LGBT person. “That was a historical moment, when this organization said, ‘No, LAPD we will not back down; we are going to proceed,” said Montemayor. 

Montemayor says these posters of the parade all tell a story of a yearly reminder not to back down, not to give up. The 1972 poster is one that can be seen adorning the walls of Rocco’s. 2003’s poster shows Cyndi Lauper and Belinda Jo Carlisle, which clues viewers in on how important women allies were to the organization. “These posters really tell the story of the times, even with just specific nuances and color choice and font,” said Montemayor. 

See posters from 50 years of L.A. Pride. Click right or left below. 

Poster for the 1972 Christopher Street West gay parade, 1972. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
1/36 Poster for the 1972 Christopher Street West gay parade, 1972. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West parade & carnival: a celebration of gay pride poster, 1974. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
2/36 Christopher Street West parade & carnival: a celebration of gay pride poster, 1974. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West carnival poster, 1974. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
3/36 Christopher Street West carnival poster, 1974. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West '75 presents it's a gay, gay world, poster, 1975. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
4/36 Christopher Street West '75 presents it's a gay, gay world, poster, 1975. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West parade poster featuring themes related to the bicentennial of U.S. independence, 1976. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
5/36 Christopher Street West parade poster featuring themes related to the bicentennial of U.S. independence, 1976. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West gay pride poster, 1977. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
6/36 Christopher Street West gay pride poster, 1977. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Gay pride '78 : no gay holocaust in U.S.A, poster. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
7/36 Gay pride '78 : no gay holocaust in U.S.A, poster. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Gay pride festival poster, 1979. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
8/36 Gay pride festival poster, 1979. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher St. West Los Angeles presents the 1980 gay pride festival, poster. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
9/36 Christopher St. West Los Angeles presents the 1980 gay pride festival, poster. | Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West/Los Angeles presents the 1981 gay pride festival featuring the words "A salute to our gay spirit," poster. | Walker & Meyers, Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
10/36 Christopher Street West/Los Angeles presents the 1981 gay pride festival featuring the words "A salute to our gay spirit," poster. | Walker & Meyers, Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West/Los Angeles presents the 1982 gay pride festival featuring the words "A new gay dawning," poster. | Walker & Meyers, Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
11/36 Christopher Street West/Los Angeles presents the 1982 gay pride festival featuring the words "A new gay dawning," poster. | Walker & Meyers, Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West/Los Angeles presents the 1983 gay pride festival featuring the words "Feel the pride, share the magic,” poster.
12/36 Christopher Street West/Los Angeles presents the 1983 gay pride festival featuring the words "Feel the pride, share the magic,” poster. | Walker & Meyers, Christopher Street West/Los Angeles, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries
Christopher Street West/Los Angeles presents the 1983 gay pride festival featuring the words "Unity & more in '84,”  poster.