Much of the Gay Games Opening Ceremonies would have been better left to an banquet. Especially since the whole thing lasted 4 and a half hours. I think this means there weren’t enough lesbians involed in the planning – they are ALWAYS organized. There were lots of self-congratulatory speeches from many committee members and a continued need to remind us all how important the Gay Games is. It is sort of like when the President of the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences comes out at the Oscars and talks and everyone wants him to hurry up so they can get on to the fun. And there was continual need to talk about the Gay Game founder’s vision and who he was and what he thought and the history of the Gay Games and what it all means. Ugh. And much like a presidential debate everyone spent the first few minutes of every speech thanking everybody.
You don’t need to tell us all of these things over and over and over again. When a single man walks out on the field representing his country of Uganda, holding up his national flag and a stadium of people goes wild because this man has risked so much to come to Chicago and compete as an athlete amongst his peers – that is much more powerful than a speech. Marshall Islands also had just one athlete – as did the state of Wyoming. When you compare those single souls against the massive throng from Australia (or what looked like half the population of Chicago presenting the locale) the point is made instantly.
Chicago loves Mayor Daley. He may be twisted and crazy, but Chicago will take that in a Democrat over any kind of Republican any day. Daley came out to screaming fans on their feet and said all the right things. Daley knows that pissed off lefty gays vote and will vote for him.
The middle part of the ceremony consisted of a four-act perfomance piece around 4 themes: Exclusion, Oppression, Expression and Ignition. This is where things fell apart. I was a bit disappointed with this middle section. Since homosexual men and women command so much influence over popular culture, taste, performance and style – I thought for sure they’d deliver a fantastic presentation that moved at a great clip. Nope. It wallowed in it’s own importance. It was boring. Teams of dancers did modern dance in abstract around a lone hunky man (again, does this always piss off the lesbians that it is always about another lonely hunky white man?) experiencing…. well exclusion, oppression, expression and ignition. The dance got swallowed up in the stadium and it just was very muddled.
Between each perfomance act, notables (we presume) came out to deliver speeches and tirades. Many of don’t remember who Kate Clinton is or so-and-so are and I’m sure many of the international attendees were similarly clueless. It would have been nice to have the Jumbotrons tell us not just the person’s name but who they are. George Takei gave a moving speech about his experiences in the Japanese-Internment camps. And then things got very angry. For about 45 minutes the whole presentation got very political, very angry and very un-celebratory. I was disappointed when a spoken word artist went off on five minutes screaming rant using tons of profanity and grafting a whole lot of activist baggage onto the events of the evening. I was embarrassed with the profanity – this should have been a family-friendly event. Another monologue was a guy reading the suicide letter of a teen who killed himself because he was gay. Another part brought out panels of the AIDS Quilt – that was moving – but again it took too long and wallowed in itself.
Particularly embarrassing I think is that most of the performance piece was so distinctly connected the experience of gay and lesbian men in the United States. Here we have thousands of people from all over the world coming to the US to celebrate these events and we don’t give them a global context. I figured they though, “Oh great, here go the self-important Americans. Again.” All of these themes could have expressed adrmiably and completely in five minutes. We don’t want to Take Our Medicine and realize How Far We’ve Come over and over and over again.
This went on interminably and finally – finally! – finally: The marching band came out. It was like a whole new event. The crowd went absolutely apeshit and was screaming and started doing the wave around the stadium as the marching band arranged itself in various shapes including VII – since this is the seventh Games. This is what it should have been like all along! Faster, lighter, more spritely, swift… and then Margaret Cho came out and the crowd went insane. Everyone was screaming as Cho took the stage and riffer for five minutes. Again she used a little bit of profanity and her funniest joke was:
Her invocation and jibe at George W. Bush caused the rest of the crowd to join her in booing our beloved leader. And of course the joke:
And the rest of the crowd joined in
Oh I forgot to say that Megan Mullaly kicked off the whole thing and the crowd went pretty crazy about her too. Greg Louganis has a moustache now – it’s very 1970s.
And then some more speeches and songs we didn’t know from people we couldn’t recognize. The acoustics really suck in Soldier Field as well.
The best part of the performance piece was a section where they mixed the bass line from ‘Hollaback Girl’ with ‘Respect’ – that was slick.
I think the whole entertainment part could have been one long star-studded medley. These people are supposed to staging – Cerda am I right? It should have one thing after another, each thing topping the next, non-stop, no break for scene changes, no pauses, no commercial breaks, just a great build-up to what has to be some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen.
I usually hate fireworks but these were upclose. Lining the east rim of Soldier Field and lacing the sky with lights and flares – VERY nice.
And who were those Indian dancers? They took like five minutes to do a curtain call.
Summary: one person walking across a football field holding his national flag is all the opening ceremony you need.
Oh and did you notice how nearly the entire crowd walking from Soldier Field to Millenium Park was all men? Where did the girls go? Did they say: “Screw this crap, we’re taking the Chevy?”
Oh I forgot: They had Carmina Burana. The club mix of Carmina Burana. This music is as overused as Canon in D.