How about love?
That was the question that closed Stonewall 50/ WorldPride 2019 on Sunday, June 30, when the curtain fell on the month-long celebration and commemoration. The official Closing Ceremony took over Duffy Square, a relatively small area of Times Square between 46th and 47th Streets, known best for its red glass stairs. There, attendees gathered to hear a sparkling lineup of performers and speakers — and Broadway stars, of course.
Kicking off the evening was legendary singer and LGBTQ icon Melissa Etheridge, who sang a trio of hits, including her always-powerful “Come to My Window.” Between songs, she spoke from the heart to connect with an enthusiastic post-parade audience.
“If you had told me 26 years ago when I came out that we’d be gathering in Times Square with rainbows everywhere, I would’ve said ‘Yeah!,’” said Etheridge. “Because we are fierce. And we will always be fierce. We are so fierce, we made it to the center of it all!”
The free 7 to 10 p.m. concert was open to anyone who reserved for gate entry. Still, attendance was light compared to the millions of marchers and spectators at the Pride March still going on as the Closing Ceremony. In fact, many in attendance, including Etheridge herself, had to depart the parade early to make it to Times Square. Along with parties around the city, the closing concert also competed with the blowout (and sold out) Pride Island event on Pier 97 Sunday night, with Madonna headlining.
Yet the energy was appropriately high in Times Square, thanks in part to host Margaret Cho. Donning a rainbow-sequined bathing suit that showcased her colorful tattoos, Cho shared trademark levity and sincerity with the night’s revelers.
Cho introduced a festive lineup of queer stars and allies. Among them was an amped up Jake Shears (of Scissor Sisters fame); award-winning British pop and R&B star MNEK; singer and activist Melanie C (formerly nicknamed Sporty Spice); and the ever-elegant powerhouse singer Deborah Cox.
Intermingled with the music came rally-style speeches, and the ceremonial passing of the baton from WorldPride NYC to Copenhagen (copenhagen2021.com/worldpride), which will host the event in 2021. That future event will mark several anniversaries in the Scandinavian city, including the 70th anniversary of the world’s first successful genital reconstructive surgery, performed in Denmark in 1951 and a half-century since the Gay Liberation Front’s Danish chapter was founded in 1971.
On the Times Square stage, Mayor Bill de Blasio broke from his 2020 presidential campaign to speak, following his day on the WorldPride parade route. The mayor started by thanking the countless organizers, volunteers, NYPD officers, first responders, and others who contributed to New York’s 30 blowout days of Pride.
“I am proud to be the mayor of the city with the largest LGBTQ community in United States of America,” said de Blasio. “And we are proud every day — we are proud to be the city of Stonewall, where the rebellion began to give people the rights they deserved so long ago. But that spirit of Stonewall is not ancient history, is it? It’s something that we have to live today, because there’s more work we have to do.
The mayor continued, “For a long time it felt like our nation was just moving forward — with more respect, more inclusion. We were becoming a better community for everyone. But in recent years we’ve seen a lot more bigotry, haven’t we? In recent years we’ve seen hatred start to take hold again. Is that the America you believe in? Do you believe we can do better than that? We have seen hate crimes come back, and we will not stand for it!”
Calling out specific support for transgender members of the armed services, healthcare for the elderly, social services for veterans, and protections for the entire LGBTQ community, de Blasio declared sentiments that resonated deeply.
“Do you feel strong tonight? Do you feel powerful tonight?,” he asked. “We need to fight for each other, and we need to fight for a society that truly loves and embraces all. I hope in these last days that you have felt the love and you have felt the possibility. WorldPride is not just a celebration — it’s an example of the world that we should live in and the world that we can all create together. But the authors of that better world are every single one of you.”
Befitting the theater-district location, the Closing Ceremony brought a bevy of Broadway stars to the stage. Top among them were the stars of “The Prom,” the Tony-nominated musical about a teenage lesbian couple determined to attend their high-school prom. Bringing some of the show’s fun and LGBTQ positivity to WorldPride, stars Caitlin Kinnunen (Emma) and Isabelle McCalla (Alyssa) sang and kissed in the dazzling open-air of Midtown, to wild, proud applause.
The event ended with Cho introducing Wilson Cruz, who rose to fame as the first out person of color on television in “My So-Called Life.”
“I have so much love for all of you,” said Cruz, who also starred as Angel in Broadway’s “Rent.” “I want you to take all the love that you’ve felt all week and all weekend and take it out into the world with you. Because this is what the world should look like.”
Cruz then joined singers from about two-dozen Broadway musicals in a grand finale of “Seasons of Love” from “Rent.” No matter how many times you may have heard the “Rent” soundtrack, the lyrics reminding the crowd to “measure your life in love” never have felt more powerful.
More WorldPride and Stonewall 50 events will continue around the city and New York State throughout 2019. For the coming months’ events, exhibits, and LGBTQ travel tips, visit I LOVE NY’s iloveny.com/things-to-do/lgbt, as well as 2019-worldpride-stonewall50.nycpride.org/events and nycgo.com/maps-guides/gay.