Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Disneyland Gay Days 2008

(Originally posted on MySpace on Sunday, October 12, 2008)

I was originally planning a blow-by-blow account (no pun attended) of Gay Days Anaheim ( &, held at the Disneyland Resort the first weekend of October every year, but I'm leaving for Buenos Aires on Monday and I'm beginning to panic since we're so far behind in preparations for the trip. So, despite the fact that the following is still kind of long, I hope you'll excuse me for making this a bit of a rush job. I still think you'll get the gist.

Gay Days Anaheim is an "unofficial" three day Gay meeting at the Disney parks. It's unofficial because Disney doesn't plan it. That way they can keep the Religious Right crazies off their case. But Disney knows how to market themselves and they take full advantage of tens of thousands of gay men and woman descending on the parks for the weekend. Hotel deals are offered. Special pins are put on sale. Special areas of the parks are opened. And parties are thrown throughout the resort.

We arrived at the Resort on Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel room at the Paradise Pier Hotel. This hotel is the third, and least expensive, of the three hotels on Disney property. Last year we stayed at the most expensive, the Grand Californian. There were three people in our room, Skip and I, and our friend from San Francisco, Karl. The room was just as comfortable as the room at the Grand Californian. In fact, it was a bit bigger and was a great deal, considering that the Grand Californian was more than three times as expensive. We had to walk a bit further to get to the parks, but that was no problem as it was pretty much just across a street.

After settling in, we made our way to the Gay Days Welcome Center in the Grand Californian to pick up our gift bags and find out about any late blooming events. The gift bags are mostly trash, but I was happy to see a whole lot of "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" stuff promoting the movie "Hamlet 2", including bumper stickers and air fresheners. I also bought a Gay Days cap. This was the first year since I've been going that they offered them.

Skip and Karl made their way to the Hearthstone Lounge in the hotel to get a drink while I went into the California Adventure Park to say HI to cast member Elizabeth, who works at the wine bar in the park and has been a friend of ours for several years now. I wanted to say hi since she usually doesn't work on Sundays, the day Gay Days would be in that park, and I was afraid we wouldn't see her this weekend, but it turned out that she was going to help out with the crowds of gay people in the park on that day. Since I was there, I enjoyed a nice glass of wine while watching the always wonderful Pixar Play Parade.

I then made my way back to Skip & Karl and we decided to go to the PRIDE cocktail Party. PRIDE is a group of Disney cast members who work to make sure that all gay and lesbian employees are treated equally at the Disney Parks. We enjoyed a couple of drinks there and ran into Terri, another cast member we know. Terri helps run the Food & Wine Festival and informed us that this year's event will be extended to 45 days and have all sorts of special events. Skip and I are very excited and can't wait until the start date, May 11th.

But it was time for dinner and we had plans to meet our friend John at a restaurant in Orange called Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen ( *****. Even though we had reservations, the place was so crowded that we ended up having to wait almost an hour to be seated, so we spent that time in the bar drinking some of their delicious margaritas. The restaurant is a small, but comfortable space right at the historic Orange Circle in the center of town. The food turned out to be some of the best upscale Mexican food we've had in a long time. We enjoyed Quesadillas de Huitlacoche, Puerco Poc-Chuc (Pork grilled in adobo), and many other great dishes, washed down with more of their amazing margaritas.

After dinner, we made our goodbyes to John, who we would be seeing again in two days, and made our way back to Downtown Disney to go to the Wonderland Party that is held upstairs at the Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen restaurant ( I started in on the gin & tonics and before I knew it, all the drinking that day caught up with me and I was plastered. I seldom get as drunk as that these days. I did have fun though. I remember chatting with a huge drag queen dressed as Alice (in Wonderland). I also remember some young guy trying to convince Skip and me to both go back to our hotel with him. Skip was perplexed by this and I was amused, but after a while, he realized we weren't interested and he took off to find some other older guys who would appreciate his youth more than we did. (These days, youth pretty much bores me. I just don't have the patience any more.)

It was about that time that we decided to stumble back to our hotel room and hit the sack.

The next morning, Karl awoke early and worked out in the hotel gym while I wondered about the truck that had hit me. It was a horrible hangover and I was reminded why I don't over-drink much these days. We got ready and made our way to the Disneyland Hotel and their restaurant, Steakhouse 55, for a breakfast of perfect Eggs Benedict and a couple of Bloody Marys that unfortunately didn't work any magic on me. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have a slow and muddled day at the Disneyland Park.

The park was awash in a sea of red shirts. The idea behind Gay Days is that all gays and their supporters are to wear red that day to make our presence in the parks more obvious. Every year, there are more and more red shirts and this year there were large areas of the park that seemed to be nothing but red. Despite the crowds, Skip and I know how to organize the rides to get on most everything. We had a blast, but our pace tired Karl out and late in the afternoon, he decided to go back to the hotel for a swim in the pool and Skip & I continued on our own, riding Buzz Lightyear, both sides of the Matterhorn and finishing off with Splash Mountain. The trip on Splash Mountain was memorable because we didn't just get the usual splash of water this time. We got drenched by a wall of water at the end and our log was so full of water, it was like a bathtub. When we pulled back into the loading station, the cast members were so concerned that they pulled our log off the track. It took two days for our jeans to dry out.

That put an end to it and we went back to the hotel to change clothes and fetch Karl for dinner. Our meal that night was at Leatherby's Café Rouge (***** at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. It's one of the few Patina Group restaurants we haven't eaten at and we've heard good things from most people. But trying to get there was a nightmare. As we arrived in the area, we found out that Sarah Palin was making an appearance at the Concert Hall and we had to force our way through suspicious security guards, anti-McCain protesters and expensively dressed Republicans who looked at us like we were dirt. (So much for their claim of non-elitism and being part of the "regular" people.) After a phone call to the restaurant and an explanation of exactly where the restaurant was and how we could get through security, we made it to the beautifully designed room and took a seat in one of the high-back banquettes. The service that night was spotty, but friendly. Our server didn't really know much about the food we were ordering, but when it came to wine, she sent over the sommelier, who was one of the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable wine guys we've ever met. We each ordered different tasting menus and he agreed to match up our dishes with wine. His choices were practically perfect.

The food was excellent. My only complaint was a small bit of gristle running through Skip's Prime New York Steak with Portobello Mushrooms. At these prices, there shouldn't be any gristle at all. But everything was wonderful. My Halibut Nicoise with shaved onion, haricot vert, fire roasted bell peppers, shoestring potatoes, poached quail egg and olive tapenade was absolutely delicious and Karl's Quail stuffed with black truffle sausage and cognac sauce was the best quail I've ever tasted. Before that, we enjoyed an appetizer labeled "The French Trio", which consisted of escargot, sweetbreads and foie gras. It was perfect. Chef Don Schoenburg is definitely a chef to watch. I think he's going to be a big star.

We left the restaurant to find that Palin and her zombies had left and we could freely walk back to our car without dirty looks or threats of cannibalism. We made our way back to the hotel and Karl took off for the Kingdom Party at the House of Blues. Skip and I didn't feel like another party, so we relaxed in front of the TV to watch "Saturday Night Live". Our friends Rob & DaVette arrived half way through for a nice visit. They're moving to Oklahoma next week for six months before settling for good in San Francisco. We'll miss having them a lot. Just as they left, Karl returned and announced the party was a dud.

The next day, we went to Catal Restaurant for a satisfying breakfast of Huevos Rancheros sand then made our way into the California Adventure Park, where Gay Days was being held that day. Again, red shirts were everywhere. The only sign of discontent we saw was an unsmiling family of four wearing "Yes On 8" shirts. There's always someone who has to rain on a parade. We rode all the rides, including the great new "Toy Story Midway Mania" ride twice, and then ended up at the Lounge at the Golden Vine Winery, which was an upstairs wine bar opened up especially for Gay Days. We enjoyed some flights of wines and light appetizers and left for dinner that night at Napa Rose ( ***** in the Grand Californian Hotel. We met John again, this time with his boyfriend, Paul. I've made no secret that this restaurant is one of my favorite in Southern California and this meal was as excellent as every meal I've had there.

We were going to the House of Blues that night, but all the great food, wine and conversation kept us seated at the restaurant and we ended up missing the opening band for that evening, Unkle Bob ( I really wanted to see them, but it will have to be another time.

The headliner that evening was James ( ****. I've been a casual fan for years, but have never managed to see them until now. Their brand of whimsical pop owes as much to the Velvet Underground as it does to the Byrds, and they have been highly influential on such acts as the Smiths. Singer, Tim Booth, has a great stage presence. They are an energetic live act and the audience responded with an adulation rarely seen in Los Angeles at the club level. The audience reaction kept them on stage longer than they planned. I enjoyed them tremendously, but the over two hour set was a bit long and tended to drag a bit about 2/3 through. Most of the audience would disagree with me though.

The next morning was Monday. We checked out of our hotel and went to the Storytellers Café for what turned out to be a larger than planned breakfast. We figured that the parks would be empty that day, but when we arrived at the escalade, it was packed to the rafters. We went back into California Adventure and rode the Toy Story ride again and then decided to beat the traffic, and the crowds, and head home.

And that was this year's Gay Days.

(I should say that Disneyland closed down early on Sunday so that Miley
Cyrus could throw her 16th birthday party, but since we were in California Adventure that day, we saw little signs of it except for the decorations already going up on Saturday. We did run into a mom and her two daughters on Monday morning who told us the event was fun, but not worth the $250 each that was paid to get into the party. I was happier seeing James.)

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