Dispatches from New York City Pride: Surveying the Party Scene

Observer correspondent Rob LeDonne braved long lines, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, stagnant pools and the Kosciuszko Bridge to get the inside scoop on NYC's Pride party scene.

When rainbows are plastered everywhere by everyone (including by the biggest corporations in America—yas, Bank of America, go off!) and throngs of tourists explore the City in short-shorts and there are widespread shortages of Tito’s, it can only mean one thing: it’s Pride!

Five people in fun outfits standing outdoors
Eliel Cruz, Jamie CD, Madison Rose, James Gardner and DJ ARRA at Gitano Pride. Rommel Demano/BFA.com


I’m here in the line to get into Standard Highline for Boom Pride, and I’m having a solemn conversation with my friend about how in the beginning of this fiscal year, the U.S. economy grew by 1.3 percent, which was slightly higher than the previous market forecasts of 1.1 percent,  whereas there was a subtraction of 2.1pp as it pertains to private inventory investment.

Kidding! We are talking about Padam, Padam, the song of the summer from Kylie Minogue that’s become a ubiquitous part of the LGBTQ sonic landscape. It’s a song so prevalent and so entrenched in queer culture that during a recent trip to Fire Island Pines, I heard the word “Padam” actually begin replacing “hello” as a greeting.

Inside the Boom Boom Room, it is time to say Padam to Alex Newell, recent TONY winner for their show Shucked, who hops onto the bar to sing Kill the Lights to an absolutely packed crowd. Some people throw their hands up to sway with the music while others throw their hands up because there is no room to keep them at their sides.

A person in a dress sings while standing on a bar
Alex Newell croons on the Boom Boom Room bar – the only surface with space to move. Rob LeDonne

It’s a work night, but you wouldn’t know it given the throngs of people crowding around the open bar where the only choices are champagne, tequila and vodka (the three foundational libations of gay life). And while this is a party and dance hits are blasting, it should be noted that aside from some pockets of people here and there, most are decidedly not dancing. P!nk would be so disappointed.


Since lines are as much a staple of Pride weekend as rainbow flags, I’m not surprised that the line outside Ladyland at around 11 p.m. is one of the longest I’ve ever seen—even longer than the line to get a Covid test before Christmas. Then I walk a little further and realize what I’m seeing is just a quarter of the line. It reminds me of a Candyland board: wrapping up and down, around this corner, down this sidewalk, past the Licorice Castle and through the Lollipop Woods.

A long line to get into a party
The never-ending Ladyland line. Rob LeDonne

It’s a gay Oregon Trail, only with less dysentery. Getting to the entrance means waiting a bit more to get to the other section and then another one. By the time we reach the end of this mammoth queue, I am a changed man. We all are. Couples got engaged, married, divorced and then reconciled and divorced again, all in this line. Three babies were born. Waltzing through the entrance, we know we’ll never be the same.

People at a party under a bridge
Inside Ladyland. Rob LeDonne

The vibes inside are not unlike those of Coachella, but instead of a balmy desert under a starry sky, the venue—dubbed Under the K Bridge—is literally under the Kosciuszko Bridge that carries the BQE over the Gowanus Canal. Cars and tractor trailers barrel overhead as people rave down below. It’s underground, it’s grimy, it’s fun. Welcome to New York!

I see a set from the group Peaches who wrap up with their song F*** the Pain Away, which I can only presume is a church hymn. Tonight, the popular DJ Honey Dijon is the headliner, and my goodness… am I seeing correctly? People are actually dancing. Back outside, the scene looks like the opening of Saving Private Ryan. There are men with their heads in their hands sitting on the ground, people laying down, cries of friends screaming “Go on without me!,” while others beg not to be left behind (by their Uber drivers). This truly is the greatest generation.


The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge boasts sweeping views of the Manhattan Skyline and the Statue of Liberty, but this afternoon I’m watching a man dressed like a rat breakdancing in front of a Casamigos-branded ice sculpture. Yes, Pride can get weird sometimes, especially here at Amfar’s Pride Social at the hotel’s Harriet’s Rooftop. On one end of the roof, there’s the ticketed LGBTQ crowd here for the event. The model Amanda LePore is taking pictures with the ice sculpture (the sun eventually melts it, causing it to crash down on the floor). On the other end, throngs of tourists and visitors, mostly straight, take selfies in front of the view. Maybe we could crossover, discuss our differences and bring everyone together—the gays inviting the straights to our part of the roof, where we all live in harmony, happiness and peace? On second thought, they should have bought tickets.

At around the same time across town, DJ Ty Sunderland is getting an IV drip. “I’ve been in clubs more than I’ve been drinking water and was like, ‘You know what, I need an IV’,” he told me later in the night backstage at Planet Pride, his and Jake Resnicow’s second annual bacchanal at the Brooklyn Mirage. There were three stages and so many thousands of people in one place that I assume this party can be seen by the denizens of the International Space Station.

Planet Pride is intense and massive and a far cry from the parties Sunderland used to throw at China Chalet, the former Chinese restaurant space above a TGI Fridays in the Financial District where the tables were literally pushed against the wall to make way for dancing. “I DJed Kim Petras’ album release party last night and then could not sleep. There were a lot of things on my mind and I wanted to do well.” For better or for worse, Sunderland is as busy in July as Santa is in December. “One night I DJed at the Met and then I DJed at Boom Boom Room. It doesn’t get more fabulous than that.”


It’s the day of the parade, but I’m taking a breather this afternoon before hopping on a cruise to a tropical oasis. Okay, I’m actually taking a ferry from Wall Street to Governer’s Island and Gitano Island Restaurant to attend Gitano Pride. It’s designed to look like the brand Gitano’s other property in Tulum; an outdoor club surrounded by palm trees (no doubt perplexed by northeast weather) and a sandy dance floor. It’s actually quite beautiful, although the centerpiece of the layout is a long, shallow pool, which I am absolutely terrified of falling into. I can see it now… a viral TikTok of me going headfirst into it, Tom Daley-style. Note: that was a diving reference, not a sexual one. It’d be on the Explore page and everything, and then I’d have to make believe I fell in on purpose or something, just to soften the blow. From what I hear, I’m not alone in this particular anxiety, so I step gingerly around the body of water. Picture Ringling Brothers, and I’m walking a tightrope with starving lions below me.

A crowded outdoor party with a disco ball at night
Gitano Island’s 2023 Pride party. Rommel Demano/BFA.com

Then suddenly I hear it. It’s faint at first, and then it rumbles in. Could it be? Oh yes, it is. It’s the 7,029,028th play of Padam Padam this weekend, and I can’t decide whether it’s time to get a lobotomy or dance, so I go with the latter.

Dispatches from New York City Pride: Surveying the Party Scene