A month ago I wrote a Viewpoint column on the vast changes that were happening around our community and within the walls at Watermark. In that issue, we delivered the news that our longtime editor-in-chief, Steve Blanchard, had accepted a new position and would be leaving us.
Although we love and miss Steve, his chapter closing here has opened the door for one of the most exciting advances in Watermark’s history. If you don’t know what announcement I am about to make, then you must not have hit “like” on Watermark’s Facebook page. The announcement that Billy Manes will be Watermark’s new editor-in-chief was made late May 27 and quickly became the talk of the town.
For those not familiar, Billy Manes is a journalistic icon in Central Florida with 18 years as a writer for the Orlando Weekly. I’ve known of Billy for 13 of those years, dating back to my first days at Watermark. I have always been impressed with his tenacity, edginess and, most importantly, his ability to draw me into the story he is telling. I look forward to seeing what his experience and vision bring to Watermark.
Billy will begin working at Watermark after the next issue. Keep an eye out on this space beginning with our July 2 issue to find out more about Billy Manes.
Although Billy will be working out of our Orlando office, I don’t want our Tampa Bay readers to be nervous about how we will report news coming out of the area. As soon as Billy joins the team, he and I will begin our search for a full-time Tampa Bay writer. In fact, we already have strong candidates ready to take the reins and continue your story.
In the meantime, we have Gay Days/One Magical Weekend and St. Pete Pride to tackle.
In this issue of Watermark, you will find mini-interviews with local promoters and celebrities in which they share their fond memories of this huge gay weekend and its impact on our lives. In the spirit of the issue, I’d like to share two of my favorite stories from Gay Days past. Why two? Trying to pick one is like living in a Sophie’s Choice of the gay holy days.
Of course, my fondest memories take place at Typhoon Lagoon. I stated this bias in my last Editor’s Desk. I’m not sure if it’s because of my loyalty to Watermark Media who started it, or because it has been and continues to be a great time no matter what.
I can’t say for sure who owned the party at this particular moment, let’s just hope it wasn’t my employer. I do know, however, this is back during the seven years I spent with my ex, Nathan. If you know Nathan then you know he was fun. It is impossible not to have a good time when he is around you.
We were unsuccessfully trying to walk as sexy and sober as possible across one of the beach areas when we passed a large puddle of water. In true Nathan fashion he jumped to his knees and started digging at the puddle. Water was splashing everywhere and passersby went running.
One person yelled, “What are you doing?” Nathan’s response, “I’m foraging for food!” As he continued to make a spectacle, a drag queen and her entourage walked up. She shook her head, looked at the young posse by her side and said, “Honey, that’s why I do drugs and don’t drink!” With that she exited.
My other favorite memory comes from One Mighty Party. I was one week out of the seven year relationship described above. Watermark’s art director, Jake Stevens, and I were tasked with going to One Mighty Party at the Disney Studios to take pictures and report on anything exciting that may happen.
Jake was fairly new to the Gay Days process and neither of us were really feeling it when we got there. We stood in the center of the Studios and I walked up to a group to ask if we could take their picture for the newspaper. They agreed and Jake snapped their photo. With that flash everything changed.
People lined up to have theior pictures taken For three hours and 700 pictures, Jake and I met some of the friendliest people from all over the world. That’s what Gay Days is all about to me.
Have fun this Gay Days, and stay safe!