Underground Diaries, Part 4
It took a while to settle on a name for the project I was calling American Subculture, partly because it took a while to decide Yahoo News (YN) was where it belonged. Yahoo SVP Scott Moore, who’d brought the project in, thought YN might not be the perfect fit: My pilot episode on swingers was on the rambunctious side; Yahoo News decidedly was not.
Both YN’s then GM, Neil Buddy, and managing editor, Ezra Palmer, had arrived via the Wall Street Journal, a place khakis are considered edgy. It’s safe to say both guys were skeptical about me and my project. In the end, it was decided YN was where I belonged: I was doing feature reporting on real people and events. Lloyd Braun, who called the shots at Yahoo Media Group at the time, finally dubbed the thing Yahoo News Underground.
Three articles on Gay Rodeo were the first I turned in to YN editors and, to my great relief, seemed to assuage their anxiety about me and Underground. Ezra was upbeat. He felt like I was on the right track and hardly touched my stuff. (We had disagreements about a subsequent piece or two, but they were largely small.)
Unfortunately, when the Gay Rodeo feature was published (it wound up being the third feature published), the folks at Yahoo’s front page were uncomfortable with my guacamole references (see the following piece). They promoted only the Gay Rodeo videos, not the articles on the Underground site. Yahoo sites often live or die by front page promotion…
My first reaction to the 2006 LA Gay Rodeo was: Are you JOKING, GAY PEOPLE! It’s an election year! Aren’t you already dealing with enough bull*%#? (Or should I say guacamole? Guacamoled is rodeospeak for when a dim-witted cow craps itself all over you, as in Ann Coulter just guacamoled me.)
It wasn’t until I’d seen my third or fourth guacamoled cowperson at the rodeo that it finally dawned on me: Guacamole is a big reason gay rodeoers dig gay rodeo – and I’m not talking some weird fetish, here (see my article on limping and rodeo for that). I’m saying that, like pretty much anyone, gay rodeoers prefer not to be guacamoled on. And at least when it happens at gay rodeo, they know it’s not because of their sexual orientation.
Neither is a good stomping or goring or trampling. Livestock just doesn’t discriminate. And neither does gay rodeo. Everyone’s welcome there — gay, straight, undeclared. Anyone can come get his or her ass kicked. Or watch while someone else does. Gay rodeo is about inclusiveness…and spangled chaps and tight jeans and Marlboro man mustaches and Stetsons and studded shirts and studs and fillies — in other words, it’s just like regular rodeo except the studs are more cut and maybe a tad cattier about it. And the cowgirls ride bulls if they want. Oh…and the dancing. Dancing is maybe as big a gay rodeo draw as gay rodeoin’.
In fact, participation in gay rodeo seems pretty evenly split between real rodeoin’ and serious dancin’. I’m told many come to gay rodeos specifically for the dancing, which goes on all day, into the night, and does sort of differentiate it from traditional rodeo where you won’t likely see a lot of same-sex couples two-stepping to Christina Aguilara.
As far as pure gay rodeoin’ goes, the participants seem fairly well divided between city slickers and country boys and girls — many of whom grew up rodeoin’ but left when they no longer felt welcome in historically macho rodeo culture. Which isn’t to say gay rodeo is for sissies. It’s anything but: Cowboy I was covering name of Doug Graf broke his pelvis steer riding. I watched the whole thing and never saw him cry. I’d have been balling like a baby.
Which is the nice thing about gay rodeo: You’re still welcome even if you are a sissy. I mean, they let me in and no way in hell are you catching me trying to ride a bull or bucking bronc or even trying to put a pair of tighty-whities on a goat. And if you do, it won’t be because I’m suddenly less of a sissy. It will simply mean that I’ve gone completely crazy. That, or gay rodeo curious…
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