This past weekend saw the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA), one of the longest-running and largest LGBTQ arts organizations in the country, debut its anticipated summer show The Pink Carpet: The Portrayal of LGBTQ People in Film, but the weekend was not devoid of trouble. The chorus’s Saturday matinee show was stopped during its first number due to a bomb scare at the L.A. venue. But despite the GMCLA bomb scare, the weekend’s other two performances went off without a hitch, proving that for this established, iconic LGBTQ organization, the show goes on, even in the face of terroristic threats.
The show, which took place at the Alex Theater in Glendale, California, is a regular venue for GMCLA, which stages multiple shows per year. The Pink Carpet, featuring special guest Leslie Jordan (Will & Grace, Sordid Lives), had three performances planned: a Saturday matinee and evening show, and a Sunday matinee.
Jonathan Weedman, the chorus’s Executive Director, walked Hornet through Saturday’s GMCLA bomb scare:
I had come onstage to welcome everybody, to say some remarks. I was rather passionate about a few things, including what’s been happening on the border and the state of our world. But I also announced, for the first time publicly, that we would be hosting the Mexico City Gay Men’s Chorus to come sing with us on Oct. 13. That’s particularly poignant and moving, given what’s been happening between our two countries. After that I went to my seat inside the theater next to my husband, and the show started.
The first number is a really fun song called “Let’s Go to the Movies,” with the guys in old movie usher outfits. The piece finishes and Leslie Jordan emerges from the middle of the stage and waves to everybody. At that moment, the curtain came halfway down, and I thought, “God, is that in the show? Is that a cue?” Then suddenly over the loud speaker they said, “Evacuate the building immediately. Everybody leave the building. There has been a bomb threat.”
So we jumped up and ran out of the building very quickly. It was very orderly. Thank god nobody was hurt. You had older people there. Somebody could have fallen, but nobody panicked, and people left from the sides of the building, they left from the front of the building. Backstage, you know, they had to get out from underneath the stage and the dressing rooms. They went up the emergency entrances, and everybody got out of the building, thank god.
The Glendale Police Department arrived, instantaneously it seemed. They closed off Brand Boulevard. They evacuated all the businesses on Brand. We were, of course, all pushed away to the sides. They had the yellow tape out roping off the whole area. And they brought in the bomb squad and K-9 units. They took about three hours to sweep the building, go through it, and then they gave us the all clear to go back in.
In the meantime, you had guys that were either in full drag, in costume, some guys with just a bodysuit on and a wig, and people who didn’t have their cell phones or their wallets standing around for hours not knowing when they would be able to get back in, not being able to communicate with their friends and loved ones. It was pretty scary. Pretty serious.
Weedman tells us that despite having to cancel the Saturday afternoon show due to the GMCLA bomb scare, the audience was told they could return later that night for the evening performance or use their tickets for the Sunday matinee. “We’d done a rough calculation and figured we could find a seat for everybody,” he says, noting that many people did return with their Saturday tickets in hand.
The weekend’s other two GMCLA performances went off without a hitch, a shining example that the organization — and its dedicated audiences — cannot be deterred by threats of violence and harassment.
Weedman notes this is the first bomb threat experienced by either the Alex Theatre or GMCLA. And while no one can say for sure — yet, anyway — whether it’s accurately classified as a hate crime, he says he considers it to be one.
“We don’t know if it was a hate crime. All we know is somebody called the box office just as the show was about to start, or when it was starting, and said there was a bomb,” Weedman says. “That’s all we know. But it would be naïve, I think, to dismiss the fact that we are an LGBT organization. I can’t say for sure, but I personally believe that it was [a hate crime]. There are hundreds of venues, hundreds of concerts going on this past weekend in L.A., and events. It seems too targeted to be random to me.”
In addition to the community really paying it forward following the GMCLA bomb scare — a local hotel offered rooms and bathrobes to those cast members in costume, a restaurant offered lunch to guys whose wallets were stuck backstage — Weedman insists something good will come out of the incident.
“We have a safety and security committee that before the concert published a detailed map of what to do if there’s an emergency, who all the people were to call and their cell phone numbers; a road map,” he says. “And everybody had that before the show. Every LGBT organization should have that.”
Though GMCLA is one of the largest and most well-known of the country’s gay choruses, there are around 200 nationwide. Weedman sees this past weekend’s GMCLA bomb scare as a wake up call for all of them — a reminder that safety and security measures should be in place for all future performances, and an incident like this can happen to LGBTQ events of all kinds.
“We hope that this will make sure people think about this, but also, in a perverse way, strengthen our message of love, acceptance, tolerance, hope,” Weedman says. “It’s in short supply these days.”