William Kapfer and New York City Mayor Eric Adams Source: William Kapfer

Out with Dr. Bill: Celebrating Pride Through Lifting Voices Not Heard Loudly Enough

Dr. William Kapfer READ TIME: 12 MIN.

Pride Month, celebrated each June, is a time to honor the history and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, inspired by the Stonewall Riots of 1969. To me, Pride means using my privilege to uplift and empower those whose voices aren't heard as loudly, ensuring everyone can celebrate who they are without fear.

This year, I had the opportunity to attend several Pride-themed events, each one a testament to our collective strength.

These gatherings were not only celebrations, but also powerful reminders of our ongoing journey towards equality and acceptance. As I reflect on these experiences, I'm reminded of the unique ways Pride touches each of us, uniting our community in a vibrant mosaic of stories and identities.

Stonewall: 55 Years of History and Community

Nothing says the start of Pride Month like a party at Stonewall!

Monday, June 3rd, was an unforgettable night in New York City as I attended the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative's annual Pride Kickoff party at the historic West Village bar.

There's no better way to begin Pride Month than at the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of what we now celebrate as Pride Month. This year, the event was extra special as it marked the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.

The celebration also supported Inclusion Tennessee, a wonderful organization dedicated to bringing resources and justice to the LGBTQ+ community in the South.

Tony Morrison, Stacy Lentz and William Kapfer
Source: William Kapfer

At the red-carpet step-and-repeat experience out front, our favorite photographer, Bre Johnson-Velinov from BFA, was always camera-ready and front and center. Many thanks to Bre for capturing our arrival pics! I particularly enjoyed the photos she snapped of me with GLAAD's Tony Morrison and Stacy Lentz, the beloved owner of the Stonewall Inn who hosted the fabulous event.

The evening was filled with powerful performances by Joy Oladokun, Indigenous drag artists Lady Shug and Landa Lakes, "RuPaul's Drag Race" star Robin Fierce, and comedian Sam Jay.

I was thrilled to share this memorable night on the town with my longtime friend Marc Levine, the newly-minted Tony Award winner who picked up his second award last Sunday at the Tony Awards for "Merrily We Roll Along" with Daniel Radcliffe and Jonathan Groff.

Celebrating with Marc made the night even more special, as his achievements and our friendship added a personal touch to an already incredible evening.

Perfect Evening at NYSBA's Pride & Pour Mixer

The same week, I joined Eric for the New York State Bar Association's Pride & Pour: LGBTQ+ Law Section Mixer at The Dickens. We really dodged a bullet with the weather – it was supposed to rain, and the party was booked for the rooftop.

Thankfully, the rain held off, giving us the perfect evening to connect with fellow LGBTQ+ community members and allies.

The food was delicious, featuring not just the usual bar snacks but a variety of hot appetizers, from pizza and quesadillas to sliders – yum! The stunning rooftop view in the heart of Midtown Manhattan was the cherry on top.

Big thanks to Bryan Hannon, the owner of The Dickens, for being front and center the entire evening to ensure our gay lawyers and friends had a fantastic Pride experience.

William Kapfer, Lyndon Miller Pegs and Chris Messina
Source: William Kapfer

Friends Celebrate in NYC: Carnegie Hall and Cocktails

Later in the week, Eric and I opened our Chelsea apartment to host a cocktail reception for our beloved friends, Lyndon Miller (Pegs) and Clayton Swanepoel, who were visiting from South Africa. These dynamic boys have a Johannesburg-based creative agency called Verb Media, an experiential marketing firm that Pegs founded in 2010. They were in town not only to celebrate their 15th anniversary together during Pride month, but also because Pegs was singing on the main stage at Carnegie Hall. We used the occasion to gather several of their U.S.-based friends for a reception in their honor.

When we were last in South Africa, they hosted us for a similar get-together, but on a grander scale – an all-day and into-the-night barbecue, or as they call it, a braai.

The braaievleis, the South African version of the barbecue, comes from the combination of the Afrikaans words "braai," meaning "to grill," and "vleis," meaning "meat."

The concert was part of the Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) series – the finale of their 2023-24 season with a concert entitled "We Sing! We Rise! We Soar!: The Music of Christopher Tin." The two-time Grammy winner Christopher Tin took the podium and conducted a selection from his own works. (Editor's note: Tin recently received acclaim for collaborating with Emmy-winning writer Susan Soon He Stanton on a new ending to Puccini's "Turandot," which was left unfinished at the composer's death, for the Washington Opera. Their 18-minute ending premiered this past May.)

The concert was powerful and emotional, and knowing that the chorus on stage was made up of voices from around the world made the experience truly global – a once-in-a-lifetime event. Following the Sunday performance, our group took a short walk to the stunning Ascent Lounge at Columbus Circle to toast Pegs' Carnegie Hall premiere.

I couldn't think of a more picturesque place to bring our friends together for a post-concert celebration than my favorite upscale lounge, with the most attentive and beautiful staff. Our 4th-floor vantage point overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park, along with the craft cocktails and scrumptious food we shared, made the evening unforgettable.

Chris Salgardo and William Kapfer
Source: William Kapfer

Retail and Pride: Supporting the Hetrick-Martin Institute

The next week, the Pride excitement continued with a party at Nordstrom. The Hetrick-Martin Institute partnered with the retailer on a blow-out Pride celebration at the Nordstrom Men's Store in Midtown. I knew the party was going to be a hit when I saw our beloved DJ Lina Bradford at the digital decks blasting out our favorite dance tracks.

I love retail events, especially when the company gives back to charity – 20% of the proceeds from any purchases went to HMI – and they always provide an opportunity to catch up with old friends.

A couple of folks I hadn't seen in a while included Chris Salgardo, former Kiehl's Since 1851 President and beauty industry legend who recently launched a new premium grooming and skincare brand called "Atwater." He was front and center talking about his skincare brand at a pop-up counter near the entrance – the line is available in more than 20 Nordstrom locations. I asked him where he came up with the name Atwater, and he said the name of the brand was inspired by his father's hometown, Atwater, California.

Andrew Werner, William Kapfer and Eric Baker
Source: William Kapfer

I also ran into Fleur'd Pins founder/designer Andrew Werner, who had a counter near the men's suits showcasing his stylishly handcrafted Fleurs. I've known Andrew for many years, first meeting him on the red carpet as a top photographer.

Handcrafted in New York City from the finest materials, Fleurs have become a staple in my black-tie attire. I wore my Pride rainbow Fleur'd pin to the event that night. Now I'm eyeing one of his Swarovski crystal-encrusted pins and saving up for it.

I also caught up with Bari Zahn, her partner Lisa, and my newest friend and colleague, Guillermo.

Ezra Knight, Ray DeForest and William Kapfer
Source: William Kapfer

HRC and Stonewall Democrats: Pride Celebrations

The week continued with The Human Rights Campaign (HRC)'s Federal Club Pride Party, which was held upstairs at the Stonewall Inn, the same room we were in for our kick-off to Pride party.

Stacy is so generous in making the Stonewall Inn available to the community. Eric and I have always resonated with the great work HRC does to advocate for the rights and equality of LGBTQ+ individuals through their community outreach, education, and public policy initiatives.

That same night as the HRC event, we attended the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC's annual Pride party, "Love Will Save the Day," on the rooftop of God's Love We Deliver's offices.

Founded in 1985, God's Love We Deliver provides nutritious, medically tailored meals to people living with HIV/AIDS who are too ill to shop or cook. I grew up watching my grandfather deliver meals through Tucson's "Meals on Wheels" program, which serves homebound seniors and individuals with disabilities.

I remember him always saying that these programs are vital to a community, as they help many maintain their independence and health by ensuring they receive regular, nutritious meals.

The Stonewall Democrats didn't simply host a party; it was also a fundraiser and an awards ceremony celebrating several leaders who have made a measurable impact on the LGBTQ+ community.

Honorees included my longtime friend, New York Assembly Member Hon. Danny O'Donnell, Equality New York's Tanya Walker, my fellow SAG-AFTRA union member Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the National Executive Director & Chief Negotiator for the union, and more.

Servers from Fonda Restaurant at the Mayor's Pride Party
Source: William Kapfer

Mayor's Pride Party at Gracie Mansion

Before heading off to our place on Fire Island to begin our poolside Pride festivities, I stopped by Gracie Mansion for Mayor Eric Adams' LGBTQ+ Pride Reception. The event is always great fun, as I see so many people I hadn't connected with all year, including fellow "Mayor's Fund" advisory board members who love New York City as much as I do. The food this year was particularly yummy!

In past years, we enjoyed hotdogs and hamburgers, regular picnic eats, but there was no meat being served this year, as the Mayor is an advocate for healthy eating. He actually wrote a book in 2020 called "Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses." It's a comprehensive guide on how adopting a plant-based diet can significantly improve health outcomes, particularly for those suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes.

Mayor Adams, who actually reversed his own diabetes through dietary changes, shares his journey and provides practical steps for transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet.

My favorite of the afternoon was the gazpacho; it was smooth and burst with fresh, vibrant flavors. I had three of the small Dixie-cup shots of soup. I knew the gazpacho would be out of this world when I discovered it came from Fonda restaurant.

Chef/owner Roberto Santibañez is not only an award-winning chef and author, but a friend who shares my birthday.

In the words of Martha Stewart, he "is an undeniable authority on traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine." His book "Truly Mexican: Essential Recipes and Techniques for Authentic Mexican Cooking" makes a terrific housewarming gift.

William Kapfer
Source: William Kapfer

Pride: Celebrating Unity, Resilience, and Community Joy

Reflecting on these lively events, I'm reminded of the incredible power of our community and the joy that comes from sharing celebrations. Each event highlighted our unity and resilience, showcasing the strength and joy within our community.

These celebrations were a powerful reminder of our ongoing journey toward equality and acceptance, making this Pride Month truly unforgettable.

by Dr. William Kapfer

Read These Next