July 27, 1997 in Nation/World

Gays March In Solidarity, Relief

Associated Press

Gay men and women marched under brilliant blue skies in a gay pride parade Saturday, quietly grateful that the shadow cast by Andrew Cunanan is moving away from his hometown.

An estimated 100,000 people turned out for the San Diego Lesbian and Gay Pride’s 23rd annual festival.

“It’s as festive as any other year, if perhaps not a little more so,” said media coordinator Frank Sabatini, Jr., as a flock of buff, bare-chested angels marched past. “It felt as if a cloud had been lifted.”

Cunanan grew up in San Diego and lived in the mostly gay Hillcrest community before embarking on what police said was a cross-county killing spree.

Many people at the parade said they were relieved to learn that Cunanan, a gay gigolo suspected in the deaths of Gianni Versace and four other men, committed suicide Wednesday in Florida. Some had feared he might return to San Diego for the festival to settle old scores.

“Everyone’s a little more relaxed,” said Brad Linville, as he and four other men prepared to board a Jeep. “But what bothered me more than (Cunanan) coming here was that the media would portray this in a different light.”

Many said they don’t want gays and lesbians, or the festival, to be forever linked to Cunanan’s memory.

“It was really detracting from the true meaning of the event,” Brenda Schumacher said of the cross-country manhunt for Cunanan. “I don’t think Cunanan is a reflection of our culture, our values or this community.”

Elderly people stood alongside small children, a man stood in the crowd with a parrot perched on one of his two dogs, while gay couples chatted with straight couples beneath arches of rainbow balloons.

“We’re not a disruptive community,” Sabatini said. “Flashy, maybe, but not disruptive.”

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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