Queens for a Day

There's something queer happening at the happiest place on Earth. For the last several years, on a specifically designated day, more than 100,000 gays and lesbians have descended on Walt Disney World in Orlando, and, on a separate date, thousands more have gathered at Disneyland in Anaheim, for Gay Day and Gay Day 2, respectively. This year's Gay Day 2 is coming up on October 4 and, appropriately, one of its organizers, Jeffrey Epstein, has just published a book with co-author Eddie Shapiro (senior editor of Out magazine) titled Queens in the Kingdom -- The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks.

Why the homosexual community's fascination with Walt's fantastical hyper-worlds? Epstein explains, "Gays and lesbians love things to be a little over the top, a little fantasy -- crazy -- and Disneyland certainly offers that. Bright, shiny objects; we love that!"

"There's also that whole concept of escapism -- childhood for gays and lesbians is sometimes less than perfect," Shapiro continues. "Disneyland gives you an opportunity to sort of revert back to childhood and have it all be nice, and people are nice to you. That's sort of an academic theory, but my theory for why gays and lesbians like the Disney theme parks is that they're very clean."

The authors -- both of whom live in Los Angeles, a mere 40-minute drive to Disneyland -- began their book while writing a piece on Gay Day for Instinct magazine; they realized there was much more to be said on the subject.

"There's gay stuff everywhere you look at Disney," Epstein says.

The book provides gay- and lesbian-oriented opinions and information on everything from hotels and attractions to restaurants and shows, as well as "fairy facts" -- i.e., which restaurants offer the best deals, where to find the parks' "gay goodies" (like "Ellen's Energy Adventure," starring Ellen DeGeneres), and where to snuggle up without getting stared at.

As for which Disney park is the gayest, the authors say it all depends. "There's so many different versions of gay," Shapiro says. "Disney MGM Studios, which is Hollywood gay; the Magic Kingdom, which is traditional, fabulous, fairy-tale gay . . . California Adventure, which is a little bit more mellow, slightly older, more sedate gay."

Epstein adds, "Probably for me, the Magic Kingdom at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World, that's what appeals to me, the whole fantasy element. There's fairies and evil queens and lost boys and wicked stepsisters . . ."

"And rides that are about bears!" Shapiro interrupts.

As for Disney itself, the company has been very supportive of the guidebook.

"Disney can't actively court the gay and lesbian market," Shapiro says. "But they sure can support us when we do it for them, so they've been terrific."

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Brendan Joel Kelley