Bill Hardt Takes Pride In His Work
By Tim Parks
To say that Bill Hardt takes pride in his work is almost an understatement, seeing as his company Bill Hardt Presents is the backbone of putting the party into Pride, year in and year out since 1997.
With four events over the official gayest weekend during San Diego’s calendar year, including The Pride Ball, Circuit Daze, Fete Accompli and The Zoo Party, there is a wealth of preparation that goes into putting on these annual events, which revelers have come to expect and anticipate throughout the year.
So, how do these parties come together without a hitch? The Rage Monthly went to the man himself to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on producing this popular component of Pride weekend.
What was the genesis for the Pride parties?
In 1996, the San Diego Zoological Society approached me to look at producing the San Diego Pride Parties, as the previous promoter had challenges continuing on with the events.
After careful consideration, I agreed to produce the 1997 San Diego Zoo Party. Once word hit the streets, the San Diego Pride Committee engaged a conversation with me to see if I would be interested in producing the entire weekend’s events, since I was already going to produce the Zoo Party. I agreed and began producing the Official San Diego Pride Parties in 1997.
What would you say is the mission statement of Bill Hardt Presents?
To produce the best events possible for the gay community in mainstream venues, so my brothers and sisters can celebrate the beauty of themselves as publicly as possible, while having a really good time!
How much preparation goes into putting the parties on?
I pretty much plan all year long. On any current year, since all the talent is in town, I start discussing the next year’s celebrations with the DJs. It makes the planning so much easier.
The venues in San Diego are the tricky things that take most of the time. With so many venues closing, changing ownerships or board members, it is a constant process of running down who is in charge and who is interested in our business. That process takes all year long!
And what is the most rewarding aspect of doing so?
The smiles and our joy on the faces of the patrons who attend the parties. Many of my patrons have been coming every year since 1997. So it is a reunion for some of them. It is the best gift ever to see my brothers and sisters dance, hug, kiss and smile at one another all weekend long. That is my reward.
How have you seen the events, especially the Zoo Party, change over the years?
The Zoo Party is very consistent. I think that is why people love it so much. It is something they can completely count on in the ever changing world and economic climate.
The Zoo Party is not a regular circuit style event. I always tell people, it is more like a backyard party with a few thousand of your closest friends and a really good DJ. I think that is why we have not seen it change very much over the years.
The patrons like it the way it is, and like my Grandmama always said, if it ain’t broke ….
Where would you like to see them, in say, five years time?
Well, I am just grateful that the parties have stayed consistent in these challenging economic times. So I will just say that in the next five years I hope to be providing the same quality events that people will want to come to, and be grateful for that.
You and your company have donated money to the community over the years…how did you go about selecting the San Diego HIV Funding Collaborative as the charity to benefit from the 15% donation in 2008?
I have a few people in San Diego that I look up to and greatly respect their opinions on all sorts of things. I went to one of those very people in 2008 and asked him his opinion of where I should donate my money that year.
He told me about the HIV Funding Collaborative and all the good they were doing in the community, and that the monies actually reached the recipients in need through services. I did some research on my own through back channels, and liked very much what I heard. That was enough for me. I awarded them my donation.
What would you say has been the biggest highlight for you regarding the Pride Parties over the years?
In all the years I have been producing the events, there has only been one year where my son has attended. He is gay too, and does not mind me stating this in print.
Year after year I get to watch people celebrate themselves with people that are important to them and the joy it fills their souls with. That one year, I got to celebrate the beauty of me and my son together and dance at the zoo party. Seeing my son smile and the pride in his eyes, well, it just doesn’t get better than that.
And what can party goers look forward to this year?
I think the most exciting things about this year are the are the new addition of the House of Blues to our closing party line up. It is out first time at this venue and the city seems to be responding very well to it, as the ticket pre-sales are very strong.
But I dare say the thing I am most excited about is our return to the San Diego Hall of Champions. We held the event there in 2010 and it was amazing. The venue is electric. Because of changes at the Hall of Champions and a new regime in place, we were able to open the door to discussions again and after much cajoling, I was able to contract with them.
Rosabel had been originally scheduled to play the closing party this year. When I told them about the lineup change in venues, they got so excited about playing the Hall of Champions again, they cancelled a Saturday night event they had in another city and moved to the Saturday night DJ position at Hall of Champions. We are all so excited to be back at the Hall of Champions and be able to offer this back to our community for the Pride lineup. It is going to be epic!
For ticket information, log onto billhardtpresents.com