Daniel Nardicio’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure at Warsaw’s Europride
On Saturday, July 17, about 8,000 LGBT Poles and others from around Europe marched through Warsaw in the Polish capital's Gay Pride march. This was supposed to have happened five years ago, but then-Polish President Lech Kaczynski, an outspoken opponent of gay rights, banned the march.
A group of Polish activists successfully sued to get rid of the ban in the European Court of Human Rights. But winning in court doesn't mean winning hearts and minds of the vast majority of Poles, who cling to their conservative social and religious views.
Daniel Nardicio, who has made a name for himself in New York promoting underground parties where clothes are as scarce as inhibitions, has more recently expanded his mini-empire of sleaze into other ventures -- including Playgirl magazine, which he revamped. His championing of Levi Johnston, the baby daddy of Sarah Palin's granddaughter, put him in the front lines of the political and gossip columns.
Nothing, however, prepared Nardicio for what he would encounter on that hot summer weekend in Warsaw. In an exclusive interview with EDGE, Daniel tells of the pride, the passion -- and the persecution -- he encountered.
Impresario into the Whirlwind
Daniel came to Warsaw at the invitation of some of the organizers of events surrounding the Europride march. He brought some New York City nightlife luminaries, such as Amanda Lapore, Sherry Vine, gogo boys, Lady Bunny and some bulesque queens.
What happened was unexpected and unfortunate. "All these people didn’t get paid," he says. "We were booked into a room at a Polish club. The organizers had no intention of paying the entertainers. It was absolute chaos."
A club owner asked Daniel to sign a paper that he would pay for the club. "I explained that in no way was I taking on the financial responsibility," he says. "I was curating, not producing."
Also on hand were gay luminaries, such as Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of the film Milk.
On the Front Lines
"We kept meeting all these gay guys who told us, ’We’re not going to the parade,’" Daniel says. "Polish gays are afraid to come out. But we put ourselves on the front line -- which turned out to be dangerous."
There were 11 floats in the parade, which, according to the New York Times, attracted only 8,000 people. That contrasts with 50,000 at the Europride celebration in Zurich, Switzerland, the year before.
Not Much Help from Police
Black had asked if the police were holding back the protesters. In Daniel’s opinion, they were only doing so because of the presence of the international press and photographers and bloggers covering the event on the Internet.
"There was no love from the police," he says. "I was afraid for my boyfriend on a float."
’We Represent the Majority’
The police were (barely) holding back protesters from well-organized right-wing group opposed to liberalization and to homosexuality in particular.
The head of an ultra-conservative group, All-Polish Youth, which drew several hundred, told the New York Times he represented the majority of Poles.
"Polish society is much more conservative than the establishment," Robert Winnicki said. "Polish society is more passive. People do not take part in the public debate. We are the voice of the majority."
Eggs, Stares & Fingers
Daniel personally experienced eggs being thrown at him and those around him. There were also firecrackers and other tiny incendiary devices.
More than those, however, were the nasty stares coming from the housewives and others in the windows along the route. Throughout the route, people were "flipping the bird" at the marchers.
Polish & Other Heroes
"My personal heroes were these straight women who stayed the whole day," Daniel says. "They had eggs, firecrackers thrown at them. I was flipped off at least 200 times. After a while, it gets to you."
There were people from all over Europe who had come to show solidarity, which also impressed Daniel. One of the members of a gay choir from London was hit with a rock.
In the end, was it worth losing the money and the hassles and the time and the hatred?
"My boyfriend thought was something uplifting," Daniel opines. "He was proud to be part of the beginning of something here. I look at the money I lost as a donation to the Polish Gay Pride movement. I do know -- I hope -- I never experience anything like that again."