By Hans Hornstein
On August 15, 1998, the fat-acceptance movement took a large stride forward in the public consciousness, and Coalition members were there to take part. The "Million Pound March", organized by NAAFA Activism Chair Jody Abrams, was held in Palisades Park, just off the beach in Santa Monica, just north of the Pier, and attracted between two and three hundred fat people and supporters in a celebration of self which has been so far unequaled in the movement.
The experience started even before the step was taken in the park. On board the buses, lights of the movement such as Marilyn Wann got the March participants fired up by leading them in defiant chant, and proud, touching songs. A friendly fund-raising competition ensued between the buses. Plans for beach-ball mayhem were concocted. The mood was proud and infectious.
As the marchers arrived at the park, activists took up positions to make sure the media had something to look at -- while occasionally accidentally bombing the cameramen with errant beach balls. Signs were very much in evidence, including our own Jeff Lipton raising the SC-SAC standard proudly. As the crowd began to swell, the advance work of the organizers was evident as camera crews from at least 4 of the local TV stations were gathering footage, radio people were taking interviews, and even members of the staff of the Roseanne show were spotted trying to drum up audience members for a taping.
The energy was almost indescribeable as the speakers took the stage, fists flying up in the air in defiant triumph as Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" kicked off the rally. Jody Abrams and NAAFA Executive Director Sally Smith spoke, clearly feeding off the energy of the crowd, and the crowd's excitement grew with each firey declaration of people who refused to apologize for their size. Then, actress Camryn Manheim took the microphone and proudly came out as a fat woman for all the world to see. She related stories of her off-Broadway play "Wake Up, I'm Fat!", tales of production assistants on her ABC show The Practice comparing her to a cathedral, and a story of her demand that her character's love story be given equal treatment to that of Lara Flynn Boyle's. "I want a kiss, and I want it with tongue!" she declared, to a roar of approval. She got two, she went on to say.
Following Camryn's speech, the energy didn't miss a beat with the appearance of Marilyn Wann, publisher of the zine Fat?So!, who led the crowd in chants, and furthered the message of pride in self. Michael Loewy reported on the progress that the fat gay men's movement had made in the recent past, and led the crowd in songs borrowed from the gay rights movement. Then, in a real treat, Linda Ramos sang a new fat-acceptance anthem -- "I Am Fat", sung to the tune of Meredith Brooks' song "Bitch".
SC-SAC Secretary/Treasurer Marty Lipton then represented the Coalition wonderfully with a heartfelt speech about the unity that the March represented, and finished with the choir behind her singing "This Little Light of Mine", and descended to chants of "Marty, Marty". More song was heard, as a reworking of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" sang out, and those who we have lost were remembered with "It's in Every One of Us".
Rounding out the speakers were support from Wilson Phillips singer and former talkshow host Carnie Wilson, defense lawyer for Christine Corrigan, Sondra Solovay, author Terry Poulter, and former Mrs. Nevada Ruth Ann Grider, who was stripped of her title for being "too fat".
All too early, the rally was over, and it was time to board the buses, but not before Camryn Manheim and Carnie Wilson generously stayed on to sign shirts and take pictures with marchers. Also in the crowd were the former lead singer of Romeo Void, and Cass Eliot's daughter Owen. But, after the fans slipped away, there were only the buses full of energized fat people, and the proud images left with the media of people who refused to lie down and take the discrimination of society. Hopefully, it is an image which will resound for years to come.
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