Hyacinth's a Natural Parade-Car

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By Tony Lindsey

Hyacinth (my 1961 Imperial Crown Convertible) has been in parades before - Here's a photo of her in the 1994 San Diego Gay Pride Parade:

Here is the story of Hyacinth's triumphant experiences in the 1997 San Diego Gay Pride Parade:

Late Thursday afternoon, I got Hyacinth back after she had spent seven days on the hoist at the mechanic's. I was working all day Friday, so I had little time to get her ready for the parade. My very best friend Charles came over around 7pm on Friday to help me, so together we got her polished, detailed, and her wheelcovers installed... two LeBaron wheelcovers on the driver's side, and two standard wheelcovers on the passenger-side. I'm still looking for more '61 LeBaron wheelcovers! I prefer them because they are the only wheelcovers with "Sparrow-Strainer" rings on them, matching the tallights.

Charles also took some flat-black paint and a tiny paintbrush, and carefully painted the vertical grille supports. They were supposed to be black, but the original paint had flaked off, since paint doesn't adhere well to chrome. Now, instead of a grille with obvious vertical bars, I have Virgil Exner's original idea - Horizontal "slats" that are similar to the "Coffin-Nose Cord" of the 1930's.

On Saturday morning, I did a few weekend chores and loaded Hyacinth with bottled water, sunscreen, camera, film and transparent tape. I attached fabric, 18-inch-by-eleven-inch rainbow flags with wooden shafts - One mounted vertically to each side-mounted rearview mirror. These fluttered VERY satisfyingly as I drove along, no matter how slowly - Even at parade-speed.

Since this is the fourth Gay Pride Parade that Hyacinth has been in, I didn't bother to try to decorate her at all, other than the flags. A few years past, I tried adding hundreds of balloons, cascading over the back of the car between the fins, but this does NOT work with a black car in the California summer sun - The balloons would touch the trunklid's hot, black paint, and "POW!" "POW!" POW!" - From over a hundred balloons at the parade's start, to maybe ten remaining at the parade's end.


Honestly, with a car as fancy as Hyacinth, there's no NEED to decorate her. The 1971 MG, the 1993 Chrysler LeBaron, the 1995 Jeep? Those convertibles needed every bit of help they could get, but a freshly-waxed Imperial is fully parade-ready, right out of the gate!

I arrived early at the staging-area, and made my way past nearly 200 contingents to my spot - #9, right at the front. Some parade volunteers came at my car with banners saying "Men of the Year - Jeff Palmer and Joe Pascale", expecting to attach the banners to my car. I politely and firmly assured them that I would be glad to mount the banners myself, with the standard-style Scotch adhesive tape I had brought beforehand. The strapping tape THEY had brought was so strong that it would probably have pulled the paint off of any weak areas (if any), like at the door-edges.

While I was waiting for everything to start, a woman wheeled her baby-carriage over to the rear corner of my car, and little Buford in the carriage immediately dropped the Coca-Cola he was carrying onto the ground, and started grabbing for my car's delicate plastic, tubular taillight lens. I made anxious noises and asked Mom to move the carriage further away, and she immediately protested that Junior wouldn't harm anything - I told her "Those lenses are $275 each, IF you can find them!" She backed-off in a big hurry.

Finally, my passengers Jeff and Joe (who raised something like $340,000 for AIDS charities) arrived, and cooed over Hyacinth's obvious beauty and style. I loaded them into the car, started along the route, and gave them a bit of coaching on how to behave when in a parade:

The people on either side of a parade-route don't really want to just stand there and stare... They want to rejoice and show approval, and they want to feel involved in a two-way flow of energy with the parade participants, but they need PERMISSION. When I blast Hyacinth's triple trumpets, everybody in the car is to wave, smile, blow kisses, wave their hats, do the "thumbs up" thing, or whatever else will whip the crowd of onlookers into a frenzy. This works every single time.

When we'd be making our way along the parade-route, the silent and staring crowds just ahead would be looking at the parade-float in front of of Hyacinth. When I'd blast them with 117 decibels of "freight-train" horns (standard 1961 Imperial issue), their heads would snap around in unison like a herd of prairie-dogs on red-alert. Big grins would break out all over, and folks would start jumping up and down, shrieking and waving their arms over their heads. If somebody would throw a thumbs-up or other special signal at me, I'd return one right back, so they'd know I was doing it just for them.

MANY people would hold cameras up, walking slowly sideways to frame Hyacinth properly in their viewfinders. If somebody appeared to be needing more time, I'd stop so they'd get just the shot they wanted. This really worked the parade-monitors' nerves, because it was their job to make sure things moved along briskly. I didn't worry too much - I always caught up. Besides - What are they gonna do - PUSH me faster?

During the parade, many people called out to Jeff and Joe, but a LARGE number of people also called out to me, either screaming "NICE CAR!" or HI, TONY!" Jeff and Joe commented several times that I must be the most popular guy in town! At one point, there was a police barricade with three anti-gay fundamentalists (the only ones at the entire parade) waving signs and yelling through bullhorns. I stopped for a bit in front of them, and blasted the triple-trumpets to drown out the bullhorns (no contest), while Jeff and Joe smooched in front of the Fundies and thousands of folks nearby. People are STILL talking about it.

The parade-route was much longer than in years past - Police estimated the crowds at between 100,000 and 105,000. When we got to the end of the route, I pulled over and gave the banners from the sides to Jeff and Joe, as a keepsake for their special day of honor. They thanked me over and over for letting them ride in "the best car in the parade!"

While I was doing the final cleanup, Christine Kehoe (San Diego's first openly-lesbian City Councilmember) came running up from one of the other parade-cars. She practically left tongue-prints on Hyacinth, running from one side of the car to the other, exclaiming over Hyacinth's obvious style and refinement. I assured her that all she had to do was ask, and she could ride in my car NEXT year.

I drove Hyacinth home, parked her lovingly in the middle of the two-car garage:

I locked everything up, and rode my bicycle to the Festival. I brought along a nice picture of Hyacinth. That way, I could run into a buddy and say "Did you see me in the parade?", and if they would say "No, I didn't" I'd whip out my picture and say "I was driving this car." Most of them would then say "Oh, I took a picture of that car! How wonderful!" Others (non-car-fanatics) would look askance and say "you carry a picture of your CAR with you?" I'd immediately forget that such trash ever existed, since they were obviously lacking in taste and distinction!

If you have the opportunity to get your Imperial into a parade, please do so - It's an Imperial's natural environment, with thousands of people yelling their approval and admiration. Make sure that your brakes, transmission and cooling system are up to the job!

This page was last updated October 18, 2003.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club