Ari Gold’s eventful bus ride

by JC Alvarez

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday July 15, 2011

This may well go down as a landmark year for New York City, especially given that just as the Big Apple was preparing to celebrate Gay Pride legislation was finally passed that granted marriage equality to New Yorkers making our state one of the handful that recognizes the civil rights of gays and lesbians.

But prejudice and ignorance are still very much apparent, even in this progressive metropolis where even casual signs of affection are still being met with hate and resistance.

Las Sunday out musician Ari Gold had a confrontation with a New York City bus driver who reacted negatively when he saw Gold holding hands with boyfriend Timothy Nelson. Nelson and Gold were en route to the Catskills to visit Gold's parents when the incident occurred. The pair were sitting holding hands in the front of a bus not, according to Gold, in view of the bus driver. The driver had come on board to take over the route from another driver and likely noticed the couple when he boarded the bus. He then asked Gold and Nelson to move to the back of the bus. Gold was astonished and told the bus driver they weren't going to move. The bus driver then pulled the bus to the side of the road and called the police.

"It was clear to everyone on the bus," Gold told EDGE, "including the police that were called onto the scene that our civil rights were being violated... and to be told to move to the back of the bus. It was just strange."

The bus was stopped for fifteen minutes while the driver spoke to the state trooper who responded to his call. Gold told the Advocate about what happened next: "He (the trooper) said that nothing we were doing is illegal. The bus driver kept asking the trooper, "Is there nothing you can do?" The trooper said no. Then the state trooper again gave us the option of moving to the back of the bus. Even though the trooper didn’t arrest us, we didn’t feel particularly protected by them because at that point I asked if we could file a report so it was all written down. It was so clear that the driver described that his problem was with us sitting there. It was clear that it was the fact that we were two men holding hands. We hadn’t been kissing or anything like that. Since we had the trooper as a witness I wanted the report to be filed, but he wouldn’t file it."

A spokesperson from Shortline, the bus company, contacted Village Voice’s Michael Musto (who broke the story) to say that the company does not condone the actions of the driver and they plan to investigate.

As a popular dance artist Sir Ari Gold rarely has an issue expressing himself, but in discussing the incident he had some difficultly articulating what he was feeling. He carefully parsed his words in our conversation, but wanted to make thing abundantly clear. "I never once equated this experience to what Rosa Parks went through during the civil rights movement," he said. "What happened to me didn’t compare to that moment in history."

Musto had compared him to Rosa Parks in his Voice story.

Still the parallels are self-evident. Ari Gold had recently been celebrated as the main stage act of the Lower East Side’s Gay Pride. "I was just thinking about that," he added, "the irony of this happening after I kicked off NYC Gay Pride." It’s enough to have an affect on anyone of us, but for Gold, a proud and native New Yorker, it’s easy to understand how this has affected him on a more personal level.

With his next single "New York Attitude" preparing to drop soon, perhaps the city that has often given Gold his greatest sense of identity and inspiration has also given him a reason to remind us of the danger of complacency. Marriage equality doesn’t necessarily negate hate and prejudice, and ignorance in any way, shape or form is still an ugly monster.

Nonetheless Gold is moving forward cautiously and confidently. This is after all the city that is built on a dream and a buck... and if you’ve got a "New York Attitude," it don’t mean you’re mean and cruel. Gold still loves New York.

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".