Due to her recent victory on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Sharon Needles was one of the most requested personalities for PrideFest 2012. We worked with Producer Entertainment Group, her managing company, to negotiate appearances, costs and associated riders.
Unfortunately, things did not happen as they were planned and contracted. Needles was supposed to host the entire evening at the Dance Arena, but she danced two numbers and said nothing. PrideFest, on the other hand, went to great lengths to accommodate her. When she requested changes for her performance at the last minute, including props, dance routines and scheduling changes, our volunteers raced to fulfill her demands.
At the request of the managing company, PrideFest also offered to host a meet and greet with Needles. For a $50 fee, fans paid for festival admission, entrance to the PumpWorks Dance Arena VIP platform and an 11:30 p.m. meeting with Needles. Her fans considered this an extreme honor and privilege.
Unfortunately, Needles and her manager did not appear as scheduled for the meet and greet, and we were forced to cancel the event for a variety of legal reasons. City of Milwaukee permit regulations require PrideFest and all festivals to end their performances and close the grounds by midnight.
PrideFest has never received an explanation from Needles, her production company, her manager or her stage producer concerning her behavior or her absence. PrideFest personnel repeatedly made her aware of her obligation, and she and her manager were present on the grounds until 12:45 a.m.
Because PrideFest appreciates each and every one of our guests, I made the executive decision to refund $50 to everyone who paid to mingle with Needles. I personally met, paid and apologized to all the guests who were affected.
We chose to bring Needles to PrideFest’s 25th anniversary to create a memorable experience for our fans. Our negotiations were done in the best interests of our community and in good faith that the performer and her manager would deliver on all obligations.
We are outraged by the lack of respect Needles showed for her fans, our organization and all personnel involved. PrideFest demands that Needles and her producer apologize for her conduct in writing so that we can deliver it to those who were stood up.
Every year, we bring you the nation’s largest showcase of LGBT entertainment and show-stopping headliners. With so much high-quality talent available to choose from in your world, we hope our community chooses to support only performers who respect and support them in return.
We promise you this type of disrespect for our community will never be tolerated at PrideFest Milwaukee.
Scott Gunkel is president of PrideFest Inc.