Neil Patrick Harris.
(photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
Actor Neil Patrick Harris said Thursday that he is incredibly excited to be taking part in the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade slated to take over the city on Friday.
"I'm just super honored to be part of Tel Aviv Pride," Patrick Harris said during brief remarks at a press conference in Tel Aviv kicking off the parade events. "My husband David and I are visiting Israel for the very first time, and over the last few days we've been exploring all the sites and experiencing all the tremendous food and the great hospitality - and it's just amazing to see how vibrant this city is, and how the LGBQT community is really celebrated here."
Harris, best known for playing the eponymous Doogie Howser, M.D., and the iconic Barney Stinson on the comedy How I Met Your Mother, arrived in Tel Aviv earlier this week with his husband, chef David Burtka. The Tony- and Emmy-winning actor and TV host - and father of two - is serving as the "international ambassador" of this year's pride parade in Tel Aviv. In past years, TV host and producer Andy Cohen held the role, as did blogger and gossip reporter Perez Hilton.
"They asked me to be their international ambassador and I agreed - only if my children would start calling me that," joked Harris on Thursday. "They refused."
The actor said that this will actually be the very first pride parade he and his husband have participated in: "so we figured we should start small."
"We're looking forward to being part of this beautiful expression of love and unity and equality alongside LGBQT people and allies from all over the world," Harris said. "See you tomorrow - I'll be the guy dancing without his shirt on on a float."
Harris only spoke for several minutes on Thursday morning, and didn't take questions from reporters. In an interview with AP that was published Wednesday, the actor said he doesn't see himself as a representative of the gay community, and he refused to answer questions about politics or any controversy around his visit to Israel.
On Wednesday, Harris shared a photo of him and Burtka in Tel Aviv with his 7.8 million Instagram followers.
"We just arrived into Tel Aviv for #telavivpride," he wrote. "First time here, so much to experience. Let the fun begin!"
And later that day, it seemed Harris had already gotten a taste of Tel Aviv.
"Drawback to #TelAvivPride being so successful," he tweeted. "We went out tonight and every gay bar was so nutso crowded we wound up going back to the hotel. Harrumph. Perhaps tomorrow, Tel Aviv. I’m anxious to see your sights."
The parade, the centerpiece of Tel Aviv's gay pride activities in June, is slated to kick off at 10am at Ben-Zion Boulevard with a party, music and a drag show. At noon the parade begins moving along Ben-Zion toward the beach, including 14 floats, a record for Tel Aviv. Between 1 and 3pm, the floats will be situated along the Tel Aviv Promenade, near Frishman Street.
Beginning at 2pm, the pride beach party will kick off at Charles Clore Park, including a performance by Israeli Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai, as well as from Harel Skaat, Miri Mesika, Maya Bouskilla and many more Israeli performers.
Road closures around Tel Aviv will be extensive; beginning at 8am, parts of King George and Ben-Zion will be shut, and throughout the day Bograshov, Ben-Yehuda, Allenby and many more surrounding streets will be closed to vehicular traffic. The closed roads are slated to gradually reopen in the early evening until around 7pm, when festivities are expected to end.
Margaux Stelman, a spokeswoman for the Tel Aviv Municipality, said Thursday that last year's pride parade saw around 250,000 participants - a record for the city - and similar numbers are expected this year.
Itay Pinkas, the Tel Aviv city councilman who holds the LGBT portfolio, said he was thrilled to welcome all the tourists in town for the parade.
"The parade that you will experience is the largest one in the Middle East," he said. "But there's not really much competition."
Pinkas said the parade "is just one very fun and festive day in our calendar, but the most important thing is what happens during the other 364 days." He noted that he and other LBGT activists in Israel are still fighting for "same-sex marriages, equal adoption and surrogacy, equality and safety for transgender people. It won't be easy, but w'ere confident that - just as we won all the battles we've fought - we will win these as well."
Dana Gazit, a representative of the Tourism Ministry, said the pride parade is all about inclusion of absolutely everyone.
"Pride is for everyone," she said Thursday. "Everyone is invited to be proud of themselves, whatever their sexual orientation. It's about fun and being proud of what you are."
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