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The Many Faces of Pride in Des Moines

The Many Faces of Pride in Des Moines
The Many Faces of Pride in Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Bob "Mongo" Eikleberry, the owner of The Blazing Saddle, came home from Vietnam in 1972, three years after the Stonewall riots, an event that paved the way for the gay rights movement in America.

"When I got out in '72, I started to help other people open gay bars," Mongo said.

Mongo was on the front lines of change then and he continues to influence his community with pride.

“I am really anxious and fearful all the time,” Isaac Lovan said. “I am kind of a shy person”.

Lovan uses art to express himself.

“I have always been an artistic person like my whole life,” Lovan said.

But his artwork hasn`t always been celebrated.

“They weren`t very accepting at first,” Lovan said.

So, Lovan turned to The Blazing Saddle.

“The Saddle has proven to be the foundation for the gay community in Des Moines,” Mongo said.

Mongo has owned The Saddle for two decades. It is Lovan's second home.

"I get inspired,” Lovan said. “Yes, I go there all the time."

Lovan calls this small space above the bar an art studio, and his face is the canvas.

“I got into drag almost five years ago,” Lovan said. "Drag is like a performance art."

“It`s amazing to see how things have changed,” Mongo said. “It`s a good feeling to see the bulk of society changing and embracing”.

Lovan preforms as Vanna B. Rosenberg. It takes hours to transform into Vanna.

“Once you get dressed up and the wig on and the drag, I am just this super powerful person,” Lovan said.

Lovan now has the support of his family.

“My dad`s gotten really used to it and looks at it like a job and that`s how he has made it OK in his head. My mom is super supportive. She comes to a lot of my shows,” Lovan said.

But it`s about more than song and dance.

“I really like being someone in the community that can advocate and kind of sway opinions and such,” Lovan said.

Lovan, who may be shy, has taken the steps to express himself, and he hopes it encourages others to find pride in themselves.

“All just coming together to celebrate diversity and being different and being OK with being different,” Lovan said.

Lovan performs every weekend at The Saddle. His show is one of several events planned as part of Capital City Pride.

Here is a link of other events.

Issac Lovan is among others who celebrate Pride; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer social and self acceptance, achievements and legal rights. Listen to part of their stories.