The Importance of Being Inverted: Gay Days at Amusement Parks, Part 2

by Tony Phillips
Thursday May 23, 2013

This article is from the May 2013 issue of the EDGE Digital Magazine.
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In his first installment, Tony Phillips explored Gay Days at Disney World and Disneyland and also brought EDGE readers up to date with the latest happenings at Universal Orlando.
Click Here to read Part 1.

Things take a turn for the slightly bizarre as Tony heads to Orlando’s Holy Land Experience: The Scriptorium, and sizes up other LGBT offerings throughout the country.

Who Doesn’t Love a Bargain?

Its gold and red classical architecture reads less Byzantine library and more high-end Southern California spa retreat. Only the topiary on the shore of the reflecting pond spelling out "HE IS RISEN" tips a hand that we’re not queued up for a sea salt scrub, but rather the big-ticket attraction at Orlando’s Holy Land Experience: The Scriptorium.

We stand at the main archway, watching the "next journey countdown" clock wind down, anticipating this walkthrough, 55-minute tour of the history of the Bible. Soon we’re escorted into the first room, a salmon and turquoise affair with a domed, faux open-air ceiling.

We sit on cool, curved benches that line the periphery as the lights dim and a voice-over narration begins. With the words "Let there be light," the recessed ceiling blazes to life. It’s soon washed over in electric lavender reminiscent of The Saint, the New York City’s ’80s disco that featured a planetarium-topped dance floor.

"Do we spend the entire 55 minutes in this room?" my panicked, Holy Land partner asks. The pot cookie we split in the parking lot has her very close to hallucinating, but The Scriptorium is all in the timing with strategically-opening doors leading to the next room until one feels like a Scooby-Doo gang exploring a haunted manse with Bibles tucked under their arms.

A Religious Experience

After the first couple of rooms (Mesopotamia and a blue and orange ancient Egypt) we skip ahead to the next tour. We spend most of our time in each experience scouring the walls to see where the next portal will appear, but we slow down once we arrived in Syria. The group in Syria seems cool and we’re not exactly capable of running at that point.

As we make our way into the Gutenberg room, a voiceover warns that Europe has "descended into madness" and shadow puppets reinforce this idea as the silhouette of a monk illustrating a manuscript is projected onto a wall.

We move ahead to John "morning star of the Reformation" Wycliffe, who sports a Rembrandt beard and raspberry beret and sits at a writing desk. He begins speaking with animatronics on par with Disney. Old Wycliffe would not be out of place as an exhibit on line for Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, whose line was twice as long as this attraction.

At the close of our half-day at the 15-acre theme park featured in Blill Maher’s documentary "Religulous," we’ve taken in not only The Scriptorium, but "Celebrate Jesus" karaoke in which visitors put their Whitney finger in the air to punctuate "praise songs."

We have also managed to duck into the cool, white Qumran Caves for a tête-à-tête with Jesus sporting a Madonna-style "put me on their fucking frequency" headset and witnessed pageantry ranging from chiffon festooned angels giving it their theme park best on the marble steps of the majestic white and gold, six-story temple to the grisly execution of Jesus that pops off daily with German precision at 6 p.m. -- expertly timed to coincide with dancing waters on the reflecting pond.

And we managed to do it all at the bargain basement price of $25 with the park’s half-day discount that begins daily at 2:40 p.m., no doubt a reference to biblical chapter and verse, along with free parking, unheard of at Orlando area theme parks.

Other Amusing Bargains

Granted, The Holy Land Experience will not be launching their own Gay Days anytime soon, but we saw lots of gay men and women in the park’s employ yucking it up in biblical drag and this $25 ticket is not the only deal to be had during June’s Gay Days.

Other Orlando bargains like Wet ’n Wild’s $27.50 half-day ticket to its water park beginning at 3 p.m. or LEGOLAND’s $64 web special for admission into its nearby Winter Haven flagship abound.

Not to be missed, LEGOLAND is practically a pop culture literacy steal as it preserves the old Cypress Gardens dating back to the 1930s (which most gays will recognize as the setting of The Go-Go’s 1982 music video "Vacation," in tact.)


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