Rich Walczak—by way of Philadelphia and Australia, and then with a stint in the music industry—has been the executive director of Miami Beach Pride since October 2019. But although his tenure with the organization was disrupted by the pandemic, Walczak and his pride colleagues are now ready to pull South Florida, albeit it safely, from the precipice of Covid-fatigue into the fabulousness that is Miami Beach Pride.
What’s your claim-to-fame?
I’m the executive director of Miami Beach Pride.
Where did you grow up?
What do you miss about Philadelphia?
The people—my friends and family—who I don’t get to see on a regular basis.
How long have you lived in South Florida?
For two years.
Why did you move here?
For the position with Miami Beach Pride.
What part of South Florida do you live in?
In the North Beach area.
Where do you hang out in South Florida?
I haven’t found my go-to’s yet, as I moved here just before the big Covid shutdown.
What’s your favorite restaurant in South Florida?
Currently, me and my husband both love Crudos Fusion in Wynwood.
What South Florida venue do you miss that’s gone?
I’m only just now getting to explore more post-pandemic!
What’s the best place that you ever lived?
Australia is and always will hold a place in my heart.
If you had to live somewhere else other than here, where would you live?
Which one of your old jobs least prepared you for what you do now?
I worked as a cashier in an adult store in Australia while doing my master’s degree.
How long have you been the executive director of Miami Beach Pride?
Since October of 2019.
What’s been the biggest challenge of producing this year’s pride?
It’s been a rough ride with Covid. We had cancellation losses, had to keep the organization alive, and we had to ensure the safety of our community. But we still have to give the best possible pride that we can under the circumstances.
What aspect are you most excited about for this year’s pride?
To be able to give our community something again. For so many, pride is the only time that they can truly be themselves, and it hurt us all when prides all over the world had to cancel last year.
What’s the theme for the main stage decor at this year’s pride?
This year we’re focusing on “One Love,” and coming together after and during hard times. The decor is going to be fabulous!
What entertainer would you love to see at Miami Beach Pride?
I think we need Cher to bring back her Final, Last, Finally Final Tour and tour the prides (laughs).
What’s been the most moving experience that you’ve had at Miami Beach Pride?
Launching our Faces of Pride campaign and hearing the stories and struggles of everyday queer individuals from our community. We’re all so wrapped up in our own little world that we don’t realize that the person next to us may just need someone to listen to them, to offer a hand, or just a hug. The world is so split right now that we need to gain that sense of community once again.
What would your drag name be?
If we’re using the formula of first pet and street you grew up on, I’d be Lady Wakeling.
What did you do to keep yourself busy during the quarantine?
I got married! We also hopped in the car every weekend and drove to a different location in Florida, just to explore and get out without being around people.
Will you ever retire?
Yes. The goal is to continue to travel and see as much of the world as I can before I die.
What celebrity did you act like a “fan” around?
Working in the music industry, I’ve met a lot of people. But I gotta say that the most star-struck I ever was, was when I was face-to-face with the one and only, Betty White.
What’s the last thing that you looked at online?
Artist submissions for Pride’s Queer Art Showcase, and the Legends Ball happening on September 16.
Would you ever pose nude?
Nobody needs to see all this! How much money are we talking (laughs)?
Did you ever try LSD?
Nah. As someone who has high-functioning anxiety, I can’t imagine that meshing well with LSD!
What’s the best place that you’ve ever visited?
Ireland. The people were the friendliest that I’ve ever met.
What are you an expert at?
What do you want to live long enough to see?
A unified society? One can only dream… More realistically, I’d like to live long enough to travel the world and immerse myself in learning about as many different cultures as I can. There is so much uniqueness and beauty to experiences once we step out of our comfort zones.
If vampirism was real and you could live forever, would you do it?
I’m not even a fan of seeing my own blood, so I’m not sure I could drink someone else’s (laughs).
What politician don’t you like?
None of them.
What’s your most treasured possession?
My babies Charlie and Mochi, who are my dogs.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Either living or dead, who would you love to have lunch with?
What’s your favorite animated character?
Hmm… I would have to say that it’s a toss-up between Zuko from Avatar, or Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers.
What’s something that you learned in life only when you got older?
To stop stressing about how others view you. It distracts you from being your true self.
What did you learn from your parents?
That no matter how much life knocks you down, to keep pushing forward.
What’s your best characteristic?
My sense of humor.
What’s your favorite quote?
“’What’ and ‘if’ are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side, and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: what… if?”
How do you enjoy spending your time?
Traveling with my husband and my puppies.
What celebrity do you have crush on?
It’s a toss-up between Michael B. Jordan and Chris Evans.
Who’s your favorite performer?
Acting wise…? Oddly, I’ve always been a big fan of Laura Linney. Singer…? Right now I’m in love with Jessie Ware. But it changes often!
Who do you admire?
I admire anyone who steps up to help create positive change in our world. Those everyday people who wake up each day, push past their own struggles, and does whatever they can to be a positive influence in the crazy world that we live in.
If you could bring one person back from the dead, who would it be?
My grandmother, who we lost only a few months ago.
Where would you go in a time machine?
I mean, where wouldn’t I go? To have the chance to first-hand experience all the great moments in history would be legendary.
What would your last meal be?
I’d have to go with sushi.
What do you worry about?
Getting wrapped up in the everyday routine that I lose sight of the importance of experiencing all that life has to offer.
Are you more like a sheep or a wolf?
I think for all of us it really depends on the situation that you find yourself in.
Who depends on you, and for what?
Our community depends on me to provide them a safe space to be who they are, and I’ll do everything I can not to let them down.
Who are you closest with?
My husband, Leo, and my closest friends, Lisa, Bonnie and Michelle.
What would your autobiography be called?
What’s on your bucket list?
To retire in Spain and travel throughout the world.
What’s your greatest regret in life?
I have regrets; we all do. But I try not to dwell on them. Had those experiences gone differently, I may not be at the point in life that I’m at now. And I wouldn’t give up the love that I’ve found through friends and family for anything.
What’s something secretive about you that people don’t know?
I once hitchhiked through Ireland when I was 19.
Where can we see you?
At Miami Beach Pride, from September 10 to September 19!