This 'Lazy Bear' is full of Pride
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For Harry Lit, his epiphany came at poolside one day. He and his husband, Allen Eggman, were relaxing at the Triple R in Guerneville (now the R3) where they saw a poorly attended bear contest. Talking together they decided they could do a better job and started planning the first Lazy Bear Weekend in 1995.
The rest is history, as Lazy Bear has become a preeminent event on the bear party circuit. Now in its 19th year, this year's incarnation takes place July 29-August 3.
Lit loves being a bear.
"I have always been overweight and having a man who loves me for being larger and hairy makes me feel wonderful," he said. "If I weren't a bear, I wouldn't have him."
This year, Lit is being recognized by the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, with its Heritage of Pride, Pride Community Award, given for his outstanding service to LGBTQ communities. He will be riding in Sunday's Pride parade.
Lit, 55, was born and raised in Philadelphia. His brother, Stewart, who was five years older and a role model, died in 1984 at the age of 28 of AIDS-related complications.
Lit came out at age 16. He moved to San Francisco in 1989. He met Eggman at the Lone Star Saloon 22 years ago this December. They got married at City Hall in 2008, during the brief time same-sex marriage was legal prior to the passage of the now-overturned Proposition 8 marriage ban. Their wedding was officiated by the couple's good friend, Audrey Joseph, the former Pride main stage producer who is receiving this year's inaugural Audrey Joseph Entertainment Award.
Lit and Eggman recently relocated to the Fort Lauderdale area to take care of Lit's mother. They will continue to organize Lazy Bear Weekend this year and next, then hand off the event to someone else to carry on the work they started.
The main source of joy for Lit has been the more than $1.5 million raised for charity through Lazy Bear events over the years.
"I am happy that I have been able to raise money so that nobody has to go through what my brother went through," he said.
Receiving the Pride Community Award is a great honor, but for Lit the biggest recognition he ever received was after he suffered a stroke while doing an event in Cancun, Mexico in 2010.
"After all my years of fundraising, the community recognized that I needed help and they came to my rescue. They raised $30K within five days to fly me home on a medevac, which saved my life," he said, referring to his medical evacuation from Cancun back to San Francisco.
Lit says he feels more comfortable in his own skin at the age of 55 than when he was 18 years old.
"Times have changed and it's nice to think that we have done our part to be accepted as bears in the overall community," he said, adding that Eggman has competed at the Gay Games. "It also doesn't hurt to be married to a Gay Games gold medalist. Being visible as a gay couple all over the world for the Gay Games has allowed us to promote Lazy Bear worldwide. Lazy Bear Weekend is not just for older retired bears but for all people who love to have fun times, hear great music, and be in a place they could just let their hair hang out."
Lit pointed to another reason bears and their admirers flock to the Russian River every summer.
"Lazy Bear Weekend is popular because of the beautiful surroundings, the great weather, the hot men of all shape and sizes, and the lack of attitude," he explained. "Bears love to have fun and it shows during this weekend. It's like a giant family reunion with your favorite relatives."
Since his fight over his physical challenges in Cancun and his recovery afterwards, Lit's philosophy of life has been, "Never give up. Fight the fight."
For more information about Lazy Bear Weekend, visit www.lazybearweekend.com.