Over this weekend and next, cities across the country will be celebrating Gay Pride. Fort Lauderdale’s is this Saturday and Sunday, NYC’s the last Sunday in June which more accurately coincides with the first Stonewall Riots that started it all 44 years ago.
For those of you who may not be up on your gay history – and sadly many young gays think Stonewall is a smartphone app – our own Alamo was a two bit, hole-in-the-wall gay dive run by the Mafia in NYC’s Greenwich Village. I’m personally familiar with the place since it was first gay bar I ever entered.
My boss at the department store back in Jersey where I worked part-time while going to college had always seemed a bit strange to me but I could never quite put my finger on it. Charlie was a dead ringer for Jackie Gleason, the obese comedian/entertainer, that is if Gleason were also an effeminate queer. And, lo and behold, on the way that Saturday night to the evil Village for my twenty-first birthday with a friend of mine from college who I had a crush on and who Charlie had also given a job to, he told us two moppy headed tykes that he had been a headliner female impersonator from the 1950’s. I didn’t know that Bobbie, my friend, had already come out to Charlie, and that Charlie was using this night to get me to confront my own demons.
I’ll never forget walking through the beaded entrance of the bar and the go-go boys prancing around on top of it practically naked. Had I known then what I learned years later, that the place was operated by the Mob who paid the cops bribes to keep it from being closed down, I would have high tailed it to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and got my sorry, but cute ass home.
My partner George, who is ten years my senior, was in a raid of a gay bar he was in in NYC in the mid 1960’s and crawled out of the bathroom window to escape. To be arrested in those closeted days because you had been caught in a gay bar meant abandonment by family, employer – and the world.
BTW, unlike many of the Catholic buddies I befriended in the years ahead who had all sorts of hang-ups about being gay, once this Lutheran boy knew there was a life out there and other guys like me who liked guys, I jumped in feet first.
I’ve never looked back.
Anyway, that first night in Stonewall, my very first night ever in a gay bar, I met a much older man in a white suit – he was probably all of 25 – who asked me to come back to his place a few blocks away. Big Daddy – or should I say Mommy – Charlie gave his blessing as long as I was back in an hour. When the guy whipped out his tool, I said to myself, “Ray, what the hell do I do with that?”
But I’ve always been a fast learner.
A year later, some drag queens and their cohorts were sitting in the Stonewall, bemoaning the death of their beloved fucked-up icon, Judy Garland, who had overdosed the week before, when the cops, apparently not too happy with that week’s payola, burst in. Maybe they felt the cops had violated their private space at such an emotionally wrenching time, or maybe they were just plain fed up with all the bullshit, but instead of a bunch of compliant queers ready to led away in the paddy wagons, the cops found they had a riot on their hands.
So we owe our eventual recognition as a powerful voting block and economic force, our fight for equal rights in every aspect of American society, including marriage that the Supreme Court should rule on any day now, we owe all that and more to some pissed off drag queens, who many of us – including me – often abhor as tasteless examples of our sub-culture.
Which brings me to my sermonette for Gay Pride.
Instead of rattling on how str8 society should treat us better, do we ever stop and look at how we treat one another?
- Do you give a genuine compliment without waiting to get one first?
- If you’ve been blessed with the ideal gene pool – you’re 6’4, built like a brick shithouse and have the face the average woman in America would undergo a mastectomy to have between her legs – if you’ve been blessed with something you had absolutely nothing to do with, are you grateful for your luck? ‘Cause that’s all it is. Do you give us lesser folk a genuine welcoming smile, or do you look at us as if we had shit in our ears if we, God forbid, say hello? Or give that vacant “do I really need to talk to you?” stare. Just because he’s friendly doesn’t mean he wants your dick like the rest of the world. Remember, that 4’8” nerd who’s honest about himself and realistic about others may be happier with the memories of that one guy he slept with all last year than you are with your last ten tricks. He may even have an LTR that you’re putting off for all that fun-fucking til you suddenly wake up and realize nobody wants you anymore.
- Also remember, the average height of an American male is 5’9” (I guess because of all that hot Italian and Slavic and Latin blood), so when one of these short, humpy guys is trying to get around your bubble butt in a dark bar, please look around and let him. Yes, Virginia, there is a world six inches beneath that beautiful mouth of yours.
- Are you a 45 year old man who still prances around like you were 25?
- If a guy who’s not drunk or high comes up to you to give you a compliment, do you at least politely in a non-committal way thank him even if he’s not your type, or do you give him your “you talkin’ to me” glare?
- If you work in a gay business, are you truly interested in the needs of your customers, or are they instead an intrusion ( read pain in the ass) when all you really want to do is rattle away on your unlimited minutes smartphone?
- If you’re a customer, do you treat the help like shit because, after all, only a “loser” faggot would be working at homo haunts for minimum wage?
- Are you all botox and bullshit and gym reps and steroids and couldn’t carry on a conversation without dropping Lady Gaga or Rihanna’s name at least a dozen times? There’s this super humpy bartender at our leather bar, The Ramrod, who I knew had grown up on the Jersey shore. Having not seen him in a while, I asked if any family or friends of his had been affected by Hurricane Sandy. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. “Our last roommate cut the cable,” he explained, then in his cock-arousing butch voice added, “Thanks for lettin’ me bro.”
- If you set a date up with someone and then can’t make it or simply change your mind (hey, nobody’s got a gun to your head to have sex with me), do you, at least, call that person back and let them down easy rather than not call them at all while they’re waiting for you in front of some bar? Or if you set up a webdate, do you just not bother showing, or give out a phony address or phone number? Is your life that small that this the only way you have domination over people?
- Do you turn on your tres gay button and camp it up in very public mainstream places like airport lounges so straights have another stereotypical reason to piss on us?
- Are you honest about your HIV status, or don’t care because all you want to do is get fucked raw?
- Do you vow to be loyal and true and then screw around anyway when you should have been honest from the beginning about having an open relationship and let the chips fall as they may?
- Do you only focus on, and make fun of strangers’ and friends’ shortcomings instead of helping them or showing some kind of support?
Yep, we’ve come a long way baby. But we still have a long way to go.