Running Away from Home: 1979

I was living with 5 gay friends in a condo, way back in 1979. I was 18 and out on my own for the first time. Going to the Parliament House, the big gay bar in our city, was The Priority in our lives… above eating and, of course, paying our rent.

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So when rent was due and we only had $500 between the 5 of us, 3 of us decided to take our winnings, er… rent money… and head to New York City. Living in Orlando, that was quite ambitious thinking, but we were all young and stupid and believed anything was possible.

We stopped by my dad’s house so I could grab the Oldsmobile Delta 88, an enormous light blue wonder that had one back window that wouldn’t go down, another that wouldn’t go up, a trunk that would not open and a hood tied with metal wire to keep it down. I had to dig around for the keys and license plate, but found those and we were off, in my dad’s now-stolen car.

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It looked about this good, but was a powder blue with a white hard top.

We packed that car with all of our belongings: clothes, shoes, books… and for some reason, several jars of peanut butter and jars of grape jam. (Jars were glass back then, no plastic ruining the environment in the olden days.)

I remember Bobby taking the first shift in the back seat, laying sideways on all the stuff, his shoulder hitting the roof resting on the huge pile. We tried to open the trunk 100 times, to no avail, so finally resigned ourselves that sleeping like the Princess in the Pea was a part of this adventure.

Bobby, a bright-red redhead, curly hair down around his shoulders, ached to be a drag queen, dancing and miming songs at every chance. Even up on his back seat perch, I laughed hysterically, seeing him in the rear view mirror, holding a hairbrush and lip synching to “I Will Survive” on the radio.

Bobby was a liar, telling us, with complete conviction, that the Oscar Meyer little boy was his brother. At first we were awed, then the lies built onto each other and when it took a teasel to figure one truth from another, we just shrugged and laughed no matter what he said.

The other roommate who came with us was Scott, a gay guy I had known since junior high. Scott was so smart and clever, but more of a book nerd than either Bobby or I; he was a good balance for us. Scott found his way into laughing for the sake of laughing on this trip, which makes me so happy since he died of AIDS not 3 years hence. I was very glad to witness his joy. Bobby also died of AIDS a couple of years after Scott.

During our trip of 1979, AIDS was an unknown. Sex was with utter abandon. The worst sexually transmitted disease one could get was herpes and that seemed like a social death sentence. Little did we know then, herpes would be almost benign.

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The first person I knew of who died of the Gay Cancer was Fat Matt. I was fat, too, and Fat Matt and I talked a lot about dieting and trying to lose weight. Being fat as a gay man was not good… being fit and being gorgeous were (and are) a gay thing. So when Matt began losing weight, he was ecstatic. He had no idea what he was doing to lose so fast, but he was thrilled. His sex life picked up, his self-esteem soared… and then he passed through thin, from healthy to gaunt in a few weeks. Matt was gone 6 months after he began losing weight. None of us knew what happened. He was such a dear, fun friend, the bar seemed odd without his flouncing around, showing us his hippo dance from Fantasia.

Then there were others, not fat men, who began losing weight, then their lives. I remember standing in the drag bar, being told two dear club friends had died during the week and reeling with complete confusion about what was happening. It would still be 6 months before the words “Gay Cancer” would be said on the evening news.

Being gay in the late 70’s and early 80’s was still taboo. No “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” no gays in the military, no gay marriage. Homosexuals (and I, the fag hag) clung to each other when our parents changed the locks after throwing our belongings in the front yard. So when our gay friends were dying, we were never invited to the funerals, but held our own memorials at the bar. We would drink to our friends, huddle together, giving each other love and comfort. When there were so many of these bar memorials we’d become numb, we realized we had all run out of tears at the exact same time.

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Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Before AIDS: Paul Wegman as Miss P

Follow the Manic Bouncing Ball:

Needing to sleep again. Feeling the jolts of electricity that were not so conducive to sleep. I put on Amazon Prime’s 80’s music to sleep by. About the 3rd song in was Bette Midler’s The Rose.”

Memories of my days at the Parliament House here in Orlando with all my gay boy friends (& sex-capaders) watching drag shows flooded my brain.

It was 1979. I was 18 years old. And I was a Fag Hag.
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Parliament House, circa 1979 – Hotel, Restaurant, Show Bar, Disco, Leather Bar, Vintage Store, Lake and Pool (and hotbed of random sex!)

Quaaludes. Poppers. Sex with strangers in cars. Amaretto with cream and OJ. Friends taking acid & having bad trips. Walking by rooms with open curtains & open doors, inviting whomever in to be with whomever as whomever watched from not-afar. The Baths. Glory Holes. Gay Porn. Learning to suck dick and get fucked in the ass (with the ever-present can of Crisco) by my 8-gay friends I lived with in various locations, including the “PH.”  (When we were with our parents, we called it the “Pancake House.” We were so slick. snort).

Laying on the bed, I sang with Bette, thrice through, crying, missing my friends who have died from AIDS. After “The Rose,” I remembered I had Bette Midler’s Divine Madness on my Kindle, putting it on.

Loud.

By the time “Shiver Me Timbers” came on, I was sobbing remembering my wondrous friend, Paul Wegman

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Paul Wegman, Orlando, Actor, Beloved Friend

Miss Pwho died in 2004 from AIDS. Paul used to sing “Shiver Me Timbers” just for me. I tipped him whatever I could so he would.

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Miss P,  Orlando, Parliament House            circa early 1980s

While I first met P (he initially was Miss Pauline, then Miss P, then he dropped the Miss and was “P” for the years I knew him) as a Drag Queen, we became wonderful friends and worked together at the Subway Sandwich shop in Winter Park, by the infamous Sinkhole. During the time I knew him only as P, I, of course, used female pronouns, but when I used “she” at work once, he spun around and told me “HE!”. So that is why I use “he” even as he is P.

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Parliament House Drag Show, circa 1979… P (in white), Heavy Duty (in red), Gerald (next to Heavy), Rusty Fawcett (next to Gerald). You can see Lori DelMar’s head (over Gerald) and Von Gretchen (second in on back row, right side)

Paul and I, while there were 17 years between us, were really compatible. We shared a love for books (we shared books a lot), music, Broadway shows, the theater… and black men.

I loved Paul. I mean. LOVED. I ached to have him take me in his arms. He never did. He did sing “The Rose” to me whenever it came on while we were working. I remember it like it was yesterday.

So, if I couldn’t have Paul, I could have the next best thing. His straight, blue-black boyfriend, Tuna. Long passed is why he was nicknamed Tuna, but that’s how we all knew him. Tuna had a bullet still lodged in his thigh. He taught me the word “Nut” for orgasm. He loved my ample white ass. I used to have sex with Tuna while Paul was on stage. Tuna told Paul years later and when I went to visit him (Paul) with my new son in my arms, he confronted me. I was (rightly) mortified and apologized profusely, claiming stupidity as a child of 17, 18, 19, 20. He barely forgave me, but I am glad our last contact was wonderful and positive.

The Flood Abates

So many waves of memories lick the shore of my mind, but I want to get this out before it grows too long.

So much more to say. I need to share it so those after me can know there really was a completely hedonistic time before AIDS. I lived it. (I do also carry scars, but we’ll share those another time.)

To Read More About Life Before HIV/AIDS:

Do You Remember Gay Life Before AIDS? – yes

Death Rush: Poppers & AIDS – there was an enormous belief for awhile that Poppers were The Cause of AIDS. That was the Grasping at Straws time.

This is Not a Drill: CDC’s 7 “Forbidden Words”

 

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vulnerable

entitlement

diversity

transgender

fetus

evidence-based

science-based

Newspeak

The Washington Post relayed the information from a CDC & Trump Administration meeting Thursday night, December 14, 2017 that when the CDC presents their upcoming budget paperwork, they are forbidden to use the above 7 words.

I thought this was fake, ran to Snopes… nope. It is real. Checked Twitter. Real. Checked valid news agencies. Real.

I’m shaking I’m so angry… and even scared… of what this administration is doing to our democracy. By forbidding words, it is no longer a democracy.

Democracy has been dying since Trump took office.

Treating science as a matter of opinion rather than an objective, evidence-based reality appears to have become a hallmark of the Trump administration, particularly when it comes to climate change. So, too, is scrubbing certain words and information from discussions, documents and websites that don’t fit with Donald Trump’s vision. The Department of Health and Human Services has dropped information on its website about LGBTQ individuals.”

Orwellian Dystopia

This edict is one of the most terrifying things that have happened and are surely not the last we will see.

We cannot sit quietly and let this happen. I know many many people have been out protesting, but we have to find another way to be heard.

I am apoplectic… and hope you are, too.

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