A documentary series coming out on Apple TV+ on February 14.
In 1983 my Dad decided to get a little bit ahead of the technology curve and purchased a VHS VCR for our 19-inch television. The TV was a vintage 1976 Zenith set that sat on the bookshelf in the Family Room and was our main television. It would be a few years before cable television snaked its way out our road from town, so we relied on a rooftop antenna with a motorized rotor that allowed us to tune in various stations. We generally stayed with the “basic four” of the era, NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS. However, living close to Lake Ontario I could get that antenna on the roof swinging around and we also received CKWS from Kingston (CBC) and CJOH from Ottawa (CTV) clear as a bell. Once in a while I could tune in more distant Rochester and for some reason during one particular thunderstorm I flung the antenna around enough and I could grab the NBC station out of Orlando, Florida for a few moments.
The VHS VCR was made by General Electric, could handle both VHF and UHF channels, and looked a lot like this guy, albeit with a cover that flipped down over the channel selector on the right.
It was just this evening that I discovered Panasonic actually made this VCR for General Electric. I never knew that while growing up, but I can tell you the very first show I successfully recorded on it was the premiere of “Jennifer Slept Here” starring Ann Jillian.
There were no video rental places in town yet, but our local Rite Aid offered video rentals for $0.49 (49 cents) a night. I discovered a video featuring “Stars On 45”, the studio musicians that made medleys of older songs to a relentless four-on-the-floor beat-clap-beat-clap rhythm track, occasionally interrupted by Stars On 45 Jingles and interludes.
The Stars On 45
Keeps on turnin’
In your mind
But we can work it out
Remember ‘Twist and Shout’
You still don’t tell me why
With no reply..y…y…y
The video had none of the singers that were on the tracks so popular on the radio at the time, but was rather a one-off stage performance that featured the famous medleys and a whole bunch of other songs.
I remember my sister moaning and groaning when I decided to monopolize the only television in the house to watch the video, so I decided to wait until the next day, while Mom and Dad were at work and she was off doing whatever she did after school.
Towards the end of the performance the singers did a mash-up of Devo’s “Whip It” and The Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip” with a bunch of dancers moving along in very 1980s choreography. Chains and batons were flung around, people moved seductively, feathered hair waved.
When the three (at the time) scantily dressed guys came out I discovered a wonderful feature of the new General Electric VHS VCR made by Panasonic.
It had a PAUSE button.
My sophomore year had just kicked off, I had all these wild thoughts going on in my head, whereas I just knew I was suppose to be pausing on the (at the time) scantily dressed girls but I was really grooving on pausing on the (at the time) scantily dress guys.
Worried someone would come home while the VCR was on PAUSE, I quickly finished the video. I then decided to Be Kind and Rewind and then went up to my green painted bedroom with blue, green, and black plaid carpet and decided to think about what I just PAUSEd about.
I’ll let your imagination fill in the details that could evoke a blush.
While I was working today I found myself singing “Let It Whip / Whip It, Whip It Good” and realized it was from this video I hadn’t seen in 37 years. I was happy to find it on YouTube.
No need to PAUSE, I’m not a sophomore in high school.
I keep getting alerts from the WordPress app that this blog is seeing an unusually high amount of traffic. The 965% increase in daily hits are all focused on this blog entry from 2010, called “Gay”, which features the 1976 episode of Alice called, “Alice Gets A Pass”.
I have no idea why the sudden interest in this post, but OK, let’s say hey! Hey!
A “National Coming Out Day” post I wrote back in 2007.
I don’t think National Coming Out Day was around when I “came out”. Well, I actually didn’t really come out, for the most part I didn’t really feel the need to. I guess people just assumed. After all, in high school, I ended the morning announcements with phrases like “Have a Wonderful Wednesday” or “Have a Fabulous Friday”. I mean, come on, all that was missing was the flashing pink neon light. When I lived in Massachusetts, my dear friend Donna told me that coming out was only a big deal because gay men and women made such a big deal about coming out. If it’s not a big deal to you, then it’s not a big deal to anyone else. I can sort of see the logic in that and it’s a theory that I subscribe to, though I don’t think it fits in every scenario. For example, I don’t think that a teenage boy living in the middle of the Bible belt is going to be able to drop a “That was a wonderful six hour sermon today. I really liked Maude’s punch at the church social afterwards. By the way, I’ve been sleeping with the farm hand, we both like boys, but it’s really no big deal” and not have the family get their panties in a knot. It would be wonderful is the Mother and Father then embraced the boy and welcomed the farm hand into the family, and the positive energy in me tells me that this has happened at least once in a great while, but I fear that there’s not enough of that type of support in the world.
So here it is, National Coming Out day, so I’m going to share my story. I knew my sexual orientation in my early teens. Actually, now that I think about it, I knew I liked other boys when I was in elementary school. Second grade to be exact. I always opted to be on the girls’ team when we played “shove the kids on the ground” on the playground because after all, the girls needed help (wink wink). I actually wanted to be pushed around by the boys and I wanted to wrestle them to the ground. But it wasn’t until my early teens that I knew what all this meant. I figured it was just something that all guys went through. God Bless my mother and father, they never talked to me about how these things worked so I had to figure it out myself. It wasn’t until my later teens that I figured that whatever “this” was was here to stay and I might as well just live with it. Even though I had a girlfriend at the time. Luckily, my girlfriend dumped me (guess I didn’t put out for the prom or something) and I was free to pursue my true feelings. I had a crush on a classmate named Dave, but he ended up going out with my sister. She always got the cute ones back then. Towards the end of high school I accepted the fact that I found some of my male schoolmates attractive, though I didn’t really do anything about it. When my parents dropped me off at college, I made a vow to myself. I was never going to hide who I was again and I would always allow my inner feelings to be. And boy, was I “out” in college. It’s all I ever talked about! Small wonder I failed out of school, I was too busy trying to be gay (even though I didn’t go on ANY dates!). Someone should have dumped a bucket of water on me because my pilot light was flarin’ WAY too high. So much for preconceived notions on how gay men should act. Luckily I was at a music school or else I would have been beat up a lot.
I didn’t really talk about my homosexuality with my family until Earl came along, save for my mother, my sister and my cousin Stephanie. I told my mother my first break home from college, with the usual dramatic flair, but she told me she knew all along and that she still loved me very much. I can still picture sitting in my parents’ living room having that discussion with my Mom back in 1986. My sister just knew. Perhaps it was the discussions years earlier about how cute Rick Springfield, Jack Wagner and the guys in Duran Duran were. And my cousin and I were very close and she always teased me about being gay so I finally just confirmed it. I finally calmed down a bit and ended up having one boyfriend in the year or two after college that I brought around once or twice, then a half hearted attempt at a relationship after that, but until my commitment ceremony with Earl it was just an unspoken assumption, I suppose. I just went out and did my thing and everyone worried about me. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Earl and I began wearing our wedding bands after our commitment ceremony. Then it was like the closet doors just blew off their hinges, even though no words were spoken. I was in love and I was happy. And am even more so to this day.
I wish everyone had an easy path with their homosexuality, coming out and acceptance. I cringe when people say that being gay is a choice. It’s not. It’s part of who I am. Without the “gay”, I would not be the man I am today. It is just as inherent to us as eye color or left- or right-handedness.
So on this National Coming Out Day, whether you’re contemplating, talking or listening, know that there are others in similar situations. You are not alone.
One of my very favorite tracks to spin as a club DJ is “Never Can Say Goodbye” by The Communards. I would usually put it toward the end of the night and it would almost always fill the dance floor, in fact, it’s one of the very first songs I ever played as a club DJ. Jimmy Somerville’s soaring falsetto vocals are fun and when married with the impressive orchestration, the collaboration makes for (in my opinion) a superior version of a song that was previously recorded by Gloria Gaynor and The Jacksons.
As I watched this video today, I couldn’t help but feel like the old guy in the room in that the folks dancing and having a great time to this song are smiling, the tempo is upbeat, and the mood of the track is jovial. Going to a club today there’s a lot of down-tempo angry-sound lyrics, darkness, and way too much auto-tune. In the 80s we had fairies, today we have zombies.
Both Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles were out gay men back in the mid-late 1980s while they were collaborating for The Communards. This is before being out was a mainstream thing and parents were throwing coming out parties for their junior high school aged children.
Wow, I do sound like the old guy in the room.
Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this track as much as I do. Full confession: Richard Coles is probably one of the first guys I ever had crush on and even watching the video today I have to admit I find him wicked cute.
I do like the nerdy type from time to time.
I’m sitting on our balcony during a summertime rain storm. There’s no lightning or thunder involved, though the weather service said we’d be getting thunderstorms this evening; no, there’s just a lot of rain and it’s coming straight down. This affords me the opportunity to sit on our balcony, under the cover of the floor above, and remain dry. The effect is pleasing.
Earl and I and our family spent the weekend enjoying “Market Days” here in Chicago. It’s the largest street festival in the city of Chicago and it encompasses Boystown for the weekend. I enjoy Market Days more than Gay Pride here in the Windy City; people are just out having a good time. I know this sounds odd, but the crowd seems slightly more relaxed to me when compared to Pride. There’s still plenty of outrageous, but it’s a relaxed outrageous, if that makes any sense.
This weekend was the first time I’ve felt all of my 51 years of age at a gay event. I’m proud of who I am, where I am, and what my life is about these days, but watching the revelers do their thing I started to feel a little obsolete. The monotonous thump of what they call dance music today was a little on my nerves, I feel no need to drink a “Truly”, and even over a decade later I have no idea what a “kiki” is though I do believe several of them were occurring in my general vicinity.
As a private pilot who happens to be gay, I also really felt that I have little in common with some other members of the National Gay Pilots Association, other than the fact that we’re gay and we fly something that defies gravity. I mentioned this to Earl, and he said, “just because you’re pilots doesn’t make you instant friends”.
To me, aviation has always led to an instant friendship with another pilot, but then again, I grew up around old-school flying clubs. Many of these young pilots have learned to fly and made it career. I still fly for the fun of it.
I have no desire to be ‘young again’ because I still feel like the young man I was 20 years ago, just with some extra data in the memory banks and some aging on the outside. I look in the mirror and see lines from plenty of smiles around my eyes. When we were in Palm Springs a couple of weeks ago I saw plenty of faces pulled tighter than a bass drum. That’s not my jam, I’ve earned these lines and I’ve weathered some storms.
If I was a car in New York State I’d still pass inspection. I’d even pass the smog test.
It is interesting, however, to see society do a complete 180 on some things within my lifetime. Like, when I was in my teens, Nancy Reagan was telling us to “Just Say No”. We were shown ancient movies on a Bell and Howell projector about the dangers of smoking pot, and how it would apparently turn us into zombies, make us wear cardigan sweaters with the buttons misaligned while we rambled around the streets drooling, and turn our brains to frying eggs. Now in 2019, it’s legal in nearly half of the United States. I haven’t seen one person with egg for brains wearing a cardigan sweater.
I’m fascinated by yet feel separated from the gay culture of today. Do they know how many funerals I went to in the 80s and 90s? Do they know the meaning of the Silence = Death plaque on the wall? Do they know how to ACT-UP like we did?
One of the beautiful things about our marriage is I can say to my husband, “I think this trumpet player is so hot”. He agreed with me.
And then the geek in me realizes said trumpet player is playing either a C or a G in this screenshot.
I walked with the National Gay Pilots Association in the Chicago Pride Parade again this year. It is a magnificent feeling, hearing all that cheering and celebration as one walks and waves their way down the parade route, simply being who they are.
Mother Nature came barreling in when we were making our way through the crowds and the parade came to an early end due to lightning being detected in the area. I joined my fellow pilots at a Pride House Party. I was the oldest guy in the room but I still had a great time. Talking airplanes and getting to know each other a little more was an awesome feeling. I remarked that I missed a little bit of the aviation energy I felt back when I was flying out of KRME; there are so many places I want to take my aviation career (even though I was the oldest guy in the room), and participating with the NGPA today gave me the energy boost I was seeking.
I was talking with one of the newer members who is working on her CFI or Certified Flight Instructor rating. One of the examiners she flew with remarked that he thought women didn’t make good pilots. Some of the best pilots I know are women. I wonder how many pilots don’t think gay men make good pilots. They’d be wrong about that too.
And this is why we march in Pride Parades.
Do displays like this really give people fits? How it must suck to be cranky all the time.
It’s Pride Month and Chicago’s official Pride Events are taking place this week. The celebration began last weekend with a street fair in Boystown and ends this coming week with the big Pride parade. I plan on walking in the parade again this year as part of the contingent for the National Gay Pilots’ Association. While the NGPA is more geared toward airline pilots, there are many of us General Aviation pilots who also represent and believe what the NGPA stands for.
I walked in my first Pride parade in 1989 in Boston. At that time I was part of a group called BGLAD, which I think stood for “Bisexual Gay Lesbian at Digital”, though it might have started out as “Being Gay or Lesbian At Digital”. BGLAD was part of another group called DECplus, or DEC People Like US. I found Digital (commonly known as DEC, though we always called it Digital when we worked there) to be a very supportive company in this regard.
One think that struck me about Boston Gay Pride in 1989 was that it felt like a “safe” space that at the time was usually confined to the likes of organizations like BGLAD or DECplus, or the interior of a gay bar. I was not quite 21 years old when I went to my first pride, and while the atmosphere was celebratory, there was a more militant feel to it. We were marching for so many reason: people dying of AIDS, acceptance or at the very least acknowledgement of our existence. We had to be loud and we had to be proud to get where we are today. I remember a religious contingent spitting on a few of us at the end of the parade in Boston in 1989. I remember spitting back. It wasn’t one of my proudest moments. It would be a few months before I decided to ACT UP.
Earl and I went for a walk through Boystown here in Chicago last Saturday night shortly before midnight. While the street fair had been over for the day for several hours, the streets were still hustling and bustling with partners and the like, all in celebration of Pride. So many sequins, and bright colors, and statements being made everywhere. Lines snaked down blocks waiting to get into the hottest clubs. The crowd was decidedly mixed; there were just as many bachelorette party types as there were seemingly gay people lining the streets. Honestly, I was a bit dismayed. Everywhere one looked there was people stumbling for the obvious effects of alcohol or other recreational drugs. As Earl and I made our way down the sidewalk, the atmosphere started to feel less like a safe space for gay people and more like a seedy dive bar. The smell of weed permeated the street. Young people were comparing their respective states of “rolling”. Some were coming down from it, others were at their high point, no one seemed particularly grounded. People that I sensed would have never showed any support to the gay community back in 1989 wanted to be part of the biggest party in the city in 2019.
Is this what we want Pride to become? Another excuse to get out of your mind drunk or stoned so one can stagger, scream, and puke all over Boystown?
I’m still such a country bumpkin’ living in the big city.
Back in late April I remarked to Earl that the department stores and the like were starting to put up Pride decorations like Christmas before Halloween. Pride has become a cash cow for so many outside of the “traditional” gay community. I’m old. I still interpret a gay flag on a business as a business owned by a member of the gay community. But it doesn’t really mean that anymore. The cynical side of me wonders if the pride flag really means, “hell yeah, we want your gay dollars”.
I wonder how many of partiers in the country’s first gayborhood would have been part of the rebellion back at the Stonewall in New York City in 1969. Would they have resisted police harassment? Or would they have fled the scene out the back door in search of a better party.
Perhaps we need a reminder as to why some of us Gen Xers and Baby Boomers had to spit back back in the day.