Today is National Coming Out Day. Today is the day the LGBTQ+ community encourages support for those coming to terms with their sexuality. As I said on Facebook earlier today:
Today is National Coming Out Day. A LOT has changed since I came out in the mid 1980s, and the vast majority of it has been great progress for the community. Let’s keep that momentum moving forward and let’s respect the individual experience each member of the community has with their coming out process. We don’t all do it the same way or at the same pace.
Even though I came out in the mid 1980s when the AIDS epidemic was nearing full swing and there wasn’t a bunch of letters together (I think it might have been around the start of “GLB”), I didn’t have it too bad. Last night I was watching an episode of “V: The Series” (from 1984) and remember thinking on its original run that Duncan Regher was hot.
Looking at him today I don’t know why I thought that, he’s not really my type. It probably had to do with the hormones of a 16 year old.
Many years ago I wrote a blog entry about coming out, and you can see it here.
For years, decades even, my husband has belched out the words “Kaye Ballard!” whenever we’ve spent time reminiscing about shows we watched as kids. His bark of “Kaye Ballard!” was in reference to “The Mothers-In-Law”, starring Kaye along with Eve Arden on the NBC show that was actually owned and produced by Desi Arnaz, and was co-owned by Proctor and Gamble. NBC didn’t make a lot of money from “The Mothers-In-Law” back in the day and therefore it was cancelled after two seasons and it’s not really talked about that much. Written by the same folks that wrote “I Love Lucy”, it has a very formula farcical feel that seems slightly out of whack from a 1960s sitcom that’s the same age as me, but when you’re in the right frame of mind, it’s a fun show to watch. I knew some about Kaye Ballard; I knew the name, I vaguely remembered the show, I remember her doing things on The Muppet Show and maybe Match Game, and I knew she could sing.
Earl and I just finished watching the entire series of “The Mothers-In-Law” on Amazon Prime this week. I’ve mentioned this a few times on the blog since the beginning of the pandemic.
Kaye Ballard chews through the scenery of “The Mothers-In-Law” in a way that’s hard to describe. Demonstrative? Oh, yeah. Loud? Yep. Boisterous? You bet.
What a freakin’ delight. She’s a hoot and a half.
After watching Kaye do her thing and finishing up the entire series I’ve been reading and watching interviews with Ms. Ballard via the Internet. A brilliant vocalist, she has an amazing voice that was featured on many an album and Broadway show. Kaye passed at age 93 in 2019. From every interview I’ve watched over the past few days, she was a delight, completely honest and forthright, and a good ol’ Show Business broad. They don’t make them like her anymore and we are all at a loss without Kaye Ballard no longer on this Earth. She never married. Who cares? People speculate. It was a different time. She lived her life honestly and completely and shared what she wanted to share and I hope I feel as much vivaciousness as she showed right up through the last interview in the last years of her life.
The third to last episode of “The Mothers-In-Law” features a scene with Kaye and Eve Arden with Don Rickles. Don is ad-libbing from the script during the scene and Kaye and Eve lose it a bit, something you didn’t really see in 1960s sitcoms. It was a delight to watch the other night and if you have Amazon Prime, you should watch it.
I can’t help but wonder if anyone will be writing in this manner in 50 years about the likes of the folks on television today. Will some middle aged gay man pine about Debra Messing that was I’ve been amused by Kaye Ballard’s antics these past few weeks? Doubtful. They don’t make them like that anymore and we’ve lost a great deal of class because of it.
I’m looking forward to spending time listening to Kaye’s albums and enjoying a few moments of what was.
I’ve hinted to my husband that we might have to watch a few episodes of “The Doris Day Show” where Kaye played Doris’ neighbor and owner of an Italian restaurant.
So word on the street is the persona of Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show may not be an accurate portrayal of her demeanor off stage. Stories of not allowing the consumption of meat by her employees, or not allowing them to look her in the eye, or just being rather mean when not in stage are peppering the Intertubes left and right. Honestly, these stories have been circulating for years, but recent tweets from the likes of Brad Garrett and Lea Thompson reinforcing these believes have helped propel them to new heights.
First of all, can we talk about the whole “you can’t look me in the eye” thing? What sort of weirdo does this? If this is true about anyone, they should probably be avoided at all costs. It takes a certain amount of some sort of psychosis to tell people they can’t look you in the eye. That’s just stupid.
That being said, are we really surprised to find out that Ellen on stage is different from Ellen off stage? I just take it for granted that most famous people are this way. Earl and I were in the audience of a talk show a couple of decades ago and the show host was quite crabby during commercial breaks and refused to sign any autographs or meet any of the audience members after the show. What you saw on television, a bubbly, happy, sing-songy personality, was nothing like what we saw during the break. I’m surprised this host allowed the audience to witness this stuff without signing an NDA.
I’ve read and heard stories like this for literally decades. Years ago I was chatting with a fellow “Bewitched” fan online, who was invited to a “Hollywood Party” with one of the folks from the set of “Bewitched” and he said he met someone that was quite crabby, or as he put it, “she didn’t really turn the world on with her smile that night”.
Everyone has a bad day, right?
I was never an avid viewer of Ellen’s talk show. I’d catch clips here and there as they were force-fed over airport television or something, but other than that, I knew she danced a bit, told some jokes, and then did fluffy interviews with fluffy people. I’ve heard that lately she’s taken her games to a new level, dousing with water and flames or flinging them out of a slingshot or something but I figured that’s just what the American public wants in 2020. I did see her clips with the old lady from Houston who drank Listerine but someone revealed that was a stage hand doing an imitation of an old lady that drank Listerine and I lost interest.
If Ellen is as awful as they say she is then don’t work for her. I know I won’t. I won’t watch her show either, but like her or not, we have more gay people on television today because she was gay on television in the late 1990s. She was probably too gay at the time and so was I but we all survived it.
I won’t be cranky, though, and you can look me in the eye.
Cable didn’t come to my parents’ house until after I graduated high school and was off to college. Short version, my parents’ did not have cable when I lived at home. However, my grandfather had a huge satellite dish in the field next to his house and with the right amount of voodoo we could tune in MTV by whipping the satellite dish around to face the right position in the sky. This was before the days of scrambling the signal so that you had to pay for it. You just grabbed it as the signal blanketed the planet. I once landed on a Russian satellite and heard some screeching noises that nearly blew up the television but I’ll save that for another blog entry.
It was 1983 when Tracey Ullman came out with “They Don’t Know”, a remake of the Kirsty MacColl song from the late 1970s. It was unique on Top 40 radio, reminding us all from the brashness of the “Wall of Sound”, er, sound, from the 1960s. It’s a great track all around.
My grandparents were on one of their month-long trips across the country when I was in their house after school watching MTV, after whipping the satellite dish around trying to find the signal. The first few frames of Tracey’s video for “They Don’t Know” literally took my breath away.
I was a sophomore in high school, already kinda sure of which way my life would be headed as far as a life partner, but after seeing this man bang on the chimes I suddenly had absolutely no doubt that I was 100% certified gay beef.
The sight of this man literally took my breath away. All of sudden everything fell into place and life made sense. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, but I knew someday I would snuggle up next to a man and be very happy.
Of course, hormonal lust was fueling my attraction to this particular guy banging on the chimes, my taste would vary quite a bit to this first gasp of losing my breath, but I knew from that very moment, who and what I was and destined to be.
All because I whipped around a satellite dish in the right direction.
For the past couple of years I have marched in Chicago’s Gay Pride parade (is it officially called LGBTQ+ Parade now?) with the NGPA, or National Gay Pilots Association. Even though I don’t fly for the airlines, the NGPA is welcoming of us pilots that like to fly “low and slow” and marching with this group has been very empowering for me.
Earlier today I remarked on Twitter that when I was a young gay lad I felt being gay was something that was not compatible with being a pilot. This was mostly due to my internal homophobia, as while I was out of the closet at a relatively young age for the time (the mid 1980s), I still saw being gay as a “less than”. I figured you couldn’t be a “less than” to become a pilot.
Clearly I was wrong.
I started seeking out the NGPA in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I first started thinking seriously of becoming an airline pilot, but I was still get a solid foothold on my career and finances and all that, so it wasn’t until the early 2010s that I was able to take to the skies. I became a member of the NGPA as soon as I passed my student pilot medical.
Since traditional Pride Celebrations have been cancelled all over the country, the NGPA decided to have a virtual Pride celebration on Zoom, and the festivities took place today. It was really well done; Ongina from RuPaul’s Drag Race is an honorary member of the NGPA Family and she performed, as well as a couple of other members doing the same, interspersed with videos made for the event, contributions from a few airlines, and commentary and information from the President and Vice-President of the organization. We also raised $20K during the event, furthering the coffers that fund the multitude of NGPA Scholarships that are awarded annually.
Aside from the pandemic, this year’s Pride festivities have focused on activism, with focus on #BlackLivesMatter and all of the other struggles our society faces today. I am proud to be a member of the National Gay Pilots Association. And with the timber and tone of this year’s Pride, I feel more compelled than ever to do my part in getting the country back on course and recognize the value ALL of us bring to the equation. Not since the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s have I felt the urge to contribute to the activism needed to make things better.
After the NGPA event wrapped up, Earl and I watched the Pride Celebration on Chicago’s ABC 7. The news media here in The Windy City usually gives live coverage of the Pride Parade and associated events; ABC 7 broadcasted a special today, and it was very well done.
I’m happy to see technology used in such a positive way.
Happy Pride, everyone! Let’s keep using this momentum to make the world a better place for all!
I totally didn’t see this coming: “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring sex discrimination in the workplace protects LGBTQ employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation”.
The vote was 6-3.
There is hope for 2020. Click the screen cap for the link to the NPR coverage.
My husband and I are still working our way through “The Mothers In Law” on Amazon Prime. It’s a distraction from the 21st century and all its woes. We’re still making our way through the first season. The quality of the episodes is still quite uneven but it’s improving as we make our way through the trials and tribulations of the Buells and the Hubbards.
It’s interesting to see how hard Desi Arnaz, as Executive Producer and often Director, tried really hard to recreate the showmanship of “I Love Lucy” with this cast, albeit with a late 1960s twist. The writers were all from “I Love Lucy” and while one is working their way through an episode it’s easy to see that while the premise foundation is different, the shenanigans and antics of Eve and Kaye are very Lucy and Ethel. I think the only reason I’m watching the show is to watch Kaye Ballard do her thing in a very large way. There’s some improvisation going on and one of these days I’m going to start calling my husband “Cutes”.
Speaking of Kaye’s husband; while we’re still in the first season he’s being played by Roger C. Carmel.
I can’t help but notice that Roger is a very cute 1960s version of a gay bear, with his handlebar mustache and his hairy chest often showing itself under the collar of his shirt. As I understand it, Roger was part of the underground gays of Hollywood back in the day. He was released from the show before the second season, some say due to contract disputes, other say due to recreational drug use and related activities. He was replaced by Richard Deacon, who apparently was also part of the undergrounds gays of Hollywood. Oh, I do enjoy Roger’s accent as well. I’m so odd.
Much to the chagrin of my husband we’ll continue working our way through “The Mothers In Law”. Desi Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. made an appearance in an episode or two for us earlier this week. I’m sure they’ll be back again before we’re done with this run.
And can I just say I love the fact that Amazon Prime is bringing back all of these old shows that can’t be found anywhere else. The prints these digital streams were mastered off of are a little rough around the edges but mostly cleaned up decently. I’m happy this little slice of nostalgia is able to live on.
So the young man in Boystown calling me “Grandpa” yesterday as I was waiting for a light to turn green while on a bike ride is still weighing on my mind a little bit. It’s not a detriment to my existence or anything; if anything it’s made me a bit more reflective on the current state of the world.
Let’s face it, being a gay man in the 21st century is a young man’s game. The gays like the youth and like much of the rest of American society, once you’re over a certain age you’re no longer relevant to the scene. This does not dishearten me in any way but I can’t help but reflect that it’s the opposite of how we treat, say, employees at work. Corporations want experience and relatively well-seasoned people to carry out the duties they require. The number of gay men that appreciate the handsome experience of an older man is on the low side of the percentage scale.
I don’t dye (what’s left of) my hair. If I grow my beard out I’m about 50/50 ginger and gray. If I grow out my mustache it’s white. I don’t really care about building muscle or running around shirtless to show off a worked out chest. I’ve never had a six pack. Ever. (Though I’ve polished a few in my time). I no longer have the desire to dress in an edgy manner or in anything that has a label. I consider myself put together when my shirt label isn’t hanging out the back of my neck. It usually says “Fruit of the Loom”.
The truth is, I’m happy with the way I look and the way I feel. My attempts at exercise are merely my way of enjoying life without having to go to the doctor every 10 days. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the FAA requirements around my health to retain my Pilot’s Certificate I probably would be a little more casual than I am today about my health.
When I look back at old television shows and whatnot I can’t help but notice that before the baby boomers and Gen-Xers started getting older people aged more gracefully or purposely. When “Maude” went on the air in 1972, Bea Arthur and Bill Macy were younger than I am today. They both had gray hair and pretty much looked their age; though Bea did get a facelift after the first season. Their attitudes were with the times and they didn’t try to use hip slang of the era to try to sound young. Maude and Arthur using “groovy” would be like me trying to use “rad” or “deets”. Gnarly, dude. Just gnarly.
As my husband and I grow old together I feel as young as I did back when we first met in 1995. He makes me as giddy as a school boy. I hope the young lad that called me “Grandpa” yesterday knows that same feeling if he doesn’t already. Giddy keeps you young.
There’s a lot of history in the gay community that occasionally seems unimportant to the younger generations. The freedom they take for granted: the ability to get married, the relative freedom of holding hands on the street, the presence of gay characters all over entertainment media, these are all things that haven’t really been around that long. Generations before us and we Gen-Xers have done a lot to give us the freedom to be who we are here in 2020.
I guess the cranky grandpa in me wishes these young whipper-snappers would recognize that.