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December 22nd, 2022

Fear Of Dating…Let Us Scare You Even More!

The New Yorker posted a link to one of their humor essays this morning and against my better judgement I clicked on it. I’ve been a happy subscriber to the magazine for a while now, but humor is in the eye of the beholder, and I could see this one coming a mile away…

Come On to My House
By Jenny Allen
August 1, 2022

Calling all cute guys! Guess what? I’m ready to have a new man in my life! I’ve been on my own for a while now, but I feel totally ready for a relationship.

You just know what’s coming next in her list of new man requirements. The essay ends with an ironic slam at the downstairs neighbors for only thinking of themselves. Those of you reading this blog in a happily married or coupled household should go ahead and read this New Yorker piece anyway. Maybe it gives you a little sympathy for the rest of us stragglers. 

When I was a younger man I tried three different gay dating services (this was before smartphones and dating apps), paid them thousands, and got dates like this.

The cosmic joke is I know people who went through ex-gay therapy, left all that and ended up with wonderful fulfilling love lives. These days I joke (halfway) that maybe I should have tried ex-gay therapy instead. I think in retrospect those gay dating services frightened me about dating more than anything Exodus could have done to me.

Anyway…I’m 69 and that part of my life is in the rear view mirror. Such as it was.

It’s over.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 17th, 2022

Representation

When I was a kid, the comic books that attracted my attention mostly had science-fiction themes or they were humor titles. But I had to be careful. My bitter Baptist grandmother threw a lot of them out when I wasn’t there to protect them from her. She would say they weren’t fit for children, but I’m pretty sure it was I thought they were fun and the son of Bill Garrett wasn’t allowed fun. I had a bunch of Scrooge McDuck comics that would be collectors items today if she hadn’t put them in the trash. But then, so I’m told, a lot of kids of my generation have similar stories. Thank you and rot in Hell Dr. Wertham.

My only interest in anything Super was the TV Superman played by George Reeves, but the Superman comics of that time were hit and miss with me. I only have a few left from those years. Oddly, so it may seem, the early Batman comics struck me has having a kind of science-fiction element to them because that character had no super powers, but he had a lot of futuristic gadgets. Back then DC would publish Annuals, which were thicker reprints of much older stories, and that’s where I came to know that golden age Batman and Robin.

I had high hopes when I saw the first TV ads for the series by William Dozer. But it almost completely ruined the character for me. I realize it’s still enjoyed by a lot of people for it’s campiness but Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (who also did Action Philosophers) in The Comic Book History of Comics really hit it on the head in their chapter on Pop Art. In it they describe how Dozer, a TV producer was given the job of bringing the character to TV by the network. So he bought a few Batman comics and his initial conclusion after reading through them was that putting Batman on TV was nuts.

But then he had the idea of going so over the top with it, making it so square and so serious, that adults would find it amusing. And it was a hit. The network’s market research showed that it was a hit with small kids who took it seriously and loved the colorful POW ZING, and also with adults who thought it was hilarious comedy. But teenagers Hated it. Van Lente and Dunlavey suggest that it was because that age group realized their culture was being mocked by it.

That was me. But back then I stayed tuned for the gadgets and that cool Batmobile, and also watching some big name guest stars ham it up. But it quickly became tiresome and I stopped watching. Worse, by then the comics had become infected with camp too, and I stopped buying, except for my usual science-fiction titles. And Mad Magazine, which did a killer parody of the TV show. I still have that issue. Yeech!

Time passes…the universe expands…and none of the later Batman and Superman movies and cartoons did anything for me. I’m sorry, not even Chris Reeve’s Superman movies did either. I’d say he was the best of the lot, but I just could not get into the stories. And I began to realize that part of the problem with bringing those characters to life was they needed to be set in the timeframes they were created in, because they really didn’t make much sense in the here and now.

Then Batman The Animated Series came out, and I was wowed.

It was Miller’s Dark Knight (which I liked the first couple issues of and then hated the rest…don’t get me started on Frank Miller…) meets golden age Batman…and they set it in an art deco Gotham City that seemed as if it was still 1930s/40s but also today. The art direction was pitch perfect: it set the character squarely in both its time frame and ours, which I didn’t think was possible. But you can do things with animation you can’t, or can’t easily with live action. I still think that the Gotham City they created for that series was among its most stunning achievements. But the voice actors they got for it was another.

None of it would have worked without the great writing, and none of those stories would have worked without the voice artists. I had no idea that Mark Hamill was voicing the Joker, but the voice he gave that character was perfect. There’s a YouTube video of Hamill at a convention panel somewhere and he’s asked to give that Heath Ledger Joker line “Why so serious” but in His Joker voice. And he does and the audience roars with cheers and applause.

All of the voice actors who worked on that series were perfect. The characters weren’t campy clowns mocking the audience anymore, they were integral parts of the story that made the stories make sense.

And especially Kevin Conroy’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. The series rescued that character for me from Dozer and camp, and Miller and his bitter strongman fascism. He made the character larger than life, because those characters have to be that, and yet his Bruce Wayne/Batman was so very Very human. In it’s way as amazing an achievement as the art direction. It all worked, and Conroy’s voice acting was a big reason why the character worked, and why everything else worked.

And now he’s gone and I feel the loss of it, because he did so much for those of us who really wanted to like that character and his stories but just couldn’t for all the stuff the studios had done to him.

And now I understand more how Conroy could make that character come to life in a way nobody else could. This is from a Facebook gay superheroes page I follow (Gay League). Representation matters…not just to us, but to everyone. Because our stories resonate deeply in the human status. Everyone benefits by hearing our stories too.

 

I cried a little today when I heard Kevin Conroy had exited the stage for the final time. His death is the second time he’s elicited tears from me and I’m generally not much of a cryer, especially where celebrities are concerned.

A little background ( and by little, I mean a lot. Hang in there. It’s worth it):

I have to admit, I was never the biggest fan of Batman. I’d seen and loved Tim Burton’s “Batman” in 1989. But, even that was not enough to make me care for the character much.

Of course, I liked Batman as a mainstay of the Justice League. But his inclusion in their exploits (and reruns of the 60s era television series) was pretty much where my interest ended.

It was 1992 and I was visiting my aunt who had the television on for my younger cousins.

I had my head buried in a book, much like I always did, when I first heard the iconic theme song of “Batman, the Animated Series” and Kevin Conroy’s distinctive, “I am VENGEANCE! I am the NIGHT! I AM BATMAN!”

And. I. was. hooked!

Batman, the Animated Series was my new jam. I was obsessed with finding and watching every episode I could find from then on.

If I had to pick a favorite episode from the first season, undoubtedly it would be “Beware the Gray Ghost” featuring my other favorite Batman, Adam West, as the titular Gray Ghost – Gotham’s first crime fighting vigilante in the continuity of the show.

Conroy would go on to portray the DCAU Batman for over two decades in “Superman Adventures”, “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” as well as many other projects featuring the character over the years.

I truly hate when fans claim a character in this way. But, in this case it must be said: Kevin Conroy was MY Batman. When I think of the Dark Knight Detective, I think of Conroy. Every time without fail. All other Batmen are measured by his standard.

It’s always his voice I hear in my head when I read the comics. Kevin Conroy (and Bruce Timm, natch) made me like Batman way more than I ever would have otherwise.

The stories he starred in made me actually care about this privileged orphan boy millionaire who had a fetish for dressing in a leather bat suit and beating people up accompanied by a pre-teen boy wearing little more than a domino mask and a cape, little green undies and elf shoes (okay, when they finally introduced Robin in the show, he was wearing pants and boots, but you get the idea).

When Conroy was briefly featured in the Episode 2 of the WB’s live action Arrowverse “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event as Bruce Wayne, I cheered!
This was *the* man!

The only actor I feel who ever brought true depth to the character was reprising his role -LIVE ACTION- even if only for a single scene and I. Was. There. For. It.

I never knew until recently why he resonated so much with me, why – out of dozens of portrayals over the years, some by the biggest, most sought after actors of their time – Kevin Conroy’s Batman was the only one who ever caught my interest.

And here, those who have followed from the beginning of this screed will be happy to learn, is where my first set of Conroy inspired tears were made manifest.
Earlier this year, shortly after Kevin Conroy came out publicly as a gay man in his 60s, DC Comics published their 2022 Pride Issue which featured a number of Queer characters in their stable.

I have mixed feelings about those sort of things because on the one hand I am very wary of non-Queer people who profitize and corporatize Queerness into a commodity.

But on the other hand, I understand how vitally important representation in such things can be for young Queer people grasping for something – anything – which make them feel less an outcast, less a misfit, more accepted for who they are and more loved by those around them.

I usually hold my nose and buy the Pride issues anyway despite their exorbitant pricing and dubious quality as a “special edition” (whatever that is) because I know DC will only keep making Queer interest material so long as it sells.

This time around, the yearly Pride issue contained a story about a hero we hadn’t heard from in a completely Queer context before.

Kevin Conroy – MY Batman – had written “Finding Batman”, a biographical comic at the end of the issue exploring the trials and tribulations of coming of age during the height of the AIDS epidemic, of being a closeted actor in an environment which was completely unforgiving to gay actors, of the many times someone casually called him “faggot” as if that were acceptable.

He spoke about living a double life, being one thing in private and another in public, hiding who he truly was to protect himself while watching practically his whole generation of gay men succumb to AIDS while the world just…watched.

It was a story of growing up Roman Catholic while watching his world fall apart around him. It was a story of a young man whose parents divorced as his father succumbed to alcoholism and eventually death.

It was a story of watching helpless as his brother was taken away inch by inch by schizophrenia at the same time friends and colleagues were wasting away in hospitals dying of a disease no one wanted to talk about.

It was a story of survival and a story of triumph.

Finally, the masked cowl could come off and he could be seen as who he really was: a phenomenal actor who inspired an entire generation of comic and animation fans-who, as it happened, was also a gay man. Finally, he could openly embrace who he was, his own story fully without fear.

Suddenly, this man who had always played a role in both his personal and professional lives could take off that mask and be who he wanted and needed to be.

As the short narrative drawn by the excellent J. Bone came to a close, I shed a few bittersweet tears as I thought about my own journey, my own “secret identity”, my own experience with AIDS both as a gay man and a person living with HIV.

Suddenly, I got it. I knew why Conroy’s portrayal resonated so perfectly for me when Hollywood heartthrobs the like of George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Bruce Willis, Christian Bale and Robert Pattenson looked good in the suit but ultimately fell short.

In fact, I feel like all of them were adept at playing either Bruce Wayne or Batman consistently but couldn’t quite nail the other. But, not Kevin Conroy. He could do both flawlessly and made it seem effortless.

I know what you’re thinking, “We get it. It’s because he’s gay and you’re gay and blah blah…”

Who TF is telling this story anyhow?

Yes, acknowledging my people for their achievements is important. The fact he’s a gay man is a definite plus. But, it goes far deeper than that.

I’m a gay man, yes. But before I even knew what that meant, I was a comic book nerd and like him or not, like all comic book nerds, I KNEW Batman!
? ??

Conroy may not have had washboard abs or bulging biceps to fill out the leather and latex outfits. But, he did have authenticity of character. He practically was Batman in a way none of the other hunky hunks who played the role could even approach in their clumsy heteronormativity.

Conroy could convincingly play a man with a double life because he had lived a double life most of his life.

He could play a man driven by tragedy and trauma because he *had* experienced loss, tragedy and trauma on an almost daily basis.

He could play a successful man who was awash with guilt and anger because he had survived while his friends and family were not so lucky.

He was believable because that imaginary mask was a reality for him.

As I write this, I’m streaming “Batman: The Animated Series” on HBO MAX and remembering all the times as a young gay man I lost myself in an episode of the series.

As a few more tears escape the near watertight edges of my eyes, I want to thank Kevin Conroy for all the times he was there for me and other kids both Queer and straight when we didn’t have anywhere else to go.

For some of us, no doubt, Batman saved us from our own traumas, our own trials and tribulations, our own masks and double lives and Kevin Conroy was the vessel through which he acted.

I can think of few stories more inspiring than knowing Kevin Conroy-the best, the ONLY Batman – got to take off his mask and be his authentic self after years of hiding his trauma from the world and living a double life for the benefit of his public life and his career. Would that we all could come to terms with ourselves so completely.

I only wish he’d been able to enjoy it longer.

Rest well, old friend.

You are missed.

But never, ever forgotten.

-F. Daniel Kent

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Representation

October 27th, 2022

Once Upon A Throwback Thursday. . .

 

Throwback Thursday (are we still doing that?). This is from an old Polaroid a friend probably snapped of me while I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment in Rockville (now North Bethesda!) mom and I lived in during the 60s/70s/80s. I would have been in my twenties. I would have still had the Pinto and probably was working at the Best Products just on the other side of the fence between them and the apartments.

I can tell a lot about the timeframe that this was taken because it has to be sometime in the mid 70s, before that awful couple years I wrote about yesterday. It’s in my face. I look at this and see someone still comfortable in the life he has, confident that even better times are just around the corner. A boyfriend. A good job that paid well (I was going to be a newspaper photographer). A place of my own. Everything was still possible.

As to why I had it taken…I’m not sure. This would have been before the microcomputer days, let alone the Internet, so it wouldn’t have been to post to an online profile. This is a Polaroid, I had no scanner then, and getting copies off a Polaroid wasn’t simple. So this was a one-off. I think I had it taken just to have a couple of me that I actually liked. There are a few other poses in the set but I liked this one best. Which explains why it’s a Polaroid: I could look over each one and decide if I needed another.

The problem was always that I didn’t have many of myself that I liked. By then I was well aware that I wasn’t very good looking, but every now and then I saw a good photo of me so I wasn’t overly concerned about my looks at that age. My teeth were very crooked though, and I was extremely self conscious about that. In every photo of me from that period I’m always smiling with my mouth closed. You almost can’t see the smile here, but it’s there in the corner of my mouth. That problem wouldn’t get fixed until I was in my thirties when a friend kindly financed some dental work for me and pointed me to a super good dentist.

This image is from a time before the Internet, personal computers, cable TV, and cell phones let alone smartphones. I’m pretty sure this was before 1977 and Anita Bryant’s rampage on gay civil rights in Dade County Florida. I had listen to my shortwave radio to get the result of the vote in Dade County because none of the mainstream network news companies bothered to cover it until much later. News for and about gay Americans was not fit to print in those days. If I wanted that news, and I didn’t want to drive into DC to the Lambda Rising bookstore, I had to go to a seedy adult bookstore in Wheaton and walk past racks of pretty hard core heterosexual pornography to get a copy of the Washington Blade and The Advocate. The subway wouldn’t be built out beyond the beltway in Montgomery County until 1978 when the station at Silver Spring opened. After that I could drive into Silver Spring and hop on the Metro to get to DuPont Circle and Lambda Rising. When the Twinbook Metro station opened in 1984 I could just walk from the apartment to the subway and it was a straight shot down the red line to DuPont Circle and back.

I was so happy not to have to go past those heterosexual porn magazines ever again. I mean…okay…whatever floats your boat. But…jeeze… And yet, in many quarters of American culture, not just the pulpit thumping churches, but also mainstream news media, TV, movies, and magazines, the youngster you see in this photo was regarded as a deviant threat to American society, family values, and civilization itself.

That is the world you are seeing in this image. TVs still had vacuum tubes, telephones had a wire connecting them to the wall, you got your news from the morning or afternoon newspaper, or the nightly network news broadcasts around dinnertime. Am radio played mostly music or sports, music came on vinyl LPs or cassettes, big box department stores were still a thing, and bookstores and newstands were everywhere, but you couldn’t get any gay publications in them because gay people like the kid in this photo were almost universally regarded with contempt and loathing. But the kid you see there was still pretty confident of his future. Bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to meet tomorrow. He never found a boyfriend.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Once Upon A Throwback Thursday. . .

September 25th, 2022

Fear Of Dating, Fear Of Intimacy

For some reason so I’m told, Jeffrey Dahmer was trending on commercial social media, which prompted a repost of this powerful essay by Dan Savage from 2018…

You should go read it. This, among other things (that “worse was yet to come” he mentions), is a reason why so many of us had trouble dating, finding and holding on to love. Where most heterosexuals could have that usual coming of age experience in adolescence, and dating and going to the prom and that first wonderful life affirming sweet romance…

“Once upon a time, there was a girl I knew, who lived across the street. Brown hair, brown eyes. When she smiled, I smiled. When she cried, I cried. Every single thing that ever happened to me that mattered, in some way had to do with her. That day, Winnie and I promised each other that no matter what, that we’d always be together. It was a promise full of passion and truth and wisdom. It was the kind of promise that can only come from the hearts of the very young.” -Narrator, The Wonder Years

…what we came of age into was a world where reaching out to another might likely get you killed.

I’m almost ashamed to say that while I get how scared he was, reading this essay I’m also very envious of the adolescence he had. I’m sure he doesn’t think it was all that wonderful.  But he was out to himself at 14. He could be out to himself at 14. Terrifying as it probably was. When I was 14 Stonewall hadn’t happened yet and only one state, Illinois had repealed its sodomy law, and that almost by accident. I came of age in total ignorance of what was happening with me as my body developed and I started having sex dreams about other guys at school. It made no sense given what the pop culture told me about homosexuals. So I just never really looked at it, just shoved it into a back corner of my mind and didn’t think too deeply about it. I wasn’t out to myself until December of 1971 and I had just turned 18.

But what really makes me envious here is he had a bunch of gay friends he could talk to and socialize with. Oh dear god almighty how I wish I’d had that! That didn’t happen until I got connected with a gay BBS back in the mid 1980s and I was in my thirties. From my teens to my mid thirties I was completely isolated. And partly that was due to the fears Savage speaks of. But also, the world I was living in didn’t exactly offer gay guys any spaces to socialize, and maybe find a date, other than seedy bars I never felt completely at ease inside of.

I was looking for romance, not a hook-up. As I wrote previously…

…what I was always looking for was that nice boy…someone in a better world that I might have met at a church social or youth coffeehouse like The Lost and Found was. Someone I could take home to mom and she’d be pleased to meet them and invite them to stay for dinner. Someone I’d take to the prom. Someone I could make a life together with.

But I came of age in the late 60s/early 70s, and back then all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want their friends turning on them. They were terrified of getting those looks of disgust. And it’s all the negative crap we were dumped on back then that’s a big part of why…

But simply because I wasn’t looking for the casual hookup does not mean I wasn’t afraid, and constantly on the alert for trouble. So I’m not questioning his fears at all. I had many of the same ones, just a bit different only in the social context and my own life history. In 9th grade I had this horrible sex ed class taught by homophobic gym teachers who said that homosexuals were psychotic and usually killed their sex partners, and that most unsolved murders were committed by homosexuals. (I wished ever since that I’d had the presence of mind to ask if they’re unsolved how to you know they were committed by homosexuals?)

When I fell in love and came out to myself I brushed all that away as rubbish, but the overwhelming hatred and loathing of gay people I grew up with made me skittish for decades about expressing an interest in the random guys that caught my fancy, even in the gayborhood. How do you negotiate flirting in a world where you might get a baseball bat over the head for it? Guys that seemed to be flirting with me made me nervous because I never knew if they were serious or just waiting for me to come out to them so they could gay bash me. 

She said in a level voice yes, Jack was pumping up a flat on the truck out on a back road when the tire blew up. The bead was damaged somehow and the force of the explosion slammed the rim into his face, broke his nose and jaw and knocked him unconscious on his back. By the time someone came along he had drowned in his own blood.

No, he thought, they got him with the tire iron.

-Annie Proulx – Brokeback Mountain

They didn’t have to be serial killers. I’d be just as dead.

I was never pretty enough or brazen enough to attract the sort of predators that haunted Dan Savage’s adolescence, and I wasn’t out to myself for most of mine anyway. In my childhood I heard lots of news accounts of boys being abducted by strangers and so I had a more generalized fear of strange men approaching me and I would always flinch away if I got a look that made me uncomfortable. Back then I had no idea Why they wanted to kidnap boys (I am serious here), just that it was a thing to watch out for. That probably segued into my post out of the closet mindset in some way. So I never got over being nervous when some guy started flirting with me. Half of it was “Okay now what do I do?” and half if it was “Is this guy a gay basher…or worse?” Reading crime stories like the one about the Last Call murders didn’t do anything to help.

Yes, I was afraid too. But…oh dear god how envious I am that Savage had gay friends his own age he could hang out with. Dan I am so sorry you were afraid. I was too. We all were. And it cut into us so very deep. But you had something good back then too. Something life saving even.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Fear Of Dating, Fear Of Intimacy

September 19th, 2022

Another Reason To Be Out

Everyone has their type. In retrospect what I was always looking for was that nice boy…someone in a better world that I might have met at a church social or youth coffeehouse like The Lost and Found was. Someone I could take home to mom and she’d be pleased to meet them and invite them to stay for dinner. Someone I’d take to the prom. Someone I could make a life together with.

But I came of age in the late 60s/early 70s, and back then all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want their friends turning on them. They were terrified of getting those looks of disgust. And it’s all the negative crap we were dumped on back then that’s a big part of why…

From A Coming Out Story – Intermission – What I Learned About Homosexuality. . . And Myself (Part 2)

 

So I struggled to find romance and for me at least it just didn’t work. But I’ve seen it work for others, so at least I know it could have. But it was a real long shot given the time I was a gay teenager, and I missed. 

Another reason I am out with it: So what happened to me doesn’t have to happen to other gay kids.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Another Reason To Be Out


Why I Am Out

This came across my Facebook feed this morning…

Facebook user, JD Doyle kindly scanned its contents and posted on the LGBTQ Heritage/Memorial Project page with a link to a PDF of his scans Here, via the Houston LGBT History website. I browsed through some of it for a while, until it became too irritating to continue. As Doyle says, it is Not an amusing book.

A few days before our 50th class reunion, I had dinner with a classmate who had retired to Florida. He is class of ’73. I mentioned the 50th for ’72 and that I was on the reunion committee and so far the only one in my class willing to be out with it. He looked surprised. Our class size was comparatively small, but not so small there wouldn’t have been anyone else. You can’t possibly be the only one, he says to me. I told him either I’m the only one willing to be out with it, or (thinking of all the times I walked among the Names Project quilts) I’m the only one still alive.

But there was always crap like this book. Mind you, this is apparently published by a gay focused print house, supposedly for a gay audience. “ALL about the gay world! Promising much fun for Fruits, faggots, frumps and their friends – in short – nearly EVERYONE!”

“Pre-Liberation” as one commenter put it. Perhaps it’s what might be better understood as “Gaysploitation”. Someone said, Hey, the Gays will go for this! And so it went to print.

What you see in these pages was the world I came of age in. On TV and in the movies we were either dangerous psychopaths or we were pathetic faggots. When we didn’t get hate we got a rancid pity. It was why I spent my last grade school years in denial, even though I was crushing madly on a classmate. I kept thinking well that isn’t me, therefore I am not a homosexual. It’s something I’ve been documenting in A Coming Out Story.

I am certain it was crap like this that screwed up so many gay teenagers of my generation who still, so many years later, can’t bring themselves to live openly and proudly.

I joke often that I’m geek tribe gay, not fabulous peacock tribe. That I’m not stage I’m stage crew. The fact is we come in all shapes and sizes and colors of the rainbow. We are dazzling peacocks, we are socially awkward computer nerds, we are religious we are agnostics we are atheists, we are athletes we are Harry Homeowners tending our lawns, we are doctors, lawyers, clerks, homebodies. We Are.

And every time push abruptly comes to shove and I have to suddenly decide whether to be out with it or duck, it’s the pre-liberation stereotypes in this book that are tapping me on the shoulder. I know what my generation was taught to think of people like me. And so I dig in my heels one more time…

Yes I am. Whatever you might have been thinking that means, you probably need to think again.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why I Am Out

September 9th, 2022

Disney Pride

I took my morning walk here in Disney Springs. I wanted to check out the Disney stores here just to see if any Pride stuff was still being sold. I began to wonder if Disney wasn’t pulling back on that a bit after I looked in the pin traders store and didn’t see any rainbows.

I shouldn’t have worried…

There was a Pride Collection stand in the Disney Store, right where everyone could see it, and it had customers. I have a card with money on it from points I’ve accumulated and just now I used up a little over half of my Disney Money. 

That mug especially gets to me. This isn’t cheap marketing. I was here a month after the Pulse murders. I saw the shock in everyone’s faces here and in the surrounding community of Orlando. It changed the mindset here.

Yes we are a market. Disney leaves no money on the table. But what happened at Pulse woke everyone up. 49 dead, 53 wounded. I saw how shocked Orlando was. I saw the shock in the Disney cast members. Some, seeing my rainbow Mickey pin (which back then was the Peace Rainbow, not the Pride rainbow…but it was close enough) had stories they told me about friends and co-workers who were either there that night, or knew someone who was. Everyone seemed shell shocked by it. There’s woke for you. After that, the Pride merchandise began appearing. No more take our money and look the other way. Now we are embraced.

We see you Ron DeSantis. We see you MAGA. Our families see you too. And all our friends. We are embraced. We are family. We Belong. You will never change that.

I was strolling around the Disney Springs Marketplace Co-Op and saw they’re busy with celebrating the Walt Disney World 50th with all sorts of call backs to the 70s. It just brought it all back again…that time in my life. I’d forgotten until I started coming back here again how much Disney’s vision of the future had been wired into me back then.

I complain about the changes going on around here, and Chapek’s seemingly bottomless need to squeeze the guests. But tell you what…as long I can walk into the parks knowing I’m with (mostly) other Disney kids, and it’s still a small world after all, and there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day, I reckon I’ll keep coming back.

My inner Mouseketeer, geeky, socially awkward, gay, knows he belongs here. It’s a small world after all.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Disney Pride

August 31st, 2022

Lyrics That Stab

Someone posted this to one of the “social media” things I still regrettably frequent.

Greatest ONE LINE in a song ever. Not verse, chorus or bridge. Just one line.

Here’s mine:

Today…I feel like pleasing you, more than before.

I am on the cusp of 69 and I remember vividly the moment I understood this song, more than before. It was a punch in the gut.

He was beautiful, and I was head over heels. But it was 1971.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Lyrics That Stab

August 19th, 2022

When The People Pictures Stopped

Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it – that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, – a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, – I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun. –Stephen Fry

Wise words that helped clarify something within me. I have always resisted the prison of being a thing, despite wanting to be a thing. There were times in my life I wanted to be a cartoonist, a painter, a photographer. Somehow it never worked. I became a computer programmer, a software systems engineer. It made me a very good living, and I am retiring comfortably on what I made, proud to look back on my time with the teams that worked on Hubble, James Webb, and for a brief period, Roman. But I was always bouncing back to one or more of those other things, telling myself that they were what I really wanted to be.

Eventually, as I grew older, I accepted that I just could not focus on any one of them for very long. I began to think of it as seasonal. Now is the season of drawing, now the season of cameras…the season of computers was when I was as preoccupied with computer work at home as I was at work. There was also a season of writing. There was a season of the open road, which often coexisted with the season of cameras. I came to see myself as hopelessly unfocused, unable to bring to any one of my creative arts the kind of fanatical single minded pursuit that would have got me a career in it. I blamed my cluttered mind. I would never have the large body of works other successful artists did. Randomly wandering between my arts and accomplishing very little would forever be my fate. But maybe it was that cluttered mind that was telling me something all along, that I never listened to: I am not a noun.

And now I’m old and retired, and looking back on all of it, I can see that I actually have accomplished a lot, if I take it all together instead of just looking at the nouns. My artwork has continued to improve, my photographic voice is purer, surer. I understand what I’m doing better. I’m happy with the life I had, random and bewildering though it often was. And lonely…so very lonely. But that’s another story for another time. Or not. Let me leave a small piece of that here, because it’s something I’m still wondering about.

He wasn’t the last guy I took a fancy to. I guess that would be the cute 30-something bartender at a place near The Avenue. It was hopeless of course, but not any more hopeless than all the others really. People who look like that… His name was Eddie. I met him on the gay BBS we both frequented back in the day. He was beautiful and for a time I was all about him. But he was not about me. So I played my trump card. He said he hated pictures of himself. I’m a photographer I told him. I can make you see how beautiful you are. Years later I was primed to play that card one more time, but people far wiser than I in matters of the heart decided not to allow it. People who look like that want people who look like that…

So Eddie and I went on trips into the country, and into the city, and he let my camera give him some love. The more I showed him how beautiful I saw him, the more comfortable he became with my camera. I did some of my best beautiful guy photography with him. And it was the last I ever did.

Eventually he started dating someone else and we went our separate ways.

Time passes, the universe expands, and a day came when I began revisiting the photography I did back in those gay BBS days. I posted a bunch of it on Facebook for the friends I made on that BBS, who I have stayed in touch with. Eddie wasn’t one of them…he simply disappeared, but for one time I saw him managing a booth at one of the gay marches on Washington. I asked him if he was seeing anyone, and he just sighed and told me relationships are So much work. I guess it all gets tiresome when you are so beautiful. I’ve never seen him since. That was before Facebook. So I when I posted a bunch of my gay BBS photography on Facebook, I probably only included one or two of Eddie.

But those tweaked my geek side because they were so damn hard to scan, being Kodachrome slides. Kodachrome slides are notorious for having a blue-ish tint in scans that’s very difficult to get rid of. I ended up buying a highly expensive scanning software for its ability to neutralize that tint. It was still a lot of work, and fiddling with those shots, I became re-acquainted with how beautiful Eddie was. And at some point I began to realize that I hadn’t done anything like it since.

Those shots of Eddie are the last shoots I ever did with anyone posing for me. Much, Much later I’d do some enjoyable work for Baltimore OUTloud, photographing some really beautiful guys wearing barely nothing at all (swim suit fashion shows). But those were all taken at public events and I was simply recording what was happening in front of me. But back in the day, when I was a much younger man, I actually did a lot of one-on-one shoots with a few beautiful guys who I could regularly ask out from time to time. We’d go somewhere, maybe to Great Falls, maybe somewhere in the city, and I’d snap away at them. After Eddie, that all just suddenly stopped.

I’ve been trying to understand this. I’ve been told a bunch…laughingly at times…that my photography is noticeable for it’s nearly complete absence of people. But I have the archive of it all right here in the house with me, and that absolutely wasn’t always true. I look back in time in my archives and I see most of what I did back in the day was people photography. Then the people seem to just vanish. The obvious answer is after Eddie I began to despair of ever finding love, and I didn’t want to keep looking into that abyss. 

Sometimes the pat answers are the correct ones after all. There’s a big gap in my photography right after those sessions with Eddie, where I stopped doing art altogether, along with painting and drawing. That was when I took up computer programming as a creative outlet, which led to the life I have now. In writing computer programs I was immersed in a world of pure logic that didn’t have to touch my emotions, my deepest feelings, where there was only despair. I managed to pull myself out of it the year after I got the job at Space Telescope, and found myself one day wandering among the carnival rides being set up for the student spring fair at Hopkins where STScI was located. That awakened something inside of me, and I began creating art again. But something had changed.

So I think of my artwork as having before the dead zone/after the dead zone periods. My catalogue of negatives and slides reflects that break in the numbering. But here’s the thing: There is almost zero creative people photography in the After period. And revisiting that time, I can see that the photo shoots of beautiful guys ended before the dead zone, when I stopped seeing Eddie.

The pat answer is now I’m too old to be asking beautiful young guys to pose for me. I came close to it that one time I was once more ready to throw down my trump card. But instead I was escorted from the table and shown the door, and now it’s all just despair there, in that one dark empty corner.

No more beautiful guys. You can say my art photography is purer now. I accept it. 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on When The People Pictures Stopped

August 12th, 2022

Walt Disney’s Conservatism – Not What The Kook Pews Think

I’m bellyaching about all the ways Chapek is trashing the Disney parks, and remark offhandedly that I’m basically still going for my birthday vacation in part to give the middle finger to DeSatan and all the batshit crazy Florida republicans. A friend remarks that it’s ironic since Walt Disney himself wasn’t very accepting. True enough. While he lived.

Walt Disney died in 1966. Stonewall would not happen for another three years. 

Walt while he lived was no friend of the gay community for sure. He fired Tommy Kirk after he found out Tommy was gay. And there’s a story that occasionally makes the rounds of the time animator Art Babbitt, who did the dancing mushrooms in Fantasia, told Walt he was taking piano lessons to better understand music and Walt snapped at him “What are you some kind of fag or something?” He was probably having a bad day that day. He was known for his temper. And…his cigarette habit.

But something people forget about Disney…yes he was a conservative man, he hated his unions, he was friends with Reagan, Linkletter, that conservative Hollywood gang…but conservatives back then were a much different from the lunatics we have today. And Walt was fairly typical of the breed. He had one foot in Main Street USA, but he had the other in Tomorrowland. He was a man of science, he believed in progress. E.P.C.O.T. was supposed to be his Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

In all of Disney’s educational nature films, in all of his science films, in his movies, I do not recall Any mention of God. There’s evolution. There’s science and physics. There’s “The American Way”. Yes, they’re all “Family” movies (There’s a story about how appalled he was when Annette started appearing on screen in a bikini in all those teen beach movies). Maybe I just missed a few God references, but that would be because they were never front and center. Science was. The American Way was. Family was. Yes Disney was a conservative, but he was also a man of science. Once upon a time that was unremarkable. And he believed in progress.

And because of that, I think he would, had he lived (which would take a Lot of pixie dust and magic since he’d be well over 100 now) he would have eventually accepted the science that’s been saying since the 1950s that there is nothing wrong with us. I do believe he would have eventually come to see gay people as part of the human family too. Which would be good, because there are much Much worse examples to be setting for gay kids than the ones Disney would.

They say Disney would be appalled at all the Pride merchandise you see now at his Parks. What I think is he’d be spitting nails to see a man like Donald Trump in his Hall Of The Presidents. He’d have closed it down first, and made it like his Lincoln one man show in Disneyland California. If Trump is ever dragged into court over his keeping and probably sharing this country’s nuclear secrets with other countries, we’ll see how they handle that in Florida.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Walt Disney’s Conservatism – Not What The Kook Pews Think

May 9th, 2022

Foxy Gay Hustler Posters That Weren’t…But Anyway…

Finding a copy of this poster in a flea market shop in Cambria, even though it’s only a smaller sized reproduction, just thrilled me to my bones a few moments ago. I have been wanting a copy of this since I was a young guy.

The first time I laid eyes on it, in the window of a head shop in College Park sometime in the mid 70s, I thought the model was the sexyist long haired guy I’d ever seen. I was working for a department store driving returns for repair to various shops around Washington, and every time I passed by that head shop I made a mental note to go in there sometime when I was off the clock, and ask if the poster was for sale.

Alas, I put it off too long. One day I drove past and the shop was closed down, the insides emptied and the poster gone. I never got a good enough look at it to see what band it was for. The psychedelic lettering was impossible for me to read sitting in my delivery truck at a stop light a half block away. But the image of that sexy naked long haired guy was forever burned into my young gay adult brain.

Some years later I chanced upon a book, a very large trade paperback…I’m not at home now so I can’t be sure, but I think it was “The Art of Rock”, that had in its pages a history of rock posters, one reprint to a page along with commentary. And there it was…The James Cotton Band at the Grand Ballroom in Detroit. The book’s author seemed to think the poster began the decline of the art of the poster, as it represented, in his words, a gay hustler motif. But by then I was used to that sort of disrespect, even from the Summer of Love alumni.

So I kept searching. And searching. Eventually along comes the Internet. And search engines. Finally I see a reproduction of the poster I can download and add to my graphics library. And this is where I find out the model in the poster was…Vanessa Redgrave.

Oh.

Decades later I would joke about it in the second episode of A Coming Out Story

I have this theory that our libidoes glom onto whatever fashions and styles were in vogue when we came of age and our hormones began to percolate. Mine happened in a time of long hair and low rise blue jeans. But my gay libido never strayed into hunk territory, and there’s probably a whole ‘nother post I should do about that, and all the disrespect gay men who love lithe and handsome and very very cute males get from other gay males who are all about hunk.

So now I know my foxy long haired gay hustler is actually a foxy long haired woman. Fine. I still wanted that damn poster. A lifetime of growing up in a culture that at best wouldn’t acknowledge the existence of such as me, if not wipe us out of existence altogether, gave me lots of practise in mental gender switching…usually with flipping the pronouns in the lyrics to songs I heard on the radio, but occasionally in advertising, where I would mentally redraw some of the fashion models I saw as guys, a skillset that would get a lot of work in later years as I pursued my art…


The original model for this was a young women I saw in a google image search…

 

..which made it easy for me to look at that James Cotton Band poster and still see a sexy long haired guy. Let’s hear it for gay hustler motif!

There’s a shop just down Falls Road from my house where classic rock posters from a bygone era are auctioned off. Once I asked the guy running it about this one. Oh…the James Cotton Vanessa Redgrave one….yes…that one is very popular…if you can find one in good condition it’ll go for about six grand now…

Oh.

This afternoon I took a long leisurely drive up the California coast to a cute little coastal town named Cambria. I wanted to wander around the shops for a bit, and wandered into one with some poster reproductions in the window. I have this stubborn streak that is in constant conflict with my inner pessimism. In the back were racks like the old LP racks with what looked like hundreds of reproductions of various posters all neatly sleeved like classic comic books for sale. I reckoned it might take me a half hour to flip through them all with no guarantee of success. But I got down to it.

Flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… oh, a Rick Griffin classic… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… another Griffin… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… Doctor Strangelove… so there are 60s movie posters in here too… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… I wonder if there are any Victor Moscoso posters in here… flip… flip… flip… Failsafe… I think I’d rather have the Doctor Strangelove one…flip… flip… flip… Jefferson Airplane… flip… flip… flip… flip… if I see that Hendrix poster Bob had over the fireplace I’m buying it… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… flip… THERE IT IS!!!!!!

Finally. Along with that one I bought a couple Rick Griffin ones and the Doctor Strangelove one. They’ll go up in my art room…but the foxy gay hustler that wasn’t, but still is whenever I look at it, gets pride of place right above my drafting table.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Foxy Gay Hustler Posters That Weren’t…But Anyway…

April 16th, 2022

Tease

Facebook sends me memories…

April 2012…about when I began to suspect that the guy I’d put up on a pedestal back when we were both teenagers wasn’t all that after all. And also, that everything is crap.

But it was all so Wonderful back in the day…as the next episode of A Coming Out Story will show…if only I can drag it out of me. As I say in the story notes, I started that comic strip story many years ago, as a way of trying to make sense of what happened to me back then. And I’m Still trying to make sense of it…

So it goes…as the Tralfamadorians would say…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Tease

February 16th, 2022

Stepping From One Life Into Another

Step by step…

Got my first Social Security payment today, and it’s a tad better than expected because of the cost of living adjustment they made in January.

I applied back in September, two years after my official full retirement year, so the payment is bigger. The plan was to wait it out until 70 when you have to take it. My work isn’t physically strenuous and I love my job so I figured that would be a piece of cake. The heart attack two years ago (a month after I’d reached my full Social Security age) convinced me otherwise, and I adjusted the plan to retiring after James Webb launch. I’m getting Social Security at the same time I’m still drawing a paycheck because they kept moving the launch date back.

I was afraid some bureaucratic screw up would happen and I’d not see a payment today and have to wade through the bureaucracy to get it fixed. I’m still struggling to get Medicare plan B going. But I checked just now and there it is.

They say Social Security should not be more than a small part of your retirement income, but I did not have the wherewithal to save for retirement until late in life. That factoid you may have heard about gay men having so much discretionary income…? It’s total bullshit! A lifestyle magazine did a survey and got that result which they then pitched to advertisers. But all it meant is having lots of money in the 1990s made it easier for some gay guys to be out of the closet. Most of us had to struggle and it was even worse for lesbians. I had first hand experience with that doing volunteer work for a local gay BBS run by a non-profit, those times of year when we sent out letters asking for donations. I have a string of jobs in my past I got fired or laid off of the instant they figured out what a lavender boy I am…usually because I refused to make up stories about girlfriends I didn’t have.

Something I’ve said often enough is that a militant homosexual is a homosexual who doesn’t think there is anything wrong with being a homosexual, and a militant homosexual activist is a homosexual who acts like there isn’t anything wrong with being a homosexual. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to march in Pride Day parades, you don’t have to do Gay Days every year at Walt Disney World, you don’t have to festoon your car with Pride decals. All it takes is you are fine with being gay, and unwilling to hide that fact whenever those unplanned, unexpected out of the closet moments suddenly tap you on the shoulder. Eventually life teaches you that being truthful is better in the long run, even if it stings at the moment. You get one chance in this life to keep your good name, and the trust of your neighbors. But for us gay folk, maintaining that is a constant struggle against the pressure from every direction to duck the question, to hide. to lie, to put on a mask for the comfort of others, and never mind that it will slowly strangle the person you could have been. 

They tell us to just not “flaunt it” and we’ll be fine, but that’s a lie. You had to bury yourself deep and fake it and lie and lie and lie and lie about every part of your life and just let it corrode your soul and and drive you deeper into self hatred. I refused. I’d fallen in love when I was 17 and it made me stubborn. I saw what the closet did, And Still Does, to so many, and apart from knowing that I had to be careful (I read stories about gay bashings nearly every week, even these days) I wasn’t going there, I was not going to act like I thought there was anything wrong with me when I damn well knew there wasn’t. All I had to do was remember how seeing him smile made me feel back when we were teenagers, and the world was new.

But I was never of the fabulous peacock tribe. I was, and to some degree still am, a kind of scrawny geeky kind of guy, without very much of a fashion sense, and thus I made it past a lot of job interviews, only to later be shown the door for being insufficiently low on the Kinsey scale. I never had a boyfriend, was always single, and thus had no love life to brag about like everyone else in the office. Lots of people mistook that for my being discrete but if challenged on it I would dig in my heels and tell the truth. Yes I am…what of it? And that’s what usually got me fired. I never really saw myself as being brave or having courage, just stubborn. 

So I didn’t have much to save for retirement, until I got the job I have now, with an employer that actually took pains to make me feel safe and valued there, and matched ten percent of my salary and put it right into a 403b (they’re for non-profits). Twenty-two years of that, plus my own contributions now that I had a good income for it, gave me enough of a nest egg that I can retire comfortably, if not fabulously. But Social Security is going to have to be a big part of that, which is why I waited to apply. That, and buying my little Baltimore rowhouse when I did, makes it possible. Oh…and the car is paid for. In ten years so is the house.

I’ll do okay. But for the life of me I just don’t get why so many old people vote republican. They’ve been trying to kill Social Security since FDR created it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Stepping From One Life Into Another

December 20th, 2021

Yes, It Was Like That

Facebook has this “Memories” feature that will show you all your posts on this day, all the way back to when you first signed on. So today I got all the posts I ever made on December 20. Among them are my posts from ten years ago about buying a Mercedes diesel ‘E’ class sedan. So my car is now 10 years old. It had six miles on the odometer when I took delivery on it, I’ve put almost 160k on it since, and it’s still a champ. A Mercedes diesel is a much better road trip car than I imagined it would be. It’s the car I want to drive to the end of the road with.

A few more years back on this date…was this…from a better time after my reunion with a certain someone…

It was a weapon that served me well for about another few years. These Facebook memories can stab you right in the heart sometimes. But they’re good for inoculating you against gaslighting. He was signing his emails to me ‘T’.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Yes, It Was Like That

November 3rd, 2021

1971

From a memories group I follow…

Ah yes…1971…a year to remember. Even more so than the following year when I graduated.

In 1971 Canon of Japan began making the Canon F-1. Up to then it was the Nikon F that was the iconic pro 35mm SLR camera. But it was a late 1950s design that was only by virtue of the camera body’s bombproof build quality and the ability to stay current with new attachments, like a Kirby vacuum, that enable it to stay on top. I was dissatisfied, too much of it seemed to be retrofitted and not organic to its design. Nowadays I’d call it a kludge camera, but I have more respect for it because it really was (apart from the photomic metering prisms) a workhorse, and I even own one myself now. When I saw the first ads for the Canon F-1 in the photography magazines they hit me like a lightning bolt. Everything about it was state of the art and completely organic to its design. And it was a beautiful camera. I knew instantly, that was My Camera. But it was expensive, and hard to find in the states for a long long time. That summer break I worked my first W2 job in the kitchen of a fast food joint making a tad over that minimum wage. That, plus selling my Miranda Sensorex allowed me to buy an F-1 in time for my senior year of high school.

 

 

When I got it home and unboxed it and held it in my hands for the first time I knew I had My Camera. I still have it.  

In 1971 my cartoons would see print for the first time in the student newspaper. Later I would also become its photographer. For the first time in my life my artistic talents were being appreciated and nurtured (my first grade teacher wrote in my school record that I took “excessive interest in personal art projects”). The bullying and low expectations of my early childhood began to slough away. I began to really believe in myself. It was different from believing that I believed in myself. I could see a future for a kid like me. Maybe.

The summer of 1971 was when I got my driver’s license. Mom would let me drive her car, a basic 1968 Plymouth Valiant, and I began my love affair with the open road. But another love affair was percolating in my teenage hormones.

The year would end with me finally coming out to myself December 15. First love. It was wonderful, I was completely twitterpated. It changed everything.

And couldn’t tell anyone. 1971 was not the time for a gay teenager to be out about it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on 1971

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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