My First Trip to Fire Island

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Me in Fire Island, 1980

1980—I started going to Fire Island in the summer of 1980. My first time, I was invited by friends who’d rented a house on the island that weekend. All I knew about it was that gays had been going there for decades, creating their own little populace that, by that point, had developed into two thriving gay communities, The Pines and Cherry Grove.

My friends had traveled there on Friday night. I couldn’t get off work until Saturday afternoon, so they instructed me to take the Islanders Bus from midtown Manhattan to Sayville and then hop on the ferry to Cherry Grove. They promised to meet me there on the dock. But, just before I left, they called with a change of plans. They had found a better place to stay in The Pines, the other primarily gay community, a mile further down the beach. So, I should take the ferry there instead. Both ferries left from the same dock in Sayville. Having never been to either community, I was a bit confused, but I faithfully memorized the directions of where they said I should go.

Marking 25 years

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In New York City, in the early 1990s, Gustavo Otto, a beautiful man who’d emigrated there from Chile, became my photographic muse. To be fair, it was hard to miss Gustavo, since he had one of the most beautiful derrieres I’d ever seen! Beyond that, he had a great energy which I loved to capture in photographs.  Over a period of a year or so, he regularly posed for me in different locations, including Central Park, at parties in my Manhattan apartment, and at the beach and poolside in Southampton. Then, sometime in the early ’00s, we lost track of each other.
 
A year or two ago, we were reconnected on Facebook. It turns out that he had moved to California a decade ago, married David Brastaukas and settled in Palm Springs. In November 2017, when I was traveling to Palm Springs to collect other LGBT historical content for Capturing Rainbows, we made plans for me to visit him and meet his husband. 

The Bundeswehr Strategy (1988)

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Publicity photo of me for the LA Herald Examiner in the 1980s.

I started my career as a journalist in 1976 as a news reporter, one of a generation of journalists inspired by the investigative reporting devoted to Watergate. As a young reporter, I kept a careful and solid line of separation between me and my subjects. I got my sources to open up, but never opened up about myself.

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Don’t Let The Parade Pass Me By

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This year’s NYC Pride Parade got me thinking. I’d heard rumblings from others about the new and shortened parade route. And that our more political and radical groups, which normally lead and anchor our parade, were taking a backseat to the mainstream corporate interests now supporting the LGBTQ community. Our acceptance by the mainstream is an amazing step forward for our civil rights and in our fight against discrimination. But, at what cost?
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Remember the Upstairs Lounge Fire

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This year’s NYC LGBTQ Pride Parade falls on the 45th anniversary of the fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973, which up until the Pulse massacre was the the deadliest attack of the LGBTQ community in modern history. ABC News has released a new documentary on this horrific event. 

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The Changing Face of Pride

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Go go boys on the Roxy Nightclub float in NYC’s Gay Pride parade on June 27, 1993.

When I first arrived in NYC in 1976, the LGBTQ Pride Parade was a half dozen years old. In those days, it was just called the gay march. It was all about gay liberation—the freedom to be different.

The Torch – Quarter Stories 14

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The eternal flame in Cafe Lafitte in Exile burning.

1982—Max was at work at the point station, his head down deep into the jockey box scooping up ice in the cups taking orders three and four at a time. We were slammed. I was in my station picking up some of his to keep up. I looked over at him and saw his whole body was shaking, and heard him yell this “oooooooohhhh” sound. The barback and I ran over. He was being electrocuted by the metal jockey box touching an electrical outlet. I got him to drop the soda gun and his body relaxed. He staggered into the barback, who grabbed him under the arms and started to drag him to the back of the bar.

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The Pope Announces That Gays Cannot Be Considered ‘Families’

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Reuters News reports

Pope Francis, speaking to the Forum delle Famiglie on Saturday an Italian lay movement representing Catholic families, stated that only heterosexual families can form a family.

“It is painful to say this today: People speak of varied families, of various kinds of family,” but “the family [as] man and woman in the image of God is the only one,” Francis said in unscripted remarks.

I beg to differ!

Hotlanta Hotmen

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HarryBartel & Brian Landeche,m owners of Splash Bar in NYC, recording the good time (Aug. 1992)

August 1991/1992: One of the more enjoyable phenomena to emerge from the 1980s, a challenging decade for gay men to say the least, were “circuit parties.” These were organized weekends taking place in various cities around the country and revolving around a specific theme party or event. For a few days, they provided gay men with a needed escape from the burgeoning AIDS crisis, or simply from their routine and closeted lives.

Summer Heat

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2005—While most people think of Fire Island at the gay summer escape from the New York City, there were other places just as special and unique. In this case, Andrew Ruth’s annual summer birthday celebration at his home upstate New York. More chill than Fire Island but all equally hot.