From My Past: Obsession—John Duka, The Passion of Fashion

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“One of the requisite skills for sitting at a fashion show is being able to roll your eyes, talk to the person behind you, chew mints and say, ‘Yves Saint Laurent did it better years ago,’ all at once.” —John Duka, “Notes on Fashion”

As a young gay man in New York in the early 1970s, despite my leftist, revolutionary political leanings, I was crazy about style and clothes. That is, genuine clothes, not the throw-away H&M dreck we have now. My whole generation was. Young gay boys landing in New York wanted to work in fashion and be the next Calvin Klein, the way that they now want to be the next Tim Cook. Clothes were total sex, sometimes even better than sex, which to me is saying eons. Clothes went with nightclubbing, disco, drugs, gorgeous women, and the men who buzzed around them, and, of course, buzzed around each another.

Voluntarily Celibate: Life as an Asexual Gay Man

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Ever since I could remember, there’s always been something strange about me. When my peers were swooning over the most recent pop star to grace their phone screens, I was freaking out over metal bands I liked that were releasing new albums. When my friends were out having their first drinks, I stayed at home deciding to tattoo myself. If there’s been one constant in my life, it’s that no matter what group I’ve been in, I’ve always been the strange one.

Busted!

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A young me in 1996

In The Fall of 1996, I was twenty years old and had just moved into my own apartment in LA. I was going to school, working full time, and was dead broke.

My one free day was Thursday. On one particular Thursday, my friend Joey invited me to the movies. Joey was Lebanese and very effeminate. What would now be called “a blouse.” His parents were beyond strict and thought I was a bad influence because I was gay. They never for a moment considered that he was, which shocked me, as his eyebrows were waxed like Christy Turlington’s; he practiced the catwalk incessantly; and all of his friends were girls. But, I was the gay one?

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BAMMER and Me: Confessions of a Male Escort turned Addiction Counselor, Pt. 2

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PODCAST: Interviews by baby-boomer LGBTQ historian Mike Balaban, with a diverse guest list, covering issues and themes from the global LGBTQ community.

EPISODE 12: What do you do after you’ve been a Colt porn model, male escort, and drug addict? After kicking his drug addiction, Stu Fenton spent ten years getting his degrees in psychotherapy and gestalt therapy, opened a private therapy practice, and now counsels LGBTQ chemsex addicts in a private clinic, R 12, in Thailand on how to overcome their addiction. Stu shares his story of how he turned his life around. (Part 2 of 2 podcasts).

Perry Brass: Pieces from My Past—Seven Revelations of Gay Spirituality

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I am starting to see an amazing, life-changing movement surfacing through what is now called the “LGBTQ movement,” although frankly at this point I can only speak for gay men, not women or trans people. But I have a feeling that women are a part of it, and trans people as well. It is “Gay Spirituality,” and what it means is basically finding an expression for the deepest parts of us, while leaving none of what used to be called the “dirty parts” out.

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BAMMER and Me: The Phluid Project and Gender-free Fashion

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Rob Smith. founder of The Phluid Project

PODCAST: Interviews by baby-boomer LGBTQ historian Mike Balaban, with a diverse guest list, covering issues and themes from the global LGBTQ community.

EPISODE 11: Rob Smith, founder of The Phluid Project, talks about his journey from being a successful fashion executive to creating the world’s first gender-free clothing brand.

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BAMMER and Me: Cliff Morrison, The First AIDS Ward, Pt. 1

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Cliff Morrison in 1984

PODCAST: Interviews by baby-boomer LGBTQ historian Mike Balaban, with a diverse guest list, covering issues and themes from the global LGBTQ community.

EPISODE 10: Cliff Morrison arrived in San Francisco as a nurse in the late 1970s, as AIDS was about to erupt. In 1983, while working at SF General Hospital, one of the epicenters for the new disease, he was tasked with forming the world’s first hospital ward dedicated to serving people with AIDS. In the first of two episodes, Cliff tells Mike Balaban about that time.

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BAMMER and Me: Confessions of a Male Escort turned Addiction Counselor, Pt 1

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Stu at Fire Island in 1999.

PODCAST: Interviews by baby-boomer LGBTQ historian Mike Balaban, with a diverse guest list, covering issues and themes from the global LGBTQ community.

EPISODE 9: Stu Fenton has had quite the life! In his early twenties, Stu was a Colt model and a male escort. That high life led to drug addiction, multiple near-death overdoses, and eventually rehab. Currently, he manages a chemsex treatment center in Chiang Mai, Thailand, one of only five in the world focusing on LGBTQ patients.

The Dead, The Living, and The Inheritance

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Mason (left) and me in happier times, 1993.

Fall is a time of sad anniversaries for me.

When I tested positive for HIV in the fall of 1988, it was hardly surprising. Many sex buddies had died by then. A mysterious bout of flu during the summer of ’81 or ‘82 I now realize must have been the “conversion illness.” Around the time of that blood test, my brother Howard, who would have been 63 on his birthday October 19, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It is understandable, I think, that I decided not to inform my parents or my other brother of my sero-status until it was absolutely required. That day came when they met Mason, my partner, whose body by that time was marked by KS lesions. The 25th anniversary of his death was October 7. The 14th anniversary of the death of Joe, the partner I lived with for 10 years after Mason’s death, was on October 20.
 
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BAMMER and Me: Life in NYC Avant Garde Theatre Scene and Stonewall

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PODCAST: Interviews by baby-boomer LGBTQ historian Mike Balaban, with a diverse guest list, covering issues and themes from the global LGBTQ community.

EPISODE 8: Mike talks with Frank Carucci, a life-long New Yorker, about working in the NYC avant-garde theatre scene, the Stonewall riots and life in NYC over the last 60 years.