posted by Les
on 08.25.2014, under Blog
Yesterday I finally finished Robert Hofler’s Sexplosion, about the taboo-breaking films and books of 1968-73. I remember all of them as they came out and I became of age during this time. I remember seeing Women in Love as an undergrad in 1972 with my then girlfriend Sheera. I was totally blown away by the nude wrestling scene between Gerald (Oliver Reed) and Rupert (Alan Bates). I was very much into D.H. Lawrence in my undergraduate years, reading him as secretly homosexual. After all the supreme union was between two men and this wrestling scene was a high point of the film. While called Women in Love to me it was all about men in love. I did not see any hint of gay men being masculine in the gay lib movement years I was living in. Gay activists tended to be more hippie-ish. I would soon discover the leather scene and read profusely from the small library of books on the subject. Larry Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook became a Bible for me into masculine gay love. But during the years I was at SUNY Albany (1971-74) I did not know about the leathermen. At the time I thought being gay meant wearing dresses in drag, having pursed lips and being catty. It was only after I moved to Germany that I began to read the GLF literature, the plethora of books, like The Healthy Homosexual and The Gay Mystique, that were being published in rapid succession.
My only contact with gay men during my Albany years, when I was 19 and 20 years old was with tricks. I’d pick up a guy in either GJ’s Gallery or the Central Arms, a bohemian bar and the a gay bar, and my knowledge of gay men was very sketchy. Mostly I would wake up early and leave a note of thanks behind, and slip out the door before the guy woke up. I was really wary about getting more involved n any “gay lifestyle.” I don’t think I was aware of “gay community” at the time. These were simply random sexual partners I picked up. I tried very hard to keep y gay activities separate from my life on campus and in my fraternity.
But the nude wrestling scene was very important to me. It held out an image of two masculine men, who had girlfriends, but who secretly were wrestling with being in love with each. I also saw Midnight Cowboy and was completely devastated by that film. I read it as Ratso (Dustin Hoffmann) had a crush on the Jon Voit character. I did not understand at that age that Voit dressing up as a cowboy was a gay hustler’s costume. I’ve seen the film a few times now, and it blows me away what a brilliant piece of film-making it is. Later I would grow tired of D.H. Lawrence’s closeted homosexuality. I became downright angry with Lawrence after I’d discovered E.M. Forster and read Maurice. Now there was a story the way Lawrence should have written it.
The 1970s saw the birth of gay presses and the origins of a real gay library of books available for anyone to buy. AS I traveled in the US I always looked for the local gay newspaper, in Boston, New York City San Francisco, and I even came across GPU News out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I subscribed to the Advocate, which on those years was more of an activist newspaper with its notorious pink insert section with all the personal ads in it. I read publications out of London and the gay magazines out of Germany, like Revolt (German edition) and Du und Ich and Don.
One I came out all the way in Germany I read a lot of gay literature. T was mostly American and British books, both fiction and gay li stuff. It totally changed my perspective to read books that saw homosexuality as normal and natural and gays as the victims of a homophobic society. It was not the gay man who was the problem, but rather the sick and twisted thinking of heterosexual society. I became a very angry activist in Germany.
I kept up with what has happening in the US by reading the Advocate, GPU News, Gay Sunshine, and Fag Rag. I also read Guy Hocquenheim’s Homosexual Desire and Foucault’s History of Sexuality Part I, plus all the gay activist materials in Germany I could lay hands on. I discovered Rosa von Praunheim, who was trying very hard to bring American style gay activism as a socioloigcal phenomenon to Germany. I read his Die Armee der Liebenden (Army of Lovers), about gay liberation in the U.S.
In Germany gay aciivism was centered in the universities across the country. In Tübingen we had two factions, the theological activists, who were very conservative, and the left-wing activists, who took a more or less Marxist view of things. Lesbians were involved with the German women’s movement and did not at all interact with gay men. We had consciousness-raising meetings and we discussed taking political actions and holding regional meetings for the gay activist groups come together. We were a small band of maybe a dozen out and closeted gay male students. Germany was a big home to leather and my first experiences with leathermen came from tricking out of the Munich Eagle and a gay Kneipe/resaurant where Munich gay men gathered for meals. Can’t belibe I can’t remember its name, ouch.] It was place that Rainer Fassbinder hung out in, though I never met him in person.
In my early twenties I was very popular. It helped that I was handsome and had a swimmer’s physique from swimming a kilometer a day five days a week. I did not think of myself as being striking, which I realize in retrospect I was. I just know I had no problem, tricking with whoever I set my mind to seduce. I was very popular in the leather scene as well as in Tübingen and London. My favorite bar in the 1970s was the Coleherne in London’s Earl’s Court district. I would wander through the packed bar and narrow my focus on three or four guys I wanted to have sex with that night. And I would inevitably reel in one of those four, usually the first one I approached. Even though I was very nervous and dran a lot to overcome my shyness and nervousness, I got very loose and bold after a few drinks. I could mix and mingle, and I loved it. The Coleherne was my idea of gay heaven. My lover for the night was inevitably very handsome and masculine. I really liked English gay men a lot. They did not have the sexual hang-ups of American gay men. And German gay men were very matter of fact and down to earth when it came to casual sex. I always talked with my partners before and after sex. As a matter of fact, tricking became the rimary way I made close friends in the 1970s, once I got out of Albany and living in the twilight spce between being closeted on campus and out off campus.
The 1970s was a wonderful time to be young and gay. And it was even wilder when I got to the party that was called Castro Street in San Francisco in 1979. I caught the tail end of the pre-AIDS party years. And that’s another story.
posted by Les
on 08.12.2014, under Blog
Hard news last night. Just before the start of the Monday AA meeting Matthew got a tweet saying that robin Williams had died of suicide yesterday. What a terrible loss, and yet how perfectly understandable. Williams battled with alcoholism and depression most of his life. I have too. I understand he was bipolar, just like me I battle with suicide to this day. And I shared something at last ight’s meeting I have never shared in an AA meeting before:
From roughly 15 to 25 years of sobriety I did not go to meetings. I copped a huge resentment at Boston AA and stopped going to meetings. I sponsored myself and I went slowly mad. During those ten years I was at Mount Ida College. After ten years at Mount Ida the place gave me a nervous breakdown. This led me to make decisions whereby I quit my job there, lost my career, decided to move to San Francisco and lost my house and eventually my husband. On the drive cross country from Boston to San Francisco I panned to commit suicide in the desert outside Santa Fe. But I was transformed by the desert, th energy around Santa Fe and I decided not to go through with it. When I got to San Francisco I rededicated myself to AA. I have gone to meeting a day ever since. I am always with a sponsor. I worked the twelve steps thoroughly with one sponsor in San Francisco, I sponsored other men. In the middle of all that I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, which explained the clinical depression and the panic/anxiety disorder I suffered through during those years and still suffer fro to this day. I cling to AA to save my life now. It is what has kept me sane for the past nine years. I could not survive without the tolls, the steps, the program, and fellowship. For all the fears I have about other people, I force myself to walk through it all and to cling to AA as if my life depended upon it because it does. I am thankful I have never been compelled to pick up another drunk or drug since I originally put down my last drink and have up speed back I 1981. I know I can maintain physical sobriety, But the Program gives me spiritual and emotional sobriety too. I have remained alive thanks to the support and help of very many people and a sometimes shaky trust in my higher Power.
So when I learn of Robin Williams suicide, I think, there but for the grace of God go I. I am deeply saddened Williams’ demons got the better of him. I do know what a horrid struggle it is to live with alcoholism and depression, I know it well. It is a terrible loss of a great talent, someone who brought joy to millions, a wonderful actor and consummate comedian. But his talent and success were powerless to affect his demons. I have known too many friends who have taken their lives when they could not take the depression, the bipolar, the schizo-affective disordered illness any longer. As I say, still wrestle with depression and suicidal thoughts. And I am overjoyed at the new hope that Bear Your Soul awakened in me. I feel there is a chance for me to have a good quality life once more. It will be hard doing it from Cortland, but I have been plugging way, seeing out kindred spirits (I found one in Freddy Freeman, and I may have found others at Easton Mountain.) I have been adrift for the last several years with no idea what to do with my life. And I am serious when I say writing my memoirs has given me a reason, THE reason to not kill myself It has been the one big purpose I have had this past year.
Posted at Origins Coffeehouse, Homer, Ny
As Bear Your Soul week unfolded I relaxed more and more into it. I think I made several friends. The most open dialogs happened at the morning AA meetings with a small circle of five of us—Rainer S., Max C. , Dave D., myself and Justin B.. The BIG missing piece was the sexual connection. I am impotent and without a libido as I found out the first day I played in the hot tub with a guy named Bob, who made himself scarce after that first day. Freddy Freeman and his husband Jay Freeman were amazing powerhouses. Freddy is full of vision and accomplished a major coup with this, the third (and first time in summer) Bear Your Soul. I so many ways it was like bing at a Billy retreat. The mix of men was great, young to od, men of color, otters to Girth and Mirth sized men. Plenty of hair. I fell in love with five different men, but did not have the libido to approach any of them. The facilities were very mich like Saratoga Springs, CA, the Billy Gathering site/propert. Easton mountain has a huge lodge with one very large meeting and performance space room, a dining roon, and serving area off the kitchen, a kitchen, and a he deck off the serving area. They now have a swimming pool nearby. There is a temple, where the AA meetings and kink play took place. They have a motel like lodge, two stories with ten rooms each floor, another large housing area with five bunkbeds, and a few other buildings and a garden and many hiking paths through the woods. Freddy and other residents like on the edge of the retreat center in separate buildings. I did as many of the massage and touch workshops as I could I got in al the hugging and kissing and caressing and massage that I could take in. I am absolutely starved for the touch of other men living here in Cortland. There were singing workshops and belly dancing workshops as well. It was all about fun and connecting with our inner selves, finding our Authentic Being. It was wonderful once I dropped my guard and my old prejudices. It did me a world of good to be among my kindred spirited brothers. It was a mmix between the early 1980s bears and what I experienced in Billy Community. I am so glad I went through the Billy experience and I am thrilled to get in so close to the ground floor of a shift in Bear Consciousness. This is where I was in my thinking when I dropped out of bear community in California and joined the Billies—I wanted to develop a program to bring hear circles and heart-centered community notios to the bear community. Freddy has accomplished this, on a very small scale. But it is a positive start. And we have plans and dreams to take it wider. Before I forget it was great to room with Martin Swinger, the grandfather of bear music. I brought Martin into the first ever bear fundraising concert at Mount Ida back in 2000, along with Ernie Lajoi and a guy we flew in from Seattle, for th second Bear Icons Art Exhibition. And Dave Diet, my friend from Ithaca, was the official photographer. I felt privilegded to be surrounded by old friends and so much talent. I had heard for years about Bearpalooza and finally got to hear them perform on Concert Day. The singers and songs were wonderful. It was very moving. We also had a second Broadway Bears impromptu concert, also fun and moving. Of course the biggest component from my subjective poit of view was being hailed as a community elder and gay/bear pioneer. On Friday night we had a sort of h=town meeting. I gave a brief overview of old-school bears from the 1980s and 1990s, which was a revelation to everyone there. They were amazed to find out how close to what we were doing at Bear your Soul paralleled the spirit and dynamics of the early bears. My presentation was followed by a spirited discussion, with several individuals coming to the front and speaking their experiences and truth. It felt like gay community before we got coopted by the corporations. And I ended with a call to draft a manifesto, which I will informally call the Bear Your Soul Manifesto. Freddy wants to develop Bear Your Soul and take it across the country. He already has accepted an invite to go to rural South Wales to take it to Great Britain. I was presented with a bear flag and a lot of folks signed it to commemorate the event. I elt deeply honored an thrilled; I also felt like it’s over due for people to recognize the pioneering work I did in / for the bear community I still have a very bitter taste in my mouth fior how shitty I was treated in Palm Springs. Those affluenza-infested queens need a wake-up call real bad. My group therapist there was so encouraging of me coming back to Palm Springs once my Disability gets sorted out. I cannot imagine any place I would prefer never to return to. (For a fuller account of my days in Pam Springs and the rest of my life, read my memoirs, currently in preparation.) So I want to end this blog on a very positive note. I look forward to co-writing the manifesto and I look forward to becoming involved in spreading the Bear Your Soul word and facilitating programs in the future. I am retired, albeit poor, so I am free to go anywhere any time as long as I am being financially supported. I thank Freddy and Jay for their amazing work this past week and I love Freddy for his spirit, energy, and vision. He is truly a remarkable individual and I thank him for giving birth to this new regeneration of true bear spirit. May it grow and thrive over time. Posted at Origins Coffeehouse, Homer, NY.