Monday, June 29, 2009

Gorgeous Music+
Fabulous Singers=
The Berkshire Cabaret Scene

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Amanda McBroom at Barrington Stage July 2-3

Cabaret is a hot commodity in the Berkshires this summer. These intimate performances by superb singers where the song is the thing mostly tell a story, or reveal the inner feelings of the heart. In France, the tradition of the chanteuse who breaks your heart with a chanson is well known, Edith Piaf being the classic example. In Germany, perhaps Marlene Dietrich is best remembered, Her dresser, Paul McMahon, a colleage and theatre writer traveled with her for years and has the most fascinating stories to tell. Cabaret is a very personal art form, and while rock and pop is what the mainstream listens to, cabaret is what theatre buffs and romantics gravitate towards.

This is the summer of cabaret in the Berkshires, a virtual explosion compared to previous years. Recently Mandy Patinkin raised the rafters at the Colonial Theatre my review here, and that was just the first of many exciting evenings ahead.


Amanda McBroom sings Jacques Brel

On July 2 and 3 Amanda McBroom will make her first visit to the Berkshires under the sponsorship of Barrington Stage Company, this time in a new Cabaret setup on the second floor of Jae's Spice in Pittsfield. She is a fine example of contemporary cabaret and the beauty of her singing is matched by her own glamorous persona. Amanda McBroom has been called “...the greatest cabaret performer of her generation, an urban poet who writes like an angel and has a voice to match.” Composer of the power ballad "The Rose," which became a number one hit the world over, Amanda is a knock out performer and extraordinary songwriter. Her upcoming CD is a tribute to the music of Jacques Brel, and so we have high hopes to hear several of his classic songs such as "Marathon," "Ca Va," "If We Only Have Love," "My Death," and, of course, Brel's own version of "Carousel."


On July 6 Shirley Jones will sparkle plenty at Barrington Stage.

Perhaps the most anticipated event of the season is the arrival of the living legend, Shirley Jones, the sweetheart of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and star of both Carousel and Oklahoma on film. You can not miss her Monday July 6 at Barrington Stage where she will sing the songs she made famous, and many more.
Shirley Jones loves her dogs, keeps husband Marty in the doghouse.

You can see what's in store in this fascinating interview. The strangest thing is that she will stand and sing on the very stage where the set for Julianne Boyd's current production of Carousel is installed, and open her evening with "If I Loved You." Though a little wobbly at the very top these days - she just turned 75! - have no doubt that her voice is still a glorious instrument to hear. She's bringing songs, film clips and stories, too for a very special evening.


Bebe Neuwirth at the Mahaiwe July 11

Coming to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on July 11 is the stunning Bebe Neuwirth, known for her roles on Cheers and Frasier, but perhaps best known to theatre buffs for her role as Sheila in A Chorus Line, and her history with Bob Fosse and Roger Reese. She has won two Emmys, two Tonys, two Drama Desks, an LA Drama Critics Circle Award, an Astaire Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award, among others. She is closely identified with many songs, including Kurt Weill's "Here Lies Jenny," "Bilbao Song, "Susan's Dream,” "Surabaya Johnny," Herman Hupfeld’s "As Time Goes By," Stephen Sondheim's "Another Hundred People," (from “Company”), John Kander and Fred Ebb's "And the World Goes 'Round," and “Ring Them Bells” (from “Liza with a Z”), Edith Piaf's "Simply a Waltz," Weill-Ogden Nash "How Much I Love You," Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane’s "The Trolley Song," Frank Loesser "On a Slow Boat to China," Tom Waits' "A Foreign Affair" and "Shiver Me Timbers," Lennon & McCartney’s “Black Bird,” [composer] "Je Ne T'Aime Pas," Irving Berlin's "It Only Happens When I Dance With You," and Sammy Fain & Irving Kahal’s "I'll Be Seeing You."

JULY 9, 10, 11

There's not a lot of cabaret in the northern Berkshires, and this series is really more of a private club than anything else. Taking place at Goodrich Hall with tables and chairs setup, WTF presents various artists at informal cabarets on two weekends over the summer. No information yet available on who and what will be presented, though in previous years, and in larger venues, it has been quite impressive. If you buy tickets now you are buying a mystery night, though it may be your only option. Tough decision, eh? The July 11 and August 1 sessions are already sold out and there are limited places left for the other nights.


James Naughton July 13 at the Colonial

The second of this summer's Cabaret series at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Two-time Tony Award-winner (Chicago, City of Angels), film & television star James Naughton, has won critical acclaim in dramas, comedies and musicals. He has met equal success with his elegant and intimate solo concert/Cabaret acts, receiving the 1999 Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs Award for Best Male Vocalist. No information yet on the program.

JULY 30, 31 and August 1

A second series of performances at Goodrich Hall with tables and chairs setup, WTF presents various artists at informal cabarets on two weekends over the summer. No information yet available on who and what will be presented. The July 11 and August 1 sessions are already sold out and there are limited places left for the other nights.


Steve Ross at the Colonial August 4

In a show called "Live at the Algonquin," Steve Ross arrives at the Colonial to perform classic songs from Dietz & Schwartz, Kurt Weill and Cole Porter, with more recent evergreens by Jim Croce and Stephen Sondheim. The San Francisco Inquirer raves, “attending a Ross performance is like opening a treasure chest of great, often rare, songs. No one performing today is his equal.”


Andrea Marcovicci at the Colonial on August 17

Through songs, stories and poetry, Andrea Marcovicci takes us on a journey through America’s wartime years of 1939–1945, when every song became irrevocably intertwined with precious memories. Highlights include “Skylark,” “Sentimental Journey” and “The White Cliffs of Dover.”


Melanie at the Colonial on August 21

While not traditional cabaret, Melanie would be perfect for the club if only her instrument was a piano instead of a guitar. But songs are songs, and she makes my list. She will be at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. Melanie has sold more than 80 million records over a 40 year career. Her hits, including “Brand New Key” and “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” plus her classic Woodstock performance of “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” have made her a legend. I'll be there, with or without a baby grand.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stonewall - Guest Editorial - Kate Clinton

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Political Satirist Kate Clinton speaks out on the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall and the Gay Rights Movement

Hi Everyone -

On an early morning flight from Orlando, after appearing at the 19th Annual Gay Days at Disneyworld, I was “sirred” twice by a cab driver and flight attendant. All before 7 a.m. I would have thought the brand new faux leopard Croc flats I was sporting would have thrown them off. Or that the “Gay Day” banners everywhere would have heightened their threat levels to rainbow.

Usually I find mistaken identification an embarrassment or irritant. In past years I would correct quickly with “That’s M’am not Sir,” and then try to lessen their discomfort. But this 40th anniversary of Stonewall, I wear the gaffe as a badge of pride. I stare them down. Even if they seem remorseful, I don’t help them through their moment. In solidarity with the unsung butch lesbians who were with the fags and drag queens at the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village in 1969, I have been doing my own version of butching it up.

It used to be hard to find a NY gay person of a certain age who did not claim to have been at the Stonewall Riots. I am a New Yorker of that certain age, but I most certainly was not at the Stonewall Riots. In 1969 I had just graduated from a small Jesuit college in upstate New York. Insert “Class of 69” joke here.

I was a member of the Gay Resistance. I was trying not to come out. Because of that resistance, I could not and then would not hear the news of gay liberation spreading upstate from Greenwich Village. Though pre-internet, the Stonewall message quickly reached upstate gays in the anti-Vietnam war, women’s liberation and civil rights movement. Before long even my little town in upstate New York had out gay activists organizing, educating and agitating.

And they had the best parties. At one I met a brilliant lesbian Political Science professor, fired from her tenured job because of her anti-war activism. Hesitantly, I invited her and her partner over for dinner in the apartment that by then I “shared with a teacher friend”. On the apartment tour, before I could point out my bedroom, she gleefully yelled to her partner, “Here’s the fake bedroom!” Perhaps it was my cinder block bed with the Indian bedspread that tipped her off.

With my don’t ask, don’t tell cover blown by my out and outrageous new lesbian friends, I slowly began to come out. First to my girlfriend at the time, to more friends and then to family. Finally, to make up for lost time, I just grabbed a microphone and have yapped about it for twenty-eight years.

Of course there had been gays and lesbian activists in the in the 1950s and early 60s: The Mattachine Society, The Daughters of Bilitis, The Society of Individual Rights, the North American Homophile Organization. I am in awe of their courage. The rage and outrage of the Stonewall Inn fags, butch dykes and drag queens, who had finally had enough, kicked the courage of early gay activists to another level of visibility.

Back in the day, only 25% of my generation came out before the age of eighteen. It was 31% in the generation after me. Today 57% come out before the age of eighteen. Our challenge today is certainly to transform gay visibility into LGBT action. The reaction to Prop Hates promises a new generation of rage and outrage that will pass trans-inclusive ENDA, overturn DOMA, abolish Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and enact federal marriage equality.

But just as Stonewall and the gay liberation movement came from anti-war, women’s liberation and civil rights activism, we will only succeed if we reinsert ourselves into those activisms. To pass ENDA we must be part of the labor. To overturn DADT we must work for peace. To repeal DOMA and attain marriage equality we must work with women and people of color.

Think of it as Stonewall rebooted. It’s a size fourteen and a half stiletto. Today in honor of my butch forebears, I’m wearing only two items of women’s clothing.

Kate Clinton

reprinted with permission.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Music and Movement of Carousel at Barrington Stage

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The Company of Carousel. Kevin Sprague Photo

There is much to praise about the new production of Carousel at the Barrington Stage Company. This is a show you should not miss. It has the glorious Rodgers and Hammerstein score, the top notch singing, the beautiful sets and costumes, but the real reason I think you should see it are two young people who steal the show, Kristen Paulicelli, and Edmund Bagnell.

Kristen Paulicelli

Edmund Bagnelli

Capturing the joyous carefree moments of youthful ecstasy is Kristen Paulicelli as Louise. Just watching her dance lifts your spirits as only well done ballet can. I only wish my old friend Agnes De Mille was still around to see her performance. Updated for this production by choreographer Joshua Bergasse. She is partnered by Al Blackstone and together they are a joy to watch.

Kristen Paulicelli brilliantly captured in midair in this photo by Kevin Sprague.

A tree tries to dance too.

The other big surprise of the show comes during the Hornpipe number which is also full of high spirits and dancing. Here Edmund Bagnell as Enoch Snow, Jr. almost casually meanders on stage and starts playing his violin. The sound is gorgeous, and lifts the show right off its hinges. It is an indelible moment. And I didn't fool with the photo. Someone had him draw that silly looking mustache on his upper lip.

Edmund Bagnell and his violin

This makes two violinists strutting the stages of Berkshire Theatres at the same time. The other fiddler is Stephen Pilkington who appears briefly in Shakespeare & Company's Pinters Mirror. Here he provides a contrast to and diversion for the main characters.

Stephen Pilkington plays the violin in Pinter's Mirror. Kevin Sprague Photo.

The most fascinating thing about the dancer and violinist in Carousel is how they seem to have become pals. At a recent after party they were seen enjoying each other's company. Hmmmm....

The two young stars, Kristen and Edmund at the after party. Matt Tolbert photo.

Carousel continues to July 11. The Barrington Stage Box Office is 413.236.8888 or you can find them online at

Pinter's Mirror continues to August 2. The Shakespeare & Company Box Office is 413.637.3353 and you can find them online at

Some of the Boys of Carousel with more hokey mustaches. Kevin Sprague Photo.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Justin Adkins Tells His Story

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Justin 2.0 (Most recent release) Photo by Claire Schwartz.

Each and every one of us has a fascinating story to tell about our experience being a LGBTQ person, and Justin Adkins is the first trans person to detail his "coming out" at the Driftwood site. Homophobia is never pretty, but Transphobia is often even worse.

Most of us know Justin as the Queer Life Coordinator for Wiliams College, and a guy who just seems to be everywhere at the same time. He is also a bit of a techie, designing websites and juggling his social media commitments with suave panache. (I love those fancy words, and am so happy to have found someone worthy to use them on.)

Here's his tale. I posted my own earlier this week in this Stonewall Article. We welcome yours, too. As Justin says, it is important that people know our stories, it puts a human face on the LGBTQ community.

I'm From Poway, CA.

by Justin Adkins

Reprinted from with permission from Justin Adkins

Justin 1.0 This was the Original 2001 Version.

As a little girl I didn’t know about anything queer. It seemed like my parents made sure that I was sheltered from all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people. It could be that their lives were so sheltered from LGBT people that they didn’t know anyone out of the closet except the hairdresser, who in our case really was gay.

In the flavour of church I was raised in, it was clear that LGBT people were not welcome. So in 7th grade when my friend Mimi invited me to her home for a birthday sleepover it was not surprising that my mom flipped out when she realized that Mimi had two moms. As soon as I was dropped off, my mom raced home and called me at Mimi’s. She offered to bring me home right away. She was even ready to fib to “protect” me.

I stayed.

By high school Mimi and I were drifting apart. Once the last chairs together in the junior high flute section Mimi had moved up to first chair, I remained last. I was also invested in fitting in. I was so invested in fitting in that I joined in the harsh treatment of Mimi. I, and others, were mean to Mimi because her mothers were lesbians. After 10th grade I never spoke to Mimi.
About the same time I met Ezekiel Webber. Zeke and I were in honours classes together. We shared the same dry sense of humour and faith traditions. In 10th grade Zeke was one of the first openly gay students at my high school of almost 5,000 people. He was the first person to go to prom with a person of the same sex. Zeke was beaten up at least once a week because he was openly gay.

These experiences taught me that it was not safe to be queer in my neighborhood.

These two individuals made a deep impact on my life and I was not able to tell them. A few years after high school Mimi walked into the ocean never to return. I believe that the stress and harassment became too much for her.
I was still in the closet.

Zeke went on to be a star student at Dartmouth, helping organize much of the queer programing there in the late 1990’s. He then went on to be a star student at UCLA Law School focusing on LGBT civil rights issues. He was never able to practice law though as he passed away while at UCLA.

I was just coming out of the closet.

In late 2003, early 2004, I was no longer able to hide. I came out as a lesbian. You might be confused, after all my name is Justin. See, I had never met any transgender guys. I thought trans people wore feather boas, and though I like a nice boa once in a while, that was not me. All I knew then was that I was mostly attracted to women and did not fit traditional female gender norms. “Of course,” I thought, “I must be a butch lesbian.”  The problem was that deep inside I was not a woman at all, oh I tried, but it was not me. Deep inside my gender identity was male.

When I found out about Female-to-Male transgender people (FTM’s) I finally realized that I belonged, that there are other people like me, people born “female” who often, through hormones and surgery, go on to live their lives as “men.” Around this time I started my slow transition to becoming a visible man.

I have come to realize that I would not have the courage and strength to make this transition if it were not for those who went before me. Zeke and Mimi lost their lives because of intolerance, I cannot stand by and let that continue to happen.

Justin 3.0 Now in Beta from The Simpsons.

I could live my life now as a quiet trans guy blending into society, basking in perceived straight white male privilege. But I choose to be out. I have chosen to fight for queer rights. I am the Williams College Queer Life Coordinator. I was a founding member of Brattleboro, Vermont’s Queer Community Project. I am on the board of Bennington Pride in Bennington, VT. And, this past summer I was proud to be one of the main organizers for the first ever New England Transgender Pride March and Rally. There, we saw over a thousand transgender people come together to speak up for their rights.

In all I do feel privileged to have the opportunity to support wonderful LGBT folks and allies. I am privileged because I am out. I want to make our world a place that is not just accepting but embracing of all people.

When not tending his garden, trying to figure out which is food and which is weeds, you can find Justin on Facebook. He is friends with the Dalai Lama. And me.

Fabulous Tallulah Bankhead Excerpts from "Looped"

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Valerie Harper is Looped as Tallulah Bankhead

The legendary film actress Tallulah Bankhead was a delicious diva, outrageous and there wasn't a drag queen in the 1960's that didn't attempt to do her. Looped tells the story of one day in her life. Starting out in California at the Pasadena Playhouse, and currently in its last week at Arena Stage in D.C. the play's ultimate destination is Broadway.

The talented director Rob Ruggiero

The play is written by Matthew Lombardo and directed by Rob Ruggiero,who regularly works with Barrington Stage here in the Berkshires where Carousel is now playing. We would love to see Looped there one day. Ruggiero is also well known to Hartford audiences where he has directed dozens of plays for TheaterWorks. He is currently up to his "earballs" with Lerner and Loewe's Camelot which will soon open at the legendary Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, a company which, like Barrington Stage, has sent works on to New York City.

Enjoy these tiny snippets from Looped. If you appreciate Tallulah, you will love what Valerie Harper (remember the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda?) has done with these famous quotes.

And if you are in the nation's capitol this weekend, try to get tickets to see it at Arena Stage. This is not to be missed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bennington Pride Picnic and Community Celebration July 19th

Lake Shaftsbury is a picture perfect setting.

They're having a Pride Picnic and we're all invited. Members of the Berkshire LGBTQ community are invited to join their neighbors to the north in Bennington and Southern Vermont for a picnic and fun outdoors on Saturday, July 18, 2009 (Rain date 19th).

Starting at about 11 AM, with games and socializing, then a potluck lunch at noon (everyone bring a dish!) the location is the beautiful Lake Shaftsbury State Park, just ten miles or so north of Bennington. Berkshire folks would take Route 7 north into Vermont, and after riding through Bennnington take 7A north through Shaftsbury. After you pass the Clear Brook Farm on the right, and the Chocolate House on the left it is a little further to the park entrance on your right. If you come to Route 313 you have gone too far.

Cost to get into the park is $3.00 for adults ages 14 and older. For children ages 4-13, cost is $2.00. Under age 4 is free

There is a designated group picnic area and once you find that, just look for the rainbow flag, walk up and introduce yourself.

The Bennington Pride Coalition is playing host with hamburgers and hot dogs, but it is hoped everyone will chip in by bringing vegetarian dishes, sides, some desserts,and nibbles.

The organizers ask just one thing: "Please RSVP to so we know how many to expect at this fun event. We look forward to a day of meeting old friends and making lots of new friends, too."

Rent a canoe for two?

Lake Shaftsbury State Park is on an 84-acre parcel surrounding a beautiful lake. It is a popular park facility in southwestern Vermont.

There is a developed beach, play area, and picnic area. There is an open picnic shelter/pavilion available for large group gatherings. The snack bar concession has rental canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and pedal boats. The "Healing Springs Nature Trail" around the lake is also a popular spot.

Clear Brook Farm - a nice detour.

During the summer I make almost weekly trips to Shaftsbury just to pickup fresh veggies at Clear Brook Farms which is right on Route 7A. It is incomparable in quality and taste. They also have local cheeses, including a sensational mozzarella, and other local dairy and bakery products. Try this place out and you may find yourself addicted, too.

Some days I can't even look at a painting
without thinking of the Farmer's Market

There is also the sensational Walloomsac Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in Bennington which is worth a special trip by itself.

Another great spot is The Market Wagon, also on Route 7A at 1896 Harwood Hill close to the Bennington/Shaftsbury line. On your way to the picnic, take exit 2 off Route 7 and turn right onto 7A. They are on the left This is a Penn Dutch run operation with bulk basics and a delightfully large variety of hand made jams, baked goods, noodles etc. at prices that make Big Y, Aldi's and Price Rite look like thieves.

Want to make a full day of it? Area attractions include the Bennington Monument and Museum, Bennington itself, the Mount Equinox Skyline Drive, Robert Frost House, Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester.

GPS: N43 01.106 W73 11.223

Take Route 7 North crossing into Vermont through Pownal and Bennington: Take Exit 2 off the Highway into Shaftsbury, and drive north about ten miles on Route 7A to the Lake Shaftsbury State Park. The entrance will be on your right. Look for the group picnic area and rainbow flag.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Forty Years Since Stonewall 1969-2009

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Stonewall as it appeared in 1969.


Stonewall celebrates the night some drag queens, and a lot of just plain young people, pissed off that the police were continually harassing them, took a stand and fought back after one too many raids on the old Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Soon, gays were not only fighting back, but coming out all over the nation. "The love that dare not speak its name" has not shut up since. ("The Love that dare not speak its name" is a phrase used by poet Lord Alfred Douglas to describe homosexuality. Douglas was lovers with Oscar Wilde. He coined the phrase in his poem Two Loves, in 1896.)

It was not, as he urban legend goes, a reaction to the death of Judy Garland earlier that week. That saddened a lot of comfortable closeted gays, but not the grass roots.

"The street kids faced death every day. They had nothing to lose. And they couldn't have cared less about Judy. We're talking about kids who were fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. Judy Garland was the middle-aged darling of the middle-class gays. I get upset about this because it trivializes the whole thing."

-- from The Question of Equality: Lesbian and Gay Politics in America Since Stonewall, Scribner, 1995

The Stonewall protesters were not just drag queens, but an oppressed community finally saying enough was enough. The politeness of the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis was dropped, and the Gay Liberation Front spawned a host of new activist groups.


I stuck my big toe out of the closet back in 1959 when it was a pretty dangerous thing to do so. I was in the Navy, and got involved in a triangle with a sailor named Gerald and Duane a Marine, and soon the whole aircraft carrier - 1,000 sailors and 100 Marines - was buzzing with rumors and gossip. The officers on my ship, the USS Kearsarge, CVS 33 were having apoplexy because we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with no port nearby. I was lucky they didn't throw me in the brig, but I was a very popular guy until the secret came out openly. The worst that happened was I was shunned and given the silent treatment. The chaplains were floored. I had been the ship's organist for services. The officers relied on me to decode secret messages about Russian submarines. They banned me from my working quarters while they figured out what to do.


Finally they summoned up one of their planes, loaded me aboard and shipped me off to Taiwan. I was quickly drummed out of the Navy, stripped of my uniforms, and sent home to hang my head with shame. That didn't last long. They had given me a General Discharge "under honorable conditions" which was another lucky break. I had spent some time with a couple of Ensigns and Lieutenant JG's too. Such a bad boy. The ship acquired a new name, "The Queer Barge" which stuck long after I was gone.

How I loved my sailor drag.


For a decade I lived the typical furtive gay life, straight by day at work but gay as a tree full of chickadees at night, hopping down to the Cha Cha Palace, our local gay dance bar in the basement of the Charles Playhouse in Boston where the Blue Men currently bang their drums nicely. Similar to Stonewall, it was a dive that was run by the mob connected, in this case the Vara Brothers, Henry and Carmen. They also owned The Punch Bowl and Jacques at that time.

Ah, the Cha Cha, it was the only place you could dance, boys with boys. girls with girls. Of course girls didn't have trouble dancing together, as long as it was innocent. But this was real dancing, with lots of grinding and smoochy face stuff as we jokingly called it. The club was unmarked, a simple door at street level, where someone kept watch for the Boston Vice Squad. You had to look "right" to gain admittance, and your first visit was usually facilitated by a friend who introduced you to the gatekeeper. You could then return alone. But the truth is gay people looked a lot different from plainclothes police even back then. We always had better taste in fashion.

Days of Wine, Roses and Regret.


Dancing did not go on every night, but just Thursdays as I recall. At least once a month the cops would raid the place, though the watchman usually was fast enough to throw a light switch to turn on the bare bulb above the dance floor to alert everyone. In a twinking of an eye all the queer boys changed partners with the dykes and it looked like a normal sock hop, only the girls had shorter hair, and the men often wore mascara.

This of course frustrated and confounded the police. So they would start checking ID's and anyone without proof of age, or missing identification was hauled off to appear in front of the horrific judge Elijah Adlow in the Boston Municipal Court after a sobering night in jail. Names were often printed in the local papers, especially the rag called Midnight, which was the scandal tabloid of the period. Careers were destroyed, lives were ruined. It was harassment, plain and simple and it was hard for many people to venture out of their lifelong closets.

Tom of Finland was an artist who helped reinforce gay masculine and military stereotypes. His work lives on.

I was never arrested, but I did get a call from an NIS investigator one day demanding that I testify against an old friend from my teenage days who was now in the Navy. They had connected to me via some rather telling letters I had written, and he stowed away in his locker. They tracked me down with the help of the Boston police. Nothing was private back then, especially in the military. I had to hire a lawyer to prevent them from grilling me about the gay scene in Boston and subjecting me to a polygraph test, not to mention losing my job, not that it was so great back in those days. But it scared the hell out of me, and accounts for my lifelong hostility for the "moral guardians" who still keep watch, albeit fairly toothlessly these days.

When was the last time you saw a rainbow flag in the Berkshires? Don't they want our business?


What happened at Stonewall empowered those of us in Boston to also push back at the police and the corruption that was behind most of these "raids" on gay people. The city's licensing board continued to harass the gay bars in any way they could, thereby keeping them in the hands of operators like the Varas. Funny thing is, the Varas always treated the gays right, keeping the drink prices reasonable, and defending those present from any straight interlopers intent on bashing a few gays. There were baseball bats behind the bars for such intruders though I only saw them picked up once, as a threat. The bashers quickly left the premises, and when followed out the door by the bouncers, left the Bay Village neighborhood. This area where the bars were located was pretty free of open hostility, especially since some of the clubs like the old Napoleon and Phil Bayonne's 12 Carver were located on dimly lit side streets. How I miss seeing that large man sitting on a swing hung over the bar, singing "The Old Apple Tree."


I suspect the standard disapproval of gays and lesbians in distant years past is one reason that no gay bars flourished in the Berkshires, and the residual veil of silence continues to discourage gay people from remaining here. The Berkshires seem to be a sort of Don't Ask Don't Tell kind of place. It is one reason that the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition exists, to help us find each other. This blog tries to further support that effort by pinpointing events and places we can enjoy, both as lesbians and gays, and as members of the larger Berkshire community. The cultural and outdoor activities seem to be the most welcoming. Progress is incremental.

The infamous Punch Bowl was the major destination in Boston in the 1960's. To close it down, they had to take it by eminent domain to build U. Mass. Boston. A surprising number of gay men developed into full blown alcoholics due to the emphasis on the bar scene. In later years we met up again at AA meetings.


" Henry (Vara) specializes in sleaze. As a matter of fact, Henry is the Babe Ruth of sleaze. Henry's latest specialty is homosexual cowboy bars. Henry's joints are not exactly private clubs. They are noisy, conspicuous, dangerous and, of course, sleazy. They absolutely destroy neighborhoods. They do not attract the kind of people you would like to take home to meet mum unless mum was into a little sado-masochism. The latest target for Henry and his associates is the South End, an area that already has enough problems." Mike Barnacle in the Boston Globe in August 1981. The bigots continued to rail.

Back in the 1960's, there were many young and gay "Mad Men" who worked in advertising and marketing. Like the TV series, they drank martinis, but they didn't chase the secretaries. I am on the right, seen here with Bobby and Phil.


After Stonewall, gay people became political, and began to encouraage the process of "coming out" and going public about it. Some of us were supported, others rejected by our friends and families. But at least we finally knew where we stood. It took some of us longer than others, and there are still plenty of people in the closet, largely older gays whose years of self loathing caused them to seek refuge in the Republican Party where double standards are the norm. That's where the Larry Craig's of this world have ended up, still in the closet, still getting in trouble, still in denial.

But for the several generations that have followed mine, coming out has become much easier, and finding other lesbians and gays more open and easy. The internet, first with gay chat rooms and now through social networking sites has removed the final barriers and facilitate the process of finding each other.

The need for gay bars has declined as gay and straight young people visit the same clubs, restaurants and enjoy each others company. In Pittsfield, many find Dottie's to be a perfect gathering place, and a new series of dance evenings at Jae's Spice has been begun. (Next one is July 11, "El Gato Volodor!" starting at 9:30 with DJs Albaro and BFG with Latin inflected disco, house and electro) These are places that are simply welcoming to all who want to come and party. Many high schools have developed gay-straight alliances, and even Williams College reaches out to its LGBT students in numerous ways. The Rainbow Times now publishes a monthly paper for Western Massachusetts. And there is talk of bringing the Boston Gay Men's Chorus to Pittsfield this fall.

Progress. Support. A brighter future. Thanks to everyone - gay and straight - who has helped make this new era in the Berkshires begin to blossom.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day Tribute: Double Dating With My Dad

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Bob Morris and his dad.

by Bob Morris

What is it about fathers that make them so predictable? Father's Day lumbers up to your calendar and what do you buy the old man? What do you say to him? Is the nicest thing to do for a Dad on Father’s Day leave him alone with his ballgame on TV? Dads aren't as expressive as moms. They can be, heaven forbid, a little dull. And we gay sons usually have more to do with our mothers anyway. Call it Oedipal or just chalk it up to the fact that aesthetics matter to mothers, but it’s easier with them, that’s all.

But it all changed for me when my mother passed away. Suddenly my Dad, at 80, was asking me to help him find new love. So I didn’t only start pimping for him and screening for him (God forbid he should end up with anyone less than perfect) I started coaching him and dressing him. It got very Queer Eye for the Old Guy, as I’d scold him for talking with his mouth full of food, and I stopped him from pouring Splenda into his wine. I introduced him to concepts that were foreign to him such as the dry cleaners, and got him to stop wearing those vinyl loafers from Kmart that annoyed me more than I’d like to admit. I know I’m not him and he’s not me and without my kind of raging aesthetics, he didn’t live for just the right collar or cuff. Still, some tweaking never hurts.

The truth is that as a gay son who was single, I had more time for him than my brother did. I was also a better sounding board for all his dating questions. And when he told me about his dates, I wasn’t as shocked as a straight person might have been with his senior sex in the city life. Botox, Viagra, internet dating. When it comes to romance in his world, 80 is the new 60. One woman who was 86 was dating my father and two other men at the same time. Another told him he was just filler until Mr. Right came along. Nasty, sure, but nothing compared to what gay men on the prowl say to each other.

In the wake of a parent’s death, your life changes in all kinds of ways. What struck me most was that my father and I became friends for the first time ever. Well, it’s easy to bond when you’re both dating so disastrously and doing the post mortems. But even though I was middle aged and resigned to being single, he never gave up on the idea of love. Not for me or himself. And shocking as it was, it turned out that my father, who I’d dismissed my whole life as a no-nothing, had things to teach me in his own wacky way. He was so open when it came to love, the world’s most democratic republican.

“Stop looking for perfection” he once told me when I was being too critical of a man who ended up the love of my life. “That’s the only way you’ll find it.”

I took that advice and now I’m as happily married as gays can be.

My dad passed away in 2006. On Father’s Day I think of him when I look into the eyes of the man I married. I taught him about clothes. He taught me to love.

Who do you think got the better deal?

We are delighted to have received permission from Bob Morris to reprint his thoughts above, and encourage you to discover his best selling book, Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating With My Dad (Harper Perennial).

Bob is a New York Times Sunday Styles section contributor. In his book Bob takes a very personal and candid look at a year of dating dangerously. This book is funny, deeply moving, and highly instructive for a generation of adults whose parents are returning to dating for the first time in decades. Of particular interest to gay men and women seeking stories of what it’s like in the trenches of the dating scene, Assisted Loving, is honest and hilarious. A 2008 Lambda Literary and Publishing Triangle finalist, it was also named an American Library Association Stonewall Honor book. The paperback edition, which includes an extra ‘PS’ section featuring Bob’s Modern Love essay in the Sunday Style section of the New York Times about his gay wedding in Los Angeles before the laws changed, makes great reading because at its core, this is a heartwarming account of a father and a gay son who learn how to be brave in pursing love through their love of one another.

Morris has his own website. And it's not too late to give this book as a Father's Day gift, either, though I am not to sure which bookstore to send you to in the Berkshires to find it. Certainly not Barnes and Noble. I guess that's why so many of us gay and lesbians use Amazon all the time. They get it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Girls Night Out at Colonial This Weekend

Girls just want to have fun. Photo by Mark Frohna

Thursday you are likely heading downtown for Pittsfield's Third Thursday, so why not plan a whole evening out? The theatrical version of a Girl's Night Out promises to be a hoot and a haha as well as a delightful bit of nostalgia when the Colonial Theatre welcomes this show for four performances beginning Thursday. The quality of their attractions this year have been superb, and there's no reason to think that this won't be another very memorable trip down Memory Lane.

Girls Night: The Musical follows five friends in their 30s and 40s during a wild and outrageous girls night out at a karaoke bar. Friends since their teens, they have all had their fair share of heartache and tragedy, joy and success. Among the characters are Carol the party girl, blunt Anita who tells it like it is, Liza with her marital (and eating) issues, boring Kate the designated driver and Sharon, the not-so-angelic angel who just couldn't resist tagging along. Together, they reminisce about their younger days, celebrate their current lives and look to the future, all the while belting out an array of classic anthems such as "It's Raining Men," "I Will Survive," "Lady Marmalade," "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

Funny thing is, I know an awful lot of gay boys that would love those songs even more than you guys. So this is clearly an equal opportunity show. There's something here for everyone!

The four performances are Thursday at 7:30PM, Friday at 8PM, and Saturday at 3PM and 8PM. Tickets are $45-$25 and can be purchased in person at the Colonial Ticket Office at 111 South Street in Pittsfield Monday-Friday 10AM-5PM, performance Saturdays 10AM-2PM, by calling (413) 997-4444 or online at

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