Sunday, June 7, 2009

interview of Rob Gay Male owner jakes on fourth

Rob Cameron Interview
Rob Cameron I own jakes in fourth in Olympia I’m gay and class status, lower middle class I guess. Caucasian and I’m forty years.
Yup pretty much just your manhunt stats. How long have you been in Olympia?
On and off thirty years pretty much since I was ten. Then I moved away and moved back, moved to L.A. and moved back, moved to Seattle and moved back. Attempted to move to Reno and moved back and then I decided to put my roots down and stay here it’s worked out good so yeah.
Did you come out in Olympia?
I came out in Seattle when I was 19.
Did it seem like Olympia changed for you after returning older and out?
I don’t know, no. It’s been pretty smooth sailing. Yeah it was probably better that I came out in Seattle than Olympia.
Whys that?
Because I wasn’t around my peers. You know kids I grew up with so I didn’t have that to deal with pretty much just my family and new friends that I had made because I was pretty new to Seattle. So that made it easier and then over time everyone found out and everyone was pretty receptive and cool about it. No major speed bumps. I don’t think I really lost too many friends. But that so long ago you know, its 21 years now that’s a long time.
As long as I’ve lived.
Oh yeah a long time ago. It's a lot different than it was back then. I remember one character on TV that was gay it was a police show and I think on television that was the only gay person in the spotlight which was kinda strange.
Do you remember who it was or when?
I don’t know LAPD or something I don’t know. It was a long time ago. I wouldn’t know if I’d know it if I heard it, it’s been so long. But I came out to my grandpa and he was cool about it. So somebody at 75 or 80 how ever old he was back then so he kinda made it easier on me. And then my mom found out that was kinda strange thing but now her and I were pretty good friends but it think that it might have brought us closer.
In some kinda strange way.
Yeah, yeah. And now my brothers are all cool with it. I don’t know if they were at first cause everyone kinda goes their own way and makes their own living and they have their families now and I have my gig and a boyfriend so everyone as we get older we all just kinda except each other. And now shit there’s gay people everywhere and gay people all over TV and all that.
‘ And you own an openly gay bar.
Yeah and I own a gay bar. But back then it didn’t seem that way there were few gay people in town. Probably, a lot more than I noticed though.
How old were you when you came back to Olympia?
Fuck. I came back maybe I could be off but maybe around 24. I think when I was about 24 I came back. That would be about the nineties. It was the first Iraq war I remember that and then I pretty much stayed from then on but maybe go back and fourth a bit but then I got a job at the reef back then. And the old timers told me you need to put down your roots while you’re still young because you’re not going to be young forever. The urge to take off isn’t going to work out for you in the long run. Putting your roots down now is the only way you’re going to accomplish anything as far as business or financial or retirement. And these where old timers telling me that so I kinda took it to heart. So I kept working and set my goals mid twenties is when that happened. All of a sudden I was 35 I didn’t have much just a job and a little money saved. I figured well maybe I’ll get a state job, something with a future maybe retirement, something so I don’t have to work till I’m 80. Benefits, there’s no benefits in the restaurant business. Also a buddy of mine Keith that owned Darby’s I went and talked to him and I said I’m tired of working for people lets open a bar. I think in a week we found this location. It was gutted it was bad, basically a blank canvas when we started and two months straight all day long with a lot of volunteers and we got it done. It took a lot and we opened August 2nd, 2004 and that was the first day of homo-a-go-go so it started with a bang. My boyfriend was like you need to open by august 2nd so that was the date we set and we opened and it’s done pretty well ever since. I think it’s changed Olympia too for the better I think that people are more accepting of gay and transgender people through this bar.
Why do you feel that way?
Well it’s on the main drag. We accept everybody and in turn I think that it opens people’s eyes that we’re not freaks we aren’t circus freaks we are just normal everyday people. And since we’re right here I don’t know how many people drive past here every day but there’s a big rainbow flag in front and everybody knows it s a queer bar. And then we have Jamie lee next door and another hair salon that Noah owns who is a gay man and we joke around and call it the “G block” the gay block. Oh and there’s another hair salon across the street and there’s a gay guy that owns that. And it’s not like these people came after we go there but you know people turn 21 everyday and a lot of people come here. I don’t know where I’m going with this I just think we’ve made a huge difference for the better.
It seems it has to have a different impact than the urban Onion that’s been here a long time. The only other gay bar I’ve seen in a long time.
Yeah a younger vibe here. And awe accept everyone it’s not this cliquish thing, nothing to do with the onion it’s just everyone is welcome here. And sometimes I hear people say there are too many straights here and I look around and say fuck its 70% gay I mean what you are talking about. And I mean it’s like I have a lot of friends who are straight and I’m not going to kick my straight friends out you know and I’m not going to exclude people because they are straight and if I go to a bar I’m not going to be excluded because I’m gay. So as long as everyone feels okay and secure being themselves and do as you please within reason then you know everything is good. You’ve been here before, its one big happy party. You don’t get harassed.
Not s much lately but there can be some jerks coming in so there are problems but it’s not the bar it’s just the people.
I don’t know I think some of that is, well people will say things like that but they wouldn’t tell me about it or tell my staff. I remember this one girls this loud mouth girl was saying that she was harassed by a guy and she was part of the queer alliance of evergreen she was spreading these rumors.
For the record she was a constituent but not a representative of the EQA. I coordinated the Eqa then and now and we supported her but she wasn’t on behalf of the group.
Oh so okay. But she went up there and what she was saying wasn’t exactly true. She started a fight with some guy and then her girlfriends started a fight and started hitting the guy and he pushed her and the guy left and all of a sudden she was saying she was queer bashed here and that wasn’t the case. I watched the video here and in the video I was like those idiots started it he didn’t even do anything wrong. He might have said something wrong but he didn’t start it. It shouldn’t have been that, it wasn’t what they were saying that happened. That’s one situation that kinda got blown out of proportion. Then when I watch it I told her and she was kinda just like I guess you’re right yeah. So she wanted it to just be drama.
Yeah that’s no good. But on the bright side I felt it was amazing to see how the community mobilized around the issue. Even if it was drama everyone stepped in to support jakes in not supporting queer harassment and violence.
Oh yeah that queer takeover was cool. That was way cool.
That was one of the original reasons that we got that started. A lot of folks felt harassed to different levels and the situation with that fight gave us a problem to solve and two weeks later we took over the bar with queer people to make it known we could show up and that it wasn’t okay for people to be homophobic to any degree drama or not.
But what’s funny it came out of a fib.
Perhaps but that’s what we felt and heard so we went for it. You know and all and a lot of folks do get harassed by other patrons and femmes especially, straight men seem to just not to get it and it’s not comfortable.
But I feel comfortable kissing my boyfriend here and hugging my boyfriend here and it never gets to that point where I don’t. And my friends feel comfortable and the regulars feel comfortable. So I don’t hear it. While there are here or when that subject comes up it seems like the people that are close to me that I trust they don’t have that same opinion. I just wonder if it’s just drama.
People have different experiences and levels of comfort.
It’s a bar and liquor is served and not everyone is being 100% politically correct all the time. Sometimes you have to shrug your shoulders I mean there’s liquor served some people are going to get a little bit weird but I don’t sweat the small stuff. I mean if someone is out there grabbing asses we get rid of them.
Yeah I’ve brought out many before myself and got wait staff to help out.
Yeah so we get rid of the assholes.
But it’s those assholes doing it and getting the rumors going a people nervous. But don’t worry it doesn’t give the bar a bad names as much as remind us who we have to always deal with.
I hope not, this place started with good intentions and throughout the whole evolution of it those intentions have stayed intact. So when I hear stuff like that that isn’t true if it is true I’ll correct it , it kinda hurt, not kinda, it hurts my feelings because this is my creation this is my baby and I’m glad that the community supports it and likes it and all that but I take it to heart. So that situation that happened to her and her lieing it’s like a slap in the face. It’s like slapping my kid. If it’s true then that’s one thing and I’ll deal with it but how can I deal with a lie? I don’t want to buy into drama I can count on one hand how many fights we’ve had here and I could take away a few that were just comical stupid. In five years less than five and if you go to another club in tow and there will be five in one night. I mean and the fights I’ve seen I mean one right here it was two lesbians and it wasn’t straight bashing queers I can’t remember any straight people getting in fights or hurting people but that was up the street some guy choking people but that wasn’t here and I don’t think it had anything to do with here. [That was me 3 years ago a guy choked myself and two lesbians on the basis they couldn’t handle a man and if they were going to pretend to be men they ought to fight like one. Nothing to do with jakes though, just a drunk guy we took care of and sent home] But of course if it happens on the block then it becomes this gay bashed at jakes thing even if it’s not the truth. I can’t think of any straight people ever coming in here and beating up a gay person because they would probably get their ass kicked all of us together you know.
Exactly we flock in packs.
Yeah. And another fight was a drag queen and a girl in the hall way and that one was funny but it had to be stopped it was over something so stupid too. The girl who was the instigator we picked her up and threw her out the door that was before we had a smoking area you know. So all and all over the course of the place I’m happy there’s not violence here, not violence you know.
Yeah it’s just harassment and daily life we always have to deal with.
Yeah its alcohol and maybe people taking stuff to heart that maybe ignorance. Some guy hitting on a woman here if he’s not feeling her up you know it’s okay. It’s going to happen any place you go.
The problem is a bunch of rural and young folks coming in turning 21 waiting for that chance to be in a gay space with gay people and they walk in to find a bunch of old toothless straight people.
Yeah during the happy hour it’s because the drinks are cheap. I would rather it be 100% gay but that’s not going to happen. There are just not enough gay people to do it. People start to have kids, they get a DWI on an on there’s tons of reasons they get more into work more focused on their lives not going out. But there’s still people turning 21 and gay people coming out. I’m happy that everyone feels welcome here. And who’s to say and complaints a transgender say a Tranny boy uses the men’s bathroom then somebody comes and complains to me and I’m like well they’re a boy and it becomes like things like that issues like that stupid things like that so its kinda like where do you draw the line where the rules are. People are going to have a problem with stupid shit all the time. If you have 10% straight here your doing wrong, if you have 50% straight here your doing wrong, if its 30% is wrong. Some nights it’s 70% 80% and others it 10%. You can never just tell.
Before jakes came around where were some of the places where you saw gay people getting together, other queer sites of pleasure and community? Have you heard of the rainbow café, thecla, or other bars or the Smithtown café.
Oh I remember that! That was might have been the old Fugi teriyaki. And Ben mores is gay owned don’t know if it’s gay but Michael is gay and he’s out it’s not like I’m outing him. And he’s been there forever. And Darby’s is gay.
How long has gay ownership of the strip been around Olympia?
Uh, Michael has been there forever. Pit’s not gay but he used to own thecla and it was like a gay tolerant bar. And it wasn’t gay but it was extremely gay friendly.
Can you tell me about thecla and the community there or the events there?
Oh it’s been so long. I used to work at the reef and thecla had their beer and wine license but its kinda different then it was back then you had to sell a certain amount of food to serve liquor and so I worked at the reef and I worked the night and I think Sunday was the big night when all the gays would go there and I worked Sunday night for years so I never really got to go there but we would get all the gay people at the reef. The reef was pretty much a gay bar too because of that, we used to get huge amounts of people coming to the reef to get their drink on before going over there for just beer and wine. We had it all and they would come and we shared client customers so that was my experience with it. Just serving the people that went to thecla and they would go back and forth because we had liquor and they didn’t. It was just back and forth and that went on for years, that was pretty cool. They used to have the drag shows there I’m assuming in a Sunday but all those guys would come over to the reef afterwards and I think it was Sean and Richard. Sean is still around, rob is still around Richard is doing a show in Portland they were a big part of it. I remember the gay pride parade when there were literally maybe ten or fifteen people who were marching in it. Really mean that was my first experience with pride.
When was this?
Early 90’s probably. Now it’s huge!
What has the progression been, how have you seen it change?
Um, well it’s just grown every year grown and grown and grown until it’s where it is now. Sean might have been one of the people that marched in the back then. It was just so small. It was little. I just went down there and had to work and ran to work. It would be cool to see a gay Mecca.
It could I think sometimes. One of the first things I learned moving here is that it had the third highest lesbian per capita in a us city. At least 5 years ago or so.
Really wow. Did you check into nanny noodles? Ask Anna about that. That when I was a little kid. Me and my brothers would make fun of it we lived like 3 or four blocks away.
What is nanny noodles, could you tell me more?
Well I don’t know much about it. I know it was right off Kaiser. There was an old nude beach over there and nanny noodles was an old farm house and then there was a gate. The farm house was a lesbian farm house a ton of lesbians lived there it was a communal lesbian home. It looked like big noodles of different colors painted on it. I had three older brothers that would poke fun at tit as we drive by. That’s pretty much what I remember and I’ve since heard about it from a Trans guy that Alan that used to come here and was part of it he's the one who told me about what it was that it was a communal house. This was like 30 years ago so that’s something you might want to check into.
Where there any other places or times that gay people met up or hung out other than thecla and the reef before Jakes?
When I was a kid no.
How about when you were older and out?
No I just went to Seattle.
Why do you think so many gay men go to Seattle rather than meeting people here?
To me it’s a numbers game. Look how many gay people are there, that’s where I went to meet people. It’s huge there.
Would you go to Seattle with groups of Olympia people or meet Olympia folks there?
You know I didn’t really start meeting in Olympia until I started working at the reef. Ti wasn’t prior to that I didn't really know too many. And while I worked there I was still in the closet but it was out in Seattle. Because I was scared I was going to get fired. At the reef you know looking back its idiotic I thought that but I was scared. For everyone I think I really came out when this place opened. Now that I think about it there was a newspaper article on the front page my picture was there and my business partner’s picture was there on the front page of the south sound or the paper and there it was in black and white and pictures of us with the gay bar opening. People I worked with in the past and my neighbors everyone. You know my neighbors came over and said you know we saw you in the paper your opening a bar. Everybody knew and now everyone knows I don’t care. So that was a total outing. And what surprised me too was how many people I knew in town that I had no clue that they were gay I just never knew. In passing it just never came up. People I served for years it just never came up.
That’s really interesting. Olympia is known for a gay city and even tons of gay people eating where you worked it’s interesting to hear a gay mans perspective for that especially.
I think some of those people knew I was gay. I think its different now than even ten years ago. People are just more secure it’s a more open town then even ten years ago. Huh interesting, you know never even think about this stuff but as time goes on its interesting. That’s what’s great about these gay owned businesses opening with jakes and the urban onion hopefully it snow balls and it becomes a gay Mecca and I think jakes has opened the door for a lot of that. People that are now 21 have a place to come. People come from all over here and the greatest compliment is when people come from Seattle to hang out here. It’s like they have a billion bars to chose from and they’ll come up here and they will come here every weekend to hang out it’s a huge compliment. People from Tacoma too like to come here. So we’re doing something right. It’s just in the past ten years it’s changed a lot. Wow. So what else do you want to know [laughs]
Its kinda hard say since you were not engaged with anything since the last few years. Do you remember before the bar if there was any predominate figures or events that happened regarding the queer community or queer people that stand out to you?
Yeah matty and I wish I could remember his last name. He used to wear a skirt and he had an older boyfriends and I was 16 back when I was extremely in the closet and I would see him in a skirt and they’d be around town. Boy they were out. And then the Smithfield café you talked about. Actually I was his roommate he’d be an interesting guy to talk to. He’s been openly gay forever. I was his roommate and his first name escapes me. And then savant was a local drag queen and everyone knew him and he worked at the reef. He was interesting and think he moved to the coast somewhere but he comes here every once in a blue moon. My life’s been pretty much focused on work and then I really got to know the gay community when jakes opened. At the reef a lot of people came but once this place opened it was like flood gates opened. I mean wow.
I could see that. Where did you go to meet guys and other gay people before the flood gates opened?
In Seattle.
That’s just not in town?
Yeah and British Columbia. Well my longest relationships were from here. I met a guy names Philip and him and I were together for years and we met at the reef. Troy who I’m and we’ve been together for god 8 years, maybe going on 9. I met him at the reef and we’re still together. And who else, oh hank I met here. So my three longest all three I met in Olympia. Where I would go to met one night stands was all B.C. Seattle. I was young it was new I didn’t want a relationship. Some here but not like often. And I didn’t go through a huge slut faze. Maybe it’s because I just didn’t realize there was so many gay people here and I didn’t come out until later. The people that were important to me after I was 19 here knew I was gay. And I think as time goes on I don’t know if there will be gay bars. I think bars will just be bars.
What do you think would create that atmosphere, what major changes will happen first?
I think it’s already going in that direction.
Oh yeah? How? Do you think it’s a good thing?
I think it’s an awesome thing, I think when gay marriages pass and stuff like that and society as a whole accepts it more and more. It’s not like there’s a all black bar in Olympia of anything
There’s a lot more to that then a lack of discrimination.
True but there’s not like an al white bar either its almost going to be racism if you’re a homophobe. It’s almost as bad as being racist I hope. And it’s kinda going that way. Look at the miss California she just got annihilated. She was the shoe in to win and preze Hilton asked her what she thought about gay marriage and she said my opinion on that and my family feels that it’s for opposites to get married. She’s such a dumb shit but she said she doesn’t think its right for same sex to get marriage and she lost the Miss America show in. I’ve seen the press always making fun of her and then some nude photos came out with her nude in them and I guess when you sign up you sign off on no there’s never been any nude photos. So she signed all that stuff but they are looking to destroy her and they she came out after that and she’s all pissed and she’s going all I’m going to save marriage for a man and a woman. She’s really going full bore with it. So anyway I’ve seen programs on TV where press is just blasting her and I think that’s cool. SO hopefully it will become like racism where it’s just not acceptable. Its going there you sees that.
I can see a bit what you’re saying. Where you aware of or conscious of separatist movements when you were younger? If so did it play into your development of coming out?
I think I’ve always been aware of that stuff. Is there like a gay icon, like martin Luther king of the gay community? There isn’t. That milk was a movie I came out of there like wow. Kinda make you want to go take over the capital. What I noticed too is that there are more gay officials and people coming out but there is more gay people being elected. Eventually I just think its going to be accepted everywhere. There’s not going to be gay bar straight bar you know marriage is going to be equal as time goes on. Now you can’t always be fired for being gay. I think sexual orientation is now protected and stuff like that.
A lot of states don’t have that and a lot of them are taken away soon after.
Yeah it’s strange but it’s coming around. And like the Black Panther movement and stuff like that does it take that drastic of tactics to make s stupid point?
Well did you ever see lesbian avengers or act up or queer nation?
I’ve heard of act up.
When everyone was dying of aids and the government was refusing to get involved because it was a gay thing the only way we were able to get anywhere was direct militant actions like that. Marches, pink blocks, protests, riots all that. When the people are ignored we have to take care of what we can. Lesbians bought land trusts and protected their own, gay men flooded streets demanded to be recognized by the health industries and whatnot. It may seem like a lot but it can be necessary.
I guess.
Speaking of HIV/Aids action did you see much movement around HIV/Aids issues when you were here?
Well there was a story in the Olympian where AIDS shot up tremendously and that was about a year ago in Thurston County. I know quite a few people actually that have it, that have AIDS. But it’s been around my whole gay life, I don’t know if I know what you’re asking. Hopefully people use safe sex and stuff like that but it’s been around a long time.
Where you worried about it when you came out?
Oh definitely! Totally! Yea yeah yeah! I think over aware. You’re talking 87’ 88’ so they didn’t know as much about it. They thought you could get it from kissing or using a toilet seat or things like that when it first came out so they didn’t realize. After awhile they come to find out its unprotected sex and needle use things like that.
And by the time they had figured all hat out you were coming out and very aware of all the fear of it.
Yeah probably I think it was more known when I came out. I think so. Back then I think it was harder to come out because of that.
How so?
Well I mean who wants to come out considered a victim. It was like if you’re gay you’re going to get AIDS so you know why do it? When I first came out that’s kinda what I thought, what people thought. I started thinking about it I know lots of people that died from it and that’s in Olympia too. In Seattle and in L.A. too. I know quite a few people that have died from AIDS and there are quite a few people in town that have it still but they are living longer it’s not like after a year. I think people know now but there are people that I know that have just had it forever since the early 90’s. I think that maybe the new kids the younger kids don’t realize it’s still out there. I don’t know really though, I just never have a conversation about AIDS you know it just never comes up. I donate and I help as much as I can but as far as statistics I don’t know once in a while I’ll see an article in a news paper or find someone how has it. There are a lot of people with it in Olympia but you know that just being here, yeah it’s sad.

Interview of Sue and Val thirteen nice girls, lesbian fun society, and drag

Sue and Val interviewed
Sue: I played ball for 13 nice girls for 12 years. When I moved here they didn’t really need any players but I needed a team. I needed a group to play with and they were kind enough to let me start.
Did you both move here together?
Sue: No she’s been here for years. I moved here, we met 13 years ago so I moved here 12 years ago.
Where did you come from?
Val: oh way far away, Tacoma. (Laughter)
When and why did you move here?
Val: You know actually I was living in Puyallup at the time and you know a girl I kinda just moved down here for her. IU came to stay and visit for the weekend and just never moved away. It’s not like she and I moved in together we lived in different residents but I just met up with a really nice group of gals and went this is for me. Puyallup had nothing; there was no one in Puyallup.
Where these just all sorts of women or just gay women?
Val: Gay women. Yeah.
What year did you come to Olympia?
Val: Probably in mid, late 70’s.
Sue: Long time ago.
Val: That’s right, a long time ago. Community back then we didn’t have gay bars here in Olympia. There was a gay bar in Tacoma.
What bar was that?
Val: It was called; it’ll take me a min, D.j.s. It was up of port c kinda close to where the dungeon is where the old town hall is. The town hall that was turning into dancing. In the divvy part of town up above pacific avenue. Right next door to d.j.s was a peep show where you could put quarters in the machine and watch het sex. And around the corner were you could rent a girl if you wanted. I mean it was divvy. There were gals that would come in a dance for a bit and leave with gentlemen that would cruise around for a bit. They weren’t there for the lesbians but it was a lesbian gay. It was great fun for us, but the working girls used it as a front as well.
What did the crowd of folks that you found in Olympia consist of? Were they all friends that would go to these bars?
Val: Yeah. Well the girl was going to evergreen and the crowd that I really moved into with stuff. There have always been different groups in Olympia and this was really more of the farmer group. Back to the land raisin chickens have pigs, gardens you know.
Who were some of the main people that you recall involved with that movement here? I’ve got a bunch of names but the more the merrier for research.
Val: Okay well gran channy, clay, Becky erstes, just tons and tons of people.
Where you part of a household?
Val: Well I was but Kathy lyal and lee Richards are no longer town. The people I lived with were in a household I lived in a tent behind the house actually. But it was cool tent I had a bed and a rug on the floor it wasn’t your average tent. It was little but we had chicken\s and goats and stuff like that.
How long did you stay involved with that group or are you still in touch and involved?
Val: Well I’m friends with some of the people I knew back then still in town or in contact. There were still people I know from my first wanderings around town you know. However I also went through, it wasn’t that initial crowd but some of these folks are still around too, but it was really grouped around marijuana and drinking. and then one of the crowd got killed in a car accident were everyone in the car accident including here and her girlfriend of the time had been drinking and they were coming back from the bar in Tacoma as I recall and we went to the wake with my girlfriend of the time and on the way back I go you know I’d been drinking and I went didn’t we learn anything? So I stopped drinking and driving and drinking and smoking. And that pretty much put the end of me hanging out with that crowd and I was kinda lonely for awhile because of the complete life change. Those people are good people. They aren’t out robbing people or hurting people, there was irresponsibility around drinking and driving.
How old were you with this crowd?
Val: Probably my mid twenties.
So what were you doing when you two met?
Val: Oh I was old. I had been through several groups. At this point I had already been to 13 nice girl games and the matrix era. I call it the matrix era although I was not involved with matrix. I was one of the people who had a problem with the whole political era. You know take back the night and lets stamp out classism.
Why did you have a problem with it?
Val: Well because I felt like there were people who were trying to tell other people who they were and what to do. I knew somebody who inheritated some money and there were some lesbians in town that had a complete itinerary of what this gal should do with her money and when she didn’t do that she was ostracized. There was a big divide in camp over a lot of political issues. If you didn’t toe the line you were considered not p.c. you weren’t being sensitive to others people’s needs and all that and I was just like well FUCK you. You know, what about me? It wasn’t listening. It was always a telling blah blah blah I’m telling you what to do. There were some people that knew my dad was a heart surgeon and they didn’t know the other half of the story that I got kicked out when I was 17 and didn’t have a dime to my name. there was no way that I could go home where maybe they could have gone home if it was their family but they had no idea where I had gone through to get where I was. There was a lot of judgment and I had judgment in the other way too.
That’s really interesting. The only people I have really talked to around the matrix were people involved or invested in working on the matrix and so the only perspective I’ve been given is how it connected all the lesbian issues in the city and really tightened everything.
Beyond the folks working on political issues what other things were going on in the community and the people?
Val: There was a really connected community. Now I will say that the people that I had the hard time with I really enjoyed as friends. It wasn’t that they were bad people and I it worked the same way around. There was a lot of political head butting around political issues and what the right thing to do was and I’m sure there are still political issues between us but we also have similar foes. So you know if you call my lesbian sister a name I will be right by her side I don’t care if we were fighting ten seconds ago. So there was also that strong sense of community, I would have backed any of those gals up in a second. That doesn’t mean that I believed in what they believed in and doesn’t mean I necessarily even liked them that much. I don’t feel like my goal in life is to change the world maybe I’m selfish and that’s why I’m so glad I live in America, I’m allowed to be selfish. I also think I do things that help people and don’t think I got enough credit for the things I was doing or the things I had to overcome.
Thanks for sharing all that.
Sue:Getting the history. She’s got it.
Val: In any group you’re going to have the jock gang and the back to the earth gang and you’re going to have the chakra gang
The chakra gang!?!
Val: Yeah and the new age gang and back then it was hippier. You know I went out with a gal that you know was a really nice gal that was defiantly into the new age stuff even thought I didn’t comprehend it at all but I would have fought tooth and nail for her to do what she wanted to do and I wanted to be treated the same way.
Well as an open question for both of you what do you think the keystone points of Olympia gay history have been? This whole interview is to help build the raw data and stories of the gay history of Olympia because there is so much to get and nothing can be accessed really. So what are some main things that stand out in your experience, some people argue that the thirteen nice girls was a keystone of gay Olympia history…could you tell me what you think?
Sue: I think probably when thirteen nice girls got started back, we were trying to decided when that probably was mid eighties maybe. And I think when they probably started it was probably a core group that brought some communities together... and I think in my time with thirteen nice girls we’ve kinda still retained that grop but like val said there is different groups and one of the nice things about thirteen nice girls now is they are just a wonderful group of women and I was so fortunate moving here from Utah via Idaho that I ran into a group of women like that. Because they did create a community and create a feeling for somebody some outsider to come in a feel comfortable. And that was the feeling I picked up on when I came to Olympia 12 years ago. I was blown away how the gay and lesbian communities really are a tight nit group. Even though they have their differences and even though they may no t all is soft ball players and may not all be political activist they still are very open community. But I think that that also has to do with Olympia itself because in order for them to be as open as they are they have had to be in communities straight gay communities that have shared and not been judge, mental. Not that there aren’t some out there but you know. I was just blown away when I could walk down farmers market holding hands with Val going whoa.
Where you out before you came here
You came out when you got here then?
Sue: Yeah [laughter] well I had to
Val: She didn’t have a choice dating me. I said don’t worry It’s all right. One of the first times she and I went to dinner was a at budd bay café and we sat down there and there were flowers there that a friend sent to our table and stuff. The waitress went up there and said well what are the flowers for and I said well it’s our one year anniversary or I said it’s our anniversary and she’s like well how long have you two been together and sue was like what this doesn’t happen in Idaho or Utah.
Sue: You just don’t see it. They are just much more conservative states. I mean you have your groups but they just aren’t able to be as open as in this area here.
Val: If I was to give you a list of things
If you were eh? [Laughter]
Val: If I were like I will do right now. [Laughter] I would say and this may not be in chronological order but one of the things was the lesbian fun society which I’m sure you’ve heard about. It really did bring a huge assortment of people because it wasn’t political. It almost came as a reaction of some of the political stuff. Our motto was if it’s not fun we’re not doing it. At the same time it brought people together, it was political to show that we can live normal lives and just go about our business and it doesn’t have to be an exotic fight all the time. It can just be us just being and to go out and dance and just have a good time. It was pretty conscience done as let’s take a break. Even before that I would call it the intermezzo/Smithfield/rainbow era. Smithfield was originally called the intermezzo and named the Smithfield after it changed owners. It was defiantly the lesbian/gay place to hang out at one point and then it was owned by a gay man for awhile and the rainbow down the street was very cool and if it was in the correct era you would have seen people beat poetry snapping their fingers there. It was that kinda place except a different era. So there were all kinds of jazz bands and I would also say if you haven’t heard of the band Gila you should look into that. They were a group of lesbian who were a great little jazz Latin African great little band.
Did they play at the rainbow a lot or..?
Val: They did play at the rainbow and sometimes at the Smithfield and I guess another thing I point you towards and Kathryn would know about this because she lived in that household. I don’t know if you heard about the era of people naming their houses but Kathryn lived at nanny noodles and nanny noodles was the property that houses the very first northwest music festival. Back then music festivals were starting to happen and that was going on in Michigan and California and Olympia had its own music festival. Pharon came and pharon had hair down to her ass and not only that it was down to her belly button too. She was popular, when she was at nanny noodles nobody knew who she was but that she was fantastic and then she became very popular and her popularity kinda fell off with Chris Williams and you’re looking at me like who’s that?
Val: Yeah your general lesbian music history is, you could spend a lot of time trying to focus on that if that were you want to go with it. But pharron is a kinda a Joan armetradiong artist, very cleaver with her lyrics.
Did the music festival only happen once?
Val: No no I think it happened two or three times, we had more than one and again I’m not really the person to interview about that. I just attended and can think of that being an important thing that happened. There were a lot of gatherings around the importance of music and just around music. At one point my partner and I worked at hardell’s lumber mill for five or six years and one of the things that happened there was one of the guys started teasing or making comments out of the earshot of my partner and I and one of the other guys basically told them to shut their mouth and for five or six years not another word got said.
What time frame was this, as in what years about?
Val: Late 70’s roughly would be my guess.
When you were working in the lumber yard was this the same time ear as gay women construction like nozama and atriums?
Val: Yes absolutely. Well one of the people I was partners with was one of the people in nozama. And the construction stuff was important.
How so?
Val: Well the whole group, and this was group I didn’t hang out with much but there was this whole group of them that are still very very active going to nicgroagua and that s a whole realm of activism that isn’t gay oriented but it’s amazing. And you would probably be shocked how many gays are involved with that. And the co-op stuff, also a lot of lesbians in that.
[Skipped conversation off subject]
So when exactly did the 13 nice girls really start up, do you know why?
Sue:I told Val I bet she’s going to want to know that and we were thinking mid 80’s. Now the team, I’ve retired this year, it’s a great group to finish out a career with. When I started 12 years ago there were only 2 players that had been with the team for several years. Grace and leyane and I think Wendy was there I think Wendy was one of the first ones but they have been around its kinda tough because this year the league itself is kinda questionable. There aren’t a lot of women’s teams to play ball against really. I the last couple of years we have only had maybe five six years to play again. The women’s slow pitch team is kinda dyeing out which I don’t know why but many of the better teams have gone up north or are just playing tournaments. The average age of the thirteen nice girls is probably mid thirties.
Where they all younger when everyone started or new folks?
Sue:On the team now we picked up some 22, 23, 24 year olds that are now late twenties but I would say probably about like me mid to late thirties when we started. Some of the members were people that moved here from California and Illinois and then through conversation or whatever and if you enjoyed softball then you’d find heres this team that would be fun to play on. But not everybody that plays has the opportunity to play for thirteen nice girls. They started on other teams which are good cause then it gives you somebody to play against. I’d say it started off in the mid 80’s.
You were saying that the gay community and the team were really open but how did the rest of the community react to it?
Sue: Do you know the answer to that question (to Val?)
Val: Well...
Sue you were saying that playing with the thirteen nice girls was a really great experience but how did Olympia and other women’s leagues and the communities react to an all gay team?
Val: Well yeah, I remember going back to the games way back when actually even some of the team were in those women’s bands I was telling you about so there was this kind of blending. I don’t remember much of a reaction at all. I just went to a couple of games you know. The tribe teams didn’t do anything.
Sue: In my time playing there has been no disrespect towards our team. And maybe that’s because we’re good softball players. I have never felt disrespected for being on a gay softball team. I remember we went to lesbian softball tournament and somebody said well aren’t they all?
Val: I think another thing that thirteen nice girls had going for it even way back then was that there were really, really nice people playing on the team. There weren’t people coming in pouting they were there to play and have fun and it was really infectious. The team has kinda gone up and down with that philosophy and sometimes it’s easy going about it and then a little more let’s gets out there and kicks some ass. Never with some of the seriousness have some of the teams I mean some of them you don’t even think they are having fun. The thirteen nice girls were always like that...
Sue..Which is probably why we’ve always been treated well as a team. We have been and we are nice, and we are nice to play against and we get compliments about that. It is about the sport, it is about the ability to play not just being competitive.
Val: As a fan, if the other team’s player made a really good hit I’d be right there cheering them all you know good job! Bastard.
Val: You know it’s all about playing as hard as you can. Play hard work hard.
If the team is an all gay team how is that defined? Limits to lesbian definitions? Language to it? Or is it just like we’re a gay team if you want to join that s good with us?
Sue: Naw. You know we actually have some straight players on the team now in the last few years so I think it’s more if the person is a nice person gay straight you know.
Is that how it has always been?
Sue: I think so Kara. Thirteen nice girls always had pretty good softball players. Either they had retired from fast pitch or they had just years of experience but it was defined probably more so on what kind of person you are. Are you a nice person? Can you play ball? That’s kinda how our philosophy goes. You know we a family with a softball problem, not softball players with a family problem.
Good motto.
Val: I don’t think there was ever really open tryouts or an ad in the paper with tryout it was always the friend of the friend of somebody who got invited or people actively campaigning you know I watch you play really want to play please, please, please and then what happens is that you end up with a lot of people who are a lot alike. There is a natural tendency of people to hang out with people who are like themselves. So a lot of nice girls join and one or two bitches. SO if I think somebody would fit in and probably they would.
Sue: Usually if we lost players it was because they had commitments come up or they played for another team or they wanted to play more games than we did or play tournaments which we didn’t really do much.
Val: There was a kinda weird period and a kind of influx, and I don’t think anyone was mad at anybody, but for two or three period younger periods came in and played and the team ended up being really competitive because the thirteen nice girls has always been a good team but it suddenly became an excellent team. That then meant let’s play more tournaments and really tighten the screws a bit. And there were some players that really didn’t like that so they started a new team and took with them the early philosophy of the thirteen nice girls. They just wanted to play and have fun. So the team has had a rise and fall like anything but no different.
What was the name of that split off team?
Val: The Tomboy.
When did that happen and did it run long?
Sue: That was probably, I would say the late 90’s maybe 99. 8-9 years ago.
Was it older players that split off?
Sue: Some of them. At the time you played completevly or rec league. They played rec league and the players that we accumulated in those years just naturally we became a more competitive group. Not that it was intended it was the ability and the players played because they loved the game and when you love the game you just play hard. I would say not that the players on the other team they just played different teams and when you’re on a rec team you also play rec teams. Like I said this year they have decided to play some tournaments instead of the league so we’ll see how that goes. I guess there is a tournament next week so we’ll see. Some of our players have moved towards Seattle so they have to commute
Val: Another thing that kinda blew it for me is that the nice girls would play one game a week and after the game we would have some cake or have a picnic or come here [back to sue and Val’s home] and have a little food and just hang out. And then what happened they changed it to the league time was half as long but you played double headers. So you go and the game is at 6 and the next is at 9 and it ends at 11 and then come on you guys it’s a long day and the social part of it just died. I went I’m not going I mean I like softball but I don’t just want to cheer and cheer and go home.
Sue: I think they decided to do that since we lost a couple teams and it was more cost effective for them. But it did change the socialness we could have. Not that we didn’t still go to have a bite to eat or something but the players from Seattle would have to go home.
Val: Everything has a rise and fall. Matrix, nice girls, lesbian fun society. And the story with the lesbian fun society’s that there was a small group of us sitting in the living room on the floor well let’s do this. Kind of a lesbian welcoming committee as we saw it so we put an ad in the news paper and we got some phone calls from Chehalis or Onalaska or something like that with a graduating class of like 8.
Yeah I drove past it once on accident.
Val: Yeah they’d call and we’d go and scope her out make sure she’s not a thug and we’d introduce her to the community. We came up with the concept and taking a calendar and saying okay on Thursday this month I’ll show desert hearts at my house and anybody who wants to come can come. We had 35 people that we would send a little flyer who we all invited and we figured oh maybe ten people would show up and oh the next week we’d have this thing on Tuesday and play games. So we once a month sent out this little flyer on who would host and that was really successful. It grew and grew and we decided to pull our money together and throw a Halloween dance. We rented the Olympia ballroom
Above the urban onion?
Val: Uh huh and oh the Halloween parties were pretty extensive. I remember this house was filled with 8 and 6 feet piece of cardboard painted with castle walls and we lined those walls with them and we would have contests and dancing. There would be over 300 women who would show up at these dances. So then what happened we just said here sign up and we can include you in the flyering? It ended up after a few years we had enough women on the list that we qualified for bulk mailing. I mean you cannot send out an open-ended mailing invitation to 300 400 lesbians to sit down in your house and watch desert hearts. It got too big for its britches. The original welcoming committee, many of the women who came into town and everything with our weekly ad in the paper we had people who answered the phone and we scoped them in and invite them to the next event and then there was the initial 7 or 8 of us and I don’t know the inside story but I betcha like 7 or 8 buck that its true with matrix too that the initial people that had all the vim and vigor to have it happen just finally said hey how come its always us doing it and they tried to get other people to make it happen and we started to try to get other people to take over and we had been doing it for 8,9,10 years and we said okay heres the list and here’s how you do it and we have money you can use cause we finally made money to pay for the rentals and audio equipment. It was a paper sack full of money frankly when it finally ended we gave the money to a mutually agreed upon group in town [stonewall youth]. Eventually if you finally say I have to step back and nobody steps in it dies.
Did it just die real quick then?
Val: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It carried on for one year and then that was it. The gals that took it on tried really hard and the people who were interested in taking it on didn’t have the other ten people taking it on with them. Two or three people can’t do it. For something like that and matrix it was a labor intensive love.
Was the flyer mailed a news letter or a post card?
Val: It was a news letter yeah. A call for help and all that kind of stuff. I feel really fortunate to have been involved with that great people working on that.
Are there other stories from that work that you feel are important?
Val: Well the first gay prides were a whole 15 people bucking down the street.
Yeah I’ve heard that! The owner of jakes said he stopped by just for a quick min and almost missed it
Were you there?
Val: No but I have heard that it was quite a small gathering. I went the next year but I heard the first year was just this tiny rara munchkins going down it.
Since both you guys have been here for some time how has pride shaped the community?
Val: It’s really grown in my book
Sue: In the time I’ve been here it’s really grown too but she has more of the history part of it in my opinion.
Val: I was Miss. Gay Olympia
Was this at the drag balls at thecla?
Tell me about those. Nobody I can catch has been able to tell me much.
Val: It was a group called spectrum that started it. When I joined in it was a bunch of queens basically. Gay guys, there was a couple of other women involved.
Sue: I’d say mid nineties. Like 96’ when you were.
Val: Yeah 96 was my final year, my final performance.
You performed in it?
Val: Oh yeah I traveled around and did my shtick.
Did you do drag?
Val: No I did stuff like you’ve never seen before!
I don’t know about that I get around.
Val: I was considerably thinner and foxier and I put on really thin leotards and had on basically a black leotard with black skies and black ski boots and start laying on my back with the skis on and then with the skis because they provided a fulcrum I could just like fall forward and the back of the skis would fall forward with dancy moves. So basically a dance with skis, It was really slow-mo.I did stuff like that some lip-syncing but extremely choreographed movements with it like Alanis morriset and Bruce Springsteen.
Have you seen drag shows lately you could compare them to?
Val: No no, I haven’t been out lately.
At that time was there a lot more performance piece work and less drag in a drag show?
Val: No mostly drag, mostly queens, I was the performance piece. I would go to the meetings they would get up in thecla and say I don’t care if you play the accordion up here lets entertain ourselves. I can say I used to have a problem with drag queens and whatnot I would say I don’t understand anyone that would want to put on a bunch of makeup and wear high heels girl or guy it just didn’t make any sense to me at all. But then when I was hanging out and traveling with them you know with my queens I just went a total turn around in my head. How could you have any problem with anyone that is having so much fun with what they are doing? I mean you go, you go girl! It was fun. And of course there was political fighting and it ended too.
What happened?
Val: You know I have yet to be involved with any kind of volunteer group that didn’t have fighting and bickering in the middle of it all. I’m generally not somebody who gets involved with it though. We would meet every week and we would sit down and finally it reached the point where I said okay are you going to turn in your resignation as being president and then we are going to talk you out of it and then we can continue on with our business can we just skip that part this week? I’m in a hurry tonight. The drama, probably the lesbian fun society had the least amount of drama that I was directly involved with. The thirteen nice girls don’t have much.
Sue: Yeah not really.
Val: It just ended up being a big debate on whether to join the Tacoma official court or start our own and getting the name sanctioned and who would own the name. All I wanted to do was to get out there and have fun but. It was this strange kin of experience because they really wanted a miss. Olympia and so I tried out and won it and I did a fun piece to win it.
[Skipped side tracked chatting]
Val: I could tell you what seems to have evolved quite a bit I don’t think men are seen quite as evil as they used to be back in the late 70’s early 80’s. Some of the things back then were hang him by his balls. And this is my opinion there should be levels a 23 year old guy who beds a 16 year old girl is not the same as a guy who take a younger girl or different levels that are not recognized. It doesn’t matter your off to jail.
[Skipped side tracked conversation]
Val: I used to live in Bellingham and it’s very much like Olympia. I was there in the seventies but Bellingham has a great history too. There was a whole group of us that used to hang out and we went to a bar way down on the water front called the Alaskan. And we hung out there and hung out there and it wasn’t a lesbian bar and there wasn’t a lesbian bar it was a real working man’s kinda bar but it finally reached the point where a guy would walk in order a beer and look around, finish his beer and sneak right out. So then what happened a couple of the gals that hung out at this bar went to the bank and said well we want to buy a bar. There was a bar called the hut that was on sale and they wanted to buy that bar. They said no way. They dink and loitered and they went back and they said we want to buy a bar and its going to be a gay bar. And the bank said alright that might work for us that might make some money. So they opened up the hut and they got the money which eventually they bought the space next to it and it became rumors. And I was a part of the people that scrubbed and cleaned and did all the stuff inside the hut and did the opening of the new hut which was rumors. So it was owned by a couple of gals for a long time. It started out in this little seedily tiny place.
A barstool bar?
Val: Exactly, booths on one side, barstools, and a bar. That was it until they bought the space next to it and added a pool table.
[Skipped side tracked conversation] when I first came out I was told I had to choose to be butch or femme or I was not going to be expected in the community.
Now a days you can’t be either often my age it seems so often.
Val: Yeah it’s strange but back then you had to choose and if you didn’t you were known as Kiki.
What’s Kiki from?
Val: It just means you hadn’t chosen. You were indefinable, don’t get involved with her you don’t know what you’ll be getting into or might be getting into you. [Laughter]
Was it just not believed when people came out?
Val: No people just didn’t know how to treat you. Were they going to treat you like a butch or a femme? I sat down and I thought about it and said well I just can’t see myself sitting around waiting for some bull dyke to come up and say hey babe you want to dance but at the same time I couldn’t see myself going hey babe you want to dance. So I decided I was going to be butch because that’s more my style but I was going to be the strong and silent butch. That way I didn’t have to take on the more overt bull dyke behaviorism that just didn’t seem polite to me. I was more of a gentleman I guess and so I just was more refined than the bull dyke.
How old were you when you came out?
Was that a common age when you came out it seems a lot of people in the 70’s and before held out longer than that.
Val: No, no I got kicked out and on the other hand I can’t say what was common but know that for myself right about that time most of the people I knew were much older than me. But the group that I kinda fell in with was an entire Girl Scout group that all the gals in high school was a lesbian. They all got found out and caught and the whole group got busted up and this was in Renton. They all had just gone to college and stuff like that so you know it can be that way. They were all out and clearly my age or younger so I don’t really know what typical was. It turned out that my roommate was a lesbian in college and she was one of those girl scouts. She scoped me out and I never heard the term lesbian before I just knew I was kissing on my girl in high school and these natural things happened I just knew who I felt romantic towards. She told me she was also butch and introduced me to all the girl scouts and they were the ones who basically said is she a butch or a femme and I had to decide. They lived mostly in Seattle and we lived in Bellingham and on our way back up to Bellingham my friends say you need to choose. Well what does that mean? I guess I’ll be the guy, the butch.
Like straight up cornered you? You need to decide before I let your kiki self out of this car kinda thing?
Val: Yeah yeah that’s pretty much right. In fact I remember watching sue walk across thinking well who’s this cute butch looking gal. she asked me to dance and she should I say it or not, the typical saying butch in the streets femme in the streets so you know there are different ways that people do it. I don’t want to be with somebody that is a girly girl I want somebody who can get dirty and ride motorcycles and enjoy doing things I enjoy doing no delicate flower. One of the things I love about sue is one of the first times we were kidding around and she slugged me and I went YES this is the girl for me!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Interview of Anna-Lesbian-Olympia

Q - So what do you want to know?

Some of the things I have connected to use and was suggested to come to you about are things like nanny noodles. Do you know anything about Nanny Noodles?

Nanny noodles was one of a number of women’s households that were created in the seventies as a part of the broad-based intentional communities movement, a part of which was the women’s space movement or do it yourself feminist revolution. Since it was clear that we couldn’t take over the country, we could at least take over our immediate home space and work together to create the sort of community that we envisioned.

After the Vietnam war ended, activists realized we weren’t going to have a cultural or political revolution in this country. As a result, politically active people either went into politics and ran for office, or they got involved in urban organizing, or they got involved in building intentional communities. This created a sort of Leftist Diaspora, a dispersion of Lefties and hippies and feminists who migrated out across the country looking for places to create these intentional communities.

Some of this was the back to the land movement that created communes across the country, including here in Washington State. This movement also involved a sort of urban homesteading where leftists would buy houses in the city and make them into land trusts so that no one individual owned these homes as real estate, instead the occupants were stewards of an ongoing home base for political activists.

As part of this, lesbians came to the conclusion that heterosexism would not allow for gay equality, so we had to create women’s space to build up our own equality. And so we did by creating intentional communities across the country. Olympia was one of those areas were people migrated and created collective households. So in this way, this movement for intentional communities went from the national or macro level to local then to the micro level, which is the household unit.

In Olympia what that meant was that people would create households based on an affiliation to being lesbian identified. In those days there were many interpretations - that could mean being straight, bi, asexual, and some cases that meant straight male or transgender male or gay male or bisexual male. The unifying element was being women identified, believe there needed to be a safe place for women and children in the face of an extremely homophobic world.

This is the context in which Nanny Noodles was created as one of those households. It was located in rural area on 11th Ave NW. For a period of time I lived right next door in the neighbor lesbian household called Millet House. Nanny Noodles was called Nanny Noodles cause it was covered with painted squiggles and it had some amazing people like Kathryn ford, Rhoda, and other people who came and went, obviously someone along the way was arty enough to paint the noodles on the house. The really exciting thing about living out there at that time was that there were many musicians and artists in the neighborhood and throughout the women’s community, as well as the greater Olympia community. One of my house mates was a woman names Barb Marino who’s an amazing saxophone player who now lives in Seattle area. She’s been a saxophone player all her life helped organize the Northwest Women’s Music Festival which was held in our joint back pastures. We brought down Ferron and a bunch of other people which names I can’t remember. Barb’s band at the time was Abraza, an all women’s jazz band also played. There weren’t as many telephones back then you had one line that was in the house you had to be there to answer there was no answering machines either that or we couldn’t afford them. I was home a lot and I always ended up taking all the calls for the festival. Anyhow, these households were little oasises of equality and safety, providing a home where people could live and not be evicted not be attacked not be abused for not being a woman or being lesbian.

Q- Were they collectively owned?

Nanny noodles was a rental but I’m not sure. Millet house was owned by two women who lived there and they opened it up to become a collective I moved from millet to the house I’m at now which at that time was a collective house in the process of becoming a land trust. We called ourselves Gold Flower Brigade after a character in a story from the Chinese revolution. One of the women in our collective was Debbie Leung, a very kind and generous woman who put up the money to buy the house with another woman. Debbie is first generation Chinese-American, her parents actually fled China prior the cultural revolution after WWII. The name Gold Flower came from a Chinese Cultural Revolution story of a woman whose husband beat her and treated her very badly for years. But after the cultural revolution came all of her comrades said we are going to help you reeducate your husband, we’ll stone him to death. [laugh] However, by the end of the story she threw herself in front of him to save his life from stoning. She said they scared the hell out of him and he would never mistreat her again. So we all liked that story about reeducating sexist jerk men so we called ourselves Gold Flower Brigade.

So there were series of houses Nanny Noodles was one, Millet House next door was another Nancy Lache who still lives in the same farm lived in a place I can’t remember if it ever had a name was the next farm over. I became an urban dweller then and I lived in gold flower brigade. Jene Eberheart lived in raging women, there was another household called revolting women and there were I’m not going to remember the names of all the households.

Were these all about the same time?


Was there a particular time or year they started showing up?

Some people say these collective households sprang up as the alternative sorority and fraternity houses for Evergreen, which opened in the late 1960’s . These women’s households formed in the early 1970’s and continued to exist until the mid 1980’s. Alexander Berkman collective or ABC House was another one, Emma Goldman collective was another. They were often politically identified and affiliated households with people with similar beliefs about making community. It was focused on creating intentional community. My perspective as a Socialist is that it was a way that people with financial means could share the resources of daily survival with people of lesser means so that everyone could get what they needed to survive. It was an amazing expression of communal philosophy.

Q When did lesbian as a term change. In previous conversations and here I keep hearing about this lesbian community and dyke community as interchangeable terms. Where here you say a man can be a lesbian. When did that change because now I don’t think it’s the same in my peer group I don’t think that would happen.

Meaning how a gay man wouldn’t be considered a part of a lesbian community now days?


Well in those days it started off like we were all simply “gay”. We were all gender outlaws, we were all sexual orientation outlaws and it made a lot of sense that we had a strong affiliation across the broad range of GLBT. Of course, not everybody agreed with that. There were women that felt strongly that “women only” spaces were sacred and men should stay out, even to the exclusion of male children. To them it didn’t matter if you were lesbian, bisexual, or straight - - it only mattered if you were women identified. For other people it was a political identification based on gender identity and sexual orientation. For them the whole arc of gender and sexual identification was family. And then for other people it meant lesbian separatism, and that the men, bisexuals and transgendered folks needed to go elsewhere for community. But for the most part, these households were predominantly women identified with a few men, bisexuals and transgendered folks.

When I became part of the community, I indentified as a bisexual for a year or so, not so much because I wanted to sleep with men but because it was really important to have an identity that included bisexuals, men who were political feminists or woman-identified in their personal politics.

You were a political bisexual?

Well ,yeah I identified as a political Bisexual but I just didn’t sleep with men. After a while I realized this was kind of a joke and had to acknowledge that yes, I guess I am a lesbian. But it was important to me to be part of a continuum, I guess I believed in the GLBT thing before we invented it.

Let me tell explain this better. At that time, different people had various identities that were essential to how they lived their lives. Some people call this identity politics, where you focus your affiliations your sense of community your sense of social belonging around an identity that’s important to you. This can be whether you’re a generic leftist, a socialist, an anarchist or a democrat. It can also be about your sexual orientation as a lesbian, bisexual or gay. It can be about your gender identity it you are transgender ftm or mtf. Where was I going with this story? [laugh] So that’s how I indentified?

When I became involved in the women’s community, there was a lot of conflict in the community about is this a lesbian community or is this a more broad-based women’s community. I was kinda militant about being a bisexual because I thought it was important about not to cut men out of a political community, so I challenged a lot of people. I kinda made an ass of myself pushing them to acknowledge the holes in their political analysis when it came to men and transgendered people. For those women in the Olympia women’s community who were lesbian identified and said they were also anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-sexist I challenged them, “how can you be anti-racist and anti-classist if you don’t also acknowledge that men suffer as a result of racism and classism?” This was a really hard issue for some people because for them because they seemed to want a more purist women identified or lesbian identified kind of community.

So there was an ongoing controversy that simmered throughout the community in the mid to late 70s about who’s a “real” lesbian, who’s in and who’s out, with a lot of conflict over how these bisexuals were diluting our lesbian purity.


Sometime in the mid 1970’s, a group of women decided to organize a “Lesbian Community” meeting to really bring the community together. It was billed as a “Lesbian Identified” meeting, which caused an uproar among lesbian separatists who were all flipped out that bisexual women and straight women would come in and “rip off our culture”. There was a lot of debate over who’s really out, who’s really a lesbian who’s not a real lesbian. So, on the night of the meeting a group of organizers went early to set up the room at the old Senior Center, which has long since been torn down.

Once we got to the senior center, we saw that the Senior Center director had stayed late specifically to meet us and tell us we couldn’t meet there because we were beasts and that we didn’t belong in his building. Then he threw us all out. It was one of those horrible experience of straight up, in your face bigotry. So there we were in the street, staring at each other, and when other women arrived, we explained we had been kicked out. While just about everyone had come prepared for a rousing political debate about our differences, we instead found ourselves quietly facing the reality of how much we needed each other. This was an incredibly unifying experience for everybody - - we realized that we were a women’s community and that we needed each other to pull together to survive.

One of the women there offered to let us use her coffee shop as a meeting place, so we pulled ourselves together and walked over to the Intermezzo, owned by Carolyn Street. That profound experience of being hated as the same “beast” was all that we needed to get cracking – that meeting was like an absolute house fire of ideas of all the things we could do to build up our community. Some women talked about starting a cultural performing arts collective, a women’s health collective, more housing collectives and all kinds of great ideas. My big idea was to start a lesbian community newspaper. This was the origins of Matrix, Olympia’s lesbian community newspaper, I still have them all in archives.

I pulled an organizing trick in presenting the newsletter idea, where I kept referring to the collective as “we” this and “we” that. It was really only me but I talked about the “collective”. Later, at the first meeting when three or four people shoed up to join and they asked where everyone else was and I said [laugh] well here you are!

Matrix intentionally identified itself as a feminist -lesbian publication as opposed to a lesbian-feminist publication. While that might seem like semantics, it was really important to a couple of us to recognize that a lesbian political identity did include bisexuals, men and transgender people. It included a lot of gender outlaws we didn’t have the terminology that people of your generation have now, tho I think you’ve really taken that concept much further in order to get people to recognize that gender identity is something that should be more open ended and should exist along a continuum. We didn’t have the words for that but that was our intent. So that probably knocks off three of your questions right there.

Q Yeah you kinda did! I have a whole list here of things I was hoping to get to. Such as the intermezzo, it was something I read about in an old newspaper but could you tell me more about the matrix. What did it actually talk about, address, and who exactly did it serve?

Matrix was part of a nationwide phenomenon of feminist & lesbian newspapers. Even tho they were way “indie” and way low tech, they weren’t yet called zines and were no longer called underground newspapers. When I was in high school and the Vietnam War was raging the counter culture movement and the anti-war movement spawned hundreds of underground newspapers. This was a cultural phenomenon for people who were shut out of the mainstream press. They created underground news papers that were cranked out on mimeographs (historic machine used for cheap reproduced printing) because that was the most accessible means of production. And we were big on seizing the means of production.

In those days there were no computers, few telephones, expensive long distance rates – so it was hard to communicate. Many of the women who were involved in the lesbian community came out of the anti war movement where there were a lot of underground news papers. In Madison, Wisconsin where I’m from one of these newspapers was called “Takeover”. It was an amazing publication that served as a rudder in the anti-war movement. So when I moved to Olympia and came out, it seemed pretty clear to me that we needed a lesbian community newspaper to serve as the rudder of our community. All across the country there were many such women’s community newspapers. In Washington dc there was a publication called Off Our Backs, in Seattle there was one called “Out and About” . Eugene had one was one called I can’t remember what. I’m sure I have old copies but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was called.

There were different newspapers across the country and we all exchanged copies, it was this amazing inter-community dialogue in print, with the old-fashioned time delay of the US mail, because there was none of this online business.

So Matrix was pretty funky little rag. We had it printed at Hard Rain Printing, a political collective print shop at the time. By the third or fourth issue we enlisted Don Martin, a local graphic artist, who was one of our wonderful lesbian identified, political lesbians.

The honorary Dyke I’m told.

Well honorary dyke but really he was a gay man. Don was more identified with the politically oriented women’s movement as opposed to the socially oriented and closeted gay men's community which in those days if you weren’t in a community 500,000 or larger it was very dangerous to be out as a gay man. People were killed and it sometimes it wasn’t even reported. The police would not protect you they often would treat you worse if you went to them. But anyhow, Don was a great graphic artist and he designed our Masthead logo. We had a lot of discussion over what to call it and finally decided to call it Matrix as a way to bring in all the diversity of our community. The Idea was the it was a “matrix”, it was serve as the nexus of all the different political currents and divergent people, it was the common ground for the community.

We had weekly meetings to develop our list of material and put out a call for writers. We would receive articles from all kinds of people, Every week, we would have robust arguments about what we would print or not. Some people were really dedicated to the freedom of the press and others were more into censoring material we thought was bad politics, offensive or somehow inappropriate. Or sometimes we would run articles and then print rebuttals right next to them in the same issue. It was a wild and wooly exploration of community based journalism. We sustained an intense, often pitched discourse over the entire 5 year run of the publication, which underscores the power of the written word.

It was a very wonderful and exciting publication to be a part of. It also had it’s bad parts, in some ways Matrix served to define boundaries, drawing lines where some people thought they were in and some people thought they were out. That was one of the challenges of building a sense of community - when people identify themselves as a community, they often identify who’s in that community and who’s out of that community. There are times when I was a strong advocate for inclusion and there were other times where I was an asshole and created those divided lines of who belonged and who didn’t. I know that we hurt a lot of people who felt excluded because they were not in the same place politically or socially or in their personal coming out process. But you know, when people are young, they make mistakes, hopefully learn something and move forward.

In Matrix, we addressed a broad span of issues, including anti-Semitism, Palestine, the politics of warehousing the poor in prisons, Native American rights, a lot of issues around transgender rights and medical issues, bisexual inclusion, lesbian mothers, and the lesbian mother’s defense fund in Seattle. So while Matrix was facilitating that discourse here in Thurston county area, we also mailed out copies all across the county. We also exchanged them with publications across the country, and so we had an ongoing discourse with them as well. So in this era before internet, you had to put something in the mail and ship it off to somebody who would get it in 5 days. Then it would take them another five days to ship back their response. It was an amazing to have this call and response, nation-wide discourse.

Q Every month? That’s really great. And this went on for how long?

Our first issue was in late 78’ and the last issue was in 1984.

Q So I was talking to Jene Eberheart and she talked a lot about how the lesbian community was lesbian community was very very visible in the general community and how there was lots of actions and protests. Can you explain to me further how it was visible and what kind of actions that went on? Were you apart of the Conestoga, do you know much about the Wednesday nights at the rainbow café? And also, I’m curious what happened to all of it? What was the end of what seems to be much more visible and active community?

I don’t know if that’s the case, not from my perception. My perspective is that before Stonewall, the GLBT communities were deeply closeted. After Stonewall, people slowly started to come out, beginning in the larger cities. By the mid-70s people in college campuses and larger urban areas started thinking about how GLBT people could create community and build a political movement. Here in Olympia, Don Martin founded the Gay Resource Center at Evergreen and that served as a hub for a lot of political activity for gay rights. Kenneth Shulman was another one of the early participants in that. Don is still in town you should talk to him ...

Q Already have.

Oh good. Around that time there was a lot of dialogue about fighting back. There were direct actions against businesses that were discriminatory to queers, like the Conestoga. One of my ex-girlfriends Alexis Jetter was one of the organizers. She was there dancing with another woman and they got thrown out. The Conestoga was on the 9th floor of what’s now called the Community Trade Economic Development at 8th and Columbia. The 9th floor there was a dance bar with windows looking out over the lake at the mountains, it was a great bar. We still didn’t have a gay bar here so if you wanted to go out dancing, you had to scrape together gas money, pile into the one car that could drive on the freeway to get up to Seattle cause we were all incredibly poor.

So Alexis got thrown out and soon thereafter called a meeting to explore what we should we do to fight back. We decided on a strategy of doing weekly actions by sending in a steady stream of same gender couples to dance until they got thrown out. We put together flyers that said “Gay Night At the Conestoga” and featured the Conestoga logo and we put them up all over town. So people would show up and the hilarious part was that we were so incredibly poor that we had maybe three changes of clothes to a person and there were a lot us who were gay had no girl clothes or boy clothes respectively. We all had to go shopping at Salvation Army and try to find girl clothes. It was pretty funny because I had no idea of how girls dress. So the plan was to go in as opposite gender couples and get up to dance in same sex couples. Of course they would always throw us out. The straight men would smash into us on the dance floor and be nasty. The Bar kept trying to figure out how to get rid of us, so they created a dress code. That meant we couldn’t just wear casual, which made it even harder. I mean geeze it’s hard enough to dress as a girl how does a nicely dress girl dress like? So I kept showing up looking like a librarian it’s the only thing girly I could find. I wore ruffles it was just hilarious. Normally, I dressed like you except I had two pairs of blue jeans one jean jacket and a couple of button down style shirts - - that was how I dressed all the time so it was really hard for me to try and figure out how to dress like a girl. Anyhow, we kept going back and eventually they closed down rather than keep fighting us. So that was a very empowering success.

This was during the 70s where there was a lot of disco dancers it was very highly stylized dance steps and girls dressed like total chicks and guys dressed like super studs and all the guys had these ruffley shirts open down to their navel and gold chains and all this stuff. So they were very freaked out by us. We would ride up the elevator in close quarters and they’d realize, “oh Christ here they come again what the hell are we going to do!” It was very fun because it was different parts of the community that came together and put together a plan and people all worked together and kept moving forward.

Some of the other actions targeted the homophobic movies that were very popular at the time. One of the movies I remember most clearly was “Windows” and “Cruising” both of which I starred Al Pacino, who I love, but they were horribly homophobic films. He has always been drawn to these kinda edgy characters where he plays a cop that infiltrates the gay bar scene. We would picket the films to try and discourage people from going to see these homophobic films. One of the Matrix covers has a picture of me trying to talk to the ticket taker to stop selling tickets. Later that night I grabbed a tape recorder, (I don’t remember where it came from) and I saw the police chief and I did a confrontation interview with him asking why he was going to see a homophobic film. I wrote an article in Matrix about it.

We did a lot of things like that, people were just very out. Particularly those of us who lived in a collective house - - we knew we couldn’t be evicted. We were very very out but we were also very harassed. Our car windows were broken, our houses were tagged with graffitti, our neighbors would harass us. I know neighbors would go to the police and ask “why can’t you arrest them or take their house away from them”. Just ridiculous, the things they thought they could do to us. Which brings us back to why it was so important to have collective households - - if people got fired for being gay they wouldn’t become homeless. If they had their children taken away from them they had a supportive household to support their fight to get them back.

There was a horrible incident after a “Take Back the Night” march, probably the first one. One of the kind of edgy uppity women whose name is Pat Schafer got mouthy with the cops and ended up getting arrested. When they took her in, they beat here black and blue in the holding area and told her, “get the hell out of town and tell you dyke friends to get out of here too”. She took photos and got a lawyer and tried to fight it, which in those days was very dangerous – it was very risky to go after people with the means and license to hurt you and call it “keeping the peace”. At her court date, she was told by the judge that they couldn’t admit those photos because they were not taken by a court authorized photographer. Then her attorney asked who would that be and the Judge said “a police office”. No way in hell would she go into the Police Department where she was beaten and ask to have a police officer take photos of the bruises they put all over her.

Another incident around the same time was a covert police campaign to harass local gay men. Again, this was something that was going on all around the country. In fact, it was this sort of harassment that gave rise to the Stonewall Rebellion. Before Stonewall, there was an accepted routine where gay bars were allowed to operate in really seedy corners of the communities - you know, they were ratty fire traps, dangerous, not pretty places. The police had a routine of coming in periodically to raid the bar and extort money from the patrons and owners. After Stonewall, people refused to be treated this way and started to fight back. I can’t just blame the police because they were a part of a national consciousness of anti-gay hatred. It was like they saw how uppity those gays were getting after Stonewall and to tried to figure out how to stuff this Genie back into the lamp and keep them from pushing for their rights. So across the country, police departments became a tool of homophobia with active campaigns to harass gay men.

Here in Olympia, they would send uniform officers into their offices and in very loud voices accuse them of being gay and as a way to get them fired and drive them out of the community. There is a great deal of documentation on how this campaign was conducted, the police knew it would either get people fired, leave the community or to commit suicide. So a group of us marshaled up a and went to the police department. This was before I worked for the City of Olympia. The Police Chief trouped us all into the Council Chambers, because there were so many of us. We presented our concerns and demanded that the Chief of Police stop this harassment. Chief Warner sat there, smiling smugly. We presented a copy of the actual list that we knew officers were working off of. We confronted him that it was bigotry, homophobic, and it’s just Unamerican. We said we won’t stand for it. There was a little back and forth, then I remember him saying, “well you people have your Wayne Glacys” who was a heinous mass murdered in Chicago who kidnapped little boys and murdered them after sexually abusing them. Then Grace Cox, who was my hero always fast with the one liners shot back, “ Yeah, and you Straight people have your Ted Bundy’s” another mass murderer who killed and mutilated straight women.

So there were many incidents like that. There were also actions at the college to force the administration to be more accepting of GLBT students and faculty. I don’t know as much about that history because I was based in the community. There were direct actions at the college to make College Housing accept same gender roommates and queer identified housing and that went on of a long period of time.

Q Evergreen just this year got queer housing but it didn’t really work well. It’s mostly straight couples that want to live together and a lot of the gay couples moved out and some were being harassed really badly. I’ve been working with folks this year surrounding the problems. But it is there now, we got it.

Yes, it took a long time.

Q You speak clearly and tell a good story, much like a writer. So it seems you were much more engaged then just the feminist actions so I hear you were involved in the co-op movement. Does that relate to the gay community much?

It did. I was one of the first two Co-op staff people hired. The co-op started downtown in the store front where Mekong Restaurant is. The Co-op grew out of food buying clubs that served as wonderful community building activities. There was controversy when people went from food buying clubs to having a store front. Community people felt that change would detach people from involvement from their food. And it did but it also mobilized a huge base of involvement around supporting a co-operative food store. From the very beginning,the store had a least one queer working for it or a couple queers or soon to be queers that would come out later. And many queer shoppers frequented it. This helped the heterosexual people realize that GLBT people were very much a part of a community. The Co-op was important to me because food is a very political issue. We in this first-world nation are able to have some choice about where buy our food, and we have lots of choices. Even if we are poor, we have the best access to food in the world. It always blows me away how much food we waste way up here at the top of the food chain. This becomes more egregious when you realize that it comes from third world countries where their economy has converted from a diversified economy to cash crop like beef or coffee or sugar. And most of these food goods would be exported to countries like ours.

I actually did a cover article for the Cooper Point Journal, called “Agribusiness a View from the Dumpster”. It was a politically oriented article talking about how agribusiness destroys indigenous economies and produces the food brings it to America sells it to people who often don’t eat it all, and waste a fair amount. Then when stores can’t sell the food, they just throw it in the dumpster. They had made it illegal to dumpster dive and to glean it for use by hungry people. I was trying to get a Legislative bill passed called “the Good Samaritan Bill” to allow gleaners to take produce and then redistribute it to poor people who have no food. So the purpose of the article was political activism, though I actually submitted it for academic credit. My faculty hated it, and thought it was not scholarly. It wasn’t, but I felt that academic was most valuable when it made an impact in society – as sort of applied academics. It made a hell of a lot more difference than any dumbass scholarly paper that nobody would ever read. And the bill did pass, forcing grocery stores to allow gleaners to salvage food. So that was my entre to food.

I have always believed that food is one of those commodities that binds us to people across the globe in ways that we don’t understand or respect or appreciate. This is what made the co-op a significant intentional business as part of a intentional community. It encouraged shoppers to be more conscious of where food comes from and whether we offer a fair price to growers and engage in fair trade to obtain that food, and do we distribute the food with less packaging. And most of all, to urge that we all respect the food we have and not waste it.

So the short answer from the very beginning, the Co-op started as a model of how the personal is political and the personal is also very global and the Co-op offered one way to participate in that global activism. It drew in quite a number of GLBT folks that care about glbt issues and that all cared about food issues too.

Q What were lesbian work days there?


Q I read in an old gay resource newsletter that there was a monthly lesbian workday at the co-op in the late 70’s I think.

Oh yes, now I have a vague memory of that. I worked there for a year and then would do something else and work there for a year and then would do something else and work there for a year and then would do something else. We just had so many GLBT people working there, we didn’t really need a Lesbian work day. It was a great place to cruise and pick up chicks, that’s where I met a lot of my girlfriends. Not as an employee but it was great place to meet people because it was a community cross roads. I have a dim recollection of there being lesbian shifts because as much as the internal co-op community recognized glbt people are a part of our community there is going to be some friction because diversity means celebrating differences but it also means friction from differences. There’s a lot more friction as part a part of that relationship-building effort. It’s important to understand diversity both in terms of celebrating and addressing the friction that come of it.

Q Same issues today it seems.

You shouldn’t ever expect it to be otherwise.. I mean I don’t know what your struggles are around race I don’t know if you are white, I know that as a white person I’ve said and done a lot of really dumb things in community and have learned how hurtful that is. And I’ve learned that celebrating diversity means unlearning oppressive behavior and how to become a better ally. And I think that the queer community, we owe it to our allies to help support them to become better allies. I think the whole concept of ally-ship is a very important one that is sometimes lost on identity politics. When you’re gathering in your troops to build a defensible border against oppression, you can forget you need allies.

Q When did the concept of ally ship become a queer political issue here?

Oh hell, I can’t remember when we started talking about allies but people like me have always had it in our minds. People like Grace Cox always had it their minds. I remember jJean and I used to go back in forth on this. She’s both really understanding of allies and she’s done a lot of cross issue work but there was also a period of time where she was a militant lesbian-separatist. I was always bugging her and driving her nuts. Ha. I had people push me hard like that too, they had to work on me to get me to open up my arms to embrace more people.

Q Alright, interesting. So on a different note what was the impact of HIV/AIDS on the lesbian community.


Q I’m sure that some lesbians felt there was no impact or visibility because of the separate realms of gay men and lesbians so could you speak to why that impression would be there and then what the impact was from your perspective?

Sure. It was a huge impact of those who defined ourselves as political queers. Up until then in smaller communities like Olympia, it was Lesbians who were out and doing all the political work. Gay men were most closeted. Part of it was white gay men could do better in society if they passed as straight. They could be in business or government and still make money. If they were out, they jeopardized their careers. Another reason is that lesbians are less scary and less threatening to homophobes. Gay men are more of a red flag for bashers who want to kill. So it was more common for Gay men to stay closeted. Up until HIV/AIDS in smaller communities gay men were deep closeted and nowhere to be found. That’s why people like Don were honorary lesbians. The lesbians were the ones that were out, the ones doing all the work, they were involved in all the social work, as school teachers, as nurses making healthcare better and in the community really addressing political issues. When HIV/AIDS came, suddenly gay men were outed through the disease and through their deaths. People realized “holy shit there’s no way we can fight this from the closet, if we don’t come out we’ll all die”. That mobilized the entire generation of Gay men to finally stand up and fight back, They began to fight for a braod-based medical healthcare response to a hideous disease that was being neglected because the victims were expendable.

In larger communities I think men and women were equally out. This is another critique of male privilege and their differences with gay women. I can’t speak about for the transgender community, but transgender people are marginalized in a similar way that women are. Generally, women get politically involved for the work, whereas men tend to get involved to run for office, get the GLBT jobs and go for the glory. In most communities, the activist men are out for one or two years and they are running for office or they’re going after a job, whereas the women stay focused on the work. It’s a harsh thing to say but I see a lot of it. It is what it is.

When HIV/AIDS came, Matrix started writing some of the earliest articles about it in 80-81’ and it was lesbians who realized, “Whoa! This is bad and we’ve got to jump on this”. In Olympia, Lesbians did all the heavy lifting until gay men came out of the closet. And that was really a turning point in smaller communities for gay men to become active; up until then they were not.

Q What was the heavy lifting you mentioned that happened?

It takes a hell of a lot of work to develop a support and advocacy organization. And back in those days AIDS was a horrible death with tremendous social stigma. HIV/AIDS patients would be evicted and lose their jobs. There was no protection so there was a lot of work to do to get people jobs or sustenance and a home and basically homecare services until they died. It was literally heavy lifting, chore services. I don’t know if you know people who are in home care working with elderly or disabled but that’s what the a lot of the work was about. I consider that women’s work. I don’t mean that in a way that’s sexist against women but we have always done that work. We’ve always care for children we’ve always care for the elderly. Gay men and bisexual to a lesser degree participated in that but it’s predominately women’s work. So that part was carried by women and starting the agencies in these smaller communities was done by women.

Starting these agencies in larger communities where there was more glamour and press, that’s where the guys got active. When there was money to be made the men were right there. When it was changing shitty bedpans you know it was mostly women. And as far as women who were really separatist and focused on women who didn’t know gay men probably only saw bits and pieces of that or read things in the news paper or saw things on television. But if they didn’t have personal gay friends that were dying, you didn’t realize how many men died. A lot of amazing, talented, passionate, promising, beautiful and vibrant young men and middle age men and older men died in droves. It was very intense. Very hard times.

Q Was it then more obvious that there were a lot more gay men as they came out and as they got sick?

Yeah. There were high level Republicans and business men that were dying. There were famous actors and sports figures that were dying. It was amazing to learn all that all these men were gay, and we only learned once they died. Very sad.

Q So I’ve got a few more things I really wanted to know more about. You won the collective queen ship at the co-op with Jene Eberheart.

Oh Jean and I used to be in Construction business together before I got disabled. I was in business with another woman in a business called Artemus construction going back to the Greek goddess. And then Jean she had a business called Nozama which is “Amazon” spelled backwards.

Q Yeah I love that story.

Yeah it’s a great story. I used to drive her nuts with all my talking and singing. At the time she was actually dating two women and her time at work was supposed to be quiet time. But I was always a little chatter box and I was always making up songs. I don’t know if the co-op had a competition or if we just started one that caught on. Anyhow, there was this “Harvest Ball” event going on and we may have just inserted our “Queen of the Harvest Ball” thing into that. So we came up with this song to the tune of “You are my Sunshine”

You are my co-op, my Oly Co-op
I buy sprouts there and all my beans
And from your free box I get my blue jeans
So Jesus beans wont you make us your queens.

Q It ridiculous you remember it!

I ran actually for queen for another thing when I was there in 78’. Evergreen didn’t have proms or anything like that. My friends and I thought it would be hilarious to just start this campaign, “Elect Schlecht from the Anarchist Sect”” Prom Queen for the Masses”. There was an academic dean named Dean somebody, so we made him a candidate too, created posters and put them up everywhere. My posters had a characture of me. I always wore a baseball hat, big round glasses and curls. It was pretty ridiculous. We crashed a dance that was already happening and got the band to announce me as the winner of the Prom Queen Campaign. I thanked everybody for electing me their homecoming queen and I’d do my best although I was a dyke. You know there was all these straight people some of whom were just like, ” what the hell is this??” but there were a lot of gay friendly people too. It was radical queer theater activism. If you could get ‘em laughing they wouldn’t be so scared of the gay menace.

Q Do you have much knowledge about the drag balls around here and thecla? I’ve had great difficulty catching anyone who knows much about it.

Olympia got its first gay bar when Thekla opened up. It was a true old school gay bar with the entrance in the back of the building in the alley. Since it was a downtown ally, it was a little spooky for those of us who had our lives threatened, been spit on or beaten up downtown. The idea of opening a gay bar here in Olympia was like, “oh my god we’re going to get killed”. There’s something safer about going to Tacoma, you still got spit on or beaten up, but it just felt safer when you were out of town.

Q Not in your hometown.

Yeah, at least they couldn’t follow you home. Thekla was opened by Pit Kweizinski, who was a great straight guy ally who had the Midas touch for dance bars. He owned this great Seattle dance bar called Rebar, at the time it was the hottest dance bar. I don’t know how much you’re into dancing.

Q All the time, love it.

Yeah, the queer dance bars are always the best. And what usually happens is that there will be a tota;lly hot gay dance bar, then straight people will start going because it’s a great place to dance because they know queer people know how to party and really dance their guts out.

Q I just turned 21 and I already know the progression.

The same thing happened to Thekla. This bar evolution is an interesting social dynamic. I have family in the bar business and have seen that happen - - the life cycle of bars and how the patrons change. In Milwaukee, where all of my family are, a bar can be a black bar, then its Hispanic bar, then it’s a gay bar then it’s a everyone bar then it’s a white biker bar. So, here in Olympia, as soon as there was a bar in town some of the Queens wanted to set up a court system here. One of the people it remember doing this was Richard Pimentel I and there was a bunch of other people but he is the only name I can remember. And they started doing drag shows at Thekla. There were three or four other people one of whom was our co-founders of Capital City Pride, a very handsome young man who soon drifted away to Seattle. Then there was Adrienne Schlueter who is still in town, he owns a house on 9th 900 block ave. If you look him up its s-c-h-l-u-e- or e-u-t-e-r he was an amazing performer. I don’t understand the whole drag court world, it’s a world unto itself but they developed a series of drag balls and it was very cool.

Around that same time, the next GLBT magazine came out, a monthly called “Sound Out”. This was a publication that Camey Combs and her partner Wendy Morissette put out. They had a great crew of folks working on it. After “Sound Out”, came Capital Q which was produced by Alan Artus. But first there was Matrix.

Q Weren’t there issues right around the end of Matrix?

I have copies I’ll have to call you about them. But they (Camey and Wendy) are still in the phonebook.

There’s an interesting dynamic in any community. Queer generations seem to run every ten years, at which time there’s a new generation of what are gay bars are about, what are collective gay households and publications about what are gay politics about. It turns over about every ten years. I mean there’s not like there is a formal transition where one generation passes the torch on to the next 10 year generation so their shift starts until they turn it over next shift starts. But it pretty much turns over every 10 years.

Q That’s a little discouraging and good. I feel like that’s where I’m at now, where my friends are at now.

No, no. if you just turned 21 there will be a lot of this in your life. There will be a lot.

Q In this list here are there any other things you feel would be important to this history or the community?

I didn’t really talk enough about the significance of the Rainbow Restaurant. The Rainbow Restaurant first started off as a grocery store then expanded into a bar & restaurant that served as the physical hub of our women’s community. It was run by Laura Mae Abrams, a wonderful person and has since moved to California, and her then husband Abe Abrahams. Laura Mae was married to Abe but was bisexual. She was actually the first person I met when I came to Olympia.

I was a sweet young 18 year old with my backpack and a guitar and the only thing I knew as a little hippie chick was to go to this hippie restaurant I had heard about when I worked at a hippie restaurant back home in Madison, Wisconsin. So I hitch-hiked 2,000 miles, walked up to the Artichoke Mode, a hippie restaurant but it was closed. I thought “Fuck! I came 2000 miles, this place is closed and now I don’t know what to do! Laura Mae Abraham walked across the street from the Rainbow Restaurant (Where Cascadia Grill is now at 200 4th Avenue West) and she is wearing this amazing blue turquoise band masters jacket looking very hip. She says to me, “Honey, what are you doing there they’re closed you can’t eat there. Come with me I’ll take you to the Spar (Now McMenimans) and introduce you to some people. You look like your new in town, are you new in town?”

I think she was hitting on me but she introduced me to some people and got me hooked up to stay the night with some people. Because Laura Mae was a bisexual woman who was in business, we all gravitated to her business as an oasis. Laura Mae was trying to run a business and she knew we needed a touchstone but that if here restaurant was known as a gay bar she’d probably get firebombed. She hired a lot of gay people, and she was supported by gay people but if people showed up and were making out in the corner all the time

She told her wait staff and her bartenders you’ve gotta get these people to stop groping each other its going to kill me. It was hard. There was some controversy back and forth, sometimes people understood it and sometimes people felt like she was pissing on the people who helped build up her business. But you can’t stay in business if you get fire bombed.

The Rainbow was right around the corner form the co-op and Laura was really supportive of the co-op. they were always helping us when we ran out of stuff and vice-versa, there was a real sense of community. So we had a restaurant but we didn’t have a dance bar, but at lease it was a place where we could hang out and be accepted. For laughs sometimes when we’d get drunk and go outside and we yell “greener!” and “Dyke” at straight people driving by. Just to jerk them out of their reality.

Jackie Dennee has driven bus for intercity transit for thirty years and she is the one gay person that almost all local GLBT people knew. She’s is an incredibly warm open person who is so affirming that people absolutely love her. She’s the kind that if there's a dog that she knows on her bus route she’ll stop to open the door and throw a part of her sandwich. There are dogs always out there waiting for her on her route. But she was a really affirming and really amazing person who supported people to be who they were, gay or straight but especially for gay people. Jackie was a touch stone for a lot of closeted GLBT people, and every community needs that. She wasn’t really politically identified, but what she did was so political – she helped people be who they were. She had also been a waitress for the Rainbow Restaurant before she got a job driving bus. But she is a remarkable human being, without her I think a lot of people would have had much worse lives or killed themselves. Jackie gave them hope, hope that some day they could live without fear.

So that’s all I can think of and my time is up.

Q Damn alright thanks.