Even Alexander the Great?
by James Andris, NO BAD NEWS, July 1980
It was the culmination of much hard work and careful planning. Red, yellow, blue, and green ballons; gay, straight, lesbian, old, young men and women, against the backdrop of sun-drenched Victorian brick houses. The people stood or milled about the still dry fountain in Maryland Plaza. Warmth and a feeling of carnival festivities were in the air. Over three hundred had gathered by one thirty, and old friends were everywhere. A few curious onlookers lined the edges of the shade cast by the shops. Banners and posters sprinkled the crowd.
Now the caliope starts to play "Meet Me in St. Louis" as a test for the walk later. Many colorful figures are in the crowd. An older red-haired, Scottish-looking gentleman professor and a perky brunet thirtyish mother represent Parents of Gays. Young gay male couples in faded blue jean cut-offs stand with their arms around each other. There are clowns, two women teachers in disguise. A group of people from Dignity are beginning to line up behind their banner. I greet one of them, an old dancing buddy from Martins, with a kiss.
The crowd is mainly composed of young men and women. A trio of older gay men in '50s attire are eyeing the proceedings suspiciously. The cobblestones of Maryland Plaza haven't ever seen anything like this before. Now the parade is starting. Marshals with electric megaphones are lining people up, telling them to walk when the caliope begins to play. I'm positioning myself with my Gay Academic Union poster at the edge of the line of walk for more visibility.
I can't help but reflect on the people who have chosen to walk beside me. John, a short, attractive, Jewish man who plays piano at MCC always seems to end up near me. Ray has been having trouble with his heart, will do a token walk and ride the rest of the way. People have told me that I am a rock. A rock that cries, what a laugh!
We are an our way! Enthusiasm and anxiety are in the air. A young, tall west-endite expresses concern that he will be seen by the TV cameras. I remark that I had kind of hoped to be discovered myself. We laugh in release of the tension.
Can you imagine? The cops are actually supporting us. They wear expressionless masks but guide us through the traffic down narrow Euclid Avenue. People out for Sunday drives are astonished. But here on Euclid they are still generally friendly and curious.
As we bend around the corner of Euclid and Lindell, I get a sense of how many of us there are. I wonder if there are 500. It certainly looks impressive. We are passed by an army truck of olive-drab fatigued national guardsmen. One motions with thumb down. Several others snicker and grin. We wave back. The marshals have cautioned us not to bite back. As we cross Kingshighway we make our first big impact on St. Louis. This artery of concrete carries Cadillacs with black families from the north and Toyotas with white single swingers from the south. A black driver frowns. People stare in amazement. At first they don't quite catch on. When they do, they shake their heads, wrinkle their mouths and noses, or let their hands dangle from their arms. Some just blankly stare straight ahead.
I'm feeling really good with all the beautiful gay people around me. As we start down Lindell towards Washington University, I notice an adolescent male couple, neither one of whom is over five feet tall. The one is very long waisted and has a bare hairless chest. The other one wears a blue and white bandana around his head and has very red, cherubic lips. The two are sensual and beautifully and naturally sexual in a way that I never dreamed of when I was 15.
As my luck would have it, my heart is pounding due to spring allergies, and I know I am not going to make the full walk. John takes my poster for me, even though he doesn't belong to the Gay Academic Union. We spot a tall couple, both bearded, the one walking a bicycle labeled "This is an anti-nuke bike."
Women from IRIS are doing a really fantastic job of getting the crowd to cheer. "Two four, six, eight; being gay's as good as straight" rings out loud and clear. The rich families watch from their spacious porches on Lindell. Children watch in amazement as other children pass by in the parade.
Now the walking's over for me. I've made it to the house in Forest Park where they supposedly filmed background scenery for the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis," and I know it's stop walking or stop living. So I spy the truck that draws the caliope and ask the drivers if I can ride. They are stereotypically counterculture straight males--blond, frizzy hair in pony tail, rudy, unwashed faces. The one guy who is riding says, "If you put your sign down." This is no time for confrontation; I need a ride. So I hop into the truck. I've really had it and I sprawl on the truck bed, trying to get out of the sunlight.
A cute little mulatto girl of 6 or 7 in cornrow braids sits on the wheel guard and stares at me. "Can I see your sign?" she asks. " I can't show it to you, but it says Gay Academic Union." " Oh."
Now through puffing breath and swimming eyes I see her examining the button I'm wearing with the intensity that only children are capable of. The button has the names of famous homosexuals printed all over it. "Are all those guys gay?" " That's right." " Even Alexander the Great?" " Yup." She sits back and digests this piece of information.
The mayor's representative, an attractive black woman sits up on the seat behind the cab. She introduces herself as Ellen and says, "Some of us are getting older." She shows some concern for me and I try to reassure her that I'll be ok. (I don't know at the time that she is the mayor's representative.)
From this vantage point, stretched out on the truckbed with my head leaning on the panels, I can see passersby in Forest Park. The caliope dominates with "East Side, West Side." Roy Birchard, the pastor of MCC, runs alongside of the line of march in black habit and white straw hat counting the people. He holds up three fingers and his lips are moving deliberately as he counts. More stares from the park. Black machos frown, gay couples grin, and we wind along undaunted. This is supposed to be a walk for charity, but many of the people are marching anyway, at least in their minds. Disco and gay liberation have come late to St. Louis. A man tries to lift his little boy onto the back of the truck but the uptites in the front refuse his request. It seems everyone is represented today, from Martins disco babies in New Wave punk rock garb, through attractive, face-scrubbed, braided-haired, natural Lesbians, to one kid in a business suit.
We're starting to approach the walk-up to Washington University. I gingerly jump out. The people have wound around a circle in the road and are climbing the many broad brick stairs which lead up to the archway to the quadrangle. With stone ivy covered walls as a backdrop and the mid-afternoon sun behind us, we begin to line up in tiers on these steps. What a fucking rush!!! Signs everywhere, banners. It's really us. We're all really lining up on these stairs, 40 deep, 15 wide, proud, happy. I'm surrounded by unfamiliar faces, yet still here and there the scions of the community are watching it all with complete relish. TV cameras grind away.
The people have started to crowd through the archway to the quadrangle and scramble for the few shady spots. I collapse in the cool grass beside a couple of the women from church and Stan, who is eyeing a tall, dark hunk in bulging yellow gym shorts. I can't believe all these gay people sitting on the lawn.
The program is slow to start, but eventually we hear the main speaker, Larry . He speaks in a clear alto voice, and somehow that seems just right. Hawkers are passing out a scarce supply of soft drinks for 50 cents, and these are quickly sold out.
This has been a walk for charity and a can of money is passed. It is quite full. Larry tells us of how he refused at first when Bill asked him to speak today, but how that within five minutes he had called back, realizing that everything he stood for demanded that he accept. He reads the rest of his speech, but somehow that confession makes more impact on me. I think, that's just where St. Louis is at. Coming out of the closet. How perfect. People are milling through the crowd passing out leaflets from the Socialist Workers Party and Moonstorm.
Now Bill introduces Byron in a flurry of credits. I spot my ride home and move to the east side of the quadrangle. As I get there, I look back at a perfect photograph of the afternoon. At my feet are a couple of beautiful, raven-haired, plump lesbians, the one with her head cradled in the other's lap, and they are smiling and talking in a very tender way. Stretched out into the lowering sun is an arc of my brothers and sisters, 500 strong. The sun lights up the air into a translucient white mist, and puts halos around the heads of most of the people there. The trees in the quadrangle are just coming out and the buds catch the afternoon rays as they flicker in the light breeze.
Byron is cool and up to the task. He has slogans for the crowd, and they love it, applauding after each one. He tells us that now we are children of the light. After he is done, he heads straight for me and apologizes that the introduction indicated him to be the only person involved in some things I'm also doing.
Now Adrienne gathers a group of singers to the audience, and starts to sing her songs. Adrienne has been a main moving force behind the Magnolia Committee. She's done this in spite of danger to her job. With floppy, wide-brimmed hat, Kiss-style black and white star covering her face, and granny dress and guitar, she brings this rally to a great conclusion. She sings:
You ask me to live in shame
You ask me to hide my name
If I did that to you,
You'd be singing with me too.
And still I like you
I know you're just a human being too
Maybe don't you suppose you ought to like me too,
Cause I'm here to say I'm as good as you.
Most of the crowd is listening, but I'm singing along with tears in my eyes and heart bursting with emotion.
We've heard Ellen ask the question., "If I let them come for you in the morning, will they come for me at night?" We've heard Michael Allen of Christ Church Cathedral tell us that we will be judged not by the amount of violence we produce, but by the love that we bring into the world. This rally is almost in the past. All these plans and aspirations have crystallized into a perfect, flawless event. Channels 2 and 5 will carry a fairly balanced account of the day's activities, although there will be no newspaper coverage.
But St. Louis will never be the same!! She's out of her closet and looking good.
Pictured: James Andris at the 1980 event (photo by Wilbur Wegener)
A Bullish Time
By Jim Hawkins, Co-Founder of The Red Bull and Former Owner of The French Market, Norma's and The Glory Hole Bars
There was more than one Red Bull on Missouri Avenue. The first one was at 506 Missouri Avenue. Gerry (Jerry) Edwards an I opened it in 1968. We worked on this old condemned building for six months to get it back in working order.
Jerry went to work around the corner at Helen Schraeders, another gay haunt, to learn how to tend bar. We didn't know the first thing about the business. When he went to work at night I would go work on the bar across the street. I would slip in the back door of the Bull and work putting this old building together.
We had tried four times to open a gay bar and four times we were stopped. We knew what we wanted in a bar that we enjoyed. The Bull opened in August 1968. All we had was nine hundred dollars to buy stock and buy our liquor license.
At that time males were not allowed to dance together. We talked to a gay attorney
who informed us "If no one is touching, it's exercising".On our dance floor we had many strands of lights hooked up to two modulators which were hooked up to our jukebox. They would go on and off with the music. A year later We started what is now called Disco.Our drag show on the second floor first started with our home stereo and spotlights made from #10 soup cans with colored lights hooked to a 2x4 on the ceiling controlled by dimmer switches.
In 1969 we started Go Go Boys on the bar (naked of course). In 1971 we started the first official Drag show in St. Louis at The French Market in South Saint Louis in Soulard. Because of that "Little Red Bull" all of this entertainment is now possible all over the region. And what's so great about it is It was done by gay people for gay people and supported by the greatest group of gay people in the St Louis area.
Jim is working on a book about his experiences and life in St. Louis - stay tuned...
A History of Protests
By Margaret "Flowing" Johnson, Show Me No Hate Blog, November 2008
I thought you might like a little history on LBGT protests at the Old Court House. When the Supreme Court supported the conviction of Hardwick for sodomy (Bowers vs Hardwick, June 30, 1986) we also held a protest at the Old Court House. We chose it because of the Dred Scott decision and connected the Hardwick decision to it.
But, the story of the protest is very different than this internet organized event. I heard about the decision on a news report in my car on my way home at 11 PM on the night of June 30. I was both outraged and dismayed. Outraged by the decision, of course, and then dismayed that I didn't even know the Supreme Court was hearing the case. That was the state of the Lesbian and Gay movement at the time - our oppression wasn't particularly news worthy.
I was an activist in a Lesbian direct action group called Women Rising in Resistance. When I got home I raged with my partner and then began calling the other activists. None of them knew of the decision. I also called some gay men (including Jim Thomas, editor of the Gay News Telegraph) and told them of it and they began calling friends. The next night we had over 100 people at the old courthouse protesting the decision. It was the one of the first actions protesting the decision in the country.
Later, I was part of the national organizing committee to organize a non-violent civil disobedience at the U. S. Supreme Court to protest the Hardwick decision. It was connected to a March on Washington held on Oct 11, 1987.
The civil disobedience was on Oct 13, 1987. It was the largest arrest action since the Vietnam War, over 600 people were arrested, and we actually closed access to the Supreme Court building for an hour - the first and last time that has happened. Since then, the courts have overturned the Hardwick decision by other decisions.
Most of the media had ignored the March on Washington held two days before - it was a massive turnout but most media, including the St Louis Post Dispatch, Newsweek, etc ignored it. But, they could not and did not ignore the action at the Supreme Court. That action launched the Lesbian and Gay movement onto a national stage. (The lesbian and gay movement later added bisexual, transgendered, and questioning to our alphabet of oppression.)
Photo by Jennifer Silverberg, Riverfront Times
Just How Many Years Does it Really Take to Make a Dream Come True?
By Michelle McCausland, Miss Gay Missouri 2012 (mgmpageantry.com)
I’m sure that it differs for each one of us, depending on the size of your dream. Some people can get it right away, others wait for many years, others may just give up - and as for me, I waited nearly 30 years for my dream to become a reality! My journey began many years ago with my aspirations of becoming a Broadway star - feeling the floodlights, wearing the greasepaint and hearing the roar of the crowd. I left the small town of Mount Vernon, Illinois and moved to Saint Louis with these hopes and dreams but through those years of theatrical work, my life took a turn to another field of theatre, the art of female impersonation. This is where I found my place and where I could create a character.
That character became “ Michelle McCausland.” Before there was press on nails, internet or even any modern technology there was just plain, simple and outstanding talent in Missouri. I found my place in a community that has thrived through many tough times and I have seen and been a part of some of the best show bars and casts this country has to offer. After 30 years, I am proud to say I am still part of a working show bar and professional show cast that prides themselves on entertainment, professionalism and making sure the audience has that theatrical feel. Along the way I met two of the best performers who early on in life would be my influence and my introduction to The Miss Gay Missouri system, they where Georgia Brown and Zsa Zsa Principle. We were known as a threesome show at Faces and around the state. I started competing in pageantry because you were able to create something out of nothing with just the existence through a song, imagination and the glamour of evening gown - which was the infamous Rick Fortson who always helped me.
So I started competing in (back then) what was the only state title around. I competed and always managed to place in the top five, even having come close enough to be first alternate - so I always knew in my heart this was meant to be. As the years went by, I helped my friends, was in talent numbers, made sets and was always part of the MGMA experience. But there was something inside me that wasn’t complete. I never gave up - just stepped to the side as I watched my friends win. So I thought to myself: I want to be a part of something that has always been inside of me. I want to feel what my friends have felt and I want to be a part of that legacy for myself and the future entertainers. I came back, listened, competed and gave it my all - and at last My Journey now has been completed. I heard my name announced your new Miss Gay Missouri for 2012 is MICHELLE McCAUSLAND!