August 2012-September 8, 2013—For a lot of closeted gay men, the Internet, social media and smartphone apps offer an excellent opportunity to explore sexuality in a space where your identity remains hidden. Unfortunately, the Internet also allows vulnerable populations to be ridiculed, harassed and “outed.” Stories of 13-year-olds hanging themselves after being bullied online have become a common trend.
2004ish – I was staying in a friend’s apartment on 17th Street off Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, then Manhattan’s gayest neighborhood, while visiting NYC from Miami in 2004 or so. I returned from a day spent running around town to find the block cordoned off and a number of NYC firemen standing nearby preventing bystanders from getting too close.
At Lafitte’s, the bar was made of thick old bayou cypress planks polished by thousands of men leaning, cruising and drinking on it for over 45 years. Underneath these planks was a cheap burlap skirt and not much else hiding the jockey boxes and equipment. The bar was a large and amorphous island, open on three sides. In the center of the bar was a tree shelf of liquor—a rough triangle attached to 3 poles. Each bartender, working their stations, on each side this tree of liquor used it. This was the call liquor.
1978—Werner Seelig and I met in the South of France. He was twenty-one and from Indiana. I was twenty, a hippy from California. We were both staying in a commune up in the mountains of the Languedoc. I was immediately attracted to him and over the course of a couple weeks of exploring the wilds of the countryside together, we became inseparable buddies.
NewFest, NYC’s LGBTQ film festival, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week, starting Wednesday and continuing through the following Tuesday (Oct. 24-30).
NewFest first got started in 1988. At the time, like most gay men and women of that era, I led a double life—by day I was a closeted investment banker, by night (and on weekends and holidays), I spent my time reading gay publications (everything from Honcho to Mandate, but also more lifestyle and culture magazines like the Advocate and Christopher Street) and seeking out low-visibility gay hangouts—bars, discos, Fire Island—places where I could comfortably express my queerness.
1979: The crowds were still in full force around the stage for the Bourbon Street Awards and the only space available was under the balcony where the stage itself blocked the view but gave a bit of space to hang out. Clyde and Al and I watched the very end of the Bourbon Street Awards here under Lafitte’s beefed up balcony- it was closest to the front door where there was at least breathing room. It was just the 3 of us. Huge cheers had gone up for the last of the award and Ed Smith was winding the awards down. I was buzzed and very happy because I was hanging with my two favorite daddies and I know they were as buzzed as I was. I saw Al looking at me and just smiling. He grabbed me with both hands and gave me a big ol kiss on the lips.“I’m so happy to be here with you for your first time,” he said. “And I’m proud of you.” I choked up as this was a pretty huge for him to say. Clyde put his arms around both of us. This was a big moment. We 3 relished it. Then Al turned to me and Al said quietly, “Bobby I’m leaving on the redeye back to San Francisco tonight.”
I was recently interviewed by Steve Rodrigues, host of “Talk About Gay Sex”, a weekly podcast with 30,000 downloads per month. The episode is 48 minutes long and discusses Capturing Rainbows, my gay history-focused Instagram Page (@bammer47), what it was like to come out and be LGBTQ 40+ years ago, and how vastly our lives have changed in the interim.
2008: I was living at the Russian River and a good friend called me up and said you have to see this astrologer. “He is really cool and accurate, but he has to come to your house to do this reading. He sits at your kitchen table,” he said. It was unusual for Russ to advise this, but I was into it so I invited the guy over. He looked cool and sat at my kitchen table. He began his reading, and most of what I remember—I’ve lost the tape—was he said, “You’ll be moving from here down south.” I figured that was easy enough and I said “Yeah, Palm Springs.” I was at that time thinking of moving to Palm Springs.” No, much further and on the ocean,” he replied. He said a lot of things that now I wish I could remember because his accuracy would later stun me.
1989—I met Marcus Lutsky at Uncle Charlie’s Downtown in NYC in the Spring of 1989. It was a Saturday night and I was on the prowl. It was late. I hadn’t really met anyone yet, mostly because I had been standing around watching music videos and trying to make eye contact with a bartender who I had a big crush on. Coming to my senses that I was never going to bag the bartender, I sniffed around the bar looking for a more promising catch until I saw him—big, blusterous, laughing and commanding the attention of a group of guys around him. Sufficiently drunk, I waited until he had stepped away from his group, and went straight up to him.