Finding Jerri Daye (2 of 2)

My 17-year quest to find Jerri Daye reached its fruition on February 16, 2012.

Such build-up and anticipation often end in a stinging disappointment.  As a child of the original Star Wars, I still feel the let-down at The Phantom Menace and Jar Jar Binks—with apologies to Jar Jar Binks fans.

Meeting James Pascoe, a.k.a. Jerri Daye, was anything but disappointing.

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Finding Jerri Daye (1 of 2)

My 17-year quest to find Jerri Daye began in May 1995, when I interviewed Betty Leonard, manager of the State Bar in Flint from 1958 to 1985.  Betty was showing me her photo albums, including one fabulous Polaroid of two female impersonators flanking bar owner Melva Earhart.

One of the impersonators looked spot-on like Kim Novak in Vertigo.

Did I mention the photo was fabulous?

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Before a Live Audience

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer elders convey truths that letters (typed and handwritten) cannot, that yellowing news clippings cannot, that fading photographs cannot.

When LGBTQ elders share stories from their lives, their eyes flash with emotion.  Their faces show the idiosyncrasies of personality.  Their voices sometimes express joy, sometimes pain, sometimes anger, and, yes, sometimes sexual nostalgia.

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Remembering Beth Brant

When writer Beth Brant died on August 6, 2015, she left behind a loving family and a vibrant literary legacy documenting her life as a Native American lesbian.  A mother, grandmother, and longtime Melvindale resident, Brant is remembered as a pathbreaking lesbian author, poet, essayist, editor, lecturer, and literary activist.

Due to the lack of availability of her books, however, Brant’s legacy has risked being forgotten.  Many of her works have fallen out of print.  A new copy of one title is currently offered on Amazon for nearly $1,500.  For someone whose public life centered on words, finding new generations of readers is key to being remembered.

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By Their Own Hand

I probably met Brian McKinney only once, but his death more than thirty years ago still haunts me.

I recall lingering at the bus stop in downtown Flint while in high school in the early 1980s as an achingly lonely gay boy, watching for him.  He was a student at the barber college on Saginaw Street and, with lilting hair dyed blond and green, dared to be visibly queer at a time when being queer and being visible were unfathomable in my hometown.

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The Quilt at Cobo

Thirty years ago next month, at age 24, I took the Greyhound bus from Flint to view for my first time the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which was on display at Cobo Hall.  Caught up in my own post-teen gay angst and loneliness, I wrote in my journal on July 6th: “Tom’w I go to Detroit to be sobered by the AIDS quilt.”

As if it was a movie or TV show that would trigger some deeper feeling, that might jolt me out of early-20s myopia.

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