Tony

Joan Rivers Defends Baldwin; Gay Thanksgiving Throwback

Joan Rivers Defends Baldwin

The only reason I’m posting about either of these two is because it goes along with the next part of this post, and how gay men like Tony and I have had to deal with being gay and living in a world where gay slurs often hit so hard and with such force it can unhinge the very core of someone’s psychological well-being. The closeted gay Amish friend I have knows what I’m talking about. The gay teen from Brooklyn whose father is a macho cop and uncle a macho fireman knows what I’m talking about. Any gay man who can pass as straight and who has ever feared being exposed knows what I’m talking about.

You can call me pretty much anything now and I’ll live, trust me on that. And that’s because I’ve been called everything there is at one point or another. I might even come after you and enjoy every minute of it. But there are a lot of other gay men who aren’t as secure and when they hear a gay slur it stings hard. Harder than most people would expect. Especially when the gay slur is made with vitriol and used with other pejoratives that conjure the worst associations.

I’ve posted about Alec Baldwin and what’s been happening since he made his “alleged” gay slurs, and not for the first time. And today the elderly entertainer, Joan Rivers, came out and supported him with what I can only describe as some kind of quasi Lenny Bruce freedom of speech defense. And in her attempt to disabuse the notions of Baldwin’s critics and what happened as a result of Baldwin’s public rant she only comes off looking way out of touch with the rest of America at best.

 “Everybody just relax,” Rivers noted, before hurling a series of slurs against Italians, African-Americans, Jews and gays, among other groups. “Everybody’s something, so why don’t we all just calm down?”

I’ve also posted about Rivers before, too, and how she often treats gay men as if they are pet poodles. I understand that a good deal of her thoughts and even her comedy material is generational and she comes from a time when the only openly gay men were the poor souls who couldn’t hide in a closet even if they tried. But the world has changed in the past decade, not all gay men are the same, and many of us don’t appreciate being treated as if we are a side show at the circus. At the risk of sounding like an angry gay man, it’s time to start giving all gay people the respect other minorities receive and that includes caution with words. It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humor either. Ellen makes us laugh and she’s not hurting anyone.

You can read more about Rivers here.

Gay Thanksgiving Throwback

Tony and I have a great deal for which to be thankful and we don’t take anything for granted. We’ve been through life and death situations and survived, we’ve been through opening businesses that were risky and did well, and we’ve been through living as a couple when gay marriage was still just a concept. For the past five years or so we’ve hosted a big Thanksgiving at our home for both our families. One year we emptied our living room and rented ten large tables and chairs so everyone had a place to sit. It varies from year to year because like all families brothers and sisters go to in-laws, take vacations, or just stay home and do their own thing. This year is smaller, with only twelve people, but the fact that we actually host Thanksgiving still blows me away.

We met in 1992 in December and our first Thanksgiving was in 1993. We went to separate Thanksgiving dinners because that’s what was expected of us. We both come from similar family backgrounds and neither of us was out of the closet at that point. In my case my family knew and it wasn’t discussed. In Tony’s case they had no idea. And for the first fifteen years of our relationship/marriage, that’s how we spent Thanksgiving day. For a while we became friendly with an older gay couple who hosted Thanksgiving dinner later at night each year. So Tony would go to his family, I would go to mine, and then we would meet up in separate cars later that night to be with other gay people. At least thanks to these friends we had a chance to spend part of Thanksgiving together. But just imagine for a moment what it would be like if you weren’t able to spend major holidays with your spouse for reasons beyond your control. Sure, we could have come out totally and slammed everyone at one time. But for us that’s not how things were done. And I know we’re not the only ones who lived this way.

But it started to get tired fast. Here we were living as a married couple and we didn’t even get a chance to spend holidays together because of the fact that we were gay. I never pushed Tony with the issue about his family because I knew it was a sensitive topic and I didn’t want to hurt him. You do those things for people you love and you make sacrifices. All that changed in 2007 when Tony was hospitalized and almost died. I’ve posted about that before and I’m not getting into it again. But that’s when I met Tony’s family for the first time, under the worst circumstances imaginable. Thankfully, it turned out to be a good thing and we supported each other through his illness and came out stronger because of that. I think of his family as mine now, and he’s the same way with my family. And since then life is much easier for us because of that time. It’s also better because we are living in different times and more and more gay people are coming out, getting married, and fighting for equal rights. However, I know there are other gay couples just like us doing the same things we used to do. And when I hear gay slurs, and I hear people defending gay slurs, it reminds me of all the holidays we missed and all the good times we lost when we were younger.

The first home we lived in was a town house about eight miles from where we live right now. But it wasn’t New Hope where things are more progressive, and we were smack in the middle of a cookie cutter town house development on a cul-de-sac in suburban Philadelphia, Newtown, PA. We were so busy back then we rarely took much notice of what was happening around us. But one Thanksgiving weekend in 1998 while we were putting up Christmas decorations outside our neighbor’s little boy said, “We should put up lights just like the fags next door, dad.” The father grabbed the kid and pulled him inside fast. We listed the town house the following week and moved to New Hope six months later so we’d never be placed in that particular degrading situation again.

I know I’ve told that story before somewhere, but when I heard about Baldwin and now Rivers, I felt like telling it again so people will understand the magnitude of what the word fag means to us.

Music and Fiction: The Vegas Shark; You Are My Sunshine

I often use music in fiction to show how characters relate to events and situations around them. I don’t always do it because it’s not always needed. In The Virgin Billionaire I used a web site to show how Luis feels about great art and artistic male nudes. But I used rap music in Four Gay Weddings and a Funeral to show that some gay men…me…like rap music and don’t like torch songs and show tunes. I’m doing it again now with The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal, which I’ll post about soon.

In any event, most writers use music in fiction sometimes to make a point or to show something about a character. Music is fundamental to all of our lives and readers can relate to this. The trick is to not become too self-indulgent. In other words, if I were to write a novel like Four Gay Weddings and a Funeral and I were to give a detailed playlist that went along with the novel with all my favorite rap songs I might come off as self-indulgent and amateur…or unhinged. I think it would be overkill, unless the book is all about rap musicians.

The one time I’ve used music more often than not was in The Vegas Shark. The main character, Treston, truly has a love for life, he believes in all that is wonderful and good, and he’s always making the best out of a bad situation…in spite of always getting knocked down each time. He gets right back up and continues through life as if there’s a miracle around the next corner. There’s nothing he won’t do for the man he loves. He is the most positive character I’ve ever written, and the most vulnerable as a result. And one of the things that helps get him through life is the old song You Are My Sunshine. It was something from a childhood that most of us can’t even imagine.

I won’t give out any spoilers, but I can say this about The Vegas Shark. I don’t always write books that have moments that will bring readers to tears. It just doesn’t always work that way for me. But on those occasions when I have books like that, and I’m brought to tears while I’m writing the book, I know it’s going to work. It can’t be forced. If I’m not feeling it the reader won’t feel it. In this case, at the end of The Vegas Shark there is one scene that brought me to tears the moment I started writing it. It’s at the very end and it has something to do with the song, You Are My Sunshine.

And this time I planned it. I think I’ve posted about this before, but just in case I didn’t I’ll repeat it. When my partner, Tony, was on life support in the hospital six years ago I bought him a felt sunflower. The entire thing was felt…the brown fake pot, the green stem, the yellow sunflower itself. It looks a little like the one in the photo above, but not exactly. And when you pushed a small button at the bottom, a music box started to play You Are My Sunshine. I’d never seen anything like it before and I bought it without even asking the price. When I got to the hospital and played it for Tony it was one of the first times I knew he was going to recover just by the smile on his face. And you should have seen the nurses have fun with it. It was an interesting summer, 2007, and I’ll have to post about the praying hands sometimes in the future. One publisher has been asking me about a memoir of that year, and I’ve been putting it off because it still too soon to write about it.

If anyone would ever like to purchase one, here’s a link I found. I got mine at a small local gift shop. But they aren’t easy to find. And trust me, they will put a smile on anyone’s face. It’s like a kitten: you just can’t be depressed around one of these things.

The photo below is the actual flower I bought six years ago. This is one of those times when I realize that I have to get my act together with webcams. I would love to have shown what it really sounds like.

Okay, I’m Finally Admitting the Truth!!


This past week was difficult for a lot of people who write same sex fiction, so I wanted to end the week with a different kind of post, something more personal. On top of everything else going on, another author posted about me and not only attacked me personally in a defamatory way but also questioned my identity again. No names, no links. I don’t like to give people like that any attention. And, I have absolutely nothing to hide.

But I did decide to come clean on something I haven’t mentioned before on this blog. First, everything I have written on the blog is true. My brother, who is also gay, does own this design firm in Manhattan. My mom and dad are retired therapists. The photo of me (and others like it on the web) is really me. I do live here.And I really do have a very good friend who has been a literary agent in New York for over forty years.

But there is one thing I haven’t discussed on the blog and this is mainly because I’m a very private person. When I’m finished working and I go out into the world, I don’t even tell other people what I do. I just say I work in publishing and leave it at that. I’ve been getting published for twenty years and I’ve learned how to separate my work from my private life. (Which is also why my publisher, whom I love dearly, often gets frustrated with me about making appearances at events and book signings in New York.)

The main reason I’m admitting the truth today and talking about this is because I post about same sex marriage and same sex relationships and it often sounds like hearsay. The truth is that I’ve been in a twenty year monogamous relationship with the same man since we were both in our early twenties.

We met in 1992, his name is Tony, and we’ve shared every single aspect of our lives since the day we met. There was no big wedding with gifts and checks. Every single thing we own we bought on our own through hard work, and working together as a couple.

For the first fifteen years of our relationship, Tony worked in corporate America and travelled the world. While he was in Germany, France, and Anywhere, USA, I was running my own art gallery in New Hope, and working part time in publishing as a writer and editor. They were rough years because I hated being alone, but work always got me through it. The down time in my gallery afforded me the ability to continue in publishing and pursue a career as a writer. Tony and I started, built, and eventually sold a very successful business between 1998 and 2004. We’ve bought and sold property together since our first two bedroom town house in 1992. And we’ve been living in the same private home just outside New Hope for the past ten years.

So when I write about the more technical aspects of same sex relationships, it’s not just hearsay. I know what it’s like to hire an attorney and have legal papers drawn up that cover everything from legal power of attorney to wills. I also know what it’s like to not only fear the loss and devastation of losing my partner on an emotional level (I can’t even think about it for too long…after 911, a day Tony was in the air on his way to Boston, I never stopped worrying), I also fear the inheritance taxes either Tony or I will be forced to pay when something does happen to either one of us. There are many things gay couples can do to protect themselves; we’re constantly learning and trying to find out what’s new.

Tony and I both come from large families. And we’ve been lucky enough to have been embraced by both our families. I love Tony’s family as much as I love my own, and I know he feels the same way about mine. Ironically, Tony and I have been together longer than any of our siblings. Unfortunately, we been forced to witness the pain when a few of our siblings had to experience bad divorces. We buried Tony’s mother in 2002 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, we supported my mom through an arduous ordeal with bladder cancer in 1998, and we buried our eighteen year old cat, Nittany, two years ago. On Thanksgiving, which we usually host here at the house, we have anywhere from forty to sixty guests at one time. If we ever decide to scale back, I have no idea how we’ll deal with this.

I’d like to make it clear that the point of this post isn’t to brag or boast about being openly gay and in a long term relationship. I think by now all the straight women authors who know me know that I support them completely and that I truly believe anyone should be able to write anything they want to write. In fact, one of the reasons why I love Michelle Montgomery’s work so much is because of the “Tony and Ryan” book she first wrote. It really did remind me of Tony and me.

The main point of this post is to come clean so I can continue to write about all the legal and emotional aspects of gay life the same way I’ve been doing it since I began this blog. And this time it won’t sound like hearsay. It’s coming from my experience and from my heart.