Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blog Pride is Net Power!

On my ( Jim, that is ) facebook page I recently posted a newswire photo from 1970. It shows a float in the University of Iowa 1970 Homecoming parade, as illustrated. ¶ Big convertibles were then and remain the preferred vehicle for parades, and my '62 Cadillac, bought used in Chicago for $500, was the perfect fit for the small contingent of "out" gays on campus. They wanted to borrow it for what was sure to be a newsworthy event (about two years after Stonewall ),  but I refused to  allow anyone else to sit at the wheel and volunteered my services as driver. Here I am, all hairy and badass.  The white leather survived, as did the springs, which appear to sag somewhat under the weight of ten or so queens. ¶  After the facebook post I wrote to my old  friend Mel Andringa, once a member of that small gay community, and asked him to identify the riders. He responded with one tag and included the following obituary. It's a moving biography and a telling account  of  the closet, AIDS and  how families dealt with its victims. ¶ First a footnote: the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds was and maybe still  is a theatrical movement created by the director/artist/designer Robert Wilson. Wilson remains active and currently has something up and running in New York. ¶ Mel's memorial to Paul Hutson follows:
The guy sitting up in the back seat with his hand near his face (next to the sign on the stick) is Paul Hutson. I wrote the following memory of him for fellow members of the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds. A Paul Hutson Memory

Paul wasn’t really a Byrd
. That is he didn’t know very many of the Byrds, or hang out with them. He was an ape in Deafman at the UI, mostly because he was kind of my boyfriend for a couple of nights and my friend for several years after that. 

In New York City, he came to Thursday dances at the Byrd Loft, which is probably why he’s in the 1974 class photo. His laugh was loud, and always seemed a little more forced than his smile. 

In Iowa City, he was an early gay rights activist and dragged me along to marches and parades. He often wore a uniform of sorts- starched denim shirts and pressed kacki pants and in-your-face, neon orange buttons I made that said “Queer” or “Faggot”.

Paul played bass trombone well enough to be first chair in the UI Band, and joined the Marines to be a part of their band. He was very self-disciplined and studied German so he could read his favorite authors in their native tongue. In the Marines he learned to be a sound engineer, and he did that work later in Manhattan, but he also was a male escort. Peter Hujar took a photo of him for his business card, bare-chested with earphone around his neck and the nickname ‘Wolf’ in quotes.

Paul had a ramrod straight posture and loved dancing barefoot. He could possibly have been a modern dancer, but he determined that classical ballet was his true love. Unfortunately he came to that realization well past the age where his body could meet the exacting demands of the discipline. A mutual friend convinced Jerry Robbins to audition his talent and break the bad news to him that it wasn’t going to happen. 

He accepted the news stoically, just like he accepted his HIV+ diagnosis. Paul Hutson was one of the very first people identified with Aids. He went to Paris to be treated at the same time Rock Hudson was there. 

One of the last times I saw him, I visited his tiny studio apartment in Hells Kitchen and we went to a play. Afterwards, we had a sandwich at a local coffee shop. After eating, he quietly took the busboy aside and told him to be extra careful washing his dishes, as he was possibly contagious. As the disease progressed, he grew covered with purple lesions that made him stand out. 

And then one day he was just gone. He moved back to live with his parents, in Seattle I think. Through a mutual friend I got his phone number. His father, a doctor, answered and reluctantly turned the phone over to Paul, who asked me not to call again. It was part of the bargain he’d made with his family to cut himself off completely from his previous life.

1 comment:

Bob Abel said...

Jim, with a look like that (and I remember visiting you in Iowa) you could have chauffeured Mafia. I have a drawing and one of your etchings from that era. Badass motorcycles.