Interviews

 

Robert Barnes and Jerry Kelly

“Well, it was like when we would go to see my parents we would spend the night, because they’d want us to stay Saturday and Sunday or whatever, and so we would like stay overnight. One morning got up and had breakfast and Jerry had left the table and I was getting ready to leave, and dad said, ‘Sit down, I want to talk to you.’ And he said, ‘What’s going on?’ And I said, ‘I think you know.’ And he said, ‘Yes, I do.’ And I said, ‘Well it can be this way, daddy…if it’s going to ruin our family life and you don’t want me here, I will leave and you don’t have to see me again. If you want me back then Jerry’s coming back and it’s going to be that way.’ And dad said, ‘Well, we’ll see you next weekend.'”

Allen Bardin

“But there was another club downtown on Sumter Street called O’Grays that was like, sort of an old 1950s style bar. And it would be packed, just packed. You would go there earlier in the evening, and then later in the evening you would go to the H&M Lounge. There was also The Fortress. That was where the ladies went. It was in a log cabin on Shakespeare Road, and a blind woman ran it. I think it cost $5 to get in. But if you gave her a $1 bill, she sure as hell knew that you had stiffed her, she could tell. (Snaps) They always said she was blind, but I didn’t believe it.”

Kim Cannady

“But it was at that time that I began to develop something for Black women to come and party and have just as good of a time as we would have had at Traxx. Because we had some great times at Traxx, but we needed another outlet to where it was just for us. Like I said, for us, by us.”

Candace Chellew

“I just hope it becomes a non-issue, that people are just like, “Oh, okay. Whatever. Your wife. No big deal.” I guess I hope that we stop fighting the circumstances, because too often what we protest are the circumstances, and we don’t change the people involved in the circumstances. To me, I want whatever happens next to be deeper. It’s not that people resent that we come in and ask for our rights, but that we so change them in some way by our presence, by who we are. That they understand that the change is needed.”

Bruce Converse

“WOIC didn’t go out probably about as far, but XRY had the advantage that it was within the college community. Universities and all the colleges in Columbia could pick up the show. So that was one of the places where we wanted to make sure that we had coverage, was with that crowd. Even though we came out. We did a variety of programs. Like I’m just glancing through here “Out on Campus,” “Out in Myrtle Beach,” “Out in Greenville,” because we would talk to various people from that area trying to give it a statewide-type [appeal].”

C. Ray Drew

“I remember in 1983 I went to do an internship in Charleston, and I read in the newspaper that six people in the state had been diagnosed with AIDS. I clearly remember that, that scared me to death. I only knew basic stuff about AIDS anyway, I mean I just didn’t know a lot, and that really scared me. But only six people in 1983, so it wasn’t so… Even the gay community was only becoming aware of this, and it seems so…that so few people had it. It didn’t seem like a real direct threat, kind of like with COVID, you know? It’s like when it’s all very distant to you it doesn’t seem like that much, but then all of a sudden you get hit in the head with it because someone you know has it.”

Eddie Early, Interview 1

“I met Les in 1965. We got together shortly after that. We were together for an awfully long time, 40 years. We opened the Capital Club together. Oh, what a job that was. We fought the State of South Carolina for a year to get the Capital Club opened.”

Eddie Early, Interview 2

“Well, I think there will always be a need for gay bars, simply because there are people who need that camaraderie. I think it will become less and less needed as society accepts what they’re going to have to accept about homosexuality, that we’re everywhere, we’re not going anywhere. And so, eventually yes. But I don’t know that it will ever do without a gay bar. Gay people need a place they can just be themselves, and that what gay bars are for.”

Bert Easter

“We also did, early on with our marriage equality efforts…Bert and Ed, because no one else would do it, at the Koger Center did a fashion, what is it…a wedding show. And we bought a table, and we told them what we were going to do. We’re going to hand out a gay and lesbian reference wedding guidebook. What florist would work with you and what tuxedo people would work with you.”

Barbara Embick

“I cannot say that there was one slack person in that whole group, because there wasn’t. Everybody worked hard. Everybody was just as passionate about making this thing happen, you know? And again, my role in it really came out of being pissed off that some straight woman filed a sexual harassment case against me, and it wasn’t true, and I lost my damn job from it; I lost my damn relationship from it; and I almost killed myself over it. And shit, that shit wasn’t going to happen to me anymore, and it shouldn’t happen to anybody.”

Danny Flores

“I came out when I was 17, so I was a junior. I actually ended up standing up in front of my entire class, I guess giving a little speech, like “This is who I am now. This is how I want to be, like I want to go by he/him pronouns. If you’re not okay with it, too bad. I just ask that you respect it.” All of my teachers already knew that I was going to be talking to the class about it and they were really supportive. All of my classmates were really supportive. I had a few people clap. After that, the next issue was tackling what bathroom I was going to go to.”

Greg Green

Coming Soon

Harriet Hancock, Interview 1

“As I recall, they [Colonial Life Insurance] were the first corporation to give us anything. And then others began to come on board, but the really hard part was to get beyond the stigma of being affiliated with any kind of organization that had anything to do with AIDS because nobody wanted to be even associated with it even remotely. So we provided, tried to find people housing that had been kicked out, certainly access to medical, practical and emotional support… And then we answered all kinds of questions. The phone rang day and night. It would be people calling up to talk about thinking that they may be infected, but they didn’t know what to do, and they were scared to go get a test, and all kinds of questions…”

Harriet Hancock, Interview 2

“But that was when I thought to myself, you know, ‘Something really needs to be done.’ I mean people are hiding. Why should they have to hide? Why don’t everybody just say, ‘I’m gay, I’m okay, and I’m going to demand my rights; this is wrong, what’s happening is wrong.’ So I don’t know whether it was on a whim or whether it was… Well, I know that the press was invited to that picnic that day, but they were told that they could not, you know, they could only come in and talk to people that were willing to be on camera… And I said, ‘Next year,’ I said, ‘You know this year we’re in the park having a picnic. Next year we’re going to be on Main Street marching.’ I just said it.”

Terrance Henderson

“That was the beginning of that whole thing, was finding Metropolis, finding this club. That nightlife, club scene was my first safe space. That was where I really found myself. That’s where I learned who I really was and learned how to navigate all the nuances of what being gay meant.”

Robert-John Hinojosa

“Then fast forward, after Outsmart and Youth Empowered Against HIV… and I hook up with a friend of mine from the community, [Alvin A.] McEwen, and there’s an idea of starting our first Black and brown LGBT or queer organization. That’s Palmetto Umoja, U-M-O-J-A, and Umoja being a Swahili word meaning unity, and part of the principles of Kwanzaa. So we really thought Palmetto Umoja would be a place that we could learn and kind of explore. You know, Pride’s been happening, but we saw that there was definitely segregation and spaces.”

Dick Hubbard

“That is where my life started, was in The End Zone. And the rest of them were just places for me to go as a real estate person, looking for people that might be new to town. Remember, I’m standing there sober as a judge and not cruising and not looking for anything…But finding lots of people who are moving to Columbia and coming to the gay bar, and if I see them, strangers, over and over and over, then I know they’re new and I introduced myself. Yeah. It’s a nice way to network and to find people who would like for me to help them buy or sell a house.”

Darius Jones

“I hope and wish that the work I do at South Carolina Black Pride is that legacy. I just want to make sure that when I finally not just leave this earth but leave the organization that the organization is well-rounded and is hitting on every corner of the state around every issue of every person of color that’s in the community, LGBTQIA LMNOP community…Just making sure that our representation is there. Making sure that the policies reflect that representation.”

Jeff March

“To bring the Pride that I also visioned in that pitch and what we had to do and the stage, and bring it to Main Street, and telling everybody we had to go out of the park, and it is broken. The wheel is broken, we did need to fix it, and we need to change everything we’ve done in the past. The parade needs to come down Main Street, it needs to come straight down Main Street to the Capital. It doesn’t need to do this weird route around the park. It needs to come straight down Main Street. If we’re going to be visible, we need to be visible.”

Sheila Morris

“I guess I was most proud of the fact that we [the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Business Guild] welcomed people. We genuinely welcomed people. We provided a place where, when somebody walked in there was some board member sitting at the front that said, ‘Hey, glad to see you. Come on in.’ In a positive, smiling kind of way. A lot of times at the bars there might be people there that take your money, but they weren’t really happy to see you. You know what I’m saying? I mean, it wasn’t a friendly kind of thing.”

Tony Price, Interview 1

Coming Soon

Tony Price, Interview 2

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Tony Price, Interview 3

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Tony Price, Interview 4

“I think it [the brochure] was written then, right at that point, March, April or so of ‘83, because I think we said, ‘And now the GSA has lots of plans to get this group up and rolling in the fall semester, we’re looking forward to a great semester of being part of the Gay Student Association, and to tell Don Weatherbee that we are not going to be pushed back in the closet like dirty laundry and the door shut. We’re here to stay,’ kind of thing. And that’s what the simple little brochure, typed on a typewriter, says.”

Dorae Saunders

“I don’t know about belonging, I just knew that was what I wanted to do. That was it, period, point blank. The first time I saw it I thought, that was the ‘Aha!’ That was like, ‘Oh, that’s what I’m going to do.’ I didn’t know what it was called. I didn’t know what the term was. I just knew that performing, being in makeup, dancing, kicking, splitting, cutting flips, ‘Oh, baby, it’s on. This is what I’m going to do.’ And I relentlessly pursued it through the good, the bad, the ugly, with the no’s, the doors closed in your face, the discriminatory practices, the colorism practices, all of that. But it never stopped me, which is why I am where I am now.”

Michelle Schohn

“I’m an American Indian. I’m an enrolled member of the Pee Dee Indian Nation of Beaver Creek. For us, two-spirits are people who are considered to be carrying the spirit of both masculinity and femininity, both a male and a female spirit. And we’ve been traditionally considered a very normal part of the tribe. Often, like spiritual leaders or whatever within the tribe, but not anything sort of outside of the realm of normal.”

Todd Shaw

“In fact, I founded a group called 3D, a Different Dinner Dialogue, on the idea that we would come together and have these dialogues in home spaces where people feel most comfortable. So because the public spaces have always been so policed for all of us, but particularly for Black gay folks, it’s the home space that made a difference. I can think of some folks to this day, elders in the community that their homes became very important places for folk to gather.”

Nekki Shutt

“So back then before Premiere Night for every show they [Trustus Theatre] would have Family Night, and you could pay whatever you wanted…whatever you could afford, not whatever you wanted. But you could pay whatever you could afford, and you could come see the show before Opening Night. And they did so much LGBT stuff that was LGBT-affirming. That was the first place I really thought, ‘Gosh, there’s a community here.'”

Bill Skipper

“I think people feel freer to be who they are. It’s been an evolution. Things weren’t always like that. And I think gay people, not all, but for the most part, especially in Southern towns, and even Columbia as a capital city… But it’s not New York, and so I think that gay people… There always has been a little bit of fear there. If you don’t, you’re crazy. Fear of losing a job, fear of maybe getting killed, or having your throat slashed, or who knows, being beaten up, who knows. But I think that people… I’ve noticed, there’s a couple of whole new generations of really younger people that I know now, and I love every one of them. These younger people, they feel freer. They don’t think the way we did back then.”

Jenn Snyder

“But I miss that, just older gay people knowing what that was like, not having any friends or any real culture that you could claim because you hadn’t been able to have it. It wasn’t available to you. Then they would do that, they would look, because they remembered what it was like to be young and gay and not have a place to be. That’s what I miss about it. I hope that the gay generations are still doing that. Any chance that I have, I do. But those chances are few and far between these days.”

Regi- Solis, Interview 1

“That was my first contact with what was going on, because The Advocate at that time, I think, it was just a local magazine in L.A., or publication. So it was telling me where the gay bars were, what was happening in the community and all that at that time. So that was my first connection with the community, so when I finally turned eighteen and could go to the bars, I knew where to go. I had a good idea of how to act when I went to bars and what to do and what was going on there, which ones I wanted to go to.”

Regi- Solis, Interview 2

“I think I mentioned before that I’d been at L.A.’s first Gay Pride and was minorly involved with Long Beach’s too, first Gay Pride. Then I moved here and I heard about the picnic out at Dreher Island, like a lot of other people, especially the core of the first group there. All of us were basically there. A lot of us didn’t know each other at the time, but I heard about that and went out there because I was out, and I’d just moved here from California so it wasn’t like I had to hide myself from any family seeing me. I hadn’t made all that many friends that I was worried about it. I was working at a gay bar so it wasn’t a matter of my job firing me.”

Regi- Solis, Interview 3

“But The Candy Shop again was if you liked the more soulful, Black dance music. It was the best place to go. They were playing the best music ever. Any of the big discos, the regular big discos, they were playing Madonna and all the Top 40 stuff, but Candy Shop played all the stuff we really wanted to dance to that was coming out of Atlanta and New York and L.A. So it was a fun place to go.”

Regi- Solis, Interview 4

“I think part of that is because of my early involvement with GLPM here in South Carolina and my openness about my lifestyle, that people got to know me as Regi-, the guy that’s involved with Leather. If anything Leather came up it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, you need to go talk to him.’ So from the very early days with GLPM there was always Leather representation. And I was so involved and open with my life whenever anybody asked me a question, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll answer.’ If you ask me a question about Leather, I’ll answer the question. So I think that kind of buffered anything that could have happened adversely between the two groups or a misunderstanding, because all the GLPM people knew I was a nice guy.”

Carol Stoneking

Coming Soon

 

Matt Tischler

“I believe the first year, we would have considered it a success that we had a march and everything went well and then we continued that legacy onto the next year. I think that the turnout that first year was much larger than any of us really expected. There were probably about 1,500 people that marched on June 23rd, 1990 for the first South Carolina Pride March. And then marching up the steps of the State House, that’s that picture I sent you of the State House with everyone holding pink balloons on the steps of the State House. That was a very empowering moment. And there’ll never be another day like the first.”

Patricia Voelker

“In fact, I used to wonder why, you know, the girls would be talking about Elvis Presley or James Dean or something and I would go, ‘Okay,’ and then I would go to a movie and I would be focused on the woman in the movie. But I didn’t say that to anybody so it didn’t occur to me that that was different (laughter)…Yeah, I can remember singers that I was attracted to that I just thought, ‘Oh I really like that person, I really like that singer,’ or ‘I really like that actress,’ and didn’t, just didn’t sit down and say, ‘Oh that’s a woman and I’m attracted to a woman.'”

Steve Waites

Coming Soon

Teresa Williams

“When I decided to open the bookstore, I didn’t really see it as a gay and lesbian bookstore, or even a feminist bookstore, because I never visited one at the time. I just was trying to set myself apart, set myself as something different. So I decided that I would just focus on women writers. And so it was called, on all my stationery and on the bottom of the window, at the top of the window, it said ‘Bluestocking Books,’ and at the bottom, it said ‘A Celebration of Women Writers,’ and that’s what my stationary said. I had just seen it as an opportunity to promote and celebrate women writers that I had grown to love…”