Tag Archives: history

CELEBRITY RECALLS

Long before it became a song or included in quizzes, “Do you know who you are?” was one of those instantaneous, absurd (yet common) questions most starstruck fans would ask a celebrity encountered on the streets of New York City. Not that I knew it in March of 1973 and not that I’ve made a fool of myself by uttering the question ever again. In fact, I was embarrassed and surprised I did the one time.Scan 2019-3-12 15.14.08

But we were young and giddy and on our way to Julius’ in the West Village to celebrate our anniversary with out-of-town friends when I spotted Lily Tomlin walking towards us on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village.

“Do you know who you are?” The words just gushed out.

“Gee, I think so,” was Lily’s reply, and “sure” to my request to take her photo. The shorter girl with blonde hair accompanying her hurried back out of frame range and, even though I waved her back in, she’d have nothing to do with the invite.

Apparently gaydar was down that day because none of us picked up on the other as being a couple. Or maybe an over abundance of happiness was drowning the frequency out? Because they would have been enjoying their first year together around then to our third. Which means this must be their 47th anniversary year to our 49th.

Oh happy daze!

~ ~ ~

I rode in my first limousine on New Year’s Eve, 1973. Our friend, Tom Dale, was a market research specialist and producer of television commercials who lived in a penthouse on East 48th Street and needed to be seen on the town with arm candy as a guise for his closeted true self. Elizabeth and I were his go-to-gal-pals and happily so. It afforded us the luxury to eat at the most trendy restaurants, attend posh events, and always have third row orchestra seats on the aisle at Broadway shows. That New Year’s Eve we’d seen Pippin’ at The Music Box Theater on West 45th Street.

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The show let out to throngs of partygoers who had already gathered in Times Square and beyond anticipating the ball dropping at midnight to welcome the start of 1974. At some point the limo needed to cross Broadway to the east side. When the police separated the crowds enough for traffic from the theater district to pass through the people began to touch the darkened windows, hoping to get a glimpse of a celebrity hidden inside.

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At that moment I realized how much more we identified with those oozing joy on the outside of the limo freezing in the streets than we’d ever be like those presumed to be riding within. I’ve never ceased wondering who’s hidden behind the tinted windows of limousines — but I stopped assuming it was anyone famous long, long ago.

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Three weeks later, after attending Liza Minnelli Live At The Winter Garden, we joined Tom’s chum, Ted, for dinner at his private table in Ted Hook’s Backstage Restaurant next door to the Martin Beck Theater. Besides being a former hoofer in the chorus of more than 400 movies, Ted served as Talulah Bankhead’s personal secretary for five years and regularly entertained friends and customers with intimate stories of the star.

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Seated next to my Liz and directly across from me was Wayland Flowers of Wayland & Madam fame. Madam was a pink wood head-to-waist puppet that looked like the exaggerated character portrayed by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.

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Unlike our friend Tom, Wayland Flowers was unabashedly gay and out about it. His act, like his performance at the dinner table with Madam seated to his left, was bewitching. But when dinner was served he stuck Madam head first into a brown paper bag, as if she wasn’t alive to the rest of us. (Oddly enough, I never quite came to terms with that.)

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Wayland Parrott Flowers was a creative genius of natural quick wit. He died October 11, 1988 of AIDS at age 48.

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Ted Hook was a sparking personality who was the personification of instant entertainment. He died July 19, 1995 of AIDS at age 65.

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Thomas Bryon Dale died in 2007. He was 76. I don’t know exactly when, or of what. No notice was placed on his behalf, nor acknowledgement made of his passing. It wasn’t until the publication of his brother’s obituary many years later that Tom was mentioned as having preceded him in death.

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Lisa Minnelli’s show closed after a 20 day run.

~ ~ ~

I’ve never been attracted to men but I have always been egocentric about their attraction to me to.

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One afternoon while returning to my job on Fifth Avenue a strikingly handsome man walked by. Certain I knew him, I turned my head after passing, only to spot him looking back at me. We smiled, waved, and continued on.

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Hours later, while scanning books at Barnes & Noble we encountered each other again, both of us demonstratively delighted to see each other.

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“I think we might have gone to school together,” I said, shaking his hand while introducing myself.

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“That’s must be it!” he grinned back. “I’m Hugh O’Brian.”

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Hugh O’Brian (The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) was born in Rochester, New York, 1925. I was born twenty-one years later in Michigan. It was an honest mistake, given the circumstances. After all, at nine years old and for three years thereafter, his was my favorite black and white television western.

~ ~ ~

I first met Walter Leyden Brown while temporarily bunking at my brother Michael’s 49 Prince Street, New York City fifty dollar a month, three room with a water closet, 6th floor tenement walk-up. It was one of two such roach infested apartments per floor. Walter lived across the hall. Michael was a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London at the time. I lasted just four terrifying weeks there before finding an apartment and moving uptown.

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Several months later, Walter began the staging of a three night production of his play, No Way In, at the La Mama Theater. The day before opening night the actress cast as Character Number One got a paying role elsewhere and quit Walter’s show. Desperate, he asked me to take over the non-speaking role of the pole-swirling-woman. I was a student at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts then so eagerly accepted.

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Although he directed (and we’d rehearsed) a one circle spin with cry of a lady in distress, on opening night I swung wide and long screaming like a banshee. A critic for The Village Voice was in the audience. The next day his review panned the director, the play and the cast except for my performance which he applauded for scaring the bejesus out of him.

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Because his only child was starring in the play, Claude Rains (The Invisible Man, Casablanca, Notorious, Mr. Skeffington) was in the audience with his friends, Roscoe Lee Brown (The Cowboys, Uptown Saturday Night, Jumping’ Jack Flash), and Butterfly McQueen, (Gone With The Wind, Duel In The Sun). He motioned me over for introductions and they graciously complimented me on my performance.

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The next night the audience was given notice that Character Number One would be played by an understudy.

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Walter Leyden Brown, 49, of 49 Prince Street, New York City died August 23, 1988. Before returning to his family home during his final days he’d confided to friends he had AIDS.

~ ~ ~

Prior to being cast in No Way In, I’d worked as a volunteer at the lower east side off-off Broadway La Mama Theater. One grease-grill-hot summer day I helped remove, drag, and reinstall chairs from the old location to the new one. It left me conspicuously grimy, unkempt and eager to catch subway connections to my upper west side apartment.

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While crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into a rush hour crowd on a street corner waiting for the WALK sign to free us, I spotted a limousine with a swarm of people catty-corner from me. Turning my head to see if the woman on my right noticed the commotion, I was so stupefied by her beauty that I could barely mumble to the man on my left, “That’s Elizabeth Taylor next to me.”

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He leaned discreetly forward to check. “Why yes,” said Richard Burton. “Yes it is.”

~ ~ ~

Alice Demovic was the sister of a good friend who (like me) was living foot-loose-and-fancy-free in Manhattan, albeit she resided in a tonier upper east side neighborhood and hobnobbed with a much more affluent crowd. Nevertheless, I was her instant late-late night wing-woman when absolutely no one else was available and she needed a person to go on the blind side of a double date with her and her current love-interest.

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One morning just at after midnight I was awakened and told a limo was waiting for me downstairs in front of my apartment on West 85th Street and to chop-chop.

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“How shall I dress?” I asked.

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“Cute and quickly.”

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I cannot remember the name of her dinner companion, nor the occasion, but we were all seated stage-side to catch the last set at Rodney (“I don’t get no respect.”) Dangerfield’s. Afterward, Rodney joined us at his table for a late night supper. He was exactly the same person as the characters he played in Caddyshack and Easy Money.

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Jacob Rodney Cohen (Rodney Dangerfield) was born on the same date as my not-yet-met sweetheart’s father, Rufus, and he died on the date of my long-gone father, LaVerne.

~ ~ ~

During the 1960’s and early 1970’s I was street-treated as an attractive young executive working in the 666 Fifth Avenue building bordering New York City’s historic 21 Club. Over the years I’d pivoted heads of Frank Sinatra (heavier set, mid-50’s, and balding Ol’ Blue Eyes period), George Hamilton (By Love Possessed, Zorro, The Godfather III, and easily twenty times better looking in person than portrayed on the silver screen), John Lindsey (NYC Mayor photographed kissing me on Page 2 of  the New York Post during a campaign re-election rally), and others.

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One day while on my way to lunch with my assistant, Scott, who was obsessed with men’s fashion, said (way too loudly) about the diminutive fellow walking a mere foot in front of us, “That man’s suit is so wrinkled it looks like he sleeps in the cargo holds of planes.”

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Aristotle Onassis’ head turned back to glare at us. While they kept walking I ground to a halt, grateful to lose them in the passing of pedestrians.

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Later that same week I was within inches of Onassis again. I’d been visiting Terry, the wife of Michael at their exquisite Madison Avenue store, M. Comer of London Antiques, when Onassis entered and zeroed in on the small table situated next to me.

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“How much is this?” he inquired of Michael.

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“Three thousand dollars.”

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“Not expensive enough,” he waved off.

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I’ve often wondered, if Michael had answered “thirty thousand dollars,” would Onassis have bought the table, regardless of the actual value?

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Years later, as an animal lover en route to becoming an animal activist, I was walking behind a woman wearing (what appeared to be) genuine leather pants. I was focused so intently on determining the fabric and planning a reprimand that I didn’t noticed she’d stopped — causing me to bump into her and knock her off her feet.

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“Oh!, excuse me, I’m so sorry, Mrs. Kennedy!” I rattled, mortified, as private security agents rushed to her rescue.

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She was married to Onassis at the time.

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#    #   #

This post represents an excerpt from

Seriously, Mom, you didn’t Know? by Marguerite Quantaine Copyright © 2019

due for release on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle, April 13, 2019.

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IT’S A DATE!

With uncompromising bursts of bittersweet joy this candid, effervescent chronicle reveals how the nature of thinking and depth of emotions between homosexual women is instinctively incompatible with the male dominant ideologies of a patriarch society. Through lyrically warmed words engendering benevolence these forty-nine relatable narratives shed insight on the valiant dignity of an endangered female culture vanishing-by-assimilation into an age of partial equality.

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Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know?

With uncompromising bursts of bittersweet joy this candid, effervescent chronicle reveals
how the nature of thinking and depth of emotions between homosexual women is
instinctively incompatible with the male dominant ideologies of a patriarch society.

Through lyrically warmed words engendering benevolence
these forty-nine relatable narratives shed insight on the valiant dignity
of an endangered female culture vanishing-by-assimilation
into this age of artificial equality.

Front Cover 4 FB

A veritable feast of gilded memories
seasoned with silver linings.

~

FOR RELEASE APRIL 13,  2019

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Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know?

by Marguerite Quantaine

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HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLATON

Essayist & Author
Marguerite Quantaine

My late sister, Kate, believed in truth. She thought she recognized it, practiced it, and that it would prevail. But I’m no longer sure truth ever was, or will be — nor am I certain of it’s prevalence in society today.

Because all truth stems from whatever is written as fact, and even the most inspired of wordsmiths are writers-at-soul choosing multiple elements of speech, edicts, merged thoughts, external influence, doubt in some entities rarely balanced by confidence in others, and a necessity for meticulous punctuation in order to advance beliefs, all the while knowing the end result will be subjected to individual interpretations using numerous mediums regardless of the author’s intent.

Enter our willingness to believe whatever we’re being told and — worse yet — our parroting of those narratives, as if each utterance was an original thought from which we’ll eventually justify any errors of our ways by citing a misdirected faith in the charisma of charlatans dressed in fleece.

Now, don’t get me wrong by taking me out of context.

I harbor no objection to people having  faith. It’s often a convenient, efficient, popular, time-honored tradition that’s easier to embrace than most are willing to admit, and necessary to the survival of even the unfittest.

What I question is our inclination to believe the worst in others, as if in doing so we’ll esteem ourselves in the presence of those whose alliance we crave.

What I find dubious is our rallying for the very rights we join school cliques, and group cliques, and office cliques, and organization cliques, and awards cliques to deny to those unwilling to join our cliques.

What I cannot fathom is the instant exclusion of those we’ve never met and never spoken to based solely on what we’ve heard from a friend, or associate about the stranger.

Think of how many times you’ve united against bullying in our schools over the past decade, assailing the abusiveness of name-callers as detriments to society.

And yet, nearly half of us voted for a name-caller to lead us and participated in the notion of locking up a person who has never been arrested, booked, tried, or convicted of a crime in her lifetime.

In a patriarchal society — which ours is — I can understand how misogyny can flourish among males.

But the implausibility of misogyny is such that I can’t understand how it thrives among females.

Except, maybe I do?

Perhaps it’s because every news anchor, commentator, journalist, politician, and figurehead over the past year failed to question (what I’m inclined to recognize as) the ecclesiastical elephant in the room.

I first felt the enormity of it’s presence forty years ago when I refused to attend the wedding of my brother.

At the time I’d been in love with my Elizabeth for seven years, a woman who’d not only been crucial to saving my life after a catastrophic car crash, but had eagerly, earnestly, and single-handedly tended to my long-term recovery for five of those seven years.

Nevertheless, the invitation to my brother’s nuptials didn’t list Elizabeth’s name, nor did it include her as a plus-one option.

As a result, I declined the invitation.

Now before you feel any politically correct indignation on my behalf, please don’t.

Remember, it was 1977. Homosexuality had only recently been declassified as a mental disease, while me and mine were still labelled by law as felons at risk of being arrested, indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced as such. We were social misfits. Deviants. A cause for embarrassment.

Even now there remains places in America where being homosexual is still regarded as a detainable offense, though not prosecutable; municipalities where dissident profiling can prevent police from responding to assaults, or delay ambulances from arriving in a timely manner; where medical treatment is subpar, and getting away with causing a death could go unnoticed, or be ignored altogether.

(It’s here you should take umbrage.)

But I digress.

My brother’s wedding was viewed as a big deal because, of six children (all of us in our 30s) only two were married, and the likelihood was that his union would mark the last chance for my mom to ever again be a mother-of the intended.

So, even though it was discreetly discussed and agreed that my Elizabeth should have been welcomed, I was demonized for my decision not to go.

That is, right up until the portion of the actual ceremony where the bride agreed to obey her husband. It caused my sisters and mother to storm through our front door several hours later echoing each other, “Thank God you weren’t at the wedding, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, oh my God, thank you for not coming! You would have caused an uproar. Even we nearly did!”

It’s true. They knew me well. I’ve never taken kindly to being submissive to, or even particularly respectful of male authority. At very least, the sacred pledge to obey would have made me gasp conspicuously, if not trigger a knee-jerk audible “No-o-o!”

Which returns us to those questions unwritten by journalists, unspoken by news anchors and commentators, unsought by pollsters, unaccounted for in election booths, unstatesmanlike in Congress, unaddressed by constituencies, unadulterated, unanticipated, unalterable, unapologetic, unassuaged, unappeasable, unsettlingly, unstudied, and (perhaps) unassailable, untouchable, untenable and even unrighteous in the final analysis.

But not unaskable.

Does a woman’s pledge to obey her husband require being dutiful to his choice when casting her ballot?

And, if so, does that mean America has become a Silent Theocracy?

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel, IMOGENE’S ELOISE : Inspired by a true-love story
is available on AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
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Note: Please share this on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and add your thoughts by selecting Leave A Message here. I’m all eyes and heart. 
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I’M EATING CROW HERE

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I remember when the first articles were published by researchists revealing that hot dogs were dangerously bad for us (I stopped eating them), as was peanut butter (I cut back), and eggs (I wasn’t dissuaded), and donuts (get outta town!).

Much like telling those who bet on the horses that races are rigged, or lottery hopefuls that the odds are stacked against them, or fans that an event is sold out, or kids younger that seven that there is no Santa Claus — learning the dire details involving comfort foods did more harm than good, because (regardless of fact accuracy and well-intended truths) it robbed the partakers of the enjoyment of doing what wasn’t necessarily wise, or profitable.

And that’s about all my 15 hour post, And The Winner Is … Not Me, accomplished. It exposed something that everyone probably knew, but no one wanted to admit, because the happy habit was universally shared, and the group addiction did no harm.

I was wrong.

I apologize.

I took the long way down a wary road best navigated by denial, when only the end result was required reading.  That, in essence, is this:

The finest award a writer can be given is the feeling of joy that comes from writing a worthy book. It’s incomparable. It can’t be taken away. It’s what makes you a winner.

And, should your book receive a good review, or is given as a gift, or mentioned to friends, or ordered by a library, or suggested to a book club, or introduced at meetings, or touted at functions, or buzzed about on buses, or pondered by strangers, or discussed by family members, or serves as dining repartee  — well, that’s the mustard on the hot dog, the jelly on the Jif,  the sun in the sunny side up, and the icing on the donut.

Gobble, gobble.

#     #     #

Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine 2015


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Me, Minus 33 Years

Me, Minus 33 Years

My face popped up in the right hand corner of the screen as guest anchor, Peter Jennings, introduced the closing story on ABC World News Tonight one Friday in 1981. I’d authored an oversized, limited edition reference book under the Americanized spelling of my last name and it somehow engendered enough interest to garner a mention on national television.

I look back at it as pure luck now because, as any author (past or present) will confirm, writing a book can be exhilarating — but marketing it is exhausting.

Back then, individualized press releases were expected to be composed and printed to accompany personally written letters, each snail-mailed at considerable expense to those listed in Editor & Publisher Yearbook nationwide. Even for a book as minor as mine, the effort required to sell it seemed mammoth compared to the time it took to write. That made getting featured during prime time on ABC with Peter Jennings equal to an eagle feather in a yarmulke.

The follow-up was a headline and shout-out in the Sunday New York Times — not by a book reviewer, but by the much respected and often feared antiques and arts columnist, Rita Reif. I’d caught a wave, did some appearances, signings, a few more interviews, and a stint on PM New York, all culminating in a monthly column syndicated in a dozen trade publications for a couple years. It was a flattering, generally enjoyable, often tiresome experience that I was grateful ended after it contributed to resurrecting a fad that others were tooth-and-claw dedicated to treating as a full time endeavor.

Because, regardless of how glamorous it may sound or look, that’s what even miniscule fame and fleeting fortune boils down to; an eagerness and need to become the product by foregoing (and oft times, forgetting) the person.

I was never willing to put anything before my personal life.

I’m still not.

Fast forward to the present when everyone can be an author, cyberspace has taken over the vast amount of book promotion, cable and YouTube have obliterated the allure of network news, and most the magazines and newspapers in which my name, or byline once appeared are history.

In a time when Amazon gives every author a one-time-only opportunity to write a description of one’s novel for access by book reviewers nationwide — and even after being reminded that the 25,000 word maximum description must entice those reviewers to choose my novel over all the other hundreds of cyberspace book releases bombarding them every week — I chose to submit just 35 words about Imogene’s Eloise in free verse form:

“This is a history you haven’t read elsewhere,
about people you don’t realize you know,
containing phenomena you’re unaware of,
within a love story you’ve never heard,
that has an ending you can’t possibly predict.”

Thank you, Peter Jennings.

And, rest in peace.

# # #

This essay is copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2014.

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DIVIDED WE (STILL) STAND

Ergo, E Q U A L I T Y

Ergo, E Q U A L I T Y

Gays are scary people.

Not the gay next door who provides for his parents and carpools his nieces to day care. Or the fellow who fixes my car. Or the lady who cuts my hair.

It’s only the media-hyped homosexual that makes me cringe and withdraw. Those clusters of erotic exhibitionists captured on camera for our viewing displeasure. Scurrilous straights cause me discomfort. But vulgar gays make me ashamed.

Harvey Fierstein has expressed impatience with people like me. He once called us “leeches” sitting silent on the sidelines while proud gays pave the way to equal rights for the majority of us “slackers.”

I like Harvey a lot. I admire and respect him for his courage and integrity. I think he’s a superb actor and writer and a fine role model. He gives gays spirit.

But I don’t think he understands that most gays don’t want to be enslaved by the duplicities of straight society. We don’t want to clone our ethics, or edit our emotions, or conform our lives to any corrupted concept of happily ever after.

If I could sit down with Harvey Fierstein, I’d tell him I’ve been hopelessly in love with the same woman for 43 years. But we won’t wed, not even though we work to support those who choose to. Not even if the Supreme Court makes marriage rights a reality.

Because, for most of my generation, love is our legacy. Not marriage. We aren’t joined by dowry, arrangement, prestige, or necessity. We aren’t bound by license, law, or nuptial contract. We don’t stay together for the sake of religion, parents, children, social stigma, economics, or expediency.

We’re connected only by love. Since time began, it’s has been the code of our culture. And, since love is holy, what we have is sacred.

So, I’d assure Harvey that – even though the alleged “gay agenda” seeks to stir us into the debauchery of that marriage melting pot – wedlock isn’t the priority of our majority.

It isn’t even our dream. Our culture is just more valuable, valiant, imaginative, romantic and hopeful than that.

I’d tell Harvey we dream of the day when gay men, who have the highest rate of disposable income in America, stop wasting their resources on purchasing the promise of eternal youth and utilize it to create safe havens in the heartland instead.

We imagine gay doctors, nurses, therapists and health care officials joining forces to build medical centers. Gay lawyers combining talents to establish legal firms. Gay singers and comedians backing gay-owned-and-operated restaurants and nightclubs. Gay athletes creating gay health complexes. Gay financiers building banks. Gay actors starting theaters. Gay educators forming charter schools. Gay religious leaders developing denominations that embrace gay people by interpreting ancient text in the spirit of divine law.

Our desire is to cultivate our culture, not to abolish it.

To elevate, not to assimilate.

To create, not to copy.

To lead, not to follow.

To record our history, not to erase it.

I’d question Harvey as to the purpose of new laws, when the constitutional law of equality has not yet been upheld for all Americans – guaranteeing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as inalienable.

I’d wonder aloud why we continue to chase after a society that doesn’t rise to the talent and tenderness of our own.

Why we insist on being accepted by those who haven’t earned our respect.

Why the blessing of love isn’t regarded as its own reward.

And why we must diminish the sanctity of ourselves by kowtowing to those who quietly curse us.

Finally, I’d extend my arms in friendship to Harvey Fierstein, asking his pardon on behalf of all (perceived) leeches marching proudly, quietly, differently, but wholeheartedly beside him.

Because I think he understands we hold these truths to be self-evident:

That cowards follow the crowd.

That courage follows the heart.

That virtue makes equality inevitable.

And, that straights are scary people – too.

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This freshly edited, updated essay by Marguerite Quantaine first appeared in the St. Petersburg Times nine years ago. (Copyright by Quantaine © 2004 • 2013)

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