#ThrowbackThursday “Spring Fling ’86” The Birth of Penguin Place. (The William Way LGBT Community Center)

In 1986, I had the pleasure of working with some very special members of Philadelphia’s LGBT community to produce a “Spring Fling” fundraiser for what was to become Penguin Place. At the time, ours was a Community Center without walls.

Penguin Place 1

Spring Fling was held at the Mask and Wig Club (located on south Camac St.) I will never forget the Spring Fling or the months of planning that led up to it. Each of us made a special contribution. We had battling DJs, planned “spontaneous” entertainment that seemed to manifest out of nowhere (think “flash mob” but with jugglers, magicians, and musicians), and brilliant slide show presentations that were revealed on a rear projection screen behind a beautifully painted stage backdrop.

I was working as an AV technician at the time so my contribution was the rear projection screen, the slide projectors, lenses, and animation fader which I borrowed from work.

I have always regretted that I didn’t get to know Bill Way better. In our short friendship, he was very supportive and encouraged my creativity.

Shortly after Spring Fling, I left Philadelphia for a new job out west. By the time I returned, Bill had died. Penguin Place was a reality and had a permanent facility just two blocks north of the Mask and Wig Club. The New organizers had taken Way’s dream to the next level and was serving the community.

That the William Way LGBT Community Center has been in it’s permanent home at 1315 Spruce St. for nearly two decades is a testament to the work and dedication of the community.

I think about William Way and that odd bunch of people who inspired me to get involved in my community. It was a very brief moment in my life but it reflects the very best of the LGBT community. As we just saw with Marriage Equality, when we work together the possibilities are endless.

Post Cards from the In-Laws: or (What are you trying to say?)

My in-laws went to California for a wedding and sent this postcard.

Postcard from mom frontPostcard from mom black out

And no… it wasn’t a “same gender” wedding! 😁


This postcard brings up a few questions.

  1. Did they leave the wedding to tour Alcatraz?
  2. Are they comparing marriage to maximum security imprisonment?
  3. And what are they implying by, “You guys would have loved San Francisco”?

What are they trying to say? I’m so confused. 😛


Actually, my in-laws have accepted me into their family. To them, I’m not just my other half’s “friend”. They recognize that we are two men in love. They just don’t talk about it, which is why this postcard is so funny to me.  😊

The Wanamaker…er…Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Macy_'s AdIt’s that time of year again…

Walk into Macy’s at 13th and Market Streets (formerly John Wanamaker’s department store) from November 28 through December 31 and you’ll see crowds of people standing in the grand court staring upward at the now famous Christmas Light Show.

Yes, that’s Julie Andrews you hear.

I remember seeing the original show for the first time as a child. I could not have been more than 3 or 4 years old. The happy music, blinking lights and dancing water fountain seemed like magic to me. My grandmother then took me a few blocks east to Gimbel’s department store for a walk through the Christmas village and ultimately, a visit with Santa Claus.

Christmas4a1

Christmas 1967 (I was two)

I thought it would be interesting to compare the Wanamaker’s and Macy’s productions. While I like the updated version, I do miss the dancing water fountains.

The original John Wanamaker’s Christmas Light Show (archival recording 1983)

The Philadelphia John Wanamaker’s department store premiered their iconic Christmas Light Show in 1955. The show, a large music and light display several stories high, is viewable from several levels of the Philadelphia landmark. Its popularity as a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike ensured a continuous run, even after the building changed ownership from Wanamaker’s to Lord & Taylor, and now Macy’s. The show was narrated for decades by Philadelphia’s own John Facenda, locally known for reporting the news on radio and television, as well as nationally as the voice of NFL Films. Various announcers narrated the show between 1995 and 2005. Beginning in 2006, under Macy’s, Julie Andrews became the show’s narrator.

In 2007, the entire Christmas Light Show was completely modernized and rebuilt by Macy’s Parade Studio on new trusses with lighter materials and LED lighting. In 2008, a new and bigger Magic Christmas Tree with LED lights debuted. However, due to safety concerns and logistical issues, the dancing water fountains were retired and will not return.


 

John Wanamaker Christmas Show from the 1980’s.



 

The Updated Macy’s Christmas Light Show (2013)

“The updated holiday show, titled “Christmas Pageant of Lights,” features narration by the actress Julie Andrews” –  via hdampf007

According to Friends of the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s website, the light show program is as follows…

Greg Sonsini has compiled a list below of music used in the Light Show. Help is requested in finding the artists of those works not yet identified. Please e-mail us at execdirec@wanamakerorgan.com if you can add details.

  1. Opening fanfare during John Facenda’s/Julie Andrews’ introduction: Provenance unknown.
  2. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite-specifically “Overture,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Closing Waltz,” played during the Nutcracker storyline. Album unknown.
  3. “In The Clock Store” by Charles Orth (1893), which is played during the Clock segment.  The version used in the Light Show comes from an album titled “The Sound Of Musical Pictures” (1960).  It was arranged by Ralph Hermann and played by the Medallion Concert Band. Walt Disney adapted the piece for one of his Silly Symphonies in 1931. You may here it on YouTube here.
  4. “Alpine Sleigh Ride” by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra, played during the Snowflake sequence.
  5. “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, later replaced by “The Rudi Bear Song” (part of a Teddy Bear promotion), played during the candy cane, toy soldier and toy drum segment.
  7. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by an unknown artist played during the Santa Express Train segment.
  8. “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  9. A snippet of “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” movie soundtrack, played during the fading of the snowmen.
  10. “O Tannenbaum” by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra played during the final lighting of the entire board. This was replaced in 1988 by “Deck the Halls” by an artist that I have not been able to identify. The arrangement is by Carmen Dragon and has been adopted for the Wanamaker Organ (with grateful assistance from Mr. Dragon’s daughter) by Peter Richard Conte.

 

Christmas ButtFor more information, see the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website.

You can find some interesting archival photos from Temple University

Also visit U Wish U NU

 

 

Dear LGBTQIA…BCDEFG Community,

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex… I’m confused. Is the A for Ally or Asexual?

Can we please do something about this ever expanding alphabet soup of an acronym that we have come to embrace? It’s getting a little confusing and frankly, a little ridiculous. Seriously, every time I turn around it seems like we’ve tacked on another letter! I understand that it’s all part of the inclusiveness that our community is supposed to be embracing — and that’s a beautiful thing — but all it really does is confuse everyone except for those whose letter is represented.

How about choosing one all-inclusive word to encompass everyone? I liked gay but it’s become synonymous with homosexual men. So, it isn’t really all-inclusive anymore.

“Sexual minority” is all encompassing, though probably a little too clinical. You could maybe shorten it to the “SM” community but apparently, there already is an SM community.

Way back in the 1990s, some of the kids reclaimed “queer” but that word still holds negative connotations to me. It’s just as bad as that six letter F word. No, we need something optimistic, something bright, something trendy and cool. Like… The Rainbow Community!” …No? You don’t like it? To be honest, neither do I. It brings to mind Rainbow Brite, My Little Pony, or worse… the Smurfs! Come to think of it, Papa Smurf does have that ‘daddy bear’ vibe. He’d probably fit right in at your friendly neighborhood leather bar.

The thing is, members of the LGBTQIA community come from all walks of life. Every ethnicity and socioeconomic background is represented within our community. We are a microcosm of the world! As such, each subgroup needs to be represented so that young LGBTQIA people don’t feel isolated within their own communities. It’s simpler than it sounds. Growing up gay, lesbian, or trans* can be a very lonely thing. Isolation leads to depression. Depression often leads to suicide. When you recognize the importance of representation, suddenly the alphabet soup doesn’t seem so bad.

So, I guess I can live with the ever expanding, all inclusive, acronym that has come to represent our equally varied and colorful community.

parada gay

 

They say variety is the spice of life.

It certainly makes life more interesting.

Happy Pride Month Everybody!

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

So here it is, another Mother’s Day. One day out of the year when we say, “Hey thanks mom. Sorry for the temper tantrums, the dirty laundry, the million dishes, and the years of heartache. Today, families everywhere treat their moms to breakfast in bed, brunch, or dinner reservations. Little kids present hand drawn cards that mothers with cherish forever, and fathers give kisses, flowers and boxes of chocolates — and those dainty, ill-fitting, single-use pieces of silken fabric that mom will “save for a special occasion” that she knows will never come.

This one day out of the year is spent honoring the woman who did the best she could to ensure that you would succeed.

I want everyone to hold onto the spirit of this day when they go about their daily business. I want people to remember their mothers every time they interact with women. Every single man needs to treat every single woman with the same respect that every mother deserves.

If your mother was more Joan Crawford than June Cleaver, I feel for you. I don’t mean to suggest that you treat women as you would your own Mommie Dearest. Just follow the golden rule. Treat people (women too) the way you want to be treated.

Every faith in the world has it’s own version of the golden rule. Why then do we treat each other like shit?

If you still have trouble figuring it out, pretend your mother is in the room. If you wouldn’t say it or do it in front of your mother, then you probably shouldn’t be saying or doing it.

And a very happy Mother’s Day to all the unconventional mother figures out there. Single dads and LGBT parents need love too. 🙂

 

Dear 16 year old self;

I realize you know everything about everything, so I’ll make this brief.

  1. Be true to yourself. You may not believe it now, but you are one hell of a kid. You’re definitely smarter than what most people give you credit for. You should be proud of that.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of what you’re going through right now is small stuff. Enjoy yourself. That’s what being a teenager is all about.
  3. Try not to take any undue risks. Remember how I said you’re smarter than what most people give you credit for? Well, if you pay attention to that little voice in the back of your mind, you’ll be just fine.

Oh. One last thing. When you get older, there’s gonna be this thing called the internet. It’s gonna be huge! It’ll be a great outlet for creativity. But please, please, please, please, PLEASE try to come up with a user I.D. that’s easier to understand than ADignorantium! I mean, seriously… What the hell were you thinking? 😛

Saying Goodbye To A Dear Friend.

I had intended a Friday post about my recovery from lithotripsy, which is progressing smoothly and without complications. Unfortunately, Thursday morning I received incredibly sad news. A very close friend lost her battle with uterine cancer. I am heart broken by the loss and angry at the circumstances around which she died. The rest of my day was spent in a fog. After not being able to sleep, I found it helpful to just start writing. The following unorganized mess is more therapy for me than anything else.

In the years that my other half and I have been living on this little South Philly block, we’ve established close friendships with our neighbors. With a few exceptions, we look out for one another.

I met Fran through a friend and neighbor who lived two doors down. She was moving onto our block. With her sharp wit and wicked sense of humor, Fran fit right in. She was the kindest and most generous soul I have ever had the privilege to know. That’s not hyperbole. There was nothing Fran would not do to lend a hand to anyone in need. If it was within her power, it was done.

First Friday Sushi Lunch

A perfect example of our First Friday Sushi events. 🙂

My friendship with Fran developed slowly. We bonded over our Italian heritage, and gastronomic pleasure, which included first Friday lunches with our friend Scott. I’ve often bored you with pictures of sushi and sashimi. Fran was a vegetarian, but that didn’t prevent her from enjoying her sushi. 🙂  She and I had an ongoing dialogue about ways to recreate meat-free versions of childhood dishes. It wasn’t uncommon to see either of us carrying plates of food from one house to another. Fran was the inspiration for some of my favorite epicurean experiments.

About eighteen months ago, Fran began to experience pain and bleeding. She was in her sixties so menstruation was out of the question. After a few months of doctors and tests and more doctors and even more tests, it was determined that Fran had stage 3 uterine cancer. It was emotionally crushing.

Our monthly lunch dates continued even as Fran started chemotherapy, but tapered off as some of her experimental treatments took their toll. She was listening to advice from conflicting sources, and people with no medical training who claimed a certain food, vitamin, or magic root was a cancer cure. She went gluten free, tried a macrobiotic diet, and went to extremes to find and eat only organic fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, she was asking Scott to pick up bagels from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Now, let me stop here for a minute and assure you that I am in no way blaming Fran for her illness or worse, her death. That would be absurd and cruel. I am Pro-Choice. Being pro-choice means allowing a person autonomy. I’m angry because there is so much misinformation being disseminated out there. She was scared. She was reaching for anything that might give her hope. I feel, however incorrectly, that Fran was taken advantage of. I  mentioned the Dunkin’ Donuts because Fran needed to get food into her body. When you’re perpetually nauseous, any food is better than nothing. We encouraged her to eat whatever she could keep down. You’d be surprised at some of the odd things she craved. Fran had an affinity for pickled cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone. We asked if she might not be pregnant. {:-)

Last summer, Fran found out about a Vitamin C therapy. It’s an alternative cancer treatment that involves massive doses of vitamin c administered intravenously. Since it could be administered while a patient was also undergoing chemo, Fran signed up. The treatments were hell. Chemo was bad enough, but on the days she received the vitamin C, she was in bad shape. It often took two days for her to recover from the therapy. By January, the oncologist was refusing to give her chemo because she was too weak. The best they could do was rehydrate her with saline and send her home. The vitamin C had done more harm than good. It was clear that Fran’s time on Earth was limited.

During the worst of her illness, it was Scott who did most of the heavy lifting. When Fran needed something, it was Scott she called. Scott taxied her to doctors, treatments, and trips to the grocery store.  Fran’s illness took it’s toll on him. Her death hit him hard. He’d been through this once before when longtime friend and neighbor Mary Ann died just a few years ago. This time was worse because he and Fran were real close.

Fran was rushed to the ER Tuesday night. She was in pain and having trouble breathing. She was admitted to the hospital, where they treated her pain. There was nothing more they could do. Her siblings took shifts sitting with her in the hospital room. Fran passed away 1:00 am Thursday morning. Her brother and one of her sisters was in the room with her.

There’s going to be a viewing next week, followed by a Wiccan ceremony. Fran was a Wiccan high priestess. I’m so proud of her sister, who is Roman Catholic, for adhering to Fran’s wishes.

I’m not sure how to wrap this meandering mess up, but I suspect you will all understand. This past year has been a rough one. There’s been enough sickness in our little burg. So you’ll forgive me if I tend toward the ridiculous sometimes. It’s a hell of a lot better than dwelling on the sadness. Besides, I’d much rather remember the happy, joyful soul that was Franny T.