|In 1979, as my real estate career first
began, I noted the discomfort my sexual orientation generated from some
colleagues. Taking the lead from a friend in San Francisco's gay marching
band, I became one of the founding members of the New York Gay Community
Marching Band, seizing an opportunity to dispel the negative stereotypes
too often associated with lesbians and gay men. As the band's General
Manager, dressed daily in a businessman's suit, I booked the concert
halls, and ordered the banner and bass drum to be inscribed with the
band's logo. While no one ever turned away our business, seeing "gay" in
our title almost always turned heads. My pioneering service as a gay
role model soon became more fulfilling than my modest performance on
That year, the gay community's march to commemorate the Stonewall riot was ten years old, and the angry slogans were wearing thin. As the band's delegate to the march committee, I suggested a new tone; make it a parade instead of a protest. The band would be pleased to participate, and an air of celebration might even attract politicians to the march some day. My suggestion was met with fury, but as I lobbied for weeks with other delegates, many within the committee eventually came to agree with me. In our first New York outing, the band was invited to lead the parade! When some bar owners even organized a collection and presented us with our color guard, I recognized that a new grass-roots coalition had emerged, and the added publicity in gay clubs helped our ranks grow.
In December 1980, I produced the first Openly Gay event at Lincoln Center in New York City. By presenting the gay band in an unusual forum, the legitimacy of Lincoln Center, the local press and politicians found a positive new image of gays and lesbians on which to focus.
Using my personal bank account as collateral (since Lincoln Center management looked dubiously at a check from a Gay Marching Band), I organized the marketing efforts, negotiated the Union contracts, co-ordinated ticket sales, and played to a sold-out house. (For the record, there were 33 Broadway shows competing for our audience that evening.) The evenings proceeds were sufficient to reimburse me and put the band solidly in the black. Moreover, my brief pitch for donations during a set-change enabled the band to purchase two costly new tubas, and one patron donated a used clarinet. After our Lincoln Center debut, we were invited back to perform in Lincoln Centers outdoor Bandshell the following summer, and received an award for our guest appearance in Provincetown's July 4th parade.