Thursday, October 24, 2013

Strangers in the Night

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, August 2013

How many of you have searched for "Mr. Perfect" (or "Mrs. Perfect") in dark, smoky bars?  Of course I'm referring mainly to my gay brethren.  Maybe some of my straight friends and followers have also ventured out in the dark, murky recesses of the nightlife searching for love in all the wrong places.  

I plead guilty.  Like other young gay men of the early Sixties, just when the criminalization of gayness was slowly being lifted, I too migrated towards the innards of the big city (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in my case) searching for my Prince Charming.  




When I got out of the Army in January of 1963, instead of returning to my hometown of Downingtown, Pennsylvania I made the move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I didn't have a job but I did have a friend name Sal who I had met when I was stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland.  Sal was a cook in the Air Force.  Sal was gay.  No, we didn't have a relationship but we were good friends.


My friend Sal De Rosa in front of my locker at Ft. Meade, Maryland - 1962

Sal's four year enlistment in the Air Force ended a few months before my three year enlistment in the Army.  He suggested that I move to Pittsburgh.  He told me that Pittsburgh had a gay sub-culture in the city.  I was intrigued.  Downingtown of course had no gay "sub-culture" (are you kidding)?


"Shadyside" - the neighborhood where I had a first floor one room efficiency furnished apartment in which I shared a bathroom with four other apartments - only $8.00 a week!

So I moved to Pittsburgh.  I got a job. $250 a month as a night auditor at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel.  I was making $338 a month as a Specialist 5th class in the Army, plus I had my food and board supplied.  At $250, quite a come down.  I found a one room, furnished efficiency apartment at $8.00 a week.  I was paid twice a month; on the 15th and 30th.  I barely had enough for food and rent.  In fact, I really didn't have enough for food.  I certainly didn't have enough money to buy film for my camera which is why I have no photos for that three month period in my life.


The Golden Triangle - where I worked when I lived in Pittsburgh early 1963

Sal took me to my first gay bar.  This bar was up the fire escape (metal steps) at the back of a local bar in the old steel town of Clairton, Pennsylvania. I may have written about this before (my "first bar") so bear with me folks. Clairton, the setting for the movie "Deer Hunter."  Clairton, the city whose nickname is the "Prayer City".  Yep, that's where I came out folks.  



Clairton, PA - my "coming out" town - 1963

Later my friend Sal took me to a gay bar (the A.V.A.) in downtown Pittsburgh.  Long story short, I didn't meet Prince Charming.  I was so freaked out about the guys who I met who kept trying to get me into their beds.  No emotion, all physical.  I wasn't going there, not ready for it.


Howard Aiken, on of my Pittsburgh friends during his visit to my Coatesville, PA apartment 1963 - after I left Pittsburgh and returned to eastern Pennsylvania - my other friend Ed is to the right - Ed and I are still in touch - Howard and Sal and both gone now

The first guy I met in Pittsburgh was a former Ice Capades skater named Joe Labriola (I can use a full name her because there must be at least a dozen "Joe Labriolas in Pittsburgh).  The photo of Joe below is the only one I have of him, it was taken in Mexico City during one of his Ice Capades engagements.  


Joe Labriola in Mexico City - 1962

Joe was a nice enough guy and of course tremendously good-looking but I just wasn't ready for the physical aspect of Prince Charming (this was a LONG TIME ago after all).  Joe and I slept in the same bed (with his Mother in another bedroom yet) but nothing happened.  I was just too freaked out.  

I eventually left Pittsburgh and returned home to Downingtown, still looking for Mr. Perfect.  It took quite a while to redefine who Mr. Perfect was in my world.  

To be continued.  


Mr. Perfect waiting for me - 2013



18 comments:

  1. oh lawdy YES; who DIDN'T go "looking for luv in all the wrong places" in the 70s and 80s? and we didn't worry about nasty diseases either. yep, BTDT.

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    1. Oh God you got that right Anne Marie!

      Ron

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  2. as always a good read!

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    1. Thank you Roger. You're encouraging me to write again. :0

      Ron

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  3. Ron

    I'm sure we shuffle by great (nice) people in our everyday circumstances - but there's no way to know who or how to connect. Sometimes I may overhear a good conversation - a chance to meet some interesting and good individuals - but it's not easy to simply step in. While there are so many services and technologies that now can help us meet people - there's still something magical in finding the one that clicks.

    Pat

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    1. Pat,

      Very well said. One wonders how many missed opportunities there are that we miss the connection (love) of our lifetime by mere chance. Those of us who are fortunate enough to find that perfect match are indeed the recipients of magic. I consider myself among those fortunate few.

      Ron

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  4. Another fascinating post with terrific photos! Hell, I've spent my enitre life looking for Mr. Perfect. I've found him dozens of times.......only to realize that it wasn't love, but merely lust.
    The greatest love of my life was a pianist named Greg (in California). Our relationship was absolutely perfect (perhaps because we were both musicians?). His evil, wealthy, and highly influential mother did everything possible to destroy us. Ironically, Greg is now dead.....and his mother is still alive, probably in her 90's.

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    1. Thank you Jon. I spent many, many years in many dark and smoky bars looking for Mr. Right. I even spent some time at other places of lesser repute I am ashamed to admit. Never found him. And yet, a few months ago, when I least expected it.....there he was out of no where. So my advice to you is never, but never give up. When you least expect it............it will happen.

      Ron

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  5. It is fascinating history to read of things from this era. It seems so long ago compared to what kids do and not do these days.

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    1. Oh Dr. Spo, I've hardly scratched the surface of my history. Believe me. But this is a G rated blog so I don't dare to delve any further into my murky past. Suffice it to say one can imagine and then add more and you'll come close to my lifetime search for Mr. Perfect which has finally ended. Better late than never I say!

      Ron

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  6. Ron,

    How in the world can you remember how much money you made in the 60s??? !!!

    :-)

    -Andy

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    1. Oh Andy, I remember how much I made at each step along the way. First paying job .55 cents an hour cleaning offices. Job after Pittsburgh as an accounts payable clerk at Lipsett Steel, $80 a week. First job at Girard Bank, $70 a week. And I can go on. I never made a whole lot of money ($11.25 an hour now) so maybe that is the key to my fantastic memory salary wise.

      Ron

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  7. Nice of you to share some of your past memories with us. You knew some gorgeous men.
    I met Mr. Right once in my life in 1985 at the Armory in Atlanta Ga. We lived together for 6 years until he passed away at age 37 in 1991. Haven't met anyone like him since and don't think I ever will. Like Jon's experience above his mother was a pain in the ass too.

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    1. Stan,
      I do have to say I did know some gorgeous men (and still do). I've been very lucky in that respect. However, it has been rare that the physical beauty has matched the emotional. Now it has. And it is wonderful!

      I'm glad you had a chance to experience a Mr. Right. All of us should experience that reason for living at least once in our lifetime.

      Ron

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  8. Ron- I read you every day. Love your humor, wit and insight. So....your Canadian friend is Mr. Right i take it? How does Bill feel about that? Not being snarky....seriously...just curious. I would feel jealous if my spouse called someone other than me there Mr/Mrs Perfect. I admire your truthfulness so i know you will give me an honest answer. Thanks for writing this blog....i check it every day.

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    1. Vicky,

      You are very perceptive. A quick answer to your question, Bill is find with me having a "friend" as I have been fine with Bill having a friend. Bill and I will always be together, that has always been our understanding from Day One. I don't write about it our situation in my blog because too many people wouldn't understand it and I don't want to take the time to explain it to others who have a different mind set. We're not swingers, never have been nor will be. That just isn't the way we have lived our lives. But our understanding when I moved in with Bill back in 1965 was that jealousy would never play a role in our relationship and it hasn't. Have there been "times" that things got a little rocky? Oh sure but our love for one another has never wavered and never will as long as we're both alive. Bill and I are different in so many way except for our love for one another. However, when I find someone who has a lot in common with me, I go with it. Bill has done the same in the past. This is what works for us. I understand that it would not for others but that is their problem, not ours.

      I am happy when Bill is happy and he feels the same way about me. I feel very fortunate that I have met someone with whom I have a lot in common. Especially at this time in my life when I thought I was wrapping things up. Not so. And I am very happy, not only for me but for my friend from Canada and for Bill. But what really amazes me is that after all these years (almost 72 years) I have found someone who I have so much in common. This is wonderful.

      Thanks for asking. Again, you are very perceptive. I commend you Vicky.

      Ron

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  9. Ron,

    I will make no assumptions and make no comment until I read chapter two of this.

    Lar

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    1. You're a wise man Lar.

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