|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.
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|