Within the last two months as many of my closest friends have died, Joel Strack and Ben Lane. The former’s passing came with the gift of a month of hospice care which afforded his friends the opportunity to reminisce about days long gone, when we had more hair, less excess weight, and our futures seemed boundless. It also granted his family time to see firsthand their beloved’s impact on Central Florida. With the latter’s passing, we were not so fortunate.
I will always remember my friend with red hair — not because of his red hair, or because he could be the most infuriating person I ever knew at times, or even because he was the first activist I ever knew; but because he is the reason I’m a whole person.
Harry P. Leu Gardens, 2019.
The two groups cleared a path down the center of the ballroom for the guest of honor and his court to make their grand entrance. Members of the Orlando Gay Chorus occupied half the room donning rainbows, kilts, and a requisite drag queen or two. And across the vacant center aisle, equally as festive, present and former pixie-dusted Disney entertainment employees mingled in wait. The line of demarcation was much less Jets versus Sharks in nature and more a function of an eclectic mix of people cut from a wide swath of humanity preparing for the unexpected.
One of my favorite gifts is a rather weighty and sizable prop plane ornament, given to me ten years ago by Joey M., a then nine-year-old fellow actor in New York’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular. He bestowed me with this memento as a final gift during our annual Secret Santa gift exchange. He gave it to me as a reminder of a specific moment in the show, but it has come to symbolize a greater gift I was given by him and so many others. One I try to share as often as possible.
December 24, 2004
I sat alone in my room at the Doubletree hotel in Boston and ended a phone call with my family in Orlando. I summoned as much cheer as possible from my aching body to wish them a merry Christmas Eve. I didn’t fool them at all.
After reading the hundreds of birthday wishes you guys left on my Facebook wall last week in honor of my fifty-fifth birthday, I felt very much like George Bailey at the end of the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Thanks you guys for taking the time to stop by my page to post succinct “happy birthday” greetings, animated GIFs, videos, artwork, and a few pictures from back in the day when I had a much smaller waist and a lot more hair.
I’m a 62-year-old heterosexual male who grew up in the South with all the beauty and values southern living afforded. It wasn’t exactly a “Gone with the Wind” existence, but there were clear lines drawn between accepted and unaccepted behavior and right and wrong. Most of those distinctions were moral ones I learned according to a Christian upbringing which I needed to operate successfully in society, but when it came to Blacks and gays, there was an inherent and practiced prejudice taught by society and not by the Bible. I have spent most of my adult life discarding or un-learning the negative, racist ideas instilled in me from a young age. however, some of those beliefs still are attached to my core and may stay until I am gone from this life.