by Fielding Goodfellow
There was nothing we could have done about it. Even if there was, I’m not sure that any of it would have turned out differently. The truth has always been indifferent, a purely subjective interpretation of what we believed was going on around us. We were all just living a lie, really. Floating in a cesspool filled with symbols and slogans, and horrors and heroes created to convince us that we were sliding down a rainbow into the proverbial pot of gold. It all seemed a bit psychotic, really, but I don’t suppose there was ever any other choice. It didn’t matter what we believed. It never really did. We had been held captive for so long by a history that kept repeating itself over and over again, that no one noticed someone had left a window open.
It was a time when the White Anglo Saxon Protestant scourge choked the very life out of the city. When the violations of basic human rights perpetrated in the name of morality and God went unpunished. It was a time of raids on bath houses and gay clubs, and gay bashing, which seemed to be an almost daily occurrence was usually ignored or dismissed. George Wohlinski was gay. Not that I minded really, but he was the first gay guy I was ever friends with. He was surprisingly brave, openly reveling in his sexuality when being gay was not only sinful and shameful, but also illegal. George and I managed record stores for a small national chain, and we became friends. He introduced me to Husker Du, Japan, and The Cocteau Twins, while I offered him The Tubes, Sparks, and The Psychedelic Furs. Several times a week we would hang out at the place he shared with his partner, Paul in The Junction, listening to music and getting totally fucked up on one kind of hallucinogen or another. Paul was all right. but I suspect that he would have been much happier as an accountant. He was quiet, somewhat aloof, and eccentrically anxious.
We weathered the storm of the Madonna ‘True Blue’ release, when hoards of acne riddled, semi pubescent, pseudo adolescent mutant Madonista’s anxiously waited in line for hours, overwhelmed by the promise of getting their grubby little hands on a copy of the overplayed “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Live To Tell”. We sold out that day, and after closing, we met at The Imperial for beer and food, and then made our way to George and Paul’s place for peyote and a listen or two of the new Eurythmics album.
Along for the ride was George’s friend, Andrew, who was a little boisterous and exuberant in his presentation. He was what was referred to back then as a flamer. He was over the top with a need for constant attention, but he was harmless really, posing a danger only to himself. We were pretty messed up, when Paul became concerned over the impending giant pigeon attack that was evolving on the balcony. Andrew was dressed to kill in a pleated, silk little black dress with translucent cap sleeves that made him look exactly like Grace Kelly in ‘Rear Window’. “He’s a transvestite.” George said. “I guess I should have mentioned it before.”
“That’s okay.” I said. “But hell, he looks like Grace Kelly.”
“I know.” George agreed. “They could be sisters.”
“How do I look?” Andrew asked as he twirled around the living room.
“Sensational.”, Paul said. He was right. The guy in drag was beautiful. Andrew left as Andrea, heading out into the city streets in the hopes of meeting someone who would make him feel pretty while Paul, George and I continued to get wasted and turned our attention to Echo And The Bunnymen, As the peyote began to take hold, we all drifted into different worlds, sailing across dimensions and landing back on the couch in George and Paul’s living room to the sound of the telephone ringing. It was George who answered the phone, making his way past the gargoyles and the plant people who had invaded the apartment when we weren’t looking. Andrew had been hurt. He had been attacked on the sidewalk in front of The Selby Hotel, brutally beaten by a bunch of men who discovered that Andrea was really an Andrew. No one bothered to help him. He suffered serious injuries and needed emergency surgery. We took off like rockets to Toronto General and were greeted by several Police Officers who informed us that despite the small crowd that had been waiting in front of the Selby, there were no witnesses and there had no suspects. “It figures.” George said. “You have to get a license to hunt deer, but its open season on gays in this city.” George was right.
Andrew spent a few weeks in hospital and a stint in rehab but seemed to recover from his injuries although he had lost the sight in his left eye and now walked with a limp. He was scared a lot of the time, and felt uneasy going out unless one of his friends accompanied him. George became active in the Gay Rights movement and suffered his fair share of beatings. He was determined to continue the fight, and with the help of his family, he returned to school and obtained a law degree. He ran for office and acted as a City Councilman for several years while taking the battle through the courts and exacting many of the changes that enabled the gay community to live in peace and safety.
We remained friends for many, many years, and he continued to teach me tolerance, acceptance and compassion until he passed away from AIDS in 1994. Paul remained at his side until the end, and then moved to Key West a few years later and opened a small restaurant. Andrew spent several years in psychotherapy, and still works as a counselor at the Gay Men’s Resource Center that George helped to established. And me, well, I now live just blocks away from the gay village and have spent most of my adult life providing treatment and counseling to adolescents who have been the victims of abuse. I walk past the Resource Center several times a week, and each time I swear I can hear George’s voice reminding me that there is no greater sin than to deny a man the right to be loved.