Transcript of Episode 17: Gym Rats, Circuit Boys, Papi Chulos...Which One Are You?

EPISODE 17: GYM RATS, CIRCUIT BOYS, PAPI CHULOS, FASHION QUEENS, AND BEARS, WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

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ANDREA: This is Writing Class Radio. I’m Andrea Askowitz your host and your teacher. If you get inspired by true, personal stories and want to learn a little about how to write your own, this is your podcast.

Today you’re going to hear from Bo. Bo’s story is about the time he got blocked from a 1-900 gay chat line.  Later in the episode I talk to Bo.  We met on Miami Beach to talk about his life now, 24 years after the incident he writes about. We talk about perspective and how sometimes it takes years to figure out that the way we thought or the things we did were totally fucked up.

WARNING: The story you’re about to hear contains explicit language, so if you’re listening while driving carpool, you might want to tune into FM radio and listen to something more appropriate, like Drake.

Bo: I moved to Miami in the early 90s and chose to live in the heart of the gay ghetto, South Beach.  I had grown up in a small southern town in the Bible Belt, and I wanted to live in a place where being gay wasn’t an issue; in South Beach being gay was celebrated. Within walking distance were gay clubs, gay restaurants, a gay gym and there were gay people everywhere.  But I soon learned that shared sexual orientation didn’t guarantee community.  While I had envisioned scintillating conversation with like-minded intellectuals, what I found were groups and cliques that I just didn’t fit into-gym rats, circuit boys, fashion queens, bears, papi chulos, club kids.

The ubiquitous handsome, muscle men with the chiseled bodies of Greek and Roman gods that one admired from afar quickly lost their allure when they opened their mouths and screamed “HEY GIRLLL!”

I wanted to work hard and have a career and here I was surrounded by people who were living for the moment.  So most weekends when others were out “partying,” one of my friends from home, Eric, would come over to watch TV.

In these pre-Internet days, I was amused by the late-night commercials for local “chat lines.”  A second-rate stripper-looking model preened on a sofa holding her telephone and tossing her hair.  She’d say, “Hi, I’m Amanda, and I just love to talk to hot singles in my area.  You never know who you might meet!”  The commercial ended with Amanda opening the door to a handsome guy carrying a bottle of champagne. And wouldn’t you know it, Miami Beach TV had a GAY version of this. A muscular guy holding a football said, “Hey guys, do you want to talk to hot men in your area?  Call the man to man chat line and talk to hot local guys…”  

Eric and I couldn’t believe that such a thing existed, so we dialed the number.  There was no ring, just a short pause, and then a thumping synthesizer beat.

A man’s voice spoke, not the jock carrying the football.  No, it was the voice I couldn’t bear…that GAY voice.  A very gay voice trying to sound masculine and it wasn’t working.  “Hi Guys, thanks for calling the Male Room, THE place to cruise for hot man on man action.  I’m Trevor, your cruise master…” This was the voice that made me ashamed to be gay; it was the voice that people in the straight world would hear and try to lump me into a category I didn’t want to be in.

Trevor explained that you could “cruise the ads” but to interact, you had to record a quick intro, hit the pound button, then you had 10 seconds to “tell the guys who you are and what you want!”  You could hit the pound key to move on, press one to send a private message, or star to connect live.  The “ads” shocked me.

BEEP.  “Larry: Hi guys, hot leather daddy in Wilton Manors looking for submissive guys who like discipline to come play in my sling!”  Oh that’s sick!… GROSS!

BEEP.  “Carlos in Hialeah. Latino thug looking to chill and smoke yerba, daleee!” Oh my God--Illegal Drugs!   

BEEP. “Arvin: I’m looking for hot, hot s-s-s-ex, only h-h-h-ottt ot guys with large ARG p-penises.”  Bless his heart, he has Tourettes.

BEEP. ”Devon bottom… I’m a hot masculine bottom looking for someone to come fill me with raw.”  Oh my GOD, in the midst of an AIDS epidemic?  

BEEP. “DL Brother, Yo hot body body brother on the DL looking for discreet men on the DL, hit me up.” I had recently learned that DL meant down low…oh no!  He’s cheating on his wife!

I found it horribly depressing that men all over South Florida were lying in their beds jacking off on this gay phone line.  Where were the book clubs?  Where were the professional networking associations?  The political discussion groups?  I didn’t want to be part of this parade of freaks... I didn’t want to be one of those gays—and I realized, I didn’t want THEM to be that kind of gay.  

I wanted so badly for gay people to be just like straight people, or my at the time idea of straight people—Ozzie and Harriet with a white picket fence.  Ozzie and Harriet were not into leather.  I wanted to jolt them out of this.  Eric and I discussed what the most jarring, un-erotic message I could leave and we decided I should use my preacher voice.

For my intro I sang a bar from the hymn “Jesus Saves” in a nasal, backwoods voice. “Jesus Saves” and then channeled the Baptist preacher from my grandmother’s church:  “Brothers, homosexuality is a SIN, an abomination to God, but Jesus died on the cross for you and if you repent, you can be saved from an eternity in hell.”  

It took no time for responses to come pouring in.

BEEP.  “Hey asshole, get  the fuck off this line!”

BEEP.  “Hey preacher, how big is your cock?”

BEEP.  “I’m gonna fuck you up the ass!”

Eric and I laughed hysterically.   I pretended this was a big joke, but on some level I felt like I was doing something more important. In the book Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield says he wants to be the catcher in the rye, to protect the children from going over the side of the cliff. I envisioned myself the gay catcher in the rye, keeping these gay people from doing dangerous things, sinister things.  I wanted to save them.

The next day, Eric came over again and suggested I continue my mission of “saving gay souls.”  I giddily agreed and dialed the number again.  Instead of the thumping disco beat greeting, I only heard Trevor’s voice in a loop.  “Sorrrrry guy, you’ve been blocked...Sorry guy, you’ve been blocked…

Those faggots!  They blocked me!

On Sunday, a group of us went to Eric’s for dinner and we told everyone about our weekend telephone calls. Everyone wanted to hear me do it, and Eric’s number wouldn’t be blocked. So we dialed.  

We heard “Bumpabumpabumpabump...Welcome to the male room, the place for men to cruise. This is Trevor the cruise master. Guys we have heard that there have been some Jesus freaks terrorizing people on the line and we just want you to know that we’ve taken care of that.  Happy cruising!

The room exploded with laughter.  

It would be many years before I would become comfortable enough with myself that I didn’t view people who were into different things a threat to me.

I realized that the message I’d been delivering them was not unlike the church messages I’d grown up with and had come to Miami to flee.

ANDREA:  Later in the show you’ll hear a conversation I had with Bo.  But first I want to tell you about our sponsor THE SANIBEL ISLAND WRITERS CONFERENCE, one of the best conferences in the world. I taught there last year and can’t believe my luck that I get to teach there again. What I love about this conference is there’s a total blending of students and teachers. It’s like a big party.

I sat down with Tom Demarchi the creator and director of the Sanibel Island Writers Conference to ask him why he thinks this conference is so great.

TOM DEMARCHI:  And I attribute all that praise and goodwill to the strength of our lineup. The people who came in and taught the workshops really bring their all every year.

I've just been really lucky in that the people that I enjoy reading and that I know have a good reputation also turn out to just be stand-up human beings.

ANDREA: Sanibel Island Writers Conference, A POWERHOUSE LINE UP of standup human beings INCLUDING: Richard Blanco, Joyce Maynard, Steve Almond, Darin Strauss, Karen Tolchin, Steven Elliot, and Sue Monk Kidd. Awesome, awesome storytellers and authors. And you can take classes with all of them. Including me.

November 3-6, 2016. It’s also really, beautiful, perfect beach weather.  Click the link on our website for more info. Register now before it sells out.

ANDREA: When Bo was 26 years old, he moved to Miami Beach from the deep South. He wanted to find a safe place to be gay.  Twenty-four years later, I sat down with Bo on Lincoln Road, which is the heart of Miami Beach.  We talked about coming out and being comfortable with himself.  I wanted to know what has changed.

ANDREA: We’re eating, so excuse the chew.  But um, we’re talking about coming out.

BO: I was probably about 32 and my mom came to Miami Beach for the weekend to visit me. I finally came out to her and she cried and was very upset but over the weekend she sort of seemed to come to terms with it.

At first she was like, “We can’t tell your daddy, it will kill him.”

My dad would see a billboard with a woman in a bikini “That’s an attractive looking young lady.” And look at me for a reaction. When he came to Miami he’d see all these gay guys. Two guys kissing, “Good God almighty, what the hell?” He was totally freaked out.

A: But that was before he knew.  That was before he knew that you knew he knew.

B: Exactly. But I think that was a genuine visceral shock reaction.

A: He had the reaction you had when you first saw them.

B: Kind of.  What I always didn’t like or what I was afraid of was that people would see people like that and put me in that category. That was always the issue I had. The fear that I had.

ANDREA:  Bo was still a kid when he moved to Miami Beach and called that hotline, trying to distance himself from the queeny gays.  

I get it.  When my mom first met Victoria, who is now my wife, she gave me a high five like a frat boy. I knew exactly why my mom did it. And I was like, BAM!

I think it’s pretty universal, especially when we’re young, to worry about what people might think of us based on the people we associate with.  And sometimes it takes writing a story to reveal to ourselves where we were and what we’re still trying to overcome.

Okay, back to Bo’s visit with his mom...

BO:  And then after a couple of days she realized that everybody else in my world, everybody else knew and she was like we can’t hide this from him, we have to tell him. And then she went home and told my dad, because I wasn’t going to tell him.

He called me a few days later and he was totally cool  and supportive and it ended up being a good thing.

ANDREA:  So look ok there’s two guys walking. One of them is wearing the typical beige pants. Right? The gay male uniform. Do you see that? two men?

BO: Yes.

ANDREA: Maybe those are gay guys, you think?

BO: Ahhhhh, probably. They look like kind of like a couple.

ANDREA: How do you feel when you see guys like that now?

BO: Now, I think how nice that they can be in a place they can walk around and nobody will bother them or harass them.

ANDREA: Now, if you saw the guy in the g string in the feathers at a gay pride parade or walking down Lincoln Road, how would you feel?

BO: I would not care that people see that and are going to think I’m like that because my perspective is totally different. I’ve grown up and I’ve matured and it’s not an affront.

A: When did that change? And how do you think that your perspective has changed?

B: Around the time of that story. I started realizing that probably a lot of those people that I saw as um, that i judged or whatever had gone through rough times themselves. As I got to know people, that contact with people who are different and understanding where they’re coming from. Kind of changed my…

A: So you made friends with the Hey Girls.

B: Yeh, and then just kind of becoming more comfortable with myself made me less predisposed to judging others or being threatened by their self expression.

ANDREA: I don’t think Bo would have been able to write this story 24 years ago without everyone thinking the story was mean. As it was, one woman in our class called him out for being homophobic. And you may also.  

I think the story could have been strengthened if Bo had made fun of himself as hard as he made fun of the papi chulos and the other gay characters he imitated.  When a narrator makes fun of him or herself it shows that he knows himself and it shows evolution. It shows there’s been a change in that character.

But what impresses me is Bo’s commitment as a writer to be true to his character then.  The story reflects the way he felt then. He’s able to tell it now because he knows NOW that what he did was a dick move.

I was thinking that just like Bo was on a mission to save the gay soul, I’ve brought it on myself to save the straight soul. I feel it’s my public duty to improve gay-straight relations.   

When we first moved into our house, we heard, that our neighbor didn’t like us because we were lesbians.  My neighbor’s housekeeper told our housekeeper.  So, instead of waiting for a welcome basket, I knocked on her door. I really thought that if she didn’t like gay people, she needed to meet me.  Like I would do her a favor and improve her life. I was sure she’d like me. So my whole family went door to door to meet the neighbors. Sebastian was in the stroller, Tashi was on a skateboard. Vicky even went along with it. I told her it was an American thing. And everyone was super nice except the woman next door who has a daughter, who was 12 at the time. When we came by, the daughter was “in the shower.”

Since then whenever i  go over there to bring cookies, I forget to wear shoes and a bra.   

Here’s your assignment:  Set a timer for ten minutes. No, set your timer for eleven minutes, just to be queer. That’s it, 11 minutes. All you have to do is write without stopping. Keep your pen moving or your fingers tapping.  

Also follow your mind. Go where it takes you. The thing about the prompts is they are just meant to get you started.  If what you write has nothing to do with the prompt, that’s okay. There’s no wrong way to do a prompt.

When the timer goes off, stop. Then read what you wrote into your voice memo on your phone and email it to us at info@writingclassradio.com

Some of your stories will end up right here on our show.

Here’s the prompt:  Everyone is hiding something. What are you hiding? In what way are you in the closet?

Writing Class Radio is produced by Diego Saldana-Rojas, Allison Langer, and me, Andrea Askowitz with editorial help from Alejandro Santiago and Claudia Franklin  NEW CUT heme music by Adriel Borshansky.  Additional music by Blue Jay. and Cat Cousteau. Links to all musicians below.

I want to thank all the musicians who donated their original music.

Writing Class Radio is recorded at the University of Miami School of Communication.

This episode is sponsored by Sanibel Island Writers Conference. Listen, this is such a good conference. I’ll be there. I hope you’ll be there too.

If you like Writing Class Radio, please rate us on iTunes. I just figured out how to do it from my iphone. You go to the podcast app. Search Writing Class Radio. Click on the big logo. Then click Review.  Did you get that?  If not, Google it and tell the world how great we are.

There’s more writing class on our website: writing class radio dot com.

Study the stories we study, listen to our craft-talks, follow our daily prompts and time yourself.  Then record what you wrote and send it in.

There’s no better way to understand ourselves and each other, than by writing and sharing our stories. Everyone has a story.  What’s yours?

Episode 17: Circuit Boys, Gym Rats, Papi Chulos, Fashion Queens, Bears...Which One Are You?

EPISODE 17: Circuit Boys, Gym Rats, Papi Chulos, Fashion Queens, Bears...Which One Are You?

LISTEN NOW!

This episode explores perspective, how sometimes it takes years to figure out that something you did or thought was totally fucked up. Bo tells his story about getting blocked from a 1-900 gay hotline. But the story is really about how it took him years to become comfortable enough with himself to stop judging the free expression he witnessed among the gay people he first encountered on Miami Beach 24 years ago.  Bo came from the deep South in search of freedom from oppression. He wanted gay book clubs and stimulating political conversations with other like-minded gay men. But what he found instead were all kinds of people who fit into categories he describes as circuit boys, gym rats, fashion queens, papi chulos, and bears. He felt like he didn’t fit in. He didn’t want to fit in. But when Bo called the gay hotline to try to “save the gay soul” and made fun of it, he realized he was imparting the same hurtful and hateful church messages he came to Miami Beach to get away from.

Twenty-four years later, our teacher Andrea Askowitz sits down with Bo on Lincoln Road, the heart of South Beach to talk about what’s changed and how he changed. 

Andrea tells her own story about trying to “save the straight soul” when she finds out that her next door neighbor doesn’t like lesbians.  (Her neighbor’s housekeeper told Andrea’s housekeeper). So Andrea tries to make friends with her.  When that backfires, Andrea brings cookies to her neighbor but “forgets” to wear shoes. And a bra. 

Set your timer for 11 minutes to be queer. Here’s the prompt: Everyone’s hiding something. What are you in the closet about? Go.

Record what you wrote on the voice memo of your phone and send it to info@writingclassradio.com

Original music in this episode is by Cat Cousteau and Blue Jay. Theme music by  Adriel Borshansky.  

This episode is sponsored by the Sanibel Island Writers Conference, created by Tom DeMarchi, where there’s a powerhouse lineup including: Richard Blanco, Joyce Maynard, Steve Almond, Darin Strauss, Karen Tolchin, Steven Elliot, and Sue Monk Kidd. Awesome, awesome storytellers and authors. And you can take classes with all of them. Including Andrea Askowitz.

November 3-6, 2016. It’s also really, beautiful, perfect beach weather.  Click Sanibel Island Writers Conference before it sells out. 

Why Did Inessa Enroll in Andrea's Writing Class?

By Inessa Freylekhman, a Writing Class Radio student

About 12 years ago, I saw Andrea Askowitz perform stories from her book, My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy on a stage in Hollywood, CA. I couldn’t stop laughing. How could anyone be so blunt publicly!?  I thought: I want to do that!

Years later, I got engaged and moved from Seattle to Miami.

I attended my first Lip Service event (where eight storytellers tell their true stories in front of an audience) and saw Andrea on stage again: all hair and charm and awkwardness. She asked the audience to submit stories for the next Lip Service, and I did.  My story was rejected, but with an encouraging note.  Andrea said she didn’t really know what I was trying to say, but that I should definitely submit again. I’d never thought about what I was trying to say. So, I enrolled in her memoir writing class. In class, I collaborate with like-minded individuals, process my emotions, and make sense of my life through writing and sharing stories. This class has helped me become a better observer and take things far less seriously. That makes life more bearable and funny.

When my relationship hit a roadblock, I wrote about it in class. Then I submitted my story to Lip Service and it got accepted! 

I performed on stage to a room of 600 people. I was terrified to talk about the most private part of my life in public, but afterward, I felt connected to the audience. I felt understood. 

 

Click here to buy  My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy

Click here for more information about Lip Service

allison langer

Allison Langer, MBA, travelled the States taking pictures, later worked for a ski photographer, then took pictures of her friends and their babies. This was the start of a 20-year photography business. She also taught high school photography and entrepreneurship. As her students wrote their business plans, she wrote hers to create a podcast about her writing class, which is now Writing Class Radio.

How a porno novella started Bo's writing career

A couple of years ago a good friend of mine was taking Andrea’s writing class and suggested I join. I asked, “Writing?  What could I possibly write about?”

“You’re always telling stories," he said. “Why not write them down?” 

I thought the extent of my writing had been college research papers and e-mails for work until I remembered Faye’s Fantasies, the porno novella I wrote in junior high.  

I was a scared, very closeted gay kid growing up in the Bible belt. Faye’s Fantasies featured my social studies teacher, Faye, and her gym teacher husband, Jerry. 

At the public library I had recently come across the classic sex manual from the late 60’s, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask.  I appropriated the more bizarre sexual behaviors for Faye and Jerry, who, in my book, engaged in those behaviors with the janitors and the cafeteria workers.

People laughed their asses off when they read it—it even brought me some new-found respect from a couple of school bullies.  But I soon realized that my book could fall into the wrong hands, and that I could get into BIG, BIG trouble, so one day I took it to the woods and burned it.  Not a trace was left, except its memory, which is brought up at my high school reunions.  

Faye’s Fantasies helped me express and cope with anger and frustration in a way that put me in the driver’s seat.  So I signed up for Andrea’s class, which turned into "Writing Class Radio."  

I know I’m no William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway, but I realize that I don’t have to be.  I just have to tell my stories.  Writing gives me a chance to step out of the everyday grind and tune into my own mind—my memories, my subconscious—and that’s valuable and therapeutic to me, and that's why I continue to do it.  It is also a lot of fun!

How did you get started?

 

allison langer

Allison Langer, MBA, travelled the States taking pictures, later worked for a ski photographer, then took pictures of her friends and their babies. This was the start of a 20-year photography business. She also taught high school photography and entrepreneurship. As her students wrote their business plans, she wrote hers to create a podcast about her writing class, which is now Writing Class Radio.

the big launch: live at last on itunes and stitcher

so, now that we’re live, i’ve sent emails to all my friends, clients and acquaintances  asking them to listen to our podcast. with each click, I asked myself, “will they feel sorry for me? will people care? will they want to listen to more?” i’ve said things about my mom that were not meant for her ears. they were meant for my class…for me, really, so i could understand how two people who love each other so much can infuriate each other so easily. i’ve made comments about motherhood. how draining and unfulfilling it can be. how most days i just want to run off and play tennis, windsurf, read, work! will people think i’m a shitty mom?

…so my mom is going to hear me say things like camel toe, braless, angry and they all refer to her. will she stop speaking to me? will the people we write about abandon us? i guess i’ll find out.

andrea, my co-producer and writing teacher, says that the job of a writer is to write without concern for what other people think. “write first and apologize later.”

so far, i have gotten some really positive feedback. my friend wendi said, “write a book. i think you are powerful and unique and many people could benefit from learning about you and your journey.” my friend michael said, “i’ve always admired you – smart, strong, fearless.” maybe my friends who wonder why i air my grief to the world are not commenting. to those people, I would say, (and I stole this from brene brown) “because the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live.”

 

everyone has a story. what's yours?

allison langer

Allison Langer, MBA, travelled the States taking pictures, later worked for a ski photographer, then took pictures of her friends and their babies. This was the start of a 20-year photography business. She also taught high school photography and entrepreneurship. As her students wrote their business plans, she wrote hers to create a podcast about her writing class, which is now Writing Class Radio.

production is a huge production

hey, it's allison, (i'm not a cap-user, so i hope that doesn't bug you....especially since this is a writing class and one would expect a producer and student to abide by the usual rules of writing) but i feel like it slows me down and my creativity gets blocked. this will bug andrea when she reads the blog, and she will try to convince me to change my ways, at least here, and we will discuss it over indian food and she will win. she always does. she is very convincing...and usually correct. If you are reading all this blah blah about caps, then i may have won this time!

it's been 6 months since andrea and I decided to create a podcast of our writing class. the pilot episode describes why i decided to enroll in andrea's very first writing class at miami-dade college, so i won't bore you with that. we used to play tennis, more before the podcast began occupying our free time, and she always won there too. she played at penn....maybe she deserves to win. but i love the challenge and we loved discussing our favorite things about class that week. we'd attempt to solve everyone's problems...including our own. the themes were universal, love, dating, death, work, and the students were so colorful. we wanted to share them with the world. 

so, 4 episodes in, we now realize that to produce a great podcast, it takes more than great content...it takes patience, more time in the day, a great team (which we have), a LOT of research, and listeners who love our show.

we want to hear from you, so listen to our pilot, which is up on our website, and tell us what you like/don't like/want to hear more of. the big launch on itunes is october 24th. itunes will publish all 4 episodes (if all goes well) with 8 expected in season 1.

we believe that everyone has a story. what's yours?

allison langer

Allison Langer, MBA, travelled the States taking pictures, later worked for a ski photographer, then took pictures of her friends and their babies. This was the start of a 20-year photography business. She also taught high school photography and entrepreneurship. As her students wrote their business plans, she wrote hers to create a podcast about her writing class, which is now Writing Class Radio.