Tina M White:Today is November 26th. This is Tina White, and I am talking
with Rosie Coates. Rosanna Coates formally, who was born in Macon County in
Franklin, North Carolina in what year?
Tina M White:1951, and we're here to talk about Rosie. Rosie, how would you
Rosie Coates:A multitasking individual that has a big heart and cares about all
people, but especially LGBT people. I just kind of try to live my life for the
greater good, and irrespective of who it is. When I try to help people I never
ask who they are, where they're from. I just want to help, and that's kind of
00:01:00the way I try to live my life.
Tina M White:How long have you lived in Asheville and what brought you here?
Rosie Coates:I've been here 37 years except for the three years I was in the
Army, but I still maintained my house here. What brought me here was I came to
teach. I taught one year at Hall Fletcher. It was an interim position for
someone that was pregnant, and then after that I decided not to teach anymore.
The enviroment was not really good for anybody that they even thought was LGBT
back in those days. That was about '79, '80, somewhere in there. And I just
decided I just didn't want to do it. It was a sense you were blacklisted, and
you were blacklisted if they even assumed, or thought you were. If you said
people's name that they knew were you were essentially blacklisted, and you
weren't going to go anywhere, you weren't going to be promoted.
Rosie Coates:And they would try to get rid of you.
Tina M White:What led you to leave teaching?
Rosie Coates:Just some incidents that happened that I didn't get any support
from the principal that was my principal. My car was stolen from one of my
students. The student also threatened to rape me, and nobody helped me. The only
person that helped me was a football player that I went to school with at
Western, and he sort of stood the kid down. The kid was 200 pounds even though
he was 16. That guy stood in for me, and stood up for me, and I was like, you
know? He was a football player but he could not come out, because he was an
All-American football player, and was playing semi-pro.
Rosie Coates:He just said "They're not going to treat you like this." And so, he
protected me, and that just taught me I guess that someone like me was more apt
to come to my defense than someone that was attacking me because of who they
00:03:00thought I was.
Tina M White:Being lesbian, that was related to the-
Rosie Coates:It wasn't related but it was a known fact that I was older and I
was not married, and that automatically still flowed over from the '70s and into
the '80s that if a woman wasn't married for 10 or 15 years then they were
automatically assumed to be a lesbian. If you played sports, if you-
Tina M White:What year are we talking? What time period?
Rosie Coates:We're talking '79 to '82. I went in the Army in '83.
Tina M White:Why did you go into the Army?
Rosie Coates:It was a career change because I had just become stagnant, and I
felt like I was at my wits end, and I felt like it was an opportunity to become
an officer for one thing, and both my brothers, one had served in the Navy, one
had served in the Army, had both served, and I just wanted to be able to say
that all three of us had served in the Army, I mean served in the Armed Forces,
00:04:00and at my momma's 50 year high school reunion they ask everybody what was they
were proudest of in their life, and she said, she wrote, I got the copy of it,
it said she was "Most proud that all three of her children had served their country."
Rosie Coates:So that's I guess one of the reasons I did it, and fulfilled one of
her wishes whether I realize it or not.
Tina M White:Did you enjoy your time in the service?
Rosie Coates:I did. I enjoyed it. I was at Fort Polk Louisiana. I went in at
32-years-old. I maxed out everything in basic training. They called me grandma.
I was the oldest one in the company.
Tina M White:At 32?
Rosie Coates:At 32. I was the oldest one. That was the cut-off age to get in.
And they called me grandma but I was an assistant platoon guide. I was second in
my whole platoon on all the physical tests, on all the firing your M-16 test,
00:05:00and I was slated to go directly to officer candidate school and they sent me to
Fort Polk Louisiana instead. I ended up getting hurt down there the first two
months I was down there. I got a ruptured disc out in the field lifting
generators, which we weren't supposed to do but we were ordered to do.
Rosie Coates:And I had to have surgery so that stopped any process of me
possibly becoming an officer, and they ended up medically boarding me out,
because I was non-deployable, after they operate on you, you're not deployable
anymore, so that means you can't go out of country, so they don't want you
anymore, so they medically board you out and put you in the VA system.
Tina M White:Got it. So that's why you left?
Rosie Coates:Yeah, that's why I left. I didn't have a choice. They medically
boarded me out, because I'd had a ruptured disc and I had a severed sciatic nerve.
Tina M White:Was this just something unfortunate that happened, or had this been-
Rosie Coates:It was a stupid mistake. It was an inexperienced captain who was
over a company that had never done it before, and he didn't follow regulation,
he made us do stuff that we weren't supposed to do, and in doing it he got a lot
of people hurt. Several people got put out with injuries because of his
stupidity basically. You're just there and they tell you do something that's an
order and if you defy it then you get written up for Article 15s and you can be
pay taken away, you can be held on post indefinitely, and basically you're
government property, so you don't have a voice. You don't have any voice at all,
and they tell you that when you get anywhere, they're like "Remember, you're
USDA approved, and you're our property and that's it."
Tina M White:Wow. Take us to your childhood in Franklin and just tell me about
00:07:00what was your early childhood like?
Rosie Coates:At six, my daddy bought me a pony, a pinto pony, and he had blue
eyes, and he was mean, and he wasn't broken-
Tina M White:Your daddy or the pony.
Rosie Coates:No, my daddy was as sweet as he could be. He's a sweet man. I was
always outside with my brothers and they hated momma to say "Take Rosanna with
you." And of course older brothers hate that, they were four and six years older
than me, and so daddy got me a pony he thought to keep me company and keep me
doing something else on my own, so at six after they broke the pony ... His name
was Trigger, and I rode him all over the mountains. I mean, at six-years-old on
Saturday morning I'd get on Trigger, and pack me a little backpack with my boxer
Jojo and we'd go. I wouldn't come back in until dark.
Rosie Coates:We'd be all over the mountains, riding in the mountains, riding
trigger, and Jojo running along with me. I always tell people this day in time
within an hour they'd have the rescue squad out looking for a six-year-old on a
00:08:00pony, but they didn't even think anything about it. I was gone every day after
kindergarten, ever day after school, until probably I turned 16 when I started
driving, and I started driving and that stopped me from riding. I got a horse
later, Little Jo, and showed him. I was a barrel racer.
Tina M White:What is a barrel racer?
Rosie Coates:He was a quarter horse, and you go, there's three barrels in the
lot, you take off at the corner, and then they run, and they time you to how you
go around. You do figure eights around the barrels, and then you go around the
last ones, and you come back, and they time you how fast you are. And I did that
at the county fair and different horse shows and things like that, and worked at
a horse barn. I was in charge of the tack room, and loved it because it smelled
like leather when you walked in. All you could smell was leather and I guess
that's what attracted me to chaps later, and we had chaps for horses.
Rosie Coates:And I was in the high school band from the fourth grade on.
Tina M White:What did you play?
Rosie Coates:Trumpet. And when they started the band there wasn't enough people
in the high school and so when you got in the fifth grade you were in the high
school band, so I was in the high school band from the fifth, sixth, seventh,
eight, so I was in the high school band for eight years. And while I was at my
second year of high school I really got into sports, and I love basketball, and
I went to my band director Mr. Harwell and I said "I want to play basketball but
I don't want to quit band." And he was like "Okay, you can do that." Nobody had
ever done it.
Rosie Coates:So I went to the basketball coach and said "I want to try out for
basketball but I'm in the band." And she was like "Okay, what time do you get
done with band." And I'm like "At four." And she goes "Okay, we start practice
at 4:30, that's good." So what I thought would be a huge obstacle turned out to
be a first time anybody's ever done this kind of thing, pretty easy, but it
00:10:00meant that I was in the band and on the basketball team, so I was gone all the
time from home. I loved it. I loved it the whole time. I didn't get first chair
until Susan Fisher who was first chair all the way through high school, she
graduated, and I was first chair. I just received a CD of one of our high school
concerts of she and I playing a solo together, which is pretty cool after 50
years to hear yourself playing an instrument that you hadn't play. Yeah, it was
pretty good. I was pretty good.
Rosie Coates:When I went to Western I was going to go to WCU, Western Carolina
University, and I was supposed to audition for Dr. Trevathan who was the band
director at Western who made the band that is there now that's the Pride of the
Mountains. He started that. And he was the band director at Sylva-Webster high
00:11:00school, and made them famous, and then he went to Western. I got there and I was
going to try out for basketball so at that point I had to make a choice. You
couldn't do both in college, so I choose to give up the music and go with the
sports, and I made the women's basketball team at Western, and the women's
Tina M White:When did sexual identity become an awareness or an issue for you?
Rosie Coates:For me?
Tina M White:Yeah. I'm sorry not identity, sexual orientation.
Rosie Coates:It wasn't really anything I thought about. I dated boys in high
school. When I got to Western though, and I met my best friend who just passed
away there was just something there that I was like, she's really cool, I really
like her. She was everything I thought I wasn't that I thought I would like to
be, smart, pretty, quick on her feet, quick on her words, a great athlete. She
00:12:00was all-state everything, volleyball, basketball, and softball from Virginia,
but a really truly sweet person, and was my best friend all the way through
life. That's when I started hanging out with I guess women more, and I would
still date a guy here, and along there, but there was never, ever any connection
really. There was just never any spark.
Rosie Coates:It was just what you were told to do and it's what you did, because
back in '69 through '70, basically, I graduated in '69, and from the time I was
in high school, '64 through '69, you would hear the name. There was two or three
guys that were feminine in high school that they would call a faggot. And you
did not want to be associated with that, because it meant that everything that
00:13:00you treasured was gone. And that's how fast it happened. If one of the football
players calls somebody a faggot, queer, that was it. They were done. They were
nobody. They got picked on all the time. And unfortunately, back then you went
on your merry way and lived your life, and you didn't stand up for people, and
we should have, but we didn't.
Rosie Coates:And basically, they hung together, two or three people and they
knew they were gay. Years later, after I met some of them, and I met one guy
especially I went to high school with and he's like "I knew from the time I was
four-years-old." I was like "I didn't." And I was just like I think it was
because I was sexual assaulted when I was little from six to 10 years old by
several boys, and because of that I think in my mind I didn't have a sexuality.
It was null and void as far as feelings and emotions went. So when I got to
00:14:00Western and started realizing that there were women like that, that lived and
worked, and lived in the world, and they weren't out. There was nobody out at
Western at that time. It happened with my friend Sherry, she got black balled
because we all moved off campus and got either apartments or trailers close to
each other, and we'd have parties and everybody would say "Well, why aren't you
coming to our party? Why aren't you going to the frat party? Why aren't you
Rosie Coates:Well, I'm going to go to so and so's trailer. And then, it got
around that, oh, that's where they all are. That's where they are. And we were
dubbed those women, those women. And you would get black balled if they thought
you had a partner, were with anybody. Everybody had to be super secretive. You'd
see somebody, you'd go out of town, and go to a gay bar, and spot somebody
00:15:00across the room that you were either in sports with, or in the same department
with, and you had to be super careful because nine times out of ten somebody
see's you in a bar and they'd go back and tell somebody else they saw you going
in. They would set themself up in a protective mode, basically essentially to be
a snitch. Then everybody would talk about you, or somebody else, and they would
leave them alone.
Rosie Coates:They're like "I'm not like that. I just saw them going in. I rode
by and saw them going in." And they just left it at that. The thing was both our
basketball and volleyball coach were together. Betty Peele and Betty
Westmoreland were together the whole time they were at Western. They were
lesbians, and both of them are Hall of Fame, everything at Western, but they
never came out, out. The instructors knew it. It was understood. It was never
Tina M White:Are they out today in history?
Tina M White:Wow.
Rosie Coates:It's well known that Betty Peele is but it's not talked about. You
would not go and ask her to go talk to a LGBT meeting because she wouldn't show
up. She made her history as being the volleyball coach.
Tina M White:Betty Peele?
Rosie Coates:They knew a lot of people were and they were not inclusive about it
at all. They would pull people off to the side and say "You know you're going
down the bad path. You're going down a path that could ruin you." That's why I
say ... Sherry was really pretty, and very popular, and she was with Ms.
Jacksonville, Florida. She was with a really pretty woman, and nobody wanted to
believe they were together, because they were both really pretty, functioning,
beautiful women in college, and nobody would let themself say they're together.
They just wouldn't do it.
Rosie Coates:But when it finally came out that ... My friend didn't say she was
but she told one of her instructors who she had four classes with and it was her
major recreation, telling him to "Go screw himself" he black balled her and she
00:18:0000:17:00flunked out of college because he said "She's not what we want to project out
there in the recreation field." That's essentially what Dr. Hamilton told me
when I was there in graduate school. I had three Cs, and I got my fourth C, and
I was teaching and I got my fourth C in psychology class with a 94. My grade was
a 94, and I got a C, and I went to the instructor and I said "Your psychology
students had the test," and they talked about it, and made fun of us, everybody
else in the class, and he's like "Prove to me that's true and I'll give you an
incomplete and let you take the class over."
Rosie Coates:And of course I couldn't prove it because they had bragged about
that they had the test, and that they were going to blow the curve out of the
water, which they did. Everybody's grade was above 90 and most of them were in
97, 98, 99. And so, being a teacher I know what a bell curve, that's like
somebody's got the test.
Tina M White:Right.
Rosie Coates:There's no way in a college level psychology class this could
happen, so I went to Dr. Hamilton who was head of my department and just said
"Doc, can you help me out here? Can I come back?." And come to find out he lied
to me. "Can I come back this summer and take this class, and still get my
master's?." I'd had As in everything. The whole shabang. I'd been teaching
classes like crazy. I started a handicap physical education class for some blind
kids, taught them bowling. I was the first person to teach bowling to blind
students at Western.
Rosie Coates:He said "You're one of the most talented people I've ever known
00:19:00that's ever come through the doors of this gymnasium but you're just not exactly
what I would like to put out there to promote as one of best students, so I'm
not going to help you take the class over. No." So I just tucked tail and left,
and that's when I really came to Asheville. And come to find out I could have
taken the class. I would of had to of waited a year, and gone back in and taken
three classes, but I could've gotten my master's, but as a counselor he did not
counsel me correctly, and later people said "You should go back and make them
let you take the classes now, because of the way you were treated." And I said
"it's not going to do my any good now." It was another way to put me down
because he believed I was a lesbian. It was a way for him to put me down, and
say we don't want you, and you're not good enough.
Rosie Coates:You're the best. You're one the best. I had almost more awards,
00:20:00except for two other people that had gone to Western, than anybody else. As far
as athleticism and things like that, and volunteering. I volunteered even back
then, got my WSI, water safety instructor, taught water safety to handicap kids
and volunteered. It was like three sheets of stuff, which most people end up
with one. And he just said "You're a quality educator but I don't want you to be
an educator. Not with your master's." Which meant I could've walked into any
college and become a teacher, and he didn't want someone like me being projected
as a professional, and that was his whole thing. And I was so embarrassed by the
conversation I just walked out crying and left. I just got in my car, and loaded
my stuff up, and came to Asheville.
Tina M White:Did you have any support network back then?
Rosie Coates:No, none. None. It's just our friends and they were like "Oh, God."
The guy that protected me when I was threatened to be raped he played on the
00:21:00football team. He was there when I was there. And he's like even then, even
after he had gotten out, and was playing semi-pro, he's like "I can't come out
now. I'm in Atlanta, and semi-pro for the Atlanta Falcons, and hoping to get on
with the Atlanta Falcons." And he says "But I have to come here and go out very
discretely." He said "If anybody knew that'd be it. It'd be over for me." He
said "My career would be done."
Tina M White:Is he out now?
Rosie Coates:Yeah, he's out now. He's been living with someone in Sylva for the
past 25 years.
Tina M White:Wow.
Rosie Coates:But he's a big dude. 6'5", All-American linebacker. He knew that if
anybody even thought that he was gay back then that would've been it. It
wouldn't of mattered how good he was. It wouldn't of matter how good of a
football player he was that alone would do it. They wouldn't want him in the
locker room. That's what it was.
Tina M White:Can I ask his name?
Rosie Coates:His name is, gosh, I can't even think of it right now. Oh God. I
00:22:00just thought of it a minute ago. I'll have to think on it, but yeah, I do know
his name. I can't give you his last name because he's very-
Tina M White:Oh, then I don't want to pry.
Rosie Coates:He's been an elementary school teacher.
Tina M White:Then I don't even want to pry. No.
Rosie Coates:And he's retired now, and he did very, very well but he and his
partner, you know, there's so many retired gay and lesbian couples in and around
Sylva and Dillsboro that it's unbelievable. And that's a huge support group for
them but it's like anybody that was LGBTQ back then, and they were a teacher, if
you came to them with anything the first thing they did is their neck got stiff,
and they were like "Maybe you better to talk to somebody else." There was nobody
that was willing to stand up for you, because they knew they'd get fired, or
00:23:00they'd figure out a way to get rid of them.
Tina M White:Let me skip forward and then we'll come back and fill in the
blanks. So you moved to Asheville, when were you first living out where you felt comfortable-
Rosie Coates:When I come to Asheville.
Tina M White:When you came to ... Okay. Wow.
Rosie Coates:Because I came to Asheville in '79, and I wasn't really out,
because O. Henry's had just opened that year, and everybody before that we had
come from Western and go to the after dark. We'd drive over, five or six of us
in a car, and go to the after dark, and go in scared to death. I mean, you'd
pull up and park in another parking lot, run over, have your ID out, and back
then they wanted to keep your ID and we wouldn't let them keep our ID. We were
like "No, you're not keeping my ID." And run in, and hope you weren't seen, and
then go inside and that's the way it was from the 70s through the late 80s
basically, mid to late 80s.
Rosie Coates:O. Henry's was a sandwich shop at 59 Haywood Street. It was
00:24:00decorated in turn of the century Vanderbilt style with mannequins and antique
dresses, antique lamps, and there were a sandwich shop and they played Billie
Holiday, jazz, that's all they played. That's the only music they played all day
long, so when you walked in it gave you a mystique. You were kind of walking
into that era, and it was beautiful. It was a beautiful place, and not until
about disco came in, after Saturday Night Fever, everybody started playing disco
in the bars. And some of the bartenders that worked there, they'd go to
California, and go to San Francisco, and they'd get copies of cassettes. The DJs
would sell them back then for five bucks, and they brought them back, and then
afternoon or early evening they'd start playing them.
Rosie Coates:And one of the owners J. Bentley was like "You can't play that. You
can't play that in here. We're not a gay bar." And Tony [DeRose 00:25:01] the
00:25:00other owner was like "But all of our customers are after seven or eight o'clock.
That's all it is." It was the Vanderbilt and Battery Park that'd come in for a
cup of soup, and a half of sandwich, and a glass of wine, because they were the
only place they could get beer and wine except for the City Club at the top of
the BB&T building. Nobody else in Asheville sold anything alcoholic. And
finally, Tony got Jay and he says "They won't play it until eight o'clock at
night. They won't play disco until eight o'clock."
Rosie Coates:And when they started playing disco, and everybody started finding
out they were playing basically gay music, it just started filling up on the
nights, and especially on Friday's and Saturdays.
Tina M White:And it was called O. Henry's then?
Rosie Coates:It was O. Henry's then. And then, The Cabaret moved across the
street to 45 Cherry and so everybody would come in O. Henry's early on Fridays
and Saturdays, and then at about 11:00 or 11:30 walk across the bridge, or drive
across the bridge, and go to 45 Cherry to go to Cabaret Act Two and go to the
00:26:00drag shows, and Buddy Brendle owned it then. Chris Fisher and Buddy Brendle
owned it then. They would bring people in from Atlanta. He did it top-notch,
drag shows. And that's how I guess the community started building and more
people started coming out and living out, but the only out that anybody really
lived was in the bars. There was no I'm out at work unless you had the kind of
... If you were a psychologist, if you were a sort of professional type that
wasn't a government job, or wasn't a city job, you could be out.
Rosie Coates:If not, then if you were a physical therapist, if you were a ... If
you had quote unquote a degree of an advanced degree a lot of people weren't
afraid to be out, but they weren't screaming out, they were just out to their
coworkers, and some to their family. A lot of people got I call it
disenfranchised from their family when they did come out. And Pete Moyle this
00:27:00third owner of O. Henry's would always complain to me because I wasn't out to my
mom and dad because I was raised Pentecostal. My grandmother was a Pentecostal
preacher, and founded a church, so we went to that church, and then we changed
to the Baptist church because my grandmother got excommunicated for talking in
tongue from the Baptist church.
Rosie Coates:And so, she couldn't walk on any Baptist church ground or she would
be arrested. And so, momma took us to the Baptist church so that we could be
saved, we could be baptized. And it just was along with the things that happened
to me through life when I was molested, nothing was done about that. I was six,
seven, eight, nine, and ten years old, and I was basically told just to take it,
and ask what did I do to make them to do that to me.
Tina M White:Was it by people known to you?
Rosie Coates:Yes. Yeah. And so, I was told just to keep my mouth shut and so
that's what I did. I was told no matter what happened to me I should just take
it and keep my mouth shut. So my spirit wasn't real strong when I showed up in
Asheville, and when I got to Western I really didn't even know I could change
the radio channel because I wasn't allowed to at home, and when I got to Western
somebody was over there, and I remember I'm like "What are you doing?" And
they're like "Well, I'm changing the channel. The college has a channel." And I
was like "Wow. I didn't know that."
Rosie Coates:Because I wasn't allowed to touch the radio. It was momma's and
there was only one channel you could pick up in the car back then, in Franklin,
WFSC, so I didn't know you could do that. I know that sounds crazy but in the
60s you had one TV channel, or two, if you went out and moved the antenna, or
you had one radio station, and that was basically it. You went to one church and
you followed the rules in that church or you were thrown out of your family, and
you were told to leave. I mean, that's what happened to lots of people that were
00:29:00gay. Several friends that just disappeared, and then I'd find them later in
life, and I was like "Where'd you go? And they're like "Well, I went to Atlanta
so I could be who I was."
Rosie Coates:Or I went to San Francisco, or I went to New York, or I went to
Fort Lauderdale, so I could be who I was, who I really was. And I didn't have
the courage to do that, and I always had guilt about that, but I always felt
like there was something I had to do and then later I end up taking care of my
whole family, and if I had come out I know that I would not of been allowed to
Tina M White:So you never came out to your family?
Rosie Coates:My daddy talked to me about it one time, and told me why my mother
was so afraid of me hanging out with coaches at Western because he said your
00:30:00aunt had an experience back in the '50s with someone and it made her lose her
mind, and that wasn't what made her lose her mind. It was a whole bunch of other
things. It was my grandmother not letting her get married to who she wanted to
marry. And he just said "She just doesn't want you to live a life of misery."
I'm just, oh God. I had a really, really strong family of guilt back then.
Rosie Coates:And I love my daddy so much I didn't want to disappoint him and I
just couldn't say ... I mean, I even took my partner to Christmas and we spent
the night and slept in my old bedroom, and mom would come and open the door, I'd
close the door, and she'd come open the door. I'd close the door and she would
open the door, and she'd say "Leave this door open" and I'm like "I'm
35-years-old." And she still would do that because she didn't want to accept the
thought of it or the thought of that being in her house. So after that we'd just
come show up for dinner and come back to Asheville, so it was just easier.
Tina M White:When we talk to LGBTQ people we tend to focus on their struggles
with society or with their family. With things outside themselves. But I would
imagine given the upbringing you've described you must have been troubled within
yourself. Did you love yourself, hate yourself. How did you feel?
Rosie Coates:I didn't have a great positive outlook on myself even though I
could sit down and look at everything I did, and I tried to win awards, and to
be the best, and the most I could possibly be, and it looked like it on paper
but I never had either one of parents tell me they were proud of me my whole
life. And even after my mom died by daddy said [Elda Womack 00:32:01], a woman
00:32:00in her Sunday school class, my mom's Sunday school told him he should be proud
of me for taking care of her while she was dying of cancer, but he said "Elda
Womack told me I should be proud of you." And I was like he can't even say he is
proud of my, so I just accepted it and said he just can't, because I wasn't what
they perceived I should've been.
Rosie Coates:I should've gotten married with somebody in the Baptist church,
should of had youngins, been in the choir. I should of been her. I should of
been a replica of her, and I wasn't, and I was torn with that my whole life. I
was nominated teacher of the year, and I didn't get it, because somebody said
"You know what she is."
Tina M White:Are you still torn by it?
Rosie Coates:I guess in a sense you carry it with you, you know? But you put it
in backpack and it's carried with you back there instead of inside so much,
because now I just really don't care. And it doesn't matter but it doesn't
00:33:00change I guess the years of hurt.
Tina M White:Was there an event, a year, a group, or a person that if you were
to look back that ... I don't want to make it a turning point, or everything,
but where you for the first time just felt elated and just at least for a short
time really happy with yourself?
Rosie Coates:I guess being head of security at Pride did that for me, because it
put me out there in a safe spot in a sense, but it made me feel like I was
protecting, and that's what security is. You're protecting the kids that show up
that it's their first time to be able to be out, to be seen, to be a part of who
they know they are, and you feel like you're their protector in a sense. That
00:34:00gave me pride I guess more than anything, and I'm still proud of that. And my
niece and her friends showing up at pride the year before last that I was like,
whoa, that blew me away, and I got a picture of all of them. I didn't get a
picture of me with them, but I got a picture of all of them there at Pride, put
it up on my Facebook, and I was like ... And she has many friends that are gay
in my hometown and they're professionals.
Rosie Coates:I'm not going to disclose them. They're on Facebook and they're
out, it's no big deal. They're all married to people, and I'm standing back
going how are they accepted, and they're married to each other, and they're
credible, respected people of the community, but we didn't get that. Even today
we don't get that. Even at my 50 years high school reunion the attitudes ... One
of my closest friends in high school in the band owns the factory, owns [Denet
00:35:0000:35:04] and is a very, very religious person and he's still married to the
same person. She played the clarinet and he played the baritone. And he came up
and hugged me but she just was like ... She didn't want me coming close to her
and I didn't. I stuck with the couple of my friends in the band but you could
feel the negativity of the people that didn't even want you near them.
Rosie Coates:And it's because of, one, the TV interview that I did that I stood
up for people when the massacre happened in Fort Lauderdale. That wrote my name
in sand forever with the Pentecostals, and the super religious, and the people
that hate gay people.
Tina M White:Fort Lauderdale, or Orlando?
Rosie Coates:I mean, Orlando. Excuse me. Orlando. I'm sorry. Orlando. But they
saw me on TV. I was just stating basically it's wrong, it's awful, and we should
stand up for them, and because of that, that's all I'll forever be remembered
00:36:00with them, and I'm like, good. Good. You should be ashamed.
Tina M White:That's interesting. Younger people today I think don't ... And I
didn't until I heard you say this, appreciate that even though we're living in
this more accepted world we are of another generation and that is still ... It
envelops our life. We have to go back to it. Our friends are there, our history
is there, and that doesn't change.
Rosie Coates:And if they don't change nothing changes. I mean, like I said, I've
never been to one of my high school reunions and my best friend in high school
who was Ms. FHS and one of my band mates they were on the committee for our 50th
and they're like "We want you there. Please come. Please come and bring your
00:37:00honor blanket." Because they said "We want to give you an honor blanket" and an
honor is given ... It's a group of people that make blankets. They're basically
lap blankets for veterans, and they have a ceremony, and they'd wrap it around
you like an Indian and that's your honor blanket. They were going to give some
people that and I didn't realize until I got there that I had my honor blanket
and these people hadn't gotten there's, and they were all Vietnam veterans.
Rosie Coates:And so, I've got the picture of me standing in the middle of 18
guys, and I was the only female and I didn't realize I was the only female in my
high school that went in the military.
Tina M White:Wow.
Rosie Coates:And it was like, whoa. And one of the guys was very emotional, and
I was like "Are you okay honey?." He's like "Yeah, this is my coming in. We
didn't get it." 50 years later that that quilt to him meant his coming home appreciation.
Tina M White:Why did you get one and they did not?
Rosie Coates:I got one here. I had a ceremony at the VA. When they get enough
people ... Or you can submit someone's name for an honor blanket, and then they
get enough people so they can have a ceremony, and then they get a picture, and
you have that picture, and they acknowledge your service to your country. They
hadn't had it done so it had been 50 years since they'd even thought to do it
for them, and they did it for our class. They said we were the first class that
did it, and that's 50 years after the Vietnam War they hadn't been acknowledged.
And one guy I know he had to be gay, he was from California, and he kept coming
over to me and talking to me, and he kept saying "I see you on Facebook. I think
you know so and so."
Rosie Coates:And he had his daughter with him and he'd shut up when his daughter
would get close to him, but afterwards I looked him up, and I hadn't seen him in
00:39:0050 years, probably never see him again. He went back to California and I looked
him up on Facebook and he had a partner, but he wanted to talk to me, but he
didn't even feel comfortable talking to me because he's afraid his daughter was
going to walk up I guess. She probably knew but he didn't want to ... She lives
in Franklin. And see, the people that are out in Franklin I think they are some
of the bravest people that I've ever known. And most of them are redneck, and
most of them momma and daddy said "Screw you. My kids my kid and I'm going to
love them. Get over it." And they said it back in the '50s and '60s and they
Rosie Coates:And doing so that's so important to have an adult say they're okay
leave them alone. It's so important to have somebody with power to say that.
Tina M White:So here I am the executive director of Blue Ridge Pride and I'll
get asked questions like "Why do you have pride in September?." They'll ask
00:40:00other questions about Pride. They realize I knew nothing about Pride before I
arrived here three years ago. Walk me through the history ... And by the way I
was always told that Blue Ridge Pride started in 2009. I guess that's when it
was incorporated, so walk me through the history of you said '91?
Rosie Coates:I believe it was '91. We were all sitting in O. Henry's on a Sunday
afternoon drinking bloody Mary's, and it was Pete, and Steve, Ms. Green, Cousin
It, it's the whole after the show crowd and then other people, and at that time
John Griffin had taken over Trax, which was a gay bar before it was The Hitching
Post, and before it became Hairspray, and he was over there, and we had heard
about Prides. We'd seen Prides in other big cities, and all these guys had been
00:41:00out. They'd been out. And John was a member of The Elk's Club, or no The Moose
Club, and he was out. And they all said "Why don't we have a Pride?."
Rosie Coates:And they're all sitting there going "Yeah, why don't we have a
Pride?." And so, in a matter of a week we put together Pride and we planned for
it to be behind where Hairspray was in the back parking lot back there, and
invited all the bars in town, which would've been The Cabaret, O. Henry's, The
Hitching Post. I think the After Dark had burned down by then. Any LGBT group.
The P flag existed then. Any group that wanted to be a part of it. All Souls.
And to have just basically a little Pride thing behind there, and we put
00:42:00together a Pride and had it on a Sunday, and it's like we probably had maybe two
or three hundred people. People were skeptical.
Rosie Coates:They would park in the front of the building, and walk around, and
you'd see them peeping around the building to see if they saw anybody they knew
because we blocked off the parking lot, and you could go in the bar and get a
drink and stuff, but it was before they made you get permits for everything. It
turned out to be a great thing, you know? And The Out & About was existing then.
That was Tracy and Alfie's Hyorth's magazine The Out & About, and they did a
little article about it.
Tina M White:Who did that? Can you give me their names? I want to make sure I get-
Rosie Coates:Tracy and Alfie Hyorth. H-Y-O-R-T-H. They found it and started The
00:43:00Out & About Magazine.
Tina M White:What's Tracy's last name?
Rosie Coates:H-Y-O-R-T-H. That's her husband.
Tina M White:Oh, the same. Okay.
Rosie Coates:Yeah, they've been married ever since ... They came here married.
But they've been in our community with support and Tracy has been working at O.
Henry's but she was one of the original owners of Hairspray with Laura Donna,
and Eddie, and who else was it? Tracy and ... I can't remember the other person.
But she was one of the original owners of Hairspray. And everybody was there and
it's like ... My girlfriend and I had balloon throwing, and everybody raised
money for what was then not WNCAP, but was for that.
Tina M White:It's predecessor?
Rosie Coates:Yes. And we raised money for them to put gas in their car. We made
it specific, and Pete and Steve made it specific that it was only for support
for people with AIDS. It cannot be for lunch, for somebody to go out to lunch.
00:44:00It could not be for this or that or paperclips, nothing like that. It could only
be used for the client. And that set a precedent too up until WNCAP took over
the auction that O. Henry's did for 10 years.
Rosie Coates:But with that one the next year they were like, oh, '91. That was
'91, '92, so '93 was the really big one that was put together by everybody and
Jerry Connors was a part of that. Jerry was there for the first one. All the
people that put that together were leaders in the community and usually it was
pastors and spiritual people that were leaders in the community. And '93 was
when we marched from basically we met downtown and marched and came up and were
around Prichard Park, and ended up at Hairspray. What was so funny was back then
00:45:00we probably had, I can't remember how many people they said were in it. Somebody
said 3000, I said "I don't think it was 3000." Maybe 1000.
Rosie Coates:But on the sidewalks all the way down City County Plaza, all the
way up, coming up College Street there were Christians, religious people, with
signs, KKK people, filled the sidewalks yelling, and screaming, and spitting,
and screaming atrocities and we're all just walking down the street with our gay
flags, and signs, and silence equals death. AIDS was big, and they would spit at
us but they were like don't let them spit at you, you'll catch AIDS, and stuff
like that. That was really the biggest thing that happened in Asheville that
00:46:00just showed the conflict between the groups. But after that happened it was
done, that was it, like it's going to get bigger. It's just going to get bigger
and it did. And we're like we're not going away, we're not going backwards.
Rosie Coates:And all the people in town that owned businesses they came together
back then. There was a group that met and they were always there for anything
that was to be positive for the gay community. Some of them couldn't be out but
they were always there supportive, and they were always helping, because O.
Henry's is the first place that there was a wedding. It's the first place that
there was a wake for someone that passed away, because nobody was like, well, so
and so's died and they want to have a service, and we're going to have it.
Rosie Coates:And All Souls did it but if they weren't part of the All Souls
community they would want to have it somewhere else, and some did want to have
it in O. Henry's. They're like this is our place, this is where we want to have it.
Tina M White:You said that O. Henry's, it was a sandwich shop?
Rosie Coates:Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Tina M White:And when it was a sandwich shop where was it located?
Rosie Coates:At 59 Haywood Street. The first year it was open it was called the
Skylight Room, and Tony DeRose and Karen Brickhouse, a lesbian, opened it. And
Jay and Tony were lovers, Jay Bentley, Tony DeRose, and it wasn't working. Tony
didn't know how to manage it. She ran the kitchen. The food was good. I've still
got a menu. The food was really, really good but it just wasn't going anywhere,
and I think their rent was ridiculous like $400 a month for a two-story
building. And so, Jay came in and Jay was a school teacher. He didn't teach but
he was a school teacher, but he was an English major. He said "okay, we're going
to make it intersect with Asheville."
Rosie Coates:And so, he had a book and he sat the book up on the self and it
said "O. Henry." And that's where the name came from, the author O. Henry. And
00:48:00he said "We're going to call it O. Henry, and we're going to do it George
Vanderbilt style." He said "That will pull in the richer gays." He said "That
00:49:00will make them come in. They'll have a place to come and eat lunch. They'll have
a place to come and have a beer." I mean, we had Lowenbrau, and it was like,
Lowenbrau, it's a dark beer. It was the only dark beer in 100 miles.
Rosie Coates:And so, that's what had happened. It was very nice, and it was
beautiful. When you walked in there you thought you had walked in part of the
Biltmore House is the way it looked, because everything was authentic, antique
lamps. They had three of the old telephone booths where you had to slide the
thing around, and they turned them into two tops for people to sit in. And it
was a place for people to come and that were professional to meet, and talk, and
hang out with other people.
Tina M White:And what year was this when they opened?
Rosie Coates:That's '79.
Tina M White:Now, they describe themselves as the oldest gay bar in North
Carolina, is that-
Rosie Coates:Excuse me. It's been 42 years and this is 2019, so it was-
Tina M White:'77.
Rosie Coates:'77. Yeah. '77. And it's the oldest bar in North Carolina. It's
going on 42 years now.
Tina M White:I just assumed, and I guess it's because I came from wet states
that the oldest bar must be 200 years old or something.
Rosie Coates:Yeah, right? There wasn't any bars because you had to have a
private club license and that's how they got around it. They came from
California, and Buddy Brendle, they knew Buddy Brendle in California, and that's
where they knew ... They're like, well, if the BB&T building can get a private
club license so can we, but then they said, well, if you put food in you don't
need a private club license, so that's why they put the kitchen in. And so, they
got around it, and it wasn't intent for it to ever be gay accumulating. It's
just that because they were gay, and the owners, then of course that's going to
00:50:00attract ... they're like "Oh, two gay guys own that, let's go there. We can be
Rosie Coates:And that's the way it was. Nobody touched anybody. You just come
in, have a beer, have a glass of wine, have a sandwich. And it was a place for
people to pre-meet. It was kind of like a grinder without the grinding. It was
like a pre-date meet up to see if somebody likes somebody or not. A safe place
to meet somebody.
Tina M White:Interesting. So back to Pride, so '91 was the first one. It was
held in the back of the parking lot behind hairspray.
Rosie Coates:It's I believe 36 South French Broad.
Tina M White:36 South French Broad.
Rosie Coates:Mm-hmm (affirmative). Trax was there. Trax was there in the first
place then The Hitching Post, then Hairspray took it over and it, and it was
Hairspray and Metropolis under Laura Donna for 27 years.
Tina M White:So it went Hairspray and then it became Metropolis?
Rosie Coates:No Metropolis was the downstairs and Hairspray was upstairs. It was
00:51:00like a big ... She and Jenelle, her partner at the time, Jenelle Brown, opened
Metropolis and it was like Scandals, a huge dance club. It was comparable to the
downstairs of Scandals, but it attracted straight people as well as gay people,
more so than Scandals did. Scandals was the show bar, Art was strict, strict
about anybody that got onstage for him. They auditioned. And then, after they
auditioned they would have to audition again, the numbers that they were going
to do. He was particular because he was a dance instructor, so he was very
particular, and he wanted to be primo. He wanted to be like Atlanta, the best,
and they were.
Rosie Coates:And then, when Trax opened under Warren Quinn and [Roliver Hague
00:51:57], excuse me, they opened Trax, T-R-A-X. Just one X. And it became
00:52:00comparable to scandals also. And that was when I came back from the Army. They
opened up there about '89 or '90 something like that. Trax. But that was like
two big show bars in town, and The Cabaret, Act Two at 45 Cherry, and it was
like the older show bar. That's where the older queens were. And then, O.
Henry's was still there. When Trax's opened it was like they called it ... That
was the gay mecca train to go ... Queens would work in Fort Lauderdale and then
they would come and work in Atlanta, then they'd go to Knoxville, then they'd
come to Asheville, and then they would go up north, and then they would come
down, and it was like a loop.
Rosie Coates:The queens, they would pay them a lot. They would pay them like
$150 a night, which is a lot back then.
Tina M White:That's a lot.
Rosie Coates:But they would pay an out-of-towner 150 to come in and do a show
00:53:00for two nights, and pay them 150 a night. It made us like a mecca. We were out
doing Atlanta as far as attracting gay people here in the '90s, and that's when
I think a lot of people started thinking about moving here, establishing
businesses here, and all along the lesbians, the Birkenstock lesbians were
Tina M White:I keep hearing that Asheville's really owned within the LGBT
community, that the lesbians ... Jerry Connors told me that. He said the women
rule. Tell me about that community.
Rosie Coates:I think when Pickett and [Emica 00:53:46], Emke, everybody calls
her Emica, but it's Emke who owns Malaprop's Bookstore they opened Malaprop's
on Lexington where Downtown Books & News is, which was their original used
bookstore. And beside it was a little place that's a garden shop now. And I had
00:54:00a coffee shop in there years before, but Paula Dawkins started Jewels that Dance
down there on Lexington Avenue in that little shotgun place that's got a garden
in the back, and so they were there, and then all these thrift shops were down
through there. It was like funky shops and coffee shops. It was very bohemian.
Much more so than ... West Asheville's not bohemian in comparison to what
Lexington Avenue was back in the late '80s, early '90s.
Rosie Coates:And so, they kind of set a precedent to downtown that these women
know what they're doing, and they're out, and they're not going anywhere, and
obviously not. They moved up top and got on the corner, Malaprop's on the
corner, and then they had the space on the other side of O. Henry's, and then
Jewels that Dance Paula rented that space, Paula Dawkins, and Jewels that Dance,
00:55:00the jeweler, I went to college with her at Western. She was an art major. Out of
four or five buildings there's three gay businesses, and then across the street
there was another gay business. So the upper end of Haywood Street probably had
seven or eight gay-owned businesses down to the corner of where you go up where
the Haywood Hotel is.
Rosie Coates:And it was like New York City at the holidays and stuff. And people
would come into town, and Asheville was still thriving. You'd go to the mall but
then you'd come downtown to hang out there. The bookstore, you had the bookstore
then and the coffee shop, and then the bookstore and another coffee shop, and
then it just started feeding more businesses, attracting the bohemian style, the
more art related people, Wall Street opened up and it started becoming very
upscale, and artsy. And so, the downtown was like, hey, this is starting to come
00:56:00back. And all those groups of women were college professors, because I can
remember going to UNC in Chapel Hill to a volleyball tournament my sophomore
year of college, which was about 70, or 71, and walking up to they had a big
turnstyle. They had all the activities on a big turnstyle in front of the gym,
and there's the Gay Owls, group.
Rosie Coates:And we're all standing there and it's like five or six of us that
were lesbians on the volleyball team and we're all going with our mouths dropped
open seeing that they're having a meetup at this group called The Gay Owls, and
we're like what do you think that means? What do you think that means?
Tina M White:Gay Owls. O-W-L-E-S?
Rosie Coates:O-W-L-S. And you could pull a number off, and so Sherry reached up,
and she looked around like that, and she pulled a number off. She said
[inaudible 00:56:58]. And about that time Betty Peele walks up and says "What
00:57:00are y'all looking at?." And she saw what we were looking at and she said "Y'all
come on. Come on. Let's get in the gym." It freaked her out kind of because we
were like they really had one here on campus, but UNC was way ahead of everybody else.
Tina M White:So Gay Owls was at UNCA.
Rosie Coates:No, UNC. Their mother, Chapel Hill. It was in Chapel Hill.
Tina M White:Oh, in Chapel Hill.
Rosie Coates:Chapel Hill.
Tina M White:Got it.
Rosie Coates:And I think later Warren Wilson had something called The Gay Owls
or something like that. That's in '71, that's '70, '71. That was unheard of. And
we were like, well, I want to go to school here. I don't have the grades. And
the women that started retiring, you know, Warren Wilson College, Mars Hill
College had a large group of gay people teaching there-
Tina M White:Really?
Rosie Coates:-but they weren't out. They weren't out because it was a religious school.
Tina M White:Right.
Rosie Coates:People were retiring from Appalachian State, so they all started
00:58:00coming here to retire, and honestly the bookstore is what attracted them. Emke
and Pickett, they weren't taking any crap off anybody. They stood their ground
about their books. They had a gay section, and they got boycotted and protested
over that, and they're like this is free speech. She had come from the Ukraine I
think, or was it Yugoslavia? Yugoslavia, and brought her mother with her and
they weren't having none of it. They were not going to be told they couldn't put
anything on their bookshelfs, and they've been known for that today. They've
been open 40 years, something like that. But because of those I'd say strong
women that said we're here, we're not going anywhere, and that's it. And then,
their billboard had all kinds of stuff, bi this, gay this, need a roommate,
trans roommate, and that when things ... You could just go in and see things
00:59:00you'd never seen before.
Rosie Coates:It was people looking for a room, looking for work, looking for
anything. No hookups. They wouldn't allow that, but it was just a place that you
could find other people. And we called them the Birkenstock Women because
everybody wore Birkenstocks back then. We called them the comfortable shoes
women, and they were smart because they were comfortable, but I was an athlete
so I always wore tennis shoes. I always wore Nikes, and Tigers, and stuff like
that, because I still played softball, and I still called softball.
Rosie Coates:But we always dubbed them the women with comfortable shoes. A lot
of them are very radical. Kim, one of the ladies that started the women studies
at UNCA, and she worked in O. Henry's in the kitchen.
Tina M White:Kim who?
Rosie Coates:I can't remember her name, but her name's on there, because she's
the one that went to them, wrote it up, and started the classes. She said "You
need these classes at UNCA." And she started the women studies at UNCA, and that
01:00:00was probably back in the mid '80s. Tony would probably remember her name. Emke
knows her I'm sure, but I think she's retired now. She cooked in the kitchen at
O. Henry's, and lived in the house down on Cumberland Avenue that Tony and Jay
bought, and I lived there, and Judy lived there. It was nine bedrooms, so like
seven or eight of us lived there. And it was just a different time. It's like
the people that were moving into Montford were very artsy, very progressive, and
they wanted to hang out with the gay people. They'd come in O. Henry's and come
to the shows, and they went to all the gay bars.
Rosie Coates:They were like we don't care we're coming from somewhere else. We
don't care we're not going to listen to these people. And so, it kind of built a
base of an island downtown that nobody was going to tip it over because
everybody was like these are legitimate people. They're got businesses. They're
01:01:00not what you're saying they are, so that meant the downtown became that bohemian
influx of a quilt that included everybody.
Tina M White:Let's talk for a moment. I know they tend to be [inaudible
01:01:19] today but transgender and queer, tell me about your memory of the
transgender presence in Asheville.
Rosie Coates:There were some people, Jeanie Kristie, who was also Elvis, Jeanie
Christie lived transgender for years before Holly walked into O. Henry's and you
know Holly started Phoenix. Jeanie Christie was one of the ones that lived in
drag, and the only reason she didn't live in drag anymore is because she went to
Vanderbilt, and she signed in as her boy name, ane would go in and out, and
looked like Elvis, you know, slicked hair back, and they called him Elvis. Then
01:02:00she came in one day as Jeanie Christie, had been out on a Saturday night and
somebody saw her go in her apartment, and they're like "He's not supposed to
have anybody there overnight." Back then, if you had a single apartment you
couldn't have anybody stay over. And then, the next morning they would knock on
the door and there's Elvis again.
Rosie Coates:So they were like "Do you have a woman in here?." And Gene just
kind of went "Well, some days I am and some days I'm not." The people that
managed it, other people knew them, they were like they were laughing their
butts off, because they were like Jeanie don't care. So Jeanie came in the bar
and would sit down like this "Give me a beer." Dressed as Elvis. We're like
"Jeanie, what's up it's a Saturday and you're not being Jeanie Christie, and
she's like "I can't be. I'll have to bring her over here in a bag, and get
dressed in the bathroom. Then I'll have to take her off at the end of the night
to go back in the building."
Rosie Coates:When my mom and I went to see Elvis I got pictures of Elvis' grave
01:03:00and had to put it in a frame and she was just like "Oh my God." She was hoot.
She lived out the whole time. She was the only person that I knew that lived
back in the '70s and '80s and she was transgender, and she knew it, and she's
like I got to do this at work, and that's okay. I got to pay my bills, but I am
Jeanie Christie. That is who I am.
Tina M White:How do you spell Jeanie?
Tina M White:And Christie is with a Y or I-E?
Rosie Coates:K-R-I-S-T-I-E. Kristie. And her male name was Gene. G-E-N-E. Gene,
I can't think of his last name now.
Tina M White:G-E-N-E. Okay.
Rosie Coates:G-E-N-E. He knew he had to live a split life because for safety
wise and to be able to pay bills, because back then I don't think anybody except
for ... I think Holly was the first person that was transgender that lived
01:04:00transgender and passed, and she walked in O. Henry's on a Saturday afternoon, or
it was before ... I worked until nine o'clock and she came in and sat at the
corner of the bar, and I'd seen her at functions, seen her out and everything,
and she came in and she sat down and put her purse on the bar, and I was working
with somebody, because it was pretty busy back then, and they're like "I don't
want to wait on here." On "That thing" is what the bartender said. And this is a
Rosie Coates:And I said "What? What are you talking about?." And he goes "Well,
I don't know what that is." I said "That's Holly. You don't know Holly. I've
heard about Holly forever." And so, I said "I'll wait on her." So I went down
and I said "Holly, what do you want?." She wanted a glass of wine and everything
and she goes "How do I look?." And I said "You look great." And she goes "I
hadn't come in here because I really didn't know how I'd be treated." At that
time we had like Jeanie Christie and other people that would come in and I would
call it the syndrome. The first woman that they looked up to was their mother so
01:05:00that's who they looked like when they got dressed in drag, or they started
transitioning into transgender was they would look like their mother.
Rosie Coates:They didn't have any help with makeup so they were just going cold
turkey like this is my momma's picture and that's literally what they told me
they do, look at their momma's picture, and do that to get dressed up to go out.
Some of them used bird seeds for boobs, in panty hose, knee highs. They would
tuck. And I was right in the middle of all the drag scene so I knew everything
about everything, and helped them do it, didn't have a problem with it, but
Holly was petite, and then some guys like "Is that a man or a woman, Rosie?."
I'm like "It's a woman. It's Holly. She's transgender." And they're like "I've
heard about them."
Rosie Coates:So man, even back when Holly came out and started Phoenix the gay
community was still split away from who are they and why are they ... Do we want
01:06:00them in our community? Because it was kind of a redneck, still kind of redneck.
I always supported everybody, and Jessica was our DJ, and Jessica was transgender.
Tina M White:Jessica who?
Rosie Coates:Jessica, oh God, I've got her on my Facebook, but she was our DJ
for a long, long time, and she came in and interviewed Pete as Jeff, and showed
up on a Saturday night as Jessica, the DJ, dressed up, because that's the first
time that Jessica could dress up in public, and Jessica was married to a woman.
And so, Pete says "Who the hell is that going in the DJ booth?" and I was
01:07:00looking around, and said "What are you talking about?." He goes "Jeff said he
was going to DJ." I said "Oh, that's Jessica. That's Jessica." And Pete was like
"Oh my God." He went over and he goes "Oh, Jessica, you look great."
Rosie Coates:So that was kind of like an evolvement of the gay community.
Tina M White:What years are we talking about?
Rosie Coates:We're talking about it the late '80s, early '90s.
Tina M White:So for Holly?
Rosie Coates:Holly, I don't know what year she founded Phoenix but that was the
year that she walked in and she was the first I think really true, this is who I
am. This is it. I'm this. I'm a woman that's it. And when someone would ask her
she'd say "No. I'm a woman." And they're like "Oh, well, you're beautiful."
Because she was beautiful. So the community got bigger and they found each
01:08:00other. Once Phoenix started the transgender community found each other, and
people would come from out of town and come to the meetings, and then they would go-
Tina M White:Where did they meet?
Rosie Coates:They met at her house originally. They met at her house, and she'd
Tina M White:Would they go to O. Henry's at all?
Rosie Coates:Yes. They would come out on Saturday night some. They would come
out to O. Henry's on Saturday night, and they wanted to go to Scandals because
Scandals was it, and even at the door they were like "That's not me tonight."
And they would always come up to me because I'd seen them at O. Henry's and they
01:09:00were nervous. And so, I would be sitting at the back bar and all the transgender
women would be with me at the back bar, and they're like "Who's that Rosie? I
want to talk to them." I had a little group with me all the time, because I just
felt a great bit of love for them, and because ... I knew their terror. I
understood their fear because I had that fear myself, and I wanted to try and
help. If I could help anybody make it easier for them I wanted to do that.
Rosie Coates:Plus, they were fun. They were funny. Just a hoot. I loved the drag
shows and everything. "Could you get her to show me how to do that?." So we
started having makeup sessions at O. Henry's. Ms. Green would be like "Oh, girl.
I'll help you." Because she bought the best [inaudible 01:08:55].
Tina M White:Who?
Rosie Coates:Ms. Green. Wayne Green. He was their headliner. Had no teeth in the
front, but just a comedian extraordinaire, but did drag in the sense of old
school, golden ... I mean, he would come out with a Gibson Girl wig on, and do
old school drag, and we called him Ms. Green, and he was ... If the door was
open and he wasn't working he was sitting there with three packs of cigarettes
stacked on each other, and drinking beer on ice with a cup of coffee, so he
could sit there and drink all afternoon and all night.
Rosie Coates:He's like "Come on in, girl. Come a little early, and come in the
back. I'll show you how to do stuff." So he was showing me them how to put
makeup on, and say "Don't get that cheap stuff. Don't go down there to
Woolworths. Get the good stuff. Go to Belks." And so, he started teaching a lot
of them don't be afraid to go in there and let them put that on your face.
That's their job. They're being paid to do that. And come to find out a lot of
the gay guys that were makeup artists worked at Belks, and worked in the mall,
so that's how people started going in, tested their skin, getting the right
01:10:00color makeup, and things like that.
Rosie Coates:We would go to ... We called it Cross Dress for Less, but it was
Ross. And we would go, my girlfriend and I would go in, and try on clothes for
the guys, and they're like "My girlfriend's back there can I just slip back
there and see what they look like in that outfit?." They'd go in the back real
quick and put it on real quick, see if it fit. That's how the guys would get
their dresses and stuff. Now, they let them go in. They let them take it into
the men's bathroom and try it on, but back then they wouldn't let them take a
dress in the men's bathroom, or now they won't let them go in the women's
bathroom, the dressing rooms.
Rosie Coates:And we were like "My boyfriend needs to come in here." And they
roll their eyes at is, like oh yeah right. It was fun because somebody would say
"I want to do the show" or we'd have a talent show, and we'd run them down to
the Army surplus down here, the Army surplus store is right there down at the
bottom of Walnut where the parking lot is. It was where that big antique mall
01:11:00is, that was Army surplus. Salvation Army. We'd go in and get them an outfit for
five dollars and they'd be in the show, and the next time they'd be a headliner.
It was you had a group of people that just wanted to do drag for fun, wanted to
do drag and become an entertainer, and then you had the transgender people who
looked up to them because they weren't afraid to go ahead and get the makeup and
do the whole thing.
Rosie Coates:They were doing it at home alone, and so the ones that were willing
molded. It was a melting pot that they melted together and helped each other.
But transgenders have been in our community and there weren't very many males,
female to males. I knew only three growing up, and they had a really harder time
because they didn't have a support group. Their partner was usually their only
support group. And most of them would move out of town, or move to a bigger
city, because they didn't feel comfortable here. I hate to say that the lesbian
01:12:00side of the community wasn't as accepting as they are now, because they weren't
educated. It was just a shock of seeing a person this way, and seeing a person
this way, and they didn't understand, so they just didn't want to know. It's not
like it is now. There's a whole lot more conversation and a whole lot more understanding.
Rosie Coates:I do think that our community is split in a way because some people
don't see that as part of us, and the transgender community is big now. It's
big, and it's viable, and it's real, and it's not going away, but a lot of
people, there's still people in the gay community that don't want to be a part
of that. I'm like, well, that's your choice but they're not going away. That's
who they are.
Tina M White:Do you distinguish just in your own head, this isn't a question of
right or wrong, do you make a distinction between transgender and queer, today
as queer is used today by youth?
Rosie Coates:Since I've grown up and seen everybody's transition throughout I
believe there're phases, and I believe that ... I know two people now that are
living as women and they didn't until they came to Asheville, and it took them
two to three years to be ... I'm a woman. I'm not afraid or ashamed to say that
anymore, and that's a woman. If you tell me I'm a woman. I'm like, right. I knew
when Devon transitioned, I met Devon as a woman, and the next night Devon came
in and said "My name is Devon and I'm a man." And so, Heather and I looked at
01:14:00each other and we're like "Okay, okay. Okay, cool."
Rosie Coates:But it's hard like you call somebody one name one night and the
next, and all of a sudden we have to reboot our brain, and hopefully are
forgiven because we screw up and call someone their other name. That's what we
do, and it's not being disrespectful. It's just that if you've known someone for
a year or two then all of a sudden you've got to change your verbiage, and
you've got to teach your tongue to shut up, and no, he, he. And it's
disrespectful for them, for y'all, for us to not do that, and respect you, and I
know that. I don't think anybody does it in a mean sense and if they do they get
called out on it. I mean, I know that when someone came in from the Army and she
was transitioning, she's a veteran, and she showed a picture of herself in
01:15:00Afghanistan. And one of the guys was like, oh my God, "Why would you want to
look like this when you look like that?."
Rosie Coates:Oh lord, honey. She went off the deep end, and he was like "Rosie,
what did I do wrong?." I said "You didn't do anything wrong. You just don't
understand, and you're not listening. You're not listening to her." And then,
later I talked to her, and I'm not saying her name because she's having a lot of
emotional trouble and stuff going on. But she's like "It makes me so damn mad."
And I said "Well, honey, if you don't prepare them, and tell them, don't show
them those pictures, because they're gay men, and they got the eye for certain
things, so that's the eye that they got for you, because they saw that, and they
don't understand." And I said "But getting mad at them, and telling them off,
01:16:00and calling them names isn't going to make them understand who you are."
Rosie Coates:And she goes "Well, my mother accepts me and I'm Jewish." And I
said "I know, but your mother knew you your whole life and your mother's
accepting you because she's your mother, and she loves, and that's wonderful,
but this is some guy that you met in a bar a month ago when you came into town."
Tina M White:Tell me about people of color, the blacks, Hispanics, or however
you ... Were they always welcome in the community in Asheville?
Rosie Coates:No. I know when I told Derek, when I suggested that he ask Tony to
work at O. Henry's I said "Why don't you ask Tony? He used to work at
Hairspray." And he was the first black bartender in Asheville at Hairspray.
Laura Donna hired him. And his lover was the manager, Sergi. He was Ukrainian.
And Derek looked at me and he just said "What do you mean? What do you mean?."
01:17:00He was the first black bartender, and I said "In the gay bars he was the first
black bartender. There were no black bartenders." And he just got tears in his
eyes and he goes "I can't believe that." I said "Well, here we are 25 years
later, and there's really only been three." And no Latinos. So yeah, I think
people of color still have it hard.
Rosie Coates:I mean, it's like they're accepted, because I know at least five
people of color and we've talked about it. I was like "Do you think it's gotten
any better?." And they've lived here 20 years. They're like "Not really."
They're like "There're people that like us and there're people that not, because
of the grinder thing." Of that thing, and then people will post no blacks, no
Hispanics, no trans, no this. And then, they'll call them out on it and say
01:18:00"What do you mean? You're excluding the LGBTQT, you're excluding five of those
options, so you're a racist." They'd call them out and call them a racist, so
you get in between the battle of they're like "Oh no. This is just what I like.
I know what I like and that's it, and I have a right to like what I like."
Rosie Coates:And they're like "Yeah, but you like somebody when you walk up and
meet them, and you like them. You don't specifically go out, okay, I only want a
white guy." They're like "That's racism." And I'm like "you're right. You're
exactly right." And it has gotten better, and I think it's better in the younger
crowds. I think people over say 40 are not as accepting. I think the kids
anywhere from 18 up to 30 and 35 I think they're much more accepting, because
you can see the pictures of them out, and it's people of color, and it's a whole
mixture. It's LGBTQ, it's what it should be, and it's another melting pot.
Rosie Coates:But back in the old days they would call an offshoot, or they'd say
an offshoot of the LGB ... It used to be just LG, and then LGB, and that's what
I tell somebody when they were talking about this. I said "Originally, it was
just LG, then it was LGB."
Tina M White:What led them to add B? Do you have any [crosstalk 01:19:22]?
Rosie Coates:I don't know, because people that were married were sleeping with
men, and that's why they started adding the B. And then, after that the T was
added. So I said "It didn't start out with LGBTQT." You know, with everything in
the name. It started out with LGBT. LGBT that was it for years, and years, and
years. And I said "The longer I live and the more that I see" I said "The more I
see people wanting to do offshoots as an octopus." And I said "The more we want
to be an octopus instead of being an amoeba the less we're going to have power
together." I said "We have to grow up and grow together. We can't grow out and
01:20:00be out here and think that we can just pull in when we need each other. We need
each other 24/7."
Tina M White:So if blacks and Latinos aren't coming to O. Henry's is there a
different culture and set of institutions, or groups?
Rosie Coates:No, it's just everybody co-mingles together and everybody dances
together and everything, but when it comes up for people meeting somebody or
something like that people are looking specifically for someone. They're looking
specifically for a certain type. They're looking for their ex. I think that's
what happens with most people is they're looking for their ex, and that makes
them button hole into a certain spot that they're not willing to accept anything
else because that's easy and I'm not going to do this. I work Hola, and the
01:21:00Latin community is so beautiful, and it's like I don't understand the
non-acceptance on any level.
Rosie Coates:I'm an old redneck from Franklin. And I'm like if I can accept, and
be accepting, and be supportive, why can't you? If you come into Asheville, and
you're not from Asheville ... I'd say people from Asheville are more all
accepting than people that move into Asheville, because they come in looking for
a specific group of people whether it be because of their professional life, or
they're a retiree, and it's still their professional life.
Rosie Coates:And I think people that live in Asheville have that bohemian
attitude of like let's go somewhere, it'll be fun. Let's go to the Dirty
Spelling Bee down there at 27, and the people that show up are people that like
stuff like that, and to me that's the real, true, hard core Ashevillians.
Tina M White:I was fascinated when an elderly couple after one of our Pride
festivals, and we were cleaning up, and they just saw all these brightly colored
youth, queer youth, walking around and the husband said to his wife "Asheville
just isn't like it used to be." And the irony was they were standing a block
from the block off Biltmore, which I didn't think of as a white neighborhood.
That was actually a black neighborhood before.
Rosie Coates:It was the only place the blacks had. Eagle Street. That's the only
place they had to be. They really couldn't go in any bars in Asheville unless
they were a bouncer they would get run off until the '80s I'd say.
Tina M White:So was it that tightly contained to Eagle Street?
Rosie Coates:Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tina M White:Wow.
Rosie Coates:Eagle Street and Shiloh, and down on the river, down there on
Clingman, Clingman Extension, there was a black bar down there, that double
stacker building that's an art gallery now. That was a black owned bar, but it's
like there wasn't but one or two black owned businesses in town except for
funeral homes. And because of that, that's where they congregated, or the liquor
houses after hours. I went to liquor houses after we'd closed the bar.
Tina M White:What's a liquor house?
Rosie Coates:It's a bar in somebody's basement, or somebody's downstairs, and
it's kind of like the old speakeasy. They know you, or they don't know you. If
they know you they let you in. But Stony, the guy that used to clean up O.
Henry's he was a retired railroad guy. He drove the trains. Everybody thought he
was an old homeless guy downtown, and he was retired, and he had a good
retirement, but he'd go pick up cans around downtown, and he'd sell them to put
01:24:00gas in his car. But he liked hanging out with us and he always had a bottle of
Crown in his pocket, and when he'd see you he'd say "Hey, you want to step
around the corner? Are you going to have a shot with me?." And that was his way
of saying will you put your lips on my bottle of Crown after I drink out of it.
Rosie Coates:And that was his way of reading people. Tracy and Alfie we'd many
times go behind the dumpster with Stony. He was one of their best friends, and
he hung out at Downtown Books and News. He was all over everywhere. Everybody
knew Stony. And I went to his funeral and still have a picture of him. But that
was his way, and it's a way a lot people of color would do, say "You want to
taste this?." And right off the bat if they'd say no they figured they weren't
somebody they wanted to hang around. That was just a way.
Rosie Coates:But the liquor houses were just a place to go from four o'clock in
the morning till seven o'clock in the morning, and you could buy shots for a
dollar and a half, and buy a beer for 50 cents, and they danced and had music,
01:25:00and it was just a place to go after the bar, but you had to know somebody that
knew the owner of the house, otherwise ... And the cops liked that, because the
cops knew where they were, and the cops used Eagle Street, and the cops used the
liquor houses to find anybody if they need to find anybody. They were looking
for somebody. They used them for information.
Rosie Coates:So they let them go, and they left them alone, because it was a
great source of information for them.
Tina M White:Tell me about the history of the police, law enforcement, and the
LGBTQ community in Asheville.
Rosie Coates:Back in the '70s and '80s it wasn't really good. It wasn't good. I
think the person that made the difference was Leni Sitnick when she was the
mayor of Asheville. And she works over here at Harris Teeter. I go in every day.
She does the little bread thing. She has the wavy salt and pepper hair. Her
01:26:00daughter was a lesbian but nobody knew that, but she's all of a sudden ... I was
working for the city and that '90, '95, she had a precedent she set up that LGBT
people could have their partners benefits, and it passed with city council. She
was the first person to set anything like that up. And of course that made
everybody want to go to work for the city of Asheville.
Rosie Coates:The police department, well, it was so funny because in the old
days, in the '70s if they caught somebody in drag they'd say ... It was true.
You had to have two articles of men's clothing on if you were dressed in drag.
So most of the drag queens they wanted to tip around and talk to everybody after
the show, so they didn't get out of drag until they went home, but they'd always
have boy underwear on, and a tank top on underneath, so they could pull that up
and pull that down and how them. But the cops would make them undress, some of
01:27:00them, not all of them. And there might've been some gay cops back then but they
weren't out, because they would've been walking around a corner with no help.
Rosie Coates:Leni Sitnick really made a big difference in that, and it's because
she stood up for the community and then somebody was like "She's got a daughter
that's a lesbian. That's why she's doing it."
Tina M White:What does she do in Harris Teeter?
Rosie Coates:You know when you go to the bread sampling section?
Tina M White:Yeah.
Rosie Coates:She's the little short lady with the kind of wavy hair. She's Jewish.
Tina M White:Yeah.
Rosie Coates:And everybody goes "Lini, are you going to run for mayor again?."
She's like "I want to. I'm telling you." She said "They wouldn't vote me." And I
said "Oh yes, we would. You're the best mayor we ever had." But she's great and
she's a great person to talk to. We talk about politics when I go in. She goes
"Did you hear what they asshole said today?." I'm like "Yeah." You know, talking
about Trump. But she's just a wonderful person, and I think she made Asheville
01:28:00stand up and say, you know, the gay community, the LGBT community, are viable
people. And that's my big thing. We get taxed. If you're going to tax us you've
got to accept us. Yeah, we won't pay taxes, and then we'll go on down the road
on our merry way, but if you're going to take tax money from us we have to have
equality, step one, if no other reason than our constitution.
Tina M White:What's your experience of relationships with law enforcement today
in the broader community, not just you personally?
Rosie Coates:It's like with the Prides I always had something to do with them.
In the last five years it's gotten much better. And I know Tex, the two little
lady cops that are liaisons, and they would even let cops from Atlanta come up.
A couple of years they got them to come up to work. They're gay cops in Atlanta
that were out, and they would bring them up here, and hire them to do it to try
01:29:00to train the other police, the ones willing to do it. And they were fine as long
as they were with us, but when they got around some other cops that weren't
accepting of us ... I mean, one guy got beat up in the elevator. He was a gay
guy. He was drunk. He resisted arrest, but he was little in comparison, and I
knew the cop because I call the Fraternal Order of Police softball team, and he
played on it, and he coached the Women's Fraternal Order of Police, and he was
Rosie Coates:He was somewhere out in Buncombe County, he was out in North
Buncombe, and he beat the guy up with his handcuffs on him. I mean, he beat him
bad. They had to take him to the hospital. And that was the first time that ...
I think that was '93, or '94, or '95 that somebody sued the city over
discrimination over a gay person, and he won, and they fired him at the police
department. They let him resign. Then he went right to work at the sheriff's
department. And that was the problem. If they had a problem person that was a
01:30:00little bit too rough with gay people, beat them up, slapped them around, they
would let them resign and then they'd go right to work for the sheriff's
department, or in the jailhouse, which didn't say what you did was wrong. It
just says you just got to take a pay cut and go work somewhere else.
Rosie Coates:And their reasoning was, well, there's a lot of money invested in
this person. Well, that person just cost the city a lot of money, because they
beat somebody up in handcuffs. No matter who it was they beat someone up while
they had their handcuffs on, and they were in their control. It's gotten much
better I think. The ones that show up at O. Henry's when we need somebody,
there's a couple of the same ones always show up, and they're very accepting,
very respectful. Like when [Adara 01:30:56] broke her ankle they showed up, and
Richard Watts went to the hospital with her. He does that. He's done that for
01:31:00years. If anybody had to go to the hospital he's like "You always have somebody
ride with them. Always, so that there are not disrespected."
Rosie Coates:They were great. The only bad experience she had was somebody when
they went over to do another post-surgery thing, and they were making fun of
her, because somebody said that she was transgender, and they were talking about
something off the wall, and Michael [inaudible 01:31:28] and I were there, and I
walked over and I said "What did you just say?." And the guy was like ... His
eyes got real big, because he knew he could get fired for saying anything like
that. He goes "Nothing. I'm sorry. Nothing. I apologize. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
And Adara's like "That little son of a bitch over there." She said "I'm going to
beat his ass when my ankle gets better."
Rosie Coates:But you know, it's like for the most part I think that it's like
maybe one in 50 or 60 people that's the bad egg that will say something because
01:32:00they want to see if it will slide, because you know there's KKK working on the
police department. You know there's KKK working in the sheriff's department. Of
course there are. They're everywhere. That's why idiot did what he did by
pardoning that guy that murdered a little girl and took pictures with her body,
because he's letting them know to come out in our military to say we're going to
stand with the president, we're not going to stand with the military. He's doing
it on purpose to try to split them away. But I think Asheville's gotten 200%
better. I think when they roll up they don't automatically go, oh, it's a queer,
it's a this, it's a that. Like tell me what's going on.
Rosie Coates:Because we work with them, and we respect them, and we are honest
with them. We don't lie. We tell them what happens. And that's the main thing
with them is show them respect by not lying to them, and they'll show the
respect back by believing what you tell them. But I think it's gotten 200%
01:33:00better in the past 15, 20 years. Much better.
Tina M White:We skipped one thing. So Pride started ... I'm going back to Pride.
It was '91 was the first, then '93 was the first big one.
Rosie Coates:Big one, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tina M White:Was it continuous or did it let off? I'm still trying to understand
why 2009 was listed as ... Or did it change to a different ... What changed?
Rosie Coates:It changed to a different name. I think the group that did it ...
Before it was just like all the bars owners got together and put it together,
and then people like Jerry Connors, because Jerry was really a part of the very
first one, and the '93 one. And I don't really know. You'd have to ask ... I
don't know. Who would you ask, Jerry Connors, when it transitioned over to ...
2009 is when it really became, when Evon and all those people that were helping
Tina M White:It's two women.
Rosie Coates:Yeah. That's when Amy and Amy.
Tina M White:Amy Huntsman.
Rosie Coates:She and her partner. And she was a lawyer and that's the first time
a lawyer had been, because she knew the law. And then, there was six other
women, which last year they all told me at Pride "You know Rosie, we're thinking
about jumping back in next year and becoming a part of Pride." And I said "Do
it. Do it, because you'd be very much welcome."
Tina M White:We'll pick that up after the interview.
Rosie Coates:Yeah. And it's just that they had a support, all these women were
friends, all these women were in professional jobs and they each had a tool that
needed to be for something like that, and they all sat down and said, okay, you
do that, you do that, you're good at that, you're good at that, you're good at
that. Let's do it. And they did it and that's why it was so easy the first time
01:35:00with them, because they already made all the decisions before they sat down with
Rosie Coates:It worked out great. I think anything that's good it takes it run
at good, and then things change, and people change, and then your needs to move,
and to progress in different avenues change, and you have to have fresh eyes on
it, and then you have to have the eyes that's been with you to accept those
fresh eyes, and say, okay, I can see that, and not say that's not the way we did
it. You've got to say, yeah, I accept those. I'll go along with that because
you're probably right because you've got fresh newer eyes, and you've seen more,
and that's one thing that I think a lot of people that don't volunteer don't
accept, that it's not that we're saying you did something wrong, it's just that
01:36:00let's just go with this now. Start on this slate and go this way.
Rosie Coates:I talk to people about volunteering all the time and they're like,
blah, blah, blah. "I just don't have the time." I'm like, "Well, it does take a
lot of time, but you sure do like coming to it don't you." So that's what I tell
people and they're like "Well, I don't know what to do." And I'm like "Just
volunteer for two hours." That two hours takes the bulk off whoever's over the volunteering.
Tina M White:There're a bunch of things I'd like to talk to you about, but I
think I'll turn off the microphone when we do that, so before I do that, and we
can always have a follow-up interview, was there anything else that I haven't
touched on or asked that you feel is an important part of your-
Rosie Coates:I think that right now especially with our political enviroment
01:37:00that people that have made it, and people that are sitting in a good spot in
their life, should volunteer more and help the LGBTQ homeless. I think they
should help the youth outright. There's probably three reasons people don't, but
I think that we need to ... And I tell people I'm like "Go buy a pack of socks
and bring them to O. Henry's. I'll take them over if you don't feel comfortable
walking up with a bunch of homeless people standing around. I get that." I said
"There's always a way to drop it off or to bring it to people." And I wish they
would like go through their closets and get rid of stuff. I wish we would have
yard sales together, if it's in the parking lot out from Scandals, if it's in
the parking lot of O. Henry's.
Rosie Coates:I think that we are missing that old home body feeling because
01:38:00we're all so secure in our established houses, jobs, whatever, that we forget
back when we were 17, 18, 19, 20-years-old and we lived in a one room apartment
or a trailer, and we forget what that feels like, and we're terrified of
imagining it happening. When you get older you start thinking, just like with
all my friends that passed, I'm like get an advanced directive, decide, make
decisions, let somebody know who you are, where you are, what's going on, and
who you're supposed to get in touch with. And I don't think we have meet-ups
with young people and old people that could do the same thing and they'd learn
something about each other. Young people need to let us know who to get in touch
with if they've run to Asheville and they're hiding, or if they have parents
that don't want anything to do with you, you still have to know who they are.
Rosie Coates:I mean, just like with my friend at the hospital I didn't know her
middle name was Raynbow. And I didn't know it until I had to go in her wallet,
01:39:00and get it out, and give it to the nurse for them to scan it for Medicare. And I
looked at it, and I was like you little rascal, man, if we'd known your middle
name was Raynbow we would eat that up. R-A-Y-N-B-O-W. And I know why she didn't
want anybody to know it because she knew she'd hear it the rest of her life.
It's just that I think we need to be more a village instead of a city, and
that's whether it's a village downtown, or a village here, or a village there.
Rosie Coates:I know back in the old days the same people showed up at everything
when people needed to do this, or needed to do that, or we're going to get
together, and everybody was like I just don't want to be a part of that. Now,
you ought to be a part of something, whatever it is, whether it's collecting
shoes, whether it's collecting coats. You can do little itsy bits and parts to
be the village, because there has to be somebody in charge, and there has to be
01:40:00people that hold everybody up, and I think that we forget that. I think a lot of
people in Asheville, it costs a lot to live here, so most people are pretty
comfortable, or they're struggling, and there's not a really far in between of
that, so I think we forget that we need to be a little village instead of being
a big downtown brewmaster Asheville. That's not what made Asheville, Asheville.
That's a whole bunch of money coming into town, and continuing on and trying something.
Rosie Coates:When it comes down to it and something happens to somebody two or
three people make a difference in their life for however long it may be, and it
may be that day, or it may be to get you where you need to be to better
yourself, or to get healthier, or whatever. I think we forget that, and I guess
because I'm older, I'm 68, and I've seen a lot. We've progressed so much that
people didn't walk into O. Henry's with a suitcase and sit down crying because
01:41:00they've been to their partners funeral, and the family had gone over and had the
locks changed while they were at the funeral, and had their suitcase sitting out
on the street when they got back, and the only place they had to go was O.
Henry's, and didn't have anywhere to go, and people took them in.
Rosie Coates:They didn't put their name on their house, and put the name on the
deed, or things like that, or give you rights of survivorship. And people need
to know they can do the things like that, that are comfortable, more
comfortable, then saying "You and I only been together a year. I'm not going to
give you half my house." But say "Okay, what could you do? What are you willing
to do? And what's the other person willing to accept?." Because that's a value
point for someone who says I'm worthy enough to be with you. I'm worthy enough
to marry you, but you're not going to put my name on the deed.
Rosie Coates:And that's between two people. That's obviously between two people.
01:42:00And it comes down to worth and self-value I guess. It does come to worth and
self-value and Asheville can work on that I think a little bit, mindfulness
meditation, things to help people do other things than drink and party, because
I've seen drinking and partying, and I've done drinking and partying, but I know
that ... Heather's dad told us ... And she was not an alcoholic. She inherited
cirrhosis, but she wasn't supposed to drink at all, and she did a little bit,
and it was bad because of it. Her Dad said "I want people to know that they have
choices for people to help them, and if they're having a hard time doing this or
that, help them."
Tina M White:So bars have played a really important part in our history.
Rosie Coates:It's our home. It becomes our new home.
Tina M White:And yet, particularly in the younger generation I hear more cries
01:43:00for alternative places to gather that don't involve alcohol.
Tina M White:I would imagine that's emotionally a complicated-
Rosie Coates:It's financially a complicated thing because if you don't have
alcohol ... If you have a coffee shop with food at least you can probably make
it, and other things, and you have support, but the reason the bars are private
clubs, and the reason the bars only have alcohol is that's the way you pay your
bills. And that's why lesbian bars usually don't make it is because they don't
support it, because you can put 30 lesbians in your house, in your backyard, at
a fire pit, and everybody can spend the night, and that's way cheaper than going
out, but the bar owner then has to shut down because it costs so much to open a
business in Asheville.
Tina M White:Have you seen anyone solve that? Are there groups that are ... Or
01:44:00what do we have to do as a community if we want to create-
Rosie Coates:I think that we should buy a house that you can put a coffee shop
in, and have offices in, and have the support groups in, and make it a place
that ... I don't know. Kind of like in your church you always had the basement
that you had stuff going on, and kids could come and play, and you could do
crafts, and I think if we had a place that felt like a home at least that there
were crafts. We could do ceramics. We could have classes for this, and classes
for that. You could have massage. You could have everything. Kind of like a
senior opportunity center but for the community, but that offered everything
within it, and then you could have a coffee shop in it.
Rosie Coates:And it wouldn't be hard to throw one of those together really. I
think it's a missed point because people that's really the only place they have
to go, especially now in Asheville you can't go anywhere hardly. There's maybe
01:45:00five or six coffee shops, but they still have two or three beers, and wine, and
some people can't even be around it. Not that they're going to drink it, I mean,
if you're really trying to recover it's one day at a time always. But yeah, I
think that ... And Tracy and I've talked about this a lot. She said "Girl, we've
served so many people through the years, and we've seen them, we know. It's
going to kill them. It's going to kill them." The owners always say it's their
choice. It is their choice, and it is. We're adults. It's our choice.
Rosie Coates:But I think us as a community maybe could shore up a place that was
non-alcoholic, or only had wine or something on occasion, and it was announced
that it was going to be there, so if people didn't feel comfortable being around
it, because nine times out of 10 if people start going in bars and they're not
01:46:00drinking they're going to end up drinking again, unless they're really people
five, six, seven years down the road, they can stand to be around it.
Rosie Coates:And support, say social support, because when I get older and
something happens to me I've got my support people, like making decisions about
where I'm going to be placed, and stuff like that, and people don't want to know
because they're afraid to find out there's not going to anybody there to say
I'll do it for you. I'll be there for you.
Tina M White:Are addiction and suicide growing or becoming less prevalent as
problems in our community-
Rosie Coates:I think it's growing with the young people, and especially-
Tina M White:Addiction and ... Both? I shouldn't of asked both at once.
Rosie Coates:I think suicide is with the younger people because ... Well, I just
read an article about that, that it's becoming predominant with all young
01:47:00people, because how could you listen to what we listen to day in and day out,
and listen to people lie and say nobody tells the truth anymore, so what the
hell? What the hell? They're not going to believe anybody? But I think the youth
is up. I mean, I don't think a lot of elderly people are doing that. I think
when it comes down to it people are fearful because they've been raised that
you're going to go to hell if you kill yourself. I believe that if you're in so
much pain that you're terminal that's your choice, and you should have the right
to do that.
Rosie Coates:But with the gay community there's a whole lot more people that
attempt it and don't accomplish it than people really know, but because of who I
know, and the people I talk to, like "Girl, you know if I tell you this I know
it ain't going nowhere." So we have conversations and its like there's a lot
more things happening than people realize, and sometimes it's not intentional.
01:48:00It's just a give up, and a call for help, because they just don't see any future
for themselves. Maybe we could do a highlight of a professional person saying I
started here, and this is the way I was, and now look at me, and do a mentoring
thing, and say it can be done, see? It can be done.
Rosie Coates:I think that would be something good to have kids ask questions
like, how did you get out of this? What made you do that? And have a question
and answer session so that they could make a plan, because kids don't make a
plan. They just hang with the group, and they listen to the group, and then they
try to emulate the group instead of saying, what do I really want to do? I don't
know what I want to do. I'm still asking myself that and I'm 68.
Tina M White:Me too.
Rosie Coates:I'm going to be an artist. I guess now make pots. Do something easy.
Tina M White:Oh, dear. I'm going to close the interview. I think I may ask you
to do it, but thank you very much.
Rosie Coates:You're very welcome. Proud to do it. I hope I helped somebody.