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00:00:22 - Coming Out and Finding Gay Identity Later in Life

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Partial Transcript: Jerry Connor: So, I went through everything, got married, had a child, opened up a restaurant, and during the course of all of this my wife, never really bonded as a mother. So, I wound up bringing my son to the restaurant with me and taking care of him. And then we were more like roommates instead of a married couple. And as such over the period of a year, I was so busy with the restaurant. There's an old phrase saying, "You're married to a restaurant and you certainly are." And our marriage as a couple became less and less until the day of Mother's Day, she asked for a divorce. And it came out of the blue for me, because I was so involved in the restaurant, and I came in the next day and my staff knew something was wrong. And when I told them, they all just kind of went about and the next day they came up and said, "Well, we're going to take you out and just forget about things." So, we closed up that night and we went out and the next thing I knew, we pulled up at this huge warehouse building, and it was a gay bar in Charlotte. And it was a mega bar that had a piano bar, it had a disco, regular bar, lounge. It was really something, and I had never been in that kind of an atmosphere before. And everyone that I had to work for me, they were all waiters. I had a couple waitresses and one in particular Madelaine was from France. And so, I danced with her the whole night, but I have the best time, the music was the greatest, and I came in the next day and they all greeted me on my maƮtre d' whose name was Jerry also, came up to me and said, "Jerry, we've clocked you before you've clocked yourself." Well, I didn't know what that meant.

Keywords: Charlotte, NC; Coming Out; Divorce; Fatherhood; First Gay Bar Experience; Gay Bar; Gay Community; Marriage; Self-Acceptance

00:14:18 - Local Gay Bars, Organizations, and Bookstores of Past and Present

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Partial Transcript: Jerry Connor: Asheville went into sort of a decline back in the 90s. And we had gone from being per capita number three in the nation, in terms of gay population versus total population to where, when AIDS cropped in, we lost a lot of members, but a lot of people moved away. Jobs were not here. And so many people moved out of Asheville. So, we sort of went into a decline, but also a decline in the number of organizations and things along that level. And C.L.O.S.E.R. was one of the statistics. And they tried to keep it going for
a long time and it got less and less and less people coming, because now is the age of the internet, everything else. you didn't need to have an organization like that because you could go online and meet somebody, or you went to the bars and whatever. So, all these things now that wasn't the vital organization
anymore, and a lot of other organizations were created. So, it finally, I think in 2000, somewhere in there, it was down to maybe, they would have meetings of 10 or 15 people, and that was it. And they finally decided to just display and that ended that era. And it's funny, because a lot of people who remembered it or moved back to Asheville often asked whenever having to close or is it still around or whatever. And the odd thing is it's still floating around on the internet, because it seems like nothing disappears. And there were pages of things that were listing it. I think there was one, I forget, Rainbow something was a group that had tried to create a business page with organizations and stuff many years ago. And they went to funk, but their listing was still floating around. So, if you pulled it up, it would show it, but it's never been around at all that time.
But that was said, I know, gained back now I've backtracked a lot. But when I first moved here in the '80 and it was mid 80s, I think there were eight gay bars in Asheville.

Keywords: 1980s; 1990s; Alcohol; Asheville, NC; Blue Ridge Parkway; C.L.O.S.E.R; Dance Clubs; Gay Bar; Gay Bookstore; Gay Movie Theater; Grove Arcade, Asheville, NC; Patton Avenue, Asheville, NC; Porn; Scandals; Scandals Bar; Sodemy Laws; Trax Bar

00:34:53 - Asheville Pride in 1980s and 1990s/ Inclusivity of Local Gay Bar Scene

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Partial Transcript: Jerry Connor: But back then, it wasn't. And actually, I think we had a fairly, even though it was technically illegal and the sodomy laws were in effect, Asheville, they took a blind eye. And they really, I mean, we had two North Carolina gay prides here in Asheville. So, we had two state gay prides held in Asheville. And that was no big deal, except to the religious right. I can't remember if it was the first year or the second year, both of them we had big parades in Asheville for the gay pride. And then the next Sunday, the religious right had their own parade condemning all the gays. And it like this, this was sodomy, you're condemned to hell and all these horrible signs on their parade. And it was all part of Ralph Sexton that his church, a big church here in Asheville and he was the big instigator of it, but they had floats with each church, Baptist church and all these others at it, letting you know that that's who they were. And they were all brave in their Bibles and everything else.

Keywords: 1980s; 1990s; Baptist; Church; Conservative Right; Discrimination; Gay Bar; Inclusivity; Pride; Pride Parade; Racism; Ralph Sexton

00:42:24 - Relationship with Parents

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Partial Transcript: Jerry Connor: But we never mentioned being gay or anything and nothing was ever said. When I moved away, when I closed down the restaurant in Jacksonville and moved away, I would get notes from my mother, and then she would send newspaper clippings. And in there it was things about being careful, about how Aids and everything else and I'm going, "Okay, she's being a mother. I think she knows, but she has never really said." And that was that way. I didn't feel like some people feel they have to tell their parents in order to be complete.
Tina White, Interviewer: It didn't destroy your intimacy?
Jerry Connor: They feel like they have to do it. I didn't feel the need to. My father was a macho Marine, but he also had a soft side to it. And I didn't feel like, maybe out of sight out of mind, why did I need to destroy that or to bring that up? It wouldn't prove anything. It wouldn't make our relationship any better. I don't
think it would make it any worse, but on the other hand, I didn't feel like I had to prove anything at all. I felt like they knew I was just undecided.

Keywords: AIDS; Family; HIV; Jacksonville, FL; Parents; Relationships

00:45:53 - Community Connections/Future for Asheville's Gay Community

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Partial Transcript: Jerry Connor: Well, and talking with you and listening to you say that you had so many young people that are getting involved with the Blue Ridge Pride, I think that if you've got the young people coming in, then that's going to be the salvation of the community here. I don't see the mega bars anymore. I mean, Scandals was reverted back to, since the owner died and then his brothers sold it and it's now reverting back to a straight club and more of a catering venue. Those aren't going to ever come back. And the areas, and now, since you don't really have, except very few that are exclusively LGBT venues, that I think the community itself in Asheville is one of blending. And just the diversity roles, is what's going to actually be Asheville. It's funny because people that come in, that I get contacts from all the time, I need to know where's the Gayborhood? Where do all the gays live and everything else. Where's the big gay section in Asheville? I'm going, "It's Asheville." There is no a particular, like in some of the larger cities, it's because
Asheville is combined of all these different little communities, but each one is a blending of gay, straight, techno, whatever you call all these different little groups, they all belong together in that same area.

Keywords: All Soul's Episcopal Church; Asheville, NC; Gay Bars; Gay Community; NC Pride; North Carolina Pride; Radical Faeries; Ralph Sexton; WNCAP; Western North Carolina AIDS Project; Younger Generations; Youth