Citizen Dick


By Richard Lawlor
By Richard Lawlor

Before the parade passes by

I love Thanksgiving morning — especially the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s fun to stuff the bird and stick it in the oven while I play a game called “How Many Queens?” 

I’ve been playing a form of this game for years. As a teenager, I’d watch the marching bands and the dancers on the floats and wonder, “Does he do it? Doeshe do what I like to do?” Back then, that was my code for, “Is he gay, too?”

Although there’s a new study out that says gays are unrealistically underrepresented in Prime Time TV, there were more big fags on the Thanksgiving Day parade floats than Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauces wiggling on tables nationwide. 

This year, the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers float stole the Queeniest award from all the Broadway musical performers on floats and off. Tommy Tune talking to the animals as Dr. Doolittle came in a close second – if not for height, for pure chutzpah. (“Of courserous. Why not?”) 

Who would ever think in 2005 America you would hear Matt Lauer introduce a musical number featuring Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s Culture Vulture, Jai Rodriguez, in a flair-full version of the Steve Martin novelty song “King Tut”?

Broadway has always been the Great Gay Way, but this season things have gone insane. With Nathan Lane as the Odd Couple’s Oscar Madison, Harvey Fierstein and Rosie O’Donnell as Teyve and Golde in “Fiddler on the Roof,” who’s next? Ellen Degeneres as Mary Poppins? Martina Navratilova as Peter Pan? 

I love the marching bands, too. When I was a young Citizen Dick in high school I was known as “The Throat” of the football team. (I also announced the half-time shows for Central High.) “Ladies and gentlemen – the Central High School marching band and Pep Squad will now form a giant pack of Marlboros while playing a medley of your favorite cigarette commercials.” It was 1969. And, yes, there was smoke in the grand finale.

Nowadays, as gay personalities and sensibilities become hip, even the marching bands have jumped into the action. They’ve gone from holiday standards and Sousa to show tunes from “Wicked,” “Fame” and “Strictly Ballroom.” 

Yes. It was a grand display.

I don’t like the day after Thanksgiving nearly as much. It always seems to bring a nutcracker reality check. This morning after brought the realization that the Portland community is experiencing a resurgence of death by AIDS.

There have been at least four in the past few weeks, among them people whose art and lives touched many in our city, people who would have been considered “Long-time Survivors.”

Anthony David Spotten passed away on Nov. 11, 2005. An accomplished visual artist, Ram Island dancer and HIV activist, he was best known by his stage name, Chan.

Ashley Nason, a transgender entertainer, bartender and Portland community diva for twenty years, died in the intensive care unit of a Las Vegas hospital on Oct. 22. Dressed to the nines by her friend Marlena, ready for the next show, this International Showgirl would have been 40 in December. 

The impact of these deaths has taken many by surprise. And as we get ready to mark World Aids Day on Thursday, Dec. 1, the number of cases of HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men is on the rise again nationally. According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control on Nov. 17, a total of 157,252 people were diagnosed with HIV so far this year. 

After remaining roughly stable from 2001 to 2003, the number of new cases has been rising. In Maine, according to the Frannie Peabody Center, there have been 44 new cases of HIV in from January 1 to October 31 this year. 

CDC officials say they can’t explain the recent increase in cases nationally, but some AIDS activists link it to drug use, especially use of crystal meth, which is reportedly leading to more unsafe sex. Patti Capouch, Executive Director of the Peabody Center, says her statistics do not show a correlation to crystal meth use in Portland, but she promises to look into it more closely.

Because HIV is still a threat to men, women and children all over the planet, the Southern Maine Collaborative for HIV, STDs & Viral Hepatitis is hosting a three-day event to commemorate World AIDS Day in Greater Portland. (This is a joint effort with the Peabody Center and the City of Portland’s Public Health Division.)

The highlight of this year’s anemic Portland offerings is the display of four AIDS Memorial Quilt panels at USM’s Abramson Community Center in Portland.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Flatbread Company on Commercial Street is supporting World AIDS Day by donating a portion of the proceeds from the day’s pizza sales and providing HIV/AIDS information at the restaurant between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. 

On Nov. 30, the Peabody Center and Portland Positive Health are collaborating to provide walk-in access to rapid, anonymous HIV testing at 510 Congress St. (next to CVS) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. At 7 p.m. that night, it’s “Movie Nite” nearby at the Community Television Network (516 Congress St.). Hosted by Thrive, the film title is still listed as “TBA,” but discussion of whatever film is shown and free refreshments will follow. 

On Thursday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, free HIV testing continues in Portland, and there is a 7 p.m. public worship service being held at the Unitarian Universalist Church – in Saco. The traditional service at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland has been cancelled because, according to the Peabody Center’s Capouch, their clients say they feel the local service is no longer needed. 

Personally, on World AIDS Day 2005, although traveling past outer Forest Avenue normally gives me nosebleeds, I think I’ll be heading down to Saco to pray.

For more information on local World AIDS Day events, call 774-6877 or 

A semi-retired arts promoter, Richard Lawlor is co-founder of GFPM Enterprises (producers of and The Companion newspaper). His column, Citizen Dick, runs biweekly.

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