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Oral Histories

UCF Storytellers is a service-learning project for creative writing students who are studying the art of literary nonfiction. Students work in pairs and collect oral histories for various non-profit organizations (including GLBT History Museum of Central Florida, UCF Community Veterans History Project, and Lutheran Haven Assisted Living and Nursing Home in Oviedo). After students meet the needs of the organization or the individual with transcripts, videos, audiocasts, or written transcripts, they turn their experience into art. The finished project can take any form the student chooses and often ranges from literary journalism articles and traditional personal essays to radio podcasts and video documentaries.

The following oral histories are part of our collection.

Russell Evans
Jim Gilkinson
Bruce Ground
Marni Harmony
Ken Kazmerski
Chris Alexander Manley
Joan Nelson
Yvone Vassel
Suzanne Paszkowski
Patty Sheehan
Debbie Simmons
Michael Slaymaker
Keith Theriot
Alan Lunin
Jade Fairall
Billy Manes
Tom Dyer
David Bain

Jade Fairall

Interview of Jade Fairall
 by Elizabeth Buckeye and Wendy Schauben

 Wendy: Where and when were you born?

 Jade: I was born in 1957 in Freemont, Ohio

 Elizabeth: Where did you grow up?  

 Jade: I left Ohio in 1976, never really grew up in Freemont, I more grew up in Umatilla

 Wendy: What was your childhood like?

 Jade: Hideous. I came out when I was 16 that led to me being kicked out of the house. It wasn’t accepted anywhere in my town. I’m from very small town, my family was well known, I stayed until graduation and then I left. The 70s weren’t easy. Being gay wasn’t acceptable we were considered diseased I guess, mildly.

 Elizabeth: What were your parents like?

 Jade: My dad was very stoic and hard-working he had his own business. My mother was very artistic, a bad alcoholic, it was my sister and her against the world. My parents divorced, and grandmother stepped in so I knew what a home cooked meal was like

 Wendy: Do you have any siblings? What were/are they like?

 Jade: A sister who I talked into moving to Florida, she’s been here since 2001.  Were very close, we talk daily or twice a day. She’s my older sister. A stepsister, I guess that counts. Both older.

Elizabeth: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

 Jade: I always wanted to be a teacher. I enjoyed school and thought it was kinda cool. My dreams changed because I stayed in high school and had a instructor that wouldn’t let me in the room. I almost quit school ‘cause of the bullying. A government instructor that told me not to quit and told me people were ignorant. That’s why it changed, I didn’t want to be anything near that town. I didn’t go to college right away. I studied journalism in college, wrote for the Sentinel and got a scholarship to go to UCF. I lived in Leesburg and it was 165 miles to get to class, I got an AA that’s good enough.

 Wendy: Romance throughout your life?

Jade: A Midwest person like myself I was the only gay person I knew, my first experience with gay life was in Orlando. It’s not something I wear like a badge, I was a little scandalous.

 Elizabeth: What do you do for a living? (If not already known)

 Jade: Mostly management and always manual labor up until ‘93 when I suffered a back injury that led me to college. I worked in gay bars, as a manager, bartender, and security for 10-12 years.

 Wendy: If you could do anything what would you do? Career wise, relationship wise, or even a childhood dream to fly like a bird?

 Jade: Probably if I had a lot of money I would have cleared out every animal shelter, and make room for tons of land. All my life has been about stray people; taking them in and giving them a place to live, I’m kind of a gatherer.

 Elizabeth: Does religion affect your life? If yes, how?

 Jade: I’m very spiritual, and took a very long time to get there. I’m of Jewish decent, but my grandfather was Presbyterian, and baptized as such.

 Wendy: What was the happiest moment in your life so far? The saddest?

 Jade: This can be answered in the same way. My last partner and I, well, she wanted a baby I agreed, reluctantly. I’m in my 50s she’s a piece of work.  We broke up shortly after and she denied me seeing the baby. I went to an attorney to set up residence to get custodial rights, on the day I was to call the attorney I had my first heart attack. I’ve seen the baby once in passing, she was 7. The happiest moment of my life was holding her. It took me years to get over it. I’m not real versed on the bible but there’s this story about two women fighting over a child one said lets cut the baby in half the mother said let’s not hurt the baby. That’s how I feel.

 Elizabeth: Who has been the biggest influence in your life? How?

Jade: My friends, friends that passed before me. I lived through my friends drop like flies in AIDS. I watched them fight, and be just wonderful people. Knowing that life is so short you never know from one day to the next.

 Wendy: What are the most important lessons you have learned in your life so far? 

 Jade: Probably the first one would be to not take life for granted because the moment you do you get slapped with a reality wake up call, the other thing is you can’t live with regrets because if you do you waste the time that you have left.

 Elizabeth: What is your earliest memory?

 Jade: I did drugs back in the day so it’s hard to remember, so my first real memory, my grandfather was a pastor and had a huge church in New Jersey and it was one of the days you put flags on the graves. I thought it was awesome to pull one and march around with it. I turned around and there was my grandfather and he looked really tall, so I marched and put them all back.

 Wendy: Are there any words of wisdom you''d like to pass along to us?

 Jade: I’ve never been that profound I don’t think probably draw a deep breath before making life changing decisions. That’s probably the best advice I could ever give anyone. Always sleep on it. You’ll wake up with the answer, the right answer.

 Elizabeth: How has your life been different that what you'’d imagine?

 Jade: I never thought I would survive my childhood or later years, 20’s. I went from a very strict environment to down here, and the gay community was all about the party. It was all about the drugs and when AIDS hit, everyone wondered if they would get it. I’m very surprised I made it to 55.

 Wendy: What do you see in your future?

 Jade: I keep a very controlled environment around me I have to keep stress out. I have serious health issues; I keep the stress level down. I keep positive people around me, I enjoy the time I have left with my partner and my Chichewa. I fought a good fight for the gay community, I was a heavy activist. It’s time to pass the baton to the younger ones

 Elizabeth: If you could interview anyone from your life living or dead, who would it be?

 Jade: I would have loved to interview Walter Cronkite. Come on, didn’t you think someone was a real dumbass? Tell his deepest secret.

 Wendy: Does music influence your life at all? If yes, how?

 Jade: Oh yeah, I’m into everything! The only music I can’t get into is heavy metal. I like hip hop, rap, I like to keep current. My mother was a classic pianist, she won a scholarship to Juliard I grew up on the classics like Beethoven. I like Christian music, but opera puts me right to sleep. Music is a good influence, it helps to let your mind drift and fluff your aura. Oh and I love fergy, fergalicious!

 Elizabeth: Did you have to come out? How old were you?

 Jade: I have a best friend, we were in the same play pen, and never been more than just my best friend. My father just assumed that she was my girlfriend. I hated wearing dresses. And my father came right out and asked me. And I said yes, I’m gay but that’s not my girlfriend.

 Wendy: Who have been your biggest supporters?

 Jade: It would be the people that passed through my life at various stages. I was always gravitating towards older people, they really had a big influence on my life and they’d see me running amuck and running around and pull me back. It’s never been my family, my friends have always been my family.

 Elizabeth: What was the opposition to the community like in the 70''s compared to today?

 Jade: If you did know someone that was gay, it was very closeted. You took your life in your hands if you told anyone. It was scary. When I came to Florida in 76 everyone was just on a first name basis. Otherwise they could lose their jobs. It was constantly living in fear. It was probably why a lot of people gravitated towards the gay bars, for very little money, because it was a safe haven.

 Wendy: How different were the laws?

 Jade: In the 70s I think Florida finally repealed that sodomy law which gay women don’t do. There weren’t any laws to protect your rights as a human being who was a different sexual orientation. Anita Bryan, when Florida hired her to come to the sunshine state, we thought oh hell no. Being involved in that boycott was one of my finer moments. We picked up the telephones dialed a number within hours we had everyone boycotting Florida orange juice and it hit people right in their pockets. It’s been at a lag I don’t really see a lot of people stepping in and trying to do more. Celebrities could do so much more to help with gay rights

 Elizabeth: What were hardships in the workplace like in comparison to today?

 Jade: I had one job that all I did was sell cars. I was their top salesperson. One person didn’t like me, her daughter was a friend of mine. I was fired simply because I was gay. It just took someone saying oh, she’s queer and I lost my job. That’s the biggest reason I didn’t go into teaching, because I didn’t need to go through school and have a student say she touched me and be guilty before anything else happened. When I had my heart attack, my partner couldn’t sign anything even though we have been together for over 5 years. We had to call my sister to sign everything.

 Wendy: How did "closeted" members in the past overcome these types of obstacles?

 Jade: Everybody stayed in the closet nobody came out. In the 70s if you walked into a gay club with a camera, no one wanted their picture taken. The only way for most people, not myself, was to stay in the closet. If you didn’t go to gay clubs you went to homes. There’s a group here in Lake County, for women and they are all closeted, they invited me to come to a group meeting. I went so I said what are you all trying to do? They said nothing to change laws, were playing cards, we can’t come out of the closet many were teachers. I said I’m sorry I don’t need to come and play cards. It’s a lot to undertake, and you don’t want to lose your job everything goes to hell.

 Wendy: How were you involved in the gay community? How are you now?

 Jade: I think. Lets see. I was also a male impersonator I won a title in New Orleans. I won Miss Gay French Quarter New Orleans 1979. I considered myself an entertainer, I would not just be one of those old time dykes, I wanted to entertain. I did all kinds of things including a turnabout night in 87-- that’s where if you’re normally butch you have to be fem, this girl owned faces and we were good friends we came out as the Supremes with the dresses and heels. It’s all about conducting yourself with class where you went, how you conduct yourself is how you portray the gay community. It used to irritate me with TV footage of the gay pride parades; it only showed the people screwed up on drugs and not the rest of us. I had a mustang one year; we all had matching t shirts we were throwing candy. We said “were representing Key Largo and Faces but do you think we got any air time? It was always the media portrayed extreme, media plays a big role in the way you perceive things. Media can make or break it all but it all depends, you can refuse to be in someone’s pocket. A lot has happened with journalism. You have to have an angle in journalism you don’t fabricate details you don’t put words in someone’s mouth, the new generation is stepping up. You can tell you’ve got people with class. It was tough. It’s interesting now all these years later to sit back to see that younger gay people complaining, honey child you should have been back in the day. We couldn’t leave gay clubs or even Denny’s even without getting harassed by the police. There has been progress.

 Elizabeth: What do you think of modern representation of gay couples and characters on TV?

 Jade: I have a few shows. I love Once Upon A Time and Greys Anatomy. What’s interesting is that here I am, I’m gay and I’m a dyke. There were functions that they didn’t want dykes coming to. It’s the only way that television can get people to handle gays is because it’s two really pretty females.. So it’s easing the general public into it.

 Elizabeth: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

 Jade: I was featured on Fox News and boycotted Casey Anthony, there is a group on Facebook. I helped Jeff Ashton win his election. Also, I’m really big in social media. 


Billy Maines

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Oral history of Billy Manes


by Salin Tilley

3 December 2012

Storyteller Project

At the Helm

My mom used to own one of the nicest hair salons in Fort Lauderdale. The Design Team was a home to a family and team of hairstylists, nail technicians, makeup artists, and all. It was a retrofitted art gallery, gleaming chrome and paneled wood, with a broad blue receptionist desk and white roses everywhere. Ask anyone. It was the best.

I may have grown up there. Sweeping up hair, and offering old ladies coffee or tea while they waited. Telling jokes in the back while my mother stirred color into a black plastic bowl. The men who worked for my mother, Tim, Randal, George, were all the best kind of gay men. Classy, funny, beautiful. They were my uncles. Billy Manes has the same kind of air. He is, I think, from the same time and place as they are, and instantly feels like family.

 Something he said, after Shea and I turned off the camera, and stood up to go. He wondered aloud what the gays and lesbians of today would be like. What histories they would have to draw from. And it's true. He is like a time traveler from a long war, his life remains steeped in this history of struggle. Struggle has united these men together. Every laugh they have, every joke, every wink and grin and prancing step is earned. They deserve every bit of happiness they can find, and they know it. That is why we love them. They are survivors. They have paved a way for the rest of us, not through intentional labor though there is plenty of that, but with their very lives. We stand behind them in their easy wake, not an idea to the waves that have toppled against their chests, broken, and swirled around them in heaps of foam. All we see are gentle ripples. I am more grateful now than I have ever been to my uncles and aunts. I have been spared.

I stand with a group of people in the cold and bitter darkness of a Florida winter night. My closet full of tank tops seems suddenly scanty and insufficient. This group is the same as it has been every year. The trans people of the campus are here, familiar faces, and their friends, mostly gay. We are here to remember all the people who have been killed because of their identity. The Transgender Remembrance ceremony is always like this.  Basically empty. Nicole reads the two hundred names that have been recorded we all know there are hundreds more. She reads by the light of someone's flashlight app, because that's how it is. We huddle over our candles, in our thin leather jackets with feeble lining, and numb hands.  A man rides his bicycle through the center of us, his wheels tick ticking in the night.

Sometimes I live in a kind of bubble. In this bubble there are no homophobes, bigots, close-minded people, or angry Christians; there are only people. Outside the bubble, of course, I am not just a person, and these others exist in strong numbers.

I go to classes at the University. I talk to my friends, and family on the phone. No one stops me in the street to tell me that I am going to hell. Most of the time there is no reason for my orientation to come up in conversation and I literally look like everyone else. I am surprised to come across a person with these archaic backwards beliefs, more shocked that they are so certain in themselves. It is like walking into the flank of a dinosaur. I forget sometimes, that I am gay, and that this matters at all to anyone outside of my personal relationships. My bubble might look like a protection, but it is really the most dangerous thing.

Billy Manes is both typical and unique. He is an openly gay man who does not work for a gay establishment. He works from within the system, to change the system. He lives outside the bubble.

You would never know on the surface the kind of lives that these men have had. Though not every man is like this, most hide their pain. They are extremely giving in their love and affection, and expect their friends to be there for them in return. Living and loving in great quantities. I remember hanging out at the salon one Saturday afternoon, talking to Tim about his tattoos. Tim is big and burly, with biceps that were the size of my thighs and springy gray hairs on his chest. He unbuttoned his shirt and showed me the Buddhist symbols on his pectorals. I asked him if he had to shave to get the tattoos and how long it took to grow back, like most curious children. He looks very masculine, but his voice is soft and tender toward me. Most of the time he is laughing at something, smiling at something else, or trying on colorful wigs just for fun. But now he is serious. He tells me about his seven older brothers, and I picture him, short, skinny, sans tattoos. He lived in a state I couldn't even remember seeing on a map. His eyes got tight. There was a lot he wasn't telling me. But next thing I knew he was leaping off his stool, teasing Randall about his highlights, laughing again.

We cannot have this conversation without talking about HIV and AIDS. The pandemic has become a section of the collective conscious of Billy Manes generation, of basically all older gay men.  Although statistically it is being spread more by heterosexuals, the higher correlation of the virus in homosexuals has contributed to their stigma. Billy Manes has lost a great deal of friends and family to HIV/AIDS. He told us how when he did come out to his mom, it was hardest because his parents were scared for his life. His step-brother had died of the disease only a month prior. While Shea and I were interviewing Mr. Manes in his office at the Orlando Weekly, he revealed a strong sense of humor, humility, and openness. Personal questions? I'll give you my therapist's phone number.

Manes is not afraid to tell his story. He said that he was an outsider that the insiders found entertaining. “I’m more like somebody who's fun to be around for a while and then maybe you really don't want to take him home with you ‘cause he can just be a mess. He laughed and so did we, but then he continued, I guess to go more personal, I'm newly single because my partner took his life in April, and we'd been together for eleven years, and he was suffering from HIV and so I see a lot of the nuances and the insecurities and the pain in the community and so if I laugh about it, it's just because I'm trying to put a smile on it. One of the reasons I've written my whole life is to try and escape from pain, and that struggle continues and I don't think I'm alone in that

Alan Lunin

 Interviews with Alan Lunin.

 Part One

 Part Two


 Part Three

Andrew Tuggle
CRW 3211
Storyteller’s Project
The Spitfire

            The Triumph Spitfire sat dormant in the garage. So much potential spunk and energy is wasted in a dead Spitfire. The car stares at Alan defeated, like a stallion that has just been castrated.

            Alan wonders why he ever bought this car. It spends more time sputtering in the garage than it ever does working. Perhaps the return home to America after being stationed in Korea for so long clouded his judgment a bit. Perhaps he was so ecstatic to be back in the states that he fell for the first pretty face that he saw. And who can resist the charm of a name called Spitfire?

            Today was Alan’s turn to buy the wine for the weekend. The boys would throw him out if he showed up again without any alcohol and another excuse about his car. But what could he do?  Images of weekends full of red wine, candles, and music, all forbidden by Army policy, blew through Alan’s head as he thought. Perhaps Major Marman would let Alan borrow his car. It was worth a try, anyways.

            Highlands, New Jersey sat on top of a mountain and therefore was always a little bit colder than it should have been. Perhaps that’s why those enlisted at the base were always drinking: to keep warm. It was a drastic change from the mugginess of Korea. Though he was glad to be home, Alan felt out of place in the cool fog of New Jersey after months in Korea. Alan began his walk to Marman’s office, trying to move quickly to avoid staying in the cold for too long.

            It was when Alan was feeling the most unwelcome when Major Marman called him into his office months ago. Alan had just returned home and was assigned to supplies at the base. It was fine work; nothing he could get excited about, but nothing he could complain about either. But when Major Marman requested his presence, Alan felt his face flush. Did he hear about the nights Alan was spending on the weekends?

            Major Marman was about 5’6” and built like a truck. If one were to imagine what the typical West Point graduate was, one would probably come up with Marman’s image exactly. Whatever he wanted, Alan was sure it wasn’t good.

            Marman sat behind his desk, which was spotless and free of any clutter, and eyed a folder with his name at it.

            “Lunin, you’re Jewish aren’t you?”  Marman looked up at him without a trace of emotion to read on his face. Alan felt his stomach clinch.

            “Yes, sir.” He wondered if Marman considered that a good or bad thing. Marman put down the folder and folded his hands.

            “Good. Me too. You’ll work for me.” And with that Alan was dismissed.  He was confused but smiled anyway as he left.

            The wind had picked up as Alan was walking, so he began to jog as he passed Marman’s garden. Over the months Alan and Marman developed a sort of fondness for each other. It helped that they were both Jewish, of course, but Major Marman reminded Alan of his dad in a way. Whenever the Spitfire decided to work, Alan would always make sure to drive by this garden to see if Marman was tending it that day. It was funny how much Marman looked like Alan’s dad, at least from behind. They were the same height and build, and they both liked to work outside. And both men tended to tolerate things from Alan that other’s wouldn’t. Alan thought back on the days of marching around Washington D.C., holding signs and demanding attention and freedom. Perhaps his nights out with the boys were some kind of continuation of that rebellion.

            Marman wasn’t gardening; it was a bit late to expect him to be anyways, so Alan continued to jog to the office. The sun was setting over the horizon and Alan’s eyes were burnt by orange rays smothering his face. Luckily the office was only around the corner from here.

            Marman sat at his desk exactly like the day he called him in several months ago. Alan always seemed to be interrupting him while he was reading through a folder of some sort. Another officer stood in front of the desk, apparently discussing the contents of said folder.

            Major Marman looked up and smiled when he noticed Alan. The other officer turned around.

            “Hey Dad, can I borrow your car?” Alan laughed.

            Marman laughed at the joke. The other officer, however, widened his eyes into a glare.

            “Sure, go ask my driver to take you wherever you want.” Marman smiled at him. Alan could still feel the other officer’s glare and didn’t smile back.

            “Thanks,” Alan paused. “Sir.”

            Alan left the office with the two men’s competing looks. Outside, the sun had set and the temperature was dropping ever faster than before. Alan felt a presence behind him and turned to see the glaring officer behind him.

            “Lunin, what you did back there was incredibly inappropriate. You do not talk to an officer like that.” The officer’s wide glare had sharpened into an intense, thin stare. “Don’t ever let me catch doing that again.”

            Alan frowned, because the officer could never have known what bond Marman and he had. He couldn’t have guessed the way that Marman tended flowers like his father, or the way they chatted like together like Alan was his son. He couldn’t have imagined that “Dad” was a term of so much more love and respect for Major Marman than “sir” ever would have been.

            But Alan couldn’t say any of this, so he just replied, “Yes, sir.”

            And with that Alan left to find “Dad’s” car so that he could have another weekend of red wine and music.

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