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Column: My First Year as SFGN’s History Reporter

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I was surprised when my first column dealing with LGBT history in South Florida last summer became one of the most viewed stories on our website that week.

It was a modest first choice.

That article was about a rest stop that existed in the 1970s in Boca Raton just before the Broward County line. It had become a major gay hangout for hooking up and it became so problematic it is said to be one of the reasons the Dept. of Transportation scrapped plans for 3 other rest stops along I-95 in South Florida. Personally I thought the story was comical, however the story did bring out a lot of interesting memories from some of our readers since I soon received a few emails from some recollecting stories about rest stops in South Florida.

I was then inspired to write about Dr. David Acer, the Treasure Coast area dentist accused in the mid 1980s of transmitting HIV to several of his patients.   No medical professional has done this since then and it appeared to me his name should have a bit of vindication which is what I set out to do. All the patients seemingly had other sources for their positive status and there was definitely financial incentive for them to blame Dr. Acer. I don’t think we will ever really know what happened but that story I wrote seemed to gain attention. Readers emailed me and I was suprised to learn that it appeared that most people seemed to agree with my thoughts; the CDC had no answers and pinned it on the dead gay guy, it was easy to do since everyone else was doing it and how could he defend himself?

As someone who has grown up in West Palm Beach I am surrounded by the lasting influence that is architect Addison Mizner so you can imagine how exciting it was to research the rumors of him being gay. In the end it proved pretty hard to do, but I did find that just prior to his Palm Beach arrival in the late 1910s he had spent time working in the New York City firm of known gay architect Standford White and his many known gay associates. If Mizner was not gay he would have been the only straight one in this circle of men. In the end I don’t think many were surprised Mizner was likely indeed gay.

I watched comments poor in on social media about the murder that started it all. When Eastern Airlines flight attendant William T. Simpson was mysteriously murdered in a storybook incident in a “lovers lane” area of Miami in 1954, it created wide spread panic when a Miami News reporter focused on Simpson’s sexuality rather than the crime. His series of articles following the investigation alarmed Miami residents when they realized for the first time the gay population in Miami was probably in the tens of thousands rather than just a few people as many had amusingly assumed.

I do believe all the big stories are important, Anita Bryant’s campaign to the rise of human rights groups, AIDS, and gay marriage but sometimes I think it’s easy for us to forget some of the smaller stories that helped shape our community and that is the goal I set out each time I attempt to write something new.

I noticed one of my columns this year was followed by on the next page long time South Florida LGBT writer Jesse Monteagudo’s recollection of the Marlin Beach Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. I can only hope my writing has been able to contribute the informative, thought provoking, yet entertaining, nostalgia a story like that one does. It’s a new year and I have a lot of great irons in the fire.

Let’s keep them coming!


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