Bruce Presley: Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Bruce Presley is a man of many facets. From physics teacher at a private school to creator of the world’s first textbook on working with computers, to post-retirement founder of an award-winning video studio, Presley readily admits that he has led a charmed life.
It wasn’t always so. Realizing at a young age that he was gay, Presley joined the majority of his contemporaries buried deep in the closet.
“You have to remember,” said Presley. “This was a time when being gay could ruin your life. Homosexual behavior was outlawed in every state and the federal government regularly conducted witch hunts for gay federal employees.”
Nevertheless, Presley found a niche teaching physics at Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, NJ. Here he met other closeted gay men who created a close-knit network of support for one another as well as for students who experienced harassment for being or appearing to be gay.
It was also at Lawrenceville that Presley got started in the development and publication of textbooks.
“Someone gave the school a computer and the principal asked me to take charge of the machine because of my background in physics,” said Presley.
“I knew nothing about computers but who did back then?” he asked. “Well, let me tell you, the kids could really figure things out so I asked them to help us write a user’s manual and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation, Presley evolved from in-house manuals to general availability textbooks and soon had a significant publishing business offering textbooks on just about every aspect of personal computing for both the Microsoft-based computers and the Apple operating systems.
“As I started to make more money and wasn’t beholding to anyone for a job, I came to understand the powerful dynamic of financial security in the gay world,” said Presley. “It lets you come out with relative impunity. You still have to be careful when dealing with customers and other sources of income – or physical safety – but it’s a lot easier.”
In 2007 Presley sold his publishing business and used the proceeds to create one of his heart’s desires – a sound and image studio called Downtown Loft Studio (DTLS). Based in Lantana, Florida, DTLS has offices in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Presley has outfitted the studio with a panoply of equipment that he makes available to budding artists in exchange for their help on his projects.
“It’s a state-of-the-art facility,” said Chris Hedlund, Presley’s partner and a visual artist in his own right. “We can do just about anything that involves sight and sound.”
The studio’s first major production was a 2008 release of the award-winning documentary, Amancio: Two Faces on a Tombstone, about the brutal murder of a young drag star, and the efforts of a retired gay man to bring the murderer to justice, despite ignorance and prejudice from authorities in Yuma, AZ..
Since that undertaking, Presley has focused his videography efforts on another passion – supporting organizations that provide services to the LGBT populations.
“We have done projects with a wide range of organizations from CenterLink to the South Florida Symphony; from the community centers in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Los Angeles and New York City to our current production focused on the Stonewall National Museum and Archive.”
“I’m always amazed at how little is known about important gay organizations,” said Presley. “Hopefully our videos can help bring awareness and awareness will result in support.”
“Bruce and his crew are wonderful to work with and have done great videos for a number of our member centers,” said Terry Stone, executive director of CenterLink. “Our own video helps people to understand how CenterLink supports LGBT community centers across the country. Bruce is a strong ally for us. He definitely understands the value of our work.”
“I’ve been able to find some really wonderful young talent,” said Presley. “They like the work we’re doing and they’re eager to expand into other opportunities as well. I suspect I may be launching another major career and I have to admit that it’s exciting.”