Art Greenwald: A Probing Interview

When Art Greenwald moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1979 he was already a seasoned journalist, having worked as editor, writer and columnist for a weekly journal in his native Pennsylvania. However, Greenwald the journalist, laid low for two decades as he pursued a career in the mental health field. This hiatus ended in 1998 when Art sent to Hotspots magazine an essay, Creating Cunanan, about the gay serial killer. This led to a series of writing and editorial jobs for a variety of South Florida gay publications: Hotspots, Scoop, the Express and the Independent. Recently, Greenwald collected some of his best gay essays and stories in a book: Anal Probe: A Penetrating Peek into the Gay Life (Author House).

Greenwald begins Anal Probe with his own coming out story: The Rocky Road to Self-Acceptance. There wasn’t much there. As Greenwald put it, coming out demanded no act of valor nor major sacrifice. “I had nothing to lose as so many before me did. There were no loud and daring declarations, no bells or whistles, no need to roar it from a rooftop. Nor would I lug a Gay Pride placard shirtless and in-your-face down Main Street seeking recognition for what came natural.” More refreshingly, Greenwald refuses to accept labels, having landed somewhere close to midway on the straight-gay Kinsey scale, a zero-to-six spectrum. Sexual attraction is far more complex than being boxed in by neat and narrow categories.

Two of Greenwald’s best essays came out of a harrowing personal experience, one that took place while he worked as the weekend doorman at the Boardwalk Bar. In October of 2005, two armed men entered the Bar after it closed, robbing the premises and holding Greenwald and other employees at gunpoint. The result was a piece, Horror on Andrews Square, which ran in the November 10, 2005 issue of the Independent and a sequel, Robbery: The Aftermath, published in the December 8 edition of that newspaper. Looking back, Greenwald describes the incident as a perfect crime of opportunity, well-planned out from the jump.

After the robbery, the management of the Boardwalk asked its employees to keep this harrowing experience to themselves but Greenwald, always the journalist, wrote about it for the Independent. As a result, Greenwald was fired for violating management’s gag order regarding the incident. This baffled the author, especially since word travels at lightning speed in gaydom. Nonetheless, Greenwald admits that a bar is a business first and anything perceived as bad publicity that could potentially hurt the register is kept within house.

Some of the other essays in Anal Probe are more humorous. In The Great State of Gay, Greenwald imagined what it would be like if Florida was "the official gay state of the union?" Here, Greenwald says, my intent was pure, tongue-in-cheek satire, a romanticized, fluffed-up vision of Florida as the first gay state of the union. Florida is not unlike my own home state of Pennsylvania regarding progressive thinking and lack thereof. There’s Pittsburgh, Philly and the rest is Alabama.

As Sports Editor for the Express, Art Greenwald wrote about the changing fortunes of gay and lesbian athletes, a topic that he reprised in Gay Jocks. Have things gotten better for gay athletes? Yes, says Greenwald, in the individualized sports. Not so in the close contact team sports where closets are still cramped though I’m optimistic. As more leave the closet, albeit post-retirement, old stereotypes fade, and society becomes more enlightened on sexuality, this will pave the way for a football, baseball or hockey player to come out while still active.

One of Arts most poignant profiles was about the "Unforgettable Charlie Squires," an elderly friend who was the victim of a violent hate crime. But Squires was not an isolated case, as Greenwald discovered when he wrote an investigative story (not published in Anal Probe) about 180 unsolved gay murders here [in South Florida] and almost all involved elderly gay men, an unacquainted pickup and an extreme level of brutality. Gay seniors, Greenwald continues, are easier targets, more vulnerable to violence due to age, physical decline and the inability to fight off younger, stronger attackers.

Living in South Florida for more than 30 years, Greenwald says, has broadened my prospective, re-seen things in a different light since working in the gay press. Twenty five years ago if you said we’d one day have our own city lined with gay businesses, clubs and restaurants, where couples could walk down a strip freely holding hands eating ice cream and electing gay mayors, I’d have suggested counseling. I’m proud of this community and its can-do spirit, for how its evolved and how we’ve coalesced to fight for our civil rights, for the helping organizations and bars holding benefits, serving others, the countless volunteers donating their time, the candlelight vigils remembering hate crime victims, the marches against bigotry, the fundraisers, the political action groups, the activism. We are not homogeneous, but diverse within and that’s our glimmering strength.

Anal Probe is available in over 40,000 book stores and retailers worldwide including authorhouse.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com and a host of other internet sites. To obtain a personalized signed copy, contact the author at articleartaol.com . See SFGN for places and times of upcoming book signing events.

Jesse Monteagudo (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is a freelance writer and regular contributor to SFGN.

 

 


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