When my friend Liz told me a new LGBT newspaper was launching last Christmas, as I housesat her place on South Beach, my response was one of disbelief. “No one in this economy is starting a newspaper. Are you kidding,” I wrote before I pressed send, convinced it was a lie, or scam of some kind.

 

“I don’t know,” Liz responded. “I checked the guy’s name out on Wikipedia. The publisher seems pretty serious and, he’s pro-decriminalization of marijuana.”

My interest peaked, and when my Google findings corroborated with Ms. Liz I came to Wilton Manors for an interview. I had only heard things about the gay village, talk of it being a depraved city of lost gay boys and men wantonly, hopping from bed to bed and party to party, much like my college years in the East Village of Manhattan…it sounded delightful!

Yet, I went to the interview with much trepidation. As I am a fan of TruTV I feared whomever met me was going to kill me, transport my remains to the Everglades, where an alligator would enjoy me as a Christmas dinner. Fortunately I was not disposed of into any murky depths. Instead, I was eventually offered a full-time position, and it has been my pleasure, privilege and honor to serve the LGBT community in South Florida as SFGN’s Features and Lifestyles Editor.

Even though I was not a news writer I was patiently trained, initially rewriting over and over again under our publisher’s mantras of “what makes this story different from all the others,” and “get the story into the first paragraph,” and “stick to facts, not your opinion.”

We quickly – for it was a learning process for all of us – adapted to newspaper writing as opposed to the website, magazine, or fiction writing with which we were already familiar. As we adapted to writing for you, you have thanked us by making SFGN a weekly event, something you look forward to each week. We love your praise, and heartily consider your criticisms so we may constantly create a better product.

We have become a part of you, and you a part of us, for that we are all truly grateful. As a writer this is good for me, professionally and emotionally. I need to read and write like some people need to breathe. Now, that I look back on the past year I cannot believe I doubted the ability of this newspaper to survive, or even exist. In a way I guess it was my own fear, suggesting I would not be able to contribute enough to this paper to become a part of the community.

Even now, my formerly Catholic mind feels pangs of guilt for having ever felt that way. As we begin a new year, the second year of this publication, we have goals to expand and improve so that 2011 will indeed be a perfect 10 for your newspaper.

SFGN, as per HRC & AP, will go ‘LGBT’

This was my first attempt at writing something that was both political and humorous. It ended up being a bit of an episode in the office. After changing hands – and eyes – several times the resulting, final edits had “corrected” the incorrect initialisms that were intended to remain in the piece! It still makes me want a BLT.

Gay Actors Respond to Newsweek Claim

Actors Cheyenne Jackson, Michael Urie, Jonathon Groff and others react to the malicious claim by entertainment writer Ramin Setoodeh that gay men should – or could – not play straight men. “I think it’s some sort of wish fulfillment by society that wants to believe that sexuality is fluid. Yet on the same token that homosexuality is a choice, which it’s not,” said Paul Hagen an editor and award-winning playwright based in Manhattan.

Thirty is a Drag

In this column I turn 30, quit drinking and smoking, and take a turn on stage for the very first time. Instead of bombing on stage, which was my biggest fear, I took to it beyond my wildest hopes. This proved to me I’m not getting older, I’m getting wittier!

And, well, yes…older too!

Indian Professor Booted for Rickshaw Sex

There was a time early on in the paper, before we had developed our personal styles and collective voice, where we tried to emulate the shocking headlines and titles of the National Enquirer and the New York Post. This was my contribution, I even read a 60 page document about gay rights in India. Certainly, the title grabs your attention. However, I don’t think anyone ponders the fate of the poor professor as much as they imagine a rickshaw shaking salaciously along a crowded Mumbai curb.

Dirty Larry: ‘Wilton Drive Magazine’ Likely to Wilt

As I was searching for roommates I met all sorts of interesting people, one of them revealed he had moved here for a job that was not what he was expecting. This was my first exposure to writing real, local news. I wrote it with our publisher Norm Kent, it felt very “his girl Friday,” and…a little scary as we did not know how Larry Patterson would react to our exposure.

The Bonnet House and Gardens: Bohemian Grandeur

This was just a wonderful piece to write! A beautiful, historic home on the beach, and an heiress who lived to be nearly 110 years of age made for a magical afternoon and story that I hope made many of our readers pencil in a day at the Bonnet House Museum. History to me is wonderful – but being able to experience it firsthand in an intimate setting makes it all the more real.

Out in Africa

In the wake of intense anti-gay feelings and impending legislation in Africa I thought a more lighthearted look at travel in Africa was needed – I try to believe the glass is half full. This offered a unique opportunity to interview personal friends who have traveled to countries where it might be dangerous to be a gay man. My friend Stefan seemed to have a lot of fun in Africa, this before he was in a committed relationship. “Yes, I have been so comfortable in Africa that I even one time had sex with a very hot African policeman,” he told me from his home in Switzerland.

It Gets Better: Dan Savage Speaks Out to Gay Teenagers

Working on this piece felt great for two reasons. Firstly, I was able to write about something hopeful in the depressing wake of the gay suicides that caught national attention this past summer and fall. Secondly, when I emailed Dan Savage I thought I would never hear from him and that the piece wouldn’t be personalized – after all we are a small, community newspaper! However, he called me back within ten minutes, which meant the paper is a viable voice for our community. The interview with Savage made me feel as if SFGN was on the map.

Deidra Bergmann: How Dad, People, and Pets Formed Her Life

Dr. Bergmann was just a delight to interview! Friendly, sincere and warm – my time speaking with her didn’t feel like work, it felt like I was having a conversation in which she just happened to reveal a lot of personal information. Having lost my father more than ten years ago now the piece – which ran for Father’s Day – made me do a lot of reminiscing that made me happy on the holiday, not sad as I usually am.

Pornogate on the Beach!

Imagine my surprise that my first assignment was a piece on 1960s entertainer Connie Francis, this after going through a rough break-up prior to moving to Fort Lauderdale and becoming rather obsessed with her malt shop melodies. The first piece was fine, and I thought that would be it for Ms. Francis. Well…I was wrong! When her escorts were revealed to be gay porn actors, and a local dignitary quickly detached himself from the scene, a follow up was necessary! Besides, I got to use this line and get away with it! “Oh my God! I don’t know what to do. I can’t hurt their feelings,” when it was suggested [Connie Francis] dismiss the models. Ms. Francis is so nice. She even thinks porn stars have feelings!

Taking Stock of A Great Gay Life: the Man Behind Woodstock, Elliot Tiber

As a teenager my friends and I did not get into a revival of flower power, or The Beatles. We were too urban to wear Birkenstocks and pretend to be neo-hippies. Therefore, I never idolized the music of the sixties and my relatively conservative parents pretty much vilified them as a drug-washed waste of ten years. So, my interview with Elliot Tiber, the man who saved Woodstock, was enlightening on many levels. Another opportunity as a writer in which I felt I made a friend, not only got a great interview!

Odd but True: No Pride on the Drive

Sometimes as a journalist, the stories come to you. When the owners of Gallery XO contacted me, to tell me their pride flags were being challenged in this, the gayest city in America, I had to put their story in the paper. Going forward in 2011, if you have anything “odd but true” that you wish to see in print, please contact me via phone or email at the office.


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