Black Community Spotlight: Gary Hines

by Gary Hines

I’m from Philadelphia, PA

To reinforce the sometimes overlooked fact that there are black people in the LGBTQ community, and also that there are LGBTQ people in the black community, I’m From Driftwood’s very first Community Spotlight will feature stories from the black community all this week. We are also making a commitment to feature more stories of all people of color and different ethnicities beyond this week.

Wrapping up our Black Community Spotlight Week, Gary shares a funny flashback to when he first embraced his sexuality, and one night in particular preparing to go out and all the drama that ensued. Continue Reading to watch Gary’s reality show of a story.

Hi my name is Gary Hines. I am from Philadelphia. I was born and raised here. I did live for a brief period of time in California. In the 70s, like this was 1978, a friend of mine from the neighborhood had relatives and family in California. So I was communicating with him, because he had just moved out there and he would write me and say, “Oh, you know, it’s so different out here. It’s so spread out and wide and open. And there’s so many interesting people. You should come check it out.”  I kept saying “Ok, ok, well, whatever.” I said, “Maybe I will come and take a visit or whatever, maybe during the summer.”

Meanwhile I had dropped out of college. I was working but I wasn’t really doing much of anything. Still experimenting with the sexuality stuff on the side, you know. Like a very early DL kinda thing.  So I would come down to downtown Philly. And find out there was a place in Philadelphia called the Merry-Go-Round. And people called it that because people would drive around in a circle, in a square, until they found someone to pick up. So I was doing all that kind of stuff back in that time period. And, you know still trying to, like Oh no, I’m straight this is just a little thing I’m doing on the side.  So anyway, well I said let me go out and check out California.

I went out September of 78 to San Jose California, which as you probably know is south of San Francisco. Mecca, gay mecca. That is where I really, really came out. I started getting comfortable with myself and my sexuality. Because for a town that size they had at least ten gay bars, two bathhouses, and an adult movie theater. And this was not even in San Francisco. This one night in particular we were going out to a club called Tinker’s Dam which is in Campbell, California, right outside of San Jose. And this night started probably around 6 o’clock and I remember we were all meeting at one of my friend’s Joey, over at his house and we were all getting ready so this easily took two, two and a half, three hours. And it’s because we were all ironing clothes. And at the time, there were pants that I don’t know, I can’t remember the manufacturer but they were called bogarts. And they were really tight at the waist and they had several pleats. So they had like five pleats. So they were tight at the waist, sort of baggy here, and then they gathered in again at the ankle. So we had to make sure that those pants, that the creases were just perfect so this ironing process took a really long time. And we got into this big argument about the iron and you know. Hurry up, hurry up, will you, we’re never going to get anywhere with this. So we all had our different looks. I’m African American, I’m the only one there that doesn’t have feathered hair. I had my hair longer and I actually had it relaxed so it did look a little wavy. I don’t really know what look I was trying to affect at that time. Probably the latino cholo look.

So we ended up getting to the club, at Tinker’s Dam and there was a line to get in as there usually was on a Thursday night, and you know, as you stood in line, the cars came by of the homophobes from the area who would throw things at us while we stood in line. I’ll never forget, a couple of bottles crashed in front of us. You know, beer bottles or whatever. And I don’t think anyone got hurt or anything, but it was scary to stand out there. It was like an act of defiance just to be in that line because everybody knew what kind of club that was. Upon getting inside, I just remember the atmosphere there.  Of course there was a big shiny ball, you know with various colored lights spinning around. Smoke was very popular, so the DJ would bring smoke in every now and then, and you know you’d be all smoked up. People were wearing sunglasses, you know, inside this dark club. That night stands out for me because I just remember how long it took us to get dressed. And sort of the detail that these guys, and myself would do on the ironing and the pointing and the look and the, you know, everything had to be just right.

I don’t know it was just like a revolving drama.  Right now I could just see it being a reality show, that whole time there would be so perfect for a Bravo reality show, The Real Queens of San Jose. I think that would be a great name.

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