Audio Interview, Gary Sweet, July 28, 2012

  • EVELYN BAILEY: My own sense is, regardless
  • of when you were born and where you were born, if you were gay,
  • you always had to go through that process of saying
  • to yourself, I'm gay.
  • GARY SWEET: First and foremost, yes.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And getting comfortable with that.
  • Because it is still not obviously the norm.
  • I mean, everywhere you look, what do you see?
  • You don't see gay men and women.
  • Yes, we have TV shows now
  • that have a gay theme, and may have gay actors and characters
  • in them.
  • But the world, for all practical purposes--
  • GARY SWEET: It's still heterosexual.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Is heterosexual.
  • GARY SWEET: Well, yeah.
  • I mean it's--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So that process still is wrought with fear,
  • anxiety, worry.
  • And there are still--
  • GARY SWEET: Well, they're young.
  • Like I said, back then, you thought
  • something was wrong with you.
  • Today it's still got to put you through the process
  • of accepting yourself.
  • But there are venues available to you
  • to talk to and understand.
  • There wasn't back then.
  • I mean, you were on your own.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: You were born here in Rochester.
  • GARY SWEET: Oh yes.
  • Uh-huh.
  • Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • GARY SWEET: The east side, over what
  • was (unintelligible), but now it's (unintelligible),
  • over Portland Avenue, Clifford Avenue.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • GARY SWEET: Where the tailor shops.
  • My mother worked for the tailor shop, Fashion Park Clothing
  • over there.
  • And that's where I grew up.
  • But I was on the east side.
  • I joke about going over to Greece,
  • I need a passport to cross the river.
  • Because I don't know anything about the west side.
  • I'm an east side boy.
  • I've always been an east side boy.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: Always.
  • So except for high school.
  • I guess Aquinas is on the west side, isn't it?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: You went to Aquinas?
  • GARY SWEET: Aquinas is on the west side, I guess.
  • Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I taught there for nineteen years.
  • GARY SWEET: Did you?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: That's my Alma mater.
  • (Bailey laughs)
  • GARY SWEET: That's my Alma mater.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: That's when--
  • GARY SWEET: I was out of there would you taught, though.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • I was there in 1978.
  • GARY SWEET: I graduated in '61.
  • Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And at that time, there
  • were mostly priests and some religious women, I think.
  • A few sisters.
  • GARY SWEET: Well, we had two sisters when I went there.
  • That was all that was there.
  • Sister Hildegard, Sister Mercedes.
  • They were nasty women.
  • They still wore the black robes.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Oh yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: The Sisters of Saint Joseph.
  • They still wore the black robes.
  • And they were-- that ruler.
  • I can still see that ruler.
  • Because I'm not in grammar school
  • anymore don't be slapping me with that ruler.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: And it was all boys then.
  • And it was, you know--
  • you still had to wear your shirt and tie and sport coat
  • to school.
  • And if they told you the weather was warm enough
  • to take of your sport coat, you took it off.
  • Otherwise, you kept it on.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: It was a wonderful experience for me.
  • It was a wonderful education.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It still is.
  • GARY SWEET: I still think they should have the secular girls
  • and boys high schools.
  • I do.
  • This integrating them them--
  • to me, it was a bad idea.
  • I know they needed the attendance.
  • They needed students.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: I understand all of that.
  • But the discipline and the structure
  • was more suitable for just all boys.
  • Where once the girls became, then they
  • have to start watching different things and that.
  • Same with the girls school.
  • They started letting boys in.
  • You know, the women had to change
  • the way they talk to the girls.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Hi, Kevin.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Hey there.
  • GARY SWEET: Hello.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: You know Gary.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Oh yeah.
  • Of course.
  • GARY SWEET: How are you, honey?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You got new tables and everything out here.
  • GARY SWEET: They've been here for-- you don't come around.
  • The tables have been here for--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I know.
  • I don't go to--
  • GARY SWEET: Eighty years.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --any of the bars anymore, Gary.
  • GARY SWEET: We're all getting old.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well, I wouldn't say that.
  • GARY SWEET: I will.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Don't say that to him.
  • GARY SWEET: Oh, I will.
  • I'll say it.
  • I mean, I'll say it to myself.
  • I know I am.
  • GARY SWEET: We were just discussing about youth
  • and how things have changed with them coming out now.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Oh yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: Back when I was a boy,
  • there was no venues for us to talk to anyone.
  • Or no place to research.
  • We didn't have computers available to us.
  • And if we even did, we'd be afraid to go on them.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: Someone's going to see it.
  • Someone's going to know about it.
  • Someone's going to find out, you know?
  • I mean, even when I was twenty-one,
  • I was still sneaking around the corners.
  • I got out of the Air Force and my first gay bar in Rochester
  • was Dick's 43, on Stone Street.
  • And even then, I was petrified.
  • Took me two months to even set foot in there.
  • I would drive around on the block, cruise around the block
  • before finally, this one guy came outside and says,
  • "Are you going to drive around the rest of your life,
  • or are going to come in?"
  • And that was Jerry Hummel, who ended up
  • being one of my best friends.
  • GARY SWEET: And I went in.
  • And back then, it was you couldn't dance with a boy.
  • I mean, she allowed it, because she had the police on her side.
  • But she would ring a bell when you
  • had to stop if the cops were coming by or something.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: She would ring a bell,
  • and everybody would just sit back down again.
  • It was an experience.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • GARY SWEET: It was something, you know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Now, let me go back just a hair.
  • You were in the Air Force.
  • GARY SWEET: Um-hm.
  • Four years.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Did you ever see or observe
  • anyone being harassed because of their--
  • GARY SWEET: No.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Sexuality?
  • In the Air Force?
  • GARY SWEET: I was very closeted.
  • But I also had the fortune of being able--
  • I was stationed in Wichita, Kansas--
  • the asshole of the world.
  • I was fortunate enough to have an apartment off-base.
  • I worked off-base.
  • My captain and I were good friends.
  • So he allowed me to live off-base.
  • And I was very, very open and active in the Air Force
  • off-base.
  • I had a lover off-base.
  • But on-base?
  • No.
  • I never saw any harassment.
  • But I never saw anybody even attempting to be gay.
  • It was just not done.
  • I'm sure there were.
  • I wasn't the only one in (unintelligible)
  • Air Force Base that was gay.
  • I'm sure of that.
  • But nobody on-base-- I never saw anything.
  • Never saw harassment because everyone was afraid to even--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: I was two different people.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: I was Gary outside of the base,
  • and I was an airman on the base.
  • And I knew where to draw the line, you know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Let me ask you this, then.
  • Because you were out and about while you were
  • in the Air Force, off-base.
  • But when you came back to Rochester,
  • you then felt intimidated again.
  • I mean, you drove around Dick's 43 for two months.
  • GARY SWEET: Family.
  • Once again, I was afraid someone was going to see me.
  • In the Air Force, I didn't care.
  • I mean, there was nobody there.
  • Nobody knew me there.
  • I was a stranger.
  • I was a new pretty face in town.
  • But once I got back to Rochester,
  • I was petrified that I was going to see somebody that I knew.
  • And I did.
  • I mean, a couple of times I ran into the bathroom
  • and hide because one of my cousins
  • walked in there with his buddies.
  • You know?
  • I mean, just scoping it out back then.
  • There was just gay harassment.
  • It wasn't that he was gay.
  • He was coming out to check out the faggots, you know?
  • And I ran.
  • As soon as I saw him come near the door I ran.
  • I was shaking like a leaf.
  • And Martha Gruttadauria-- God rest her soul--
  • she said, "I'll let you know when he's gone."
  • And she knocked on the door and let me know when he was gone.
  • She protected her boys.
  • Martha protected her boys.
  • She was the safeguard for all of us.
  • Thank God, that woman.
  • She was a tough old broad.
  • But she looked out for her boys.
  • And that's exactly what she called them.
  • Her boys.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And she had no problem
  • with guys being gay in her bar?
  • GARY SWEET: Oh, the money that woman made off of us.
  • When she retired the first time she should have stayed retired.
  • But she got greedy, and she then ended up
  • getting killed in her own bar.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: She got greedy, is what it was.
  • But no, but she watched out for us.
  • But she made a fortune.
  • She used to have a--
  • I tended bar for them for four weeks.
  • And I got fired.
  • She would have a bottle of vodka water.
  • It was her bottle.
  • She would drink screwdrivers.
  • You would have to use that bottle
  • and charge them for a screwdriver.
  • And it would be water and orange juice.
  • If I bought you a beer--
  • back then they were all long necks.
  • And If you didn't touch it, I had to recap that and put it
  • back in to resell it.
  • We had to wash our swizzle sticks.
  • But back then, they were with the thick plastic.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: They weren't like we have now.
  • We used to have to throw those in the water and wash them.
  • That's why they're millionaires.
  • But I got fired because he counted his beer bottles
  • and found out that I hadn't rung up four bottles of beer.
  • And he called me in.
  • This was her husband Dick.
  • That's why it was Dick's 43.
  • I showed up for work on Saturday.
  • He called me In his office.
  • And he says, "Four bottles of beers weren't rung up."
  • I says, "Guy was spending a lot of money."
  • I said, "I bought him a beer."
  • "Comes out of your pay, and get out of here."
  • That was it.
  • No, "comes out of your pay, now get out."
  • OK, bye.
  • Years later, I was saying goodbye to them.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah, I got fired from Dick's 43.
  • I tell everybody that.
  • It was funny.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • What other bars were--
  • there was Dick's 43.
  • GARY SWEET: The Blue Chip.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The Blue Chip and Dick's were the only two
  • bars back then.
  • That was it.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Where was The Blue Chip?
  • GARY SWEET: Oh, God.
  • Over by Allen Street.
  • In that area.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • GARY SWEET: But of course, the women had their--
  • the men weren't allowed in there.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Riverview.
  • GARY SWEET: Riverview.
  • And there was another one too, wasn't there?
  • (unintelligible).
  • The 212.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Oh, Anthony's?
  • GARY SWEET: No, no no.
  • The 212.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: 212 out in Dutchtown, Hague?
  • GARY SWEET: Colvin Street?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Colvin Street.
  • GARY SWEET: (unintelligible).
  • All I know is his name was (unintelligible).
  • It was straight during the day, and lesbians at night.
  • And the men knew lesbians were coming in.
  • And if they didn't want to leave, they didn't leave.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And it was OK.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I mean--
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • Because (unintelligible), once again,
  • was like Martha Gruttadauria.
  • He took care of the girls.
  • He wanted them in there, because he knew
  • they were going to spend money.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: But the Blue Chip was
  • basically it was a drag bar.
  • A dance drag bar.
  • And Martha got that closed down.
  • Every other weekend she had it closed down.
  • She'd send the cops over there, and they
  • would drag the drag queens out.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Talk to us about the drag queens.
  • GARY SWEET: You had to wear at least one male attire
  • under your dress.
  • You could not be totally female.
  • You have to have either underpants on, or something.
  • You had to have--
  • you know.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • GARY SWEET: They had it hard.
  • The cops--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You have to wonder, like,
  • who came up with that law?
  • You know?
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • Otherwise, they were impersonating a female.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: You know, which, I guess, was against the law.
  • I'm not too sure what the law was,
  • but I do know that you had to have one piece of female--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: We need to look that up.
  • GARY SWEET: Yep.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What the law actually was.
  • GARY SWEET: The cops were nasty with them.
  • Talk about police brutality, they
  • used to throw them in the back of the paddy wagon
  • and rip their wigs off.
  • Embarrass them.
  • Call them names.
  • Harass them.
  • Put them in the jail with the men, instead of separately.
  • They were thrown in with all these other rough drunks
  • in there.
  • With their makeup crying all over their face,
  • and everything.
  • You know, they had it pretty rough back then.
  • They really did.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Who do you remember?
  • GARY SWEET: I remember one that used to work for Martha.
  • Her name was Jackie.
  • I don't (unintelligible) her real name.
  • But she was almost like a Dolly Parton in Levis.
  • I mean she always had these huge blonde wigs on.
  • And she would just wear jeans and a shirt.
  • But she had the biggest chest in the world.
  • And she was the waitress over at Dick's 43.
  • And Buddy Yeakel did drag a lot.
  • He's the one that owned-- he was a hairdresser.
  • And he owned The Lost and Found.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Diego?
  • GARY SWEET: Yeakel.
  • Y-E-A-K-E-L. And his lover at the time--
  • I think he's still here in town.
  • Works over at The Frog Pond.
  • He's the cook over there.
  • Can't think of his name right now.
  • It'll come to me, but I can't think of his name right now.
  • But they owned The Lost and Found.
  • But Buddy used to do Mae West in drag.
  • And there was Bobby Hummel--
  • Jerry's brother that did drag all the time.
  • Every week, I think, he would go out in drag.
  • Oh, there were a lot of them.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wayne Esposito?
  • GARY SWEET: Well, he's new.
  • Wayne is Liza.
  • I mean, that's new.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: That's new.
  • GARY SWEET: That's after I was here.
  • I'm going back in the sixties, yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Bobby Hummel.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • He used to be a waiter at the restaurant on the corner.
  • It was very, very, popular.
  • Right by the Eastman Theater.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: The Red Hat?
  • GARY SWEET: No, it was small.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Oh.
  • Not The Red Carpet?
  • GARY SWEET: No, that was a gay bar.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: A bar.
  • GARY SWEET: Um.
  • You had to have a suit and tie to get inside the place.
  • If you were anybody you went to that restaurant.
  • But Bobby was a waiter there.
  • Then he would go out in drag.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Who was he in drag?
  • GARY SWEET: Just drag.
  • Back then, most of them did do personalities.
  • Like Liza does Liza.
  • You know, that type of stuff.
  • Back then, most of them would take somebody on.
  • Otherwise, they just wanted to get dressed up as a woman
  • and wear women's clothing.
  • What the hell is that?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The Top Hat?
  • GARY SWEET: No.
  • It was red something.
  • It'll come to me, maybe later on.
  • I can't remember right now.
  • It was a very elite restaurant.
  • It was right on the corner.
  • Right?
  • It'll come to me.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And not The Manhattan?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Not the East Chop House?
  • GARY SWEET: Oh, no.
  • Not The Manhattan.
  • No.
  • No.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Because that wasn't really upscale.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah, that was big too.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: No, The Manhattan on the side street by mid-town
  • there.
  • This was right where that main street--
  • It'll come to me.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: OK.
  • GARY SWEET: All right.
  • Other than that, um--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So.
  • GARY SWEET: Then--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: In that era--
  • GARY SWEET: That was the late sixties.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Late sixties.
  • There were would you say, a lot of female impersonators?
  • Or a lot of guys doing drag?
  • GARY SWEET: No.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And was there one place that they would--
  • GARY SWEET: The Blue Chip.
  • And that's why Martha had it raided every other week.
  • Because everybody would go over there to dance.
  • They'd have a drag show.
  • And everybody would go there, then she'd be dead.
  • So she'd call the cops, and then they'd raid it.
  • I think it was her nephew was a lieutenant on the police force.
  • And so she would call him, and he
  • would get the boys and the paddy wagon,
  • and go raid The Blue Chip.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: That's helpful, isn't it?
  • (laughter)
  • GARY SWEET: He was a captain or a lieutenant or something.
  • And he would also protect her very much.
  • But the paddy wagons were fun back then.
  • They really were.
  • They'd just pull right up and open the back doors,
  • and throw them inside there.
  • I just felt sorry for these guys.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: They would treat them as
  • if they were gum on their shoe.
  • It was terrible.
  • It was awful.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • And then 1969 came along, and Stonewall happened in the city.
  • GARY SWEET: Nothing changed much in Rochester.
  • It did in New York.
  • It took a while for it to come around in Rochester.
  • We were still petrified because we're too small.
  • We didn't have the amount of people.
  • New York-- if you wanted to be gay then,
  • you went to San Francisco or New York City.
  • But in Rochester, I mean, we were cheering, and applauding,
  • and were happy for all of this hoopla.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: But it didn't affect us as far
  • as making us stronger.
  • Not for a long time, I would say.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Hm.
  • GARY SWEET: The mid-seventies.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: It was still very closeted here.
  • Too many corporations.
  • And back then, it's not like today.
  • You don't have Lambda and all of those other core groups,
  • you know.
  • If you worked for Xerox, Kodak, Bausch and Lomb,
  • which basically, everybody did.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: You didn't say a word about being gay.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: That was not heard of back then.
  • You'd lose your job for sure.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: But, I mean, unless--
  • I think even if you were union at Xerox.
  • Kodak didn't have a union.
  • It still doesn't.
  • Well, there's no Kodak, but.
  • I still think you would have lost your job for being
  • a homosexual back then.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Mm.
  • GARY SWEET: I can't say, but I know you would have at Kodak
  • because I saw a few of them get fired at Kodak.
  • Because I worked there for a short time.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: And that was another thing that was not--
  • I was closeted at Kodak, you know?
  • I was closeted most of my places except for the gay bars.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: That's one of the reasons why I got married.
  • It was expected of me.
  • Italian Catholic boy, you got married.
  • And my mother and father knew I was gay when I got married.
  • And my father says, "You won't stop this?"
  • But I finally almost had a nervous breakdown,
  • and they realized that I just--
  • they supported me 100 percent, you know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: Then they turned the corner.
  • My father became my best friend.
  • He used to come in here and protect me inside here when
  • I first bought this bar.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So, when did you open the Avenue Pub?
  • I mean, what moved you into the bar scene?
  • GARY SWEET: I had tended bar in the Air Force.
  • I had always been either a cook or a bartender.
  • Started out when I was a eighteen in the Air Force.
  • And came home, and I'd say 80 percent of time
  • I had a part time job tending bar somewhere.
  • Usually straight bars.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: And I was a mail man.
  • And my mail route happened to be Cobb's Hill.
  • And I used to go finish early in the afternoon,
  • go in to Cobb's Hill Grill, which is Jeremiah's.
  • And have a few drinks and before I went home
  • to my wife and all this.
  • I got to know everybody in there.
  • And the owner, Sam Giordano, offered me a job tending bar.
  • Nights, which I took, because I didn't have any money.
  • I had three kids.
  • I worked for the post office.
  • So I took the job tending bar, nights for him.
  • And from there, he offered me a manager's job,
  • and running four of the Carlisi Giordano bars in Rochester.
  • And I quit the post office, which probably
  • was a mistake at that time.
  • But I was excited about his new venture.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: My wife was not happy
  • because I lost my benefits.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Sure.
  • GARY SWEET: But I started tending bar for him,
  • managing the place.
  • Then I was general manager for four of their bars.
  • They had the Encore, The Pussycat, Ben's Cafe Society,
  • and The Music Shop on Saint Paul Street.
  • And then they had to sell this place here.
  • It was called Neil's Cocktail Lounge.
  • He had so many violations that he's going to lose the place.
  • And they didn't want to lose it.
  • So I was their front man.
  • You know, we'll give you so much money,
  • put the license in your name.
  • You own half of it, we own half.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: OK, why not?
  • I want to own my own business.
  • So, once again, made my wife unhappy.
  • Took it over.
  • And it was a very, very, very rough bar.
  • It was bikers, Indians.
  • They put me in the hospital.
  • Like I told you, twice.
  • My father used to have to come and protect me.
  • And approximately eight to nine months
  • after I did this for them, and opened it up,
  • they wanted to open up a bar in Perinton.
  • He said, "You have to buy us out."
  • I said, "Buy you out with what?
  • I don't have any money."
  • He said, "You have to buy us out, now.
  • We need the money."
  • And you didn't mess with the Carlisi Giordanos.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I was going to ask you about the Giordanos.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • You didn't mess with them.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Were they Mafia?
  • GARY SWEET: Oh yeah.
  • They were involved in that car bombing at Empire Boulevard.
  • They were at the plaza there.
  • The Blue Gardenia.
  • They were involved in that.
  • I used to hide stolen goods up in my attic for them.
  • Which made my wife very nervous.
  • Fur coats and stuff like that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And were they connected to the Mafia
  • outside of Rochester?
  • GARY SWEET: They're connected all over.
  • I mean, indirectly, not so much directly.
  • But they're all connected.
  • There's always one head of the family.
  • Sam Carlisi was the head here in Rochester.
  • And his brother Joe was his understudy, I guess,
  • is what you call it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: And so, I said I didn't have the money.
  • They said, well, you have to come up with it somehow.
  • So my father loaned me some, and Lindy Nardone,
  • who owned A1 Amusement, who had all the machines in Rochester,
  • he said, "Whatever you need, you've got it.
  • Get rid of them.
  • You don't need them.
  • You pay me back money for the machines."
  • Lindy and I became very, very good friends
  • until he finally sold A1 Amusement.
  • No questions asked.
  • You know, don't sign any papers.
  • Just here's the money, give it to them.
  • So I bought them out.
  • And it was officially all mine.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: What year was this?
  • GARY SWEET: Well, it would be the end of '75.
  • I opened in June of '75.
  • I'm going to say December of '75?
  • January of '76?
  • Technically the license was in my name.
  • You know, and all of that.
  • They were not--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What was the name?
  • GARY SWEET: The Avenue Pub.
  • They were not supposed to--
  • I mean, no one knew that I had this dealing with them.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: You know.
  • If the liquor board found out that I had a dealing with them,
  • you know.
  • So I was glad to be rid of them.
  • And then six years later, they came back to me
  • and wanted to buy back in to the Avenue Pub
  • because I was a success.
  • And I said, "No."
  • And I will tell you, I was shaking in my pants
  • when I said no to them.
  • I was shaking, and they said, "Well,
  • we're going to put you out of business."
  • And that's when they turned the Pussycat into a gay bar.
  • Which lasted about six months.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: That would have been the early eighties.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • About, probably, '81, '82?
  • Yeah.
  • Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Do you remember the name of that bar?
  • GARY SWEET: The Pussycat.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • They kept the same name as a gay bar?
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • Well it didn't last that long.
  • They just made it known that they
  • were going to be a gay bar.
  • That drag shows were welcome, because it was a strip bar.
  • So they had a huge stage.
  • The place was enormous.
  • It was big.
  • So they thought that they were get all the drag queens and all
  • the guys to come in there and dance and everything.
  • And like I said, probably about not even six months.
  • The way they were treated by the by the Italians,
  • or whatever you want to say.
  • They just stopped going there.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: And once again, they didn't put me out of business.
  • Martha was going to put me out of business.
  • You know, when she opened over on Alexander Street.
  • She came right in here one night and said,
  • "I'll get my boys back."
  • I said, "Martha, do what you gotta to do, honey."
  • I said, you know.
  • I said, "There's enough for all of us.
  • Do what you gotta do."
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What was the bar on Alexander that she opened?
  • GARY SWEET: That was a Dick's.
  • They were all Dick's.
  • After she closed the one on on Stone Street,
  • she opened on State Street.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Right, but it was Alexander and South, right?
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah, it was on the corner of Alexander.
  • But it was still called Dick's.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: But after Stone Street,
  • she opened up on State Street.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: Where Mobil is.
  • She had that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: And she closed that and retired.
  • And she came in here, and opened up another one.
  • You know?
  • "My boys will come back.
  • My boys--"
  • And I said, "Martha, they don't know who you are, these kids.
  • You've been gone a long time.
  • They don't know Martha."
  • "They'll be back.
  • I'll get my boys back."
  • Well, she got some of the old crowd back, yeah.
  • But nothing from what she thought.
  • And then she ended up getting killed by one of her customers.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: And that was the saddest thing I'd--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well, it's funny that you say that,
  • because I remember Dick's on the corner of South and Alexander.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: As a young man saying.
  • And the rumor was, oh, that's where all the old farts go.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So you didn't go there.
  • GARY SWEET: All the old queens.
  • That's where they went.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: The ones that remembered Martha,
  • that's where they would go.
  • They would talk about the good times, yeah?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: You know.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But at that time, when
  • Martha reopened on Alexander, and The Pussycat later on.
  • GARY SWEET: Well, The Pussycat was before Martha.
  • Martha opened up on Alexander and South in the late eighties.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • Mid-'85, '86.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: How many gay bars were there?
  • GARY SWEET: Oh, there were a lot of us.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: By then.
  • GARY SWEET: Yes.
  • Oh, God.
  • When I opened up here, they told me
  • that I would never last because I was out the suburbs.
  • Because all the gay bars were downtown.
  • (laughter)
  • Well, (unintelligible) said, "Gary,
  • you're going to make it on Monroe Avenue.
  • You're too far out of the loop."
  • Well, I said, "I'm going to give it a shot."
  • Then the next thing I know, I got Rosie's.
  • I got Friar's.
  • And they're pushing me in the suburbs.
  • You know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: They all came to Monroe Avenue.
  • Oh, let me see.
  • We had Jim's.
  • The Rathskeller.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The Red Fez.
  • GARY SWEET: The Red Carpet.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The Red Carpet.
  • GARY SWEET: Friar's.
  • Rosie's.
  • The Forum.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Tara's.
  • GARY SWEET: Tara's.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: We're talking mid-eighties.
  • There's Liberty.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • Liberty.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Liberty.
  • Or Jim's.
  • The LA Saloon.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I never went there.
  • GARY SWEET: Out on Lake Avenue.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Bullwinkle's?
  • GARY SWEET: Well, that was always-
  • that had been around for one thousand years.
  • But that was never a gay bar.
  • They'd go there and sing on weekends.
  • But I could never really consider that a gay bar.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Anthony's?
  • GARY SWEET: Anthony's.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: 212.
  • GARY SWEET: Well, Anthony's came in the nineties.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Was that the nineties?
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: OK.
  • GARY SWEET: Roy Lawrence's place over on (unintelligible)
  • Street.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That was Backstreets, wasn't it?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Backstreets?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: There was a place called Backstreets.
  • It was late eighties.
  • GARY SWEET: That wasn't Backstreets, Roy's place.
  • I'm trying to think.
  • It had a western--
  • OK Corral.
  • Alright.
  • The OK Corral.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And then did he sell that?
  • GARY SWEET: No.
  • Well, he lost it.
  • He didn't sell it.
  • He lost it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And then he came here
  • and was your chef for a while.
  • GARY SWEET: Yes, he cooked here.
  • And he used to do drag shows in the barn back there.
  • We would have drag shows about once a month in that barn.
  • They opened up the doors.
  • It had a huge stage and catwalk.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Huh.
  • Is that where the--
  • GARY SWEET: Miss (unintelligible).
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The Miss Gay Rochester Pageant?
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • They had it there are a couple of times.
  • You know, because the stage has enormous.
  • I mean, that barn is huge in there.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: Oh, I've done it and tried it all.
  • I used to have drag shows inside the bar here.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: The drag queens used to actually dance on the bar.
  • Because I didn't have room for a stage, and stuff like that.
  • I've had live entertainment.
  • I mean, I've had just about everything
  • you could think of here.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So, we're now into the--
  • GARY SWEET: Nineties?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Eighties.
  • GARY SWEET: Oh.
  • It was still in the eighties?
  • OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It was still in the eighties.
  • GARY SWEET: OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And HPA began in 1986.
  • GARY SWEET: Um-hm.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: OK.
  • Actually, I don't want to go there just yet.
  • GARY SWEET: OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I want to talk about when you bought out
  • this bar.
  • GARY SWEET: Um-hm.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: And at some point,
  • was it a gay bar by that time?
  • GARY SWEET: No.
  • No.
  • No.
  • No.
  • No.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: At some point you
  • transitioned to the gay bar.
  • I want to talk about that transition,
  • and talk about maybe some of the community harassment
  • that you may have--
  • GARY SWEET: Oh.
  • That's why I said they put in the hospital.
  • But I never intended to open a gay bar.
  • That was not my intention.
  • I just wanted to own my own business.
  • But because I had known so many gay people
  • from sneaking around--
  • and well, Jerry Hummel, one of them, was a friend of mine.
  • Said he was going to open a bar.
  • And word just spread.
  • And I was wanting to open up on June first.
  • And I didn't have the place ready.
  • And every single day, They would come by and, "Are you open?
  • Are you open?"
  • I said, "No I'm not open.
  • I'm not ready."
  • "June fifth," they said, "you're opening."
  • And a group that came in started cleaning the place,
  • and wiped it.
  • Because I mean, I just had to clean.
  • They started bringing up the liquor from the basement,
  • and the stools up.
  • And they said, "You're opening up.
  • You're opening up.
  • Go get some money."
  • And I was open at ten o'clock in the morning on June 5, 1975.
  • Not intending on what I was.
  • And then the neighborhood started coming around,
  • "You will not have a gay bar on Monroe Avenue."
  • And I said, "I have a bar on Monroe Avenue."
  • I said, "That's what I have."
  • And they came in there and they really tried to kill me.
  • Literally.
  • There were four of them.
  • One's still alive, living on the reservation.
  • He can't leave because he's wanted for murder.
  • But it was Bigsby, Valenti, Gilette, and Moran.
  • I'll never forget their names.
  • Moran is still on the reservation.
  • The other three are dead.
  • My cousin was an officer on the police force,
  • and he rode in a paddy wagon.
  • And would come by here every night and check in on me,
  • and see if I was OK.
  • And put the word out on the street
  • that if you touch my cousin, that's it.
  • I had a bouncer that used to just sit by the front door.
  • His name was Bear.
  • He had tattoos all over his body.
  • He had a German shepherd.
  • Sat there.
  • My father would sit back here as you go to the pool room there.
  • I didn't have that side of the bar.
  • It was only one half.
  • The half where the bar is.
  • I didn't have that other side.
  • Didn't get that until Bob Lambo, who was my lover,
  • bought the building.
  • And then he opened it up.
  • My father would sit at the end of the bar with a blackjack.
  • And on a busy night, we'd be watching Johnny Carson.
  • I'd be behind the bar, and I'd have maybe five people in here.
  • It took about four-and-a-half, five years for them to realize
  • they couldn't--
  • I wasn't going anywhere.
  • And they just stopped one by one.
  • Stopped coming in.
  • Stopped harassing me.
  • The women were the worst.
  • Their girlfriends.
  • They were the worst ones.
  • They would come in.
  • That's why the front door is just an exit door.
  • Because they would pull it open, because I'm
  • right on the sidewalk.
  • Pull it open, and start throwing stuff in.
  • Eggs, rocks.
  • They would just fling the door open and start throwing.
  • A couple of my customers got hurt with rocks back then.
  • But nobody would report it.
  • They were afraid to.
  • Nobody would.
  • No, no, no, no, no, no!
  • They'd have a cut on their head.
  • You know, we'd take care of it ourselves
  • because the didn't want to report to the cops.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But technically--
  • GARY SWEET: Those were rough days.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: You weren't a gay bar.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah, I was.
  • Not intentionally, but yeah, I was a gay bar.
  • That's why I was having all my problems, because I was.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Alright.
  • GARY SWEET: The gays wanted to come to me.
  • Oh, they knew me.
  • They said, you know, "We'll get over this."
  • You know?
  • "We'll handle it."
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: It took a while.
  • And they started coming in, you know, more and more and more.
  • It became very, very popular in the late seventies,
  • as far as the place to be.
  • On Sundays and Thursdays we had the dancing.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: You know.
  • But it was a rough go in the beginning.
  • My poor wife, she had no idea.
  • Well, she did know.
  • I told her it was just a rough bar.
  • She wasn't allowed in here because she's
  • from South America.
  • So whatever I said, she--
  • and never set foot in there.
  • She didn't know what was going on.
  • You know, she stayed home with the kids.
  • That's what her job was, because she stayed home.
  • She had no idea what was going on over there.
  • She had no idea.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: On a scale of one to ten, how scared were you?
  • GARY SWEET: Ten.
  • Especially the first time they put me in the hospital.
  • And then they came in on New Year's Eve,
  • and barricaded both doors.
  • I was home with my family.
  • I wasn't even here.
  • I had a bouncer.
  • I had two bartenders.
  • It was New Year's Eve, and my wife
  • didn't know it was a gay bar that I've had.
  • So she expected me home on New Year's Eve.
  • Which I was home.
  • And I got a phone call that they barricaded both doors,
  • and they stood down the front of the bar, and took their arms
  • and tipped the bar over and broke
  • every bottle inside the place.
  • Wouldn't let anybody leave.
  • Wouldn't let them use the phone.
  • And I got a phone call when everything was done, you know?
  • And my bouncer hid underneath the bar.
  • He was petrified.
  • He hid.
  • He wasn't going to get involved in that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • GARY SWEET: They called me and said,
  • "You better call the police, and you better get out down here."
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And these were neighborhood people?
  • GARY SWEET: The four guys that I gave you the names, yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Four guys, yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: They were bikers.
  • I can't say they were the Hell's Angels.
  • I'm not going to put a name on the group.
  • But they were bikers, and who rode for,
  • or who they rode with, I don't know.
  • But they came in and hung their flag up on the wall.
  • I got shotgun holes in the walls inside the bar.
  • They're covered up now.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Oh my God.
  • GARY SWEET: Were put there before I bought the place.
  • But there are shotgun holes in there.
  • When I bought the place, the holes were there.
  • The cops were here every weekend.
  • The front of the building used to be like The Bug Jar
  • because it was all glass.
  • Every weekend, I guess somebody was
  • going through the front window.
  • So when I bought the place, I couldn't get the glass insured.
  • No one would insure it.
  • So I had to change the front of the building
  • so I could get insurance.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: They wouldn't even touch it.
  • "We're not insuring that place."
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • GARY SWEET: I had to put a new front on.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • GARY SWEET: The only light inside the place
  • was where that fan is in the bar, there.
  • There was a cord hanging need out of a light bulb.
  • That was it.
  • There were no other lights inside the bar.
  • It just had a light bulb hanging down from the ceiling.
  • On a cord.
  • You know, on an electrical cord.
  • I was out of my mind for buying this place.
  • I really was.
  • I was out of my mind.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Why didn't you sell?
  • Why didn't you get out?
  • GARY SWEET: No one was going to make me do it.
  • If I wanted to get out, I would have gotten out.
  • No one was gonna make me get out.
  • My father taught me that.
  • He was behind me, too.
  • He says, "Do you want to close?
  • Do you want to get out?"
  • I said, "No.
  • They're not going to push me out.
  • They're not gonna win.
  • I won't allow it."
  • And I took a few beatings, but I was not
  • going to-- no one was going to make me run away.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • Do you recall at that time, if other bars
  • were kind of experiencing some of the same stuff?
  • GARY SWEET: No.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Or was it targeted?
  • GARY SWEET: It was isolated.
  • Only because of my location.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: Only because of where I was,
  • and because of what the bar was when I bought it.
  • They weren't gonna have their bar turned into a gay bar.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I see.
  • GARY SWEET: Which was not my intention originally.
  • I just had a lot of friends that, you know,
  • wanted a place to go.
  • You know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So, at what point
  • did you kind of sit back and take a look at your place
  • and go, well, we're a gay bar.
  • When did it finally dawn on you that well, this is who we are?
  • GARY SWEET: Within the first year.
  • But for me to make it safe for them to come in here
  • and for me to finally sit back and relax and say, "I'm OK."
  • It took about two years.
  • Two-and-a-half years before I could actually come in and not
  • have to hold my breath waiting for someone to come.
  • Every time the door would open, I would just look,
  • and you know, who's coming in?
  • Who's coming in?
  • I was petrified.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You still do that.
  • GARY SWEET: I still do that, yes.
  • I do.
  • Yes, you know.
  • Because they know me.
  • But for different reasons.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: Now it's more protection.
  • I guess it's still the mother instinct,
  • or whatever you want to call.
  • Because there are still some assholes out there
  • that want to, you know.
  • But most, even the straight ones that come in here,
  • they're phenomenal.
  • They get along great.
  • I don't consider this a man's bar, woman's bar.
  • It's a bar.
  • It's a gay bar.
  • Welcome to anybody.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: I know a lot of straight couples
  • that come in here.
  • I mean, when we used to open up earlier, it was funny.
  • There was this one couple who used to come in.
  • And I forget my bartenders name now.
  • But it was every Monday afternoon at four o'clock.
  • They were parked in separate spots.
  • She would come in.
  • Five minutes later, he would come in.
  • They'd sit in the corner.
  • Knew they were cheating on their spouses.
  • Who was going to think of looking for them in a gay bar?
  • And we used to-- then we started observing.
  • We had quite a few of those people that
  • were cheating on their spouses.
  • Who was ever going to think of looking for them in a gay bar?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: What better place to hide?
  • Go to a gay bar and hide.
  • It was hysterical.
  • They'd just have their arms around each other
  • and drink their drinks.
  • Not bother anybody.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: It was their meeting place.
  • It was really funny.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Now, I know we need to go back.
  • GARY SWEET: Sure.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: In terms of the violence,
  • I want to move to 1990, 1991.
  • When the skinheads were on Monroe Avenue.
  • Do you recall that?
  • GARY SWEET: I never had a problem.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • GARY SWEET: I never had problem with that.
  • They targeted mostly blacks, I think.
  • I don't think they went so much after the gays.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: They did.
  • GARY SWEET: Not here.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Because the Gay Alliance
  • was able to get an order of protection for Monroe Avenue.
  • Not for a person, but for Monroe Avenue against the skinheads
  • between the inner loop, up there at Monroe
  • and where the inner loop is.
  • GARY SWEET: Um-hm.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And downtown.
  • GARY SWEET: I never--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And if anyone saw a skinhead on Monroe Avenue,
  • they could call the police and report it.
  • And the police would come and clear them
  • off the avenue because of the violence toward gays.
  • And it may not have been up at this end.
  • More--
  • GARY SWEET: I think they targeted that.
  • Because what you're speaking of now, I do remember.
  • It wasn't in the bars.
  • It was after the bars closed.
  • I remember a few of them getting beaten up on the side
  • street leaving the gay bars.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • GARY SWEET: But never inside the bar.
  • I think most of that happened between two and four
  • in the morning.
  • And now that you're bringing it up,
  • I think we used to warn our customers not to go home alone.
  • To go with someone.
  • You're right there.
  • But, I mean, it was never inside the bar.
  • They would be too afraid because they were groups there.
  • They like to get individuals.
  • They like to show their strength by beating up one person.
  • Or three of them beating up two people.
  • They would never come in two of them,
  • when there was twenty people around.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: Because they knew they would get their asses
  • kicked.
  • I do remember what you're referring to now.
  • But that was never at the bar itself.
  • It was just gays in general on the street.
  • They would mug them, take their wallets.
  • I do remember that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Do you also recall--
  • I think it was a little later--
  • that men would come in to the bar, hook up with someone.
  • Go back to that guy's apartment.
  • Rape them.
  • Steal their money.
  • And kick the shit out of them.
  • GARY SWEET: I've heard of it.
  • I can't say that I know of anyone in particular that--
  • I don't know of anyone personally
  • that that happened to.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • Because I know it happened at Arnie's bar.
  • GARY SWEET: Yes.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And they sent in decoys.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And once, the decoy got picked up,
  • and the word get out.
  • And that was the end of it.
  • GARY SWEET: I never experienced that personally.
  • But I do know what you're talking about, yes.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: And once again, like I have told,
  • know who you're leaving with.
  • Simple as that, you know?
  • Or tell somebody if you're--
  • you still have to have the buddy system.
  • I mean, see, that's basically why I watch a lot.
  • Because if there's a stranger coming in the bar,
  • I kind of observe where they're going, you know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: They'll walk in, and I
  • can tell when they look around, they've never been here before.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: And I've approached them.
  • "Yep, can I help you?
  • Is there something you want?"
  • "Well, where's the restroom?"
  • "We don't have a public restroom.
  • Get out."
  • You gotta.
  • I mean, you have to know your surroundings.
  • You have to know--
  • I call this the gay Cheers.
  • Basically, everybody knows everybody in here.
  • So when a stranger walks in, heads turn.
  • You know?
  • Whether he be cute or not, heads still turn.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: And I do.
  • When I am here, I am very observant on who
  • comes in and looks around and doesn't
  • know where they're headed for.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: And I'll go up the stairs toward the restroom,
  • and I'll jump up and say, "Can I help you?
  • Is there something you want?"
  • You know?
  • "I was looking for somebody."
  • "Well, who are you looking for?
  • I'll find him for you."
  • "Well, let me look around."
  • "Just tell me who you're looking for.
  • I'll find him for you."
  • You know?
  • "Well, maybe I'll go outside."
  • "Well, maybe you should go outside to wait."
  • They never come back in again.
  • There are so many different ways to deal with that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • GARY SWEET: Without being violent or physical.
  • Everybody there pretty much watches out for themselves.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: And especially my favorite little Carolyn.
  • Oh, she watches out for everybody.
  • She's been with me twenty-eight years.
  • Can't get rid of her.
  • She's a socialite in the bar here.
  • I mean, she sees a stranger walk in
  • and whether she's behind the bar,
  • or on this side of the bar, she'll
  • maker her point to go up and introduce herself.
  • Find out their name, where they're from.
  • And watch them from there.
  • She's very good at that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: Besides, she likes meeting people.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: It does help in that situation.
  • I think the larger bars have more of a--
  • they get lost.
  • You know?
  • You could walk in and get lost in a larger bar.
  • Can't get lost in here.
  • It's pretty difficult.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: It's pretty hard to get lost.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: Just gotta know who's around.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Now we can go back to--
  • GARY SWEET: OK.
  • Sorry, Kevin.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: No, that's fine.
  • I didn't want to rush through that before we
  • got into your community involvement.
  • Particularly when AIDS came onto the face.
  • And all that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The only other thing--
  • GARY SWEET: I'm ashamed of myself over that.
  • I think I told you too, that when
  • the first AIDS came around, and heard about it.
  • Never told anybody they couldn't come in here.
  • But I remember taking the glasses
  • and throwing them away after they left.
  • I think about it and I'm very ashamed of it.
  • But back then, nobody knew what was going on.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: As time went on, some of them
  • would come in and say, "Could I have a plastic cup?"
  • But I'm most ashamed of shying away and throwing glasses away.
  • That was the wrong thing to do.
  • I mean, those were my brothers.
  • It was the wrong thing to do.
  • And I'm still embarrassed about that.
  • Nobody knew.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: What changed your opinion, your approach?
  • GARY SWEET: Education.
  • I mean, just learning more about it.
  • And knowing some of the people as it went on that
  • were my friends.
  • I think that's probably the biggest
  • one was, the first person I knew that was a friend of mine that
  • had AIDS.
  • And I said, well, I can't, you know.
  • And through his education with me, saying, "Gary,
  • you can't get this stuff this way or that way."
  • Because I didn't know.
  • There wasn't anything out there for us to learn from.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: You had to learn from somebody
  • that had the disease, because then they
  • found out from doctors.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: That was the other thing too.
  • It was most of these people waited
  • too long to go to the doctor.
  • Not only that the drug was unavailable,
  • but they waited so long because they didn't
  • know what was wrong with them.
  • You know?
  • They started losing weight.
  • They didn't know.
  • It was a fast spreading, slow developing.
  • It spread faster that we were able to learn about it.
  • If there was more out there, then precautions.
  • But before we knew how to stop or not spread it,
  • it was too late.
  • I mean, I never had safe sex in my life.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: I never had safe sex.
  • I was always with a partner.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: That's why I'm still alive today.
  • And thank God for the partner I had.
  • Because otherwise, I think I'd be dead.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, I think when you talk to Bill Valenti--
  • GARY SWEET: Uh-huh.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: He began to see AIDS in 1983.
  • As early as that.
  • And then slowly, 1981.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: '81.
  • GARY SWEET: I was going to say.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: '81.
  • GARY SWEET: I was going to say.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: '81.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Because the first reports really
  • started coming out in 1980, '81 in New York.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: Here, I'm going to say '81, late '82, when I
  • started noticing bar patrons with--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • And then all of a sudden, there was this mushroom
  • of sick people who were dying who just weren't having
  • the disease, but who were having full blown AIDS
  • and dying within a very short period of time.
  • GARY SWEET: Because there was no way of treating them.
  • Because they didn't know what was going on.
  • At that point in time, I was losing a friend or a customer.
  • I would say mostly customers or acquaintances, not so
  • many close friends.
  • I didn't lose a lot of close friends.
  • But mostly acquaintances.
  • And every time I turned around, it
  • would be so and so just died.
  • I'd be going to funerals once a month.
  • You know?
  • It was awful.
  • It was terrible.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: And today, I just stopped going to funerals.
  • I just think it's barbaric.
  • I just don't believe in funerals.
  • I just saw too many of them.
  • It was too sad.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So how did you become
  • associated with Bill Valenti?
  • GARY SWEET: They approached--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Dan Myers.
  • GARY SWEET: They approached me.
  • They said, Gary, you're pretty well known in the community.
  • Would you?
  • And I never said no to any of them.
  • Never once said no.
  • I would do anything.
  • Even today, I'd still do it.
  • I don't say no to anybody.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Do you remember specifically who it was?
  • I mean, was it Dan Myers?
  • Was it Bill?
  • Was it-- do you remember specifically who of that group
  • came to you?
  • Approached you first?
  • GARY SWEET: It was Dan.
  • He was the first one that approached me with the Dining
  • for Dollars.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: OK.
  • GARY SWEET: And Village Gate.
  • And wanted to know if the pub would
  • be willing to do the bar over there.
  • You know, to donate and everything.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: At that time, we had to transport.
  • There was nothing over there.
  • Well, the same in mid-town.
  • We had to transport.
  • There was nothing over there either.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: I'll never forget that first year though.
  • They expected maybe fifty, sixty people.
  • And I think it was like five, six hundred people.
  • They just were beside them.
  • We ran out of stuff.
  • I had people running back here to get booze from the bar
  • because we didn't have it.
  • Thank God it was close enough.
  • Because we had nothing to sell them, you know?
  • We just ran out of ice.
  • Finally we just went, what are we going to do?
  • You know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: And that's when they decided, well not decided,
  • but Neil Purcella said, "Let me talk to Midtown
  • and see what I could arrange there."
  • And that was the best venue they ever had.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: That was phenomenal.
  • It was great there.
  • It really was.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Go back to Village Gate for a minute.
  • GARY SWEET: Yes.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It was the same kind of set up, though.
  • Dinner's beforehand.
  • GARY SWEET: Yes.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And then the people would come--
  • GARY SWEET: That's why it was Dining for Dollars.
  • People would have dinner parties at their home,
  • and they come for dessert and coffee and drinks.
  • That's what it was.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: When did it change into helping people with AIDS?
  • That's when it stopped--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well, it was always
  • helping people with AIDS.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah, but the Dining for Dollars--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Dining for Dollars
  • was a fundraiser event for HPA.
  • GARY SWEET: Right.
  • And then they started doing it at restaurants.
  • They stopped having-- but that was later on.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Oh, yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That was Dining Out, or something.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Dining Out.
  • GARY SWEET: That's when they stopped
  • doing the Dining for Dollars.
  • I believe so.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, AIDS Rochester
  • took that on as a fundraiser.
  • GARY SWEET: Right.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Dining Out.
  • And I think I just pulled the articles from the EC.
  • The last real smash of a fundraiser for Dining
  • for Dollars was in around 2001.
  • 2000, 2001.
  • It was at the convention center.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: At that point.
  • And then it kind of dwindled after that.
  • And other fundraisers that AIDS Rochester were doing began to--
  • GARY SWEET: We were smaller in scale.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: You were smaller, but they
  • took on a larger perspective.
  • GARY SWEET: The convention center was too big.
  • They shouldn't have gone there.
  • They should've looked for a smaller place.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I agree with you.
  • Midtown was the best place.
  • GARY SWEET: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I can remember having the most fun at Midtown.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • Right.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Remembering all the stuff,
  • you know, the decorations that Jessie and Lucas would do.
  • GARY SWEET: All of the decorations were phenomenal.
  • I mean, the windows.
  • I mean, the themes that they had.
  • They came up with these themes that were just outrageous.
  • And it was just the best time in the world.
  • It was for a good cause, a sad cause.
  • But the best party was in Midtown.
  • It was.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • GARY SWEET: And when Neil's left us,
  • and it didn't happen there anymore.
  • The convention center was just too big.
  • I mean, people were lost in there.
  • You couldn't really communicate with each other.
  • I mean, it was just too big.
  • They should have found a smaller venue somewhere.
  • Gay people like to co-mingle.
  • They like to be with--
  • you know, you just had little groups
  • of cliques would hang out.
  • And you just didn't.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: How many years did you do the liquor?
  • GARY SWEET: Until it stopped in Midtown.
  • After that, there was no need because the convention center
  • had their own.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • GARY SWEET: You know.
  • But no, I did it every year.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • GARY SWEET: It was an experience because, you know,
  • we couldn't bring anything in there
  • until the plaza closed at five, and this shindig started
  • at seven, or whenever it was.
  • And had to have everything stored at the garage
  • and put it up on elevators.
  • Then we had to take it all out at night,
  • because they had to clean it up on Sunday before it would open.
  • It was a lot of work.
  • But we did it.
  • It raised a lot of money, too.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It sure did.
  • It sure did.
  • GARY SWEET: I'm very proud to be part of that.
  • I really am.
  • Same as the AIDS Garden.
  • I was proud to be part of that, too.
  • I mean, that was quite an honor.
  • I mean, we had auctions here.
  • A couple of really good auctions when Greg Smith was involved.
  • We had some really nice stuff.
  • I mean, he and I would go all over soliciting.
  • Getting donations from businesses and stuff like that.
  • Raised a lot of money on that, too.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • GARY SWEET: And like I said, if they asked me.
  • I'm really, more or less, like a I
  • sit in the back and wait for someone to start something.
  • (unintelligible) these things myself.
  • But if you got an idea, and you want some help, I'll help you.
  • Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • GARY SWEET: Just come and ask me, and I'll be there.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Once that noise stops in the background.
  • I would like you to talk to us a little bit about Dan Myers.
  • About Neil Purcella.
  • About the people.
  • GARY SWEET: The person?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The persons who were involved in this.
  • GARY SWEET: Dan was Nonna.
  • Nonna Myers.
  • Dan was probably the most outgoing.
  • Well, being involved in Al Siegel Center and all that.
  • But back then, he was really flamboyant.
  • Real outgoing.
  • I don't want to use the word flamboyant.
  • That's not right.
  • But Dan could be when he's in the right atmosphere.
  • He would get people excited about things.
  • He had a way of doing that.
  • Neil was a sweetheart, but he was more in the background.
  • He wasn't in the foreground.
  • He had the planning stages.
  • He had the ideas and what to do.
  • But Dan was the forerunner at getting people involved.
  • Making sure that the invitations were done.
  • And that people were having their dinner parties.
  • And that the money was coming in.
  • He's quite an organizer.
  • But he did it in such a way that you couldn't say no to Dan.
  • Because he would smile at you.
  • And you'd say yes.
  • And that was it, you know?
  • And he is today.
  • I saw him last Friday.
  • But I called him Nonna and he just looked at me
  • and just started smiling.
  • I can't help it.
  • I still call him Nonna.
  • That's Dan.
  • The Lieutenant Governor was there.
  • The Mayor was there, you know.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.