Audio Interview, John W. Grace and Nelson Baldo, May 11, 2012

  • EVELYN BAILEY: Now, Marshall Goldman?
  • JOHN GRACE: He's the father.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And Larry Fine is this guy, right?
  • JOHN GRACE: That's Larry.
  • Marshall's the big guy.
  • I was thinking of Marshall today.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Now, these Albany hearings--
  • Marshall, RJ, and Bob.
  • Is that Bjorn?
  • On the right?
  • No.
  • JOHN GRACE: Nope.
  • No you want to know something?
  • He was a photographer, I think.
  • And I should remember, because he
  • took a series of nude pictures of me.
  • Remember those?
  • NELSON BALDO: I wonder if he signed them.
  • I still have those.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, I'll bet you his name is on them.
  • NELSON BALDO: Scandalous.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, scandals-- that's
  • when I was young and had a body.
  • Remember those days?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • I'll make a note of that because--
  • NELSON BALDO: I'll take those out
  • and see if his name's on them.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Do you have pictures?
  • JOHN GRACE: They're nudes of me, that that guy took.
  • NELSON BALDO: But he may have signed them.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And then there's this one,
  • with Bob Osborne and Bjorn--
  • JOHN GRACE: There is Bjorn.
  • That's Bjorno.
  • NELSON BALDO: Oh, yeah.
  • Oh my god, I remember his face.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And do you know who--
  • JOHN GRACE: No, except isn't this here.
  • Isn't that Marshall Goldman again?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What does it say?
  • Top left-- Osborne, Bjorn Lawson, and Marshall Goldman.
  • Yes.
  • Gay-In, May 16th, 1971.
  • JOHN GRACE: OK.
  • And they're saying that is Bjorn, what's his last name?
  • Lawson.
  • OK, that would be it.
  • I don't know why I'm saying Bjorn Borg.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Isn't that a tennis player?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, it's something like that I think.
  • And I think they had a sex change too.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Lawson-- L-A-W-S-O-N.
  • This is the march in Albany.
  • I don't know.
  • JOHN GRACE: Amherst College, pedarist and sodomist.
  • Well.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And there are some other things here, but--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Are you rolling yet?
  • Are you recording yet?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Oh, yeah.
  • And I brought this out because John
  • said we started to talk to me about going
  • to the Top of the Plaza.
  • He and Nelson were in the group that--
  • NELSON BALDO: I wasn't with them.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: John was?
  • NELSON BALDO: John was.
  • JOHN GRACE: I was the instigator for that, actually.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I thought Whitey LeBlanc was the instigator.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Nah, you all take credit for everything.
  • JOHN GRACE: We were all--
  • I mean , we were all at that time together on everything,
  • believe me.
  • Whitey, how is the dear doing?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Pardon me?
  • JOHN GRACE: How is he doing?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: He's doing well.
  • He's still being a plumber.
  • JOHN GRACE: Good for him.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But this is the stuff
  • that Larry Fine gave me years ago.
  • Some of it's Larry's, and I think some of it
  • came from Bob Osborne.
  • And I didn't know if the pamphlet that John was talking
  • about would have been in here.
  • JOHN GRACE: Actually, all it was was like a flyer.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: And this is a flyer
  • promoting the first dance?
  • JOHN GRACE: No, what had happened,
  • was at that period in time the Gay Liberation
  • Front was already formed.
  • But at that period in time, the police department
  • started going around to the gay bars.
  • And they had two tactics that they were doing.
  • One of them was they would come in,
  • and if they saw two men dancing together they
  • would arrest both of them.
  • And the other tactic they had done,
  • was because then people started to have lookouts at the door.
  • And if they saw the police, they would stop dancing.
  • So then, the police would come in, and just
  • arrest for loitering.
  • And they would always come in and choose--
  • because you could tell--
  • people that were in the closet.
  • And they knew that if they arrested them,
  • it would be a big thing.
  • Because, you know, either a wife was
  • involved, or a good job, or something like that.
  • And now we had two tactics to stop them.
  • And one of them was, when the police came in, I know myself,
  • Bjorn, Danny Scipione--
  • we would all rush to the police, and tell them to arrest us.
  • Because we really didn't give a shit, you know.
  • And we would rush to them and say, "We're fags, arrest us."
  • And of course, they didn't know how to deal with us then.
  • Then, we decided that we needed to do something
  • to publicize this.
  • And we talked to newspapers.
  • We talked to television stations.
  • Nobody wanted to deal with it.
  • So we as a group--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Not even XXI?
  • JOHN GRACE: I don't even think XXI was around then, dear.
  • We as a group decided that what we would do--
  • the Top of Midtown Plaza was like the place for the upper
  • echelon to go-- the lawyers, the doctors, all that--
  • for cocktail hour.
  • Then, for dinner and dancing.
  • They always had little jazz quartets and that up there.
  • So we decided the thing to do would be to pair up--
  • a gay man and gay woman, a lesbian.
  • And dress very, very conservative,
  • and look the part of the straight world--
  • and go up there.
  • And there was--
  • I don't know, there was about twenty of us.
  • And we went up there, and we had a drink.
  • And we went on the dance floor, and started dancing--
  • man and woman together.
  • And then, we had one of us--
  • I don't even know who--
  • was going to cough real loud or something.
  • And when that happened, we were going
  • to break off and start dancing man and man together,
  • and woman and woman together.
  • At the same time, we had some people up there
  • that had leaflets.
  • And they were going around, they were handing them
  • to whoever would take him.
  • And the leaflets basically said, if you
  • won't leave us alone and let us dance in our bars,
  • then we're coming to you and we're dancing in yours.
  • And the Top of the Plaza was Foley--
  • was the manager.
  • And he somehow, I think, had a little word
  • that it was going to happen.
  • Because he had a few goons there.
  • And then he threw us all out, which
  • we knew was going to happen.
  • As a matter of fact, we really anticipated
  • we'd probably get arrested.
  • But that didn't happen.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: But you eventually did
  • get thrown out after you started handing out the flyers, though?
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, yeah, sure.
  • But you know, prior to that, I have to tell you that--
  • when Dick's 43 was on Stone Street.
  • And then, another bar opened up.
  • The Rathskeller, was it?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Jesse's Place, you mean?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah-- opened up.
  • What would happen is, especially at Dick's 43,
  • they would have a jukebox there.
  • And the guys would dance to the jukebox.
  • The police would show up, and they would unplug the jukebox.
  • And people would stop dancing.
  • And the police would come in, and come to the end of the bar.
  • And there would be a discussion.
  • And either Dick would come out, or Martha would come out.
  • I mean, I saw this on more than one occasion.
  • Either the bartender, or Dick or Martha
  • would go over and open up the cash register,
  • take out a sum of money, walk over hand
  • it to the police officer.
  • The police officer would walk over, plug-in the jukebox,
  • walk out the door.
  • And I mean, that's before we even had GLF.
  • And I mean, those are the things--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So we're talking very late '60s, early '70s,
  • or even earlier than that?
  • JOHN GRACE: Right, late '60s, early '70s.
  • Because I got out of the service in 1969.
  • And it would've been right about that period.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That was just before the GLF, though?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, because--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: It was kind of the same time period.
  • JOHN GRACE: --we started the GLF, I think, in 1970.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Now, were you born in Rochester, John?
  • JOHN GRACE: No, Pennsylvania.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And growing up, did
  • you know, like, you were gay?
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, yeah, yeah.
  • I think I knew back as far as, well, preschool.
  • So I always knew.
  • I didn't know what gay was, but I always knew.
  • I can remember having fantasies when I was
  • a kid, watching Tarzan movies.
  • And Tarzan would somehow get injured or something,
  • and they would carry him.
  • And I always wanted to be one of the guys that carried,
  • and had my hands on his leg.
  • And I would have been, like, four or five years old.
  • And I can remember having those fantasies--
  • so yes, always.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: In your youth, were there places in your town?
  • Where--
  • JOHN GRACE: I'm from Walworth, New York--
  • total population was 250.
  • There were more cows than--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So what did you--
  • you were born in Pennsylvania?
  • JOHN GRACE: Pardon?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You were born in Pennsylvania?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: But then moved up to Walworth?
  • JOHN GRACE: Right.
  • Born outside of Altoona in Pennsylvania,
  • moved to Walworth in '50--
  • I don't know, like, 2, '51.
  • Because you couldn't get work in Pennsylvania.
  • My father moved up here because my mother had a sister up here.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And so your high-school years
  • were in Walworth?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, in Central High School.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And did you know about Rochester?
  • JOHN GRACE: I knew about Rochester, but--
  • I remember the first time I ever heard the word gay,
  • or knew the word gay.
  • And that was--
  • I would have probably been about a freshman in high school,
  • maybe a little earlier-- about a freshman.
  • Life magazine ran a story on gays.
  • And I had saw a hard copy of it.
  • And it said the word gay.
  • And until then, I never even knew
  • that that's what that meant.
  • Or, that that was actually a word that meant that.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Roughly, what year would this have been?
  • JOHN GRACE: I would have been probably in seventh grade.
  • I graduated in '65, so it would've been late '50s--
  • '59.
  • Pardon?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: '59, '60?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I'd be curious to find that Life magazine
  • EVELYN BAILEY: We'll look for it.
  • And then, when did you-- you graduated high school in '60--
  • JOHN GRACE: In '65.
  • I left for the service in '65.
  • I mean, I left for the service five days after graduation--
  • something like that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Was that-- you volunteered to go to the Army.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: In the middle of Vietnam.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, but I mean there was the draft.
  • If you didn't volunteer, you--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You would have been drafted anyway.
  • JOHN GRACE: Exactly.
  • And you would have went--
  • NELSON BALDO: Army.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: In the Army?
  • JOHN GRACE: Right.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well, he was in the Air Force.
  • He enlisted in the Air Force, so he would
  • get drafted into the Army.
  • JOHN GRACE: Nelson joined the Air Force also.
  • We're an Air Force family.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Did you meet in the Air Force?
  • JOHN GRACE: In a way, after.
  • Right after he got out.
  • JOHN GRACE: We used to have a bumper sticker,
  • we are an Air Force family, on the back of our little Gremlin.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Can you share, either of you, or both of you,
  • a little bit about--
  • well, did you know, Nelson, that you were gay when
  • you went into the Air Force?
  • NELSON BALDO: Yeah, definitely.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And did you grow up in Rochester?
  • NELSON BALDO: East Rochester.
  • Born in Pennsylvania as well.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, isn't that interesting?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And did you know about downtown Rochester
  • when you were in East Rochester?
  • NELSON BALDO: Ah, I think, you know, I first went--
  • I'm thinking of when Jenny first brought me out.
  • I was home on leave from the Air Force.
  • My neighbor underwent a sex change.
  • And she was the high-school athlete in East Rochester.
  • She did everything.
  • She drove cars, and played baseball.
  • Ended up playing in a woman's rock
  • band that used to play around--
  • all lesbians.
  • And she had a sex change.
  • But when I was home, she really clued me in
  • as to what was going on with me.
  • And she brought me to a bar down off of State Street
  • JOHN GRACE: That's the one where it was straight at the bar,
  • and you walked in back and there was dancing.
  • NELSON BALDO: They had shows.
  • Yeah, they had drag shows.
  • JOHN GRACE: It was on Brown Street.
  • NELSON BALDO: But I ended up going home with a bouncer.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, the funny thing
  • is Jenny Bolivia used to race Corvettes, drag race Corvettes.
  • And little did I know at that time, all the men in Walworth
  • idolized her.
  • They just thought she was it.
  • She drag raced, man.
  • Of course, they had no idea she was
  • a lesbian, or anything else.
  • And I never thought anything about it.
  • Until I was talking to him and his mother once,
  • and they told me about Jenny.
  • I said, "Oh, she used to race."
  • NELSON BRANDO:: Yeah, she's quite well known.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Jenny was a man who became a woman,
  • but a (interposing voices) woman became a man.
  • NELSON BALDO: She's Jay now.
  • She lives in California.
  • He lives in California, god, the first time.
  • In fact, the first time he came home, I was at a party.
  • And I got a phone call-- we had a restaurant at the time.
  • And they put him on.
  • And he said, "Nelson, this is Jay."
  • And we were having this conversation--
  • and we have a good friend, Jay, up in Boston.
  • And I said, Jay from California--
  • I said, "I'm sorry, I just can't place Jay from California."
  • And then he said, "Nel, this is Jenny."
  • And he came into the restaurant the next day.
  • You know, we had decided to meet there.
  • And I was all apprehensive.
  • I had no idea what he was going to look like.
  • You know, because some of them look like your aunt dressed up.
  • And he's perfect, and happy.
  • And he was always just so masculine, and good
  • at anything he wanted to do.
  • And lives in California, married.
  • JOHN GRACE: Didn't he marry Miss America or something?
  • NELSON BALDO: He was involved with a couple of things,
  • and had his own company.
  • But he told me-- he said, "I've always just wanted
  • to be the guy next door."
  • There's nothing sensational in it.
  • He's just living as a suburban schmuck, you know.
  • That's what he said to me--
  • I always just wanted to be the guy next door.
  • And my family knows, of course--
  • and very accepting.
  • And I haven't heard anything from him.
  • He keeps in touch with Cheryl Martin, the photographer.
  • And when I run into Cheryl occasionally,
  • she'll catch me up on it.
  • But I haven't heard anything now for years.
  • I haven't seen Cheryl for a while, actually.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Was the bar Jim's?
  • NELSON BALDO: No, he met me at my restaurant.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes, but the bar on State Street--
  • NELSON BALDO: It was behind Kodak-- maybe on Brown Street.
  • And the guy who owns it was Louis.
  • And he still owns strip clubs.
  • Really unsavory type, it's great.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The Red Fez?
  • The Brown Derby?
  • JOHN GRACE: Wait a second, something Derby.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Blue Chip?
  • NELSON BALDO: Could have been the Blue Chip.
  • JOHN GRACE: The Blue Chip.
  • NELSON BALDO: I remember that.
  • JOHN GRACE: There we go.
  • That's what I think.
  • NELSON BALDO: I wonder if that was it?
  • Think that was it?
  • JOHN GRACE: I think it was.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Ma Martins was on Front Street way back.
  • NELSON BALDO: No, that wasn't it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And then, Dick's.
  • NELSON BALDO: So it must have been
  • the Blue Chip That's the only bar I can remember, now
  • that you said it.
  • JOHN GRACE: See you're going back--
  • Nelson is older than me actually.
  • I know it doesn't look that way.
  • But you're going back with him when this happened,
  • probably '67,
  • NELSON BALDO: I don't know (unintelligible)
  • when Jenny brought me out.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: How old were you?
  • NELSON BALDO: Somewhere around twenty.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And when were you born, if you don't mind?
  • NELSON BALDO: No, not at all.
  • I was born in '44.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So it would have been 1964, or 1965.
  • NELSON BALDO: Yeah, because after high school
  • I messed around with college for a while.
  • And then, I was drafted into the Army.
  • And I could not believe--
  • they were really scraping the bottom
  • of the barrel on that one.
  • So I went through in Buffalo, is where
  • I went through all the testing.
  • You had to stay overnight.
  • I think I joined the Air Force the next day.
  • I said, I'm not going to spend time with these people.
  • And it was really the dregs of society.
  • I could not believe it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So having said that about one armed services
  • branch, what was your experience in the Air Force like?
  • Were you out?
  • NELSON BALDO: Not out.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, you couldn't be out.
  • You could not be out.
  • See, that's something that I don't think--
  • and I was thinking of this today--
  • anybody has ever addressed.
  • And that is, exactly what it was like prior to Don't Ask,
  • Don't Tell, and all that.
  • Because there was something called a Section 8.
  • First of all, you either went in the service,
  • or you had another choice.
  • Because we had the draft.
  • You could tell them that you were homosexual,
  • and they would not take you.
  • But if you did that, then they had something
  • called a Section 8 that they labeled you as.
  • And that was the end of your life.
  • You did not get a job.
  • You were a third-class citizen--
  • not even a second class--
  • all the rest of your life.
  • And if you were in the service, and you told
  • somebody you were gay--
  • and you got discharged because of that--
  • or if you got caught with somebody, and you were gay,
  • they gave you a Section 8 discharge.
  • And I mean, literally, colleges would not accept you.
  • You did not go into any kind of gainful employment
  • that was worthwhile.
  • It just was the end of your life.
  • And I was thinking about that today.
  • And I was thinking about how controlling it was--
  • how society was, if you were gay.
  • I mean, I used to be in the Speaker's Bureau for the Gay
  • Liberation Front.
  • And the one thing I used to always tell people--
  • I used to go, you know why there's so many homosexuals,
  • don't you?
  • I said, Christ, they advertise you everywhere.
  • I mean, they just advertise you everywhere.
  • Why wouldn't there be, you know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So you didn't meet in the Air Force,
  • or did you?
  • NELSON BALDO: No, we met after.
  • JOHN GRACE: We met Dick's 43.
  • Either Dick's 43 or the Rathskeller.
  • We met at the Rathskeller.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Where was that again?
  • NELSON BALDO: Behind midtown, behind the bus station
  • at midtown.
  • JOHN GRACE: I had a white T-shirt on.
  • I was in Britain--
  • with a big English flag on the front of it.
  • And he couldn't resist me.
  • And that was 45-plus years ago.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • So when you were involved with the GLF,
  • you were not a student at the University of Rochester.
  • You were a "community member."
  • JOHN GRACE: All that's very interesting,
  • because the very first meeting for the GLF
  • happened in Eva Scipione living room.
  • And Eva Scipione is the mother of Danny Scipione
  • who has died now of AIDS.
  • But that was the very first meeting,
  • was in Eva's living room.
  • Have you ever talked to Eva Scipione?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: No.
  • JOHN GRACE: You should make a point of it.
  • NELSON BALDO: She's still involved.
  • She got the quilt here.
  • She worked on getting the quilt here.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: She got gray hair?
  • NELSON BALDO: Oh yeah, short.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And glasses, short?
  • I have met her.
  • I didn't know--
  • JOHN GRACE: Wonderful woman.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --that's who it was.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, at the time, of course
  • it wasn't the way it is today.
  • I mean, I can remember Eva coming home.
  • And the meeting amounted to--
  • there was me, there was Bjorn.
  • There was Danny Scipione and there
  • was somebody else that I can't quite--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Bob Crystal?
  • JOHN GRACE: Could be, yes.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Not RJ?
  • JOHN GRACE: No, it wasn't RJ.
  • Because it wasn't anybody from the U of R.
  • And we had the meeting, and we formed--
  • whatever that means.
  • But then we all looked at each other and said--
  • Eva came home while we were having this meeting.
  • Danny got up and chased her out.
  • And we all said, well, we're not going to be meeting here.
  • Where are we going to meet?
  • And this won't do as a group.
  • And somehow-- and I think it was through RJ-- somebody got
  • talking with RJ about what we had done before in this group.
  • And somehow, it got moved to the U of R.
  • But in order to be at the U of R,
  • there had to be U of R people.
  • Because we couldn't do that as non-students.
  • I mean, they gave money.
  • They never really gave money--
  • what they did was give a room to meet in, stuff like that.
  • And somebody from the U of R had to be involved.
  • And of course, most of the students
  • there were very closeted.
  • And why don't you be?
  • I mean, we're going back to, like, 1970.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The first meeting at the University
  • of Rochester of the Gay Liberation Front was,
  • according to the history that I know, October 3rd, 1970.
  • Bob Osborne and Larry Fine invited
  • a member of the Mattachine Society,
  • and a member of the Cornell GLF to speak at Todd Union.
  • And there were about 100 people who came.
  • And out of that meeting, came the GLF,
  • the Gay Liberation Front.
  • Now, that's--
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, first of all, I
  • think you need to look at the poster,
  • because those dates don't jive.
  • That's the first dance there.
  • And the first events weekend.
  • And that was in October of 1970.
  • So the dates don't really jive.
  • It's all very vague, what the history was.
  • NELSON BALDO: It's a long time ago.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That is a long time ago.
  • I just want to step back a little bit,
  • and I want to talk a little bit about that meeting
  • at Eva's house.
  • I mean, tell me what it was like.
  • What were you talking about?
  • What were your initial ideas of what you were trying to do?
  • JOHN GRACE: We don't really know.
  • Except that it had happened at Stonewall--
  • all that had happened at Stonewall.
  • We were experiencing problems here in Rochester.
  • And we met as a way to just advance us as people forward.
  • I mean, that was our whole idea.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What made you come together?
  • JOHN GRACE: You have to understand something.
  • When I got out of the service--
  • First of all, when I was in the service, I got sent to England.
  • And I met an English gentleman there, George Pritchard.
  • And until that point, I had never
  • fully connected in my brain that a man could really love a man.
  • I'd had plenty of homosexual sex, but it was simply sex.
  • And I met this guy-- and I did, I fell very much in love
  • with him.
  • And it was just entirely different.
  • It just opened up this whole different realm to me.
  • And yet, I couldn't do anything with it.
  • I mean, because if I would have ever gotten caught, as I said,
  • life was over.
  • When I got my discharge from the service in June of 1969--
  • I remember when I got in the airplane,
  • and I landed in New Jersey.
  • I changed into my civilian clothes.
  • I took all of my military clothes,
  • and I threw them in the garbage.
  • And I just said to myself, this is a promise to me,
  • no one will ever control my life like that again.
  • That is never going to happen in my life.
  • And that's really where my motivation came from
  • to get with Danny and Bjorn.
  • I mean, Bjorn was being thrown in prison
  • for being a drag queen.
  • Do you know what I mean?
  • It was a horrible experience in this city.
  • NELSON BALDO: She was very brave
  • JOHN GRACE: Yes.
  • Bjorn was very brave.
  • And of course the thing about Bjorn,
  • was that he had the backing of his family.
  • Because his family was out in, like
  • I said, Sweden or something.
  • And his mother used to sew his gowns and that for him.
  • So I mean, he came from a family that was very understanding.
  • And Danny had his mother, who was an--
  • Eva Scipione is an incredible woman.
  • She knew what Danny was, and was always right
  • there for him, and behind him.
  • And even the day he died of AIDS,
  • she was right there with him.
  • And then took care of one of his lovers until he died.
  • And that's just the way Eva is.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So you got back here
  • in June of '69, which is basically
  • when Stonewall happened.
  • Did you land actually when the riots were happening?
  • JOHN GRACE: Very shortly after.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Then, you came back up to Walworth
  • immediately?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, I did really.
  • Actually what happened was, I had
  • a Triumph TR4 that came over.
  • I had bought it in England.
  • So I went from the base--
  • what is the name of that base in New Jersey?
  • Dix.
  • I went from there to--
  • it was north New Jersey, to the docks.
  • Picked up my Triumph TR4, and drove to Walworth.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: And try to give folks-- since the time
  • that you came back, were discharged from the service,
  • to when that first meeting at Eva's house.
  • When did that meeting happen?
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, let's see.
  • Nelson, you and I met--
  • we met literally within a week from me getting out
  • of the service, two weeks.
  • NELSON BALDO: It was real close, because we got the dog.
  • He had-- holding a sheep dog he had sent back,
  • and we picked it up together at the airport.
  • So it wasn't long.
  • JOHN GRACE: So it was just a matter of weeks and we met.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So, 1969.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, that's when we met.
  • NELSON BALDO: So it was June or July.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, I got out June 28th.
  • And we would have been together--
  • you went to the Cape for July 4th.
  • And I was going to go with you.
  • And I got out, and I landed a job at Xerox.
  • And they said to me, "Well, you can't go."
  • I wanted to go with him to the Cape,
  • and I said, "I want some time off to go."
  • And they said, "If you do that, you've lost this job."
  • So I stayed.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And so, how soon after that did you and Danny--
  • JOHN GRACE: I would say within six to seven months--
  • maybe a little bit more than that.
  • Because we went from living on next, to the art gallery.
  • And we moved over to Westminster Road-- he and I did.
  • And it was while we were at Westminster Road we formed it.
  • We got together and did that.
  • See, but everything was gelling at that time.
  • Because Stonewall happened, and Stonewall was a major event.
  • I mean, there were gays threatening
  • to burn down a city if they didn't get what
  • they thought they were due.
  • And they were due, you know what I mean?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Here in Rochester?
  • JOHN GRACE: No, Stonewall and I mean, people here in Rochester
  • were saying, we're not going to sit in this bar
  • and let the police come in here and intimidate us any more.
  • It's just not going to happen.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So we're looking at, probably like,
  • fall or winter time when you guys are eventually meeting.
  • JOHN GRACE: That's what I would think.
  • See, if you look at this--
  • now, unfortunately there is no year on that.
  • Somebody told me you never put a year on a
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That makes no sense.
  • JOHN GRACE: But see, it's October 23rd.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: But do you know if this
  • was the first liberation dance?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah.
  • Look at it, it says there.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I believe that was in--
  • JOHN GRACE: I think it was '71.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes, it was in '71.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That would make sense,
  • because you wouldn't throw a dance immedately after forming.
  • JOHN GRACE: No.
  • And we had the office at the U of R for a while,
  • and then put this together.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: See, Patti Evans--
  • JOHN GRACE: Patti Evans, I was going
  • to mention her to you earlier.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Bob Osborne and Larry knew Patti.
  • And Bob Osborne wouldn't leave Patti alone,
  • and got her to come to a Gay Liberation Front meeting,
  • early in 1971--
  • maybe mid 1971--
  • July maybe.
  • And she talks about that first dance
  • as being the most wonderful experience of her life.
  • JOHN GRACE: See, I believe Patti Evans--
  • that flyer I talked about for Midtown Plaza,
  • I believe Patti Evans authored that.
  • That's what I think.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Is that the flyer
  • she also took to the parks?
  • Or was that later on?
  • That was like '74, I think.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I don't know.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, Patti is still around, isn't she?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • And we've interviewed her, and we've filmed her actually.
  • But that-- the specifics of things are--
  • see, no one wrote it down.
  • I mean, it is written down, but--
  • JOHN GRACE: See, but then you have
  • people, which is so strange--
  • there is a woman, I don't even know
  • if I should give you her name, that I danced
  • with at the top of the plaza.
  • She was very out.
  • But now, she has went way back into the closet.
  • And she is a preacher, and has a church somewhere.
  • And the last time I saw her, she was like absolutely desperate
  • that I didn't tell anybody that she's gay,
  • because she had this church.
  • And I thought, boy, that's sad.
  • She could shed a lot of light on this
  • too, because she was my dance partner there.
  • Have you spoke with Marge David?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I have.
  • Kevin hasn't.
  • And Marge thought she'd be able to come today,
  • but had a dinner engagement.
  • So we're seeing her next week or the following week.
  • But she was a part of that.
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, she was part of the whole thing,
  • right at the beginning.
  • As a matter of fact, her--
  • I'm just going to say the woman's name, Liz Bell--
  • Elizabeth Bell.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Oh, she's out now.
  • NELSON BALDO: Karen said the same thing.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, we talked to her.
  • JOHN GRACE: To Liz?
  • So Liz is back out again?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • NELSON BALDO: I think the last time I saw Karen,
  • she told me that she had spoken to her.
  • JOHN GRACE: OK, she's back out again.
  • OK.
  • Liz Bell and Marge David were lovers at the time.
  • And they lived over in Sanford Street.
  • And that's how this whole thing got onto the University
  • of Rochester.
  • We got introduced to Larry Fine and all of that.
  • Through that, we met Patti Evans.
  • I mean, it just all happened.
  • And I don't think it's a matter of anybody taking
  • a lot of credit for anything.
  • Yes, Larry-- or Danny, Bjorn, and myself
  • got together in his mother's living room.
  • But is that really the beginning?
  • Who knows.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: It sounds to me like there
  • were a couple of things going on at the same time.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, there was a lot of things going on.
  • And remember, there was no place where we had all of us to meet.
  • You didn't go to a gay bar and meet, like,
  • Marge and Elizabeth.
  • Because they didn't go the same gay bar as I went to,
  • and Danny went to.
  • Do you know what I'm saying-- and Bjorn went to.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I can throw out names
  • to you, such as, yes, well, Whitey, of course.
  • Mark Hull.
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, I remember Mark Hull.
  • Mark Hull was older, right?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • JOHN GRACE: And he had the place in Bullshead.
  • Right, where, yes, okay.
  • Is Mark still around?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh good, OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And Jay Baker.
  • JOHN GRACE: Jay Baker.
  • Jay Baker was a prof at Monroe Community.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Then, he became editor of the Empty Closet.
  • JOHN GRACE: Did he really?
  • Jay and I had some difficulties.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Whitey LeBlanc twisted his arm, apparently.
  • Maybe more than his arm, but I'm not sure.
  • JOHN GRACE: Because Jay tried to form a group--
  • I forget the name of it.
  • It promoted
  • NELSON BALDO: Man-boy love, or--
  • JOHN GRACE: Man boy love or something like that.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Oh, Amanda?
  • JOHN GRACE: Amanda, yeah.
  • And I mean--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Roseanne Leipzig.
  • JOHN GRACE: You know, I'm not sure.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: A fellow by the name of Earl.
  • Joseph Johns.
  • JOHN GRACE: There, I was trying to think of his name today.
  • I was trying to think of Joseph Johns' name
  • today before I came over here.
  • He was lovers with Dick Recent-- probably still is.
  • He was an interior decorator.
  • Joseph and I, for some reason, always did
  • a lot of speaking engagements together.
  • Joseph, myself, and Danny Scipione-- the three of us.
  • For some reason, it always happened that way.
  • One of the things was, that a lot of people
  • didn't want to do speaking engagements,
  • because you had to really be out to do it.
  • It was almost like an AA meeting.
  • You walked in, you sat down, you said your name.
  • And you said, "I'm a homosexual, you
  • must have a lot of questions, please ask them."
  • And you just made your life an open book.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: When you were going out
  • on these speaking engagements, who were you talking to?
  • What kind of groups were you talking to?
  • JOHN GRACE: It was like college groups.
  • There were some high-school groups, not many.
  • I know they went to--
  • Tim Maine set it up to go to Greece Athena, or one
  • of the Greece high schools.
  • I did not go on that.
  • But it didn't go well.
  • That was about a riot-- the students freaked out.
  • And they ended up having to take the gay speakers
  • and get them in the cafeteria, and then
  • get them out the back door to a car
  • and get them out of town there.
  • It just didn't go well.
  • But I remember, we did a speaking engagement at the JYO.
  • It was a very strange group, I thought.
  • It was people in their 40s and 50s.
  • And it was a small set of people in their 40s and 50s,
  • from some Jewish group.
  • And their questions and everything
  • were absolutely fascinating.
  • I mean, they were all extremely well-thought out questions,
  • and everything like that--
  • had great conversations with them.
  • And it was some kind of study group, whatever,
  • within the Jewish community, about homosexuality.
  • A couple of them were rabbis.
  • But we went wherever we were requested.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Do you remember any particular GLF meetings?
  • Say, the meeting at which it was decided--
  • when Mark Hull made the offer to go to Brown Street.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, I mean, we were being thrown off U of R.
  • And the reason we were being thrown out of the U of R
  • is, the U of R had figured out that the U of R students that
  • belonged with us were just figureheads.
  • You know what I mean?
  • They were with us so that we could claim that there
  • was U of R student presence.
  • And they wanted us out of there.
  • So, no, I don't remember that meeting,
  • but I remember Mark Hull did offer that.
  • And I remember going down there and looking at it at one point.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What were the GLF meetings like?
  • What did you talk about?
  • What was the atmosphere?
  • JOHN GRACE: It was very casual.
  • I mean, they would sit around very casually,
  • like we're doing right here.
  • And we discussed.
  • A lot of it was social in nature, but we discussed.
  • Same when we would man the office--
  • because we kept a presence in that office.
  • And the reason we were there is, students
  • that were having a rough time with being gay
  • would come to the office, and we would make contact with them.
  • And we were there just to support.
  • Like, you're not alone, let's sit and talk about this.
  • Here are some resources.
  • We had some preachers-- preachers, ministers,
  • whatever--
  • who were very sympathetic to gay people, that we
  • could refer people to, and things like that.
  • Also, we had a college professor,
  • that actually I took a course from at Monroe Community
  • College--
  • Joanne Zoofelt. You know Joanne.
  • And she was very, very sympathetic
  • to the gay movement.
  • She was a sociology professor, and she was a good resource
  • to send people
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: What was her last name again?
  • JOHN GRACE: Zoofelt. I think it's Z-O-O-F-E-L-T--
  • Joanne.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And were you involved, Nelson,
  • also in the GLF?
  • NELSON BALDO: No.
  • JOHN GRACE: He was in retailing at the time.
  • NELSON BALDO: I was trying to build a career.
  • JOHN GRACE: He was an assistant manager at Lane Bryant.
  • (Laughs)
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You weren't gay.
  • (Laughter)
  • NELSON BALDO: Guess who I hired to do the windows.
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, you did, didn't you.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Who?
  • NELSON BALDO: John.
  • He worked with this crazy woman out of New York,
  • whose husband was brilliant.
  • He was at the U of R. They got fired
  • because they turned a mannequin upside down,
  • and put an Afro wig on it, and scratched out the pantyhose--
  • and went to lunch.
  • So much for that job.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So by this time, you guys are partners?
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So while he's off
  • doing all his Gay Liberation Front
  • stuff, what were your thoughts?
  • I know you said you were trying to build
  • a career, but any gay activism on your part, or involvement?
  • NELSON BALDO: There was involvment.
  • I went to that dance.
  • But not to the extent that John was involved.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: But from your point of view,
  • were you seeing changes in the community?
  • Were you seeing the effect of groups
  • like John was involved with?
  • NELSON BALDO: Yes, I guess I would have to say that.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: If you can expand on it a little.
  • How were things changing?
  • What were you, from I want to say an almost an outside point
  • of view, seeing?
  • NELSON BALDO: I was still very much involved with it,
  • because that was all our circle of friends.
  • But I wasn't certainly doing the speakers bureau,
  • or anything like that.
  • I just thought at the time, it was more important to not
  • be in the news.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, somebody had to earn a living for us.
  • I, at that time, had quit Xerox.
  • And I was going to school at MCC.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: There was all this activism going on.
  • What about your social life?
  • Were you still going out to bars?
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: What were the conversations
  • like in those days--
  • the people you were meeting out at the bars,
  • about what was going on in the community?
  • JOHN GRACE: Same ones we have today.
  • Yeah, I would say the same ones you have today.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: At what point did you guys maybe see
  • any change in the way the police were treating you at the bars
  • or--?
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, I think one of the things that
  • made a big difference, was the bars started
  • being owned by gay people.
  • I mean, up to that point, there was no gay owners.
  • Don't you think that made a big change?
  • NELSON BALDO: Yeah, when Van Allen and Ducky
  • opened that place on Washington Square.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Jim's.
  • NELSON BALDO: Was that called Jim's?
  • Ducky's an old friend of ours too.
  • And yeah, that was different.
  • Because I remember coming in there after-- wasn't it
  • graduation from somewhere?
  • You guys were all in there drunk.
  • JOHN GRACE: And that was from MCC.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Van Allen and Ducky,
  • are you still close with them?
  • JOHN GRACE: I don't believe Van Allen's alive anymore.
  • NELSON BALDO: We saw Ducky at my mother's funeral
  • a couple of years ago.
  • Ducky was up from Florida.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, I'm just trying to get a sense--
  • are they planning on coming up again this summer?
  • NELSON BALDO: I think so.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Because we need to get them on camera.
  • NELSON BALDO: The pharmacist, John Bayer,
  • have you talked to him yet?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: No.
  • NELSON BALDO: He stays with John Bayer when he comes up here.
  • B-A-Y-E-R, isn't it?
  • Oh, god.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: B-A-I-R-E, possibly?
  • JOHN GRACE: I thought it was B-A-I-R.
  • So we got everything going.
  • NELSON BALDO: But Ducky stays with him when he comes up.
  • JOHN GRACE: I really think that that was the real start
  • of a change in Rochester.
  • Because first of all, the police never showed up.
  • I never saw the police after that show up,
  • trying to hustle money from the bars.
  • None of that was going on anymore.
  • NELSON BALDO: Yeah, it was different.
  • Plus, the location of that bar.
  • And they were open during the day, so there was nothing--
  • JOHN GRACE: It took the seediness out.
  • NELSON BALDO: People understood there was nothing nefarious
  • going on inside.
  • You know, it was just a stupid bar.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Were there many places?
  • Or, how did you find other LGBT people?
  • How did you connect?
  • JOHN GRACE: We had a very large circle
  • of friends-- gay friends.
  • I mean part of it is through the Gay Liberation Front.
  • We just had a large circle of friends.
  • And got introduced, and introduced.
  • It's just the way it happens.
  • There was a picnic, an annual picnic.
  • But are you talking about, like if you went
  • to another town or something?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, no.
  • But here in Rochester, were there other resources
  • available to you to get involved?
  • JOHN GRACE: It was basically all bar centered.
  • It really was.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Do you remember the first gay pride picnic?
  • Did you attend it?
  • JOHN GRACE: I don't think we were here.
  • I think we were in California then.
  • NELSON BALDO: We used to go to the one in Erie.
  • That was always great fun.
  • JOHN GRACE: See, we moved to California in '76.
  • We went out to San Francisco--
  • I think it was '76.
  • NELSON BALDO: No, it was earlier than that.
  • I'm not good at dates, but I believe
  • it was earlier than that.
  • JOHN GRACE: We opened the restaurant in '78.
  • NELSON BALDO: So we were there almost five years, John--
  • in San Francisco.
  • JOHN GRACE: See, dates aren't adding up here.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And you had a restaurant in San Francisco?
  • NELSON BALDO: No, that's where we got the idea
  • for the restaurant, though.
  • We took a class from San Francisco State, which was--
  • what did they used to call the alternative university?
  • Because John took a couple of art courses from it.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, that was San Francisco Art Institute,
  • I took my courses from.
  • NELSON BALDO: What'd they call it?
  • It became part of San Francisco-- anyway,
  • I can't remember.
  • We took the course it was in the Tenderloin,
  • on starting your own business.
  • And we had been tossing the idea of opening a restaurant there.
  • And we stole it from--
  • the name came from Maude's Study,
  • which is a famous lesbian bar in San Francisco.
  • Which was well run, and kind of a revelation.
  • JOHN GRACE: And then, Iggy was his father.
  • NELSON BALDO: And my dad got sick with cancer,
  • and we decided to come home and help my mother through it.
  • And that's how we opened the restaurant.
  • But we stole it from there--
  • we stole it from Maude's Study.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It became an institution in this community.
  • NELSON BALDO: It did.
  • You know, I can say that now.
  • Many years ago I couldn't, but I understand.
  • I'm amazed how many people still remember it.
  • It's very gratifying.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It was a great place.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, the great thing about it,
  • is it was so cosmopolitan.
  • I mean, at any given time, there was everybody there.
  • I remember we had a fight there.
  • Remember the fight?
  • NELSON BALDO: Yeah.
  • JOHN GRACE: One night--
  • and our lawyer, who was a sweetheart of a guy--
  • Jack Schyer, a little Jewish guy.
  • God, he had to have been in his late 70s at that time,
  • or 80s was our attorney--
  • just a sweetheart of a guy.
  • And there was a fight there.
  • And people left their name for him to contact.
  • And they were going to give testimony, whatever, about it.
  • And he called us back and said, "Do you
  • realize these are all attorneys, judges, congresspeople,
  • that sort of thing?"
  • And I said, "I knew that was part of our constituency."
  • He said, "You know, every one of them is."
  • NELSON BALDO: It was fun.
  • And I thought recently--
  • I was very proud.
  • We always wanted to have people of color visible, and in good
  • positions.
  • We almost always had an Afro American host,
  • or hostess in front.
  • We always wanted to have black people at the door.
  • I thought about that recently.
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, it was very important.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So what did you find when
  • you came back to Rochester?
  • What did you find in terms of community?
  • Or did Iggy's provide you with that community
  • in a very, like, secluded or--
  • not isolated--
  • NELSON BALDO: I think it did provide that
  • to us because our first manager came from the Post Office Cafe
  • up in Provincetown and that's where our first chef came
  • from Peter Siciliano who now works at Madison Square Garden.
  • That's another story.
  • But that's where a lot of the ideas, and a lot of that help
  • came from--
  • Cape Cod.
  • Because John and I were just like,
  • you want to open a restaurant?
  • Sure.
  • We didn't know anything about it.
  • JOHN GRACE: Ever been in a kitchen?
  • No.
  • NELSON BALDO: That professional side of it,
  • we were very lucky to do.
  • And those guys were all gay.
  • And it required all of our time.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, we came back from San Francisco.
  • And we had the house down in Bevary Street--
  • it was a double.
  • And we had to do some work in one of the apartments.
  • So we didn't have a kitchen at that time,
  • and we had to eat out.
  • Living in the Park Avenue neighborhood,
  • we were going to eat in that.
  • And all we did was complain about the food
  • and we kept looking around and we kept saying to each other
  • "Ah, it's really sort of changed around here.
  • I mean, there's a lot of BMWs.
  • There is a lot of Mercedes, Audis.
  • This sort of became snooty-ville."
  • And we said, "Why don't we open a restaurant?"
  • It just sort of made sense to us.
  • And out of that naivete, we did it.
  • And I think if we wouldn't have been that naive,
  • we wouldn't have done it.
  • NELSON BALDO: Probably not.
  • Probably not.
  • JOHN GRACE: And the interesting thing is, when we started,
  • we bought the building.
  • And we literally designed it and built it, and then opened it.
  • He ran the front.
  • I ran the kitchen.
  • And I mean, it never occurred to us that we couldn't do that.
  • And nobody ever said to us, well,
  • you can't do that, because you've never done that.
  • Nobody ever said that to us.
  • And I think if somebody would have really ever sat down
  • and said to us, "You guys, you know,
  • have you ever really run a restaurant?
  • Have you ever worked in a restaurant?"
  • We would have both said, "Oh, no."
  • And maybe we wouldn't have done it.
  • But nobody ever did that.
  • Nelson's mother has worked in a restaurant all her life.
  • And I mean, she just encouraged us.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Stepping away from the restaurant
  • a little bit--
  • kind of going back a little bit.
  • In that short period of time that you
  • had with the GLF-- the things you were doing.
  • What would you say was your biggest accomplishments,
  • proudest moment?
  • Or your most memorable moment in what
  • you were doing for the gay community?
  • JOHN GRACE: It would have had to be the speaking engagements.
  • It also allowed me to grow the most.
  • When you're sitting up there, and the questions you're
  • being asked and all that, you have
  • to think your way through it--
  • you grow.
  • You have to grow.
  • And that would've been, without a doubt, would have been it.
  • Because the other thing is that I would come up with ideas,
  • and brainstorm with people-- like,
  • to start the Empty Closet.
  • There was a whole little group of us
  • involved in starting that.
  • I never wrote an article.
  • That's just not my bent at that time.
  • Do you know what I'm saying?
  • I went to the-- what was the name of the underground radio
  • station, Nelson?
  • WCMF.
  • I called them one day on a whim, and I went over
  • to see the general manager about doing a gay hour.
  • And in fact, he was very interested.
  • He said, "Yes, let's do that."
  • And I went back to GLF and said, I went to see the manager--
  • he said, yes, he'd give us an hour week,
  • and we can do a gay hour.
  • Who's going to do it?
  • I'm not gonna.
  • Who's going to do it?
  • I don't know enough about music.
  • I'm not going to do that, but I made the connection.
  • So I never really poured myself into stuff like that,
  • once I sort of opened my big mouth.
  • But the speaking engagements, I attended a lot of them.
  • And I really, really enjoyed them.
  • And I actually thought that they were
  • the thing that made the biggest impact on people.
  • Because they had gay people sitting right in front of them,
  • saying, ask me whatever you want, please.
  • You've got to have 1,000 questions-- throw them at me.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I want to just touch on the radio station
  • a little bit more.
  • Just kind of get in your mindset at the time.
  • What prompted you to do that?
  • Why did you think we needed a gay radio show?
  • JOHN GRACE: Because there was one in San Francisco when
  • I was out there.
  • I had went out to San Francisco just as a lark way back when,
  • and they had one out there.
  • And I thought, well, if you're going to do it, do it.
  • And it was to make announcements and all that.
  • But I still think that the biggest thing that we did
  • was the speaking engagements.
  • Because until then, people had never seen gay people.
  • They just had never seen them.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, had seen them--
  • not known.
  • JOHN GRACE: And a lot of times, it
  • was making them deal with us.
  • Because a lot of it became very, very contentious too.
  • I can remember standing up and having screaming matches
  • with people in the audience.
  • You know, one of those, you will not talk to me that way.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So you had Iggy's for how long?
  • NELSON BALDO: Thirteen years.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And what was your next entrepreneurial?
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, we had never built houses.
  • So we went to Watertown and built houses--
  • seriously.
  • NELSON BALDO: We had a dealership for modular housing,
  • and we worked out of Watertown.
  • JOHN GRACE: We built thirty-six homes.
  • NELSON BALDO: And we did sales and marketing
  • for Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor, New York.
  • John taught-- we had a real estate school.
  • I think that's it for Watertown.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That's the most excitement Watertown's ever
  • had.
  • JOHN GRACE: They had a gay bar.
  • NELSON BALDO: Oh, I know.
  • We were out all the time.
  • In fact, the gentleman who owned Sackets Harbor.
  • They were redoing it.
  • Madison Barracks was used through World War II--
  • I think from the Revolutionary War.
  • And they kept asking us if we would come on board
  • to do sales and marketing.
  • John, finally one night-- you told Mike, didn't you?
  • He said Mike, "We're gay."
  • He said, "I knew that," or something.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, so what?
  • The sun rises in the morning, was his attitude.
  • NELSON BALDO: So we ended up doing that too.
  • We've always been--
  • I've never been closeted, I don't believe.
  • JOHN GRACE: I don't think either one of us have ever been.
  • NELSON BALDO: Everyone knew we were always a couple.
  • JOHN GRACE: And I think that made an extreme difference
  • with us.
  • I've never-- I don't know about you--
  • but I've never really felt discrimination.
  • NELSON BALDO: We're down in the Catskills now in this town--
  • I don't know how people in the town.
  • JOHN GRACE: 250.
  • NELSON BALDO: They all know we're gay.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You're the talk of the town.
  • NELSON BALDO: We are, I'm sure of it.
  • But you know what, those farmers stop by, and we chat with them.
  • And you know, it's great.
  • JOHN GRACE: It's so casual, I don't know if we really are.
  • I really don't.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well, it's that undertone
  • of all those other people talking to each other.
  • "Oh yeah, we know them, they're good friends."
  • It's that kind of thing.
  • It's, like, trendy now.
  • "We're a hip town now, we have gay people."
  • JOHN GRACE: "Have you seen what those fags have done now?"
  • Because we're always doing a lot of changes to our house,
  • you know what I mean?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You're their entertainment, really.
  • JOHN GRACE: And of course, down there, there
  • is the Beekman Boys.
  • Did you ever hear of them?
  • NELSON BALDO: Those boys are having their say.
  • They're out of Sharon Springs.
  • And there is a television channel.
  • It's either the Green Channel, or the Echo-something Channel.
  • And they're doing a reality show with these guys
  • out of New York.
  • They came up, they bought a farm, and they bought a house.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, the reality show was on last year.
  • I don't think it's on any more.
  • I think it went down the tubes.
  • NELSON BALDO: But people who've seen it just love it,
  • and they tell us about it.
  • And they have a shop in Sharon Springs, which
  • we drive through all the time.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, because one was a city boy,
  • and the other one wanted to be a farmer.
  • NELSON BALDO: You know, these little gazettes down there--
  • there was a picture of like a Memorial Day
  • parade or something.
  • And it showed one of the guys with all these schoolchildren.
  • And he was teaching them to do the model walk, strutting down
  • the street.
  • And I said, you have to be kidding me.
  • It was so fun.
  • These little farm kids--
  • I could not believe it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The lastest dance.
  • NELSON BALDO: One of my friends from Eastman loves them.
  • That's all she talked about.
  • And she said they stopped at the shop,
  • and they saw one of the boys out on the porch.
  • She said, I ran up to them like I was a little girl.
  • Because she was so excited--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, because he opened up a little country
  • store or something, right?
  • NELSON BALDO: Yeah.
  • And it's everything made out of the goat--
  • cheese and soap and God knows what.
  • And I still haven't seen that show.
  • I'm very anxious to see it.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I forget which-- it's the Learning
  • Channel, or something.
  • I caught it about a year ago, but I think
  • it only lasted one season.
  • NELSON BALDO: I'd love to see it.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Or it was on Logo.
  • It was either on Logo or--
  • Maybe it was on Logo.
  • JOHN GRACE: But you know, when we lived up in Sackets Harbor
  • that whole town knew we were gay, and a gay couple.
  • And there was a point, they were trying
  • to get me to run for mayor of the town.
  • And it's like, what is going on?
  • Is there something in the water up here?
  • The fact that we were a gay couple
  • didn't matter to anybody.
  • I've never felt discrimination about it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Speaking of being in the water, it is now 2012.
  • And in 1969, the thought of domestic partnership
  • was, like, way out there.
  • Did you ever think in your lifetime you
  • would see marriage equality?
  • JOHN GRACE: Never.
  • Never ever.
  • And you know, Danny Scipione he's dead now.
  • But Danny used to always say to me,
  • the purpose of what we're doing, is to not be needed anymore.
  • And I mean, it's really the truth if you think about it.
  • I absolutely never thought marriage equality
  • would come around.
  • And for the President of the United States
  • to stand up and say, I support marriage equality--
  • NELSON BALDO: It is amazing.
  • JOHN GRACE: --I think that's absolutely stunning.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I liked how he pushed Joe Biden in the water
  • first.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, me too.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Feel it out for me first.
  • JOHN GRACE: I don't think most people realize that,
  • but I'm sure that's what happened.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That's exactly what happened.
  • Here, Joe, you jump in first, and let me know if it's OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Come from national to local--
  • how has Rochester changed?
  • NELSON BALDO: I think it's changed incredibly.
  • I think what you just said, about the need for things.
  • I think gay bars are going by the wayside.
  • It's really different, which I find sad, actually.
  • I don't think we should be like everyone else.
  • JOHN GRACE: I absolutely agree with you there.
  • It's one of the things that I have a concern for.
  • I used to always say--
  • even at the speaking engagements,
  • I would say this a lot.
  • That when you live outside of your culture--
  • you're forced to live outside of your culture--
  • you get insight into the culture.
  • And when you sort of get pulled into it,
  • and just massed into it and you're just part of it,
  • it's just all one big same.
  • And I think that one of the reasons--
  • and gay people have through the generations been so creative--
  • is because they've had to live beyond bounds.
  • Am I making sense to you?
  • And it's one of the things that I sort of hope doesn't happen.
  • NELSON BALDO: But I think it is.
  • I think there are groups of elitist professional people,
  • whatever.
  • And they pretty much will stay with their own set.
  • There's not that great mix going on,
  • where you end up with a construction
  • worker and a university professor as lovers.
  • And I think that's sad.
  • I really see that going away.
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, I agree with you.
  • See, one of the other things I think
  • is that one of the strengths of gay people always had was
  • if something came up and I needed some help with something
  • or I needed to find out about something or something
  • like that I knew somebody that was
  • gay that was either doing that job or knew somebody that was.
  • It was just this incredible grapevine.
  • And like he's saying, I don't think that's happening now.
  • I almost never knew anybody who lived
  • in the suburbs who was gay--
  • closeted yeah, but not gay.
  • And now-- I've got a lot of friends
  • that are interested in adopting children.
  • I mean, that is OK for them.
  • But I don't know, nothing that ever interested me.
  • Being married-- I mean, we could be married right now.
  • Why?
  • What was the advantage?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I would say legal protections,
  • but that's for you guys to decide.
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, we've done all that with attorneys.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, but without that marriage
  • certificate, either one of your families could come in
  • and say, oh, no, they weren't married,
  • so we're going to fight that.
  • JOHN GRACE: My family, first of all--
  • they're all crazy.
  • They haven't got the brains to do it.
  • His family would never do it.
  • NELSON BALDO: I think financially
  • that that would be our decision.
  • Financially, if it made sense.
  • JOHN GRACE: But now that you've touched on that,
  • his family has always been incredible.
  • From day one, they have just accepted me as Nelson's mate.
  • His family has just been that way.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: When you came back from San Francisco,
  • I know you were busy with the restaurant and all that.
  • Did you participate in any-- did you
  • march in a gay pride parade?
  • Did you go to any of the gay tea dances,
  • or any of the AIDS dining for dollars fundraisers?
  • NELSON BALDO: Oh, yeah, went to almost all of those
  • JOHN GRACE: Well, you had to, to run the restaurant too.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: But mainly, you were just kind of focused
  • on your business, it seems.
  • NELSON BALDO: And we helped out for dinners
  • that friends of ours had.
  • We cooked, and got it together for that.
  • JOHN GRACE: And like, when Tim Mains was running for--
  • what was he running for that time?
  • City council, yeah.
  • We did all the catering and donated all that
  • for the events.
  • Edgy, even that.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well, how was that?
  • Was it because he was the first gay candidate
  • that you were supporting him?
  • Or were you supporting him because--
  • NELSON BRANDO: He was an old friend.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, Tim was also an extremely old friend
  • NELSON BALDO: But absolutely believed in what he was doing.
  • JOHN GRACE: Oh, sure.
  • NELSON BALDO: Timmy used to hand out towels at the health club--
  • I can't remember which one, don't tell him.
  • JOHN GRACE: The one right there on--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Liberty Pole Way?
  • NELSON BALDO: No, Legitimate Club, downstairs.
  • The old Catholic--
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, we both belonged to it.
  • We could actually walk from Iggy's up to it
  • during our breaks, and back.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: When you hear, or come in contact
  • with young people today, is your sense
  • that their life is easier, better than what you growing up
  • had to deal with?
  • NELSON BALDO: I think it's much easier.
  • JOHN GRACE: Much easier,
  • NELSON BALDO: Yeah, absolutely.
  • JOHN GRACE: And young people today have the most incredible,
  • wonderful outlook.
  • It doesn't matter to them.
  • They truly have just the most amazing outlook.
  • It doesn't matter to them.
  • NELSON BALDO: I mean, there's still a lot of hatred
  • out there, of course.
  • But still, I think it's much easier now.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well, they see it on TV every day now.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, they see it on TV.
  • I think most of today's people, the youth of today,
  • have admitted that they are basically bisexual.
  • I mean, I'm from a small farming community.
  • And let me tell you something, just about every one
  • of the boys out there slept with another boy.
  • That's just the way it happened.
  • That's reality, that's life.
  • And I think the youth of today, instead of ignoring
  • that, they're dealing with it.
  • They're saying, yeah, well, so what.
  • NELSON BALDO: I don't know John.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I think they're still
  • keeping it very much secret.
  • JOHN GRACE: You think so?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I think the majority are, yeah.
  • Because there's still that society
  • out there, that's telling them it's wrong.
  • NELSON BALDO: It's easier, but it's still tough.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, I think the process of coming out
  • has not changed.
  • Internally, the process is the same.
  • And you have got to come to grips with claiming and owning
  • who you are, and then being out with that to whomever.
  • JOHN GRACE: But imagine in today's world--
  • not everyone, but in today's world
  • it's discussed in our home.
  • Do you know what I mean?
  • And it's not some kind of a really horrible secret.
  • When I was young, you were young, it was absolutely taboo.
  • It was never discussed.
  • The old expression, I am the person my parents warned me
  • about, is true.
  • That is true.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, I think sex was never discussed.
  • JOHN GRACE: Never.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: It was a five-minute conversation
  • you had with your father at some point.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But I think we're looking
  • at a geographic anomaly.
  • In other words, I think here in the North--
  • and north of the Mason-Dixon line--
  • there may be more of a sense of freedom with that.
  • But if you go south--
  • NELSON BRANDO: I agree.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Look at North Carolina.
  • JOHN GRACE: I think the southern people are crazy.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: you're not going to find
  • that same kind of openness, within or without families.
  • JOHN GRACE: Yeah, go to Texas, same thing.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So I think here in New York,
  • we have been liberated in many more ways than in other places.
  • JOHN GRACE: But what you know what I can't explain,
  • Iowa legalizing gay marriage--
  • Iowa.
  • Does that make sense?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: They spend all their time in the corn fields.
  • JOHN GRACE: Does that make sense to anybody in this room?
  • It doesn't to me.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I think maybe Iowans were just
  • sending a-- shock the rest of the country.
  • It's like, OK, let's do something really outrageous.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I see Iowa as much more Midwestern
  • than Southern or Northeastern.
  • JOHN GRACE: But the Midwestern are very evangelical.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Not my experience.
  • I look at Illinois, and I look at Chicago--
  • and I look at the Minneapolis, and Minnesota-- and I
  • see two things.
  • One, there is a breadth of experience
  • in those areas that requires an expansion of mind,
  • and ability to embrace diversity--
  • all kinds of diversity.
  • And two, they have somehow separated themselves
  • from the negativity of the South,
  • and have moved more toward the Sunshine State of California
  • and the free expression of whatever.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: True.
  • And when you think about the South and the Bible Belt,
  • you don't typically think of Iowa included in that.
  • So there's probably a lot more progressive people living there
  • than we would know of.
  • NELSON BALDO: Our favorite nephews are from Iowa.
  • They're due for their annual visit next month.
  • I never asked that about that.
  • JOHN GRACE: A lot of what you're saying that farming
  • communities.
  • And I mean, I have always discovered this.
  • Farming communities are really very liberal,
  • as far as sexuality goes.
  • Because that's how they make their living,
  • is their animals reproducing.
  • And it's a very sexual thing that they do.
  • And within the animal world--
  • and the human world too--
  • they see that same-sex couple.
  • They see it.
  • It happens.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That'd be an interesting study.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: That's an interesting perspective.
  • I think it's more likely that in a farming community
  • you have to depend upon your neighbors.
  • And you have to depend upon the people who live around you--
  • in terms of disaster, in terms of help, in terms of floods.
  • In terms of tornadoes, in terms of hurricanes, in terms of--
  • and you are much more subject to God, and the weather,
  • and the climate.
  • Because a bad rainy season, and your crops go whoosh.
  • JOHN GRACE: When I was a kid in that small community
  • of Walworth-- first of all, most people realized I was gay.
  • Because I happened to have been a little
  • effeminate at that time, and most people realized I was gay.
  • Secondly, in our community, we had several women who--
  • I mean, they dressed in men's clothing, they had men's jobs.
  • And everybody used to say about them,
  • they don't need a man to fix their washing machine.
  • That was the attitude, they don't need a man
  • to fix their washing machine.
  • Did they have an active lover that they
  • were living with-- no.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But there have been many city women--
  • lesbians-- who have made the mistake
  • of assuming that the country women are gay.
  • NELSON BALDO: Oh, I'm sure, absolutely.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Because they have had
  • to do the work in farming and so forth,
  • doesn't mean that they are.
  • It means that appearances reflect work,