Audio Interview, Ramona Santorelli, December 28, 2012
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: I'm just telling you,
- this is not even part of the--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Today is December 28th, Friday.
- And I'm here with Ramona Santorelli who is probably
- most well known in Rochester as the woman
- who kind of organized and spearheaded the Topfree
- Seven in 1986.
- But I want to go back because you weren't born in Rochester.
- You were born in--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Brooklyn.
- EVELYN BAILEY: --Brooklyn.
- And were you out when you were in Brooklyn?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: No, no, I didn't come out
- till I came here to Rochester, St. John Fisher College.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And you came on a basketball scholarship.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And then you left St. John Fisher
- to go to Fordham.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yep, played Division one.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Played Division one.
- And tell me a little bit about your basketball
- coach at Fordham.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: My coach was out, actually, Kathy Mosolino.
- She was a great coach, great role model for me
- and the rest of the players there.
- I was going through a funny, particular time.
- It was changing time for me.
- I think I was mulling over my sexuality.
- I was confused.
- I was lonely because I was in the Bronx,
- and I had made friends in Rochester at the time.
- All my other high school buddies were off to other colleges.
- And my coach challenged Fordham to Title IX and she won.
- What she found out is that she was
- getting paid less than the assistant coaches of the men.
- And we were also getting booted out of every gym.
- And it was a bad time.
- And we were playing high-ranking teams
- like Tennessee, Alabama, Texas A&M.
- We were playing a lot of really, really big schools at the time.
- Baylor, you know, all the schools that you know of,
- you hear of now.
- And she took us to the regionals.
- And the following year, at the end of the year
- she challenged them.
- And they must have pressured her so much
- after that, that she quit the job.
- Consequently, I left and came back to Fisher
- with my tail between my legs.
- I didn't play my senior year, which I regret terribly.
- And I was shy fifteen credits in the transferring.
- So all my friends left Fisher, and I went off
- exploring the South.
- I was a sociology major, and I wanted
- to see how far this country had come as far as racism.
- So I chose Mississippi as a place
- to volunteer my services and--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Good place.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: --yeah and I contacted
- a lot of the Catholic schools.
- I didn't know about how obscure Catholicism was in Mississippi,
- but off I went.
- And I did some basketball camps to make some money,
- and off I went.
- I took my car and drove along.
- I went to Bay St. Louis.
- They taught me how to dance on the pier.
- It was great.
- And then I ended up in Mississippi.
- And when I went to the first church in Mississippi,
- it looked like my shed in my back yard.
- It was really small, and it was hilarious.
- And I traveled all the way through till they hooked me up
- with someone in Iowa.
- They told me to call this principal in Iowa.
- And so I drove my car to--
- I went all through Mississippi, traveled
- and met all these different, really great people,
- and drove my car to Cincinnati, and left my car
- with a friend, an old basketball colleague, coach.
- And they flew me to Omaha.
- And then five nuns drove me through to Earling, Iowa,
- a little German Catholic town.
- And there I stayed for six months
- and was a phys ed teacher and a basketball coach.
- And I even taught catechism, believe it or not.
- BARBARA: Oh my god.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: And I was twenty-two years old.
- I had a riot.
- It was a riot.
- It was it was great.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Now did you find an answer to your question
- in Mississippi?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, thank you for bringing me back
- to full circle.
- While I was there it was really interesting.
- I remember very clearly mulling over my sexuality.
- And they thought I was mulling over-- they thought I
- was contemplating the convent.
- I was nowhere near that.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Similar callings.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes, yes, yes,
- EVELYN BAILEY: God and women.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes.
- I had already been out, though.
- I already had my first experience with, actually my--
- it was my best friend from high school.
- She went to Cornell University.
- I went to Fischer.
- And we went cross country after I left Fordham.
- And we did the little back rubs, talking.
- She had a crush on a straight couple.
- And she told me about it, and I asked thousands of questions.
- After Brooklyn, we moved to Long Island, by the way.
- So when we came back after eight weeks of traveling,
- I said to my father, without even asking Ann, I said,
- "Dad, I'm going over to Ann's house."
- He goes, "but you were with her for eight weeks."
- I said, "she's home alone."
- I didn't even consult her.
- Drove over to her house, rang the doorbell,
- Ann answered the door.
- "Mom, Ramona locked herself out."
- We didn't even consult each other,
- went up the stairs, that was it.
- It was just one of those things that we just,
- eight weeks of, I guess, foreplay.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Did you find an answer, though,
- to the question how far civil rights had come in the south
- in Mississippi?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Oh, thank you, thank you, that question.
- Interestingly enough, yes and no.
- You know, the people I was meeting with
- were mostly white women, white men, you know,
- priests and nuns.
- Although I did meet one particular set of nuns.
- They were called the School Sisters of St. Francis,
- and they had a radical background.
- And they were protesting for labor rights for mining,
- the people in the mines.
- And they were really, really active.
- And there was one nun who was dead set
- against me staying there.
- And another nun who was just, you
- know, the good nun, bad nun.
- The other nun was just so really attentive to me.
- And so we sat for hours and spoke.
- And the other one was busy, just, you know,
- posters, and mailings, and calling on the phone.
- And the other one was sat with me for hours
- and really philosophize about life.
- And she gave me a lot of things that I still remember.
- One was that visiting people were the most important thing
- in life.
- Isn't that sweet?
- She said just visiting people, just being present.
- And I've always remembered that.
- It doesn't matter how big or small your life is.
- As long as you sit and visit with people,
- it's the greatest gift you can give.
- That's what she gave to me.
- EVELYN BAILEY: So when you came back to Rochester, finally.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah.
- My final-- well I went back to New York after that.
- And my father was head of a restaurant in Manhattan,
- which I was always very proud of, in the Tribeca area,
- down near Robert De Niro, six blocks from the World Trade
- And I, you know, traipsed up and, you know, down
- on the east side, the west side, the lower east side
- and west side.
- I was a really into Manhattan at the time.
- And I decided to come back because a friend of mine, John,
- was talking to me on the phone.
- He said, "you know, why don't you come up here?
- I'm living with this woman, Sally.
- I know you're going to like her, but I think
- you should stay away from her."
- So I ended up coming up to Rochester and visiting.
- And sure enough, I got together with Sally.
- And we booted John out of the apartment.
- And Sally and I ended up living together.
- And, you know, that became my introduction
- to the Rochester community, really.
- I actually met Susan Plunkett in 1978
- while I was at Fisher, by the way.
- She'd back it up.
- I went to Snake Sisters on my own.
- I was living on Brunswick Street off of Park Avenue.
- And one Sunday, I went in on a brunch,
- and Plunkett was as cheerful and cordial to me
- as she could possibly be.
- She was really friendly, as Susan is, and made
- me feel really at home.
- And we always remember that encounter.
- But it wasn't until I came back after that trip from Iowa--
- actually Barbara is sitting here with me.
- I went to the gay rights rally in.
- Washington, DC.
- And I went along--
- EVELYN BAILEY: In 1983, no.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: I think it was '81?
- And I was friends with this guy named John.
- He was straight, he loved me, he was very attracted to me,
- and I wasn't.
- But he was a friend, but nonetheless, we were friendly.
- And I went on the bus with him.
- I don't know what the bus was, but they
- were very, very serious.
- And, you know, we went down on this bus.
- And I met lots of different people.
- But I don't remember meeting anybody from Rochester.
- On the way back I went, they told me--
- I met some women, though.
- And they said, come on the bus with us.
- Well, I got on the bus with all the women.
- They were all exhausted.
- And I find out from Barbara that that bus that went down,
- they were partying like crazy.
- On the way back they were all exhausted, falling asleep.
- So, I missed the boat on both ends.
- But a couple of years later, after I was introduced
- to the community, meeting Barbara, and Joe Cummings,
- and all kinds of people, we were looking through Barbara
- [Chance?] pictures.
- And lo and behold, in the pictures,
- we see me in the front of her pictures,
- passing by, in her pictures.
- And Barbara [Chance?] ended up being my lover in the early
- '80s, as most people know that know us.
- And it was just fascinating that Barbara was spotting me.
- EVELYN BAILEY: She came across--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: It was like Where's Waldo.
- Where's Ramona in the photos?
- So anyway, so that's how it happened.
- I think I was introduced to the community in '81, John, Jackie,
- Joe, Jill, remember all the Js, Joni, Joan.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Was Snake Sisters still--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes.
- Oh yeah.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Tell me a little bit
- about Snake Sisters and also The Riverview.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Sure, sure, I remember both very well.
- Although I seemed to be the youngster at the time,
- you know, mostly at The Riverview I was the youngster.
- But Snake Sisters was fairly, I think it was early,
- mid-'70s when it opened.
- And like I said, I went in in '78.
- I remember meeting on Sundays, and they
- would have, remember, they would have Leo Warner, a brunch,
- and, you know, people singing.
- And it was great.
- I loved it.
- I loved it.
- We had a real sense of community.
- Christine Galvin was the owner.
- And she kept the sense of community,
- which I think we kind of lack now, which
- I'll talk about as we go along.
- It was really, a really nice place for women to gather.
- And it was all women, always all women.
- But I remember women gatherings, you know.
- EVELYN BAILEY: There were never men.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Right, exactly.
- And, you know, I met so many still
- long-lasting relationships, like yourself, Evelyn,
- And we would go to Riverview.
- That bar I was introduced to by Sally and a few of the others.
- They all took me out to-- they took me
- on a tour of the gay bars when I first got here
- and when they first introduced me in '81.
- We went to Riverview.
- We went to across the street to, what
- was the one on Monroe Avenue?
- Oh, come on.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Rosie's?
- BARBARA: The pub?
- Not Rosie's?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: No, the Avenue Pub.
- No. no.
- Rosie's wasn't--
- BARBARA: Friar's.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Friar's.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Friar's.
- I don't think Rosie's existed yet.
- BARBARA: No.
- EVELYN BAILEY: No.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: You know, oh, what's the name of the--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Forty (unintelligible)?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: On Charlotte Street.
- Oh, come on, Barbara.
- O.K. Corral, remember O.K. Corral?
- Alan Street, you know?
- EVELYN BAILEY: Alan Street.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, we all know Alan Street.
- And we went on a huge tour of all the gay bars.
- I was fascinated, you know, that there were so many
- and that the community seemed really tight.
- EVELYN BAILEY: There were fifteen.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: At the time?
- EVELYN BAILEY: Gay bars.
- BARBARA: Really?
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
- Now there's only two, but The Riverview is an institution,
- was an institution.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes, yes.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And many, many women.
- For many women that was their only social outlet.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, yeah, I could see that.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Was it also a political outlet?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: I think so.
- I think underground people met there to organize.
- I did.
- You know, there were all kinds of shenanigans going on
- at The Riverview.
- BARBARA: Who was that woman named Patty?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Patty Evans?
- BARBARA: Yeah.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: I remember John,
- the moment I was talking about, the straight male friend
- of mine.
- He was very upset when I ended up with Sally.
- And he had the audacity to come to that bar and make a scene.
- And you should have seen those women rally around
- me and escort his ass out, sorry, escort his ass out
- of that bar.
- He did not come, he couldn't come near me.
- You know, he was never going to do anything physical.
- I never believed that about John.
- He was the nicest, gentlest man.
- But he was upset.
- He was hoping that I would turn a corner.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Turn a corner, yeah.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: And I was turning
- another corner (laughter).
- EVELYN BAILEY: So, Ramona, there's some kind of a thread
- here because you were connected to people,
- like the coach at Fordham, who were bucking
- the system, who were constantly confronting the,
- quote unquote, "powers that be," the status quo.
- When did your political activism begin?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Probably, I think my political activism
- started in third grade.
- Seriously, I challenged a third grade teacher who I thought
- was very, very unfair teaching methods.
- She favored boys.
- Her methods were appalling to me.
- I didn't have that word, but I felt it.
- And I remember we had what you called lunch and recess.
- And I had about an hour to organize.
- And I got forty-five out of--
- I'll never forget this-- forty-five out
- of fifty-two signatures.
- I wrote a petition up.
- And I had everybody sign this petition to challenge her
- and ask her to change her methods.
- I don't think I had those words, but, you know,
- I wrote something up.
- And I handed it to her at the end when
- she came back from her break.
- And I remember her turning beet red.
- And the seven people got rewarded
- for not signing the petition.
- And the rest of us were, quote unquote, "punished"
- and, you know, couldn't do anything.
- But the funny part about that is that I
- got a report card from her that I have actually
- framed upstairs.
- And it says, Ramona is very disrespectful and insolent.
- She has no regard for authority whatsoever (laughter)..
- And here's the other funny part, I had a 100 percent attendance.
- I was there every day, never missed a day (laughs),
- I loved going to school.
- I loved it.
- So I think that was the beginning of my--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Of your sense of injustice.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes, exact, that's a good word.
- And then, also, I noticed that there were only altar boys.
- And I couldn't understand why they couldn't have altar girls.
- And I remember questioning that in the school.
- They had a fit about that because the boys got so much
- advantage to being altar boys.
- They had trips.
- They had parties.
- They were always getting pulled out of class
- and going here and there.
- And then I started playing basketball.
- And this is when that started to tilt, too,
- because I noticed that the boys had cheerleaders and the girls
- You know, they had a huge, huge crowds and, you know,
- And we get there and we maybe have
- a parent in the audience or someone, you know, sitting,
- not even a teacher.
- And I started to really see the injustice, you know,
- that it was very clear to me that there
- was an imbalance in the gender.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And so when you came to Rochester,
- and it was 1976.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: '76 began it.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Six, '78.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Well, at Fisher
- I challenged the athletic, not the athletic director,
- my basketball coach.
- I had come on a--
- I put this in quotes-- "scholarship"
- because it was Division Two at the time,
- and they gave you a package.
- And when I got there, the coach, I'm sorry,
- and the dean pulled me in to talk to me.
- I had taken a bus from Long Island.
- And they said to me, "well Ramona,
- you know, since you're here and maybe you want to get in shape
- and you want to play volleyball.: I said,
- "I don't play volleyball."
- "Well, it would be good for you to get to know the girls."
- "No, I don't play volleyball," I said.
- "I just play basketball.
- I'm going to have enough trouble keeping my academics up."
- So they couldn't talk me into volleyball.
- I said, I'm going to play basketball.
- And so the dean says, "you took a bus up here, right?"
- I said, "yeah."
- He said, "how about we fly you home
- and your father, wink wink, can pay us back
- when he gets around to it."
- My father never paid him back.
- They flew me back.
- I thought I was high on the hog.
- I was like, oh my god, Rochester.
- Yeah, it was a great move.
- And he recruited a lot of people year.
- There was a very-- it was a big recruiting year, '76,
- for Fisher.
- So, of sixteen women, you know, embarked on Fisher, you know,
- to think that we were all going to start.
- And it was, you know, like, almost a cat fight
- because we were all fighting for a position.
- I hurt my knee the first year before the season even started.
- But, you know, I felt like I was, you know,--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Well, you were certainly there.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: I was recruited.
- I forgot where I was going with this.
- What was I--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Your option.
- Your activism.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Oh, yeah, right.
- So then the following year, I get a notice
- that we owe so much money for the tuition.
- I called my father.
- I said, "Dad, what's going on?"
- And he said, "I don't know."
- He goes, "I copied verbatim the last thing."
- So I went to the coach.
- He says, "oh we've made changes.
- Your father made changes in the thing."
- So I knew there was a discrepancy there.
- So they tried to reduce my, quote unquote, "scholarship."
- So I challenged it and won because my father never
- changed anything.
- And all of a sudden, the other players started piping in, Sue
- Maroney, who was a very famous ballplayer there,
- Kathy [Fraswell ?] a bunch of players started coming knocking
- on the door.
- "Hey, what happened to my scholarship?"
- Diane [Mukis ?] they were saying, "what happened?"
- What happened is, the people that were recruited into Fisher
- were recruited for one sport, asked them to play two.
- Then they would drop a sport because they
- couldn't handle it.
- And then they would say, oh well, you dropped the sport,
- so we're going to cut your scholarship in half.
- We're gonna cut your money in half because you're not
- playing two sports.
- You get it?
- Because they signed a contract.
- So, you know, people like Sue Maroney were highly insulted.
- And I think they got their money back,
- Diane [Mukis ?] a bunch of them that stopped playing two
- But that was another little check for me
- that I felt like, you know,--
- I ended up making The Pioneer.
- They interviewed me.
- [Kaylor ?] was not happy with me,
- but I ended up transferring to Fordham.
- And I think that's why, when I came back,
- I didn't want to play my senior year there
- because I felt like I, you know, had
- went against the establishment at Fisher.
- So I was on the down low there.
- EVELYN BAILEY: But then you stayed on here in Rochester.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes.
- Well, like we said, we went back up.
- We went to Iowa, came back, went to, you know, the gay pride.
- And I ended up settling here in Rochester
- for a couple of years.
- I wasn't as active.
- I was more into socializing.
- You know, going here to The Riverview,
- going here, going to Alan Street, dance and dance
- and dance and dance, and doing our thing.
- I never was a drinker or, you know, a big pot smoker.
- Although I was introduced to pot.
- It was like, those were the days.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Everybody is.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Everybody was.
- And I was an athlete.
- And what ended up happening is, I got an offer to coach
- at Queens College.
- And so I assistant coached, and I went back to New York,
- lived in Brooklyn with my aunt and uncle,
- and commuted from Brooklyn to Queens College everyday.
- It was quite a trek.
- And I coached, and before that I coached in Fredonia State
- Here while I was in Rochester, I lived in Fredonia for a season.
- And my basketball career was moving along.
- And I was doing camps.
- And, you know, then I started getting more and more involved
- Well, we'll get to the Topfree now, right?
- Get into the Topfree?
- EVELYN BAILEY: But were you were involved with Women Against
- Violence Against Women?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, peripherally I was involved.
- What I would do is, yeah, WAVAW.
- Barbara, because she's sitting here,
- and a couple of other friends, we would go out and we pasted,
- a lot of times, against whatever, whoever.
- We were pasting maybe the--
- We'd go up onto the, remember the billboards,
- Barbara, the Black Velvet billboards?
- I epoxy glued, well I don't know if we should say this,
- but epoxy glued the Monroe Theater.
- They had to call in a locksmith, but we epoxy glued
- all the locks.
- I couldn't stand that theater.
- I still can't.
- I don't know why they're keeping it.
- But it's historical, I know.
- But anyway, you know, little shenanigans like that.
- We were totally campaigning against violence
- against women and rape.
- And, you know, trying to raise awareness in the city.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And were you involved with the Rape Crisis?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: I worked at, the domestic violence program
- is more (unintelligible) I worked
- at ABW for a couple of years.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And then you catapulted yourself
- into this action at Cobb's Hill Park.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes and it kind of
- coincided with my activism with the Pride Parades
- because first it was the Topfree.
- And then I remember I used to go to New York
- and go to the Pride Parades for over ten years
- while I was in Rochester.
- I'd go every year, go down at the end of June
- like you're supposed to.
- End of June is, you know, Stonewall.
- And I would march in the parade and take off my shirt.
- And Gail [Neison?] and I went down there with it.
- One year we took off our shirts and danced the whole way down,
- you know, like, exhausted.
- And people were taking pictures.
- And it wasn't legal yet.
- And that was '86.
- And then I kept thinking, why don't we
- have a parade in Rochester, you know?
- But you want me to talk about the Topfree first?
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: OK.
- In '85 I lived off of Park Avenue, Girton Place.
- And there's a park behind this, the Museum and Science Center.
- And that year I was introduced to the Schloss's house.
- They had a sauna and whirlpool.
- And I was introduced to Naturism through Cathy Riley.
- I would have never gone there if it wasn't for Cathy.
- I really trusted her judgment.
- She said, come during the winter.
- And so Barbara and I would trek over in the snow,
- you know, and said who we were.
- And we'd get in, you know, and give them a donation
- and make sure there was no men around.
- And we'd go in and swim and go in the sauna and whirlpool.
- And Cathy kept talking about we should protest,
- talking about the possibility that they're
- protesting that we can't take off our shirts in public.
- And I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I've ever
- heard, I really did.
- I thought that is just not something
- that I'm interested in, had no connection to me.
- I had no passion for it.
- I was too busy doing things for raising awareness
- for world hunger.
- I did, remember, I did a couple of shows
- that we haven't talked about yet in '85 and '86, right Barbara?
- The Lesbian Variety Fashion Show and the Amazon Utopia Show
- which were pretty, in their small right,
- successes in the community.
- And I couldn't put the two together.
- I just couldn't validate it.
- It didn't seem like something that I would rally behind.
- But nonetheless, I kept going to the Schloss's.
- Barbara and I kept going.
- We kept hearing in the background,
- we should be doing something about
- that we can't take off our shirts in public.
- And I kept thinking, what are they talking about?
- I just couldn't do it.
- So anyway, that June, I started in the winter,
- and that June of '85, right?
- It was '85.
- I was in the park, lying on my stomach.
- And, you know, at one point, I took off my shirt
- because I was really hot.
- I'm lying down on my stomach, and I must have passed out.
- And all of a sudden, I got a tap.
- And I look up, and this man's standing over me.
- And he says, "ma'am you're going to have to put your shirt on."
- I happened to pick my head up, and I saw a person over there.
- And I said, you tell the person over there to put his shirt on.
- I'll gladly put my shirt on.
- He goes, "you're a woman."
- I said, man.
- I said, nice observation.
- Back I went down.
- He said, "I'm gonna have to get the authorities."
- Go right ahead.
- So he went and got his, you know,
- the white shirts of the Museum of Science Center.
- Now I had two men standing over me.
- He said, "under the New York State penal law,
- if you do not put your shirt on now,
- you're going to be arrested."
- I said, well, "I have to think about this," you know.
- I had no witnesses.
- Nobody was backing me up.
- And so I thought about it, and I thought
- as I slowly put my shirt on.
- And I said, "this won't be the first time."
- I don't know, I think the expression is not
- to be the last time.
- But I think it was like a foreshadowing.
- And I stood up and walked over to the guy.
- And I said, you know, "I'm being thrown out of this park
- because of exactly what you're doing."
- He goes, "why?"
- I said, "I had my shirt off, and I was lying down bathing
- like you are."
- And I walked out storming and went
- to the Schloss's and talked to Mary Lou and Cathy.
- And next thing you know, we started organizing.
- The whole winter, we started talking about it.
- Was it, yeah, it was '85.
- So we started talking about it, the whole winter,
- started plotting.
- What would we do?
- What would we do?
- And then we would, you know, come back again
- a couple of weeks later.
- We'd talk about it.
- As it got closer to the spring, Mary Lou
- hadn't committed to it.
- And until Mary Lou committed, then I knew I was--
- I just had a feeling about Mary Lou.
- Mary Lou was just the person that, yeah, she always
- was a rock in this movement.
- And once she said yes, we started--
- EVELYN BAILEY: You were there.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: --forging ahead with a plan.
- And so we started calling it the Topless Picnic.
- Well, where we were going to do it?
- We were thinking of this, that, this,
- and ended up at Cobb's Hill.
- And I think it was a week before the Topless Picnic.
- We were going to set out a press release.
- And it kept bothering me.
- The word kept bothering me.
- I kept thinking, what is wrong with this word?
- And then I soon made the connection
- that it had too much connotation to pornography
- and topless bars.
- And so I thought, free, top free.
- And I told [Morely ?] I said, "[Morely ?] how about Topfree
- And he looked, and he goes, "brilliant!"
- And so we put it on the press releases.
- And we started referring it to as the Topfree
- Picnic because men take off their shirts and women
- doffed their shirts, you know, doffed their blouses,
- I should say, bared their breasts.
- You know, the whole slew of ridiculous comments and sayings
- to call what women do when--
- And men do take off their shirts.
- And shirtless, clearly, is the genderless phrase.
- But we chose Topfree.
- And the media still to this day has yet to catch on.
- Twenty years later we had, you know, what's his name?
- EVELYN BAILEY: They are slow.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: What's his name?
- BARBARA: Rush Limbaugh?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: No, no, Barbara.
- I'm forgetting his name.
- You know, from CMF.
- He used to be on CMF.
- Come on.
- Oh my god, he even talks about me all the time.
- It's terrible I don't even remember his name.
- CMF guy.
- EVELYN BAILEY: I know who you mean.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Barbara, that local guy?
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah, I know who you mean, too.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: God, it's terrible.
- BARBARA: Senior moment.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah we're having a senior moment.
- All of us.
- Well, anyway, we'll get to it.
- They called me, and they asked me
- if I would speak for the 20th anniversary because no one,
- Mary Lou wouldn't do it, no one would come forth.
- And I thought, you know what, this is not
- going to turn out right.
- This is going to be a zoo if I don't represent.
- So I wrote out a very, I thought,
- a very thoughtful and cohesive and comprehensive speech.
- [Morely ?] said it was the most elegant speech,
- on the top three that he's ever heard me give.
- And do you think the media picked up one word?
- Not one word.
- They didn't even televise it.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Brother Wease?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Brother Wease, thank you.
- Thank you.
- Brother Wease.
- OK, so that went by, but to the Topfree.
- We had our little gathering up in Cobb's Hill.
- I just spoke about this with a man who
- just did a documentary about--
- He interviewed me.
- He's doing a documentary about someone in New York
- right now who's going around shirtless
- in New York calling herself Harvey the Topless Paparrazi.
- She's hysterical.
- She's 46 years old, white, white, white, white hair.
- And she has a camera over her neck.
- And she's taking pictures.
- She takes all these pictures of all these actors and actresses
- and says, I'm the Topless, Harvey the Topless.
- And she draws a mustache on herself.
- She's hysterical.
- And he just showed me the doc--
- He just sent me the documentary.
- And I'm in it.
- He interviewed me because she tells the cops, it's legal.
- And she said for twenty years this law has been
- in existence and nobody knows.
- So anyway, so that's going on right now simultaneously.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Now, were you arrested?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes, thank you.
- So we had a little agreement with the police.
- They wanted me to do it on Thursday rather than Saturday.
- I said, no that was the whole point.
- We wanted to be arrested and bring it to the courts
- and make a splash in the media.
- And so seven of us chose to keep our shirts off.
- And we were arrested and taken to Highland,
- at the time, Highland Station.
- We were issued citations.
- They're merely like a parking ticket, by the way.
- And we were to appear in court, which we
- did in front of Hermann Walls.
- And he ruled in our favor.
- Well of course, the district district attorney, you know--
- BARBARA: Howard Rome?
- Yeah, what did do?
- EVELYN BAILEY: Howard Rowan.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: I'm having another senior moment.
- Not contested--
- BARBARA: Appealed it?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Thank you, appealed it.
- And so that was going through the court system.
- Well, next two years we start doing things
- like going to Tennessee Valley park.
- We had a picnic.
- Sheriffs came down, drove out, didn't bother us,
- two years in a row.
- The third year after that '86 case,
- we decided to go to the lake.
- We thought, what better place to go and swim, you know?
- And we always chose June 21st because of the Summer Solstice.
- We figured that was the beginning of the summer,
- so we thought it was significant.
- So a bunch of us went down.
- By that time we had gay momentum.
- People knew who we were.
- I was riding my bike around the city with my shirt off.
- I was also riding with a roommate of mine.
- He was involved with--
- Barbara, what is it?
- Who was he involved with?
- Was it the fairies?
- EVELYN BAILEY: Radical Fairies.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: The Radical Fairies, it was hysterical.
- He had these angel wings on.
- And I had suspenders on, and he wore a skirt,
- and we rode around the city, all over the place.
- And people would stare at him and forget me.
- And that was the whole point.
- It was hysterical.
- And we have a lot of pictures about that.
- And then one year, one time, Susan David and I
- rode our bikes from Girton to Wilmer Street, which
- wasn't a far ride on Oxford.
- And we got stopped, and I had, you know,
- coached Susan David to say, if they stop us,
- we're going to give them an alias name.
- She goes, oh, OK.
- So when they stop us they said, you know, put your shirts on.
- We said, we're not going to.
- And he said, what's your name, he says to me.
- I said, Ann.
- Ann who?
- I said, Arkie.
- So he says to Susan, what's your name?
- Susan what?
- Susan David.
- I'm like, oh, god, you know, she just blew my cover.
- Everybody laughed about this because I gave him my address
- and he said, oh 23 Girton.
- Well, Ramona Santorelli lives at 23 Girton.
- Hm, I wonder if Ann Arkie and Ramona Santorelli--
- It was such a dumb thing for me to do, but it was still fun.
- And so we--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Did you get another citation?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: We did not.
- We did not.
- But we got a warning.
- And I was told by the lawyer that picked up
- our Topfree ten, which I'll get to,
- said that if we had gotten arrested,
- it wouldn't have been good for the case to go, you know,
- through the court system.
- We would have had another case.
- And it might have been cited as, what did they say, hostile,
- or there were all kinds of words that they describe
- for, you know, disobeying the law when there's already
- something in the system.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Harass.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes, thank you, whatever the words are.
- No they're harassing us, but I'm saying they call it--
- if I disobeyed the law again, you know what I mean?
- Anyway, so the third picnic that we
- were talking about down at the lake, we started swimming.
- We had a great time.
- Tierney came there, a woman named Tierney.
- She was breastfeeding her three-year-old, which everyone
- thought was outrageous.
- But she breastfed until her children didn't
- want to be breastfed anymore.
- That was one of the naturist things.
- They were really into, you know, breastfeeding.
- And by the way, that's why Mary Lou, you know,
- chose to be part of this is because it was an oversight
- by the legislatures.
- For several years it was illegal to breastfeed
- in public in New York State.
- Come on, now.
- So we put that in.
- Tierney, you know, was breastfeeding.
- And what happened is we're having a great time,
- nobody was bothering us, and all of a sudden,
- I swear this is what happened, I look over and there were cops.
- I'm sorry, cops coming, police officers
- coming over the hill this way on the land.
- And all of a sudden there were boats coming this way.
- There were Sheriff boats coming this way.
- We were being--
- It was like we had done something, like we had,
- you know, murdered somebody.
- It was crazy.
- They were all converging on us.
- And I knelt down at the water, and I waded in
- to see what was going to happen.
- They were going up to each of the women
- and asking us to put our shirts on.
- And several refused, and several put their shirts on because
- of reasons that they couldn't do the legal system.
- And they finally came down to me and said, "Ramona, I
- know who you are."
- And it was a woman.
- She said, "I really appreciate what you're doing.
- But it's my obligations, my duty,
- to ask you to put your shirt on."
- I said, "I can't put my shirt on.
- I'm not going to.
- I don't even have a shirt," I told them.
- So they put us in a paddy wagon, ten of us.
- And it was a scene because they didn't
- know what, the Irondequoit police didn't
- know what to do with us.
- So they called the city police, and they brought us
- to the park.
- And they left us in a paddy wagon in ninety degree weather,
- running with no air condition.
- And we were locked in the paddy wagon.
- I got claustrophobic.
- It was quite a scene.
- Took us downtown, brought us in.
- Several of us did not have any shirts on.
- They would not release us until the men that were waiting
- for us gave up their shirts.
- And we had to put them on.
- That's how we got out (Bailey laughs).
- Can you believe that?
- Yeah, so the men who were in the hallway without their shirts,
- so they can get us, so that we can walk out with our shirts.
- So now we had two cases going through the court system.
- And that's how it ended up.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Who was the attorney?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: My attorney at the time?
- That's a good question.
- I see her face, and I have her picture,
- and I don't remember her name.
- I'll have to get her name, I'm sorry.
- I don't remember her name.
- It wasn't
- EVELYN BAILEY: Ellen?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: No, no, no, no.
- Ellen Yakin, no, no, no.
- We wanted her to represent us under the Fourteenth Amendment.
- We didn't want to be under the First Amendment
- because the First Amendment, you know, fueled pornographers.
- And we got the whole gist of this from the '86 case.
- Well nonetheless, the '86 case and the '89 case
- were traveling through the highest court in New York
- They ended up taking the '86 case because that's
- the first case that got there.
- And Mary Lou Schloss was representing herself
- so she'd have leeway in the legal system.
- And out of the blue, Harold Price Ferring from New York,
- from Manhattan, called and asked if he could represent me
- pro bono.
- So he did.
- And we ended up on Donohue again.
- We were on Donahue in '86.
- And in '91 we were on Donahue.
- And he came on the show with us.
- And I remember my relatives in New York,
- they were all Italian in New York at that time, they really
- raised an eyebrow.
- Like whoa, he's the establishment,
- classy establishment, white man, gray hair, well-spoken,
- you know.
- And they were like, woo, who's this man?
- And so it suddenly got more attention.
- And when he represented us he was brilliant.
- And we won the case.
- And I tell Barbara this and everybody, the reason
- why it's The People vs. Santorelli
- and not Schloss is because it's SA not SC.
- And that's how it came down.
- So The People vs. Santorelli has been used, apparently, a lot,
- I've been hearing.
- All through the state, and other states
- are pulling out this case, and including this woman, Holly,
- who I've made friends with in New York who's doing
- this activism in Manhattan.
- All over the Boroughs, actually.
- She's in the Bronx, she's in Brooklyn.
- BARBARA: On the subways.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, she is on the subway.
- She's amazing, taking her shirt off.
- And she's getting arrested.
- And they're bringing her into court,
- and they have to throw it out because it's legal.
- They sent her to a mental institution.
- They carried her away on a gurney to a mental institution,
- yes, because she refused to put a shirt back on in Manhattan.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Oh, my gosh.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: So that's the long and the short of--
- EVELYN BAILEY: It's too bad when Manhattan
- got flooded this past Sandy, some of the police officers
- minds didn't get flooded too.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah.
- EVELYN BAILEY: I mean, you would think
- they would be up on the law, minimally.
- I mean--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Well, one of the men, obviously a gay man,
- in the documentary that we just, Barbara I saw last night,
- he said, "it's really scary when you're
- being confronted by police who clearly don't know the law.
- And it's legal.
- And you're being arrested for it."
- I mean, that's a scary position to be in.
- She kept saying to them, it's legal, it's legal.
- So anyway, that's the long and the short of it.
- When I'm interviewed in person I'll
- get into why I chose to be involved because initially I
- told you I wasn't interested at all.
- And, you know, what ends up unraveling, ironically,
- after I got jolted by those police, those security guards,
- in the Museum and Science Center,
- and then I was all stormy, and, you know,
- I'm going to get back.
- And then what started unraveling,
- I started hearing Mary Lou say that it
- was illegal to breastfeed in public.
- And I thought, oh that's weird, you know.
- And then all of a sudden, I started making connections
- because, as I was taking off my shirt,
- I was getting all this attention.
- I thought, well this is kind of, you know, it made you feel
- shame and guilt. And I started making the feminist connections
- to body image.
- And suddenly, I started connecting
- that women aren't feeling good about their bodies
- because we're not fitting the perfect body type
- that's portrayed in media and the silicone breasts.
- I found that the breast augmentation still
- is the number one leading cosmetic surgery in the United
- Breast enlargement, can you imagine?
- And so what ended up happening was like an onion.
- Everything kept peeling, you know.
- I kept peeling it, the onion, and layers
- and layers and layers.
- And suddenly, I started thinking, oh my god, this
- has everything to do with a woman's right to choose.
- I found out that in the '20s it was illegal for women
- to appear in public exposing their arms and their legs.
- It was considered sexual.
- And I started learning that breasts
- were secondary sexual characteristics, not primary.
- And I started seeing men having, you know,
- protrusions just like women.
- I started realizing that women had different sizes and shapes,
- that we weren't this perfect size.
- And I started realizing that this
- is what needed to be shown, you know,
- that we're not all the perfect, you know, pornographic look.
- And then I started realizing that what happened is,
- this is about male dominance and control,
- that we can appear in a topless bar and get paid for that,
- or we can appear in pornography.
- But not if we want to just choose to do it,
- you know, at a beach or a park or riding our bikes
- or after a basketball game.
- The list goes on and on for women
- to freely do what they want to do.
- And so that started--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Dominance and control
- is the name of the game.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Absolutely.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And it has been ever
- since the goddess was tried to be buried, you know, replaced--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: And buried right.
- Yes, indeed.
- Yes, indeed.
- EVELYN BAILEY: I mean, there takes a certain amount,
- I think, of courage, anger, and determination
- to go ahead and do what you've done.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, good words.
- EVELYN BAILEY: It just doesn't happen.
- You know, there's a whole history
- behind that and a process that you went through.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, and we went on Donahue in '86.
- My voicemail-- we didn't have cell phones at the time--
- was off the hook.
- Ask Barbara.
- CNN, "Good Morning America," "Donahue," you know,
- radio stations--
- it was off the hook.
- And we end up flying to New York to do "The Donahue Show."
- He was a big wig, but I was very nervous
- and I didn't have all my facts in order.
- In '91, I came fully prepared and I
- thought I represented myself and the movement
- much, much better than I did in '86 because I had learned
- so much about what I was doing.
- and now I can clearly articulate more of the issues
- that I had a say in '86 because I was fired up, as you say,
- fueled by anger and humiliation, really.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Were you involved with the "New Women's Times?"
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Peripherally, too.
- I was never really--
- I mean I think I wrote a couple of things in there,
- admitted some poetry.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Black Rose?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: I also did a benefit
- for "New Women's Times--" the lesbian variety fashion show.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
- You did two with them.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes.
- Amazon Utopia and Lesbian Fashion Show
- EVELYN BAILEY: And were those at--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: They were at the old Jazzberry's.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Jazzberry's.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes, (unintelligible) That's right.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Do you remember what year those were?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah '85 was the Lesbian Friday Fashion Show
- and '86 was the Amazon Utopia.
- In '85, somehow I managed to get it in lights.
- The bank downtown-- I don't know what the bank's called.
- I don't even know if it's a bank anymore--
- but it's a huge building.
- And they used to have those things that they put up
- at different events.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Strobe?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Different events.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: And I remember getting it on there--
- the Lesbian Variety Fashion Show,
- benefit for world hunger at Jazzberry's whenever it was.
- May such and such.
- Wasn't that great?
- I don't know how that happened, but I got it up there.
- Yep, I remember that one.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And the Amazon utopia,
- was that for world hunger too?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, I think it did.
- "Newman's Times" benefit.
- I think I did a couple of things for that.
- I think we raised about $1100.
- I think it was $1200 and the other one was $1100.
- You You know it was a considerable amount of money
- in those days considering we did two shows.
- The Amazon Utopia was sort of like a kick off
- for the variety show.
- I was trying to bring back the spirit of a time
- when Amazons ruled the earth.
- I was trying to be inclusive and, at the time,
- I was working at the Boys and Girls Club,
- so I invited many of the boys to come and do break dancing.
- And the first show, they didn't realize we were all lesbians
- and they freaked out and left.
- Yeah, so that was kind of a little faux pas on my part
- because I didn't tell them.
- I didn't intentionally not tell them, I just invited them.
- I was like, come on.
- I was trying to be inclusive and that was the point of the show.
- I had men in the show-- straight men, gay men, you know.
- We had two kinds of things going on in Amazon Utopia.
- And I call it Amazon U-flop-ia because a lot of things
- I didn't care for.
- The variety show was, I thought, was way more successful.
- We had a lot more fun.
- But I want to talk about the women's community
- and what it was like for me in the '80s.
- I always felt a real strong sense of community here.
- We always had women's events, you know.
- Jazzberry's was a huge place to gather.
- Michigan Womyn's Music Festival-- all the festivals--
- I use to go to.
- The smaller ones as well.
- And there was always a sense of this really powerful
- connection-- the strong community that we had--
- that has really dispelled.
- And I have some theories about it.
- Some of it I think is capitalism and the, you know,
- strong force of the patriarchy.
- Everybody, as we get older, you know,
- we're forced to get in our own homes and pay our bills,
- and now we're separated.
- And also-- and this is a good thing too--
- I think the AA movement and people stopped drinking,
- I think that was a huge movement in stopping people
- from going and closing down some of the bars, which
- is not a bad thing I'm saying.
- But nonetheless, there's a different feel
- and we don't have that--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Feminism is not a part
- of this culture any longer.
- We have blended to the point where we're not distinguished.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes, that's what I'm getting at.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And that's why, for me, doing this documentary
- is so important.
- Once you have the history of a community, the gay community
- specifically, you have it in front of you.
- You can't forget it.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Right and I'm so happy you're doing this.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And it's documented.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Absolutely.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Feminism, where did I read--
- there was two or three waves of feminism.
- And I think, initially, when women
- wanted to be able to do what men wanted to do,
- there was incredible energy behind that.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: And then come the backlash.
- EVELYN BAILEY: But now, women can do what men can do.
- You have Ann Mulcahey, you have Ursula Burns,
- you have corporate leaders who are women who may not
- be allowed into this golf club or that golf club,
- but they stand with the other magnets, you know.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: But as I used to say in the domestic violence
- program, men and women will never be equal until rape ends,
- and that is the responsibility of men.
- I worked in the domestic violence program
- for twenty-one years facilitating
- for men who batter women.
- And I never let them get away with that.
- Oh, women have a lot.
- They're equal these days.
- They go on and on.
- And I always raise that issue and it's
- being raised in India right now.
- You know about all that in India?
- And it took a woman from India-- a feminist--
- to say this, we need to look at how
- we are raising our young boys in this culture--
- in her culture-- not this country.
- You think you would be saying this in this country
- after what happened in Newtown and how it happened in Webster
- and what's happening in all the mass shootings.
- The thread that binds them together is that behind the gun
- are young males or men.
- You don't see young women.
- The big debate is gun control or mental illness.
- Well, I'm all for both.
- I understand the issues, but no one will address gender.
- No one.
- They won't talk about it because they'll say it's male bashing.
- I've heard that argument.
- It's male bashing.
- Oh, well, women are mass murderers.
- Well, when?
- I got my oil changed.
- I go to my mechanic and a couple of men stood around.
- They were all older men.
- "Well, I remember in eighteen such and such--"
- I said, "really?
- Are you really saying this?"
- He talked about a woman who rented a boarding house
- and she was killing people.
- I said, "really?
- In eighteen so and so?
- You can't even remember the date." (laughs).
- It outrages me.
- I'm really very upset about it.
- And back to the feminism is where are we?
- It's like we're were being drowned by--
- EVELYN BAILEY: We're in an assimilation phase.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: But it's over our heads.
- It's like we're drowning in it.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yes, but I think you'll
- see in future generations it come back because history
- always repeats itself.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Back to the Topfree Look
- at this these women in New York all over the place.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And the other thing
- is feminism is not any more a bad word.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, that's true.
- Just like lesbian.
- Our president says lesbian.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Even among women it's not a bad word.
- I do think, however, that--
- I've said this to people in our own community--
- you have got to remain vigilant, because it would not
- take a great deal to undo the laws and the freedoms
- that we have.
- I mean look at the power of the NRA.
- Look at the sheer, unadulterated power and control.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, that's true.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Now, if those men didn't
- need women to cook for them, and clean for them,
- and wipe their asses, where do you think they would be?
- Where do you think we would be?
- We wouldn't exist.
- They'd wipe us all out because we're unnecessary.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Oh I can go on and on about women
- being unnecessary.
- EVELYN BAILEY: But, Ramona, somewhere your sense
- of injustice was--
- you were taught it, you were shown it, you grew up in it.
- I'm Italian and there was always in my family the sense,
- especially with my grandmother, the man
- sits at the head of the table and he eats first,
- but I have the power.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: My family the women
- did all the cooking, the prepping, the cleaning,
- and the men sat there and ate and drank and were
- gaudy and loud and catered to.
- Yes, absolutely.
- Till this day.
- EVELYN BAILEY: But wasn't there a sense--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Of injustice.
- EVELYN BAILEY: No, of your mother,
- your grandmother saying, I let him think he is the boss
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Cause we had a matriarchy.
- You're right, my grandmother was the matriarch.
- You're right.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And so they knew how to co-opt (Santorelli
- laughs) the Italian man and--
- SANTORELLI'S DAUGHTER: make him feel he was boss.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Because the family was
- surrounded by my grandmother.
- You're right.
- In some ways that's true.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And that's not necessarily
- true for all ethnicities, but it's
- true in the African-American community.
- And when women in the African-American community
- get upset, the men listen and they do come around.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: You're absolutely right.
- EVELYN BAILEY: But I think there are
- such overriding issues of economics,
- fear for one's life--
- I mean, do I feel safe here in Rochester?
- I don't know.
- I could walk out your door and be shot down.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: No guarantee anywhere.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And when you have with that kind of fear
- and that kind of uncertainty, the injustice, the sense
- of pride, the sense of wrongfulness
- goes by the wayside because self-preservation takes over,
- and you do what you have to do to survive.
- SANTORELLI'S DAUGHTER: This is supposed
- to be one of the most violent cities, Rochester.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Really?
- SANTORELLI'S DAUGHTER: Mm- hm.
- Right, mom?
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Well, it was the murder capital of New York
- state, but there's a reason for that though.
- When Genesee hospital closed, they
- had a really powerful, really equipped unit
- to triage the emergency.
- And they were saving lots of people's lives
- from gunshot wounds and things like that.
- When they closed--
- Carolyn told me this-- the doctor's
- said that murder rates are going to go up, you watch.
- And so they did.
- And then we became the murder capital of New York state.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Well, I also think
- when they decommissioned Rochester
- site and these other mental institutions.
- Those institutions basically kept people on their meds.
- And so long as they were on the meds, they were manageable.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: You're correct in that.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And they were OK.
- You let them out into the community
- with no one to say, well, here's your little cup
- of pills and your water.
- And they forget, you know, they choose not to,
- they don't have the money to.
- They don't, you know--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: But you know what?
- Women are mentally ill, but they're
- not behind machine guns and assault rifles
- plowing people down.
- And I keep using that argument to people
- because they keep saying--
- I understand the mental illness topic issue.
- I really get that and I agree with it.
- However, there's, you know, something much deeper going on
- in this culture that is silent.
- It's not being addressed.
- and yes, a man is crazy for going into a movie theater
- and plowing people-- yes, a madman plowed down,
- you know, innocent children.
- Children and firemen, you know, and the mother is probably
- one of the biggest taboo, and that Adam ass did that, right?
- So you think about all these men who are sick.
- You know that Belcher football guy
- who grilled ten rounds into his ex-girlfriend.
- Ten rounds with a handgun and then turned it on himself.
- How many hand guns have been used to murder women?
- We're really kind of like, oh, whatever, it's another woman.
- And think about it.
- How many women are doing that?
- Most women that are on death row are there because--
- you know this-- is because they defended themselves
- against an abuser.
- That's a fact, but they don't want to talk about that.
- "They" meaning the establishment.
- EVELYN BAILEY: The public doesn't
- want to hear it because then they would
- have to do something about it.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yes, exactly.
- That's my point.
- You're going to have to address it.
- War, you're going to have to address.
- Competition, you're going to have to address.
- Address male dominance and power and control.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Ramona, let me say
- I want to thank you for your time.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: OK, we're running out of time.
- EVELYN BAILEY: No, but I don't know that this is really
- a part of the documentary.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: What is part of the documentary though,
- make sure you get in is my activism.
- I like to get that in about the gay pride parades because Gail
- and I were were on that--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Planning committee.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Yeah, and also we
- were on the roof of that car, and we were waiting for people
- to turn.
- We didn't know where everybody was.
- We were dressed in our gowns, which I thought of.
- I don't know why I thought of that.
- I just thought it was really funny.
- Just lesbian, instead of just married.
- I had no connection to the marriage equality thing
- at the time but, I remember waiting.
- We were the first to start the parade.
- And Laurie Matoga was driving the car,
- and we were like, where is everybody?
- And all of a sudden, you all turned the corner
- and when you saw us, there was this huge uproar
- that still fills my heart every time I recall it.
- It was like (roaring).
- And there was nobody else downtown,
- but nonetheless, we saw each other
- and we made this huge connection.
- And it was just like we saw each other and that was it.
- We started that parade and I'll never
- ever forget that feeling of that first gay pride parade.
- And then the other ones was I was
- a homo coming queen, which I thought was pretty funny.
- I went to married gay fairy high school
- with Marge Booker as my date.
- Remember that one?
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: And then I was the gay '90s are back
- and I'm tickled pink.
- I had tassels on my nipples and carried a plaque.
- Those things need to be talked about because those were times
- that I thought more I was being political.
- It was a political message along with it being a sense of humor,
- but also, you know, taking pride.
- I hope that can be the documentary.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Well, you'll have a chance to say all of that.
- Because, let me say, from my perspective,
- you have been really one of the few women
- in the forefront of women's rights
- and women's lib for many, many, many years.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: That's nice of you, Evelyn.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Well, it's not nice.
- It's true.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Well, it's nice of you to knowledge it.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And because--
- now, don't push-- your unassuming.
- You don't do this out of a desire
- to have accolades or have people look at you.
- You do it because your heart says
- this is the right thing to do.
- And your experience has told you,
- you cannot walk away from this battle.
- You can't walk away and leave it alone.
- You have to intervene where you can.
- And that takes a great deal of courage,
- a great deal of integrity.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Thank you, Evelyn.
- Thank you for acknowledging that.
- EVELYN BAILEY: The gay community here in Rochester
- owes you a debt of gratitude--
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: Aw, shucks (laughs).
- EVELYN BAILEY: For all that you've done.
- For all that you've done.
- So thank you.
- RAMONA SANTORELLI: All right.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And--