Video Interview, Jamie and Sally Whitbeck, November 1, 2012

  • KEVIN INDOVINO: OK.
  • First question's going to be really easy.
  • Let's start with you, Jamie.
  • First I need the correct spelling of your first
  • and last name how you want it put onscreen.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: OK.
  • It will be Jamie Whitbeck.
  • Jamie is J-A-M-I-E. Whitbeck is W-H-I-T-B-E-C-K.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Sally, same thing.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: I'm Sally--
  • S-A-L-L-Y-- Middle initial S, Whitbeck.
  • W-H-I-T-B-E-C-K.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: All right.
  • Well for you guys, I want to get first
  • a sense of your involvement with the gay and lesbian community
  • early on.
  • As if I know nothing about you, tell me
  • not only so much how you got involved, but more importantly,
  • why.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: OK.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: We moved from one house
  • to a new one at a different neighborhood.
  • And when we had settled into that neighborhood,
  • very soon after that, we had a car
  • at our house on a Sunday afternoon
  • in the early part of the summer.
  • Actually, there were two men.
  • One of them was carrying four drinking glasses--
  • four goblets-- and the other was carrying a bottle of champagne.
  • And they introduced themselves at our front door
  • as, we're your neighbors and we came to greet you
  • from the neighborhood.
  • And those two men, over a period of fourteen years,
  • we lived in the same proximity with them for that time.
  • And our daughters got to know their dog, which
  • was a lovely dog.
  • And we got to know this couple as two very, very nice men.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: And so did our daughters.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • Yeah.
  • And the daughters liked them and they liked the daughters,
  • and it was a nice arrangement.
  • One of of them was a--
  • both of them were horticulturalists.
  • One of them worked for the parks.
  • And our older daughter still is--
  • well she's a PhD in--
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Biology.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: --biology and water stuff you know,
  • the swamps.
  • And that is a link between what he was doing
  • and what she now does.
  • We realized, though, that these guys were really, really
  • closeted.
  • And both of them had good jobs, big jobs.
  • And if they had been outed, they might well have lost their job.
  • And that was the--
  • oh, we have to be careful of what we say to anybody else.
  • And we have to find a way to make a better deal
  • for these two very nice guys.
  • And I think maybe that--
  • SALLY WHITBECK: That's what started our interest.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • So then talk to me about maybe some
  • of those first conversations between you
  • and Jamie about these two guys being your neighbors,
  • and who they were.
  • But again, maybe something that you couldn't really
  • readily talk about to your other friends.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Well we really didn't talk much about the fact
  • that they were probably gay.
  • They never used the word.
  • And we used to get together for dinners with them
  • and some other of the neighbors.
  • It was a fantastic neighborhood.
  • And so they never used the word gay.
  • We didn't either.
  • So we never discussed gay issues.
  • But probably in the early eighties or we
  • moved from there in 1984.
  • And it could have been soon before that.
  • We saw, and it might have been in the City East newspaper,
  • that a vote was going up in the assembly for SONDA.
  • Or maybe it even was the Senate.
  • Probably the assembly.
  • And so we realized that since our neighbors, who
  • were executives, couldn't be out,
  • it behooved us to be out, in the sense of supporting.
  • And so we wrote a letter to our legislator.
  • And about that time, Jamie had noticed,
  • in City East, an ad for a gay play given at Calvary St.
  • Andrews.
  • And he wanted to go.
  • He loves theater.
  • And I've learned to love it with him.
  • And I was hesitant.
  • I thought the gay community might easily not
  • want straight people there.
  • So we didn't go, sadly enough.
  • The second time we saw another ad a couple months later,
  • maybe.
  • And it said all are welcome.
  • So we went.
  • And we walked in and it was called Conundrum Players.
  • And the man who got that started moved soon
  • after that to New York City.
  • But we saw a fantastic play, or maybe more than one.
  • I'm not sure.
  • One we specifically remember.
  • The Watched Pot.
  • And we remember who the actresses were.
  • And when we walked in to buy the tickets,
  • we were just overwhelmingly welcomed.
  • We felt so embraced.
  • So we felt very comfortable.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • I want to, you know, move back just a little bit.
  • You've got these neighbors who came and introduced themselves
  • to you.
  • And you became good friends with them.
  • Your families became good friends.
  • But what was your knowledge or your impressions
  • of the gay community before those introductions?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: OK.
  • Who do you want to talk--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: It doesn't-- whoever starts Brian will
  • follow you.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: I discovered at a later time, actually
  • when I got involved in the GAGV and the activities
  • here, that during my youth, there
  • had been times when I had--
  • well I'll give an example.
  • I went to a guy school.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Prep school?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: And I liked working in the theater then.
  • Even then, I guess.
  • Because this was just the high school level.
  • And there was another young guy who actually was about a year,
  • or a year, or maybe two years younger than I.
  • And we did backstage work in the theater.
  • And after a while--
  • and I don't know how long the while was--
  • I began hearing other people in my own class,
  • making snide remarks about my association
  • with this young fellow, who was a year or maybe two years
  • younger than I.
  • And I just wanted to back up.
  • Something very similar to that happened to me in college.
  • Again, it was with the theater.
  • This guy had a dorm room, a solo dorm room.
  • And there weren't very many of those.
  • He was an upperclassmen.
  • But still there were lots of doubles, but very few solos.
  • There's the obvious connection there
  • that, OK, nobody wants to be in the same bedroom with him.
  • And I got familiar with him.
  • I was doing the hands-on work.
  • He was doing the how does he want this play to work.
  • I had the same kind of response.
  • I didn't just back away altogether.
  • I just made it sure that when we had conversations,
  • we had him in a more public space.
  • I felt more comfortably about that.
  • But of course, again, that's a homophobic response.
  • So, you know, I've had that.
  • I've done that downstairs in the activities
  • down there to try and explain that, how
  • that happens to other people.
  • So I think that's the sort of thing
  • that I had as a preliminary.
  • After that, there was so much other stuff going on.
  • And then there's where the hole is.
  • That's where the gap is.
  • From those two points to meeting our new friends.
  • I can't remember anything that was related.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Um-hm.
  • So I guess the next question is, then, these two guys show up
  • at your door with champagne and I
  • would have assume, at some point,
  • you started putting two and two together.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Sure.
  • Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Did any of that homophobia
  • start to rear its ugly head again, or--
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: These two guys, if anything, were angelic.
  • They were tough, but they were also very sensitive.
  • So--
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So, you've got these two guys in your life.
  • You start going to plays at the church and all that stuff.
  • What, then-- and you started writing letters
  • to your legislators.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Do you want me to say anything
  • about gay or not?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • Sure.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Oh, OK.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • It's more difficult trying to interview two people together.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I move onto the next question
  • and the other one's just, like, well, wait a minute.
  • So just jump in, yeah.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: OK.
  • My perception of gay people was very dim.
  • I don't mean negativity dim.
  • I mean just dim.
  • I didn't think much about it.
  • I went to Smith College, which, at that point,
  • was not a bastion of gay liberalism.
  • Graduated in '62.
  • But there were women professors who lived together.
  • But I only remember two who were already retired.
  • And one of them would come to our dorm
  • and visit with our house mother and was there after dinner.
  • She was more notable for smoking those cigarillos
  • than anything else.
  • Nobody ever mentioned the fact that they
  • thought she was gay or lesbian.
  • It just was accepted or it was, well, that's the way--
  • never associated-- I never knew anybody my age who was gay.
  • But I didn't grow up with any negative images of gays either.
  • So it didn't have much of an impression on me.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So at what point did this little light bulb go
  • off, saying, you know what, there's
  • more work to be done here that we could help with?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Oh, that light bulb.
  • More work to be done in what?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: In regards to gay and lesbian civil rights.
  • In regards to gay and lesbian awareness and visibility
  • and everything that goes with that.
  • It sounded to me like the first little initial spark was
  • that letter to your legislator.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Um-hm.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: How did that then
  • evolve into more actual activism?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Let me see.
  • Our activity first began with the letter to the legislator.
  • And we had been involved in supporting the black community
  • through Metro-Act, which is now a Metro Justice.
  • And I'm not sure if soon after that--
  • well there must have been some years in there
  • where we didn't have any opportunity to do anything,
  • or if we saw something in the paper,
  • we would write a letter to a legislator.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: And we're raising two young girls
  • at this time, so--
  • the church?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Well the church--
  • yes.
  • I guess then our church worked on becoming
  • a welcoming congregation.
  • And so we were on the committee.
  • And so we worked on those activities.
  • And I'm not quite sure when Bill Pritchard and the Gay Alliance
  • were working on activities that preceded the Empire State Pride
  • Agenda nationally.
  • This was just locally.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: The political caucus.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Political caucus.
  • Somehow, we got involved in that.
  • So it was advocacy.
  • And it was that kind of support.
  • Civil rights, except we did have these two friends.
  • So they were certainly in our minds.
  • And we realized that they could get very hurt
  • or any gay person could get very hurt by speaking out,
  • so it was up to us.
  • So it was an easy thing to do.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Talk to me about getting
  • involved with the Gay Alliance.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Remember to preface it.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: I want to say something
  • that is a little bit maybe ahead of that.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: OK.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: I've gone blank for a second here.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: You're thinking of political caucus
  • or you're thinking--
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: I'm thinking of the--
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Well, another question?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • Give me another question.
  • I'm--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Let's go back to the church then real quick.
  • Well first of all, just for my own knowledge,
  • which church are you talking about,
  • that you were working to become an all-welcoming church?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: The church we were
  • working with to become a welcoming congregation
  • was the First Unitarian Church on Winton Road.
  • We had both been brought up as Episcopalians here
  • in Rochester.
  • But we had started going to the church
  • and became very active almost immediately in January of 1978.
  • And it was sometime in the eighties
  • that the church worked on becoming
  • a welcoming congregation, which the church
  • throughout the country had already passed a resolution
  • to become welcoming.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Can you talk to me a little bit about some
  • of those conversations or those meetings about,
  • OK, if we're going to be an an all-welcoming church, what
  • does that mean?
  • You know, in regards to what (unintelligible)--
  • SALLY WHITBECK: (unintelligible) educating.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --becming an all-welcoming--
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: One of the things
  • that we did as a part of that, the church had
  • had a history of, during the summer time part of the church
  • year, they would have periodic movies shown on weekend
  • evenings in the big room.
  • So we picked up the idea, OK, it's been done before.
  • So this is another iteration of it.
  • But we'll do some gay movies.
  • And that's when we got involved with the ImageOut concept.
  • I didn't know where to find gay movies.
  • So I called up Bill Copper who was then owning and running
  • the Little Theatre.
  • And I asked him where I could find some gay movies.
  • I don't know what he said.
  • But he said, "There's a guy here in my office
  • that probably could help you."
  • And the next thing, I'm on the line with Larry Champoux.
  • And Larry was agreeable and said,
  • "You know, come over to my art gallery on the--"
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Pyramid.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • Pyramid Art Gallery, which at that time,
  • was on University Avenue and Prince Street.
  • So I went over and he gave me some catalogs
  • and gave me some suggestions.
  • And we worked on it.
  • And we got some films going.
  • Enough to do through the summer, maybe five.
  • I don't remember.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: We did it on video.
  • That's what we had, videotape, then.
  • And we'd get in from the library or from wherever
  • else we got it.
  • And then we'd talk about them afterwards.
  • And that was-- there was a social effect.
  • And there was the learning effect.
  • We started out with On Golden Pond,
  • which only had the value of having
  • an older man and his wife, a daughter, and the daughter's
  • son.
  • So we had levels of ages where things don't always
  • work very beautifully.
  • And we ended up with something called Desert--
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Hearts.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Desert Hearts.
  • And there it was, you know, fluff.
  • But it was clearly a lesbian movie.
  • Well that didn't take much of a leap to move into,
  • let's do some more movies.
  • But let's get involved in something a little bit more.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So this was prior to the Gay Alliance
  • involvement with what was called the Watch A Lesbian Film
  • Festival then.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yes.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • Just immediately prior.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Right.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • Yeah.
  • I think at some point, you then--
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: ImageOut opened in '93.
  • In October of 1993.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Well talk about Larry inviting you.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Oh, yeah.
  • After-- Larry had made this offer to me for these booklets.
  • He called me up a month or two--
  • I don't know-- and said, "We're going to have a meeting
  • to start up our film festival.
  • Would you like to come to the meeting?"
  • So I said, sure.
  • And it was at the Gay Alliance on--
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Elton.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: --Elton Street and Atlantic Avenue.
  • And I had never been to that building before.
  • I went in and we were in that living room
  • part of the building.
  • And I didn't know anybody there except Larry.
  • And by the end of the evening, I was absolutely hooked.
  • Just like that.
  • I knew I had to be part of this activity.
  • It just had the same kind of energy
  • and the same kind of excitement that the things
  • that I had been able to do at high school level,
  • and at the college level, and even doing some here at RIT.
  • Yeah, RIT when it was downtown.
  • I've been hooked ever since.
  • And that's where--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: We're going to get back to Sally.
  • When Jamie came home and said, "Well
  • guess what, I'm going to do a queer-- a gay and lesbian film
  • festival," what were your thoughts?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Well when Jamie came home and said
  • that he would like to do this, it was fine.
  • Jamie is the kind of person who jumps in and says-- if somebody
  • asks him if he'd like to do something,
  • he jumps and says sure.
  • I'm the kind who says, well, wait,
  • I've got these things I have to do.
  • Do I have the time?
  • So he became involved and I worked behind the scenes,
  • like helping with mailings for the publicity committee
  • when that came around and that sort of thing.
  • But I didn't join a committee officially probably
  • for four years or so.
  • It was fine with me that he was working on this.
  • It was really great.
  • He was excited and it was an exciting thing to do.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So aside from the excitement of all that,
  • wanting to jump into this activity, did
  • you have any thoughts in regards of what else
  • this film festival could do for this community?
  • Did you have any thoughts about, OK,
  • it could be more than just a film festival?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Um-hm.
  • It certainly was more than just a film festival to me.
  • It was an entirely new world to me.
  • It was a world of people, many of whom were my age,
  • some were a good deal younger than I.
  • And the diversity I had never, except for two
  • friends out on the hill there, really
  • had a relationship that was kind of a business relationship,
  • where we've got to do this thing together.
  • And so it really was involving.
  • And it was a rich kind of activity.
  • It lasted for-- you know, there was a build up,
  • and then there's the event, and then there's a little let down.
  • And then that comes around again the next year
  • and you're still just as excited about it.
  • And we still have been.
  • But does that help on what--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: --what you need?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Kind of expand on it a little bit.
  • That first year or two of putting this film festival
  • together and getting people to actually
  • come to a movie theater.
  • When you start seeing the theater filling up with people,
  • what were your thoughts?
  • In regards to what you were at that moment.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • I remember telling some straight person, after the fact,
  • that if you have never been in a movie
  • theater of three hundred people, nearly all of whom are gay,
  • you have not really been to a movie.
  • I felt it was a sea change.
  • It was an entirely different perspective.
  • Maybe I cooked that up in my own head.
  • You can do that kind of thing.
  • But the energy that was in those early, early years was--
  • well it has made a difference in how I live
  • and I think Sally gets it the same way.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: One thing I remember
  • is that many members of the group
  • that we were in church to educate the church
  • community to become a welcoming congregation, which they did.
  • It was an educational process.
  • Many or maybe all of those people
  • came to the opening movie, which was Evelyn--
  • Dr. Evelyn-- I can't remember.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Hooker.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Hooker.
  • Her A psychiatrist from San Francisco, whose--
  • many of her clients were gay men.
  • And she's really, I think, the first person
  • who stated within the psychiatric community
  • that being gay was not a psychiatric situation.
  • The gay people, the gay men, she treated
  • were exactly like the straight people she treated.
  • So it was a fantastic movie.
  • And then church members came to several movies.
  • And I think we sold out the Dryden Theatre the first year.
  • First year closing night.
  • Five hundred and twenty some seats at that time.
  • And maybe sold out closing nights for a few.
  • Sold out a lot of movies back then.
  • It was a new experience, exciting.
  • And it was exciting to get some straight people.
  • And it educates us and we have fun.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: One of those Dryden Theatre closing nights
  • was largely women.
  • And the Eastman House staff went bananas.
  • They got extra cops in.
  • There were all of these women.
  • And of course, lots of them came on motorcycles.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • Yeah.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: It was absolutely a real stitch to see
  • these rent-a-cops--
  • they're nice man, I'm sure.
  • But it was unbelievable that was--
  • it was like the sort of stuff that you
  • might see if you stayed up and watched
  • that the Academy Awards, you know?
  • That kind of fuss and nonsense on the curb.
  • It was something else.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You know, it's been twenty years now.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: What do you think
  • ImageOut provides for this community,
  • other than showing good movies?
  • What has made ImageOut a success that's
  • been able to last twenty years?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: I was thinking about what
  • ImageOut has provided for the community, both gay
  • and straight.
  • And the first thing is a sense of community.
  • There is such a sense of community
  • when everybody gets together to go to the movies for ten
  • fantastic days.
  • So the sense of community and showing movies depicting
  • the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex
  • movement with this last year is educational.
  • And also, there are the features, which
  • can be educational and fun.
  • So I think it's provided a sense of community,
  • especially for the gay community.
  • But the gay community has welcomed any straight people
  • who want to attend also, which I would love to get
  • more straight people attending.
  • And the second thing is volunteers.
  • I think the fact that ImageOut started
  • as a volunteer organization--
  • the people who started it-- there
  • were a few people who worked extremely hard.
  • And then there were a lot of other volunteers.
  • And it's kept going mostly through volunteer effort.
  • And I think, as a volunteer, I feel
  • that I own a part of ImageOut.
  • It's a part of me.
  • And I think other volunteers must feel the same way.
  • It's our event and we're very proud of it.
  • And I think the community sense and the volunteers
  • have kept it going.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • I absolutely concur.
  • It's that sense of being there, of owning it
  • in that particular sense.
  • And we look forward to it.
  • And I think the whole community does.
  • They're talking about it months later.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: What do you think it says about Rochester
  • as a whole-- as a community--
  • that here we are, we're this small little city.
  • We're not a big city.
  • But yet, we have a film festival that can outdo any film
  • festival in any major city.
  • We've got a number of gay and lesbian support
  • organizations, a number of different gay and lesbian
  • social groups.
  • There are larger cities in this country
  • that would be very jealous of what we have in Rochester.
  • What does it say about Rochester and who we are?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: I've thought about that a little bit more
  • recently.
  • But it is a little confusing.
  • Why would this happen?
  • I'm thinking that it could be--
  • the bigger cities have so much going on that there's no--
  • there isn't enough concentration.
  • We have maybe a good size.
  • And we have enough people to fill the theater.
  • And we have enough energy for the volunteers
  • to participate and work it out.
  • We have some very smart people who
  • are very smart in their daytime activity.
  • And they're equally smart in doing something like this.
  • And so we have lots of skill, lots of knowledgeability,
  • whatever that means.
  • But that may be just a part of it.
  • Now, tomorrow I might have a different thing about it.
  • But I think there might be an optimum level,
  • where you have the energy, you have the tools,
  • you have all of those and they happen to be available here
  • if we continue to care for it.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: I was thinking about the question of why
  • ImageOut and why the strong gay community here.
  • And I think a lot of it goes back to the seventies
  • with students who were at the U of R who started publishing
  • the Empty Closet, and were--
  • they had enough guts to come out, which was not
  • acceptable at that time.
  • It was after Stonewall.
  • So things were opening up but certainly not in an employment
  • perspective.
  • So there was a strong group of people at the U of R--
  • students-- and they started the, as I said, the Empty Closet.
  • They started the Gay Alliance, I believe.
  • And from that core, I think the gay community has grown.
  • So I think it goes back to them.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Stepping outside of ImageOut a little bit.
  • Because I know you've been--
  • well (unintelligible) activists (unintelligible) activists.
  • You've been working in the churches.
  • You've been working with politics.
  • You've been working with youth groups.
  • You've been working with a number of organizations
  • for LGBT issues.
  • Let me first ask you just to talk
  • to me a little bit about some of the work that you've
  • been doing.
  • And then I'm going to ask you why.
  • But give me a sense of some of the things that you've
  • been involved with and the kind of work that you've been doing.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Preface it.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: What other things that I do
  • are, honestly, taking care of myself.
  • I like to walk.
  • I like to be active in that sort of business.
  • I like to-- well, as an example, we've got an election coming up
  • and I've been helping one of the candidates
  • to support their bid.
  • Actually, both of us are doing that.
  • We've got a lot of political stuff in there.
  • And I'm try to think of what other things that are--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well let me ask it to you differently.
  • We'll jump right down to the why part.
  • You've been there at the forefront
  • for the gay and lesbian community
  • in many different ways.
  • Through your church, through ImageOut,
  • through working with the politicians,
  • through working with the youth in the youth center and all
  • that stuff.
  • Why?
  • That's really what I want to get to.
  • I want to know why.
  • It would have been so easy for you to just stay home,
  • raise your children.
  • You know, have your token gay neighbors,
  • and you could have left it at that, but you didn't.
  • You became uniquely immersed as a heterosexual couple.
  • Uniquely immersed in the gay community.
  • And there's something there that--
  • there's something that pulled the trigger for you guys
  • to make that decision.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Maybe this is part of it.
  • When you get involved in an organization that
  • does things for you, as well as other people,
  • everything that we've done with the gay community
  • has resonated within us, at least that's my perspective.
  • We hop on the bus and we go up to Albany.
  • And we try to change the legislative agenda so
  • that it's a little bit better.
  • And to continue to do that year after year, it's a goal.
  • We see where the problem might be,
  • and where can we get the fix for it?
  • So that kind of thing.
  • And when we go, largely it's older people like us.
  • But there is now a growing number
  • of younger and younger people who are getting into that.
  • Sometimes we interact with them, sometimes we don't.
  • They've got their agenda.
  • But it is a vibrant kind of activity to do.
  • And when you're doing something like that, you're alive.
  • We don't have a TV set.
  • We had one for a while, but it got awfully dusty.
  • I mean, we just didn't use the thing.
  • And we moved.
  • It was too big to go where we live.
  • So we went without a TV.
  • But that doesn't seem to bother us.
  • There are so many other things out there that need to be done,
  • or you need to get into it in order
  • to participate to find out what's going on.
  • And this election campaign this year
  • has been a very fertile one.
  • Lots of activity going on, lots of ideas going on,
  • lots of friction going on, but it's maybe a good friction.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: I think it's a sense of justice.
  • Looking back, somehow I think I've
  • always felt for the underdog or defended people.
  • And as I said, we were involved in Metro-Act with the black--
  • trying to get the black people support.
  • One example was Sibley's used to hire--
  • Sibley's which became--
  • I can't remember now.
  • Different department store.
  • Sibley's downtown, big department store
  • hired blacks only in custodial roles.
  • And so, as Metro-Act members, we picketed.
  • There have been times when I've gone outside my comfort zone.
  • Jamie, his comfort zone is way out there.
  • And mine isn't.
  • But I've gone outside, not in the picketing
  • at Sibley's, but other things.
  • Oh, speaking before the city council
  • for the domestic partnership law.
  • I felt that we couldn't speak because we
  • weren't city citizens.
  • But Jamie found out that that was fine.
  • And so we-- he, mostly, probably--
  • got together a speech.
  • We rehearsed it.
  • It had to be three minutes or less.
  • And we went and spoke and made some friends.
  • Got connected with some people.
  • So it's a sense of justice.
  • And it's something that's very important to me.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Years ago I remember talking to you guys,
  • and I think I asked you pretty much the same question.
  • Why?
  • And you talked to me about the whole extended family values
  • that guys found with the gay community.
  • That the gay community kind of readily accepted you.
  • Kind of embraced you.
  • Can you talk to me a little bit about that?
  • About being kind of an extended family for you guys?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: At one--
  • yeah-- got to start again.
  • Sally and I went to the Gay Men's Chorus concerts a lot.
  • And, of course, they had been there long before Sally and I
  • got to there.
  • And one evening after a concert--
  • or maybe it was during the intermission--
  • a couple of the singers in the chorus
  • came over to where we were sitting during intermission
  • and encouraged me to get on the board of directors
  • of the chorus.
  • So I thought about it and I decided, well, I could do that.
  • So I did it.
  • I did it for three years.
  • I learned a lot about what managing a chorus was.
  • I learned a lot more about the people who were in it.
  • And when you have singers, you have some real hot shots,
  • and you have some real--
  • got it for me, different kind of activity,
  • but everybody's trying to make the music the best they can.
  • And it was interesting.
  • It was a different kind of a train to ride for a while.
  • I went for than the required three years.
  • I think I enjoyed most of all of it.
  • I think I generated some activity that was constructive.
  • I then stepped down, as I did when
  • I was in the early years of the film festival.
  • You know, I did it for three years
  • or whatever the program was.
  • And then, OK, we need to have somebody else in this seat,
  • because I don't want to be hogging this one.
  • That sense of it.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: I think you should talk about it,
  • because you're the one--
  • you didn't really answer Kevin's question.
  • It was about the community embracing you or us.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Well when you're there
  • in a room full of singers you have an interaction.
  • You're talking to each other.
  • And there would be some that would support me and others
  • that didn't.
  • In the film festival, I think everybody supported each other.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well let me ask you this then.
  • In your involvement with the gay community,
  • again, you took a job at the Gay Men's chorus,
  • the GAG, political caucus, whatever,
  • was there ever a moment where you felt maybe
  • we don't belong here?
  • Was there ever a moment where maybe there
  • was people who were a little bit skeptical of your intentions?
  • You know, any times they were challenging,
  • that made you question what you were doing?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: I have--
  • I don't think I have enough chutzpah
  • to try to break into another organization
  • that I think is probably doing very well by itself, please,
  • and I can't really generate anything.
  • But there must be something in this organization
  • that I can contribute in some way that
  • will be of some value to the organization
  • and hopefully of some value to my own sense of,
  • I'm glad I did this.
  • Let me change that little bit.
  • I'm a blood donor.
  • And over my life since college days, I have donated blood.
  • And when Sally and I were in the Peace Corps,
  • I donated blood there when there was a road accident at the--
  • so I've done that a lot of times.
  • All of a sudden, I discovered sometime
  • in the last ten or twelve months that I had already donated
  • one hundred pints of blood.
  • That's a lot of blood.
  • I've never thought of it as a contribution other
  • than I think I should do this.
  • I have the ability to donate that blood.
  • It's known to be a safe operation.
  • So why not?
  • Another example of that.
  • This must have been the second or third year of the film
  • festival, our film festival.
  • If you've been in the Little Theatre, especially in the two
  • and three section, when that was just
  • all there was plus the one, there
  • was a long walkway that took you out
  • to the street to the parking lot.
  • And in that walkway corridor, there
  • were little notices put up here, there, and yonder.
  • And one evening, when I was waiting during--
  • there was a film going on and I was
  • going to be opening the door and that kind of stuff--
  • I saw this ad for blood donors to go for AIDS vaccine test
  • arrangement.
  • And I thought about it.
  • I tore off the little telephone number,
  • and took it home and thought about it.
  • And I talked to Sally about it and for a while
  • we played around with it.
  • And then it got to be Christmas and I got serious again.
  • And so I went over there or called--
  • I guess I called up to see if they still
  • were interested in vaccine test volunteers.
  • So they said, yeah, sure.
  • And Sally and I went in.
  • I think Sally wanted to come in.
  • I asked her to come with me, but I
  • think we both wanted to know what this entailed
  • and what was the risk, to be quite honest.
  • What was the risk of being a vaccine test worker?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Subject?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Subject.
  • Yes.
  • But it happened to me the-- was in the film festival.
  • And I got included into the AIDS vaccine test.
  • It ran for-- my stint in it ran for about two years, a year.
  • About a year and a quarter, it was very intense
  • and then it got spread out.
  • And when they said, "OK, we might call you
  • in another two years from now just for fun
  • to see what would happen."
  • But my test was negative.
  • I mean, all the stuff that--
  • I got a double whammy.
  • Two in one arm and one--
  • at any rate, it was not a useful vaccine.
  • But I went through the process and nothing bad for me.
  • But I felt after that, that--
  • and I still do.
  • I still do.
  • I think that's one of the things that I feel most proud of.
  • Because I did it at that moment.
  • Other people had done it earlier than I.
  • And I learned of those people and had the same kind
  • of sense of awe that they did.
  • We did something that might make a difference.
  • Tangible difference.
  • That's the part of it that, you know--
  • well that was the kind of idea that I'm trying to say.
  • That is something that I could go down to my grave
  • and be comfortable on that particular point.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: The gay community
  • has certainly supported us all the time, I'd say.
  • We went to a birthday party of one of our lesbian friends
  • once.
  • And in one of the rooms of the house,
  • a woman was speaking very strongly
  • against straight people.
  • And I just went into the next room and kept my distance.
  • Today, I might engage somebody like that after the fact.
  • But the gay community has really embraced us.
  • At one of the dinners that we've been at,
  • an older man came up to Jamie and said
  • he was just so happy that we were there and wishes
  • that his deceased partner, who was never out
  • could see the fact that straight people were in the community,
  • and it might have given him the impetus to be out
  • and to be much more comfortable with being gay.
  • That seeing that there are straight people who
  • accept, embrace gay people.
  • But the gay community has embraced us.
  • We've always been accepted in ImageOut.
  • It's been marvelous.
  • And a great experience.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Is that the greatest part of it?
  • Is that-- creating the dialog between straights and gays
  • to be able to open doorways so that we can see each other,
  • and get to know each other, and get to understand each other,
  • is that what drives you?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Seeing each other,
  • being a member of the straight community
  • within the gay community, being an advocate
  • is certainly important.
  • I still say the community is important.
  • But I would like to see more straight people become
  • comfortable with gay people, get to know them,
  • go to movies so that they see different things that
  • are important to the gay community,
  • that they may not even think about.
  • To me that's very important.
  • And it's a part where I certainly
  • haven't been as successful as I would have hoped,
  • getting friends to come with me to the movies.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: In regards to when
  • you had children to raise--
  • you had children to raise.
  • And I can only expect that these values
  • that you have in the work that you're
  • doing with the gay community and the values
  • that you have in regards to understanding people
  • and accepting people for who they
  • are, you have to have had handed that down to your children,
  • right?
  • And talk to me about that, the importance
  • of what kind of messages we're handing off to our children;
  • off to our future generations.
  • In the work that you guys have done,
  • you've played a big part in that.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Do you want to say something, or?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Why don't you start?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Oh, OK.
  • The importance of being in the gay community
  • with our children--
  • I guess we've been involved more in the gay community
  • since the kids have gotten older.
  • But certainly having our two neighbors and the children
  • being a part of that experience, they've never felt--
  • they've always felt comfortable being with gay people.
  • They're both politically liberal.
  • And I think that they certainly know how we feel
  • and they have felt the same way.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: How about you, Jamie?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: I've been thinking about the fact
  • that because our--
  • maybe I'm going to put this around here.
  • I feel that the amount of energy going toward our daughters
  • relative to the gay community, I don't think I've
  • been able to do that as much.
  • I don't think either of them, for instance, are really
  • involved in gay film.
  • And I know-- well see, I don't know
  • enough about our daughters' activities.
  • We know a certain very homey slice,
  • particularly for her daughter who lives here in town.
  • And she's got a full plate.
  • Our other daughter is a scientist and she
  • also has a full plate and has had a lot of--
  • SALLY WHITBECK: And is very politically active.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • She's politically active.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Very politically active.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Especially with the Green Party.
  • But she gets out there and will go
  • for any of the issues that are what she feels
  • are valuable for her experience in New Orleans.
  • That's about as far as I maybe--
  • I'd like to generate more of that.
  • But they have their plate and I don't want to spill it over,
  • you know?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Well they're liberal.
  • They certainly saw that we were involved.
  • We marched against the Vietnam War.
  • They remember that.
  • They were young then.
  • And I think that shaped their politics.
  • And I remember them coming home from high school saying,
  • "Oh, don't use the word gay."
  • So there was this negativity at school in the early years,
  • in public school.
  • But on the other hand, they knew our friends.
  • And that's so important.
  • I think if you know somebody who's
  • gay, or lesbian, or transgender, intersex, that opens up
  • the whole relationship.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Looking back at the years,
  • how do you want history to reflect your lives?
  • What are you most proud of in what
  • you've done with the gay community,
  • for the gay community?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Well I think that kind of event--
  • the fact that people that we really had no other contact
  • with except the film festival, there
  • are so many smiles and good to see you again,
  • that sort of thing.
  • And it's not always in the Little Theatre.
  • There are other places that it happens,
  • not just the Little Theatre and the Eastman House.
  • There are times when, oh, yes, it's nice to see you again.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: When I think about my heritage,
  • I had never thought about that.
  • I never thought about how I would like to be remembered,
  • except is a good friend in a general way.
  • But I think as far as our relationship
  • with the gay community, I would like
  • to be remembered as a person who was in the gay community.
  • And that's thanks to Jamie, who made that first step.
  • And it's been a beautiful experience.
  • And the gay community has embraced us.
  • We love it.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: We had an event that was early on.
  • Sally reminded me of it the other day.
  • And it certainly is that kind of thing.
  • This was one of the first few years.
  • There was a party after the film festival at home.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Oh yes.
  • No.
  • That was an Empire State Pride Agenda dinner.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: It was?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Not a dinner.
  • Are you thinking the dinner at our house
  • that I was talking about?
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: No I'm talking about the dinner--
  • the lunch.
  • The two women at home.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: That was Empire State Pride Agenda.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Oh, OK.
  • So it was a Pride Agenda event.
  • But we went over there, the two of us.
  • And we weren't bar people.
  • We just didn't go there.
  • And we went in and as we went through the door,
  • Sally said she saw him some.
  • More than I did.
  • It was Don (unintelligible).
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Don't say the name.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Oh, I'm not supposed to say the name.
  • Alright.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: OK.
  • Anyway, we had been involved in the political caucus.
  • And then this was later.
  • It was an Empire State Pride Agenda event.
  • But we didn't know any gay people other than--
  • or maybe it was not after the political caucus.
  • We knew our neighbors.
  • And one man we had met, I guess through the political caucus,
  • looked extremely surprised to see us.
  • And I thought, oh, should we be here or shouldn't we?
  • And then we walked in and you can finish the story.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Well two women, whom we still see from time
  • to time, they were a couple.
  • They just sort of set this up and said, come on,
  • let's get something to eat.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Took care of us.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah, right.
  • Took care of us.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Took us under their wings.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: They welcomed us into the party.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yes.
  • Took us under their wing.
  • And I've seen the woman do that over with other people.
  • It's beautiful.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Here's an interesting question.
  • And you're one of the very few people I've asked this to.
  • Here you are, being interviewed for a documentary that's
  • going to be presented during the twenty-first ImageOut film
  • festival; a film festival that you helped start.
  • Kind of coming full circle.
  • How does it feel?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Try and be succinct.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You're going to be up on the big screen
  • during the film festival that you helped
  • begin twenty-one years ago.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: During this film festival,
  • we saw some of our friends that were taken, perhaps
  • by you, at the Eisenhart Auditorium, the preliminary
  • to the--
  • and their pictures were up there, and their comments,
  • and that sort of thing.
  • I don't see any problem with that.
  • I think it would be kind of fun.
  • But it's not a need.
  • It would be like a little extra something.
  • There's-- a lagniappe.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: (unintelligible).
  • Oh, yeah.
  • A lagniappe.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: A little extra.
  • But it's the whole mechanism.
  • It's the whole event.
  • It's the whole family that is doing this.
  • And of course we're going to relate
  • to each other and different people, different times.
  • But there's so many.
  • And there's so many good ideas and good feelings.
  • Looks OK to me.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • Sometimes if I look back and I think,
  • OK, it's been twenty or twenty-one years,
  • I begin to realize how old I'm becoming.
  • And I hope that I can continue for a few more years at least,
  • or several more years.
  • Does put a little actuality on our lifespan.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • Glenn lost Elizabeth a year or two ago, right?
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Right.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, but it is kind of interesting.
  • I can't imagine twenty, while you're
  • trying to start a film festival, that you would ever
  • figure that twenty years later, you would be up on that screen
  • as part of this festival.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: No.
  • Didn't think like that.
  • We were in the moment and doing what we enjoy.
  • And I think with volunteering, to be successful,
  • the person who volunteers has to receive something,
  • or else they'll go somewhere else and volunteer.
  • And we've certainly received a tremendous amount.
  • JAMIE WHITBECK: Um-hm.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Makes us very happy.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Alright.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Thank you.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: We'll call that a wrap.
  • SALLY WHITBECK: Yeah.
  • Good.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: That's a lot.