Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I moved to Milwaukee in the summer of 1987. It was my transition to self acceptance. The small town boy struggled with coming to terms with himself in the conservative little Michigan enclave of his youth, and the move allowed him to grow into his skin. At that point in time, Milwaukee was a sparkling city on the lakefront with a very vibrant gay community.
Within a few weeks I discovered the M and M Club in the Historic Third Ward. It was an old Cream City Brick building circa 1904 with a generous vista of windows, the first gay bar I had ever been to that wasn't huddled in darkness (and as I later learned, it was the first gay bar in the city with windows). The openness of the pub became a metaphor for the open and honest life I would have there.
They had live music on the weekends. My favorite was a lesbian couple, Tommie and Nanette from Chicago. Tommie was a pianist and Nanette was the chanteuse. They sang showtunes on Sunday nights. I would sit at a small table and have the other chair removed. I was a sassy little thing, wasn't I?
One very snowy Sunday night in December I was there listening to Nanette (by now per usual) and went to the bar to get a drink. There I struck up a conversation with a whole group of people. They turned out to be members of the newly formed Cream City Chorus, a group in its infancy which just very recently performed its first concert. I met Mark and Ebbie and Jay and Patty and Scoots and Rona and Barb, among others. We hung out and had an much better time than I normally had alone.
I soon went for my voice audition. The musical director said I was a Bass with Baritone tendencies. I suggested he put me in the Baritone section, because I still remember what happened the last time I showed tendencies.
From that point, I felt like I has a home there in Milwaukee. I had peeps to hang out with. We rehearsed, raised funds, rehearsed more, hung out at the M and M, and sang in our first spring concert, Dinner With Gershwin. I grew musically, and as a person. I went from being the only homo (I thought) in the small town to having a circle of gay friends, both men and women.
I sang with them for two seasons before my travel schedule made it too hard to make rehearsals. After that, I spent another year All-Lesbian Stage Crew with Cindy and Deb. It was an awesome time in my young adulthood.
My mind is full of vivid recollections of winter nights at the M and M club, surrounded by the chorus, listening to Tommie and Nanette sing Marshmallow World as the snow flakes crash into the big picture windows.
I'll stay for one more set.