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subfield code a L34-000132 USFLDC DOI0 245 Robert W. Pope oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by Dr. Cyrana Brooks Wyker.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.Transcription and timecoding of this interview is underway and will be added when complete. At that time the audio link will be replaced with the OHPi player link (player supporting syncronized audio and full-text transcription).7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local710 University of South Florida.b Library.Special & Digital Collections.Oral History Program.1 773 t LGBT Oral History Project4 856 u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?l34.13
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Cyrana Wyker: Okay, this is Cyrana Wyker. I am here with Lawrence Konrad and Bob Pope at their residence in St. Pete, St. Petersburg, Florida. This interview is part of the Tampa GLBT Oral History project under my direction. Today is October 25, 2013. Do I have your permission to record this interview?
Robert Pope: Certainly.
Lawrence Konrad: Yes.
CW: Okay, so lets just start at where were you both born and perhaps raised?
RP: He is a Yankee. Go ahead and go first.
LK: I was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I was raised there. Left when I was seventeen to join the navy.
RP: Tell her about your family.
CW: (laughs) Yeah, go ahead. Tell me about your family.
LK: My father was a machinist for Bethlehem Steel, and my mother was a housewife, and thats it.
RP: You have a brother and a sister.
LK: Oh (laughs). I do have a sister two years younger than myself, and I have a brother five years younger than myself, who now presently lives in St. Petersburg.
CW: Oh. How old are you?
LK: I am seventy-five.
RP: You sure of that? You just had a birthday. You seventy-five or seventy-six?
LK: Im seventy-five.
RP: I was born in 1935, and that makes me seventy-seven. I will be seventy-eight next week. I was born in Tallahassee. My mother was a first grade teacher for forty years. My father was a beautician for the early part of his life and then, because he had polio when he was a kid, he had to get out of that business, and he became a realtor insurance agent for the balance of his life.
And I have an older brother, who is eighty now, and a younger sister, who is seventy. One lives in Tallahassee still and one lives in Gainesville, Georgia. I moved to St. Petersburg in 1968, as part of attending Stetson Law School for the second time. So
CW: How did you two meet?
LK: In a bar in Daytona Beach. He was on loan from the Red Cross to their
RP: United Front.
LK: United Front had never met their goal, so the Red Cross loaned him out to help them meet their goal, which they did.
RP: I was a field director with the American Red Cross at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, one of the first jobs I really had after I left college, and got assigned three different places including Daytona Beach, where I met this cute lil boy sitting across the bar from me. I thought he was cute as hell. Where is that picture?
LK: Well, we just had an anniversary and thatsthey dug all our pictures out.
RP: Where are they?
RP: I thought they were right here.
LK: Well, the big is right here.
RP: And it took me some time while I was in Daytona, I got two job offers, three job offers, and one of them is with the American Red Cross down in Miami and one is with the Florida Development Commission as a convention and sales director for Florida. And I took that job. And that is when I persuaded Lawrence to leave his position with MicorAge MicroAge is an American technology sales company based in Tempe, Arizona, United States. It was founded in 1976 by Jeffrey D. McKeever and Alan P. Hald as a hobby computer store named The Byte Shop. where he was working as a management trainee.
LK: It was a big deal too, because I had to move, and I had a relationship in the Navy, which did not work out so well. So, when I met him, even though I knew it was right, it was not right in some respects. So, when had our fiftieth our friends made these for the room that we were in [takes out large photograph with split images of Bob and Lawrence as young and older couple].
CW: Oh gosh.
RP: Isnt he cute?
LK: This picture was a big deal for us, because it happened on a ship, and somebody your age asked to take our picture, and we had never had kind of freedom before. And she did. She took ninety-five pictures. She was incredible, because they were all great pictures.
CW: On a ship like a cruise ship.
RP: You know, those photographers who are very expensive. Well, that was her.
CW: Yeah. (laughs)
LK: Well, she was not with the ship. She was with a company out of New York.
RP: Oh yeah what was that?
CW: Oh really, okay.
RP: She did a nice job.
LK: And she just got off an Olivia cruise. An Olivia cruise is a lesbianand she was familiar with people our age and the stories. The pictures were great. We have, I think, a dozen of them. And the St. Pete Times used them.
RP: Anyway, moving to Tallahassee, and finally persuading him to come up to Tallahassee and live there with me, and, of course, that was my hometown with my parents and my brother and all the siblings and children, etcetera, etcetera. And we had a wonderful time up there, met a lot of wonderful people, who were all my high school friends, and he fit right in.
LK: They werent as homophobic as his family was.
RP: But we went to Christmas and Thanksgiving, most every Christmas and every Thanksgiving we spent in Tallahassee, and he was always welcome there.
LK: I dont think they had anythey had to welcome me.
CW & RP: (laughs)
LK: When we lived in Tallahassee my sister, I dont know whether she divorced this guy she was living with, I dont know why she came south, but she lived with us and she worked for his brother. And she told his brother one time that we sleep in the same bed and that we lock our door. And he tried to break our door down one Saturday morning, because he was the big FSU alumni president and football player and all of that, and that was not okay for him.
RP: (laughs) Its his problem.
CW: So, what year did you both meet?
RP & LK: Sixty-three.
CW: Sixty-three. How old were you?
RP: Well, Im seventy-seven now so fifty years ago would be twenty-seven.
LK: I was twenty-five.
CW: And then you moved to Tallahassee to
RP: And I did too. I was on special assignment, so I had been living at Fort Bragg.
LK: Well, he actually didnt give me a choice. He really at one point realized that I wasnt doing anything. I wasnt taking a leave of absence, and he got the wind of that, and he told me one weekend that if I wasnt packed by such-and-such, that he was coming down to pack me. (laughs)
CW: What bar was it that you guys met at?
LK: The Hollywood.
RP: The Hollywood, which was a very famous gay bar, and in those days the Hollywood was kind of a just a square bar, very little room around the sides. They had a little bit of room on one side where they hadthey didnt have any dancing, because you couldnt even touch. You couldnt even touch each other at the bar. You had to keep your hands on the bar. If the police came in and found your hands below the bar, you might be doing something illegal, you know. You could be hauled off. So, it was a very scary time in those days.
LK: Everybody cringed when the door opened, because they were constantly raided. When he was with thehe took a job aswhat was your job in Clearwater?
RP: I was with the Chamber of Commerce in Clearwater as a convention and sales manager, bringing conferences and groups to Clearwater, as I had done with the Florida Development Commission for the whole state. We were
LK: On our way to a bar in Madeira Beach called
LK: The Gate.
RP: which was above an Italian restaurant.
LK: And we had been there several times before, and this one night, half way down, he said, You know, Ive had a pretty rough day. Im pretty tired. Do you mind if we dont go? And when we opened the paper up the next day that place was raided and everybodys name was in the paper, and their jobs, and
RP: Where they lived.
LK: People lost their jobs and I was very thankful. Twice somebody upstairs had saved us from that. Because there was a raid in Winter Park one time, too, that we didnt get to be in, we were on our way.
RP: Five people from Moss Brothers. Moss Brothers won the golden glove. They were the employer that had the most people in the bar that night.
LK: Some teachers. A man committed suicide out of that.
RP: Out of Tampa.
CW: And they printed the addresses as well as the names?
RP: They printed everything on the front page of the second section of the St. Petersburg Times.
LK: I dont remember the addresses. Youve got a better memory, but they didpeople knew who they were, yeah.
RP: And that was not an unusual thing to have peoples names printed in the newspaper and their position, where they worked, etcetera. Whenever there were raids at public restrooms, theaters, or Of course, when I became a lawyer that is one of the areas I specialized in is defending people against that kind of garbage.
LK: But Charley Johns was in office at that time, was he not?
RP: Well, Charley John became governor in He was a little bit earlier than that. He was in the fifties. I dont know whether you remember Charley Johns, you know, the Johns Committee?
RP: Got a copy of the report.
RP: Its obscene, you know. I have one. Anyway, it was labeled obscene, because
LK: Pornography they called it.
RP: They thought he was a
CW: The Purple Pamphlet.
RP: Thats right. And he was president of the senate when Dan McCarthy, who was elected governor, had died in office after being in a parade in Tallahassee in September, caught pneumonia and died. I had just arrived. This was 1953. I had just arrived to University of Florida where I started education, my college education.
Charley Johns became governor, acting governor. We never called him governor. We called him acting governor, because of his position as president of the senate. And it was actually after that that he did all that stuff with the Johns committee, he lost the governorship to Leroy Collins. And fact that is.
CW: Were you two ever at a bar when it was raided?
CW: Just got lucky and
LK: I think lucky. I think we were blessed. I think somebody took care of us.
RP: There was a place over outside of Daytona, actually outside of Orlando that was out there, a big ole mansion out there. They used to have a
LK: Private club.
RP: Private club out there. We were going out there one night, but it was hit that night too. So, fortunately we werent, because I would have lost my job at the Chamber of Commerce. I would have lost my job with the development commission or certainly with the American Red Cross.
And those are not pleasant memories to see people, and having represented so many people charged with lewd and lascivious conduct, or something of that nature, from all facets and professions, from bankers to lawyers to garbage men, or I dont know what the bottom of the road is.
I dont meanLives can certainly be changed by this. Just to tell you a funny story, because when I was in law school my roommate Jim Casesa (?) had decided he wanted to become a bondsmen. So, he got wind that there was an opening in a bonding office, a bail bond office in St. Petersburg. So, we went down to Fort Lauderdale, and trained, and got our license to be bail bondsmen.
And it was that experience of getting people out of jail after they had been arrested for some activity in the bushes, or in the restroom, or somewhere I remember so vividly a very distinguished gentleman married with family, and he came over after I had bonded him out of jail to the bonding office, he kept saying to me, I dont know how Im going to tell my wife. I dont know how Im going to tell my wife.
Well, we talked for forty-five minutes to an hour and I just shared with him, I said, You know you will be surprised. Youre wife probably already knows before you telling her. And after a while he called his wife while he was sitting there, and said, Honey, why dont you put on a pot of coffee.
He says, Ive got some things I want to talk to you about. And about two or three months later he came back into the office, and thanked me for calming him down, and giving him what he thought was good advice. That was very satisfying. But, you know, I dont know whether his name appeared in the paper. He may have been one of the lucky ones that The Times didnt pick up and put into the paper.
CW: So, how do you, how did you two sort of negotiate that fear of either going to the bar together, and possibly getting your names printed, and losing your livelihoods?
LK: Actually we met in seventy63. I went to school, and then I worked at Moss Brothers, so there was no fear for me in my job. But in 75 we bought a bar and turned it gay in Daytona. So, that was the beginning of it. In fact, weve had several bars since then. That was the beginning of it. And he became an attorney and that did not affect his future of
RP: I never was quote an out lawyer. I mean, I, you know, anybody who had good common sense wouldve known. It didnt matter one way or the other. We bought one bar here in town. I told the real estate owner, I want to buy a bar with a 4COP license. Which is one that you can not only buy liquor in the bar, but also carry it other places, you know, package store, and he found one, nothing down. I said, Well, that is my kind of bar. (laughs)
So, we bought it. And it was a country western bar for years called Kittys, and the man that we were going to have actually run the place, they hired him for the month while we were doing the closing and getting all the paperwork ready. And so he became familiar with the buying and the running of the bar. And, of course, the minute we closed, of course, it became a gay bar. We didnt have any more country western. (laughs)
LK: We did retain the day business.
RP: Yeah, that was nice, that was nice. But even there we never had too much problem with anybody, because we were very strict about checking peoples IDs, and not letting people in even though sometimes they did get in. I used to tell my lesbian friends: the only trouble we ever had were two gals going at it. They could really beat the snot out of each other. Anyway
LK: I think his jobs before then, because he became sales director for a motel in Daytona, I dont think his sexuality was that big of a deal. And when he changed jobs, and was director of sales for the Daytona Plaza, his leg got injured in the Bahamas, and his boss called me and said, Larry, I think youd better get a doctor in there.
And it was the fact that he called me to initiate, he knew what was going on and who we were about, and was okay with it. So, there wasnt that kind of a stigma for the particular employment that he had at that time.
RP: We did go into competition with ourselves with Kittys, because we bought a bar eight blocks down the road, or maybe five blocks.
LK: Five blocks.
RP: The Old Wedgewood Inn. And turned it gay, and it was a big ole place with a huge restaurant.
LK: It was very famous.
RP: Forty motel rooms and so, and so forth, and we were going to become rich. Well, we lost
LK: She probably knows about that.
RP: We lost a lot of money. But anyway, that place was raided three times. But its interesting, because it always happened after I had left the property. And at night Id leave the property. We would go home. The telephone would be ringing off of the hinges when I got there. We would have to turn around and go back to the bar. And those were raids that were just, I mean, they were unnecessary and just harassment.
And I remember one time they were down there. We had after closing, we locked all the booze up, but we had a full restaurant, and we were serving breakfast, but we were also letting them continue dancing. And they said we were having a cabaret, and we didnt have a cabaret license. So, they were in there, the raiders, for cabaret. So, I was about that far away from this little major or colonel or whatever he was with the police department.
We were just screaming at each other. And I was telling him to get his men outta my property and blah, blah, blah. I said, anyway the conversation got around, and I finally told him, I said, Well if youre going to arrest somebody, arrest em. So, he turned around and arrested my general manager. (laughs) And, of course, my general manager said, Thanks, Pope.
(laughs) And, you know, it took me eight hearings to finally get that dismissed, but we did get ole Toms charges dismissed against him. But it was just always harassment. And people knew that I probably was gay. We even had assistant state attorneys come down there with their girlfriends or wives to dance because we had a great DJ.
LK: We had one of the best DJs in Florida.
RP: Yeah. And we had lots and lots of people. Then Tampa opened some big properties and my air condition went out in the summer, and that didnt help.
LK: We were not very flamboyant, so I think that that significantly helped us. In fact, his sister made a statement one time that We were in Tallahassee and we got married in Toronto.
RP: My sister-in-law.
LK: Your sister-in-law. And they noticed, his grandniece noticed, same rings. And she said, Uncle Bobby, why are you and Uncle Larry wearing the same rings? And I was in the kitchen, and I could not believe, and I was really curious how he was going to answer this, because he gets a little uptight about at that point in time of his life. And he said, Oh, they are friendship rings. And she said, Oh, how disgusting.
RP: No. How weird.
LK: How weird. And we knew that that family going back to South Carolina was going to have a conversation, because they were Southern Baptist. But I told Kathy the next time that we were up there that we got married in Toronto, and she really gave me this attitude and answer that, you know, its okay what we do, because we dont embarrass them. And so, thats kind of, in fact, he went to a Gay Business Guild. We both went to the Gay Business Guild, was that in Tampa?
LK: Here, and he never took me to his law stuff until later in life, but Everitt Rice was there.
RP: He was the sheriff at the time.
LK: And he was the sheriff, and he said to Bob, Where have you kept him all these years?
RP: Ive known Everitt Rice and Jim Coatts, both sheriffs ever since they started with the Sheriffs Department. They started about 71 and that is when I started practicing. They were in the vice and narcotic, and that was my area of expertise. I was doing those on the other side. But we always had a good rapport, we treated each other with dignity, and with respect, and the fact that I was gay, didnt seem to have any problem with it.
LK: One of their sons is gay.
RP: Well, Everitts niece is gay also.
CW: So, what was your relationship like withokay, wait. Let me backtrack. So, who raided the bars?
RP: St. Petersburg police department.
CW: But they knew that you were an attorney.
RP: Of course, oh, yes.
LK: Oh, they didnt like him. The police did not like him at all, because he would put them on the stands and make liars out of them.
RP: Well, because they were liars. You know, you neverpeople dont like people that make them look like the scum they are. There are some scummy police officers, but there are also some very, very highly component people with the police department. And I used to tell people, there was one sheriffs deputy, if he told me it was raining outside, I wouldnt even look outside.
I would know it was raining, because he was that precise. He never would exaggerate his story to help convict someone. He would never keep something hidden in order to convict someone. He was strict in telling it like it was and I appreciated that. But there were some that did the other end of it, and it always delighted me to be able to show them to be the liars that they were or the exaggerators, if you want be nice to them.
CW: So, what would happen during a raid?
RP: They would just make a lot of noise and then theyd all leave.
LK: And everybody runs.
RP: And then wed close the place and go home. I mean, the only person that was arrested was that one time.
CW: Oh, so, would they just take peoples names down?
RP: I have no idea what they did with them. There was never announcements in The St. Pete Times about the raids. There was not that type of continuing problem that wed seen in the early sixties. And this was 75, so this was after I had been to Tallahassee and after I had been to law school.
CW: I had no idea that bar raids continued into the seventies.
RP: Yes, they did.
CW: So, it was really perhaps just to intimidate and harass.
RP: Which they were even then, even before, thats all they were was harassment. I mean, the Stonewall raid was just plain harassment. There were plenty of things to arrest people about, but they werent in there to arrest people. They were there to shake people up, make em go out the back door, or run out, and you know.
LK: Well, the attitude then was redneck. It was a just perverse, and pervaded, and everything. It was just not very friendly. Even in families. It just was not It wasnt accepted. You were an embarrassment. And they had that Christian attitude that, you know, you were of the Satan and the devil and all of that.
RP: I dont call that a Christian attitude. Id call that a
LK: Well, it was Christian. They
RP: Profess to be.
LK: And, you know, that attitude. I heard a story last night of somebody that was in a church, pretty high up in the church, and one of his friends told him of his activities, and went to his church, and he was terminated immediately, and he lost a big profession. And thats just not that many years ago, which it surprised the hell out of me when I heard that story. So, it is still going on, that attitude is still going on in certain places.
RP: Well, in big business right now, you go in as a junior executive and it seems to be, I am sure it is changing, but it seems to be still a requirement that you get married and you have your wife, you know, that can help your career go on up the ladder. And many of those people are not destined to be married at least not to someone of the opposite sex.
LK: I think that is why so many young people went into the priesthood and became nuns, because they didnt have a life outside.
RP: So, its been a very interesting time to be raised. We had no Homosexuality was not a known discussion point in Tallahassee, Florida in the 1950s when I graduated from high school, 53.
LK: But he was caught in his family, in activity in his family.
RP: Oh yeah, they would. I mean, I wasnt a saint.
LK: As a teenager he was caught.
RP: As a boy doing boy things, just as Ive continued doing boy things all these years. (laughs)
CW: And your family?
LK: I left when I was seventeen. I joined the Navy, so my family had never had, did not know who I was, except when I got out of the Navy. I had a relationship No, when I went home on leave one time, and this guy I was in a relationship with called me almost every day, and my mother said, You need to marry that guy. And thats the only thing. I think she knew right then who I was and what I was about.
But I never had an attitude from her until she lived with us for two years, and after she left. She went to church with us. I could not believe how much she disliked us as gay people and the bad mouth she had. In fact, my name was in the paper one time in an interview about our church and she screamed at me when she saw that.
RP: No, it was an article on the gaySDIA.
LK: SDIA. And she said that we were the only Konrads in St. Petersburg with K and they are going to know that I was associated with her. It was not veryI was flabbergasted that she had that kind of attitude. My father, I left our relationship at one point in our life, and my father said to me very quietly, Thats a huge mistake you made. I was flabbergasted that he would say something like that.
He never to me Well, he loved Bob, absolutely loved him.
RP: Whats there to hate? (laughs)
LK: The only time we had any problems in my relationship was when I was co-founded of the first AIDS support group and we had a meeting in our house. Well, we had a meeting the apartment in back of our house, because we had a duplex. And my sister-in-law wanted to know if it was safe to sit on the furniture, and cant she bring her children to our house anymore.
RP: Well, this is the early stages of AIDS and nobody knew what it was.
LK: It was the mid-eighties.
RP: In fact, even I remember very vividly this meeting, because the one person that we knew was HIV positive was a guy by the name of Adams, Jim Adams, and his father, in fact, has a very large Ford dealership in Lakeland.
LK: I think, still does.
RP: And Jim was very out, and very proactive, and protecting himself, and his health benefits. He was a handsome young man and had no sign of deteriorating from the AIDS virus. But he came into the kitchen while I was in there, and asked for a drink of water, and I gave him a drink of water, and then I didnt know what to do with the glass. So, I was still in that stage of, you know, should I tear it up and throw it away. So, we all had lots to learn in the mid-seventies, eighties.
RP: Yeah, mid-eighties. Lawrence was the founder and the co-director of the first AIDS support group in Pinellas County called SDIA, which is, of course, AIDS spelled backwards. And that was really an outgrowth of King of Peace MCC, although it was not an actual ministry of King of Peace.
LK: When we formed it, the pastor of King of Peace wanted it to be a ministry of the church, but some of the people didnt think that that was very healthy. So, it started with accepting a board director of Kind of Peace as being co-founder with me, and it was not run under King of Peace after that.
RP: Although a lot of the activities of SDIA, such as they had group meetings, we had a psychologist who used to teach nutrition who was very, veryJim, I mean, Charles Geraldi (?) did this painting and another one in there, who was wonderful in the early stages of being proactive and trying to help people with their own eternal well being, and that was held at King of Peace.
And we did a lot of fundraisers for SDIA at King of Peace. But they had houses where they housed people. I mean, it was only This was early, early stuff.
LK: We had houses because the hospitals had nowhere to discharge these people who were very sick. And they really wasIt was terrible because they would put them in a hall somewhere and they wouldnt put their food in the room. They wouldnt take food into them. Somebody that came to visit them had to take food, and if you went to visit, you had to gown yourself, and all that kind of stuff.
RP: This was the fear. This was the early fear of the AIDS epidemic. We didnt know what happened to people when they had AIDS.
LK: When we talked about, with hospitals, about creating a house. I had this idea. They could not give me enough to set that house up to get rid of these people.
CW: Oh really.
RP: The hospitals provided funds
RP: And furniture and beds.
LK: they were dying in their hospitals, because nursing homes wouldnt take them, and families wouldnt take them, and lovers would leave and all of that.
CW: So, what year was it that you formed SDIA?
LK: We think it was 85. Nineteen-eighty-five.
CW: And you mentioned that the MCC, for it to be under the MCC Church or a part of it, some people thought it was unhealthy? What
LK: Well, not unhealthy. They didnt think we would get grants and help from
LK: outside organizations.
RP: Because it was a church.
LK: If it was a church.
RP: But most of the people on the board had been active in the church.
LK: Yeah, yeah.
RP: And most of the support, except for Judy she was involved in
LK: Well, somehow the psychic people got involved in this. And I guess they had friends that were dying, so thats what initiated with me is we had a death in our church. That that guy was diagnosed with everything under the sun except AIDS. And it was a horrible death to watch him die. In fact, actually the people in our church took twenty-four hour care for him. They assigned themselves to shift.
RP: Four men.
LK: And it was a long I mean, it was for like months.
RP: Bill was a teacher.
LK: Bill Wood.
RP: He worked down in Bradenton. He developed He was one of the first AIDS patients that we really knew about. Although, what was his name, we think also died of AIDS?
LK: Well there was one or two before that.
RP: Bill had been very, very active in King of Peace. And when he became sick, and could not work anymore, and was bedridden those four members of King of Peace took turns, as Lawrence was saying, in looking after him on a twenty-four hourAnd I remember, we were doing a bible study for holy week or during Lent, and wed meet because, of course, Bill couldnt, wed meet at Bills house.
And youd go in and this little, small frame would be under the blankets. Hello, come on in. Im still here, you know. And participated and these guys gave their life, their time, and their energy until Bill finally passed. And it was to me one of the shining examples of good love.
LK: One of the people, Phil Catchem (sp?) is still alive. But he was one of the people that took care of him and they were faithful.
RP: Very, very faithful.
LK: And at that time it was The disease ate people. I mean, it was: we had stacked of blankets in our church, if they came to church, because they would freeze and they would be, when you looked at them you knew they had AIDS, because the pallor of their skin. And they would start They looked like they had cancer. It would just eat their body up until they die. Funeral directors wouldnt even take their bodies. We had a funeral director in our church
RP: Well, it wasnt him; it was his boss. But that is an interesting story. We had some very, very dear friends who moved from St. Petersburg to New Hampshire. They were going to open a B&B. They got up there, and about six or eight months later we had some reports that one of them was not feeling well, and so on, and so forth. His back, he said.
LK: His kidney or his heart or
RP: So, they said, Wed like to come down and go down to the islands for Christmas; would yall like to go with us? And so we made arrangements. They were coming down in December and some peopleI didnt go over, but some people went over to the airport to pick up
LK: They never came off the plane.
RP: And ah
LK: And one of our friends went down to the plane door, and she came back, and she said, You better brace yourself.
RP: So, Kevin Tivido (?) and his lover Tom Hiclane (?) both wonderful, wonderful guys. Tom was a former Methodist Minister, who had two adopted children, just one of the brightest men I ever met. But Kevin was very, very, had shrunken.
LK: They wheeled him off the plane.
RP: They came and
LK: Excuse me, Tom said, as they greeted us, I dont think we are going to be going home.
RP: In fact that happened.
LK: And that was a shock, because they were staying with us.
RP: So, they stayed with us for, I think, four months before Kevin finally passed away. And it is interesting. This story is kind of an indication of what things were like then. Kevin had gone by the funeral home. Whats the name of it?
RP: It is still on South Fourth, I mean, North Fourth Street?
LK: Thirty-Ninth Street across from Publix at Thirty-Eight.
RP: Mm-hm. Not that far out, mh-mm. Ill think of it in a minute. Anyway, it is still here, and I would love to give it a bad rap. Well, I dont like to give it a bad rap, but he had gone by, paid for his funeral.
LK: Is it Rhodes?
RP: Rhodes Funeral Home, John Rhodes Funeral Home, paid for his funeral, and signed all the necessary papers to be cremated, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. We were all at the house the night that Kevin passed away. In fact, we were out on the little porch, right outside of his bedroom, because we set a place for he could be downstairs and not have to climb the stairs.
And when he passed they washed him down, and called our friend, who was a member of the church, who was wonderful soul, who was the funeral director, and they came and picked up Kevins body with the understanding that he was going to be cremated and then they take the ashes, and do whatever. Well, on the anniversary of their meeting, they called it their anniversary, Tom told me, he said that Kevin has still not been cremated.
This was eight, ten, twelve days later. So, I said, What do you mean he hadnt been cremated? He said, Well, they are waiting to get his brothers permission. Now this is somebody he hadnt seen in thirty-five years. So, I call Mister Rhodes, explained who I was and why I was calling, and he said, Well, you know we have to get a family member.
I said, You dont have to get anything of the sort. He says, Yes, the law requires. I said, You are absolutely wrong and you know it. The law does not require you to get any family member to authorize a cremation. The man authorized the cremation himself. All you want to do is protect your butt from some type of liability when there is no liability. He hasnt seen his brother in thirty-five years and you want him to authorize a cremation?
I said, If that body is not cremated immediately, you will never do another AIDS funeral in this county. I said, Your company has been getting a lot of AIDS patients to be cremated and be buried, and youll not be doing it. This is outrageous. Needless to say, he was cremated immediately and we went on about our business.
But its that type of ridiculous confrontation, which was unnecessary. Just like the place down at the bar when they raided, unnecessary, didnt mean anything, just part of the totality of the harassment.
CW: So, when you established housing, what all did that entail to establish housing for
LK: It didnt entail anything. First of all, I didnt go to my board of directors, which was a big mistake, because eventually they got rid of me. (laughs) I just saw the situation and we had a tenant who said, Ill move in and take care of them. In fact, he went in and did this house over, and it was a home when these people moved in. It was wonderful.
So, we had food and fed them, and transportation for their doctors. And there is a woman in town by the name of Judy Stanco (?), who had an upholstery business, and had a huge garage in this house. And she moved her upholstery business, so that they would have something to do in that house.
RP: They were also receiving social security benefits, most of them, so there was funds to do some of that.
LK: It was an income, and there was effort made to go in fact, to give them somewhat of a normal life, which they had not had from anybody because of their attitude.
RP: Then you moved into a bigger
LK: Yeah, on, I think, on Twenty-eighth, and that is when the Board of Directors thought that Well, they said I over stepped myself, and my vision was too broad for them, and they wanted to narrow their focus down into one area, which I think was probably right, because out of that came other AIDS support groups that grew that took over different parts or different needs. But we were justMetro Charities had just said that we were the beginning of their organization.
RP: Well, Metro Charities, I formed that corporation way back yonder. And actually Metro Charities was a name we used at King of Peace as a fundraiser, because a lot of people didnt want to give money to the church, but they would give it to something that wasnt church, Metro Charities.
So, wed send out these invitations inviting people to cocktail parties, and various members of the church would sponsor these cocktail parties, and provide the refreshments and the hors doeuvres and so on. People paid twenty-five dollars, and theyd go, and wed collect a couple of thousand dollars from these things.
It was: The Sam and John, or whoever they were, and Metro Charities, no, and lets see, invite you to a cocktail party to benefit Metro Charities not to benefit King of Peace at such and such time. So, that had been going on for a couple of years, and I finally decided that we needed to incorporate, because then we might be able to get some grants from everything. Actually, I incorporated three corporations, kept them going for many years, Metro Charities, Metro Foundation, and Metro Community Foundation.
We had a pastor, associate pastor at the church that decided that we needed to be more involved in the AIDS problem. And we had our first fundraiser for Metro Charities, Inc. as a part of a program to become an AIDS support group, and to receive the benefits of the federal funding, and this was all, the church board of directors were the first board of directors of Metro Charities. And in order to become a support What do you call it when you?
RP: Its a 501. We had to have an audit for the church, because we were going to be receiving It wasnt white funds?
RP: It wasnt those. Anyway, in order to receive funds to assist individuals, to aid them as they progressed. We didnt have the money for five or seven thousand dollars, you know, to do an audit. Well, it just so happened that one of our friends in Tallahassee had a lover, who was a CPA, and he had had some dealings out in Colorado, which for the life of me I cant remember the details of.
But anyway he needed a lawyer, because it was criminal charge, pending against him out in Colorado. So, we also had a CPA in ourLarry Fischerin our church. He was treasurer of our church, but he couldnt do the audit, had to be somebody else. So we made an agreement. What was his name? Johnnys
LK: Johnny Williams.
RP: problem up in Colorado, I would handle. He would have to pay my expenses going back and forth. And he would do the audit with Larrys help for the church. And that is how we got our audit done. And that is how Metro Charities came into being. Most of us, I was on the board of King of Peace, at that time, most of us were all, in fact, I was on the board of Metro Charities most of the time. I think there were a couple of years that
LK: There was a clique at that age, in that period of our life that started the Gay Mens Chorus and started the gay hotline.
RP: Well, our church brought in the gay Mens Chorus from Miami over to the Tampa Theater, and from that the Gay Mens Chorus began in Pinellas county and Hillsborough County.
LK: And then there was the gay hotline, which ah
RP: Oh gosh, we were in the founding group of the gay hotline, which provided a telephone number for kids who wanted and having problems with their sexuality to call in. And we were very well trained. We had a psychologist and psychiatrist on our board. In fact, the psychologist is Kathleen Farrell, who is still very active, has her office at Metro Charities. And Kathleen has been involved in so many wonderful programs. In fact, she founded the counseling department at King of Peace when we were on 9th Avenue.
LK: And has assisted the transgendered community to come into their own, and is very active in that.
RP: We would be trained on how to handle telephone calls.
RP: Suicide calls, and calls of people who were just lonely, and wanted to spend time talking to somebody, and how to get them off the phone without being rude. So, it was really fascinating. And how not to make yourself available to see them one on one, that was a no-no. And hopefully that
CW: Did Metro Charities take over the housing or
RP: No, they didnt.
RP: No, they didnt.
LW: I think the housing closed eventually, because it loosened up, and there was other avenues for these people to go to. After I was dismissed, I think, that we turned one of the into an ALF and took people thatelderly people.
RP: So, where do we go from there?
CW: So, what otheryou said the Gay Mens Chorus, did you both, one of you found the Gay Mens Chorus? How did that come about?
RP: No, we did not. We did not found it. King of Peace invited the Gay Mens Chorus from Miami to come up and sing at a concert here in our area, in fact over in Tampa.
CW: And it got everyone interested.
RP: Yes, and it was a wonderful chorus. It was a funny story about that event, because one of the members of our church was the part person was helping doing all these arrangements. And we had invited him to utilize one of our apartments, which was vacant in the back.
We had two apartments in back. And they could when their lead team could come up and use the apartment as they were making arrangements for this thing. Well this, I dont know whether I should be telling this story of not.
LK: Its one of our funny stories.
RP: We had a dinner party. We had
LK: In fact, the guy that died in our house, Kevin.
RP: Yeah. We were all sitting around probably half under the bottle, or under the weather, or however you place it.
LK: We were more than half.
RP: And we had this big, big thing of costume jewelry and clothes and everything. Anyway, we were just having a great ole time trying on all thesedont go into all that.
LK: Well, that was story in itself, because he had a client that died. And the estate was going to Salvation Army. So, he sent me over there to make sure that if there was anything of any value, he wanted to know what they were getting. And I went through this womans apartment, and it was her house, and she was a costume jewelry collector.
And she literally had drawers and drawers and drawers of costume jewelry in the original boxes that she bought them in. And I went through all her clothes and everything. And I was a lot lighter than I am now, and I said to myself, I closed the door and I said, Well this stuffs going to the Salvation Army. I think I am going to try some of these clothes on before they go. And I never did drag before.
And I walked into our house with hats, and jewelry, and purses, and gloves and I forgot that there was a meeting in our house, and when I walked in the door everybody just howled. So, it was upstairs in a closet, and Kevin who is a, was a party person, said, Lets get that stuff down to the living room and lets get dressed. And we did forgetting that these
RP: And so, were all dressed
LK: in tiaras and jewelry
RP: And the doorbell rings, and its the two guys from Miami plus our guy from the church.
LK: who couldnt believe. He just stood there in a state of shock. Of course, they laughed.
RP: The two guys from Miami were just wonderful. They, in fact, I was at a MCC meeting down at Ft. Lauderdale at our church down there, cathedral, uh, Suncoast Cathedral. And the Gay Mens Chorus was performing, and I was way in the way of the back of the church, and those two guys saw me back there ,and as they took a little break during their program, they came and rushed around, and grabbed me by the neck.
They were just wonderful. But from that, we had a signup sheet at the time that the gay mens chorus was performing here, for people who would be interesting a gay mens chorus in our area, and that is how the Gay Mens Chorus of Tampa Bay came. And then the Gay Mens Chorus, and then we had Crescendo, which was the womens chorus. Now, that is still going.
The Gay Mens Chorus and Crescendo all then came under an umbrella called Tampa Bay Arts, and the director, executive director, of Tampa Bay Arts wanted to get some wider variety on the board. I wasnt involved in the Gay Mens Chorus or Crescendo, but I joined the board at the time and ultimately became president of Tampa Bay Arts. And we also did the film festival for many years, and duringCrescendo had problems and they withdrew.
We did have something else, another group. It eventually came to the point that the Friends of the Film Festival said, Were taking over the film festival. Now thats interesting, and its an interesting story about that, because we did not have the funds to fight them.
The Gay MensI mean, the Tampa Bay Arts. We were rapping at the skin of our teeth. They did succeed. We finally prepared, in fact I prepared, a contract transferring the right title and interest in the film festival to the Friends of the Film Festival and havent been since.
CW: So, what were the reasons? Why did the Friends of the Festival decide to take over?
RP: The Tampa Bay Arts had a director, executive director of the Film Festival, and she always thought it was simply a fundraiser for the Gay Mens Chorus or the Tampa Bay Arts, which it was. And she thought it should be a wider thing. So, she was kind of undermining her employer, I am sorry to say, and she got some people involved. They formed a corporation the Tampa Bay Arts, I mean, the Friends of the Festival.
LK: I think that happened a lot in the gay community.
RP: It was an ultimatum that we turn it over or theyre going to start one, and were going be left in the back, because we had no one to run it other than her. And she actually had left town, so she was doing this from the sidelines. So, it was not a very pleasant time. It was: Jim Harper, who was the St. Pete Times; he may be back with the Tampa Bay Times now. I think I saw his name on some material.
He was president of the Friends of the We had a long, long, long discussion about this over a long period of time. And we did it at high noon on the thirty-first of December of the year that I was still president. The next day I wasnt. But I mean, of course, the board had already approved, the board of Tampa Bay Arts. So, that was a big financial benefit to Tampa Bay Arts, which is no longer, and it soon faded and is no longer in existence. And the Tampa Bay Gay Mens Chorus had its problems and they are now known aswhat do they call it?
LK: I dont know, you chose Something like that. I dont know.
RP: You the Voice or something.
RP: We do shoot ourselves in the foot a lot, yeah.
LK: When was the first film fest here in Tampa? Â Or St. Pete?
RP: Actually, its in Tampa Bay. Its really the Tampa Theater is where it started and has remained. They still do have some film here in Pinellas County. They are going to be celebrating their 25th year this coming year I think, or this year. I dont know. I wish nothey seem to have done very well.
And her idea was probably that we can look at a much broader inclusion of people as an example, gets much more support from business, etcetera, not being a part of the Tampa Bay Gay Mens Chorus or Tampa Bay Arts. And they are probably right, but it was veryI didnt like the way it was done. And Jim knows that, up to the very time I signed. (laughed)
CW: Where did the Gay Mens Chorus perform?
RP: They performed several places. Mainly, a lot of times they performed at the Cuban Club in Ybor City. They performed at our church a number of times. But I think the small theater at Tampa Bay Arts, no
LK: Or at um
RP: The Chawhat do they call it? The
LK: The big
RP: what is the big theater over there?
LK: in Tampa.
RP: The big convention hall, I mean, conference hall.
LK: They had a small venue that they performed in that.
RP: Chaz, Staz.
RP: Theater. You know
CW: Oh wait, is it in downtown?
CW: Performing Arts Center. I dont know the official
RP: The Performing Arts Center. Okay. They have several venues there. The middle one, they did some. I dont think they ever did it in the big one.
CW: And you said they had their problems, what kind of problems?
RP: I wasnt a member. After they left the Tampa Bay Arts, I mean after I left the board of Tampa Bay Arts, I dont know what kind of problems they had.
CW: When did you leave the board?
RP: Id have to go back and check. It was probably in the nineties. I was on the board for five or six years. Our offices were down at the Suncoast resort, but the year I dont know what year it was. Whenever the Friends of the Film Festival started is the last year I was on the board. (laughs)
CW: Is that why you left the board?
RP: No, my term was up.
RP: I came to a few meetings after that, but I did not follow up. I was pretty hurt.
CW: How longhave you both always lived in St. Petersburg?
LK: Since Ive been here since 71.
RP: Ive been since 68 when I came to law school, but we lived in Clearwater for two years. Then we moved to Daytona. Or he moved to Daytona and I followed him. And I had been convention and sales director for the Chamber of Commerce, and I accepted a job with a TV station, which is currently now channel twenty-two, which is a religious station, wasnt going to be a religious station, but I accepted a job with channel 22 to be the program director. And at that time we had a wonderful newspaper The Clearwater Sun.
RP: And, of course, it was front-page newspaper with my picture and the picture of the employer that hired me as program director, you know, big deal for a little town. And then I resigned from the chamber, went to work for the television station, and that lasted two weeks, and they decided not to build.
LK: He was embarrassed. He was mortified.
RP: I was humiliated. You know, big deal gone (makes audible noise and laughs). So, I crawled over to Daytona Beach.
LK: Fortunately one of our friends, or one of his friends, knew of an opening that happening in a hotel over there, who suggested to the owner that he interview Bob. Is that how that worked?
RP: Yeah, the owner really wanted Charlie. I am wearing my finest clothes, you notice. (laughs) And I stayed with that hotel with two years as sales director, and then went to work with Daytona Plaza, which is the old granddaddy hotel in Daytona, and was there for a couple of years.
And they startedthe old man that owned the hotel, his niece and her husband, started taking charge of the property, and they brought in their New York ideas about what they ought be doing. And they slowly changed the staff. And they finally got around to me and terminated me one day. And I dont know why, but I said to them, And what will be my package leaving this property?
And they, thinking about what do you mean, so anyway, we sat there and I negotiated what I wanted, how many weeks severance pay, and this and that and the other. And I left. My dear friend, who had been the manager at the Voyager where I first started, had been general manager.
I persuaded the owners at hiring him as general manager at the plaza, and he was still there. And he fought for me to see to it that they honored their pledge to me that they would pay and that is why I went to law school for the second time. I had been in law school in 1957, 58, and was tired of education. Thats when I went in the army and became a special agent with the counterintelligence corp.
CW: So, you both served in the military?
RP: Yes, he was in the navy.
LK: I was in the navy for five years.
CW: What was that like?
RP: Wonderful. I mean, he had a wonderful experience in the navy. He sawhow many countries?
LK: By the time, I was twenty-one, I saw twenty-two countries.
RP: And was on a good ship lollipop that visited
LK: We were on a good will ship for the United States. I was on a good will ship. And it was a good will ship, because the captain of our ship was the friend of Arleigh Burke, who was the secretary of the Navy at the time. And not that they were friends, we just had a hot ship, that we won every award under the sun, because we were going to come out number one, because we liked who we were and what was happening.
So, we went around the Mediterranean creating good will, starting blood banks, stuff like. And we would have stars come aboard the ship when they were in town, like Jane Mansfield and people like that that
RP: She buoyed up the place, didnt she?
LK: Yeah. We were in Amsterdam, or Rotterdam at the time, and it was arranged that she was going to come aboard ship and it was low tide. She actually was an incredibly beautiful woman without any makeup whatsoever, and she had this huge blonde hair, and the only thing you saw is her coming down the gangplank with this huge bust and her hair. Thats all you saw. And, of course, the guys on the ship just loved all that.
RP: Â And you all also were going to do a thing in Monaco. I think thats an interesting story.
LK: In our good will we were We always knew our schedule. We would be out of the country nine months out of the year. And we were going to be in Naples. So, in Naples we decided that we were going We contacted an orphanage, which is what we usually did, and we were going to create Christmas for them, and so we bought half and half boys and girls. And then somewhere we were shifted to Monaco.
So, we called, his is name was Friar Tucker. He was Princess Rens chaplain. And he said that unfortunately that Princess Grace sponsored all the orphanages that he knew of in the thing, and that kind of threw us off, and then we got a call back saying that there was a girls orphanage on the Monaco-France line that she did not sponsor. And that threw us in a dither, because we had to come up with girl stuff.
And then we asked if she could possibly attend, and her secretary got on the phone, who was a Vassar graduate, just snob, and said that she was fully booked and that that was not possible. Well, we got a call from Ren saying that she had a forty-five minute costume change, fresh up change that morning, and that she would give that up, but we could not bring her aboard as a head of state.
It had to be very quiet. We would pick her up at the dock. And she arrived with her secretary and she had this huge mink coat on, but she was obviously pregnant with Albert, which was not out yet. And she came aboard our ship, and they took her down to the mess hall, and she saw these girls, and they did not know that she was coming, and they screamed, and they were all over her.
And she sat on the floor, and they were in her hair, and forty-five minutes went into like an hour and a half before she left. And it was an amazing, and what came out of that was that the people that were in charge of that, and especially the Pennsylvania, were invited to the castle for Christmas Eve mass with them. And we got, for several years later, got a package of stamps and a greeting card at Christmas from them.
CW: Oh wow.
LK: It was quite an experience.
CW: So, you had said that you had a relationship in the Navy? What was it like to serve in the military and be gay men?
RP: Well, he needs to tell you about his relationship.
LK: Our ship, being so that we would be gone for nine months out of the year, and sometimes we would be on sea for three weeks. Well you dont put three hundred men together without something going on. And same-sex activity happened and happened not with just, I mean, straight men.
They would have relationships when we were out to sea, and then go home to their wife and kids when we were in port. Which I look back was kind of, that culture was very strange. And our executive officer found a picture of one of our engine room people in drag in Norfolk, Virginia, and he really got upset. And it went around that ship that he called counter What do you call it? Counter
LK: CIA for them to come aboard our ship and clean our ship up.
RP: Criminal investigation.
LK: And another thing that really shook him was that picture was stolen out of his stateroom that he was going to use as evidence. So, we did not know counterintelligence came aboard, but there
RP: Criminal investigation.
LK: There was a little German guy, a good-looking guy, that every time I was on duty, he was. I was in radar, and the radar shack is on the top of the ship and sonar
RP: He was a part of the team to come in and clean up your ship.
LK: Well, I was going to get to that. Sonar was next to us. And every time I was on duty he was on duty. I dont care. I dont know how that worked, but he would come over and talk to me. We would go on liberty together and everything. And one time in Norfolk, Virginiaand we would have champagne in Europe, all that was very inexpensive.
And one time in Norfolk, Virginia, he had said, we were in a restaurant and he was ordering champagne, and I said, Why are you spending all this money in the states for champagne? Whats wrong with you? And he announced that he was in love with me. And you know, I had the sense that something was going on with me, but I didnt know what it was.
But I would get jealous when he went on leave with people and stuff like that. And it donned on me that that is exactly what was going on with me. And he was the criminal investigator, which had tohe was a very bright man and he had to resign. And he figured it out that why when he went aboard some ships that he could not discharge people, that he would reassign them. And he didnt understand that why he
RP: Well, some of the most horrible homophobes have been gay people themselves including legislators, congress persons, so and so forth.
LK: And he was the reason that because it did not end very nicely for me. I was an idealist, the reason that when I met him [referring to Bob] I was not about to go down that road again.
RP: I came to Stetson Law School
LK: Ill excuse myself a minute.
RP: In 1957, I graduated from Florida State. When I graduated from Florida State, I was a very, very dear friend of a guy from Norway, and as kids do, you know, during when theyre in college, you know, Come on home for the weekend. And he said, Well, come on home for the summer in Norway. So, we went to New York, and we waited in New York for about a month before we could get a Norwegian ship.
And we worked our way over across the Atlantic, then spent time We got to Antwerp and the plane, I mean, the train to Germany, where his sister lived, was in an hour. The plane, we were going to go to Paris, but that was in four hours. So, we decided to go to Germany.
Now his sister, who had been in Norway during the war, Second World War, she had met and fallen in love with a German officer while Norway was occupied by the German Army, which is a no-no. You dont go falling in love with the enemy. And she married him and moved to Germany during the war.
She got the real blunt, not only being completely cut off by her family, but they lived in a house, both sides of it were bombed out. They lived on the third floor walk-up. He was a lovely man and you could see why she would fall in love with him, very, very nice. They had a young son. We spent several days with them, and then we drove up to Norway in a Volkswagen, five of us, and spent time.
But while I was over there, I wrote my father, and I said, I think I might like to go to law school. Why dont you write Judge Sebring and see if he will let me in law school? Now, I dont know whether you know who Judge Sebring is, but in 1947 or 48 Judge Sebring was the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
And his house on Park Avenue and my house was on Magnolia Drive, with two lights in gear, and we were the poor folks, and he was on the rich side. Anyway, obviously we were neighbors. So, my father called him and said, Bobby is over in Europe right now, but he is getting ready to come back here and he wants to know if he can get into law school.
And Judge Sebring, Well, you just tell Bobby to come on down here and well put him in law school. Never taken the LSAT, didnt do a thing. Hank and I decided to come back, and we were going to catch a boat in Antwerp. We got there and the boat had already left. And we found out it had gone over to London. So, we got on the ferry to go to the white cliffs of Dover, where they refused us, said, You dont have enough money to come in here.
So, I spent my first night in an English pub, English jailhouse, had my first cup of English tea there, found out the boat had gone back. Theyd had engine trouble. Anyway, we did come back, and I did go to law school in 1957 to February of 58, just one semester.
Made my grades, but not great, just got tired of it. That is when I went in the army. And I volunteered to go into the counterintelligence corps and went to Fort Jackson for basic training, then went to Fort Holabird in Baltimore, Maryland, the pit hole of the world.
LK: He was investigated in the army a couple of times.
RP: I did go through CIC training, and became a special agent, and therefore, I was a spy. They sent me to Korea. Actually, I think I volunteered for Korea. So, I went to Korea and spent thirteen months there. While I was in Korea, one of my fellow men that was on our little, we had a small little compound, former Japanese headquarters in Taigo, and there were thirteen of us when I got there and within three months there were only four of us.
So, we had to do the job of thirteen with four of us. Anyway, but one of the guys that was still there had gotten a letter from one of his friends. I always suspected wondering whether Joe was gay or not. Well, his friend had said there was an investigation going on, and that they caught some man across the street from the white house in the park there. And because he was caught he gave up the name of somebody else.
And it was the somebody else that just spouted names all over the world including mine. And the comment, the reason I know that is because there were 283 people that were kicked out of the service. I was not kicked out of the service. One person committed suicide over this whole thing.
The guy had said to the investigative officer that there is somebody that was in the class at Fort Holabird who asked too many questions and I think hes gay. And the reason I know that is because I happened to have seen my dossier in Fort Holabird. I was reading it. It was stamped, you know, sex or something. And I read about that. That was the allegation.
I asked too many questions. And I was called in after I got back from Korea. Guess where they sent me? Back to Fort Holabird, my favorite place. And I transferred to with somebody who wanted to be at Fort Holabird. I got to go to Washington, D.C. and that is when they brought me in, and wanted me to take another polygraph, because I had taken one when I got to Fort Holabird.
Because when I was in university, Florida State University, the internI interned at a therapeutic center for emotionally disturbed boys at Dobbs Ferry, New York. Wonderful place. Had a great time. The intern and leader was the pastor of the little Protestant section up there, who probably I think had some own sexual problems. But he made some comments that I was too close to a couple of the boys.
And so, they wanted to investithey wanted me to take a polygraph about that, and I did and passed it. I dont know how, but I passed, because I really didnt know anything. I had never been to a gay bar, never been innot that I hadnt had sex with boys, but I never been to a gay bar or anything like that. Didnt even know what the word gay meant. First gay bar I ever went to was in Tokyo when I was stationed in Korea on leave.
LK: Even though I had gay sex, or I had sex with this guy in the navy, I was not aware of a gay culture. You know, you really think youre the only person.
RP: So, when I got back from Korea, they wanted me to take another polygraph, cause they werent satisfied with the results of the first polygraph. I said, Im not going to take another polygraph exam. I said, Just because you dont like his exam and the way he reported it, I am not going to be doing this every five years. I wanted to go into the diplomatic service. And I said, Everybody So, anyway I didnt. And they didnt bother me. I finished out my term. So
LK: We do have a friend at church whos retired Navy, and they put her through a couple times, but they had a method of putting a tack in their foot or something like that when they were being polygraphed, which would throw their whole thing off. I was fascinating by the fact that there were ways that they people found out how to beat that thing.
CW: Wow. So, your name was given in Virginia or Washington, D.C. and you were not even in Washington, D.C. at the time?
RP: I was not, I was not. He had been at Fort Holabird at the same time, obviously, I was. And they were just you know pounding names out at anybody he thought might be gay, anybody he suspected might be gay. Isnt that a terrible way to run a world? So
LK: That was the time.
RP: Yep. It was a time.
CW: So, when did um, when did being gay as sort of orientation or identity really start to take hold, I guess?
LK: Well, I think it was an identity when we met. It was not my identity, but there certainly was a culture that was happening. And I understand from people that are older than us that in New York there was not gay bars, but they would go to a bar where they would all meet, and they had their ownI think was more in your home. You did entertaining in your home, but just as fundraising was done in our home.
So, it was very small groups and groups that you became safe with. But the Hollywood was actually a gay bar that I wentI was invited to go over with a co-worker. I was never in a gay bar before that. Thats the weekend that I met him. And we were together for years and he accused me of not accepting my sexuality and who I was, because I was on the fence when I met him. I was dating women and I had a relationship in the Navy with a woman for two years.
RP: Isnt that disgusting? (laughs)
CW: So, you mentioned before you owned Kittys.
CW: And then
RP: We turned it into the We renamed it the Engine Room.
CW: The Engine Room.
RP: And then we purchased the Wedgewood.
LK: Which was a huge complex it was a gorgeous complex. It was Spanish, and it was a forty-room hotel with a huge restaurant that was two stories tall inside, palm trees, and all of that.
RP: It was a beautiful property and I got that for nothing down either.
LK: Well, that was the beginning of the end.
RP: It was a big large hole to which I threw money.
CW: Did you open any businesses after?
RP: Oh yes. Oh yes, I have.
LK: Oh, hes beennot me, not until a couple of years ago I started a business down in Saturday morning market. We had rental property.
RP: We had thirteen rental properties at one time. We only have one now. (unintelligible).
LK: But he was in the trailer business and the tree business.
RP: We opened a trailer business, manufacturing trailers, utility trailers, such as the ones that lawn people used and open trailers in 1995, just closed it two or three years ago because of the recession.
CW: So, what made you get out of the bar business?
RP: The friend that I said, that was the manager of the hotel over in Daytona, that I had promoted, and helped me get my severance so I could go to law school, had moved from there to Atlanta. He had been in some properties that had had some real problems. So, Lawrence insisted he come down
RP: and do a look over
LK: Let me tell this story.
RP: I tell it much better. (laughs)
LK: So, he came home one day and he said, he gave me a set of keys, and he said, Go down and look at this property. And I went through it. Its been closed for two years, and Kittys was doing extremely well, it was the first dance bar with lighted ceilings and lighted dance floors, and it was packed, and it made money. So, I go through this property.
I know we have nineteen thousand dollars in the bank. And I looked at it, and looked at the amount of work that had to be done, and I came home, and I said, Theres no way to do this. And he said, I bought it. And he got very angry with me and said, You never want to do anything I want to do. Well, when we opened the doors we went through that nineteen thousand and we were seventy thousand dollars in debt.
And from then on it was a hundred thousand dollars, and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, because it was a property that was closed for two years, equipment was constantly burning or breaking down, and all of that. I think when you asked a question about leaving the bar business, he was mucho in debt, and it took years and years and years to pay that debt off.
RP: We hadthe friend came down from Atlanta.
LK: I called ____(?).
RP: And went over the books, and sat in my office, and we were talking about, he said, I think you ought to close. I said, Well maybe, give me, you know, were only losing a three thousand dollars a week.
LK: I think you ought to close tonight. Tonight.
RP: I said, Im only losing three thousand dollars a week. Maybe it will turn around next week. He said, You ought to close tonight. Well, anyway, I was going out of town.
LK: Well, thats your story.
RP: Well, I toldI gave the keys to Lawrence. I went out of town and I said, Close tonight. Lock up all the liquor. Release the employees, which we did. At that time, we owed, I owed, about fifty-four thousand dollars in sales tax, eighty-something thousand dollars in 941 federal taxes, which are employee taxes.
LK: And, and
RP: And I owed all these suppliers and everybody, you know. The property was never transferred into my name, but it was all my name. So it, you know, wasnt a corporation that I could just close. So, I couldnt declare bankrupt, at least, I didnt think I would and I didnt want to do that anyway.
So, for the next several years I went down to the internal revenue department and advised them that I owed them eighty-three thousand dollars. They didnt know about that. And because of that I was able to make an agreement with them that I paid them. Well, I dont even know whether I had to pay them up front anything, but I had to pay them three hundred dollars a week.
And when Id go see the man he was always very, very kind, and I tip my hat to the internal revenue; they were very, very kind to me. And he wanted to hear all about my practice since my practice was mostly in criminal, mostly some kind of sex case or
LK: Pornography charge.
RP: Pornography charge, or this and that, and he always found that fascinating. So, the people that were the nastiest were the Florida Department of Revenue. And they came in and snatched Kittys license, which, of course, was our source of some of our income. I dont know where I got the ten thousand dollars to pay them a down payment, and get the license back, so I could continue to make money.
Finally, if a supplier were to come in and want to sue me and made too much noise, then I would deal with that supplier and get that out of the way. That is how I did it. Every one. And we finally over a period of time, we finally sold Kittys, paid off the balance of either the IRS lean or the sales tax. I think wed already paid the sales tax lean, and paid the balance of the IRS.
But I felt good that I had not, you know, cheated anybody, and not paid them full price at least, either that or negotiated settlement of all of them. That was good, but it was tough. We owed about a quarter of a million dollars when we closed. And thats the reason we got out of the bar business (laughs).
LK: Hes a very positive person, which is to a fault, because he just knows he is going to make it and he keeps going. And every cent that he made in the law practice he poured into that Wedgewood. But I watched second mortgages go on our house, and boats go, and
LK: Trailers. (laughs)
CW: You said you renamed Kittys, the Engine Room.
RP: Yes, he did.
LK: I was going to make it like an engine depot.
CW: Why the change? Just because, or
LK: Gay people need change. Gay people will goin fact, thats one of the reasons the problems with Wedgewood. It was: you need, your committed, you have bills to pay and all of a sudden another bar opens up. Well just leave en masse. Theyre not committed to any place. Its where the new ones are, and the new music, and the new DJs, and all of that.
That kills you. You cant do that, lose that for a couple weeks. And another mistake that was made was he should have moved the license from Kittys up there, up to the Wedgwood. The Wedgewood had He opened that with a two hundred seat restaurant license. So, you had to have dishes for two hundred people, food in the refrigerator for two hundred people, and all of that.
RP: Most of the food went out the back door instead of on the plates.
LK: Neither of us were in the hotel business or restaurant business before. We thought the manager, who came from the hotel would, but he brought in a chef from Daytona that just really cleaned us out.
RP: Well, he was more interested in chasing the boys around the butcher table than he was of making good, you know
LK: We understand there was a casting couch going on.
RP: Well anyway (laughs)
CW: Was it difficult to obtain licenses for, sort of, gay establishments?
RP: No, because, you know, we didnt say were going to be a gay establishment. We just want a liquorAnd my license at Kittys was very clean. I had never been arrested. I had never been, you know, charged with anything. No reason for them not to give me a license.
LK: I did have a problem when we bought the a
RP: Oh yeah, the ____(?)
LK: place over in Daytona.
RP: That was so funny.
LK: It takes thirty days for a license to come through. And when the finger printed me I did not know that one of fingerprints, or two of my fingerprints, were not there. And I had top-secret clearance in the Navy. So, they wondering what I did with my fingerprints and they start looking at my background.
And the only thing it could be is that when I went to Tallahassee, and worked for the Florida motor vehicle, and it was dealing with licenses and registrations. Thats the only thing I can figure that Id lost They want to know. I mean, they got messy with me. What kind of paint They asked me all kinds of questions, which wereI did nothing with them.
But the guy that we bought this business from, we had ninety feet on the boardwalk, and it was a Greek man, and he was sick, because the day we bought the bar up there in Daytona. ___(?) It was a new gay bar on the beach, and that was On weekends you could not move inside that place.
RP: And we had a problem with them at Daytona. I forgot about that one. We had this open bar, open front, you know, owned by the city incidentally. And we sold beer, and they would bring beer for We were one of the biggest beer drinker establishments.
LK: The first weekend, holiday weekend, we had with the Fourth of July, we had to depend on the bar owner to tell us how much beer to buy and it was a truck full of beer.
RP: Anyway, we had all those people out and you had to stay underneath the awning.
LK: Nobody allowed
RP: All these people are drinking beer and having a good time. Nothing going on, nothing illegal or immoral going on, and aboutI looked out and there was a cameraman with these big ole cameras from TV stations. In fact, it was a TV station camera but with police officers. And they were filming it.
Well, I turned green. And I went out there and wanted to know, What in the hell are you doing? Youre photographing my people and running them away from me. Get out ofblah, blah, blah. And I called the TV station. I wanted to know what the hell their people were doing out there. Youre hurting my business. I am going to sue you for [makes audible noise] you know, for interfering with business relationship and so on __(?).
Said, Were not doing anything. That was the police department borrowed our cameras and Needless to say I called the police department. You know, I guess I was like that way. I justand I said, You cant do that. Youre interfering with a business. Were a legitimate business. Blah, blah, blah. We have license Blah, blah. Well, they apologized. They never did it again. That was important because you know at that time gays didnt want their picture being taken and put on
LK: We were petrified.
RP: TV station or whatever.
LK: And these people were from Atlanta. They were coming in from all over the South. Daytona was a big weekend place, holiday place for gays, because they felt safe there. And there was a motel in back of us that this woman had built, this new motel, and she and her attorney helped her build it. And she furnished it with French furniture, and she knew right then that she wanted her hotel to be taken care of so she
LK: catered to the gay people from Atlanta and from all over the South.
RP: As a matter of fact, during that period of time when I lost my job, it was just before, I lost it in February, just before race week in Daytona.
LK: When he lost his job at the hotel.
RP: Yeah, and therefore Im home. I said, Well why dont we rent out, we had a five bedroom house over there with a pool, I said, Why dont we rent out some rooms? So, I dont know. I guess we didnt have anybody staying in the house.
LK: So, he called the motel for their over
RP: I said, you know, I also think I called the chamber.
LK: Oh, okay.
RP: Anyway, you know, Were available. Weve got four or five We rented every one of those rooms out.
LK: He rented every one of those rooms.
RP: And Lawrence and I slept under the dining room table.
LK: He called me and said what he did, and I came home, and there was two greyhound buses on our front lawn.
RP: (laughs) They needed a place to stay too.
LK: The drivers.
RP: It was a very, very good economic decision on my part, I want you to know. (laughs) And we also had decided that They had bought a basset hound. We had a gift shop in Daytona, right on Main Street. It was really a
LK: It was a high end gift shop.
RP: pretty elegant gift shop among all the horror gift shops that were on Main Street. And it was called LaRoeds. Larry, la, ro, Robert, and Ed, which was our partner at the beginning of the thing, LaRoeds. And it was very, very nice. And we had it It was a very beautiful bar.
LK: It was a gift shop.
RP: I mean, gift shop. And one of the gals that worked for, in fact, became one of our partners later, Patty Powers, she and her husband had had basset hounds up in Boston. No, not Boston
LK: We are getting into stories arent we?
LK: She had just divorced a man who was the editor of the Springfield paper in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the contention of their divorce was two basset hounds and it was a big fight. (laughs)
LK: Which I found out lately that a lot of divorces and dogs are
RP: The source of a problem. So, I walked into the gift shop one day and there was this, what I thought was a piece of ceramic, but it moved. It was a puppy. It was a basset hound.
LK: She bought me a basset hound puppy.
RP: Anyway, the reason I mention that is because when I registered Well, I guess I have to go back that to what I said. After I got fired, four doors down from our gift shop was a vacant thing, and I thought Id put a little shop in there.
LK: Where are you going?
RP: Just a second. (laughs) And the shop, I painted it black.
LK: You should tell her: The reason he opened this, he was going to bethe summer before law school.
RP: Yeah, this was __(?)
LK: And this was in the This was 68, and there was a lot of Navy jackets and hippie stuff. And we had in our gift shop, we had a woman that made clothes that we could not sell, I mean, we couldnt keep her clothes in the store. And it was taking up the whole back end of the store. So, this one says, Well why dont we open a store for the summer. So, that is where we are going with this.
RP: So, anyway I am painting away. We were getting it ready, and some people would come by and say, Ohh, boy, isnt this a nice What do they call it?
LK: Head shop.
RP: Head shop. I did not even know what a head shop was. (laughs)
LK: He says that.
RP: I hadnt, no. I had never seen or had marijuana at all, and Im in my mid-twenties.
LK: Hes too straight.
RP: Anyway, so wed put up, I guess, a head shop. I was even selling paraphernalia, you know.
LK: Oh, he was selling roach clips and
RP: Things like that. Anyway (laughs) and let my hair grown long. I know a couple of police officers came in that I knew from the
LK: Well the head of the chamber of commerce couldnt even believe that you
RP: from the hotel. And theyd walk in there and say, Pope, is that you? Yeah, man, come on in. Anyway.
LK: Well, that shop was so successful. So, was its bellbottoms and navy jackets that we could not, he could not, we couldnt by them fast enough. So, he put ahe had a cottage industry in the back room, sewing, making jackets and pants.
RP: Navy jackets. Isnt that strange? (laughs) So, anyway, the day I left for law school, well, Id come over to Gulfport and looked at law school, and found a house, which had a fence in it, cause I was going to bring that basset hound over, one that we could use as a stud.
LK: Well, so the basset hound that was in the store, and he did not want dogs, became he took it to work with him every day at the hotel. (laughs)
RP: Anyway, I came over to St. Petersburg, to Gulfport, and went to law school with my basset hounds.
LK: That was one years, one liter was a semester of his law school.
RP: That is how I was paying for law school.
RP: Then I went and took a Next year I went over Easter time with the dogs. Miss Moose got out underneath the vent by the pool in Daytona, and thats we had this big article about
LK: The AP wire picked it up that this student
RP: Law student loses tuition, four foot tuition.
LK: And that dog never came back, but that dog was a character, so whoever got that dog was not going to return that dog. It was probably a frat boy or
RP: Yeah, fraternity or sorority
LK: It went somewhere.
RP: And those basset hounds would sitI would go to class, right across from the classroom at Stetson, and I would leave the house and the dogs would be in the back yard. And Lord Burton would start baying, aaooohhh, aaooohhh, all morning long, and finally one of the professors would say, Pope, will you go something about your dogs? (laughs) So, it was funny. Now, how did I get
LK: I dontI tell ya, I dont know what her purpose is here, but were off in
RP: Never-never land.
CW: What was the name of the head shop that you
LK: Six pence shop.
RP: The six pence.
LK: It was very straight looking. It was English front and we had a
RP: Planter out there.
LK: Well, the London Symphony used to come to Daytona, and they one year invited us to decorate the auditorium.
RP: No, the lobby.
LK: The lobby. So, we had British flags and stuff like that. So, it was natural for us to open this place called the Six Pence shop. And
RP: I think they still come to Daytona.
LK: Yes, yes they do.
LK: And it was quite an affair, because we were in white Nehru outfits and bellbottoms, and it was swanky.
LK: And we did a good job.
RP: Well, lets go back to our gay business. (laughs) Where do we go?
LK: I dont know. Were out in never-never land? So, what are your questions?
RP: Well, lets talk about the church.
RP: Because thats been a very important part of our life. In 1984 I had been a member of the Methodist church ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, and was very active in the Methodist church. When I moved here I joined the First United Methodist downtown, thinking that was the same church my mother had been a member of, because my mother went to St. Pete High here.
They moved to St. Petersburg in 1912, her parents and she and her brother. And she went to St. Pete High, and she left here, and went to Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee and that is where she met my father, and they lived there. Anyway, so, one day I got a call from a somebody that I knew, Pat McCan (?), inviting me toI was an attorney in 84inviting me to come to speak to the Thursday night dinner at King of Peace MCC church.
And I had never been there. I remember the day that they had an open house and welcomed their new pastor. I remember driving by there, which was at that time on First Avenue South, a little yellow house. Thats what we call it the little yellow house. So, I told Lawrence we were going to go to the Thursday night dinner at King of Peace, and I was going to talk about criminal law, and how to keep from getting arrested.
Well thats And I gave a little talk. They were very, very receptive, and very cordial, and very nice. We really liked it, and we came back to services the next Sunday, and I havent been back to the Methodist church since. So, in fact, I think it was last year or the year before I sent a letter to the First United Methodist church asking for my name to be removed from their roles, because they were having their annual conference over in Tampa.
And they were again going to, and they did, prohibit gays and lesbians from being ordained. And Id also at the very, about the same time, Jimmy Creech had been here in St. Petersburg speaking to one of the Methodist churches ____(?), and I had just finished reading his book. He autographed one of his books; we had dinner with him, very nice man.
Are you familiar with Jimmy Creech? He was a Methodist minister who ordained, excuse me, who performed a same-sex marriage in his church. They brought charges against him. They had a trial; he was acquitted, and then he went to another church, and did the same thing.
They brought charges against him, and defrocked him, and successfully got him out. And I found that to be absolutely so un-Christian that I couldnt stand it. So, I asked my nameand I told them at the end of my letter, I told them that one of the reasons was because of the actions youve taken against Jim Creech was an abomination.
LK: Can I interrupt a minute?
LK: You need to write Bill Carpenters name down.
LK: He was the man that actually was responsible for meeting Jimmy Creech, but he was with Soulforce Soulforce was founded in 1998 by Mel White it is an American civil rights organization that supports acceptance LGBTQ people through creative forms of nonviolent direct action. Soulforce is inspired by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance as taught and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and hes a local man. Do you know Mel White? The name Mel White? Well, Mel White was a ghost writer for Billy Grahams book, for ah, whos the other people that
LK: The big evangelists that were
RP: Pat Robertson.
LK: Pat Robertson.
LK: Whoever the third one is.
RP: Third was in Liberty in Lynchburg, Virginia, ah, real homophobe, but he ghost wrote all their autobiographies. Now he was a pastor.
LK: I dont want to get off on that, but I had a sense that she should talk to Bill.
LK: Because Soulforce is a whole new thing now thats happened, and Bill was part of the board of directors of that.
RP: Still is.
LK: Still is. So, back to your story.
RP: Where was I?
LK: You were talking about Jimmy Creech and
RP: Anyway, and I got a letter from First United Methodist church in their big campaign to raise money for their capital campaign. And I wrote and I told them, I said, I asked you to remove my name from your roles and yet I am still receiving material from your church. And I So, the pastor finally wrote me back said, Yes, we had already removed your name from the roles. And I believe this was a very respectful letter to the pastor.
I wasnt trying to, ah, to be mean or nasty. I was telling them how they could condone the actions of Well, anyway. His letter was very, very kind back to me. I even invited him to King of Peace, said, We are an inclusive church. We believe in radical hospitality and radical inclusion.
So, come in and join us Sunday. He said, but the roles did notwhen they removed me from the roles, seemed did not get all the names and everything, and that is the reason I received, but I have been removed from those, and I wont receive any more material.
LK: Bob has been a cornerstone at King of Peace and has helped that church grow. And when we bought the new building he was vice moderator. And so he has been an integral part of this church. And at times I have not been very happy with it, but I have supported him in his dedication to it and his mission.
You said something earlier that asked a question, but we kind of went off track. In our relationship, so, we start out where we are. We start out with all this homophobia, but I think the biggest turn for us was getting married. WeIm sorry, I cant remember the dates. (laughs)
RP: August 27th if you really want to know.
LK: What year?
RP: Oh thatsdont ask me that. I gave you the date. (laughs)
LK: So, Phyllis Hudd, who was the pastor of
LK: thats a woman you ought to talk to, if you havent talk to.
LK: Phyllis Hudd, because shes an advocate. She had been on the courthouse stairs and everything else. She is now a chaplain at St. Josephs. She called us. We were very good friends. And she, at dinner one night, said they were going to Toronto to get married. And on the way home, I said, I think that they asked us to stand up for them. And Bob said, Oh no, I think they were just telling us.
So, I get on the phone, and I call her. She said, No, we would like you to come to Toronto to stand up for us. And we talked it over, and we said that was great, but I said, Why dont we get married when were up there? Because I asked him to get married when San Francisco was open, and by the time he said yes, they had closed that door.
Well, we had a week before we were going to leave, and I asked him to get married, and he said, Well, nobody proposed to me. And so, I had asked him to marry me, and for a week I didnt get an answer, but when all the jewelry stores are closed in town on Saturday and were leaving Monday morning, he said yes. And he tells me that the only thing he was waiting for was another offer. (laughs) It was so bad.
RP: Well, you know youve got to leave your options open. (laughs)
LK: So, we go to Toronto, and they already had their license and everything. And theywe thought about this too, and they presented, when we got there they said, Lets go have a drink. And they said, What do you think about a double ceremony? Well, that was right up my alley. So, we got a license. That was life changing for me to go to Toronto city hall and to fill a marriage license out.
And we were together longer than anybodys parents in that office, and the respect that you got, and the congratulations that you got was just amazing. And then we were married by the man that was responsible for pushing that law through parliament, Brent Hawkes. And he was It was the most exciting thing I think I experienced. I talked to him a year later. He said, I just love marrying same-sex people. That justthat kind of excitement came through in the ceremony.
RP: Well, he is the pastor of the MCC church in Toronto.
LK: In Toronto, and still is, a very powerful man. That was life-changing. I will say, and I was never marriage bound before, but it did something in our relationship. You know youre in it for the long haul, but that put a dimension in your relationship that is life-changing. Its very meaningful. Its very emotional for me.
RP: Well, we found King of Peace to be a very important part of our life. I was on the board there for eleven years; and I have been a lay-delegate all but two of the last years, or how-ever-many years, 84 to now, almost thirty years, which means that I represented the church in our district conferences, or regional conferences, or whatever theyre called, and our general conference. And ah
LK: We seem to be a mainstay in that church, which because of the length of our relationship, says they are possible and
RP: Now Lawrence sits there and talks about me being a He has started several programs there. One, his most recent program that he has started was one called, which ultimately came Food for Friends. Are you familiar with that? Nope.
CW: Ive heard the name.
RP: Food for Friends is a program where they have four, maybe more than that
LK: Four teams.
RP: Four teams and each of those teams will cook meals.
LK: Twenty-four entrees.
RP: Twenty-four entrees.
LK: And they have to cook two entrees.
RP: So they have forty-eight
RP: meals. Two separate meals, forty-eight total, and theyd have an entre, plus a vegetable, plus a starch. And they would be then frozen. And they would be provided to our, um, care team.
LK: Care team.
RP: Who goes out and visits people in their homes. And if a one spouse is ill and the other is a cook, or vice versa, they can be provided with meals. And also they prepare soups. So, you get four of the frozen dinners plus a soup. It will take you through for a week. And its more than just one person.
LK: Well send out two meals out, if its two people, they each get a package.
RP: Yep, so thats been a wonderful opportunity to share the good news through service, not through talking or begging for money. And he was involved in that. One year when we had a pastor by the name of John Gil, he had had some problems. He was a pastor in Houston for many years, ten years or so.
Theyd had small groups in Houston, and one of those groups seemed to try to undermine his position. So, he wasnt interested in small groups, and I am a big small group person. I think theyre great for a church, particularly a large church. So, he went on sabbatical for three or four months. So, I started another group while he was on sabbatical called
LK: Well, it has become the hot team, what they call the human outreach.
RP: Yeah, it was the homeless outreach first, and then we changed it to the Human Outreach, because we do more than just for the homeless.
LK: And thank God that program got publicity before he got back and he couldnt do anything about it.
RP: And it provided an opportunity for people in our church. We cook down at St. Vincent De Paul for years. We were the only church in the whole area that was allowed actually to go in and cook, using their facilities. We brought in the food. But now they got a new person there, and he doesnt want anyone in his kitchen, blah, blah, blah.
LK: So, theyre now cooking at Beacon House.
RP: At Beacon House. And theyve also done some very goodI just organized the thing. I was not the first facilitator, that was a woman by the name of Yolanda Givonniti (?), and she did a wonderful job. One of her first big projects was gathering sufficient funds, and gifts to buy packs for school kids, you know, shoulder packs.
And they gave them out to homeless. So, its been a really, a great opportunity. Weve had little gatherings here, sixty or eighty people, for the homeless. It was before we had all this furniture in here. (phone rings)
LK: I started a bookstore at King of Peace when it was on Ninth Avenue because there was noI believe that a lot of people can grow through good books. This was before Barnes and Nobles. So, this was a good project.
RP: So, yeah, and Ive been interested in the financing of the church. Im currently on the stewardship team and have been for five years now. Ive been treasurer of the church. Ive been vice moderator. I was on the team that unfortunately invited our first pastor that I was involved with to come to my office, where we told him he was going to submit his resignation, or he wasanyway, which he did fortunately.
We didnt have a confrontation. Not very happy about it, but, so, therefore when he was gone, I was chief executive of the building, which I really didnt do anything else other than what I did usually. We have a great staff.
LK: Were very fortunate were surrounded by a lot of people that are in long-term relationships, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, fifty years. Two women in our church just had their fifty-year, and who have quite a background, because they have a school up in somewhere
LK: Connecticut, where they didnt dare let people know who they were in a relationship, but they were very successful with the business that they did.
CW: So, what other organizations have you guys started or been involved with? I know we talked about Tampa Bay Arts, Gay Mens Chorus, just sort
RP: And the Hot Line.
RP: That was a big one in its day. The AIDS, SDIA, and Metro Charities, what else wed been doing, Lawrence, other than sitting on our butt? (laughs)
LK: I think were part of other activities that go on, but not in leadership of them or
RP: Yeah, we were very active with Tampa Bay Business Guild, but not in leadership or anything. I just used to attend.
CW: As business owners?
RP: As myself as a lawyer, yeah.
LK: You know, as we get older We used to have a huge New Year s Day party, and as you get older it takes You dont have the stamina that you used to have. So
RP: Well, lets tell her about that, because I think thats an interesting. We wanted to thank such organizations as the Gay Mens Chorus, and our So we started having this I remember it started actually when we had the Wedgewood and we invited people to the house, Come on to the house, you know, after the bar closed.
LK: It was for boards of directors and for the people that did gratuitous work, gratuity.
RP: So, then we started preparing a meal. And wed have a typically New Years day meal, which included black eyed peas and hog jowl, sour
LK: Sauerkraut, pork, and sauerkraut.
RP: Sauerkraut and pork. Turnip greens
LK: Collared greens.
RP: collared greens. Theyre just wonderful, just fabulous.
RP: Mashed rutabaga, its the best youve ever put in your mouth. And what else?
LK: A pumpkin crisp
RP: Wed have pumpkin crisp
LK: which was our dessert, and two open bars.
RP: And wed set it up in our backyard. We lived over on Seventeenth Avenue. Our house was on one lot and we had a not-lot next to it that was vacant.
LK: So, we would put a tent up on that lot.
RP: Put a twenty-by-forty tent up, and plus a hundred tables and chairs, or a hundred chairs and tables, and then we would start at noon. Wed serve at one oclock. Wed serve a full meal. I mean
LK: And that went on for hours.
RP: Two or three, four hundred of our closest, personal friends.
LK: Well, it started out with just board of directors, and before you know it, then he gets the idea that we should invite the church membership.
RP: So, we would stand up in church and invite everybody to the, you know
LK: And then it became so many people that one year I saidyou know, you go out and say hello, you dont know these people, a lot of these people out there. And I said, Well Im going to go through this invitation list next year, and unfortunately eliminated people that should have been invited.
RP: We would have them sign in as they came in.
LK: As we got older it would take us a week to recuperate from that because it would take a week of cooking. We did all the cooking. We had teams. I mean, people would call up and say, Well, when are we going to start? And one person just came and stripped the orange tree and juiced all the oranges cause we would have mimosas.
RP: No, not mimosas. Orange-juice and vodka.
RP: Whatever that is.
LK: And one person just peeled all the rutabagas.
RP: Yeah, oh no, not just one person. That was not a one-person job, that was everybody. We used at Ninth Avenue, we used to use that
LK: They had a commercial kitchen, that church.
RP: We would use the kitchen there, but I remember one time, one year we had an old stove in our kitchen, and one of the burners was out. And they said theyre not going to do the Lawrence and Judy said theyre not going to do this dinner unless we get a new stove. Well, Im not going to buy a new stove. Im just not going to do it, no, no, no, no. It was enough problems just to pay for the whole damn thing. Well, we got that thing fixed and it worked.
LK: I thought I was going to get a new stove out of it.
RP: Thats about the time that I decided to redo the entire kitchen, and that was a
LK: And the new kitchen design was based on this party. I mean, we had built-in counters where steam tables went in, and counters for restaurant tables, and
RP: It was a great thing, but wed have We probably made a lot of people mad, because they didnt get invitations, but you know; I remember one guy called me one day and said, I didnt get my invitation. Well, thats right you didnt, because you werent going to get one, but he said, Can I come? What do you say? So, all right, you can come. Well, he brought he and his eight friends. Thats whats the problem.
LK: People would have house guests and
RP: I mean, we always had plenty of food and everything, but it just And it was a wonderful time, because we had lots of factions. King of Peace had a little split when we were on Ninth Avenue. In fact, Cornerstone church, which is out just north of Pinellas Park, Joyce Stone is the pastor there, but they broke away from King of Peace, but they were all, all those folks were invited.
But there was no hostilities, there were no animosities. Everybody loved each other while they were at our parties and it got better as they drank. Anyway And they did drink. But we had wonderful New Orleanss bloody Marys, and it was a nice day, and nice way for us to say thank you for people who had been kind of us during our lifetime, and had been generous in their service to our area. But we finally had to say, Hey
LK: Well, we were getting ready to retire and that was an expense, and also recuperating was just
RP: The expense I didnt care about Well, I did care about it, but it was really the recuperation was just taking too much time. What else did we do?
LK: This is hershe is supposed to be interviewing us? (laughs)
CW: No, its fine.
LK: Weve had a good life.
LK: And weve hadwe didnt realize that we had been more open So we sold our house downtown, and we moved to town shores over in Gulfport, and the lady that sold us our apartment said, Oh, you need to meet these two guys, which lived two doors down, three doors down from us?
RP: Four doors, yeah.
LK: And we met them. And so, they werent even out in the nineties?
RP: Thats right. No, we moved in, in 2000.
LK: They called themselves cousins. So, there still is within our community depending on age, people that what they had to go through with job wise and everything, that are petrified on people knowing who they are.
RP: Its interesting after How many years? Thirty-seven years, they were together, they broke up. And theyre both very, very anti-religious, but one of them comes to church every Sunday.
RP: Looking for fellowship, and thats fine. Were delighted
LK: And hes even started going to communion.
RP: His health has had some real problems, probably had a stroke.
LK: King of Peace has not been a draw in the gay community for people of religion. It has been a draw for people that think that maybe they can find somebody, community, or maybe they will meet somebody that they can have a relationship or something like that.
RP: But we are very excited about the fact that now were having, that church is busy every single night of the week with spiritual What do they call them?
LK: Development classes.
RP: Development classes, and not necessary just on the bible, you know, one-on-one, but on how to crochet or how to paint, or how to
RP: Things that give people skills that they can use. We have a newWhat do they call it?
LK: Silver light, I think. Its for people over fifty.
RP: And that has just started growing. They meet in the morning every Wednesday.
LK: We had like fifteen-hundred people went through classes last year.
RP: No, no, last year, three thousand people went through classes.
LK: I was there two weeks ago on a Thursday night, I could not find parking within our parking lot. I co And thats Sunday problem, and this was a Thursday night. I was just amazed.
RP: He needs to learn how to paint.
LK: There was just so much going on Well, its going to be yellow. Ive decided that its okay to paint furniture instead of going out and buying furniture. If it works and I dont like the color, Im Thats the color that its going to be right there. Thats a big thing for me as I get older, because thats a nice French table that I painted there, that Im not about to go out and buy something new.
CW: That makes sense.
LK: Be creative, and lately I like color.
CW: Okay, well, it seems like a good place to conclude for today. Thank you guys so much.
LK: Youre welcome.
RP: Well Im sorry we got off on tangents, but we have a habit of doing that.
CW: No! Its good.
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