Lee: Too noisy here?
Karl: No, no, it’s perfect.
*interlude to discuss pros and cons of various voice-recording iPhone apps*
Lee: Go ahead…
Karl: Oh.. okay, so what’s today? The 30th… It’s April 30th, 2010 and we’re… what is the name of this place anyway? *walks to front of restaurant to look at sign* Marco’s.
Lee: Yeah, we’ve eaten here a couple times. They’ve shut down that side of it since then. *points at abandoned building across Havenhurst Dr.*
Karl: So we’re at Marco’s in West Hollywood with “Lee.” Lee, what would say your occupation is?
Lee: Broadcast Engineer.
Karl: Current relationship status?
Lee: About 30-years with same partner, Dave, around 1981, whenever that happened, whatever that computes to be.
Karl: How long have you lived here in West Hollywood?
Lee: About 5-years… Actually, I worked here 2-years, actually we were looking for a house down here, and I rented for about a year while we were looking for a house, I think I ended up taking 2-years, and at the time I was on my second retirement working for Vulcan, up on Beverly Crest.
Karl: Did they move you here?
Lee: No, they didn’t.
Karl: Where did you come from?
Karl: And why West Hollywood? Because the work brought you here?
Lee: No, because of the, uh… environment.
Karl: It’s a nice place to live, although I’ve heard Seattle is nice too.
Lee: Seattle’s really nice if you don’t mind 9-months of overcast. There’s a high suicide-rate there. It’s very depressing if you’re interested in being outside. But Seattle’s been very good to me, I worked with a lot of cool people, I made a lot of money, and it’s a place you’d want to work because you can’t do much else.
Karl: I went to school in Rochester, New York, so I know the whole overcast thing well.
Lee: *laughs* Same thing.
Karl: Well, tell me a little about yourself, unrelated to work, what do you do in your free time, what do you and Dave like to do together?
Lee: Currently, we’re on a cruise-mania. We always thought cruises would be confining, and we never really tried that, we always took a lot of land-trips, and now we have discovered cruises and our good friend, Eric, who lives around the corner from us, does good cruises. He put us on some of the best cruises, we started out with a company called, Crystal Lines, here in LA and it’s pretty neat. It’s nice to only have to pack once, and so we’ve been on about three of those. We have one scheduled, going down the Rhine River through Europe, and after that next year, we have one scheduled to go through South America.
Karl: Oh my God.
Lee: Yeah. Ca-ching, ca-ching. *laughs*
Karl: I actually have never been on a cruise. I hear they’re awesome.
Lee: We were really skeptical. The first Crystal cruise we went on, we sat down at a table of eight, (Dave can tell this better than I can), so we didn’t know who we were eating with, and there’s some pretty crazy people we’re eating with, there’s this wild, crazy lady, oh God, where was she from? Anyway, another who used to be… he used to work for the President, you know, security for the President, and we thought he was just totally out-to-lunch. The guy was so politically inclined, we didn’t like the whole thing. But we ended up cruising with him the last two or three cruises.
Karl: *laughs* So you hit it off.
Lee: Yeah, we did hit it off, in the end. It’s interesting. Dave pretty much does his thing, and I do my thing. I dink around in my junk room, and he shops. *laughs* That’s what we do in our spare time.
Karl: There’s supposed to be a nice one that goes up to Alaska.
Lee: We did that one.
Lee: Not only the cruise, but also the land version. We helicoptered into a lodge, inaccessible by land, and they helicoptered us up to go river-rafting.
Karl: Yeah, we’ll get there one of these days. Maybe in 20-years or so. I have a friend up there and I keep saying I’m going to go visit him.
So what do you do when you’re here?
Lee: Well, I do a little bit of play with programming, and electronics, gadgets, whatever. Good question… We don’t know what we do with our time, but it goes fast. All of a sudden, I get up, make breakfast, that used to happen at 6:00, and be over by 7:00 or 8:00, now it’s creeped up to maybe ending at 9:00.
*Lee’s phone erupts into the “Sex in the City” theme song*
Karl: It’s okay, you can take that.
Lee: I don’t know who that is.
Karl: So you’ve been here 7-years then.
Lee: No, I think we bought the place in 2004 but we didn’t move into it until 2005, so its been 6-years.
Karl: Well, what changes have you seen around the area? You can interpret that question however you’d like.
Lee: Actually, I’d have to go back. I had a very good friend here, that worked for Laser Pacific. He did a remote up in Seattle one day at the University of Washington and we’ve been good friends ever since, so it’s been about 40-years. And I would come down from Seattle and visit him and I thought, “God, this would be a great place to live!” You know, it’s like, *looks around* whoa! *laughs* You don’t get that in Seattle. You don’t get this kind of… what would you want to call it?
Lee: Atmosphere… or it’s, not that gay… openly. It’s like our own little gay community, it was probably a higher percentage then. I don’t think West Hollywood even existed then.
Karl: It was probably LA then.
Lee: Yeah, West LA or something. But it was really cool. *pauses for sirens driving by* It was really cool to be able to go out and join a group of “girls,” if I use the word loosely, for brunch or something. And Randy is also gay, he was a Chief Engineer for Laser, he’s done well there, he’s turned the company around there a couple of times, respectably. The reason we got to be good friends is I’d stay at his house up in Arrowhead, and eventually I said, “Someday we want to move down here.” After retiring, we did. Dave didn’t understand it. He was a Manufacturer’s Rep. for the gift industry and had his own showroom in Seattle, and his experience down here was not as cool as mine. He thought LA’s just a big, ugly city, not much going on. But after I came down here and started working, and he started visiting, he thought, “Oh, this is cool.”
Karl: Well, since you got here, what changes have you seen, if any?
Lee: I don’t think it’s really changed that much. You know back in the old days, I’d always say this, but you probably hadn’t even thought about it, but bars were gay, or not. And everything is becoming so mixed now, it just doesn’t matter. There’s not… well this probably is a more gay area than anywhere else, but I think it’s becoming more gentrified, or whatever you want to call it. The mix… it doesn’t matter, you know. Maybe gays are becoming more open because they don’t have to be so in the closet.
Karl: Is that a good thing? A positive change?
Lee: Yeah, I think so. Do you?
Karl: *laughs* Yes, I do, of course I do. But some people don’t. They think West Hollywood is being invaded, you know, “the decline of gayborhoods,” and whatnot.
Lee: *laughs* You know, I haven’t always been… I was married to a lady for a couple of years.
Lee: In Seattle.
Karl: Has she been down?
Lee: No, she hasn’t been down, we’re still very good friends. She has a lot of gay friends also, but she’s straight. She thought she’d have the best of both worlds. But it didn’t quite work out, but we’re still very good friends. She got impregnated and has a kid now, he’s grown up. She sent me a really nice card for my birthday yesterday. So it’s all cool. *chuckles*
Karl: What do you mean by, “She wanted the best of both worlds?”
Lee: Well, I guess…
Karl: Did you marry her when you were out already?
Lee: Oh, God, yes, absolutely.
Karl: I see. So it wasn’t like, in question or anything? I mean, why get married?
Lee: *Grumbles* She wanted to have a kid I guess, that’s the natural instinct.
Karl: Interesting. Did she approach you as a gay man, or you met that way and she’s like, “Hey, Lee, why don’t we get married and have a kid?”
Lee: Well, we had a lot of mutual friends and… yeah, we just got married. Just crazy, ran off to Idaho and got married. Drove over with my partner, well, not partner, my boyfriend at the time, or whatever you want to call him. He wasn’t really a boyfriend, he was a best man.
Karl: With the intent of having a kid someday.
Lee: Well, she did. I wasn’t ready for that immediately. It was a little bit of a conflict but not really.
Karl: Well, it’s a big thing. Kind of messes your life up a bit. *laughs*
Lee: Yeah, it’s like having a dog. *smirk* She came to the door once, and said, “By the way, want to meet my son?” And I almost fainted. She hadn’t told me. *laughs*
Karl: How many years were you with her?
Lee: Two. But we were good friends for maybe two or three years before that. And we’re still good friends. She’d love to come down here. She has a crazy guy she used to run around with down here somewhere, you know, he’s probably like me, crippled almost.
Karl: Was the marriage substance-influenced?
Lee: What do you mean by that?
Karl: I don’t know, were you guys, like, out one night partying and decided…
Lee: Oh no, it was premeditated. We were totally sober. We drove from Seattle to Idaho, we would’ve sobered up. *laughs*
Karl: What’s changed around your immediate area, your street, your building?
Lee: I think it’s pretty much been the same. It’s been an education for me, I never wanted to move into a condominium, I’ve always had a home.
*Karl’s food arrives*
Karl: Lee, are you sure you don’t want anything?
Lee: No, I’m fine. Actually, Dave is getting Meals on Wheels.
Karl: Oh wow, how’s that going?
Lee: It’s expensive.
Karl: Yeah, that’s what everyone says.
Lee: When this is over, I’m not going to continue it, its running about $1,000 a month.
Karl: Jesus, that is expensive.
Lee: Yes, it is expensive. But the food is to die for. I’m not that much into eating, I can eat anything.
Karl: How long has this been going on for?
Lee: 6-months maybe.
Karl: Wow. Well, what has 6-grand got you? Have you lost a lot?
Lee: 6-grand on?
Karl: It’s been 6-months, at $1,000 a month…
Lee: Oh, the food? No, we don’t have to worry about that, I mean, when I was working in Seattle, the Comptroller at K Smith gave me financial advice, and he has continued to actually… I’ve done well. Just for a cheap engineer.
*”Sex in the City” again*
Oh no… *Lee clicks “decline” on iPhone*
Karl: Decline? Ouch! *laughs*
Lee: I provide tech-support, and a signal to him.
Karl: You know there’s a… *talks while chewing* What’s her name… the mom from the “Brady Bunch…” Florence Henderson… provides a service, it’s like $20-a-month, it’s for seniors who have, like, no idea what’s going on with computers and stuff… The Floh Club or something.
Lee: Actually, the Tech Room works too, down by the 24-Hour Fitness, on Santa Monica. He *points at phone* got into trouble and I didn’t want to deal with it, I said to take the computer down to the Tech Room. They wiped it out, and lost everything in it, but anyway, whatever. He lets me put a satellite dish up on his deck, that was the exchange, and I provide a signal, and tech support.
Karl: Fair trade I guess.
Lee: Well, I don’t use satellite anymore.
Karl: Do you guys go out anymore? Much?
Lee: Oh yeah. We used to go out a lot more but now since we’re having such good food at home, we’re not having to cook anymore, and it’s in a quiet environment, and you have control of everything that’s going on. But, you know, we went to the Abbey yesterday for my birthday and got totally smashed on martinis.
Karl: Are you hung over?
Karl: That’s probably the most popular bar in West Hollywood I would think.
Lee: “In the world,” according to their literature. It was voted the most popular gay bar in the world.
Karl: Have the places that you’ve gone out to changed much since you got here?
Lee: Actually, Basix is so close. And Hamburger Mary’s has great little baby-burgers by the way.
Karl: I agree.
Lee: You know, not much has changed really. We’re not really into the social scene, I mean at 71, you’re not too sociable. I mean it’s not our group, but it’s okay.
Karl: Yeah, that makes sense. I think a lot of people would prefer to do the cruises than have to deal with the bar scene here… And sometimes it ends up costing about the same at the end of the night, right? *laughs*
So, describe the community here, in West Hollywood.
Lee: It’s very positive. I mean, I love it because I can walk to my doctor, any number of bars, motels, restaurants, everyone’s very friendly. It’s almost like a small community. And a lot of eye-candy.
Karl: There are really attractive people here.
Lee: Yes. Of course the weather is to die for.
Karl: In the time that you’ve been here, has the place evolved for the better or for the worst, or not at all?
Lee: I think it’s pretty level. I haven’t noticed that much change really. Places come, places go, businesses come and go.
Karl: Do you think we’ve been effected by the economy?
Lee: I don’t think as much as the rest of the country.
Karl: What would you like to see more of in this city? Or less of?
Lee: No change. Well, I take that back… as I sit here, it would be nice if this street *points at Santa Monica Blvd.* were divided like it is further on down Santa Monica. Its a little less noisy, a little more people-oriented, but that’s not going to happen.
Karl: Are you happy here?
Lee: Hell yeah. *laughs*
Karl: Wouldn’t change a thing?
Lee: Wouldn’t change a thing.
Karl: That’s important. A lot of people can’t say that about where they live.
Lee: I’ve had really good luck I guess. Life has been good.