Welcome back to the great state of New Jersey! Home of Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, water taffy and Asbury Park, THE gay destination along the Jersey Shore. Snooki and The Situation will not be doing shots on the beach next to you though. Its up to you whether that is good news or bad.

RHONJ can hit or miss for me, but it has been hella entertaining the past few years. New housewives Margaret, Jackie and Jennifer are all great additions to the cast, albeit for different reasons. The standard housewife test for me is – “would I be friends with them?” That’s also my go-to question for celebrities as well, with stars like Jennifer Garner and Kristen Bell topping my list. Yes I gravitate toward the basic girls. Lol.  In Jersey, it should come as no surprise how much I love Jackie, Melissa and Margaret. It should also come as no surprise my disdain and dislike of Teresa and Jennifer. Dolores falls somewhere in between. 

I try to go into each season or episode with an open mind, giving people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they changed, maybe they are not as rude, vindictive and hypocritical as I had previously thought. I was pleasantly surprised with Jennifer. She came across almost likable. Maybe that was due to her minimal screen time. Teresa is another story.

Let’s dig in. The episode was titled, “C U Next Tuesday.” A better title could have been – 

HOW FAR DO WE LET A WOMAN LIKE TERESA GO? Jackie says this to Margaret, as always, hitting the nail on the head. Jackie from day one has been one of my favorite housewives. I think she handles herself well, she is well spoken, her husband is HOT, and her kids seem nice. She has not been scared or backed away from a fight with Teresa Guidice. I was with Jackie the entire episode, word for word, but at the very end she crossed the line for me. More on that later.

The episode opens up with Jackie and Teresa screaming and cursing at each other. These ladies came in hot from moment one. Rumors of Jackie’s husband, Evan, cheating on her are circulating around town. I wonder who could have started such a rumor? Rewind back to three days before, a storytelling device that Bravo uses quite often. Hey, if it aint broke dont fix it. I’m hooked. This episode was more entertaining than the entire season of Orange County. 

We are reintroduced to each Housewife. Margaret has almost an entirely new face to go with her new boobs. Dolores got an ass lift, and a boatload of other procedures we learn later on as she is talking to her surgeon boyfriend David. Melissa tells Joe about all the surgeries the ladies have been having, he wastes zero time, and brings up his penis. Again. Yawn. Teresa, facetiming with one of her daughters explains her grief over the loss of her father.  Jackie tells us how during the Covid Pandemic she appreciates her family even more, especially her husband who has never had a birthday party. 

Cue the first contract mandated get together of all the ladies. The tension between Jennifer and both Melissa and host Jackie has apparently not gone away. Jennifer barely got an invite and can thank Coronavirus for warming Jackie’s heart. The party begins and the ladies show up one by one, with “Tre” being the last to arrive. Will she bring a date, they wonder? She does bring a plus one but it’s not a man, but one of her best friends.

It’s no secret I do not care for Teresa Guidice. I don’t think she is a nice person. I think she treats people, too many to name here, horribly. Do I want her to be happy? Of course. Do I think Andy Cohen should have never hired her back after her release from prison, especially after her and her ex-husband partially blamed being on the tv show for their crimes. HELL NO. And true to form, within minutes of walking into the party – Teresa shows her true colors. A leopard never changes its spots.

Teresa pulls each housewife aside to tell them the rumors she has heard of Jackie’s husband Evan cheating on her “at the gym.”  As always when someone is lying, she has no evidence, she forgot who told her, blah blah blah. To give each housewife credit, every one of them tried to shut Teresa down, telling her this is not the time or the place for this. Even her lapdog Jennifer who bowed at her feet last season says in her confessional it went in one ear and out the other. The fact that Teresa chose Evan’s birthday party to throw him under the bus, to stab him in the back, and try to take him down tells you everything you need to know about her. Even her own brother said “Teresa holds grudges.” Teresa hates Jackie and this – make no mistake – is payback.

Before the final confrontation teased at the start of the episode, we get treated to scenes of Jennifer with her entire family – minus her mother. Her parents, without the buffer of a child, are at each other’s throats during quarantine. Jennifer moved her father into her house and now Mom is on the outs. Props to Jennifer for recognizing that she is very much like her mother who she described seconds earlier as “critical and judgmental.”  We also get a few minutes of Dolores with David, a relationship so confusing to me I won’t even try to discuss it.

Jackie and Teresa meet on neutral ground – Margaret’s house – and Jackie talking to Margaret about the hurt Teresa has caused her and Evan is hard to watch. Jackie then lays it out in no uncertain terms – how much more damage is Teresa going to get to inflict before Bravo says enough? She pushed Cohen out of the way at a reunion, she gave Danielle Staub her marching orders to pull Margarets hair. What will it take for Bravo to finally fire her?

As the fight begins Jackie tells Teresa in no uncertain terms that she needs to say this is a lie and end what she started. Teresa says she’s sorry, Jackie does not care or want an apology. Teresa, never the best public speaker, is falling all over herself saying meaningless things like “I don’t want you to be upset,” or “I didn’t ask for evidence.” Teresa slips up when she tells Jackie, “you don’t call the shots.” There you have it. Teresa, the self-appointed queen of the franchise, knows she has met her match. Jackie, after giving Teresa numerous times to make things right, has had it. 

Jackie tells Teresa she heard a rumor about Gia. BOOM! 

I think housewives’ children are off limits and Jackie crossed a line. I also think housewives’ husbands are off limits as well. Do I feel bad at all for Teresa? Not one bit. Do I feel bad for Gia? Yes. Awful. But Teresa, for years has played dirty and then went postal if the tables were turned on her. We reap what we sow.

Cannot wait to see how this plays out. Until next time…



New York City’s queer community is both strong and intersectional. In fact, it is strong because it is intersectional. And in 10 months, NYC will be choosing a new mayor. One that must prioritize the well-being of all New Yorkers while balancing covid-related urgencies, but even more importantly, one that will prioritize the needs of the queer community who have been disproportionaly marginalized in impact and forgotten in governmental solutions. 

Growing up, I never truly understood what it meant to be gay. At the time, my understanding of sexuality was in the most basic premises — one where I felt a sexual and emotional desire for another that was our own sex — and as time continued and I grew up, it became more of a grappling with where we fit into the origins of a society that circulated around heterosexual ideals. I became acutely aware that being a part of this community was more than just an identity. It meant realizing that we would have to fight for our civil rights, to unify the heterogenous silos within a homogenous labeled group, and most importantly – to carry on the work of our predecessors who valiantly fought for us to be where we are today. Amanda Gorman’s sentiment in The Hills We Climb so eloquently described the work that remains to be done, even in 2021. 

Around 9 months ago, I received a LinkedIn message from a man named Art Chang. He asked me if I was interested in politics, and I unbeknowingly responded “yes, I studied policy in graduate school and my current job is in business integrity policy.” He quickly followed up with a Zoom meeting request to gauge my thoughts on something. Still unaware of who this man was (other than a synopsis from his LinkedIn), an invitation to chat would quickly turn into the planting of seeds for his NYC Mayoral campaign. Shortly after, we would grow the campaign from 2 individuals to a team of 50+ growing staff and volunteers. 

Raised in Jim Crow Atlanta by Korean immigrants, Art Chang knows the detrimental and debilitating effects of marginalization on mental and emotional wellness. He experienced racism in his school and community and domestic violence at home, and eventually became the second man at Yale to graduate with a degree in Women’s Studies—he knows the harmful nature of the gender binary and approaches complex issues from an intersectional lens. 

And in order to right these wrongs, we need a mayor that will prioritize our community and fight for us. Art doesn’t claim to have all the answers—and that’s a good thing. He will listen to the experiences of those primarily affected by policies on LGBTQIA+ issues, and defer to the experts to advocate for and implement changes that will truly help our city’s queer communities. 

The hills that our ancestors have climbed paved the path for a new generation of activists who must continue the ever-growing nature of equity and human rights for the LGBTQIA+ community. I hope you join us and feel inspired to fight for a NYC that is safer and more equitable for all.

Pete Zheng is currently serving as Director of Policy for Art Chang for NYC Mayor. He can be reached at p.zheng@columbia.edu.

My Top 11 Favorite “Lip Syncs for your Life”

2020 has been a difficult year, and it’s safe to say we’re all seeking some positivity and things to be happy about in the new year, and I think 2021 will deliver. The first gift 2021 will bring us is a brand new season of Rupaul’s Drag Race. Starting this Friday, New Years Day, 2021 will deliver joy and fun and drag queens on day one! If you follow me on social media or read this blog you  know how big of a drag race fan I am – I proudly consider myself to be a super fan! Though I love the show, I’ve been told I do not make a pretty girl when I dress in drag myself, AT ALL. Maybe I should just stick to reviewing drag queens and not try to be one? Lol.

In honor of Friday’s season 13 premiere I present to you, for your reading and viewing pleasure, my favorite lip syncs for your life from Rupaul’s Drag Race, Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars and Canada’s Drag Race. Before you read the list and start writing nasty comments on how I could leave off so and so, I am basing this list on entertainment value. Specifically, would I rewatch these lip syncs over and over on YouTube? (And trust me, after a few White Claws or Truly lemonades during quarantine I rewatch many of these battles).

So, while you won’t see Latrice Royale’s “Natural Woman,” or Jujubee’s “Black Velvet” on this list, many consider these two of the best performances during a lip sync in the show’s herstory. This writer agrees but for some unknown reason I don’t gravitate towards a rewatch.  

This list is presented in no particular order. SPOILERS AHEAD! 

*MONET XCHANGE vs. DUSTY RAY BOTTOMS “Pound the Alarm” – Season 10

Two powerhouse performances with Rupaul even proclaiming, “For the ladies in the back that is what we call a lip sync for your life.” Miss Congeniality winner Monet stumbled in her looks, but her personality and comedic chops shined through. Her fake out death drop was EPIC! (look for Monet again on this list a little later on)

*BOB THE DRAG QUEEN vs. DERRICK BARRY “Mighty Real” – Season 9 

The judges saw something in Derrick Barry that I did not, keeping her until the Final Five. Her All Stars stint was much shorter as she was eliminated first. No shocker here.  Derrick’s showgirl shtick did not fit with the tone and feel of the song. She was “dead queen walking” against powerhouse, and one of my favorite queens, eventual season winner Bob the Drag Queen. When RuPaul takes out his fan for you, you know you are shantaying. 

*PRIYANKA vs. KIARA “I Drove all Night” – Canada’s Drag Race season 1 

Another lip sync with powerhouse performances from both queens. Two Canadian queens performing to a Celine Dion song, on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race – the pressure was on. And both girls delivered and then some. If I was a judge, I would have saved them both. Eventual season winner Priyanka edged out Kiara to advance in the competition.

*YVIE ODDLY vs. BROOKE LYNN HYTES “Sorry not Sorry” – Season 11

After disastrous Snatch Game performances, season stand-outs Yvie and Brooke Lynn found themselves in the bottom two early on. Once the song started, each tore up the main stage. Wig reveals, flips, cartwheels, you name it they did it. Both fought for their spot in the competition and both deservedly stayed. Weeks later they would be the final two standing and would lip sync for the crowd, with Yvie Oddly winning the title. 

*ALYSSA EDWARDS vs. COCO MONTRESE “Cold Hearted Snake” – Season 5

I don’t love Alyssa Edwards as much as the rest of the Drag Race community seems to, even though she appears on this list THREE times. Hmmm maybe I do like her. Lol.  Bitter rivals Alyssa and Coco each wanted to send the other home, with Coco prevailing. As she said, she was “lip syncing every word as if I was Paula Abdul herself.”

*ALYSSA EDWARDS vs. ROXXXY ANDREWS “Whip my Hair” – Season 5

Alyssa’s final appearance on this list was good enough to earn the first ever double save from RuPaul. But for me, this lip sync belongs to Roxxxy Andrews. Roxxxy will never win Miss Congeniality, but gurl is a performer!  She started the trend – ON DRAG RACE DON’T COME FOR ME IN THE COMMENTS SECTION – of the wig reveal. 

The quickest kiss of death in a lip sync for your life is for a wig to fall off or be taken off purposely. “Do not take your wig off…unless you have another wig underneath!”

*SASHA VELOUR vs. SHEA COULEE “I Get so Emotional” – Season 9 Grand Finale 

Speaking of wig reveals, Sasha Velour cemented her place as Drag Race royalty with this performance. Not only did she eliminate front runner Shea Coulee but she advanced to lip sync for the crown (which she won!). Her wig reveal and rose petal shower is nothing short of legendary. 

*RITA BAGA vs. LEMON “You Oughta Know” – Canada’s Drag Race season 1 

Canada’s Drag Race came out swinging in its first season. Lemon and Rita Baga were my two favorite girls throughout the season. But truth be told, Lemon was my ride or die. That being said, she missed the mark with this performance to this Alanis iconic anthem of revenge. Her background in dance and gymnastics worked against her here. Rita Baga blew the roof off the joint, channelling Morrissette. 

*MONET XCHANGE v. TRINITY THE TUCK “Fighter” – All Stars 4 Grand Finale 

A perfect combination of song choice and performance. From both queens. The performances were so stellar both queens won the title and the crown – a drag race first. Favorite moment – Monet revealing her pussycat wig to reveal – wait for it – another pussycat wig. COME THROUGH MONET! 

*PEPPERMINT vs. TRINITY THE TUCK “Stronger” – Season 9 Grand Finale

Saving my personal favorite performance for last, another case of a queen with loads of charm and personality but maybe stumbling in the lewk department. Peppermint  – the lip sync assassin of the season – took out Alexis Michele to advance to the Final Four. With this performance she eliminated Trinity to lip sync for the crown. Trinity’s fate was sealed when Peppermint executed a double reveal: removing her wig and turning her mini skirt into a dress. YASSSSSS PEPPER!


*Darienne Lake: another shady queen who can lip sync the house down.

*Shangela: any of her All Stars 3 lip syncs.

*Roxxxy Andrews: “One Last Time” – representing for the thick and juicy girls.

*Alyssa Edwards v. Tatiana “Shut Up and Drive” – All Stars 2. 

*Manila Luzon – “MacArthur Park” – Season 3.

Thanks readers, see you Friday night for Season 13. BRING BACK MY GIRLS! 

(This column was edited by Noah Cohen.)

Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.

by Vincent Pomilio, guest writer

Thanksgiving with the Three Strippers from “Gypsy”

I met my future husband Bob in 1996.  At the time, Bob worked on Wall Street at the Bank of New York.  He lived in Jersey City and I spent most of my days working in my painting studio on West Houston Street in Manhattan.  I usually arrived back at the apartment, after work, before Bob.  I liked to get a jump start on dinner and avoid the rush hour crowds. 

Vincent and Bob, Ocean Grove, NJ 1998

One night Bob arrived home flush with excitement. “You’re not going to believe this.  The Hudson Civic Players are doing “Gypsy.”  They’re holding auditions this weekend.  I’m going to try out for a part.” 

This little theatre group managed to put on great shows time after time.  They did it all on a low budget and drew on the wealth of talent that existed in the NY metropolitan area.  An out of work actor/waiter could have a shot playing “Sweeney Todd”, or the baker from “Into the Woods.”  

“Gypsy” is the musical to end all musicals: music by Julie Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents.   It doesn’t get any better:  the story of the world’s most famous burlesque stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee, her sister Dainty June, and their overbearing, larger-than-life stage mother to beat all stage mothers, Rose. 

Okay, some context here.  Bob and I fit most of those stereotypes about gay men when it comes to loving musicals, opera, cooking, design, old movies, etc.  We’ve seen “All About Eve” dozens of times.  But, who would Bob play if he got a part?  Certainly not one of the chorus boys; Bob’s not the Tulsa type (more about him later).  He would make a good Herbie, but can he sing?  Bob is a hunky, six foot two Irishman from Scranton, Pa. (we met at Ty’s Bar on St. Patrick’s Day.)    He and Joe Biden might be the best things ever to come out of Scranton.  Bob always said he would like Ed Harris to play him in “The Bob Bohan Story.”  We will see how that works out.  

Bob and Vincent, 1998.

Back to the story:

Auditions were held the first weekend after Labor Day, 1998.  Opening night is scheduled for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and will run for a week.  Bob returned from the auditions a little disappointed.  

“How did it go?” I asked.   

“Well.  I didn’t get a part but they asked me to be the stage manager.” He accepted the job.

The cast was announced.  A local grade-school teacher named Colleen got the part of Momma Rose.  She could belt out a song like Kate Smith.  The guy cast as Herbie came up to her shoulders, but he was bald and sexy and had a beautiful voice and was perfect for the part.  

Bob would return from rehearsals night after night with stories of disaster.  Colleen is impossible; the chorus boys can’t dance.  However, Herbie was professional and the strippers were terrific.

The strippers:  Mazeppa, Electra, and Tessie Tura.  In their show-stopping number, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick”, the strippers give advice to the young Gypsy on what it takes to be successful.    

As opening night got closer, Bob would come home with a more hopeful tone.  “It’s really coming together.”  He was getting excited about the show and asked if we should invite our mothers to come see it and then join us for Thanksgiving.  

“Sure,” I said.  “Let’s do it.”  That meant that I would get stuck with cooking, picking up the moms, and all the rest of it.  I’m in.  

Opening Night.  I pick up our mothers, Rita arriving from Philly and Ann from Scranton.  Port Authority the night before Thanksgiving.  Not fun.  

Off to the theatre.  There was only a three piece band, but boy could they play!  Everybody in the show invited their friends and family, so the auditorium is packed.  The house lights dim, the overture ends, and then Momma Rose takes the stage. I have to say Colleen was a hit.  

The show went on without a hitch and a big standing “O”.   The Hudson Civic Players were jubilant as they took their curtain call.  Bob was beaming and the moms and I were very proud.  We took Ann and Rita to a fashionable dive on Hamilton Park for some food and drinks and then off to Bob’s place to get ready for Thanksgiving.  It was not a huge apartment but great for dinner parties with an eat-in kitchen under a big skylight.  The moms were comfy and we played a little poker before bed.  

Thanksgiving Day.   We had to be out of our minds.  We invited so many people.  Good thing our moms were there to help.  

The Guest List.

I’m digging deep into the memory bank here.  We had invited a stellar group of misfits.  Wonderful, talented misfits.  Joyce Mandel was there.  Joyce was a downtown cabaret performer.  At the time of this story, she was appearing in the East Village in a show called “The Miss Cheese of the Week Review”.  She performed with Holly Woodlawn.  Joyce played Miss Velveeta:  “I’m incredible. I’m even spreadable.” You get the picture.   Joyce has joined us every Thanksgiving since.  

Pawel Thulin came. Pawel is originally from Poland and was a computer genius in the early days of the Internet.  He was also a legendary ladies man whose sexual prowess was well known.  His girlfriend Michele was there.  Poor thing was in a constant state of longing and desire.  

We also invited the young actor who played Tulsa in the show.  Tulsa is one of the chorus boys in the act who winds up stealing Dainty June away from Momma Rose to run off and start a dance act on the order of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  The part is usually played by a Gene Kelly-type guy, but in this production, Tulsa was more Cyd Charisse than Gene Kelly.  

The big surprise guests were the three actresses who played the strippers in “Gypsy.”  Rita thought they were the best part of the show.  She was thrilled when she found out they were coming for Thanksgiving.  

A little background here on Rita.  She often entertained at parties.  She would even make costumes for her act.  She would tell jokes that would get raunchier as the night progressed.  “Did I tell you the one about the mouse fucking the elephant?” she would tease.  “As the mouse was fucking the elephant, the elephant let out a thunderous roar from its trunk.  The mouse said, “What’s the matter babe? Am I hurtin’ ya?””   Her delivery was brilliant.  

Guests have arrived and it’s time to eat.  I was compelled to do the whole Italian Thanksgiving meal.  First, an antipasto, then the Holiday Soup (Rita’s mother’s recipe), then homemade manicotti.  And after all that, an entire traditional turkey dinner.  Joyce read her Thanksgiving poem, and sang an Edith Piaf song.   One of the strippers sang a song, too.  Lots of boisterous conversation and joke telling. 

The two mothers started talking about religion.  These were two good, church- going Catholic women although Rita probably spent time in Purgatory for all those filthy jokes.  Ann asks Rita, “What do you think about priests getting married?”  Without delay Rita replies, “I don’t want some priest serving me Holy Communion after he’s had his hand up his wife’s twat the night before.”  Well, that settles the six hundred year old controversy over celibacy.  There was a hush, followed by deafening laughter.  Rita strikes gold again.  Mazeppa asked, “Who is this woman? Where did she come from?”  

“South Philly”, I answered. “If you ever spent time there, you’d understand.”

The evening slowly wound down.  Bob announced he was going to bed.  The moms had a hot poker game going so many of the guests stayed and played well into the night.  The moms cleaned everyone out.  There wasn’t a penny left in the house.  While leaving, the strippers promised Rita that they wouldn’t steal any of her material.  Joyce got a ride back to the city with Pawel and Michele.  Tulsa did a little tap dance while leaving and I played a couple more rounds of poker with our moms.  

Best Thanksgiving Day.  Ever. 

Portrait of Bob.

One. Two. Three Strikes. You’re Out.

Things with me have always been black and white. I rarely live in the grey. No wavering.  Hot and cold people are at the bottom of my most despised list along with Trump supporters. I know immediately if I like someone or not. People do not grow on me. I have never said “OMG we totally hated each other when we met but now we are best friends.” This is true for friends, and it’s true for those who become more than friends.  

When it comes to romantic interests and friendships; never will the two intertwine. Black and white. Told you. Now, like most gay men some of my friends began as a “trick.”  The very first night we met we got horizontal and in the morning light we realized a romantic relationship was not in the cards. But we obviously liked each other’s company, and a friendship formed from there.

“Friends with benefits” do NOT work for me either. Blurring the lines often leads to hurt feelings on one or both ends. (Mostly mine!)

One specific time I tried blurring those lines did not end well.  (Shocking, I know!) A few years ago on a sunny warm July afternoon in Asbury Park, I met Roger through a very good friend of mine. Immediately there was a connection. Roger was with his boyfriend Juan at the time, so this connection was strictly platonic. We bonded through a variety of shared interests, and his West Coast roots.  Roger had lived in San Francisco, with me being a part of AIDS LIFECYCLE, we had dozens of very good friends in common. As time went on, Roger and I grew very close. From there a core group of six friends was formed.

While Roger and I had some things in common, we were very different. We communicated differently, we treated people differently and we handled stressful situations differently. To say that Roger was passionate would be putting things lightly…and nicely. Sometimes his temper got the better of him. When backed into a corner, he often reacted quickly and with venom. Hey, we’re all different! No judgments! Luckily at this point in time, I was never on the receiving end of these exchanges. Before he moved out of NYC, he told me in an email that I was a “really good person who will make a difference someday,” give or take a few words. 

However, just a week before that a discussion about Prep and Truvada got SO heated between him and a dinner guest that I removed Roger from the dining room and told him to cool off in one of the bedrooms. 

Roger didn’t move that far away and visited NYC often, so we still saw each other. There was an obvious mutual attraction. With him single now, more than once that attraction led to “something more.”  We fell into an odd routine, one that wasn’t very sexual but more PG-13. Lots of hand holding and make out sessions. We also fell into a routine of arguing. These arguments were over pretty minor issues yet they almost always turned into blowouts. Roger went from zero to ten on the flip of a dime. Actually I don’t think he had a zero. Or a seven. 

I didn’t know how to calm him down, and I never really approached a level ten in an argument. I tried to see his point of view but failed. As I mentioned above, we were different, especially in how we handled conflict. Looking back now it seems Roger thrived on conflict, almost reveling in it. I try to avoid conflict at all costs, ignoring issues, burying grievances almost to the point of catastrophe.  I realized, probably too late, this was not a healthy relationship for me, and Roger and I grew apart.  

We did still have a best friend in common and when Roger was temporarily back in NYC for work for a few months, we found ourselves together in random social situations.  Roger asked if we could be friends again assuring me that in the months prior he had changed and wasn’t the same person anymore, “things would be different this time around,” he promised. 

People are flawed. I am flawed. People fuck up. I fuck up. People can change. I can change. I have been given more chances than I deserve.  So yes I did forgive him and yes we fell back into our old patterns, minus the arguments!  

Things were going so well we began planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta over the Christmas holiday. I was tasked with finding our Airbnb. I sent him a few (10) choices, none meeting up to his high standards. My “instructions” became more detailed, “by the blue chairs.” I was told. Sent another group of choices, also none acceptable. (Truth be told, my standards of appropriate vacation housing are probably considerably lower than the average gay!) With me nearing my boiling point, I texted him telling him that this can go two ways.

One – when you ask someone to do something you let them do it and dont complain/find fault etc. or two you find and book our Airbnb.  Two solid great choices! From what I have described about Roger, you can guess this did not go over well.  Tee up a HUGE argument. The final text he sent me read that he decided this trip wasn’t going to work for him and he was cancelling it. No discussion. No trying to decide on a compromise. Nothing.

Relationship over for me. Time to move on. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, you get the idea. I knew at this point I was done, no more chances would be given. It was over. My ‘second chances’ limit for Roger had runneth over. We have not had any contact since his last text. 

I really wasn’t all that angry with Roger. I was hella pissed at myself. People show you who they are immediately. I chose to not see what was right in front of me. Mutual friends insisted Roger and I would be friends again, “you will forgive him like you always do,” they said. I assured them that was not possible and they, like I, should move on.  

This decision was cemented in stone, when the day after Christmas, a friend sent me a text. It was a picture of Roger. In Puerto Vallarta!  SON OF A BITCH! 



During the hot Bicentennial Summer of 1976 I had been happily living in Philadelphia, my hometown. Philly was a great town to be young and gay. So many bars and clubs – all within walking distance of each other.  I was teaching art in an elementary school in South Philly and working at night as a sous chef at a hot spot restaurant called Lickety Split.  

The restaurant was owned and operated by gay men and women; the head chef was a lesbian of great culinary skills. The wait staff consisted of gorgeous men and women, and one glamorous transsexual, Georgia.  Georgia was very famous in Philly and actually appeared in a couple of major movies: “Mississippi Burning” was one. 

Lickety Split was a party place of the first degree.  Sex, drugs and rock and roll with steak tartare thrown in.  The restaurant was a favorite hangout for many celebs that happened to be in town:  Halston, Lily Tomlin, and John Waters, just to name a few. Philly’s most famous transsexual, Harlow, was a regular.

After the kitchen closed and the doors were locked, the staff and clientele partied all night.  I tried to behave myself, having a boyfriend at the time, Tim, and a teaching job, but sometimes it didn’t work out.  

I thought I would stay in Philly forever.  However, things were about to change.

Vincent, circa 1976.

The spring of 1976 presented some serious challenges and events that would alter the course of my life.  I was an art teacher at a rough South Philly elementary school with a couple hundred students from K-6th grade and no art room.  I would put all my supplies in a shopping cart and go from class to class.  It was a nightmare.  

Two days a week they would send me to a home for emotionally disturbed kids to teach an art lesson.   One day I attempted to teach a lesson in industrial drawing since they were teenagers and I thought something practical would be good for them.  I gave them all compass needles and drafting tools to work with.  The only girl in the class was really tough and would often beat up the boys in the school yard.  The boys began to tease her and a fight broke out and the compass needles became weapons.  Trying to intercept the fight, I got a compass needle through my hand and off to the hospital I went.  A week later I gave the school my resignation notice.  

At the time, I visited New York City often as many of my friends had moved there.  I became infatuated with the city and decided to apply to graduate school there.  I was accepted to NYU grad department in Painting and planned to move in the fall.

During that summer, I made frequent trips to NY and went to the Pride Parade of ‘76.  The parade was much smaller then, but there were still people from all over the country that would come.  It was so important to be out and part of it.  This was going to be my new town. 

The city was in terrible economic straits, but who cared?  I found a great apartment on Jane Street.  It had a fireplace, and a bathroom that was the biggest room in the apartment.  But it was in the Village and the rent was only $210.00 a month.  

Being the big bi-centennial year, the parade took on special relevance.  Afterwards, the crowd headed down to Christopher Street to begin what turned out to be an all-night bacchanal.  West Street was the place to be. At the time, it was okay to hang out on the street with drinks and party into the wee hours of the morning.  It was a sparkling, hot, summer Sunday and the tall ships for the Bicentennial were in the harbor.  

One of the great West Street bars at the time was Keller’s Bar. The bar was an old dock workers hangout with saw dust on the tiled floor.  Outside the bar was a gigantic block party.  The mood was jubilant.  I was hanging out in front with my Philly friends, feeling no pain, and having the time of my life.  

Around 6 o’clock, a huge flatbed truck with live music pulled up in front of the bar.  This gorgeous, blonde, Marilyn Monroe-looking woman gets up and begins to sing.  The sound was mellow and unique, and it cooled down the hot crowd of hundreds of gay men.  No one knew who they were.  We asked around.  Turns out it was Deborah Harry and the band, Blondie.  They were just starting out, but what could be a better audience than a throng of gay men?  She finished her set to huge fanfare and made a memorable exit worthy of the diva she would become.  

After enough time to get another beer, a group of hunky men in costumes came onto the flatbed truck: an Indian chief, a leather man, a construction worker, a cop, and a cowboy.  The crowd went wild. Yes, it was The Village People.  It was about six months before the release of their first hit single and album, but here they were, in the Village, post Pride Parade, in that all so important Bicentennial Summer singing their hearts out for a crowd so pre-programmed to love them.  It was insanity. None of us knew then who they were, but they were amazing.  

As day turned to night, and the live music stopped, I went back into the bar.  This sexy dark haired man caught my eye and approached me.  Before even saying anything, we kissed.  We couldn’t detach ourselves from one another.  After coming up for air, he introduced himself in a beautiful, exotic accent.

“I’m Gus, who are you?”  

Gus was from Greece and came to NYC to become a pharmacist.  He was a champion diver in Greece.  This beautiful Greek Adonis, wearing a white wife-beater tank top, swept me off my feet.  We left the bar together to go to his apartment on the Upper West Side.  Even on the subway going uptown, we couldn’t keep our hands from each other.  Of course with hundreds of post-pride parade revelers, it hardly mattered.  I woke up the next morning with my face in his hairy armpit. After a while, we got out of bed.  Gus asked if I was hungry.  Of course I was hungry.  He made me a feta cheese omelet.  I learned how to say please and thank you in Greek. 

As it turned out, I never saw Gus again, but I knew then that I was going to love living in this city… 

A painting from Vincent’s first exhibit. It was painted after a dream of visiting his grandfathers town in Italy.
The author, hiking in Arcadia National Park, Maine. 1976.


Quick recap, in the last column I explained how I am a New Yorker in Delaware for the summer, happily engaged in a monogamous relationship with my new boyfriend – Rehoboth Beach.

It’s been a month and we are still gloriously happy together. Mornings we bike to Rise gym, to get our sweat on – or to sweat out the two or six spiked seltzers consumed during our afternoons at Poodle Beach. Nights we usually chill at home netflixing.

On the rare night out in town (ok, maybe not so rare), I have enjoyed Aqua, The Pines, Arenas, Diegos. Drag Bingo at the Moon was fun and I know the theme was “old lady” but the energy was too low for me. Drag Brunch at 251? Yes! I do love me a drag show. Brunch was OFF THE CHARTS fun. Performances were amaze: “Escapade,” “Part of Your World.” YES! The drinks were flowing, the food was – well, let’s just say I left hungry. Then again, who goes to drag brunch for the food?

As happy as my new BF and I are, it is time to get back out there. Riding out a pandemic, single, in NYC? We need a new word for celibacy.  As the country moves into new phases of opening up, it’s time for Robby to move into phase two. Hooking up! 

A major impediment to this hooking up is cockblock Covid. I am not great at the apps, even though I did set up a Scruff account my first week here. I’m old school. Go to a bar, meet someone, flirt, pick them up, take them home.  No muss no fuss. Covid has all but made that impossible. Stay at your table, no mingling, no socializing with strangers. F U COVID.

I haven’t even been able to use my new pick up line. “My name is Robert, I have the antibodies.” Yes, that is true. Back in February I was pretty sick for a weekend. Felt fluish, in bed for two days, unable to read a book or watch a movie. But it was only two days. The cough did linger for a week. I think I was exposed at a Super Bowl party. When my friend Mike and I are poolside here and I shout, “Don’t worry I have the antibodies,” he loves to counter it with, “The antibodies don’t last forever.” Buzzkill!

Back to the apps, as mentioned, not great on them. It’s hard for me to pull the trigger. I wind up telling people they’re hot and never meeting face-to-face. So, conundrum! Can’t pick up a stranger in a bar, can’t pick them up online. What is Robby to do? I’m youngish, not a troll, I should be hooking up. The other night a housemate knocked on my door asking to borrow lube. I didn’t even have any to give him. And not because I ran out. Because I have no reason to buy any. If that is not the saddest sentence I ever wrote.

Enough is enough. Time to get back on the horse. 

Leaving Poodle beach one afternoon, I decided to bike through town and walk around. Bought a book and decided I was thirsty and hungry. I sat in the Biergarten at Purple Parrot and discovered it’s their happy hour! My favorite hours! I ordered a drink and my bartender asked if I wanted food. I was craving chicken fingers (a Robby fave), so I asked for them and he said they aren’t on the menu but they have them. I then notice another bartender, very cute – well, cute with a mask on – mask cute. 

While the other bartender was taking care of me, “new hot bartender” asked how my day was. He was being nice, personable – a bartender. I, living in my own rom-com, wondered if this was flirting. Throughout my meal,  I needed to get some water so I went up to the bar and he asked me what I was reading. Do I need to go buy lube?

At the end of my meal, with some liquid courage, I felt like I might ask him his name as I asked for my check. “Which table are you at again?” he asked. I point to the table, he brings up my check. “Kid’s chicken fingers, three vodka sodas? Is this you?” 

Yep, that is me. Kid’s chicken fingers. Three vodka sodas. Good title for my memoir.

“Dude. Best check ever,” Hot Bartender laughed and smiled, “Have a good one.”

And with that, dude (me) and my antibodies paid the bill and biked home. No one is hooking up with kid’s chicken fingers. Hey Netflix, you ready for some Robby time tonight?

(this column was edited by Debbie Rech)


Driving into Rehoboth Beach on July 15, I was bursting with excitement. There I was arriving in one of my favorite places, a place I have visited a few weekends a year for over 20 years. Actually in 2003, I lived here for the summer. I was teaching high school at the time, and spent my summer lifeguarding, teaching swimming lessons at the Y and bartending at the Renegade. But this time was different. Two months at the beach – a tiny escape from Covids unknown, present and future.

Riding out the Covid lockdown in my Brooklyn apartment from March through June was rough. NYC was a scary place to be. There’s no sugar coating it. I went days, weeks without leaving my apartment. Even as June began and things and bars and restaurants reopened, many friends were not ready to dine out. ‘Social’ life in NYC meant picnics in parks. Blankets, food, drinks, all while socially distancing. Many parks painted large white circles on the grass to show where everyone can sit safely.

Even with Covid still waging war on our country, life for me felt like night and day when I arrived in Rehoboth. Within 30 minutes of getting to the house in Canal Point where I rented a bedroom, I was sitting on Poodle Beach staring out into the glorious Atlantic. Unpacking could wait! Later that first day, I biked out to US1 and joined RISE gym, a massive two story complex that is unlike any gym I have ever been. That first night ended with dinner at Jam. Beach! Gym! Outdoor dining with the mandatory mask requirement! I am going to like it here. Strike that, love it.

The next day, as I was biking home from Poodle Beach, thinking how lucky I am to be here, an SUV driving down the street swerved into my lane. I instinctively pressed my brakes hard, too hard, causing me to flip over the handlebars. Would you believe the SUV driver didn’t even stop to see if I was ok?! Thankfully a few other drivers did and apart from some bad abrasions, bruises and a sprained right wrist, I wasn’t seriously hurt. How is that for a welcome to Rehoboth Beach! 

After taking the night to ice my wrist and get some rest, I woke up Friday ready for my first weekend! All of my friends here are still working from home full time, so once Friday evening comes around, game on! We spent the night sampling flavored crushes on the patio at Aqua Bar and Grill. I already see many of those in my future. Watermelon is my favorite… this week.

Saturday and Sunday afternoon were spent at a friend’s pool catching up with DC and Philly friends I haven’t seen in far too long. It was also spent playing rounds of pool beer Pong! Or, with us gays, pool White Claw Pong. I am happy to report that my teammate Noah and I are undefeated, and humble brag, I was throwing left handed because of the sprained wrist.

Sunday night my friends surprised me by taking me to see Pamela Stanley at The Pines. I have ended many a weekend here singing and dancing along with Pamela Stanley. I was excited to see her at her new venue. I did wonder if I would have fun this time around with the new guidelines restricting seating at your table and only your table. My fears were alleviated in the first few minutes as the sold out crowd cheered when Pamela entered the room. As the show continued and the drinks flowed my adoration for Pamela Stanley might have exceeded normal levels as I repeatedly shouted, “We love you Pam Stan.” My friends have jokingly told me Pam Stan has banned me from all future shows. They are joking, right?

The next day laying out hungover on Poodle Beach, eating a sandwich from Coho’s (my new favorite sandwich shop tied with Lori’s, my first favorite), I reflected on my first days here. It’s hard to put into words how grateful I feel to be healthy and financially stable enough to be in such a beautiful place spending time with friends and making new “friends.” I already have two beach crushes and two gym crushes, one more spot to be filled. Robert’s rule – one can only have five crushes. I am not a crush whore!  

Maybe I will just make Rehoboth my boyfriend this summer. Every day I wake up and decide where I am going to bike, what new restaurant or bar to try out. One night after a few White Claws, if you hear “I love you Rehoboth Beach” you know it’s Robby from Brooklyn 🙂 


(this column was originally published in the August 14, 2020 edition of LETTERS FROM CAMP REHOBOTH)



It’s June 2020, Gay Pride Month. While it’s beautiful outside, the Pandemic looms large. Still. Along with social unrest. 

I have lately been asked to write descriptions of what I have been working on during the lockdown.  I am a visual artist/painter and have used this time to create a new body of work for a couple of upcoming exhibitions.  I am often asked to write about my art and the process of making it but I have other stories to tell.   While cleaning out my studio, I unearthed many photos and paintings from years past, so a trip or two down memory lane was inevitable.  Having read a few coming out stories recently, I have begun to recall my own experiences of coming out.  Was there an official time and place?  Was it some eureka moment of self-revelation or was it a series of moments and events leading up to self-awareness, acceptance and need to tell those who are important in my life?

When was it really? There were moments spent with family that gave me some clues to my own feelings of otherness.  Moments that even as a young boy gave me reason to think I was different and life would be challenging from here on in.

Vincent, 2nd grade.

I think I was about ten years old.  I’m in my Aunt Rita’s kitchen in South Philly.  The three Ritas were there.  My father and two of his brothers married women named Rita. One brother married a Marie.  She was there too.  All of them larger than life Italian-American matriarchs.  All of them knockouts.  There was Bob’s Rita (my mother), John’s Rita, and Stanley’s Rita.  Whenever any of us talked of them we used these names: Bob’s Rita, John’s Rita and Stanley’s Rita.  Uncle Stan’s Rita was also referred to as Blonde Rita.  

Blonde Rita. 1997.

Blonde Rita was a dead ringer for the English actress Julie Christie.  John’s Rita was the baker and looked like Rosalind Russell.  Aunt Marie was a red-haired beauty who resembled Hedy Lamar.  Aunt Marie’s father was the head of the Communist Party in Philadelphia but no one ever talked about that.  Bob’s Rita, my mom, was a cross between Liz Taylor and Anna Magnani, the fabled Italian movie star.  Her personality, however, was more like Phyllis Diller.  My mother, Bob’s Rita, was affectionately referred to as Crazy Rita.  She did have bouts with mental illness; I will save those stories for another time.  At ten, I was very aware of all of these actresses and how fascinating these aunts were. 

So here is the setting:  Back to Aunt Rita’s (John’s Rita’s) kitchen.  Italian women are no strangers to unwanted facial hair.  John’s Rita would have a pot of wax melting on the stove along with espresso and a pizza or two in the oven.  The three Ritas and Marie would take turns applying the hot wax to their unwanted mustaches and sideburns and pull off the unwanted hair amidst screams and laughter.  This was a regular social event that John’s Rita always hosted.  The men would all be in the finished basement watching a game, any game.  If it wasn’t baseball, football or basketball, they would watch golf. These were all really good men, and good looking too, but boring to me compared with the women.  During the hair removal tortures there would be gossip about everything.  Recipes would be exchanged, even stories of who was having an affair.  “Now Vincent, close your ears”, they would say, as the jokes and the stories got dirtier and racier as the night progressed.  Long story short (hard for me to do), is that I knew these women. Loved them and their stories and never wanted to be in the basement watching the game.  This all made me a little different than my other male cousins, although a couple on my mother’s side turned out to be gay.  

Coming out happens later of course but not all at once, at least for me.  While in college, I was outed.  I would frequent a gay bar/restaurant in Reading, Pa. called the Green Door.  A school mate happened to be a waitress there on the night I was there.  I was shocked and embarrassed but the cat was out of the bag.  By Monday morning half the campus of Kutztown State University knew I was at the gay bar.  Friends dropped off.  My college roommate was asked to leave our house we shared by his parents.  Other gay guys on campus started coming on to me.  That was the good part.  I denied nothing and started that long journey to self-acceptance.  

That summer of 1972, between junior and senior year of college, I decided to go to Cape May, NJ to find a summer job.  Having learned to cook from my grandmother and the three Ritas, I got a job as a cook in a restaurant.  That was really the summer of my coming out.  I met a local guy just out of the Navy who I had a brief affair with but became my buddy and gay mentor.  One night he drove us to the bars in Philly.  Wow.  The floodgates opened.  Hundreds of guys under one roof drinking, dancing, and cruising.  I passed these places a million times during the daytime and never knew what was going on inside.   I went from self- loathing to loving my new gay life and the people I met along the way.  

Self portrait. 1972.

During that summer in Cape May I had a cousin who was a lifeguard there. I was very fond of him.  He was older and very hunky.  He looked like a young Tom Selleck.  I would avoid his lifeguard post so he wouldn’t see who I was hanging with but one day I went for a walk with a few of my new gay friends and there he was, on a different lifeguard stand.  He knew the guys I was with were gay.  Soon enough my gayness was leaked to a few cousins, then aunts and uncles.  It was a little weird but I wasn’t shunned.  I knew they knew and took comfort in the fact that it really didn’t matter to them.  That summer I had my first serious love affair with a fellow artist, a bit older, and he lived on the waterfront on the bay of Cape May.  He worked at a candy factory there.  I would ride my bike to his place every night.  Life was wonderful and I was so happy and in love.  In love with Bill, my new life, and this new brotherhood that I felt such a kinship with.  

Several months later I was visiting my parents’ house for my birthday in the Philadelphia suburbs.  It was a Saturday morning and as was a custom in our house, my father would drive to the Jewish Deli in nearby West Philly and buy bagels and lox.  Although Italian, we ate like Jews on Saturday morning.   While my father was gone, my mother looked me square in the eye and said, “I have something to ask you”.  I gulped down my coffee and said, “What?”   She stammered a bit but said, “Are you a little AC/DC?”  Where the hell did she get this expression?  I said, “What do you mean, Mom, am I gay?”  “Yes”, she replied.  With great feelings of self-assuredness I said, enthusiastically, “Yes.”  She pretended to be surprised for a total of three seconds and the next out of her mouth was “Well, at least now I know I won’t have to share you with any other women.”  We laughed, and hugged, and cried a little. As she added, “You can’t tell your father, he can’t handle it”.  “Okay”, I replied.    She then wanted to know who else in the family was gay.   “How about cousin Bobby?”  “Yes, Mom”.  “Cousin Brian?”  “Yes. Mom.”   This went on for a while until the bagels arrived and you could cut the uneasy energy floating around in the room with a knife.   Bagels, lox and coming out to Mom.   By the following summer Mom, Bob’s Rita, would like to go dancing with us at the gay bars in Atlantic City.  We had a summer place in nearby Brigantine.  She was a hit on the dance floor.  “What is everyone sniffing in those little bottles?” she would ask.  She began to make her own gay friends and invite them to have dinner with us at our summer place.  My father was so naïve or wanted to be.  This went on for more years than I care to remember and is a story in itself, but maybe later. Mom blossomed and was more popular with the boys than I.  

Mom and I. Niagra Falls. 1995.

There are so many events that encompass Coming Out.   I have so many of these moments that I could recall while sharing just a few.   One of the Rita’s is still alive and now 90 years old, still gorgeous and still a blonde.

Family portrait at my Dad’s 70th birthday party.



One of the things heavily lamented by members of the LGBTQ community currently, is that this will be the first time in fifty years that there will actually be no organized Pride March conjured up to light up The Big Apple in rainbow colors. Considering that last year, New York City celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of The Stonewall Riots as well as played gracious host to World Pride festivities, the void left in the wake of coronavirus will be wildly ominous and felt around the world. Pride season in Gotham City promises to be peculiar, painfully anticlimactic and disorienting. It will be a stark contrast to joyous, countless celebrations that stretched throughout every corner and borough of the city that never sleeps. Luckily, some of the positively resounding traits of the LGBTQ community are defiance, ingenuity and resilience. There have been too many successes, too much progress, too much climbing and resisting and reconciliation to stop. Like the members of a church say, from the priest to the parishioner, you don’t have to be in church to experience God, because God is everywhere. This year, we will be reassured that Pride doesn’t need a parade to exist. Pride is everywhere, in everyone and every day. 

Nostalgia is usually reserved as an emotion one feels about moments in their life that happened many years ago. In 2020, we will be forced to feel nostalgic about all the magic and madness that occurred simply one year ago. The entire month of June is usually chock full of events from rallies to fundraisers to circuit parties to outdoor concerts and everything in-between. It is a magical time for tourism, as people from around the world plan to spend their Pride in the city where Pride began and most revelers make sure their itinerary includes a journey to Mecca: The Stonewall Inn. I have the luxury and honor of being one of the resident DJs and event producers at the bar, and when I was hired back in 2013, I had no idea the sheer magnitude of excitement and glory that would reverberate within those walls and outside the front door when the anniversary of the riots grew closer in 2019. 

Fast forward to March of this year, and New York City nightlife has been completely upended, the proverbial rug quickly and carelessly ripped out from under us. The static and chaos of uncertainty has filled the blank space where the music once played and has left dance floors barren and barstools vacant. Remembering their inner divinity, the drag queens, the DJs, the musicians, the dancers, the artists, the activists and the audiences have not stopped creating, fighting, surviving or watching. Instead of the arts and nightlife community going underground, we have simply gone digital! 

Immediately after the initial shutdown, drag shows and talk shows and dj sets popped up everywhere and filled the vacuum. Fans adjusted and assimilated to this new way of experiencing queer art and performance as technophobes learned their way around a Zoom dance party and learned how to Venmo someone a tip. It has been quite remarkable to witness and participate in as well. I have found that I and many fellow artists are finding newer ways to express ourselves while discovering talents we were aware of but had never fostered before. Activists are leading by example, volunteering at food drives and soup kitchens, using the captive audiences glued to their phones to valiantly preach their political messages and somehow, despite the obvious physical and social distance, make stronger connections.

This ‘pause’, as they have dubbed it, has been obviously life changing, revealing much more about ourselves and others than we would have ever expected. It has been accompanied with great loss and death, financial uncertainty, hardship and resounding fear and anxiety, but perhaps it was necessary to stand still and regroup, and reinvent and reclaim our own Pride. We needed to reassess our value and values. We needed to relearn respect. We needed to remember our history and prepare for our future. 

We still do not have any understanding of how and when and if the nightlife community will rebound after this crisis and threat is over. Will our favorite watering holes survive? Will dance floor capacities be cut in half? Will plexiglass stand between you and your bartender? Will your handshakes be rationed out? Will your hugs be looser or tighter? Will you have to find a dark corner in a dive bar to remove your masks and experience your first kiss? So, so many unknowns. This community has won many battles, survived many attacks, climbed many mountains and still continues to morph and master its techniques. And we do it in one of the greatest classrooms in the world, New York City. We have a current administration that is certainly not in our best interest, and as the letters in our acronym multiply so do our enemies. In solidarity, please remember that in November on Election Day. And this June, remember that, like God, Pride is everywhere, in everyone and every day.

Chauncey Dandridge is a DJ, event producer, multidisciplinary artist, author and activist in NYC. Currently enjoying a residency at The Stonewall Inn, Chauncey helps produce the annual Dance Parade and Urban Bear NYC Weekend as well as a weekly radio show and monthly variety show “Freak Out” which showcases local queer talent. He has lent his time and talents to countless fundraisers over the years. Follow him on Instagram @houseofdandridge and @djchaunceyd