Interview with Danny Lee

Palm Springs, California on May 12, 2017 | Interviewer: Rebecca Scofield

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Rebecca Scofield: This is Rebecca Scofield and I'm here with Danny Lee and it's May 12th, 2017 and we’re at the Hot Rodeo in Palm Springs. So if you could just tell me when you were born and where you were born?
Danny Lee: Sure yes I was born in 1952. And I was born in a small town in England called Anfield just outside of London.
RS: And did you grow up in England primarily? Did you family move around at all?
DL: Well, yeah we were in England and a little bit in Scotland and we have to be careful there's a definite difference between the two. My father was in the Navy and so when he was abroad or posted away we would live with my grandparents up in Sandalund a ship-building area up in the North of England and then the rest of the time we lived in London. So I grew up sort of partly in the South and partly in the North.
RS: What parts of London did you live in?
DL: Mostly the North of London a place called Infield. But also a place called West Hendon which is mostly famous for its police college and Clapham Common.
RS: Was moving around so much pretty tough on you or were you pretty used to it?
DL: I think since I was born into it, you don't really know there's anything different. We didn't move a huge amount of the times but sufficient for me to know we were moving. It didn't bother me at all. But it probably reflects now that I'm what they call a rolling stone, I think. Home is where is wherever I happen to be and with the people that I want to be with--it's not a place, so I don't feel bad. I moved to Palm Springs last year from Albuquerque and I don't miss Albuquerque in the sense that it was my home for thirteen years, you know, it just is. So that was my childhood. We moved and I met knew people that was it.
RS: Was it easy to make friends in new places? Did you did you ever feel a sense of loss leaving you know a young friend at all?
DL: At this point, I don't remember. I suspect at the time I probably, I'm sure, I must have had special friends in each place…but they are all kind of a distant memory. Some people have this wonderfully sharp memory of their childhood, you know on their third birthday they unwrapped seventeen presents. I'm sure I had a 3rd birthday but I don't remember anything about it and that's the same with a lot of people they are transient in my life so they were probably important at the time but very few stick and the memory doesn't really stick. The events do. We went to a fair or whatever but not the particular person you know.
RS: So can you describe sort of decades what was going on sort of nationally in England while you were growing up. Was it a pretty conservative time? A pretty…time of a protest?
DL: Well, the 50s weren’t a time of protest particularly, they were a time of consolation in England from the war. And my brother was six years older than me so he has a slightly different view of it. When I was born I did have a ration book as a baby. And because a couple of things were still on ration, particularly sugar. And then in '52, just a month after I was born, the King died. So, I lived under George VI for a whole month and then ‘cause the Queen was crowned in her coronation was in '53. And although I don't remember, being one years old, that was actually when we got our first TV. A nine inch round screen TV. And all the neighbors came around to watch the coronation on the TV. So I remember that first decade really about time of our empire. The British Empire was still there, you know it’s funny at school we had these world maps the geography and huge areas were colored pink and pink meant that it was a British territory and I was talking to somebody the other day. I realized by the time I left college there was almost nothing pink left on that map. So I lived through that whole transition over a couple of decades.
RS: Wow. Can I ask, you know, was your family sort of aware--with your father being in the military--aware of this decolonization that was happening was it something that was being discussed or did it just sort of happen?
DL: Typically those things weren't discussed at home, you know. Clearly he would have been aware in terms of being posted to different locations but it was never a subject. In fact, politics in general wasn't a subject. I came from a working class family and the concerns were more about rent and food and getting the kids clothed and to school. Very little about politics at all, very different to where we are at now I think. But then news sources were much scarcer so my father took two newspapers a day and an extra one on the Sundays and that is where our information came from.
RS: And as you sort of grew into the 60s and 70s how did that change, especially as you were getting older? Were you a little bit more aware of what was happening in the world or…?
DL: Yes, I was. I think the single biggest event I remember was the moon landing. And everybody seems to know that. My father made me stay up and watch it on TV. So, yes, those major events--JFK--those kinds of things certainly stick in your mind, even though we were in England they impacted us. But in terms of government changes at home or international events, they weren't really terribly important to me then. It wasn't until I got into college where I became “radicalized,” I think that would be the modern term. I got interested in politics and very involved so.
RS: And where did you go to college?
DL: Teeside University, although back then it was called Teeside Politechnic. Politechnics were a fairly new idea back then and of course education to your bachelors was free in England. So I benefited very much from that system I was still the first person in our family to actually go to college and I discovered college was a great place for parties, beer, food. Oh and learning! There was learning involved too.
RS: Hopefully lots of learning. [Laughter]
DL: Well, yeah it turned out okay actually. I took the first computer science degree offered there and then my subsequent career was all in computers, so.
RS: Wow. Can you describe what that field looked like at the time…obviously it's much different now.
DL: It's about like how I viewed cavemen when I was a kid. “Oh my god they did that?” Our computers were rooms and rooms full of big whirring metal cabinets, these strange tapes shuttling backwards and forwards at very high speeds and all these cards, these cardboard punch cards, being fed into hoppers. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them. And the operators trying to keep up. And then the line printers would shoot paper out at enormous speed, out of something that was the size of an entertainment unit. That was a printer, one printer. And the computer itself had as much intelligence now as gas pump. It…so I've seen extraordinary changes go on since then.
RS: And what were you particularly interested in? Were you an operator? Did you fix them? Did you just…?
DL: Oh well, the degree was in computer science so I covered all aspects of computers back then, which fortunately was a lot smaller science than it is now. SO it was a very broad course. When I left I started out both as an operator and a programmer. I actually had two jobs, one in the evening and one in the day, trying to save up for a deposit on a house. And so I worked…usually I worked sixteen hours a day. [Laughter] And I did that for a couple of years, just trying to get enough money together to start, you know, buying a house. And I did eventually manage to buy a tiny house. It was actually a triangular house. Back in England they would, the factory owners would, build homes for the factory workers in Victorian times. And if a road curved around a corner they just kept building all the houses were row houses so they are all stuck together they are called terraced houses in Britain. So the terraced houses would just build around a corner which mean the one right on the corner was triangular shaped, it was a wedge. And I bought one of those it was my very first house. And I bought it for about $20,000. So.
RS: And where was that at?
DL: That was in a place called Reading. Yeah, just outside of London. Used to be famous for its jail, amongst other things. That's where Oscar Wilde was in jail.
RS: And were you single at the time? Were you dating?
DL: Oh yes. I was single for a long long time actually. Partly because I wasn't apt and, you know, my sexual orientation really formed the first decade or so of my adult life. Because I had to be so careful. One of my early memories actually is I was--think I was fourteen--and there was a huge murder case in the papers and a guy called Ian Brady and his girlfriend murdered a number of children and buried them on the moles out on the grasslands. One of them was a seventeen-year-old and Brady had promised him sex. Took him to his home that he shared with Marley Hendez his girlfriend. And then he’d beaten the boy to death with an ax. And when that term when that came out in the news, I remember my father throwing this newspaper in front of me and I was about fourteen something like that and he said, “that's what happens to those people.” So you know that I would never have been able to come out to my father. I did come out to my brother. But then I immediately went back in and stayed in as I went to college and started working and you know it just wasn't safe for me until we got to the beginning of the 80s when I finally came out.
RS: And did you know at a very young age?
DL: Oh yes. Yes. I remember just being in the thrall…we had, after my father left the Navy, we ran a pub--a public house--and we had letting rooms, so we had bed and breakfast rooms. And there was this young guy, he must have been thirty-something and he was a construction worker. And I saw him one day in the hallway upstairs with no shirt and, oh my goodness, I could not take my eyes off of him. So yeah, I was probably about nine at the time. So yeah I knew what I liked. I didn't have a name for it.
RS: Did you ever have girlfriends as a way to pass or to cover?
DL: I had some very, well two, transient relationships. One for about a week or so and the other one for about six weeks, something like that. And I feel very sorry for both of those women. Because you know this was not good for them. Although one of them came out as a lesbian later so that was okay. It was yeah a difficult time for me because I couldn't be honest about myself but I also had this bad feeling about being dishonest with them. So it was a double sort of whammy, really. But yeah that was kind of then…I could you know mark the little check mark you know had girlfriend. It was not good.
RS: When you got to college was the culture at all a little more freer could you find other people or community at all?
DL: No, not really. I the college I was going to was in the North of England which is more conservative. If you turn England upside down it would be the equivalent of the social views of America. So the North is much more conservative than the South. So I was at college in the North and…no they did not… There was an organization that started called the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, CHE, and one guy came out as a member of CHE. And he was vilified and he wasn't attacked or anything but people didn't want to know him and I eventually got to know him and he realized that I was gay and so he was pushing me to sort of deal with it and in the end I ended the friendship because I just couldn't deal with it, you know, so. I remember him saying, "Well you're not ready now but at some point you will be," and that was that. So.
RS: So what year about did you end up buying your little triangle house?
DL: 1976
RS: So really you sort of really came up in the 60s and 70s. And obviously you know in the United States that was a time of considerable social unrest, civil rights, black power, anti-Vietnam, counterculture, um did you did England or Great Britain experience those sorts of social movements at the same time. I mean, would a college campus or a young worker have experienced that sort of upwelling of youthful rebellion?
DL: So college campus were very active politically but not on the same issues. So the black issue was very much an American issue. By the 60s the black community wasn't well tolerated in England but it was to some extent integrated. I think that started actually just after the war. I remember I was about six and my mother took me on a bus and…So we get on the bus and there is some bench seating on the front of the bus and then two seats you know across the bus further back. And there was a black woman sitting on one of the bench seats and I, being a little kid, I just climbed on the seat next to her and my mother grabbed me by the hand and pulled me off the seat and said, “You don't sit next to them they're dirty.” And so for some time that's what I thought. And then I realized, you know, that my mother had inbred racism and, you know, I didn't need to subscribe to that view point. But that had lessoned a great deal by the time I got to college. Our racial integration was pretty good, there was no integration with the gay community. And most of the politic struggles and the marches I went on were about South Africa or about apartheid in South Africa, about the minor strikes when Maggie Thatcher was trying to get rid of all the mining unions, the attacks on the steel workers, and so on and so on. And one of my favorite chants ever was we walked through London after Margret Thatcher ended the free milk for children at schools. Everyone used to get a third of a pint of milk free to guard against rickets. And she ended that. And I remember marching through London going "Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher." That was the catch phrase so we had all placards and we were chanting. So those were the kinds of yeah, there was a lot of student activity which I don't see now which is a shame. I think in the 80s people became much more about me rather than us. And I think that's a tragedy both for Britain and America.
RS: So when did you first sort of start dealing with your sexuality maybe with a relationship or joining more politically-oriented groups? I mean how did you really start to grapple with that?
DL: I mean for a long time it was secret and furtive and unpleasant. It was sneaked moments like um…um…what's his name? Guy from Wham? Trying to think of his name… Well, anyway it'll come back to me. George Michael. George Michael, you know his little trips to toilets in a park. This was literally the only way that gay men in England at that time could have ever met. And it was seedy and unpleasant and that's not a good basis for sex. So the first relationship, oddly enough, was with an Irish doctor in Iraq. So I moved to Iraq, I was project manager for a computer project there ‘81 through ’86. And I think it was in ‘83 that I met this guy at a party and we were both sort of loners. He offered a ride back to where I was living and we ended up in bed. And so then we saw each other for a little while that was quite an awakening for me. That I could actually not just sneak around having a little sex here and there that but I could actually talk to somebody. And you know there could be drinks before and after we could to for dinner. It didn't have to be without names and anything else.
RS: What was sort of happening in Iraq while you were living there? What was sort of moving there from England to there like, especially as a closeted gay man?
DL: Well, for me it was wonderful, as a foreigner. The Iraqi people are very very hospitable they love foreigners and they really can't do enough for you. And the project was paying all the costs obviously, they put us in nice hotels in Ishan and then rented housing. I was getting a huge salary because at the time Iraq and Iran were at war and so they considered it a war zone. And so I got double my basic salary and seven weeks vacation a year, so you know. I know you're at university so you’re always on vacation but anyways. [Laughter] So the lifestyle there was interesting because of the environment, the people themselves were very friendly. So food was short and if you wanted…we'd have somebody out scouting and they'd say, “There are eggs at the souk,” and so everybody would jump into their car and drive down to the souk and get a tray of eggs. Because you don't care whether you want them or not or need them you go get them because they are there. I remember cauliflowers coming to the market one day and everyone was down there and they were the best cauliflowers--you know they grew organic without knowing it was. Organic because nobody had ever told them about other stuff and these were huge cauliflowers, I mean twice the size of a cauliflower you get here. And really tasty not plain, same with tomatoes and things like that. It was more of an adventure living there and trying to plan all these things. And the work ethic is different too. Friday is the holy day and so nobody works then, but you work the rest of the week except where there's a need or it’s somebody's birthday, there's always some reason why nobody's working.
: ...
DL: Oh yes. I traveled a number of times to New York, just for vacations but never for work. If I traveled anywhere for work it as usually the West Coast, San Francisco.
RS: What was it like visiting America under Reagan?
DL: Yeah, well, I was aware of things. But it was peripheral to me because I was on a vacation visa, whatever. I think it was more interesting when I actually moved here in ‘96 because at that time the Reagan era measures were still enforced. I had to…before I could actually apply for a greencard had to go and have an HIV test. To make sure I wouldn't be a liability for America. And, you know so, that was the kind of thing that hit a home later. But back in the 80s, no I just came and partied with friends, visited monuments,…my very first visit to New York I knew nothing about America. Actually, it's funny because when I was kid the thing I saw about America on TV was a whole bunch of The Virginian, The Rifleman, you know, Gun Smoke. And so I assumed a whole of America was just like that. ...
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RS: So did you ever come out to your mother?
DL: No, I didn't. But I rather think she knew. She actually died in ’87, lung cancer. And at the time I when I came back from Iraq that I changed career and become a nurse. And, well, it was this whole story that goes with that too but we won't go there. And, so when she became really ill with it, she didn't tell anybody that she was sick and by the time she did tell us that she was sick, she was living on her own and we didn't realize and it was too late really to get anything done and she was gone in three months. But I nursed her in those last three months. Well, towards the end, we was sitting watching some game show on TV and one evening and she looked at me and she said, “Danny, is there any point for me holding on to you to get married?” And I went, “No.” And that was all we said. It was pretty clever. She knew. And sadly, of course, if she'd been able to hold on, she'd been a hundred now, but, I mean, she would have been able to hold on, I did get married. So things have changed, you know, from ’68, well ’67, in Britain when it was still illegal when I was, you know, sexually active, I was in danger of being put in prison to 2017 and I legally got married to a man. So you know what a change in a lifetime.
: ...
RS: So how did you get into rodeo?
DL: Oh, rodeo! I knew we were supposed to be talking about something. So, well, of course, I'd seen it all on TV growing up as a kid all part of that Wild West thing, everyone had a horse. And I was always fascinated by that. When I was about I would say twenty-three, twenty-four, a friend of mine, well his wife, owned horses. And she offered to teach me to ride. Well, either she wasn't a good teacher or I wasn't a good student. I was not good at it. And but I did go riding with her several times. She picked out a horse you know that would be gentle with me. This horse was gentle with me until he figured out he doesn't know what the heck he's doing. And so he headed for the nearest tree at a gallop. So tried to get me off. I ducked, so I survived. And she stopped the horse and everything was fine. Anyway, so that was my earliest introduction of horses and then when I came over here, living in Cupertino there was annual gay rodeo there. And so I’d go along and, you know, with my then partner Gary. He and I would go along. And we had a nice time, we didn't really understand the rules very much of the events but we enjoyed it.
DL: When I met Bill, I moved to Albuquerque, and he was actually a member, just a supporter really not a rider or anything, he didn't compete but he was a supporter of the rodeo and I joined the local rodeo association, as well, just to support them. And then I started volunteering. So I did security, I did registration, I helped in the arena, you know, simple stuff. So I gradually, it built that it was becoming an interest of mine, but there wasn't much I could do about it. I didn't have a horse. There's a couple of events you can do on foot, but not much. So it was three years ago at the rodeo here that I met a real cowboy, well, real-ish. You know, he has a day job but he's actually, he owns a ranch, he has horses, so he's always been around horses, so he really is a cowboy, and he's an all-around champion, a bull riding champion, he's done all those things. And you know you may even be interviewing him, guy called Jody Capp, and so he got me further interested in it and he offered to teach me to ride. And I thought, well, yes, okay, I didn't do so well last time I'll try again. And he was a good teacher. And he got me riding pretty well and then I was staying with him, our condo was rented and I came down for a vacation and I stayed at his place on the ranch and um he was going to go some gymkhana and you know what a gymkhana is?
RS: You should explain.
DL: Yeah so a gymkhana is a…it's a sort of a poor man’s rodeo. It's mostly aimed at the more amateur riders and the kids. But it's a fun event, family event you go along and there are seven events altogether, some of them overlap with rodeo, some of them don't. There's like a potato toss. Where you have to pick up a potato riding around and then throw it in a barrel. So I went along and Jody took all three of his horses with him and we saddled them up and he said, “Well, you can ride them around, I'm going to compete in the rodeo.” And I said, “Do you think there are any of the events that I could do?” And he said, “Well there's one event where you just have to ride all the way up the arena and back again as fast as you can. You could do that.” I said, “Okay, well, I'll sign up for that.” And so I went up with him to the office and I, with some trepidation, signed up for that. And then we went back to the horses and Jody's friend Wayne who is also a real cowboy said, “So you're riding today?” I said, “Well, I signed up for one event.” And he said, “You're here now, you signed up for one, you might as well do them all.” I said, “Well, I've never tried any of them.” So he said, “Well what do you got to lose?” So, I went back to the office, I signed up for the whole event. And so then I was in seven events and I did them all and two of them I screwed up completely. I did the wrong thing so I was disqualified on those two but five of them I got times on.
DL: So I was very very pleased, particularly the key hole, which is where you have to guide the horse into a sort of it's like a key shape chalk ring and you have to go up the sort of arm with the key and into the head of the key and turn the horse around and come back again without crossing the line and I did that! And I was really really excited, so that was that. So after that, that was in January and of course Jody was getting ready for rodeo in May and now I was hooked. And I said, “Do you think I could do something in the rodeo?” And he was looking at me like now clearly this is not a good idea. So he said, “If you want to then I will help you.” And he did and trained me and taught me to do three events: the barrels, the poles, and flags. And so two years ago I did all three of those events. I can't say very successfully, but I did all three events at the Hot Rodeo and one of the great things about this was the support I got from the real cowboys. Everybody knew that I was just an amateur here for the day and just trying it out. Nobody cared, nobody worried. I paid my money same as everybody else, so I got the same.
DL: Everybody gave advice: how to do this how to do that. Even an actual national trainer who was sitting in the exercise ring the first day we were there. So today, Friday, people will be exercising and trying out the arena. And so I was trying to barrels and this guy I suddenly hear this voice going “[inaudible]”. And looking around trying to ride and hear this guy, this trainer actually telling me what I'm doing wrong so I tried to stop listening. He stopped me, brought the horse over, adjusted the reigns, and said: “You've got to hold here. I tied knots here so you know where to hold.” And off I went again, I did better, so yeah. I did that rodeo and then following week actually did the Vegas rodeo with Jody. Had a wonderful time did three events both times, second time considerably better. Although I was a crowd pleaser because I very nearly fell off in the barrels. And in fact you could hear this sort of oooooh, silence, and then I sort of relief as people realized I wasn't actually going to fall off, or maybe they were disappointed I don't know. So I got around the barrels I got a time on that and I got a time and came in ninth on the flags. You can only guess there were only 9 people but actually I got a time.
RS: But still.
DL: So I was really really excited. Took picture of the score sheet showing that I was actually and did have a time on it. The thing with flags is that the guys who are really fast they go in so fast they often will miss getting the flag in the bucket and so although their times would be wonderful, if you don't get the thing in the bucket you don't get…you know, it doesn't matter. And my time was pretty slow, pretty creaky really.
RS: But it was a time.
DL: Right. And most of what we did that day was entirely down to Bartender the horse, which is Jody's horse. Bartender is the most amazing animal. He's fully trained for these events. So literally I think I could have let him go on his own and he would have done it. He certainly would have done the barrels and he knew exactly where to go for the flags. It was only when I tried to interfere too much that things went wrong.
RS: And will you competing tomorrow?
DL: No, I'm done now. After that I went back to Albuquerque and I went to the Albuquerque rodeo since I don't own a horse and certainly can’t afford to you know buy one or rent one or whatever, I don't have a horse to compete and I don't really want to compete on foot. But I did do two events actually at the Albuquerque rodeo last year. One intentionally and one accidentally. So the first one I did was calf roping on foot and I went to the rodeo school to learn that, which again was great. There's all these people who are really skilled just giving up their time to help other people learn how to do this stuff. And in any field people talk some strange language until you know the technology and you know the language. So they teach you what it's all about too. So I did that but then while I was at registration that day two people came up to me who I shall never forget. It was wonderful, they said have you ever down wild drag and I said, “No, I haven't done it. I rode horses last year and I'm doing you know calf roping on foot that's me that's all I know.” And they said, “Would you like to do wild drag?” And I said, “Well, I don't know. That kind of looks complicated and dangerous.” And they said, “Nooo, it'll be fun.” And it turned out that there drag person had not been able to get to the rodeo and they couldn't compete without a third and so they asked me if I wanted to do. And I've always been game for anything frankly. I sky-dived, I scuba-dived, I, you know, anything that comes along, I'll give it a try. So, they signed me up and then again everybody back in the arena, you know, everyone’s all: “Danny he's never done this before he has no idea what he's doing. He has no clue. He doesn't have any of the gear.” And, you know, a jacket, protective jacket appeared, helmet appeared. A wig appeared because you have to put drag on, a wig and a dress and, you know, suddenly there I was ready to do wild drag.
RS: How did you do?
DL: Oh, terribly. [Laughs] A lot of wild drag as it turns out--as everybody now tells me cause, you know, I've done it once so therefore I'm an expert--but the other people tell me a lot of it comes down to the draw, you know, which steer you get. Ours was ornery he did not want to move anywhere. And so I kind of got on him--I was the guy who had to get on the back of the steer--I kind of got on a couple of times but then I was off the other side or whatever. I nearly got a hoof in the face at one point, so now I realize why you need that helmet. Umm, I don’t' care! I had a wonderful time! It's just, you know, a great activity and team work. That was great. So team work for that and then the horse events where you are in a team with the horse. But with the calf roping on foot no I can barely throw the rope in the right direction, let alone rope an animal. So I'm not doing that this year.
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RS: That's great. And how in, you know, so you've been watching rodeo at least for 20 or more years.
DL: That's frightening, but yes.
RS: How has the association changed over time?
DL: That's difficult. I think…well one of the things I've noticed is there is less competitors at least to the events that I go to. I think there's been an influx of the last few years of some of the people from the professional rodeos. And they come along for the prize money and of course they win. But they aren't gay and they aren't interested in the gay culture. You know like a lot of things like square dance, gay square dance, it's not just square dancing. Well gay rodeo isn't just gay rodeo--you know, it's the parties, it's the pool parties, it's the events afterwards, the two-stepping, the whatever. So it really encompasses a whole set of things which are in themselves a subculture. And I think that's fading, as I was saying earlier that the gay culture in general is fading as we are more…I was going to say accepted I don't like that word, really. Integrated. I don't think people accept us necessarily but they put up with us and I don't care really whether they accept me or not. I am who I am. I paid my dues growing up to figure that out. And now I'm sixty-five and now I don't have to give a damn. I think that's what's happened really with the rodeo just as much as it has with other organizations in the gay world. That it's become more mainstream, but less gay. So.
RS: Do you notice any differences living in the place like Albuquerque verses Palm Springs do you see any difference in homophobia at all between?
DL: Yes. Well, when you're living in a city that's got maybe 8% population like Albuquerque which is declared gay or lesbian. Then you move to Palm Springs which on the last census had 53% gay or lesbian. Yeah, I notice a difference. I've been pretty much an activist all my life but pretending for some of that to be a straight activist. I think I was the only one who was fooled frankly, from what everybody tells me. My best friend, when I sat her down nearly in tears and said I've got something to tell you, “Yes, I'm gay.” And she said, “Yeah, but what's the news you know.” [Laughs] So, yes, it's very clearly different being here. I was always somebody who would get up in a public place and dance with a man, since I came out in the 80s. I would walk down the street holding hands or whatever and I would go in a gay club and not try and hide my face, whatever. That's just me. Now my partner, my husband now, is a more private person. He doesn't want to be in your face about his sexuality. He's not ashamed or in the closet at all, I mean he's an entertainer in the gay community but he doesn't want to be sort of breaking new boundaries. We went on a cruise about ten years ago. And it was the tuxedo night. Everyone’s in tuxedo and it was a straight cruise, so all the straight couples got up and starting dancing. And I desperately wanted him to dance with me but he would not dance with me. And then the other week here he did in a restaurant just got up and danced you know. It's good for him that we are in a safer place now, what feels safer.
RS: When it comes to sort of western culture have you sort of as member you know of gay dance clubs, of the rodeo association have you ever experienced homophobic events on your way to a rodeo or at gay square dance event or anything like that? Have you actually seen homophobia there?
DL: Yes. In limited quantities, so it's never been a real distraction. Obviously, interestingly you know we always marched in the Albuquerque gay pride and that always had a huge evangelical collection of people with hateful signs. You know, “God hates fags” and all that. And they were missing at last year’s rodeo, for the first time ever they weren't there, which was kind of interesting. I’m sorry the gay pride, not the rodeo. In terms of the rodeo, I've never seen anything. In terms of gay square dancing, yes, I've seen that occasionally because we have big conventions. There’ll be a gay square dance convention here in July. We take over the whole Renaissance Hotel here and about 1,000 dancers. And I remember a few years ago being the convention in L.A., which you would think would be okay, and there was a couple a young couple with a small child at the desk while I was there. And this woman was complaining loudly, “When we booked this hotel we didn't know you'd have all these queers in the hotel. We want you to do something about it.” The receptionist, without blinking an eye, said, “Certainly madam. I can help you rebook somewhere else.” [Laugh] So, you know, I know it's still there. It's foolish…I think some people think it's gone away, it hasn't gone away. It won't go away because attitudes of people certainly above fifty don't really change very much. They may be less expressive about them, but they're not going to change their attitude. I think our hope is that in future generations they won't learn those behaviors, you know.
RS: So before you mentioned the sort of rapid pace of change in your lifetime to go from, you know, sexual relationships being criminalized to being able to be legally married. Do you think…has that process been very straight forward?
DL: Oh, no. No, very convoluted and when you are within that process, when you are actually within any segment of history, as you live history, you can't see it from the outside in an objective way. So, for you, it's going to be very personal; you're going to feel the defeats very hard; you're not going to see the victories as being great victories; it's only when you can step back over the decades really, in this case, and see what happened that you can see that there is actual progress. [...] But, if I was still alive, I won't be, but if I was still alive in fifty years’ time, I hope I would look back and say, “Wow! What a precession of change in the twenty-first century, you know, how they moved from where they were to where they got to by the end of the twenty-first century.” We can just hope that that will be the case, you know, but no there's been plenty of steps forward and steps back and we think that we've won a battle. [...] I think overall we are moving forward.
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RS: So what do you think the future of an association like gay rodeo is?
DL: Oh, I hope it's still pretty healthy, you know. It's like the gay square dance community. Those two communities and the gay bar environment, you know, those things have declined over the last decade of two. But they are still there, they still, in a smaller way, functioning very well. People enjoy the rodeo here and last year there were more people attending than previous years. So they struggle for funds, but I don't think they are really seeing a decline in the core interest in the activity, which I think is good. Whether it will change because of integration, I don't know, I think that's yet to be seen. We are still young in that process, really. We…nobody…you're not going to go to places like Texas, for example, and think you're fully integrated, that's not the case. You know, maybe California, maybe. I think there is a ways to go before we are in the integrated state and I doubt that the two--straight and gay rodeo—I don't think they will ever merge as activities, maybe they would in the future I don't know.
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RS: And you've mentioned the term “real cowboy” a couple of times. So I'm wondering if you can give me a definition of that.
DL: Well, what I mean is there are people who are, like me, who are weekend cowboys. We go to two-steps and put on our cowboy drag. And then there are people who live out on a ranch, they have cattle, they have horses, whatever. They may well, these days, have a day job as well, so many of the guys who I would term as “real cowboys” have day jobs. But they also are very much in that whole genre. I might draw a parallel to the leather community in the gay community. There are some people who like to put on a bit of leather and go to a leather bar on weekends, you know. And there are other people living the life of leather and, you know, that essentially comes with a whole set of rules about their life. And I think that's the sort of division I'm going for really. The guys who are just weekenders and a lot of the people that you'd meet here are in that weekend thing, they like the look, they like the activities, they like to dance. But they aren't about to rush out and wrestle a cow or ride a horse..
RS: Have you enjoyed being a weekend cowboy?
DL: Yes, absolutely. I've enjoyed everything about my life, even the bad parts because my view is always that, everything, every decision I made good and bad all my life has brought me to where I am now. And I would be somewhere else if I had made different decisions. So I like where I am now, so all of that must have been good.
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RS: It's been amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time [to speak with me].
DL: Alright, thank you.