Cookies From a Gay Guy

By Marc Dion

April 6, 2015 3 min read

In 1964, when I was 7, my father tended bar in a small place owned by a man everyone called "Ace."

The bar had 15 red leather stools and maybe six tables. The walls were brown. The bar did not have a blender or any kind of wine, did not accept checks and could not break a $100 bill until very late at night.

The men who drank there were factory workers, union members and Catholics. They drank beer or a shot-and-a-beer or whiskey and ginger ale, which all of them called a "highball."

And one day, a guy came in and ordered a draft beer.

"You could make the guy for a queer six blocks away," my father said, by which he most likely meant the guy had a little wiggle in his walk or a lisp or limp wrists or any of the other qualities people associated with gayness back in 1964. My father referred to gay men as "queers" or "fruits," as did most men of his generation.

Pop gave the guy a beer. Two regulars, sitting a few stools away, started talking loudly.

"What is this, a fag bar now?" one of them said.

"Yeah," the other one said. "I guess there's gonna be all kinds of fairies flyin' around in here."

My father went over to the two men.

"Knock it off," he said.

"Hey, Gene," one of them said to my father, "we were just..."

"I know what you're doin'," my father said. "You're talkin' up to give that guy a scare."

"Hey, look," one of them said. "The guy's a fag."

"Shaddap," my father explained.

My father was plugged into what he called the "BOB," or "Brotherhood of Bartenders," which meant he knew every other bartender in town.

"That guy who came in, the fruit?" he told me years later. "He'd been thrown out of some places, roughed up a couple of times.

"Never gave me any trouble," Pop said. "Came in a couple times a week, drank two beers and left."

The man everybody thought was gay worked in a nearby bakery, and after he'd been drinking in the bar for a few weeks, he showed up one night with a dozen cookies in a white cardboard box.

"They let us take things home from work," he told my father. "Maybe your kid would like 'em."

After that, every few weeks, the guy would give my father something for me — a dozen cookies, six brownies, half of a lemon meringue pie.

When I tell this story, I don't think of my father as a crusader. Quite frankly, I think he did what he did because he didn't like customers telling him whom he could serve.

When I tell this story, I think about the man who was so pathetically grateful for being allowed to buy a draft beer that he thought he had to give my father little presents in return for the privilege.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest e-book, "Marc Dion: Volume I," a collection of his best 2014 columns, is available for all major e-readers.

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