Tuesday, April 25, 2006


In an earlier post, someone wondered about the personal ads I ran in the Philadelphia Gay News - was I successful in meeting people? What type of people did I meet? And, so on ... So, I thought I'd post about this element of my life. Since if it wasn't for personal ads, I wouldn't be who I am today ... and that is no understatement.

It began with the first personal ad I ever placed - the year was 1980 and I had just graduated George Washington High School. Much of my world was pretty independent at that point - I lived at home, but had no real family structure to speak of. I had my own telephone line since junior year, which I included in my first ad - titled 19 And Under. I was 17 at the time and it was summer ... I knew that I had one more year where I was and then I was moving on ... not quite sure where. So, meeting new people was vital - esp. new gay kids like myself. I needed to develop some form of network.

I ran that ad and met some interesting people - and, for some reason, I felt the need to keep a detailed log of every guy that called my ad. Age, stats, thoughts about the person, etc ... I even had a star system for those that ranked high!

The average age of those responding was 17 ... although I did hear from a few around 24 or so. This first ad, which ran from June 1980 through February 1982, allowed me to meet the first foundation of gay friends I knew.

My first best friend came from this ad - Phil Maynard, in NE Philly. With him, we met more people and created sort of a network of gay teens in the Northeast. I also met two people that I had gone to school with at Swenson Skills Center (a vo/tech school) - along with a sea of other lost boys ... all searching for someone to talk to.

From this ragtag network of young gay men, I met a woman by the name of Robin ... she was a female version of me, complete with a network of lesbians that rivaled my own network. Together we visited the new gay community center in Philly - this was probably May 1981 - and we formed Philadelphia's first Gay Youth Group ... we met every Saturday afternoon at 1pm at the Camac and Locust location and my ad became a way to promote the group and let other teens like myself know that they were not alone. We peaked during the summer of 1982 with close to 60 kids meeting each weekend.

Also from this first ad was a call that would change my life - literally.

November 28, 1981 I received a call from a kid named Bob. He was at a friend's apartment - actually there were several gay teens over the apartment hanging out ... I spent the night talking to each of them and within a week, went over Steve's place (it was his apartment they were calling from). These kids became my foundation for a while - and regulars at the Gay Youth Group.

As much as meeting this lot of kids was important - it wasn't life changing. What was life changing was meeting Steve's roommates at 834 Bainbridge. Their names were Mike and Joe and, if you're a faithful reader, you've figured out that Mike was the ad manager of the PGN ... and together he and I created Au Courant Newsmagazine over the summer of 1982, and launched it the first Tuesday of September.

And it all started with a personal ad.


Liz said...

You have a talent for gettings started and up off the ground. You are a mover and a shaker. Thats so cool.

brandy101 said...

Hey THANKS for sharing and answering your readers' "requests"! Apparently you are meticulous in your note-taking as evidenced by your sprial book w. ad respondent info. Are you being discreet or did you actually NOT net any romantic encounters from your ads? Inquiring minds want to know ;)

I also ran ads in the Chicago Reader back in my early 20's when they'd have free ads you could do during slow times of the year (usually winter, I recall...)

Granted, my ads were in the "women seeking men" section but I met a few, em, "characters" shall we say. A cross-dressing, masochistic male gymnast was one. Another was a guy who was a complete goober and after my brief (but polite) date with him, I'd see him at every local watering hole on the northside of Chicago with a different woman. Clearly he was a personal ad addict! Hehehe.

Had a few fun dates, a few clunkers, and in the true spirit of "its a small world" ended up randomly on a date with a guy who turned out to be a friend-of-a-friend (our mutual friend didn't know about the whole ad thing.)Even though we didn't hit it off romantically I was impressed that he chose to take me to a local Hare Krishna Temple for their $5 vegetarian buffet for dinner. We had to take our shoes off. Dummy me, I was wearing tights, so my toes got kinda chilly!!!! But while other people express horror at the notion of that date, I thought it was original, unpretentious, and kinda "kitschy."

Robert Drake said...

Perhaps my post wasn't clear - everything that happened to me in those early years, could be traced back to a personal ad. The friends I made, the career path I took and even the loves I had. Personal ads were not what they might be today - before the internet, 900 numbers and such, placing and meeting through ads was commonplace. Papers like the Philadelphia Gay News had pages upon pages of personals.

So, yes - i did net romantic encounters. But I guess it was just par for the course. :)

brandy101 said...

Ah, those romantic encounters...I know, hon, I had them too! Its funny, at the time (at least for me) , they might have seemed "seedy" or "sleazy" but as time passes those memories have morphed into softer images of giggling, fun,and heavy sighs. *sigh*.

btw, in an earlier post you metioned a certain dentist...

Do you know that I am almost 100% sure that I met him when I was in high school? If its the same guy, he was in a production of "Pirates of Penznace" at a community theatre with my classmate/friend/unrequited crush, Ed. Ed and Dr. Steve hit it off - I suspected Steve was attracted to Ed on some level, as Ed was kinda sexually ambiguous at the time. Long story short, one day Ed, my friend Amy, and I cut school and headed downtown by train. We were zig-zagging our way from Suburban Station to South Street but got caught in a rainstorm. Ed suggested we duck into Steve's office to hang out/dry off. Steve was pleasant to us but couldn't hang out as his masseuse arrived with her table as we were sitting, sopping wet in his waiting room.

There are more wierd details of that day, like us suburban nerds buying faux-pot (hemp leaves) at Harry's Occult & Spiritual shop and then pathetically trying to get high off a single can of whipped cream from a WAWA...I think we just ended up eating the whipped cream along with the DOVE bars we bought. At least we got a chocolate buzz!

Like your connection to your life path via the personal ad, the music I got into back in I-92 days sent me on a path that led me to Chicago, and to meeting the guy I married, etc. As they say, "The rest is history."