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.