Deena Romoff – Sociability

“You had to do it yourself!”

In Spokane it was unique because people will come and they say, “How do I meet lesbians? Where do I go to meet lesbians?” For a long time there were the bars. If you didn’t want to go to the bars, you either did nothing, or you had friends over for dinner, or you got active! That’s when we started doing the Women’s Cultural Exchange. That’s when we started bringing in women performers—having places culturally that would be there for women. You had to do it yourself! Because it wasn’t here. If you weren’t a bar person, hanging out at the bar and bringing somebody home, there was nothing.

But there was a couple of [gay bars]. Well, one is still there: Irv’s. That’s always been more of a male bar, but we’d go there sometimes. I can’t remember the names of them. Dempsey’s came later. That definitely got taken over. A lot of the places eventually got taken over by straight people, because they loved the music. Yeah. It was great music. It was lots of dancing, and it was a lot of fun.

[I knew a] few fellows that were involved in drag, but they were performers. They didn’t lip-sync. They were performers, which I enjoyed a lot. They were good performers. I never understood the drag stuff. Lip-syncing. Just prance around and . . . [Whispers:] I don’t get it. [Full voice:] But, you know, performing . . . Kevan Gardner had a friend who he went to Mormon school with. He would come up from Las Vegas to visit Kevan and they would do drag shows. Sometimes they’d do it at the [Unitarian Church]. God, they were fabulous!  The two of them together were just fabulous. They were showmen. They were entertainers.

I do the best I can [to create my community]. I got involved with the Unitarians. They’re wonderful. I love them. I have a few people that know my name now. I’ve been going up there three and a half years, and I volunteer for all kinds of strange things. They feel like a community, even though I’m just a quiet little nobody in it. They do political action. There’s a part of me that is very attracted to that, and it is what’s available to me right now.

I sing. I do some radical songs, and this and that. Last year at the dinner—[the Unitarians] have an annual dinner—and someone heard from someone else that I sing. So they asked me to sing. I sang two songs. I can’t even remember the first one, but the second one was “My Yiddishe Momme.” I sang it in Yiddish and English. And I talked a lot. I just have to talk about things, about oppression. You know how Yiddish mommas got this stereotype of being so fearful and [asking], “Where are you going?” Because of the pogrom! Their children, their husbands went out, they never knew if they were going to come back, because they were killing Jews—historically, forever, for a thousand years. So, that’s how they got all really anxious, and protective, and it becomes a stereotype.

I sing a song “Can’t Help Loving that Man of Mine.” Then I sang another verse for the Unitarians of “Can’t Help Loving that Gal of Mine.” They loved that. Afterwards people came up, and they said “Hi.” It’s [been] four years. I just go there, because it’s a moment for myself in a sense too. I love the minister.[1] He gives wonderful sermons. They’re just so out there. He considers himself a mystic. Someone asked him if he believed in God and he said [cleverly:], “Not yet.” [Laughs.]


[1]Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof.


Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 20 March 2013.