Paul Tiesse – Sociability

“Okay, I’m going to go to a gay bar.”

When I hit 21, I started to go with my friends to the bookstores. Porn became a big thing. There were bookstores in downtown Spokane. [We’d] go down and buy—there wasn’t VCRs yet or anything [laughs]—but you’d buy magazines. Even later on, as I got older, it would be to buy gay magazines. Of course, you put the straight one on top, then the four gay ones underneath, and go to the check stand with them at the bookstore. Even [the mini-market P. M. Jacoy’s] used to have an extensive collection of magazines. There was a market down where the Carlyle is. They had an extensive section of magazines. Every month you’d go get your magazines. So that was a sexual outlet, obviously.

The bookstores . . . Now it’s different—I hear, because I have not been to one literally for 30 years probably. Now people meet up there; they have sex in the bookstore and stuff. That’s why a lot of the bookstores were closing because of that. There was one on Second [Avenue] across from the bus station. I walked in the booth and somebody was in there. They said “Hi.” I said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And then I walked out. I’m thinking later on, “Oh. I was probably supposed to go in there.” That’s how naïve I was about it. But I was fine the way things were. It didn’t bother me.

One of my close friends—he was really into porn. [We’d] go out to the Dishman Theater, which is an X-rated theater, which is now Dejavu. Before that it was a family theater. Then it turned into an X-rated theater; they also had striptease shows between movies. So we’d go out there almost every weekend. You know, go get some drinks, go out there, and then come back and have some drinks. I’d go to the Rainbow Tavern, which is still there on East Sprague, with my friends. They had girls stripping down to pasties and panties. It was funny because I remember one time we were having drinks there. I was listening to a basketball game on the radio at the same time [laughs]. There was this championship game on. I have always been into sports. Very heavily. So to me, you do the things of a straight male. I didn’t look at it in terms of sexuality: it was just part of growing up.

Even in the ‘70s, there were [gay] bars here. I didn’t really go to the bars though. In fact, the first time: you drive by the bar. You drive by it and you see a lot of people . . . I drove past Pumps almost every day going to [work]—the one on Monroe. There were two Pumps [in the early 1990s]: one on Monroe, and then one on Division. I was always really intrigued, but I wasn’t intrigued enough to go in. I [finally] decided, “Okay, I’m going to go to a gay bar.” I got in the car, went down there, drove around the block about three times and said, “I’m not going.” That’s how hard it was to go into a gay bar. That’s why I think, even now, there is such an alcohol and drug problem in the gay community. You have to drink heavily to try to get that courage to make that first step. Even when you’re in the bar, I think it’s why a lot of people drink heavily, just so that you can get that courage and everything. Even today, with all the rights and everything, still a lot of society doesn’t accept [homosexuality].

I still, when I walk into a gay bar twinge a little bit. First off, I don’t go to bars that much anymore, because I don’t drink. I go for fundraisers and things. Still, walking in it’s like, “Well, who’s going to see me go in?” Which I don’t care. I really don’t. But you still have that in your subconscious, because of the way you grew up. It’s just kind of funny.

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[I got involved with SAN for ] two reasons. One was, you give back to your community. Because of the Jesuits and Franciscans: you have to give back to your community. They educate you, so you have to give back to your community. I wanted to do that. To me, people with HIV are the leprosy of today. Even today there still is a stigma on them. It wasn’t that I was going to go save them all. I just wanted to volunteer. Another reason was I wanted to meet people. That was my initiative. Instead of going to the bar, I was going to get involved in organizations to meet people. You don’t meet everybody that’s HIV [positive]; you meet a whole bunch of different people. I got then introduced to the Friends of SAN, which is a fundraising group, a core group of men. I became friends with all of them too.

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There were a bunch of friends. We just went to this guy’s house and it was [Marvin Reguindin’s] house. He had two big dogs. We were trying to get him to come out with us to go down to Dempsey’s [bar] or something. Then our paths crossed a few other events around town. [There was] nothing dramatic [about how we met]. I didn’t put an ad in the paper or anything. [We met] the normal way. I don’t know if he was surprised. You’d have to ask him if he was surprised when I asked him out. We went to dinner at Gordy’s on the South Hill. That was our first date.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 15 November 2013.