Ted Clark – Spokane in Perspective

“There’s just an awful lot of acceptance of people.”

In some ways I think it was probably cathartic for Spokane to have to deal with [Mayor Jim West being outed]. Here’s your wonderful conservative, stalwart individual who’s a total fiasco. It gave, I think, people that were a lot more moderate [an] opportunity to say, “Yeah, you’re not as good as you think you are.”

The really disgusting part is the individual, because he had fought against gay issues. He had spoken against gay issues for his whole career—and was such a two-faced operation. There were times when the message [to Jim West] was, “You don’t have to vote for it. Just shut up! Say nothing. Okay, from your constituency and from your background, you can’t favor this, or you can’t support this. But you don’t have to fight it. Just be quiet and let the surge take it where it will go.” But he wasn’t going to do that either. He was always posturing. That’s the part that’s kind of disgusting. You know, then you feel sorry for the individual because he was fighting cancer and dying. But it was kind of an appropriate ending for a total fiasco career: to be exposed and to be shown to be the phony he was. Spokane just happened to have the privilege of hosting it.

The interesting thing to me is, it went so long. I’m certainly not a political analyst in any way, but my question is, “What finally tipped the boat that the establishment went after him and nailed him?” He finally got somebody angry enough at him that they outed him. They went to a lot of work to set up that scam, document it, and bring it forward. Years back, when he was in the legislature in Olympia, he was in a brush with a police raid in a public bathroom across from the Capitol. They arrested a couple of people. Jim was part of the group, but not quite caught in the act. That’s when, immediately, he went back and made a big public display of proposing to his secretary on the floor of the Senate, they got married and . . . It was all a sham. But it satisfied the power people that he was representing.

I don’t think [Spokane is] unique in nurturing or suppressing [homosexuality]. You look at some of the more prominent gay individuals, public life individuals, and okay, where do they come from? And they’re all over. They’re small towns, big towns, you know, medium, mixes. Frequently the stories are going back to what it was like living in a small town. I think, right off the top of my head, of Del Shores and “Sordid Lives.”[1] He is writing, basically, autobiographical experiences, of his childhood, in a small conservative Texas town.

I also think Spokane is a metropolitan enough community that if you’re self-identified as gay at an early age, high school age—now particularly, but even years back—there was some support someplace if a kid was strong enough to reach out and look for it. Like Cheyenne [Jackson] at Civic Theater. There’s a lot of places for kids to pursue special interests. If they’re really good at what they do, they’re going to get some recognition. I think Spokane has enough variety of opportunity to help nurture those people. You know, we’re not an avant-garde, out there, in-your-face community as a whole. But there’s just an awful lot of acceptance of people.

I like Spokane. I disagree with some of the things it does, but . . . Over the years I think it’s been a good community. It tends to be conservative, but it hasn’t been suppressive. Well, and when I was in the work world, I traveled all over the United States: a lot of time in Atlanta, Montgomery, Chicago. [Spokane is a] typical, mid-sized, slightly conservative [city].

 

[1]A 1996 play; a film released in 2000; a 2008 television series. Set in Texas.

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Sources: Interview with Susan Williams on 3 December 2006, held at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture; Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 30 November 2012 and on 27 February 2014.