The date was August 28, 1982. I was living in the Haight, the famous hippie neighborhood next to Golden Gate Park. I was spending a pleasant Sunday walking in the park. I noticed a major hubbub around Kezar Stadium. A lot of people were lining up to go in! Things very rarely happened at the funky old stadium on the edge of the park. I asked someone waiting in line what was going on.
IT WAS THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE GAY OLYMPICS!!
(Note: Now the Gay Olympics are called the Gay Games. That is because the International Olympic Committee sued the organizers of the Gay Olympics for trademark infringement. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the Gay Olympics organizers lost. A lawyer representing them rued the ruling, noting that "Olympics" had been applied to contests involving rats and cockroaches and saying, "I guess the moral is that if you're gay, in the next life you'd better be born a rat if you want to use the word 'Olympic'." (Info from Wikipedia))
And now, back to my story:
How had I not known that this historic and earth-shaking event, named at that time the Gay Olympics, was taking place right around the corner from where I lived??!? I absolutely HAD TO GO!
The last of the crowd was almost in. I ran to the box office booth. The woman inside the tiny booth told me she had no more tickets. She said, yes, there were still seats. But she had sold all the tickets she had.
Oh no! This was impossible! I was here at Kezar Stadium! The opening ceremony of the Gay Olympics was here at Kezar Stadium! And somehow the two phenomena -- me and the Opening Ceremony -- were not going to meld!
There was no way I was not going to the opening ceremony of the Gay Olympics in my neighborhood.
I pleaded with the box office woman to somehow get me in. She said there was nothing she could do. HOWEVER one of the stores in the Haight was also selling tickets. Perhaps they had some left and I could buy one from them!
At this point, it occurred to me to look in my wallet and scope out my resources. I had almost no money -- less than two dollars. Oy vey. (Nobody had a credit card in those days unless you were a real grown-up with a real job. I was just a flakey dyke playwright.)
But wait! I had my checkbook! (That's what people carried around in the days before everyone had a credit card.)
I asked the Box Office Woman if she thought that the store in the Haight would accept a check. She thought there was a good possibility that it might.
The whole audience was now in the stadium. The ceremony had begun. I could hear someone speaking inside but I couldn't understand what they were saying.
I ran to the store on Haight Street. It was not a short run for someone who was not capable of running in a track event at the first Gay Olympics. It was about four blocks.
I made it. The store was open.
Through my wheezing and panting, I asked the man behind the counter if he had tickets to the Opening Ceremony of the Gay Olympics.
Yes, he did have tickets.
Would he take a check?
Yes, he would take a check for the ticket.
Hallelujah! I was going to the Opening Ceremony at the first Gay Olympics!
I took out my checkbook.
I opened my checkbook.
There were no checks left in my checkbook.
That was the kind of thing that sometimes happened before everyone had credit cards. When you wrote your last check, you had to remember to put more checks into your checkbook. Sometimes you forgot.
I spent a very small amount of time trying to convince the man at the store to give me a ticket. He was clearly not receptive to the idea that I absolutely HAD TO go to the Opening Ceremony.
I walked as fast as I could back to Kezar Stadium. I had no idea why. There didn't seem to be any way I could get in. I stood there glumly, at the entrance, staring up at the stadium walls.
And here came all the athletes! Yes, they were marching into the stadium, right in front of me! I cheered them all wildly, all by myself, jumping and shouting and waving my arms. They were organized according to country, and I cheered every single contingent.
Oh my goodness. I felt so good. I had found a way to be part of the Opening Ceremony! I was the very first person to cheer the athletes at the Opening Ceremony of the first Gay Olympics!
And then, the athletes were gone. They were inside the stadium. I was not. There was someone still standing at the entrance. Clearly, he was the gatekeeper. He looked about nineteen. He didn't look particularly gay. He looked exactly like the kind of well-muscled young man who is hired to keep the riffraff out of a stadium.
I went up to him. He looked at me coldly. After all, he had his job to do. I told him that I was a lesbian and it was very very important to me to attend the Opening Ceremony of the first Gay Olympics.
He said nothing.
I told him that I had tried to buy a ticket at the stadium box office, but all the tickets were sold out.
He gave me a surly glance.
I told him I had then run all the way to the store on Haight Street, intending to buy a ticket with a check. I actually got out my checkbook to show him it was heartbreakingly empty of checks.
I think it was the sight of my empty checkbook that finally got to him. He saw that I wasn't some deadbeat dyke trying to finagle myself into the Opening Ceremony of the first Gay Olympics for free. No! I was an upstanding lesbian who had really truly sincerely TRIED TO BUY A TICKET with an empty checkbook!
He said, with a condescending growl, "Alright, alright. Go on in!"
And I did. I found a seat. I listened as our Congressman, Phil Burton, read a proclamation from the United States Congress in honor of the first Gay Olympics. He sounded so happy reading it. He was truly excited. That felt pretty damn good, in 1982, to hear my Congressman read a proclamation from the federal Government honoring gay people.
And then it was time for the entertainment. I had no idea who it would be, and it was... Tina Turner! I was really surprised, because until fairly recently, she had been a big star. And extremely recently, since she had left her violent husband, she was supposed to be falling apart, going down the tubes, her life a total mess. A has-been. A never-would-be-again. But here she was, one outcast honoring a stadium full of outcasts with her presence.
I think it took some courage on her part to perform for the Opening Ceremony of the Gay Olympics.
And of course she was tremendous. She was a ball of fire, a fountain of passion, intensity, and joy. Soon she had us all on our feet, singing and dancing along with her. She had the whole stadium in the palm of her hand, and we were loving every minute of it.
That's the only time I ever saw Tina Turner perform live. I've always felt a connection with her, because she honored the first Gay Olympics with her explosive performance. That was a very special day for everyone in Kezar Stadium. And it ended with Tina Turner rising from the ashes of her life to make all us lesbians and gay men feel so good.
All for now, Bloggellinis! Terry
Lilith Women's Theater | 547 Douglass St., San Francisco, CA 94114 www.LilithTheater.com