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Volume 15/Issue 13

Dear Rip,

We want to thank you for giving us special coverage and an ad in your magazine as well as buying an ad in our program for our recent fund-raiser at Anne Rice's House on June 8, 1997. The event was a great success for us and you helped us immensely with your generosity. As we have explained, The Regional AIDS Interfaith Network is a program of Catholic Charities which is a non-profit agency. Our program recruits volunteers from churches and synagogues to provide practical services to persons living with AIDS and their families and friends. Your service to us is most appreciated.
Anita Tircuit, Adminstrator; Bonnie Rawlins, Service Coordinator

Dear Everyone,

You will recall that Mayor Morial signed Executive Order 97-1122 on May 17 at the HRC Banquet. A small Christian rally was held in front of City Hall a few days later which was thought to be the extent of the opposition.

Apparently, a lot more has been happening. A large rally and prayer vigil was held in front of City Hall Sat., June 21 and Rev. Galatas has been collecting signatures on Canal St. in opposition to the Mayor's action.

Also, Council woman Peggy Wilson is expected to call for a public hearing. Some suspect that Woody Jenkins is stirring up conservative religious extremists to distract attention from his floundering challenge of last year's election. Ask your friends in Wilson's district to call or write her in support of the Mayor.

For those of you who live out of town, your letters to the Times-Picayune will be very helpful if you stress how this improves the image of New Orleans in your eyes.

The Mayor needs our support and he needs it now. Please do the following:
1. Write the Mayor a letter thanking him for his action. His address is: The Hon. Marc Morial, Office of the Mayor, 1300 Perdido St., Rm 2E10, New Orleans, LA 70112.

You can be assured that the Christian Coalition is about to mount a letter-writing campaign against the Mayor.

2. Write your council person telling him of your support of the Mayor's action: The Hon. ........., Office of the City Council, 1300 Perdido St., New Orleans, LA 70112.

3. Write a letter to the Times-Picayune, Gambit, The Louisiana Weekly, New Orleans Tribune & Citybusiness expressing your support for the Mayor's action:
The Times-Picayune, 3800 Howard Ave., New Orleans, LA 70140; Gambit, 3923 Bienville St., New Orleans, LA 70119; New Orleans Citibusiness, 111 Veteran's Blvd., Suite 1810, Metairie, LA 70005; Louisiana Weekly, 1001 Howard Ave., Suite 2600, New Orleans, LA 70113; New Orleans Tribune, 2335 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans, LA 70119.

Please send me a copy of your letters to keep on file: Robert Udick, 2320 Magazine St., Apt. C, New Orleans, LA 70130. Jim Wiltberger, the Mayor's Liaison to the Gay/Lesbian Community, is very concerned about this. The Mayor has expressed a need for our vocal support.

This is similar to the uproar over Clinton's attempt to allow gays/lesbians to serve in the military. Many of our leaders thought it would just slip through with little opposition. We know now how wrong that presumption was.

We have worked too hard and come too far to let the Mayor down. He is counting on our support. Please act today. -Robert Udick

Dear AMBUSH Editor:

Issue 11's interview with me really generated a lot of interest! Let's the space of a week I got about two dozen phone calls from people who liked it; about a dozen more from people who hated it; I got my tires slashed; and, I got read by a handful of queens who thought I had dissed them in print. One thing's for sure, nobody who read the article didn't have some sort of opinion about it. It seems that a lot more has been read into the interview than is actually there.

It's times like these that I wish everyone, straight, gay, bi, or whatever, could just learn to LIGHTEN UP! Some of us take the whole drag thing too damn seriously, and when you start taking it too seriously it ceases to be fun. Isn't that the reason we all started drag, anyway, to have fun?

After re-reading the article about fifty times I can see how some people might have got the idea that I was dissing them or some enterprises they're associated with. Make no mistake: I have quite a few strong opinions about almost everything, but I don't go out of my way to intentionally hurt anyone's feelings. If some feelings do get hurt, then I'm sorry, but I call them as I see them, and I tell the truth as I believe it to be, so I retract nothing.

Rather than go into a line-by-line critique of the article I'll Just give you a short dissertation about the way I really think and let you be the judge.

To start off with, a short personal history.

After attending a prep seminary and then two years of college level seminary, I started drag. I've been doing drag for over ten years. I started in Oklahoma City, then moved to Dallas, and finally ended up here in the Birthplace of Drag (yeah, I know, it's the Birthplace of Jazz, too, ha! ha!) where in 1992 I started out at an illusion club on Bourbon Street.

I worked there for three years in an illusion show. When the show closed we moved down the street to Oz and have been there ever since on Wednesday nights. I also do the Calendar Boy contest at OZ each Thursday night and am featured in the Cajun La Cage show at Some Like It Hot on Bourbon Street six nights a week.

Additionally, I've had bookings and done benefits in most of the Southern and Midwestern states. I was also show director at what is now the Bridge corner Pub in Houma, LA for three years.

In other words, I've been there and done that and there's very little I haven't seen or done. Drag has made me a living for most of the last ten years. When I came to New Orleans most of the older queens said I'd probably last six months; well, I'm still here and a lot of them aren't.

Most of the grief I've gotten from the article came from people who thought I had said that pageant systems are rigged. If my entire thoughts and meanings to the answers to the questions had been printed you would have heard me say that all pageants are "rigged" to some extent.

By that I mean that every pageant I've ever been in or seen you could always sense that there were one or two contestants who were getting special attention from certain judges (let's face it, we all have our favorites) or who were getting read for things that didn't matter while other contestants were being given high scores they didn't deserve. Or situations where certain contestants had obvious problem areas ignored (such as gown length, missing buttons, frayed seams, panty lines, etc.) while others were being crucified for the same things.

If you really want to know about a rigged pageant, then let me tell you about Nebraska 1996 in which I was second runner-up. Although it was common knowledge that the winner's drag mother was the head judge of the pageant, we didn't say anything because we all know how word of mouth travels within pageant systems and nobody wanted to be branded as a troublemaker. Well, I probably already have been, but as I said earlier, the truth is the truth and I retract nothing I've said (note: I retract nothing I've said; I have a lot of problems with things other people say and try to blame on me; that's why I'm writing this).

I could go on and on but I don't want to use up space that Rip and Marsha could be using to sell advertisements, so I'll close by saying that I appreciate the support the community has given me and my sisters and I don't want to offend anyone intentionally but I'm not going to say that something's blue when it's obviously red, so to speak.

If you really want to know what I think about something, just come up and ask me. Don't worry, I won't hit you or anything (unless, of course, we can work out some sort of arrangement ... but that's another story!).
Always yours,
--Stephanie Williams

An Open Letter to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Community of New Orleans:

The Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans was founded in 1992 "to facilitate and assist in the provision of counseling, cultural and social services of the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community." Membership and participation is open to all interested individuals. The Center fills a vital need and services many members of our local community and visitors.

In the latter half of 1996 the LGCCNO Board of Directors was concerned about the viability of the Center. A Board retreat was held to identify problems and establish goals to revitalize the Center. The Center conducted a survey of the community through organizational mailings, press and PrideFest. From the sampling, views of the Center, ideas for the direction of the Center and potential support and participation were determined. We also conducted meetings of the current volunteers, past Board members and founders to obtain their input. During the course of our evaluation several individuals suggested that the Center was no longer viable and should be closed.

The Board determined that the Center needed to become more efficient and stable in order to meet the needs of our community and grow and that this could best be achieved by hiring a staff person. A budget was approved requiring $15,000 to be raised in six months to cover the operating costs of the Center with a Staff person for the remainder of 1997. The Board felt strongly that if the community did not support this effort the Center should close.

This Board resolution will be re-visited at a special meeting of the Board on June 30th at 7:00pm. At this meeting the date will be set for the Annual General Membership Meeting and the process will begin for the annual Board of Directors election. The decision whether or not to close the Center must ultimately be made by the membership. However, the Board will make a recommendation based on the results of the fundraising effort.

Board meetings are traditionally held on the third Monday of the month and open to everyone. Anyone wishing to address the Board may contact the secretary or Co-Chairs in advance to be put on the agenda. If a guest who is not on the agenda wishes to address the Board, the Board will determine whether or not they can be added based upon the agenda and time constraints.

The current Board (whose members are active in many other community organizations) has been working toward the resolution's goal while the Center has steadily improved its services through the efforts of our volunteers. The Center's overall achievements are a result of the combined efforts of our volunteers, the Board, members and supporters. We are particularly proud of these achievements: the Center is open seven days a week; the Center is organized to better service the community with information, resources, referrals, library services, and space for meetings or events; the Center conducts a weekly Youth Group (ages 15-22); the Center sponsors Friday night movies, monthly transgender socials, and other meetings, seminars, etc.; the Center showcases Queer artists (mostly local); the Center outreaches to the community at large through mailings, press, and events such as celebration and Pride.

The building fund (currently at $30,000+) is money designated specifically towards finding a permanent home for the Center or the funds must be returned to the donors. The fundraising and building search is an ongoing process which we have attempted to keep the community appraised of. We welcome for consideration any additional ideas or information towards this effort.

As always, we welcome input and participation from all community members. Everyone is welcome to join, volunteer, serve on committees, or run for a seat on the Board of Directors of the LGCCNO. We encourage you to have a voice In your Center. Thank you for your continued support.
--The Board of Directors of the LGCCNO

Dear Ambush,

Recently a group of concerned people for the gay & lesbian community, considered reforming and developing a more active, and dedicated Board of Directors for the Lesbian & Community Center of New Orleans.

In addition, certain volunteers at the Center, in their concern for the financial status and needs of the Center, attempted to initiate fund-raising events and benefits. This was lost due to certain activities, and poor or bad press, created by certain members of the Board currently seated.

There appears to be an ongoing problem with regards to the Center, and certain few board members, with developing programs and fund-raising events. And to date attempts to create new programs, have not been presented to the whole Board of Directors for consideration. Included as one of the events was to be a support group for lesbians, chaired by a licensed therapist, and without fee to the attendees.

To date there has been a constant threat of closing the Center if the public does not comply and support certain individuals, and their, what is becoming most obvious, personal agendas. There are and have been concerned individuals, that have and willing to support the Center, and form a more solid board.

It was with deep regret that I had to present to the Board of Directors the following memorandum:
"DATE: 16 June 1997
TO: Co Chairs Dexter Brecht and Joan Ladnier, the Executive Board, and the Board of Directors seated as of June 16, 1997.

In recent months, myself, along with certain other volunteers have attempted to improve and refine the Center operations. Included in this was an attempt to develop certain fund-raisers to bring additional capital for the Center's benefit.

Due to negative public relations and press releases, the efforts to raise and cure fund-raisers has drastically been interfered with. And as of this date are no longer available.

Attempts to initiate other fund-raisers have been ignored, or placed in a position that they also will not be available or pursued. This in part due to discouragement by certain Board members.

Recently, it was discovered that in late 1996 at least two additional fund-raisers were offered and were not presented to the Board for consideration. These were also terminated, and are no longer available.

On June 13th, 1997, a meeting was held between the hours of 1:30 and 3:30pm at the Center. Present were myself, Joan Ladnier and Dexter Brecht, representing the Board as co-chairs, and certain other individuals.

In accordance with the by-laws, the co-chairs were to have on the agenda for the May 1997 Board meeting, the appointment of a committee, to review and accept any new or replacement names for the Board of Directors. By intent or design this was not done.

And based on information received on June 13, 1997, there appears that an attempt to control, and limit any voting on the Board and its members, may be underway.

In brief, the discussion was a demand, accompanied by what appears to be threats, and innuendo, to terminate, and bar from the Center, any volunteer who refuses to support the co-chair positions, or attempt to introduce any new names to be added or replace any board member.

It is with sad regret that I cannot, and will not be subject to what appears as threats, if I or any other volunteer makes any attempt to change the Center, or introduce new names as board members, and possible co-chairs.

Then I must in all good conscious, consider these events carefully, and hereby tender my resignation from the Center, effective immediately."

It saddens me, that in a community that has difficulty enough with society in general, and certain aspects of society, that any member of the Gay or Lesbian culture, has to resort to threat to gain and maintain their positions. We of the gay and lesbian community are constantly battling for equal and fair rights, and anyone in this community that resorts to this form of intimidation, can only add to an already difficult position we all find ourselves in, and are trying to change.

I will not call on the gay and lesbian community for support at this time, but would hope that within each person, a spark will be found, and that we remember who we are, and the advances we have made in so many areas.

Again my deepest regrets for this action, and I hope those now remaining at the Center, and on the Board of Directors, will see a future for the Center, and not be swayed by the internal politics that have become evident. The Center is a vital and special program which is needed in our community, and the Center should be one of the focal points of bringing our community together. It should not be used to perpetuate any one persons personal goals or egos, at the cost of so many other deserving individuals.

Again with sadness, this has been written, and may whatever spiritual being you believe in, watch over you, and care for you all.
Very sincerely yours, Kerry Sue Philips

[Letters and Comments should be sent to Ambush Letters, 828-A Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70116-3137]

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