Last year, we got to interview a man named Jaime. He has experienced the good, bad, and ugly of growing up in Western Pennsylvania as an openly gay man who lived his life without limits. His experience living in America through the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s is an interesting perspective that needs to be heard. His story highlights the dangers and challenges of existing in the world as somebody who society does not understand, yet who completely understands themselves. It gives us insight into how it was living life as a gay man during those times. He was blunt, open, and unapologetically himself throughout the interview. Along with talking about his experiences and offering advice to younger members of the LGBT community, he briefly spoke about his work in the entertainment industry. Here he is in his own words:
Mick: Before we get into it, you have done some film and entertainment work. What have you done work wise in the entertainment industry?
Jaime: In 1985, Gung Ho was being filmed and they had to film a scene in Beaver, Pa. They asked for extras, and I went each day to be an extra in Gung Ho with my mom at night and skipped school the next day. In 2001, I started working as a paid actor at Station Scare, which was in Station Square. I connected with a make-up artist, who was a Hollywood make-up artist. He said, “You are like a canvas I can do anything on, and it comes out just perfect.” I have had extra movie roles in “Gung Ho” and “One For The Money”. In “One For The Money”, my job was to walk back and forth across the streets as an extra. What happens is the producer says “WALK” and everyone walks back and forth. In the past, I ran Facebook pages for Hollywood actors, actresses, and more. I even helped fund a TV show from the 50s to get it to DVD called Ozzie & Harriet as well as donated money to back Rose Marie's documentary on her life. I have had my name in the end credits of short movies. In 2017, I got my name in print when I helped an actress named Paula Stewart (who once worked with Lucille Ball) on her biography called "Lucy Loved Me".
My IMDB page is: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5950444/
Mick: Sounds like you had your hands deep into a couple areas of the entertainment industry. So, generally how was growing up Jamie?
Jaime: I grew up in Midland Heights, Pa. All of us kids got together on the weekends and played on the playground. Sometimes we did arts, crafts, and activities because the adults wanted us to be active, learn about each other, and interact with each other. Every once in a while, we had carnivals. I knew I was gay from a very young age though.
Mick: What was it like being a gay man in the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s?
Jaime: Well in school in the 80’s, I was bullied constantly. I was forced out of high school because people did not want to graduate with gay people. Football team members bullied me physically and verbally. I was even picked on by a guy who was gay himself on the down low. I thought to myself “Why are you picking on me when you were gay yourself?” Later in life, this guy requested me on Facebook and tried to connect with me. Sorry but that's a HARD PASS!
One night I was driving my mother’s car and two kids that I went to high school with stopped me. They invited me to a party. I never went to parties or functions because I was an outcast because I was gay. I followed them and drove back to their party in Midland, Pa. There was no party. They lured me into the house and basement. The next thing I know, I got beat up by them pretty bad. So bad that I had to be taken to the hospital. I got out of the beating by flashing my crossing guard badge, continuously saying I was with the police, and once I convinced them I was with the police, they let me leave. I got out of there, went to a payphone, called 911, and the police responded. Police assumed I was gay because I got beat up by two guys. They made me move my mother's car and said that I would get a ticket or towed for where it was parked if I didn't. This was after I got beaten badly and could barely walk. Police told the ambulance people I was a fag, and the EMS workers were cold towards me. They started asking inappropriate questions about HIV and AIDS and would not touch me or give me medical treatment until I got to the ER.
Police report about assault on Jaime
Mick: How did your parents treat you? What about your extended family?
Jamie: If you want to talk about being discriminated by your family, my father's side of the family takes the cake. In 2003 my grandfather passed away and I went to the funeral. He was the only guy on my dad’s side of the family besides my Uncle Mike who accepted me. I went to confront the funeral director about the obituary which left out my nephew and niece. The funeral director went to my uncles Jack & Frank after I asked if they could reprint the obituary and include them. My uncles cornered me on a staircase, confronted me, and made me leave after saying “We want you to leave, you cock sucking faggot.”
In 2010, I posted a picture of my grandmother & I together after I visited on Facebook. My grandmother called my home and told my partner to have me take it down because she didn't want her picture on Facebook. The fucked-up part is on my cousins Facebook pages, they had pictures up with her. I came to the conclusion that it was because I was gay. In 2014, she was dying only 5 minutes from my home, and nobody told me. On the night she died, I went to go visit her on her deathbed. He told me she was supposed to die the week before and no one knew why she was still here. Eventually, I decided to leave but before I did, I walked over to her and told her “It's okay, you can leave and go home.” I walked out of the room & she died that night. In 2015, my uncle tried his damnedest to get me back in the family when he was having his own health problems. When I visited him, he even told me "I don't care who the hell you sleep with, you are always going to be my nephew. I just wish the other assholes would just get a clue and let you back in because you didn't do a damn thing wrong". He passed away and nothing changed with my family. Each funeral I went to they had pictures of the family. Out of all those pictures, they had pictures of my cousins everywhere but only had 1 picture of me as a young boy. What a way to treat the 1st grandchild of the family just because that grandchild was gay. It just solidified how they felt.
Mick: Was it hard to meet partners? Hard to find gay friends? Or friends in general? Did you feel like you were a part of the broader gay community?
Jaime: For me it was hard because of my low self-confidence. I not only felt like I was not as attractive as other people but was even told many, many times “No way dude, your ugly fuck off!”. So, I did not have a lot of friends. Once people hung out with me and saw how cool I was and how great my aura truly was, I made more friends. When it came to the gay community, they were always catty & judgmental. They were catty towards each other, and people were even hooking up with each other behind their spouse’s backs all the time. I used to visit bars and would see it happen all the time. Open relationships were a secret. The places I frequented were publicly known and were in the LGBT newspapers or magazines. Out Magazine was helpful because it told you where it was safe for gay people to travel and be able to safely enjoy themselves.
I had one relationship at 19 which lasted for only several months until my ex’s bipolar disorder was too much to handle. Fast forward to the mid 90’s, specifically ’95, I ended up in an 8-year relationship. Later, I was in my longest relationship, 19 years, until all physical and sexual activity stopped. I was even told “We have to get you a fuck buddy”, which oddly enough was the same reason my 8-year relationship ended because he did and said the same thing.
As far as friends go now, I have a good couple lasting friendships. Other so-called friends don't bother with you until they need something from you. You know how that goes.
Mick: Back in the 90’s, was it acceptable in Lawrenceville/Pittsburgh to be open and out?
Jaime: Well, let’s put it this way. While living in Lawrenceville, a landlord almost beat me to a bloody pulp because I complained about 3 teenagers who he let move in to his building. He came into my front door, beat me up, and called me a “fag”. My dog stopped the beating by knocking down the block on the door and running in to bite the landlord. After living there long enough, people would drive past and if my screen door were open, people would shout out “fag”. Several times, people would take Comet or a bathroom cleaner and mix it with Pop. Then, they would throw it in front of the house, and it would explode. Even after moving out of Lawrenceville, it has happened to me 4-5 times living out in the Beaver County area. Anyways, Lawrenceville was not always progressive and was close minded. Blue Moon bar came in and the gay community was shocked because the area was known for not being welcoming and only known for the hookers on the street. That's my opinion about Lawrenceville not being welcoming for all that I have experienced and seen.
Mick: What was the biggest issue in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s facing the gay community that you saw personally?
Jaime: Well, for me and my friends, being fired because we were gay. Personally, I had 5 discrimination complaints against establishments and former employers, who fired me because I was gay. I won a settlement and judgement against all those employers & establishments. Another major issue was anal cancer. It was the same cancer that took Farrah Fawcett. She was a huge inspiration for gay people, and she eventually announced she had anal cancer. It made so many people want to get tested and think about it. Another thing working against us was Congressmen and Senators who were anti-gay yet coming out as gay themselves or even being caught in restrooms or even gay bars with male strippers and prostitutes... Still are right?
Mick: So, break down to me the basis of all 5 of your cases and lawsuits? All were related to discrimination and getting fired?
Jaime: Yes, 2 were for unlawful firing and 3 were for discrimination. Wholey’s was the 1st one, Nebraska Book Company was 2nd, Goodwill in East Liberty was the 3rd, Jimmy’s Pizza in Pittsburgh was 4th, and ArrowMed was the last one.
The 1st was a famous fish market, Wholey's, that hired me. The executive chef Chris came up to me and said “Old man Wholey has an idea of what you are. And he does not like it so please be careful". Later, that same day Chris came to me and said, “Old Man Wholey made a decision to fire you.” The good thing was that Chris gave me a letter of recommendation and it helped me tremendously. Filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations. Wholey’s got a letter of notice that they were being sued for discrimination, and they offered me my job back. I was told very clearly that “If you take their offer and go back to work, they will fire you for something else.” So, I rejected their offer and won a lawsuit where I got paid back wages. There was a 10-year muzzle on case but now I can openly talk about the case.
Article about Wholey's lawsuit
The Nebraska Book Company case happened because Wally the assistant manager got into an argument with me, picked me up, and slammed me against the wall while calling me a fag. I was fired. I filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations again. This time the man who took my complaint didn't believe that I was fired for being gay. So, I made a complaint against the man who took my initial complaint and was assigned a new case worker who took me more seriously. During the investigation, a coworker wrote a letter & mailed it in explaining she knows that I was fired for being gay. She said that she knew for a fact the both the assistant manager Wally and manager Craig hated gays. The company offered me $1,500. I told them to send me the money and I would split it up between 3 charities ($500 each). I split it between Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, the Animal Rescue League (where I rescued my dog that saved me from the landlord attack), & a gay rights group in Pittsburgh. So, we settled, and they sent a letter apologizing to me. In the end, they fired both the manager and assistant manager.
Article on Oakland bookstore case
Goodwill in East Liberty was for discrimination. A worker (who was gay himself) called me a “faggot”. I confronted him. Quite frankly, I was fed up. I filed a complaint along with a discrimination lawsuit with Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations against Goodwill. The kid got fired after the complaint was filed. The end result was an apology letter from Goodwill, and we settled for $1,000 which also went to charity.
Jimmy’s Pizza in Pittsburgh was on Smallman Street. I went to get beer for my previous long-term partner. They asked for my ID and rejected me because I did not have one. I went & got my ID, came back, and they still refused to serve me. We argued and I left. As I was leaving, I got followed by an employee out to the hair salon my ex-boyfriend worked at. The employee yelled “DON’T EVER COME BACK YOU COCKSUCKING FAGGOT”. I filed a lawsuit with Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations and got a letter of apology from Jimmy’s Pizza.
The last one was ArrowMed, which is a medical supply company. I was in rehab for the effects of double pneumonia. The company told me that my health insurance would not pay for my extra stay in the rehab center anymore, so I had to go somewhere else to recover. I went to stay at my grandmothers to get rehabbed back into shape. I got a phone call from ArrowMed who was supposed to deliver me a breathing machine and they said, “We know that you had double pneumonia, we were told you might be gay, and we need to come in with a hazmat suit to deliver your breathing machine.” In the end, they set it in my grandmother's garage and refused to come in to show me how to use it. I almost couldn't file a case against them till the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations learned the company was based out of Pittsburgh. So, they filed a case against the company and demanded a letter of apology on my behalf. They offered to donate $500 to a charity of my choice in my name so I told them to send it to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah.
Article on ArrowMed case
Mick: With all that you have been through and experienced Jaime, what would you tell kids and teenagers today who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community?
Jaime: Live your life, you are going to hurt people regardless, so you live your life on your terms. Who cares what other people care about? You can’t really please everyone. If you can’t find people who support you don't just give up, look for them they are out there. Regardless of if you have problems or troubles, there is always someone who is going to be there, no matter who you are.
I wouldn’t change what I did because in the end, I am and was ALWAYS true to myself.
If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community struggling with your mental health or who needs support, here are some resources:
List of resources, support, hotlines, etc. : https://www.doogotouy.com/resources
Support, assistance, and more: http://www.glbtnationalhelpcenter.org/
LGBTQ+ National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
Bullying, addiction, college grants, equity, and more: https://lgbt.ucsd.edu/resources/national-resources.html
LGBTQ+ resources for teens: https://www.PFLAG.org