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PASSAGES Tony Midnite
2009-09-09

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Tony Midnite—a member of the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame who was an activist, female impersonator and costume designer—died in Las Vegas, Nev., on Aug. 31. Midnite was 82.

Midnite ( real name: Tony Murdoch ) —who was born in Texas, Sept. 20, 1926—first came to Chicago as a female impersonator in 1951, according to his Hall of Fame bio. Two years later, he opened his studio as a costume designer and eventually fielded requests from around the world.

Defying the Chicago Police Department in the early 1950s, Midnite booked the Jewel Box Revue ( a group of 25 impersonators and a lesbian, Storme De Laviere, who was a male impersonator, according to Queermusicheritage.us ) at a South Side bar called the Roberts Show Lounge.

Ever the activist, Midnite was part of the 1977 Medinah Temple demonstration against anti-gay advocate Anita Bryant. He was also in the Daley Center protest against police harassment at gay bar Carol's Speakeasy while Jane Byrne was Chicago's mayor.

Midnite was a book reviewer for several publications, including GayLife. In 1978, he was the subject of a three-part GayLife series that focused on local gay history from the 1950s.

Midnite was inducted into the Hall of Fame Nov. 12, 1996. He moved to Las Vegas in 2000, where there was a Jewel Box Revue reunion the following year. Female impersonator Jimmy Tai wrote on Members.cox.net that "Many remember The Jewel Box Revue, but it was Tony's costumes that were most vividly remembered! Tony did the planning for a Jewel Box reunion in Las Vegas on August of 2001. He dined us out and we had a memorable time, thanks to Tony Midnite."

PASSAGES

Earl Welther

Earl Welther, a gay-rights advocate who founded Midwest Men's Center of Chicago, Inc., died Sept. 3. He was 67.

Welther was born May 22, 1942 in Chicago, and attended Wright Junior College 1960-62, according to his profile on LinkedIn.com .

In 1979, he was part of the Chicago Men's Gathering, a pro-feminist, gay-affirmative men's group. In 1982, Welther joined the protest of The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Mass., when it started prohibiting gays and lesbians from teaching or even being members. In the late 1980s, he started Midwest Men's Center of Chicago, Inc., an umbrella organization that included Men Nurturing Men and, later, Windy City Gay Naturists, a group that provided social opportunities for nudists.

In 1991, Welther joined St. Peter's Episcopal Church and became involved in Integrity, the Church's gay/lesbian support group. He was also the editor of the church's newsletter, The Net, and a board/vestry member.

Welther's breadth of activism on behalf of the LGBT community led to him being nominated for the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame last year. One endorser, the Very Rev. James H. Dunkerley ( the retired rector of St. Peter's ) , stated, "I have known Earl for the early [ '80s ] and have found his openness and support of the Gay and Lesbian community from day one, as both [ courageous ] and daunting."

Memorial Mass Services for Earl Welther will be held Sat., Oct. 10 at 3 p.m. at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 621 W. Belmont Ave., 773-525-0844. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made for Earl's funeral expenses, made payable and sent to Robert Welther at 4722 W. Berteau Ave., Chicago, IL 60641 or sent to St. Peter's Episcopal Church with the memo: for Earl Welther's funeral expenses.

PASSAGES

Mary Head

Mary Head, known to many in the Lakeview LGBT community as an employee at Boystown bar Bucks Saloon, has passed away, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Head was born in Los Angeles, Calif., as Mary McWherter, to deceased parents Mary Price and Robert J. McWherter. She was later adopted, along with late brother Robert, Jr., by Nonnie and Bebop ( both deceased ) , where they gained two sisters: Denise and Shar. After attending Seattle University, Head moved to Chicago. She eventually married ( and divorced ) George "Ted" Head, and worked at First Chicago ( later, Bank One ) .

She retired early and became a community activist, concentrating on the areas of gay rights and animal rescue. Head was an active member of Triangle Neighbors/LVCC, and a staple of Direct Aid Chicago and Bucks Saloon.

At the time of her death, Head was a single mother to Gary ( partner Elizabeth Capua ) Head and Eric Zich, and an aunt of Gentry McWherter and many more.

Jim Darby, a friend of Head and member of the Chicago Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights ( AVER ) , e-mailed Windy City Times that "Mary has attended many of our [ d ] inners and probably all of our BBQ's over the years. Mary and [ good friend ] Robin came to many of our [ d ] inners, not only to bid on some of our items that no one else bid on, but also to donate items to our silent auction. She has always been such an supporter of AVER. We will truly miss her."

A memorial service will take place Sunday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m. at the park located at 815 W. Roscoe. Donations can be sent in her name to www.arfhousechicago.org .


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