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Taking Charge : What was happening in 1985
by Andrew Davis and Amy Wooten
2005-09-21

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Pictured Above and below: Lesbian and gay publications from the 1970s and 1980s. Karen Thompson fighting to get Sharon Kowalski home, 1987. Photo by Marcy Hochberg. WCT co-owner Nan Schaffer in the mid Pictured 1990s at a Horizons' gala. Photo by Lisa Ebright. Former Chicago activist Renee Hanover, a retired attorney, on the frontlines at a Supreme Court protest during the March on Washington in 1987. Photo by Tracy Baim. Miriam Ben-Shalom in 1988, fighting to stay in the military. Photo by Sue Burke. Chicago artist Jon Reich in the late 1980s—he died in the mid 1990s. IMPACT political activists Bob Adams and Nancy Katz. Adams later died, Katz is now a judge. Author Pat Parker's book Jonestown & Other Madness was reviewed in the first issue of Windy City Times. She died in 1989. Mayor Daley celebrates pride week in the early 1990s.

Major Events of 1985:

— 'We Are the World' is recorded by USA for Africa in response to Band Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas'

— Live Aid is aired in London and Philadelphia and beamed around the globe.

— Billy Joel marries Christie Brinkley.

— In Brussels, Belgium, 39 people were killed and 250 were wounded during a soccer match between Liverpool and Juventus.

— Gorbachev becomes the last president of the Soviet Union.

— New Coke is introduced and quickly replaced with original Coke.

— Subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz is charged with attempted murder.

— The hole in the ozone layer—which was initially detected in 1977—is now indisputable.

— The world's largest atom smasher goes online in Illinois.

— The Nintendo home entertainment system is introduced.

— Leaded gas is officially banned in the United States.

— An extra second is added to the calendar year.

— The Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame opens.

— The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary about the career and the murder of the gay San Francisco city supervisor, wins an Academy Award.

— Rock Hudson is the first major public figure to die of AIDS, on Oct. 2.

— Karen Ann Quinlan was the first person to die in the 'right-to-die' controversy debate.

— New York gay and lesbian writers organize to create the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Defamation League, later changed to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ( GLAAD ) . They hold a town hall meeting in November 1985 that attracts 700.

Sources: InThe80s.com; Gay Events Timeline

Memories

Joe Camper, VALEO: 'I moved to Chicago during March, 1985 from Virginia. When I left Richmond it was 75 degrees; when I arrived in Chicago it was 28 degrees and snowing. I lived on Roscoe Street with my boyfriend at the time. Boys Town was called 'New Town.' Sidetrack was basically one long room, and Roscoe's did not exist. Christopher Street, at Hydrate's current location, was my favorite corner bar. In 1985, gay men went out to dance; dancing was the 'big thing.' People danced at Carol's [ at 1355 N. Wells ] and at Paradise on Broadway.'

Marty Hansen, director of programs and services, Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House: 'In the fall of 1985 I participated in an intensive orientation program to be part of the first Chicago House volunteer group. We would become AIDS buddies to the house's first residents. I learned so much about life on so many levels. The whole experience was one of the most meaningful and valuable of the past 20 years—and I will never forget the people.'

Robert Castillo, activist: 'That year was one of transition. It was the year I graduated from Roberto Clemente High School and began attending Northeastern Illinois University. It was also the time when I would begin the process of falling in love with a good friend, which would end nearly four years later with my first broken heart. During those days I was still struggling with 'coming out' and being politically active for LGBT rights was the furthest thing from my mind. There was no Horizons or Howard Brown in Logan Square for me to go to and I was unaware of their existence at that point. I didn't necessarily feel isolated but didn't feel that I could be 'out' to my friends or family.'

Trudy Ring, copy chief for LPI Media ( Out and The Advocate ) and former Chicago House volunteer ( 1988-1993 ) , and a former Outlines reporter: 'That was the first full year in lived in Chicago; I moved there from downstate Illinois and worked as a reporter for a financial magazine. In 1985, I went to my first Chicago Gay Pride Parade. My friend, Kevin Dumyahan, was involved in the committee that planned Chicago House; he sadly is no longer with us. I remember discovering a lot of wonderful things about the city. I also remember going with friends to Paris Dance. There was always a lot of beautiful women. ( Even though I'm straight, I can appreciate beautiful women. ) I also recall going to a bar called Opal Station [ at 6655 N. Clark ] a lot.'

Lori Cannon, activist: 'I was driving a school bus by day and a coach bus by night for all the shows that came to Arie Crown. The shows were a hoot; I got to work with [ Ann ] Miller with Sugar Babies and hateful homophobe Anthony Quinn. Also, working with [ Yul ] Brynner was always interesting; there was actually a rule that you had to look at the floor when he walked by you. He looked at me one day and said, 'God will have to look after you now because I won't be here.' I said 'Mr. Brynner, you don't have a problem with your ego, do you?' He just laughed. I think about so many members of the dance company or the costumers or some directors—and they're all dead now. The plague caused a lot of pain and suffering. I also remember The Bearded Lady ( who passed away a couple of years ago ) at the Gay Pride Parade. A lot of my friends were diagnosed around that time—and that motivated me to learn everything I could about the virus. People were starting to form [ AIDS-related ] organizations like Chicago House and TPAN. People were still carrying on [ in clubs ] and it's a good thing [ they could ] ; on the flip side, you were going to three or four funerals a week and you knew who to look for—or you were going to Unit 371 of [ Illinois Masonic Hospital ] , which was a model of compassion and service to PWAs.'

Matt Sharp, Test Positive Aware Network: 'In 1985 I was a ballet dancer in my last year with the Dallas Ballet. I had also started to become involved in gay rights and first heard the news of a 'rare gay cancer.' I became involved in the first AIDS direct actions drawing chalk outlines on the plaza of Dallas City Hall and made mock cemeteries with white painted wooded crosses marking the deaths of friends and lovers. It was a very scary time.'

Sandy Dyer, board member of the Lesbian Cancer Community Project: ' [ I ] was a 35-year-old Air Force Captain serving as the USAF postal commander for the U.S. forces in Australia. I was in the fifth year of six wonderful years in Sydney—the best military assignment of a 25-year career. Happy anniversary WCMG.'

Jessica Halem, Lesbian Cancer Community Project: 'In 1985, I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade. It was a watershed year of my life. I was determined to no longer be the dorky, smart girl of elementary school, so when I got to junior high I worked hard to get a boyfriend and be popular. First there was a perm and shopping at The Limited and it was all downhill from there. My boyfriend's nickname was B.J. and he was on the football team. He taught me how to roll a joint, enjoy Led Zeppelin, and appreciate his nickname. I haven't been the same since 1985.'

Lora Branch, Chicago Department of Public Health: 'I was a tour guide at the Museum of Science and Industry and a college student at Columbia. I was also [ spinning ] house music—which was really starting to boom then. My friends and I were all slaves to gay club scene ( Waterworks, Music Box, etc. ) and hated rap music. Now, I love rap music and instead of hanging out in clubs you'll usually find me doing some kind of health outreach or convincing the owners to hang syphilis elimination posters. ( Smile ) '

William Kelley, attorney and activist: 'In 1985, I was in the middle of delayed attendance at law school, thanks to a small amount of money my grandfather had left me and the support of my lover of what was then six years ( now 26 ) , Chen Ooi. I had already put in 20 years of gay activism but had taken a break from nearly everything because of school's intensity—I didn't even try to organize a group at Chicago-Kent while I was there, though for some years now it finally has had one. I remained on the board of the Chicago Access Corporation public-access cable TV group, though, as its only openly gay member at that time, and I would occasionally sit in on the public meetings of those who had taken up the long campaign I had helped to start in 1973 to pass a Chicago sexual-orientation nondiscrimination ordinance ( which finally passed at the end of the '80s ) . As well as the sudden death of my mother in Missouri, the year saw the beginnings of an economy-minded move by Chen and me from Lakeview to Uptown—today we're looking at a move to somewhere else for the sake of more space and privacy at a still-affordable price. Since law school graduation in 1987, I've clerked for two appellate judges, worked for some small law firms, and done a lot of work as a hearing officer for the city, while resuming a certain degree of activism. Chen has had a mostly steady rise in the promotion-agency business, and retirement age is beginning to loom—though, for me, probably not retirement. Twenty years have passed fairly quickly.'

Lauren Sugerman, Chicago Women in Trades: 'Chicago Women in Trades was less than five years old in 1985. Although only staffed with volunteer labor of pioneering tradeswomen, we were busy trying to help other women get into jobs in the construction trades, keep our members working on several public projects and ensure equitable treatment for tradeswomen. Many of us were just completing our four-year apprenticeships, becoming journey-level carpenters, electricians and painters, working on projects like the State of Illinois Building. In 1985 we had just received our second grant, from the Crossroads Fund, and we pledged to use it to put together a slideshow showcasing the herstory of women working in nontraditional jobs in the U.S. Although we ambitiously collected lots of archival footage of women working during the World Wars, this project took a back seat to our advocacy efforts focusing on gathering evidence in support of our charges of sex discrimination at Washburne Trade School, filed with the U. S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. When the two-year investigation ended in 1986, the department would substantiate all of our charges, and Mayor Washington and his Board of Education would invite CWIT to help design and implement remedies to ensure equal opportunity for women and people of color to access the skilled trade apprenticeship programs housed at the then premier national trade school. So much has changed since that moment 20 years ago as CWIT has built capacity to address the issues and challenges of occupational segregation by gender, but strikingly, so many of the challenges tradeswomen face are still the same.'

Mitch Edmondson, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital: 'I was in college in Missouri and working on a psychology degree. I was on my way out but wasn't completely out.'


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