*The Kosher Ham

*The Kosher Ham is the tag title I used in my nightclub act at the Jewel Box Lounge in Kansas City, MO in 1978. I used it continually until I left that city in May of 1990.

 

He Loves his Artistic Affairs

 

First, this artist talks about himself! (Warning: he does so at length!) So,...if you just want to look at the pictures... Scroll on down the bio (Hmmm. Sounds like the lyrics to a folksy, river song!) and go to another section!

About the Artist...

I was a whole lot younger when I drew this.

PROFILE

Statistics: I was born in 1946, so whatever year you're reading this, you can do the math. I'm 5', 9", and fluctuate between 160-175 lbs. I've got red/brown thinning hair on top, and facial hair that started turning white years ago, so vanity compels that I often color it.

Okay, you can stop laughing now! I also shave it for various acting roles. More on that later!

I'm usually happy-go-lucky and enjoy meeting unique people. My alcohol preference is beer or bourbon and coke.  I'm a non-smoker as of November 7, 1997. Though I've become less tolerant regarding the smell of tobacco, I am not judgmental if others still smoke. I hated those "re-born" converts when I did smoke, so I won't be one now. That is not to say that I don't worry about my friends and family who still do smoke. I do drop hints about my concerns now and then. (Sorry Gina, sorry Sandy, Kevin and Chris)

I was born February 10th. I'm not listed in any major stores, so you're welcome to get me anything cheap

 

I understand that I'm an under an Aquarius Sun and a Gemini Moon and Rising, but who believes that stuff? I began life as true child of Brooklyn, New York, active, opinionated, and immodest. Boy, did I love showing off!

LESSONS IN LIVING ~ A FLAIR FOR THE ARTS

Singing - Drawing - Acting

I started hamming it up, and became self-aware, when I was three. I sang everywhere I went. "The Hucklebuck"

It's the dance you should know,
When the lights are down low,
Grab your baby, then go,
Do the hucklebuck,
Do the hucklebuck,
If you don't know how to do it, boy you're out of luck,
Push your partner out,
Then you hunch your back,
Have a little movement in your sacroiliac,
Wiggle like a snake,
Wobble like a duck,
That's the way you do it when you do the Hucklebuck!

 

I also loved Guy Lombardo's, "Everywhere You Go" were my only two among my earliest repertory of songs.

Everywhere you go sunshine follows you
Everywhere you go skies are always blue;
Children love you they seem to know]
You bring roses out of the snow,
The whole world says "hello"
Everywhere you go

Life was a movie musical and it was not unusual for me to break out in song while walking down the street. I still do! (Don't panic, I almost never do when I'm walking with someone else.) Then, I discovered acting.

 

Hoo-boy, was that a perfect next step! Hell, I'd been doing that since I could sob my way into getting an extra Melba cookie. The only difference was that I had to say someone else's words. Perhaps learning the lyrics to songs so early in years prepared me to be a quick rote of play scripts. I should have been so good at remembering geometric theorems and other school assignments! Yeah, right!

 

I was adored by grownups as a child, small for my age, carrot-top, freckled, cross-eyed and happy I sang on street corners for change, which made my mother furious. "We may not have much, but we don't beg for money!" she scold. "Ma! Who's begging? I'm singing!"

 

While my countenance, as a child,  was cherished by adults it became less appealing as I got older, particularly to my peers! I was the ultimate target for bullies and a welcomed distraction by the other kids who used to get picked on. I quickly learned the art of self-preservation and wall building and turned to my entertaining and singing as a means of escape from a world that was often too complicated and unfair. Meanwhile, I was not getting any handsomer.

 

I'd spent the entire summer of 1959 in bed after surviving being hit by a drunk driver. I was the first one off the school bus at my stop and the drunken jerk who didn't want to wait, tried going around a stream of stopped cars and the bus. I wound up with a skull concussion and two broken legs and was in a coma for a week. I got back to school in September and by October, I came down with Rheumatic fever, which resulted in my being even more fragile than ever. No sports jock here! It was the actor's life for me!

 

In high school, (Centereach, NY) I realized Mother Nature's little joke, when I began to get all the old people's parts. (The first being the bald witch in a very strange high school production of "Snow White". I was the only kid in our Thespian troupe that could cackle like Margaret Hamilton, (she played the part of the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz.) I was somebody's 'father' in almost every high school production I appeared in. When I wasn't being 'daddy', a role I dearly love to play now (but that's another story), I was performing some zany character role. I believed I would be cursed with looking older than my actual years forever. And it felt that way right up to the time I was in my forties. Then I started breaking even. However, this was not to be the curse I first thought it was.

 

My sister, Gina, was primarily responsible for my earliest attempts at drawing. I recall an afternoon in a home we shared with every relative in the world on Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, and at the time and my sister, who is four years older than I, was at the large dining room table sketching something or other. I thought I'd join in. I picked up a crayon and began to draw a lady in a dress. Unfortunately I drew the bra of the dress as two big Us, so it appeared as if the poor dear's tits were hanging out.

 

My sister laughed hysterically. (Love ya, kiddo!) I just didn't get what was so funny. Hey, I was only six! Her laughter made me so mad, I remember, (No, I won't say it! She might read this page and we wouldn't want to make trouble!

 

I continued my efforts through school and beyond with no formal training. I wasn't as creative as I was technically capable. I could draw what I saw, but I lacked bravado to use my imagination's eye. That matured as I did.

TIME WELL SPENT

The most titillating lesson to be learned was sex. I loved it! I started out a runt of a boy, carrot red hair, freckles and crossed-eyed. I had my eyes repaired when I was 12. The older girls loved me and I was their adorable "Alfalfa" from Our Gang Comedies. (I hated that!) The older boys used me as bullying practice or else completely ignored me. (I wasn't sure which I hated more!)

I became aware of my little, gay-self by the time I was thirteen. I'd come out of the closet to my family by the time I was sixteen. My brother, Roy, (five years my senior) kind of 'thought so', my sister was non-committal, and my mom was more concerned for my safety than the fact that her boy was gay; insisting it was a phase and that I shouldn't discuss it with anyone as it was sure to be over in a few years. (Right!)

 

By coming out, I mean I told my mother, brother and sister that I knew I liked boys. I'd almost no experience! And to my knowledge, at that time, I'd never met another Gay person. Still, I was sure that I was one. I officially came out on Fire Island!

 

We'd lived in the town of Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island at that time. After graduating high school in '64, I enlisted into the Army. I had the whole summer before I would have to go in. Acting on the rumors I'd heard from my cousins, I took the hop, skip and jump to Sayville and rode the ferry to the 'fairy forest' in "The Land O' Queers", Cherry Grove!

Paradise!

In that first memorable weekend I met every imaginable type of gay person. The gamut ran from drag to leather, from blue to white collar. Every shade possible of human color, and every ethnic group, posed in the most delightfully skimpy bathing wear. There were males, females and those still deciding. Straights, bisexuals and gays worked and played together in two small bohemian communities known as Cherry Grove and The Pines. I loved it! I treasured the charisma, the color, the characters, the costumes, the music, the dancing and the company. I knew I was home and was thrilled to find so many people who shared my life. Being the new, nave kid on the block didn't hurt either. (Hmmm, there were some exceptions, there!)

Now, I was never any beauty, but I was slight of build with tight little buns and had a huge muscle between my legs. I was very popular, ...well, parts of me were, and I learned a great deal in very little time, let me tell you!

DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION - STONEWALL

And

DREW SHAFER

I brought that knowledge with me as I moved from place to place, which included six months stay in Australia. In 1968 I was on the move, trying to find myself and where I fit in with this new gay world. I'd left Chicago just before the Democratic Convention (Rumor was Mayor Daley was out to bash heads and at 22 I wanted to keep mine for awhile longer) and my travels eventually brought me to Kansas City, Missouri.

 

That is where I'd met, fell in love, and lived with my one and only life's partner, Drew Shafer. Ten years my senior, he was six foot, two inches of open joy, gentleness and kindness and who, for reasons incomprehensible to me, loved me unconditionally for 21 years. We met at a Gay Pride Picnic on September 1, 1968. He was the founder of a Gay Rights organization called The Phoenix Society for Individual Freedom. Its offices, and our home, was located at 133 Linwood Blvd. in Kansas City, MO.  I'd become a gay rights activist in the Bible Belt before the riot at Stonewall in '69. In 1970 I did get to return to NY and march in the first Gay Pride Parade.

LIVING & LOVING

Dinner Theater had become the rage and there were at least three of them at any given time in Kansas City. I performed in those and many others throughout the Mid and Southwest for over nineteen years. I'd even joined Equity until I learned it was too hard to find theaters that paid union wages. I much preferred working more often for less, than not working at all.

 

Drew was my constant hero, always backing me and supporting my theatrical endeavors. I rarely had to perform any other job, and when those dry-spells came along, he was perfectly fine with my staying home and taking care of the household chores. I loved to cook, so he ate well when I wasn't on the road. Otherwise, he'd eat out or over his mother's. My poor baby would burn Jell-O. He eventually learned to cook Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinners, God bless him.

 

When he wasn't at his full-time job at Caterpillar Inc., he loved working around the house, fixing, building, repairing! In 1971 we bought a 14' wide mobile home. He added a fully, enclosed deck on our home, and re-did the interior of the kitchen while I was away in Albuquerque doing three shows for six months. He knew about electrical wiring, plumbing and working on the car as well.

 

When I began to work professionally, I played some wonderful roles: the Emcee in Cabaret, Cocky in The Roar of the Greasepaint..., Nicely-Nicely in Guys and Dolls, Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof, Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Noah in Two By Two, Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady, Fagin in Oliver, Emory in Boys In The Band and Dodge in Sam Shepherd's The Buried Child.

 

I'll tell you more about all that in the THEATER section of my homepage.

AIDS

My world had changed utterly. I'd gone from footloose and carefree, to a committed half of a whole couple. From the first day, we lived in an open-sex relationship. We both considered sex to be fun, not a vow of fidelity nor a shackle to bind you to a person or control someone else. 1980 arrived and with it, the gay movement had taken on a greater cause beside social equality. An insidious disease, found earliest among gay males, was to be publicly labeled  the gay disease. We were now fighting for our very lives as well as our human rights.

 

Sadly, by this time, The Phoenix Society had gone bankrupt. Drew and I went through some difficult times together. Not for any lack of love and respect, but money always seemed to be illusive commodity. He'd put himself in great debt trying to purchase the three story home in which we lived and housed the organization. The Society's funding had little community support and when I met Drew, he was more than $40,000.00 in the hole. It took us almost eighteen years to climb out of the pit of debt we began with, to finally start having a financially, stress-free life, only to have AIDS tear us apart.

Our home on the corner of Linwood Blvd and Paseo Dr. ~ 1968.

(Picture taken around 1966)

(Drew and I lived on the third floor, rented a room on the second and the organization used the main, first floor and part of the basement as well. The house was torn down a few years after we moved and was still a vacant lot when I left Kansas City, in 1990.)

I'd volunteered at the Good Samaritan Project's AIDS hospice in 1986 and, like the others, I went to get tested. Drew said he would go with me and get tested as well. His results were positive. He lived with AIDS for three years. AZT was the only medication available during that time, and it was poisoning him. In that third year, constant bouts with anemia finally took their toll. I took care of him in our home up to his last twelve hours. He died twenty-nine days after our twenty-first anniversary, September 30, 1989. The last movie we watched together was Beaches.

He always was the Wind Beneath My Wings.

You can read more about Drew and our lives together on a special page I created for him. Just click on the roses!

m.ray

I still love and miss you, my longtime companion.

I had considered moving back to New York, upstate, where most of my family had moved and were now residing in various small towns. The decision to do so, however, was forced upon me. May of 1990, an ignorant landowner had knocked down part of a levee by the Little Blue River at the back of our mobile village in order to dump garbage. He never built it back up and a severe storm hit Kansas City and the heavy rains caused the river to rise over the damaged levee and that created a flood, which wiped away our home. Almost everything I owned went along with it. I moved in with my Mom for about a year, when she became suddenly ill and was diagnosed with a malignant, cancerous growth in her brain. She died in July of 1992.

1982, Mom visiting Drew and I in our home in Kansas City.

We flew her out to be with us on our 14th anniversary.

 

Mom was supportive of the relationship between Drew and I, and in 1982, on our fourteenth anniversary, we had my mother come out and visited us at our home.

 

I'd even put on a special show for her at one of our bars called The Arabian Knights. I used to do this act where I'd start off as a man, sing several songs, strip to the song, "There'll Be Some Changes Made", and re-dress as a woman and finish the show that way, changing into various outfits and characters all the while singing live with piano accompaniment. You can see pix of that act and more at in the "DRAG" extension of my bio link below.

Naturally, all the guys loved meeting her and adored her candor and humor. Everyone had a fantastic time that evening!

 

Lillian Marie Hoyt

1922 ~ 1992

Mom was a strong, giving woman. In her youth, she had a passion for fun and living and carried that passion with her throughout her life. A singer and dancer in her younger days, she passed on her artistic talents to her children, whom she raised alone.

We all love her and miss her deeply.

I most fondly recall my Mother singing a song called, "I Need You So". It was around 1951 or 52 when I first remember her singing it in our grandparent's house, which I mentioned earlier, on Emmons Ave in Brooklyn, NY. It was a recording by Don Cherry and I found a karaoke version of it and made my own 'at home' recording using my Windows Sound Recorder, creating a wav file, then used Smart Wav Converter Pro to change it into an mp3 file. You can open it to hear it and/or save it to your computer if you wish. It's about 3 mg, so for some dial-up servers, it may be too large a download to save.

 

This is dedicated to

I hope you enjoy!!

 

(Right click on the "Play Button" and choose "Open link in New Window")

 

DEPRESSION

Drew's death and the loss of my home was taking it's toll. I had gone through the paces of living, but a part of me was dying as well. I'd moved to Salem, NY and taken a job at Caldor's Department store for a brief period, when I began to get weaker and weaker. I felt just awful. I could barely walk or lift anything, and I assumed that AIDS was the reason. (I know, now, that in my heart I was glad at that, having felt guilty that Drew had died and I didn't.)

 

I returned to my mother's home and had my blood work done. Twice. Both times were negative for HIV. I then had to go for several tests in Cooperstown to find out what was wrong with me. I was getting worse and my legs and back were really hurting.  I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

Then my mom's illness and ultimate death occurred. The culmination of the past took a heavy toll on my psyche. I had now lived on my own in Binghamton, knowing almost no one, and became deeply depressed and attempted suicide. I have since been treated and well into recovery. I took medication for years, but, in updating this article, 2017, I'm now 71 and my mental health is good.

 

So, here I am in Binghamton, NY. I still sing, I still draw, and every once in a while I perform onstage. For those concerned, I recently had my yearly test and am still HIV negative up to this rewrite - June 22, 2017.  The Fibromyalgia and fatigue, and currently, severe arthritis in my knees, make getting around sometimes painful and difficult. I am on several medications for swelling and pain. Almost two years ago, I began having odd seizures and I now take medications for that as well.

 

Life is life and we have to get on with it. I still perform in some theatrical productions as well as direct plays now and then.

 

I've directed David Mamet's "American Buffalo", which went over very well, and I had a great time directing Blithe Spirit. I've appeared in "Mornings at Seven", My Fair Lady,  and  several other productions, many with a local group called The Darkhorse Dramatists, which produce original one act plays, several of which I wrote and was happy to have produced!

 

I've added writing and puppetry to my list of Arts over the years and I've written tons of prose and poetry for adults as well as several children's stories for my nieces, nephews and their children.

PERSONAL THOUGHTS

While some of those wretched events DID actually occur, in my past, many of my childhood memories are also filled with fond moments that I would never change.

 

Grandma's home baked bread, her mixing homemade cake batter and we kids getting to lick the spoon or scrape the bowl clean with our fingers.

 

Singing Johnny Ray's "Cry" and "The Hucklebuck", on the corner of Emmons Ave and 45th Street, in Brooklyn, NY, at six years old to the pleasure of passersby.

 

My mom singing, "I Need You So", in the dining room of that shared home in Sheepshead Bay along with Grandma, Grandpa, my Uncle Vinnie and Aunt Millie, my sister, brother and three cousins, Georgie, Geanie and Vinnie (Jr.). Yep, I actually refer, on many occasions, to my cousin Vinnie!

My sister finding a $5 dollar bill and buying a dollars worth of penny bubblegum and while sitting on the front lawn, spitting out wad after wad of the pink chaw, which eventually taught me how to blow bubbles.

 

At nine years old, finding my dog Jingles under the Christmas tree in 1955. We "grew up" together; this 'boy and his dog', until he passed away eleven years later.

 

Falling in love with my sixth grade teacher, Miss Albigese, who could play softball as good as any man and never once said I looked like Alfalfa.

 

Becoming a member of Thespian Troupe 2094, at Newfield High School!

 

And finally, in 10th grade, standing up to one of my consistent bullies, Sal Malguinera, in the hallway of my high school.

 

I did indeed enjoy a great deal of children's TV and radio, and music was an important ingredient that captivated almost all my family, from grandparents to second and third cousins.

 

While it's true that I was a runty little red headed, freckled face, cross-eyed kid, if it was one thing that saved my ass more times than once, it was my singing and natural acting talents - Mickey the Kosher Ham - in action. With no physical prowess or skills for self-defense, I believe my 'natural adaptation for survival' is the reason they came to be developed. One time, it truly came down to, "entertain us, (musically, comically etc., nothing sexual), 'or we beat the shit out of you!"

 

My immediate family (especially Aunt Millie) was always supportive of my singing, it was always the outside world, the world away from my family that gave little 'creeps' like me the hardest times. Fate and Nature had some perverse fun at my expense as well, along with bullies, drunks and authority figures. Still, nature's "human herd thinners" never quite got the best of me, for here I stand, still singing - still acting and doing my thing.

We were dirt poor, but actually, so were most of the people around us, so there wasn't much to compare with to make us realize just how poor we were until junior high and high school.

 

I could relate some horribly nightmarish events within my family that happened to me as a child as well, but one has to consider the results of all the past first, and I'm pretty pleased with the overall package I'm wrapped in currently, both physically and emotionally.

 

I will never regret having met my partner of 21 years, Drew Shafer. His patience, positive attitude and strong sense of purpose indelibly change my life for the better.

 

I've certainly learned how to enjoy the important aspects of my life and not take seriously those extraneous 'good times' that are temporary and in the long run, not nearly as important as...

...good friends, tasty food, cold, clear water, laughing, singing, acting and warm memories. Those are the bricks of coal that stoke the heart-fires of my being, and those I wouldn't give up for anything!

 

Hugs,

Mickey

By the way, at twelve years old (after the above photo was taken) I had three operations which finally straightened out my crossed eyes, but as the years went by, my left eye started to go inward again, but the vision was so poor, that having a 'second' vision doesn't bother me.

 

This site and related sites are created and maintained by Mickey Ray. Most of the artwork, images, icons and photos, unless specifically mentioned otherwise and with the exception of backgrounds, are copyright and the sole property of myself and/or ARTISTIC AFFAIRS and may not be used unless given specific written permission.

That's All Folks!!

Meanwhile, try visiting these pages!!

 

Some of my pencil/pen and ink renditions, cartoons and portraits!

 

I created transparent, graphic clipart you can use for your email or web pages!

 

An Extension of my Bio

 

My whole new family and my newest artistic endeavor!

 

My whole new family and my newest artistic endeavor!

 

Stories, prose & poetry by yours truly. Still under construction.

 

 SOMETHING JUST FOR FUN

Take a walk down memory lane, or drive down in your '57 Ford Fairlane...

 What do you remember about the 50s? What have your parents told you?

 

Now includes a link to hear Abbot and Costello's hilarious "Who's On First" routine!

 

 

 

All artwork, graphics and logos on this and other pages throughout, are my own and are copyrighted, with the exception of Theatrical and Business logos used as links to various enterprises.

 

Comments, Information or questions?

mickeyray@stny.rr.com