Thursday, April 9th, 1936 - Saturday, September 30th, 1989
Drew R. Shafer
My Life Partner of 21 years. I miss him every day.
(You can see and hear Bette Midler sing this song at the end of this memorial)
Come With Me
written by Mickey Ray
God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be.
So he put his arms around you and whispered "Come with me"
With tearful eyes I watched and saw you pass away.
Although I loved you dearly, I could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands at rest.
God broke my heart to prove to me, he only takes the BEST.
Drew 1954 and 1955
Yes, Virginia...Sally, Ben and Jerry, believe it or not, there was a politically gay life before Stonewall during which I had a small part to play the year before that big event, and years after that historic moment. I even got to march in the first Gay Pride parade of NYC in 1970, but more significantly, I was involved because I met the man, who three years prior to that date, had started the first homophile organization in Kansas City, Mo.
He was a wonderful, giving and farsighted individual that I am very proud to say was my lifetime companion, mentor, and friend for 21 years.
His name was Drew Robert Shafer. He started a gay rights organization in Kansas City, MO in 1966 and it was called the Phoenix Society for Individual Freedom.
An only child to Phyllis and Robert Shafer, Drew grew up in a white, middle-class, liberal family. Spoiled to the bone by his mother, he pretty much got whatever he asked for and although a loner for much of his childhood, he lived a happy, unfettered, carefree life. He recognized he was gay in his early teens and immediately acted on it. He became less shy. He was tall, lanky and outspoken and he had a wonderful speaking voice. He found early in life that he was able to get others to see his point of view fairly easily. His family followed the practices of The Unity Society, which was more of a positive thinking society than a religious sect. And more than anything else I can think of, positive thinking defined Drew. Nothing completely discouraged this unique man.
He came out of his closet wild and willing to try anything once in his late teens, but he was most active in his early twenties, during his college years. His mom ran a boarding house, which was filled with Drew's gay, male friends. Her 'boys' adored here and she was the queen of the roost and loved her position. It was the fifties; pink was in and Drew wore it a lot. He even had a motorcycle, then a car, painted pink and white. His high school friends called him Pinky.
He held dances in his basement and provided entertainment for his friends when there was no place else to go at the time. By the late fifties into the early sixties, a couple of the local strip joint owners began to realize the money that could be made from the partying gays in KC. Soon, The Jewel Box, The Colony Bar and The Arabian Nights opened, followed by The Redhead Lounge. There was no skimping in decor and atmosphere here. These were beautiful clubs and catered openly to the gay clientele. Kansas City had men dancing in each other's arms while their sister bars on the coasts allowed NO touching on the dance floors!
Naturally, Drew was a big part of that scene, as he was well known in the community at that time. There were always after hour parties at his home and he easily made friends within every spectrum of the gay and lesbian community.
At some point he'd become aware of The Gay Movement, though I cannot be sure what specifically was his turning point to wanting to be politically involved. He once told me he really just wanted to have a club and have fun, but he could not know that so much more was to come of his decision to get involved.
He had, at first, been approached by a California organization called "One", which had invited him to become a Midwest chapter of that organization. Not wanting to be controlled by a larger organization half way across the states, he decided to create an independent gay rights organization himself. Starting out with a handful of friends he did just that. He found a beautiful, three story home with basement included, on the corners of Linwood and Paseo Drive and moved the organization in with him. He made his home on the top floor, rented the two small rooms on the second floor, and the Phoenix Society for Individual Freedom organization was maintained on the first floor.
(Before I left KCMO, 132 Linwood Blvd. became a vacant lot. I recently heard that it still is at this writing, September 26, 2008.)
About a year and a half later, September 1, 1968, I met Drew. I'd just left Chicago before the fiasco know as the Democratic Convention got into full swing. My destination was California, with a few stops along the way. (Some guys in Chicago said I ought to make a stop in Kansas City, and that's where I wound up, wondered around, totally irresponsible and looking for opportunities. I'd heard about this organization from a poster I'd seen on the bulletin board of a local Methodist Church. They were having a picnic that Sunday and meeting at what would become know collectively as the Phoenix House, to collect those who would need a ride to the picnic grounds. The picnic/party was being held at some member's private property out in the country somewhere. I met Drew at that picnic and I wound up living with him from that day until the day he died, 21 years and 29 days later.
Photos of Drew at a rewards ceremony, before I'd met him, sometime between 1966 and 1967.
(I want to thank Gary Miller for sending these award photos to me!)
Drew and Reverend Vann Anderson
Drew & I ~ 1969 and 1978
Kansas City's Gay, bar life, at that time was pretty hopping, because the family owned the straight, strip bars like The Yum Yum and Cat Balou, and the gay clubs, The Jewel Box, and the Colony Bar, all on the strip at Troost Ave. between Linwood and 34th St., as well as the Redhead Lounge up at 39th St., in the Westport area. Activities were protected and, in those arenas, gays felt safe to be themselves. There was even men's 'close' dancing, something totally forbidden in most of the larger cities at that time!
Outside that arena, life was a very different story. Gay people did not give out their last names. When the organization was formed and got its charter and its not-for-profit status, Drew, was the only one who used his real names on the paper work. As for the media, radio, TV and the press, only Drew was the spokesperson. And, like the others, I too chose a pseudonym when I joined the organization. Not out of fear, because I was also openly gay, but as you can see under the title of this page, my actual last name is a fright to pronounce when it's seen in print and nearly impossible for people to spell when they hear it. I'd also changed my name because I had issues with my father and chose not to carry his last name. That's when I chose the name, Mickey Ray. Mickey, a more familiar term for Michael, and Ray, which was my sister's married name at the time, and sounded good together. It has been my name ever since and I use it for all my creative aspects from theater to puppeteering, artwork, and writing.
When I met Drew, he had been making a very good salary working in both the office and warehouse of Caterpillar Tractor Company for nine years. Shortly before I met him, he'd announced to his blue-collar coworkers and fellow union members, that he was going to be on a radio talk show, but he did not tell them the topic of discussion. Curious, almost everybody tuned in and almost as immediately he was nearly fired from his job when he 'came out' to the the listening public on the radio!
Drew - Working at Caterpillar Tractor, Inc. ~ 1978
Drew is given his 25 year pin at Caterpillar Tractor, Inc. ~ 1984
Very conservative and highly incensed, his boss was livid and did his best to get rid of Drew. However, the United Auto Workers union told management that what Drew did on his own time was not work related and it was his personal business. Caterpillar could not fire him! His job was saved, both he and the organization survived their first major hurtle. He would still have to deal with the stupid remarks and rude behavior from a few of his more hard-nosed coworkers for years, but he never let it rattle him. The fact is, his positive outlook and perseverance won him the respect from most all of his fellow workers.
Drew's dad was a printer by trade. Retired, for the most part, he gave Drew one of his presses, which was in the basement the house.
Phoenix House ~ 1966
We had a core group of volunteers who worked on the publication with Drew teaching us the mechanics. His father, Bob Shafer, was a printer and kept old printing machinery both at their home and in the basement of the Phoenix house. Using old linotype machines, paste-up-boards, and hand drawn graphics, even to photographing and burning metal plates to print from, we created a monthly newsletter. It was called The Phoenix, naturally, and ads supporting the costs of publication weren't very hard to get, at first, with anywhere from six to eleven gay bars going at any given time. I designed many of the ads and covers, as well as added cartoons and articles for the newsletter.
Before long, we got the attention of other, larger Gay organizations, like New York City's Mattachine Society, and very quickly, The Phoenix House, became a centralized, information clearinghouse as well as distributor for other gay magazines around the US from New York to California and even some foreign groups. Talk about your monthly envelope stuffing!
It was a busy time and things were going well until we began getting frequent media attention. Many within the gay community became afraid of the attention drawn to it and feared reprisals from their heterosexual counterparts. Some of those fears were justifiable, most were not. A sharp division was drawn between those who believed we had the right to be open and be ourselves, and those who wanted to keep the protected status quo. It was now the spring of 1969.
The "family" bars, then owned by John Trucillo, and Joe Lombardo, started pulling their ads and many gays were avoiding anything to do with the pariah of the dangerous Phoenix Society. There were, however, out of the burning fires of change, a few stalwart gay men and women who decided to try and open their own bars. It was the beginning of a new era. Kansas City gays were now becoming an independent and vocal voice. Only months later, Stonewall would become the marker and song from which Gay and Lesbian activism would march.
Wishing to be second to no one politically, the Phoenix Society organized marches in Kansas City as well. In conservative cities, like Columbus, MO, we had eggs tossed at us and we were warned that if we tried to march in Jefferson City, the Capitol, they would provide us with NO protection from opposing factions at all. We became important enough for people like Anita Bryant to visit and campaign against us in Kansas City's newly built, downtown auditorium. What a grand Anti-Anita demonstration there was that day!
Things were changing fast. The local Methodist Church was still one of our staunchest allies within the heterosexual community. However, it wouldn't be for another five years before PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) was on the scene and Drew's mother became a PFLAG member. Nationally, it was a turning point for gay women as well, and they were demanding increasing recognition for their contributions to the movement. The challenge was on to make the movement one of Lesbians and Gays as opposed to just the Gay movement which, at the time, implied it was run only by activist gay males. The Gay country was changing for the better, but not without its wounded. The Phoenix Society was falling apart.
(See images of the PHOENIX NEWSLETTER)
Sadly, with its advertisement income withering, the paper could barely pay for itself but it could never cover the costs of maintaining the expenses it incurred in the large home that Drew had been generously donating to it. (The organization never had to pay rent, electric, oil heating, or water and it used up the entire first floor and basement.)
We lost the house because we just couldn't afford to keep it going. The organization suffered because there was no place else it could go, and no one else was willing to take up the mantle of leadership. By 1972 Phoenix was no more. The organization, unlike the legendary bird, would not rise again. Both the house and the organization were Drew's pride and joy, but he'd gone into debt to the tune of over $50,000 dollars in order to keep it going over the years. The rich guy I thought I'd gotten hitched to was poorer than I was, and I had nothing. A positive thinker always, he at least still had his regular job. We wound up living in the basement of his mother and father's home for a time, and in a few months, he bought a mobile home in a large mobile village just outside downtown Kansas City. We'd gone through a variety of used Volkswagen vehicles, including an old bus that often had to be pushed to kick-start it!
The original mobile home was a 14' X 78'. We added a 10' X 12' extension to the living room area, half of which became his tool room.
Drew, a Mr. Fix-it and handyman, started to add on to the front of that extension, first by building a porch, which then turned into a screened in veranda!
During that time, I'd been working almost steadily in Dinner Theater productions within Kansas City and others cities around the Midwest and Southwest. In 1973, we were doing a little better and we actually bought a brand new Volkswagen Super Beetle!
By 1989, it took us almost fifteen years to finally get completely out of debt. Sadly, Drew wouldn't get to live long enough to really enjoy our nearly debt-free life together.
Our Family of Pets!
We started our 'family' within the first year we were together. First came Drew's Deer Bambi, a pedigree, Miniature Pinscher we bought at a pet store, papers and all, not even knowing what the hell a Miniature Pinscher was. Her tail was yet bobbed, so we thought she was some kind of odd Chihuahua. Our vet informed us of what we actually had. We immediately went out and did buy a pedigree Chihuahua puppy and named here Mickey's Little Niki.
Drew's Deer Bambi
Mickey's Little Niki
Bambi was breed with a pedigree pinscher and had three pups. We sold one and kept two, Joey and Ebony, and our family grew Joey and Niki eventually got together and had pups of their own, however, Niki was too frail to deliver well and one of her three pups died. We gave away the surviving pups, Crystal and Chi-Chi, to Drew's mom and to one of his old time friends.
Bambi, Niki, Joey & Ebony
(We eventually got Crystal back when his friends had to move and couldn't take her with them.)
Many years went by and Bambi and Niki passed on. Joey and Ebony were now getting gray hairs and Crystal was the more active of the bunch.
A frequent visitor to hour property was a stray cat who eventually decided that she was going to adopt us, and move in as another member of the family.
Not knowing if it was a girl or a boy, I always referred to it as "Hi Guy" whenever I greeted it. Upon accepting here into the family and not finding her previous owners, we took her to the vet to discover it was a she. Thus she went from "Guy" to "Gaida".
The vet told us she was mostly a Callicoon cat. She took over very quickly and most definitely ruled the roost.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
The majority of my family was supportive of the relationship between Drew and I. Drew first met my mother in 1971 at her mobile home at Lake Gerry in Oxford, NY.
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 accompaniment.
Naturally, all the guys loved meeting her and adored her candor and humor. Everyone had a fantastic time that evening!
Drew ~ HIV & AIDS
Like many others, when first hearing about AIDS and HIV, we too were convinced this was some government crap they were pulling to further denigrate and destroy the Gay community. The Gay Disease, they had taken to calling it, and nearly set back the movement to the stone age. Amazingly, the Gay community itself took on the mantel of caring for and educating ourselves. While heterosexual exposure began to rise, our numbers began to lower.
In the summer of 1986, I had joined as a volunteer for an AIDS hospice and all of us were required to take the HIV test. Drew decided he wanted to come with me. We took our tests together but his results came out positive. It was the first time I'd ever seen Drew truly bleak about anything. He was very frightened and incredibly not for himself, but for me. The primary breadwinner, he was concerned for my future if he weren't around. (Actor's don't exactly have a lifetime secured position.) Still, I set about assuring him that he wasn't to worry about such things because I wasn't planning on him going anywhere.
The first year, he showed no symptoms and he was soon his old self again. During the second year he'd begun to lose energy and his skin was constantly plaguing him with odd fungi, rashes and itching. Although he'd never gotten the purple lesions of Kaposi Syndrome, he was loosing a great deal of weight. He was put on AZT, the medicine of hope back then, but instead of helping him, it was poisoning him and he began to need monthly transfusions. He stopped taking the drug, but by then he'd become irreversibly sick.
He'd had to leave work, but fortunately he had excellent health benefits which paid for his care. And though he was no longer physically working there, by union rules they could not fill his slot unless he decided to leave altogether. He had just completed thirty years there by now and could retire if he wanted to. He decided to take his retirement and let them hire someone else. He had faced the fact he was not going to return to his job.
He stayed in our home, frail and week and on oxygen until the 30th of September. In the wee hours of that morning, he'd tried to get out of bed on his own to use the bathroom when I suddenly awaken to the noise of his falling. I immediately called for an ambulance. Drew was white as a sheet and could hardly say anything comprehensible. My baby was 6', 2" tall, and he now weighed less than one hundred pounds. He was skeletal. Incredibly, the ambulance drivers would not help me get him out of the bathroom. I lifted him and carried him to the stretcher. I had to threaten their boss over the phone with a lawsuit when the driver said I couldn't go to the hospital in the ambulance with Drew. I wasn't about to leave him alone with these same Cretans who were afraid to even pick him up! Convinced I wasn't kidding, their boss told them to let me ride along. It was a very quiet but intense ride to the hospital. Drew had lost consciousness. He was so pale I could see the pale blue veins in his face, arms and hands.
I went with him into the emergency room. I gave them a list of what medications he'd been taking and what his history was. Something Drew could not physically have done had the ambulance taken him alone. I left them to do their work and went to call some of our friends. After all the previous visits to the hospital, I was certain that Drew would not be coming home this time and frankly, I needed a shoulder to cry on myself.
Later that morning, he was sitting up, transfusion pink and smiling. He asked me if I would bring him a newspaper and his slippers. Of course I would, I told him. In Drew's mind, this would be just another day of dealing with his disease. I left to get the things he'd asked for and came back a few hours later. The nurse greeted me at the nurse's station and told me he'd suddenly turned for the worse. She said he'd been calling for me. When I came in, he was pale once again and spitting blood. He turned and looked at me with a weak smile and cried that he was 'so sorry', and kept trying to apologize as though he were an inconvenience to me. It took every bit of strength I had not to let him see how sad, lost, frightened, and miserable I was feeling. If he was going to leave me, I was not going to let him die worrying for me.
Close to six that evening, at his bedside, I talked to him about letting go. I constantly reassured him I would be fine but not if I thought he was in pain and suffering as he was. I told him I loved him over and over again as I wiped blood from his lips and chin that he kept spitting up. I must have used dozens of hospital cloths and after awhile, I stopped looking to even see if his blood was getting on me. He was very silent for the longest while when he looked right at me and within his eyes, I watched him leave. I closed his them. Drew died of AIDS September 30, 1989 - at little after 6 PM - twenty-one years and twenty-nine days after our twenty-first anniversary.
A couple of years later, in the movie, Long Time Companion, there was a scene in which one man talks to his dying lover in much the same way that I talked to Drew. When I first saw that scene I felt so invaded, as though someone had recorded everything that had happened. I must have cried buckets. Then, I realized, of course, that the same scenario was now, sadly, being played out all over our country and the whole world, for that matter, and torn hearts aren't very different anywhere in the world.
Drew loved roses and raised all kinds of them. He loved his garden.
Drew loved gardens and flowers, particularly roses. As were his wishes, I had an outdoor memorial gathering in his name in the Rose Garden at Loose Park in Kansas City.
He was cremated and his ashes were spread out in a beautiful and specifically designated area of one of the Unity Village's many gardens. http://www.unityonline.org/index.htm
No one smiled so often, tried so hard to please and kept his chin up in the worst of times like he did. He changed me from a cold, wandering opportunistic kid into a caring man and convinced me that there is, indeed, such a thing as a loving relationship and it can exist and grow between two men as well as any other couple. He taught me that love was a real thing, not just something invented by Hollywood and playwrights. He showed me, by example, the values of honesty and integrity, and to have the courage to be myself; values I'd, far too often, missed seeing as a child. His loss was devastating to me at that time, but his memory and lessons now make him live on in my heart and mind. The last movie we watched on television together was Beaches, in which Bette Midler sings that beautiful song dedicated to her long time friend. Tossing yellow rose petals in the air, which represented his spirit, I played it at his memorial service. The lyrics were perfectly apropos to the relationship that Drew and I shared.
I will love him and miss him for as long as I live.
He always was the Wind Beneath My Wings.
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
Did you ever know that you're my hero,
You're everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.
It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
But I've got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth; of course I know it,
I would be nothing without you.
Did you ever know that you're my hero?
You're everything I wish I could be.
I could fly higher than an eagle,
With you as the wind beneath my wings.
Did I ever tell you you're my hero?
You're everything, everything I wish I could be.
Oh, and I, I could fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings,
Yes you, you are the wind beneath my wings.
Oh the wind beneath my wings.
Yes, you, you, you,
You are the wind beneath my wings
Fly, fly, you let me fly so high
So high, I almost touched the sky
Thank you, thank you,
Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.
Poem written by Tom Clancy in memory of Kyle Haydock
Photo by Robert Hawk
Time does not bring relief;
You all have lied who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side;
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,-so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "there is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Speaks for itself!
A Halloween Couple
Gay Pride Day in Kansas City. Drew's mom had just joined PFLAG.
One of many Christmases in our home. Standing at the lamp post proudly displaying our names!
Drew and I visiting his Uncle Keith and Aunt Marty in St. Louis. Just before we left, we stopped at a restaurant to get a bite to eat. He wound up getting food poisoning from the chicken.
Publicity shots for "The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd". Drew volunteered to step in for missing actor. This was the one an only time he'd ever come close to wearing drag.
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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????
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