She said,

“We’re looking for entertainers. Why not complete in the contest?”

To my surprise, the “she” was a “he” and this was my invitation to enter the marvelous, mysterous world of grande illusion.

The year was 1983. A very different world than today.

Gay men spoke to each other in code while they were in public.

They were too worried to be outed, lose their jobs, family and friends.

It was a time when we escaped the dark reality beyond the doors of our clubs and bars.

Inside, we managed to forget about the AIDS crisis, if only for a little while.

And those illusions on stage took us beyond that rainbow Judy Garland sang about.

Chicago Rose’s very first performance on stage was at Club 219 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The illusion supported by stilletto heels covered in a tiger skin pattern jumpsuit that would have made Jane Fonda proud.

My mother, brother and sisters were there to watch the show.

That was an accomplishment in 1983.

The spotlight blinded me as I walked nervously across the stage and then I stopped in front of the handrail. So nervous I tightly held the handrail otherwise I would have surely fallen onto the audience below.

The song “Memory” from the musical “Cats” started and I told myself, “The spotlight. There is your moonlight.”

Midnight…Not a sound from the pavement. Has the moon lost her memory?

When the song stopped and the lights in the bar were turned bright, I could see so many people and many of whom were wiping their eyes.

They weeped during this sad song.

Or maybe they were weeping because of the performance?

Let the memory live again.

I felt the audience bask with me in that moonlight.

And this was the beginning of many years of entertaining.

A journey we continue to share as we escape that darkness outside.

Our moment together.

“If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness means.


A new day has dawned.”

1994 (Dan Savage is standing behind me)

2007 with Roger Cicero