Bears on Bears — Contributors
More than a decade before Bears and grizzlies and cubs were even a twinkle in their daddies’ eyes, there was Girth & Mirth, the now-international organization for big men and their admirers. Yet even before that, one such big man, Reed Wilgoren , came out into gay life the year after he graduated high school in Boston, 1969: the same year as the Stonewall Revolution. Reed quickly became involved with the informal network of Chubbies and chasers on the East Coast. When he moved to the San Francisco Bay area in the mid-’70s, he was at the forefront of the network that was to become the first Girth & Mirth group there. When Reed later returned to Boston, he also founded Girth & Mirth of New England.Photo: Ron Suresha
Jack Fritscher has stood at the forefront of gay men’s culture and erotica for more than twenty years. Twenty of his 400 published stories, and 40 of the 125 videos he’s written, directed, and/or photographed, are Bear-themed. Jack received his Ph.D. in American Literature from Loyola University of Chicago and taught journalism and creative writing at several Midwestern universities. He served as founding San Francisco editor-in-chief of Drummer. In 1979, after writing his groundbreaking book, Leather Blues, he founded the quarterly MAN2MAN, the first ‘zine of the 1980s. In 1981, he established the Bay Area tabloid California Action Guide. His nonfiction, literary fiction, and comic-erotic fiction have received both critical acclaim and an international cult following. His epic novel, Some Dance to Remember, has been called “the gay Gone with the Wind,” and is the fiction counterpart of Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera. Five anthologies also collect his writing and photography, as well as The Journal of Popular Culture, In Touch, Honcho, Uncut, International Leatherman, and Hombres Latinos, to name just a few periodicals. He brings a loving ear, erotic eye, and lyric voice to American Gay Popular Culture and is an archivist active in researching, recording, and preserving the heritage of gay history. He and his partner of more than twenty years, Palm Drive publisher Mark Hemry, were married in a civil union in Vermont. Discover much more at JackFritscher.com. Photo: © Mark Hemry
“Bonsai Pete” Vafiades was born in the Bangor, Maine area. He left Maine at age twenty to seek a place where he could be more at peace with himself and to pursue his quest: “Homos and Hort” (horticulture). Friends gave him the nickname “Bonsai Pete” because of his love of the art of bonsai — the miniaturization of trees. At UCLA, he earned a degree in landscape architecture. While visiting the San Francisco Bay area, its magic cast a spell on him. In just a few short weeks after returning from vacation, he landed his first job over the phone working for a plant rental company, and moved to SF in 1979. Pete is now the manager of the Hole in the Wall Saloon in the South of Market (SOMA) area of San Francisco. Photo: courtesy of P. Vafiades
Les Wright was the first-born of a family of day laborers and railroad workers in Syracuse, NY, in 1953. First a student at SUNY Albany, he spent the 1970s as an expatriate studying at German universities (origins of his gay left activism), then spent fourteen years in “gay finishing school,” residing in San Francisco’s Castro district while completing his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. He has trained formally as a German, Russian, and American Studies scholar, and as a community-based gay cultural historian. As a long-term survivor of multiple trauma and various forms of “social death” (incest, addiction, homelessness, HIV/AIDS), Les has also trained to become a certified thanatologist, examining the traumatizing effects of being queer in heteronormative societies. He is the founder/curator of the Bear History Project, editor of the groundbreaking The Bear Book, vols. I & II, lead curator of Bear Icons Exhibitions I & II, author of numerous articles, and currently a teacher of Cultural Studies at Mount Ida College in the Boston area. Photo: from the BHP Archive Collection
Bears on Bears — Contributors
“Jack Radcliffe”, as he’s known to tens of thousands of admirers, is the man most preeminently thought of as a Bear Icon. He’s been a featured Brush Creek Media model since the early days of Bear magazine, and his image appeared also in Chris Nelson’s classic The Bear Cult. Aside from being a veritable “pin-up” Bear, Jack has starred in a load of videos, including Uncut Footage, Bear Palm Springs Vacation, Leather Bears at Play, Big Bear Trucking Company, and Bear Sex Party. His physical image — tall, handsome, furry, muscular, with sparkling green eyes — has been so popular with the Bear set that he’s been featured in his very own calendar, as well. Yet Jack, in his late thirties, at 6’2″ and 240 pounds, has been reluctant to admit his status as an icon. In a 1999 S.F. Examiner article, he deferred to his fans, saying, “They say I personify what a Bear should be.” It’s best to avoid the questions of “what a Bear should be like” and whether or not Jack fulfills those requirements, but it is important to let him speak for himself as a well-known representative of the Bear community. Photo: Lynn S. Ludwig
The Honorable Rick Trombly is an openly gay, former Democratic State Senator who served his first term representing District 7, from Boscawen, New Hampshire. He held the leadership position of Majority Whip in the Senate. Before his election to the Senate, Trombly served sixteen years in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. For four of those years, he was the House Democratic Leader. He has been an active civic leader in his hometown district, serving as a selectman and moderator for the Town of Boscawen, and as an active member of the Merrimack Valley School District serving as the District Moderator. He also serves on the Democratic National Committee. Rick holds degrees from the University of New Hampshire and Franklin Pierce Law Center, and is a partner in the law firm Vanacore, Nielsen, & Trombly, in Concord. Photo: Studio One
Richard Hatch is the celebrated million-dollar winner of summer 2000’s smash TV hit Survivor, the first edition of the Robinson Crusoe reality game show in which he successfully managed to “outwit, outplay, and outlast” his fifteen island competitors. Since then, the single thirty-nine-year-old corporate trainer and father (he has an adopted ten-year-old son, Chris) has made numerous TV and radio appearances, and was featured on the cover of the Advocate. He has also authored a book, 101 Survival Secrets: How To Make $1,000,000, Lose 100 Pounds, and Just Plain Live Happy, in which he writes candidly about growing up being big and gay, discusses the evolution of his life philosophy, and offers advice and “rules for a better life.” Although Rich does not particularly identify as a Bear, the body issues that he has dealt with successfully are common to many gay men with Bear bodies. Rich has risen above his early experiences of sexual abuse, shame and guilt for being gay, and poor self-esteem for being fat, to become a successful, happy, very self-assured man. Photo: Rudy Bello/WQSX-FM
Tim Barela (yes, pronounced “Bear-ella”) is the celebrated Bear artist and creator of the popular Leonard & Larry comic strip. The strip, which ran first in Gay Comix in 1984 and then in the Advocate, is currently featured in the national edition of Frontiers magazine and on the Web at www.frontiersweb.com. Tim has always demonstrated his fondness for Bear-type men in his artwork; he even penned a one-shot Grizzly & Ted cartoon for Bear issue #4. Tim is author of three collections of Leonard & Larry strips: Domesticity Isn’t Pretty, Kurt Cobain and Mozart Are Both Dead (a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in humor), and Excerpts from the Ring Cycle in Royal Albert Hall, which was released more than a year after this telephone interview was conducted. Tim has enjoyed and nurtured his relationship with the Bear community over time, offering his talent and artwork for various Bear causes and, every so often, especially as Larry has grown balder over the years, drawing a “Bear” cap on his character’s head. Illustration: Tim Barela
Bruce Vilanch, blond Bear and self-described “big queen,” has written for every conceivable televised-awards show, including the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, and Grammys. In fact, he’s almost more well-endowed with Emmys won from writing these shows than his — well, let’s just say he’s got more than a hairy handful.
He’s also written the Daytime Emmys, People’s Choice, American Comedy Awards, Comic Relief telethons, and countless other such entertainment award shows. He’s put hilarity in the mouths of Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin, Shirley MacLaine, Diana Ross, George Carlin, Ann-Margret, Nathan Lane, Eddie Murphy, Joel Grey, Angela Lansbury, Cher, Joan Rivers, and (gasp) Donny and Marie, to name but a few fortunate souls.
In 1999, Hollywood showed its appreciation in an adoring Miramax documentary, Get Bruce!, which tells of his life growing up in Paterson, New Jersey; as the class clown, disarming bullies with humor and appearing in high school plays; as feature writer for the Chicago Tribune; as writer and friend to the stars; and as contributor to benefits for AIDS-related and gay/lesbian causes. Bruce is head writer and regular guest on The New Hollywood Squares. He’s also respected as an actor, lyricist, and “sitdown” comic. In fact, he received rave reviews for his one-man comic extravaganza, Almost Famous, at the Westbeth Theatre Center in NYC during May and June 2000. Photo: Aaron Rappaport