The Continuation of History, Part I…


As I mentioned in my post “Giovanni’s Room…” (SEE https://thisgaymanslife.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/giovannis-room/), this is the only remaining LGBT bookstore in the United States of America.

However, what I did not mention is that, no sooner did I walk into Giovanni’s Room, I learned that a “Giovanni’s Room 40th Anniversary Program” had been scheduled at the William Way LGBT Center in Center City, Philadelphia.

Actually, when I walked into the store on the afternoon of Thursday, February 20, 2014, I was informed by one of the store’s employees that it had been rescheduled twice.  Since before this past February, the last time I had been in Center City was more than a year ago.  As such, I had no idea the Anniversary Program was taking place, let alone that it had been rescheduled twice.

Now, from the first time I began going to Center City, Philadelphia, I prefer to have plenty of time to prepare, purchase tickets, and have at least $200 saved up for shopping, eating out, etc.

Nonetheless, it is not every day that an independent bookseller celebrates its 40th Anniversary.  And I was not going to miss this for anything or anyone!

Interestingly enough, I had never been to the William Way LGBT Center.  Every time I go to Center City, there are certain stores I shop in, and certain museums I visit, not to mention walking all around to better familiarize myself with the area.

The Anniversary Program was scheduled from 7:30-9:00PM, last night, and I was running very late.

Everyone who knows me KNOWS I AM a fanatic for punctuality.  When I arrived, approximately five minutes late, I discovered that there were no seats available (in other words, upset number one).

I had been doing a lot of walking that day, and my comfort insoles were worn through, which is why I removed them from my shoes and disposed of them two hours earlier (in other words, mistake number two, but I digress).

What amazed me was that there were about eight participants, of various ages, ethnic backgrounds and I think there were a few straight people there, too.

In spite of the fact that it became very warm very fast, and that it soon became standing room only (until some of the Center’s volunteers brought in more chairs), and some ventilation, courtesy of a low-setting air conditioning system, here were so many wonderful people who were there to honor and celebrate a milestone in LGBT History.

Before I continue, I must properly thank and Lovingly acknowledge Mr. John Cunningham, who moderated the panel discussion, and who gave me a copy of his “cheat sheets!”

The first panelists who spoke were Tom Wilson Weinberg and Dan Sherbo, who founded Giovanni’s Room.  They both had a third partner, Bernie Boyle, who is no longer with us.

Although there were times when I was unable to hear the panelists clearly (people whispering not too far from me, how far back I was, etc.) I very distinctly heard Mr. Wilson Weinberg state that the rent for the store was $85 a month!

I also vividly recall when both Mr. Wilson Weinberg and Mr. Sherbo gave a heartfelt acknowledgement to Mr. Craig Rodwell, who founded the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, in 1967, the first bookstore devoted to Gay Male and Lesbian authors.

Mr. Wilson Weinberg mentioned how Mr. Rodwell, would give both him and Mr. Sherbo copious amounts of advice on how to run a LGBT bookstore, including taking trips to Manhattan, New York City to go to Bookazine to purchase–in cash– Gay and Lesbian-themed books.

At one point, Mr. Wilson Weinberg showed all the attendees a photograph of him, Mr. Sherbo and Mr. Boyle, not too long after Giovanni’s Room opened.  Alas, I did not get to see from which newspaper it was, nor the date, but since Giovanni’s Room opened in 1973, it is highly likely that the newspaper photograph was probably published around the same time, or within a few years of it.

They also talked about what they were going to name the store.  Both Mr. Wilson Weinberg and Mr. Sherbo mentioned that they had considered naming it “The Love that dare not speak its name” in honor of (the late and great) Oscar Wilde (the writer after whom the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop was named).

After Mr. Wilson Weinberg and Mr. Sherbo, Pat Hill, the second owner of Giovanni’s Room spoke.  Personally, I loved her Energy right away; she had a quiet, engaging manner, and a lovely sense of humor.  She mentioned that when she owned the store, the rent was not $85 a month, but she did mention the rats in the basement!

And she shared that she is a Quaker, and that for many years, she has been involved with a women’s artists colony.

I was not the only one that shared this sentiment.  In other words, when Ms. Hill spoke, very few people in the audience spoke, whispered, etc…

Tune in tomorrow, Thursday, March 13, 2014, when I write and publish the conclusion of this two-part blog post.

However, before I close, I wish to acknowledge my newest blog followers.  They are: “Don Charisma” and “Tanner Hawryluk.”  Thank you, both, very much for honoring who you are and what you do, and thank you for honoring who I AM and what I do, too.  May both of you receive greater insight and awareness of the LGBT Communities by following “This Gay Man’s Life…”

And for those of you who are already following and reading “This Gay Man’s Life…” thank you for honoring who you are, and what you do, and for honoring the LGBT Communities, too.

A photograph of Giovanni's Room, by J. R. Blackwell in the December 3, 2013 issue of "Philadelphia Weekly."
A photograph of Giovanni’s Room, by J. R. Blackwell in the December 3, 2013 issue of “Philadelphia Weekly.”
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