It's the night of December 18th, 1982 and I'm excited. The C.G.R.A. Board has just committed to having our own Gay Rodeo in Denver. I think I'll buy them all a shot to celebrate. Now all we have to do is decide where to have it. Well, there's Arapahoe County Fairgrounds, Jefferson County Fairgrounds, the Pow Wow Rodeo Arena in Louisville, the Adams County Fairgrounds and the National Western Complex in Denver. Then way out in Deertrail, there are also nice grounds with barns. And what about Bob West's and the Thacker Arena?
Well, Arapahoe is out. They wouldn't even return my phone calls (representing the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association), and finally they just hung up on me. The Denver Complex is out - way too expensive and the city retains the beer concession. Thacker's and West's won't do because they have room for no more than 250 people. But Mr. Fletcher Wood, Director of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, at least made an appointment to see us. So Wayne, Ron, Betty, Rich, C.J., Kenny and I are on our way to see him. He thinks we are sincere, but due to previously scheduled 4-H dances every weekend this summer, he thinks we ought to wait and ask again next year.
The next thing we know, Dave Stahl, Director of the Boulder Valley Pow Wow Grounds, is meeting with the whole C.G.R.A. Board at the Arena in Louisville. The facilities are new and beautiful. The stands are even covered. All we need to do is apply for its use - the weekend is even open! Dave will meet with his board for final approval during the PRCA meetings just prior to the National Western Stock show.
Oh no! It's been four days now and he won't return any of my calls. He must be busy. I guess I'll just go over to Stouffer's and find him. Sure enough, there he is in the bar with five other gentlemen in expensive gray Stetsons. He obviously knows the right people. But two men on his board were so vehement against renting to us, they turned down the application. Too bad, it was ideal.
But Monday Wayne and I have an appointment to the Adams County Fairgrounds. Are they telling us "Yes?" But they want the beer concession and would require ten guards on duty all weekend. "You know, we don't want any trouble." The guards must be Adams County Deputies and they cost $11.00 per hour. Sixty-five hundred dollars just for security! "Sorry, we'll call you." Anyway, there is always Deertrail.
It is one of those pleasant, sunny, winter days on the plains, but it is still a long way out here. Rich, Wayne, Kenny and I are meeting John Jolly, President of the Deertrail Rodeo Association and owner of the huge Jolly Ranch in eastern Colorado. We can tell we have our mutual love for horses in common. Mr. Jolly is reserved and enthusiastic at the same time. "Why shouldn't Deertrail, site of the first rodeo ever held in the U.S.A. , be a pioneer in holding the first gay rodeo in Colorado?" Yes we have enough volunteers to give the stands and barns a fresh coat of paint. We have to look good for the Texans anyway. He has to get his board's approval.
"What! John Jolly is upstairs in Charlie's to see me?" It seems he is having a little trouble with one of the Board members. Mr. Bill Gilbert, a production supervisor for the Coors Brewery, is so upset he has called a town meeting this weekend to discuss the whole situation. Sure, we will attend the meeting to answer questions and call Mr. Gilbert ahead of time to ease his concerns.
The phone is ringing. No, he does not want to meet with us ahead of time. He is embarrassed just talking to me. No, he doesn't have any questions. He just wants us to keep our........... dirt and filth in Denver and not spread it to Deertrail- CLICK! Now the C.G.R.A. Board is deciding that Deertrail is just too far out to fight for. Besides, they don't deserve us anyway. Even the most level-headed board gets testy after they have been rejected four times. I don't blame them.
It's a week later and things are getting close to desperate. We have even considered having the rodeo on a private ranch and renting the bull chutes, corrals, roping chutes and stands, but it's just too much money. "Can this be true?" Someone at the bar is describing the new rodeo grounds in Aurora? I have time to check this out before the sun goes down. Just keep going east on 6th Avenue.
Wayne and the Board have to see Coal Creek immediately. No barns and not enough seating, but the equipment is new. It's off by itself and has plenty of parking. The City of Aurora is telling me that "gay" doesn't matter to them. They are actually accepting the C.G.R.A. check and issuing beer permits. Relief, it's going to be all right. We are going to have a rodeo!! Now we can start worrying about the stock contractors, advertising, visitors, rules, contestants, equipment, ticket sales, grand marshals, programs, judges, ambulances, clowns, concessions, PA systems, security and the possibility of breaking even. Oh, we could worry about the weather but it will be all right. We're going to have our rodeo. We're determined.
Now I am not saying there is anything blatantly suicidal about wanting to ride broncs and test yourself against some very angry bulls, but one does have to possess a certain degree of Death Wish. Perhaps my viewpoint is a tad bit slanted. After all, I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Cowboys are hard to come by in Aatbush. I can only say in retrospect that my first season as housemate, sister, friend, nurse, physical therapist and resident worrier to my favorite cowboy was - and here I insert what can only be classified as the understatement of the century-FASCINATING!
I should have known trouble was afoot when T.J. started dropping subtle hints like "I think I'm gonna start riding bulls." Like any other reasonably sane person, I received this news with great equanimity. I screamed. I shrieked. I tore my hair. I cried. In other words I used every ploy in the Women's Handbook of Inexplicable Behavior. It didn't help. Several "exchanges" ensued with no apparent change of intent. So...I adjusted to the inevitable. I stocked up on bandages, liniment, splints, antiseptic, valium (for me) and practiced my best "Go get 'em Cowboy!" smile. Basic coward that I am, I felt it would be best if I didn't go to watch the practice riding sessions. T.J. kept insisting that I would worry much less if I were actually there, but I remained adamant.
The night of the first practice rides I set a new world record for pacing. First I paced the floors. That didn't help. Then I paced the ceilings. That was worse. I started to worry about how I was doing that. And the images that flashed into my mind! I could see T.J. with a half-ton bull doing a chorus line routine across his back. I could envision some mean-eyed horse kicking him in the head - intentionally of course. Increasingly vivid scenes of blood and gore were holding a video film festival in my head. By 9:00 P.M. I was plotting the best routes to St. Anthony's - which I had decided was the hospital they had taken him to in the ambulance, since it was closest. Right about then T.J. came waltzing into the room looking terribly smug and pleased with himself and muttering something about his making it to eight seconds. I could have throttled him. I'm having a coronary and he's fine! Obviously he won that round. I attended every practice ride and rodeo event from then on. I watched him ride - and could that man ride!
The morning of the Rodeo it was a toss up as to which of us was more deserving of an Oscar nomination - T.J. for appearing blase' and confident or me for appearing unconcerned and non-hysterical. We approached the arena with the same kind of mental mind game you would use in living theatre. He was being John Wayne (Shucks ma'am, twam't nuthin"') and I was giving it my best Melanie Wilkes. I must admit T.J. held up well. His heroic veneer only slipped once. When the rough-stock riders drew their bulls, I heard him mumbling something about "Nobody said anything about horns. Two lousy bulls with horns and I had to draw one of them!" I paled slightly but decided fainting might be interpreted by some as lack of confidence in his ability. I took a valium instead, muttered a feeble "Go get 'em cowboy," and took my place in the stands.
First event of the day, bronc riding. First out of the chute, T.J.. Let me digress and say that timekeepers lie. They claimed the ride was six seconds, but I know I watched him being jarred apart on the back of that beast for at least 20 minutes. This bone jarring ride culminated in T.J. falling to the ground (I knew it!) and having the bronc take a short cut across his spine (I could have bet on it). As the medics helped T.J. out of the arena, I threw a victorious wave his way and swallowed another valium.
This was just the beginning of a funfilled day of frolic. Withing two hours we were hard pressed to find an uninjured contestant. We had sprains, cuts, bruises, breaks, dislocations, concussions, and one broken back. Do we know how to have fun or what!?!
To add to this joy-filled event, it began to rain in a manner not unlike Noah's now infamous shower. The crowd did not find this amusing. The contestants did not find this amusing, nor for that matter did the stock.
Last event of the day, bull riding (did you know this event can be held using pontoons or water wings?) T.J. was up again on that very large, very wet bull- you know the one with the horns. As I watched, chewing my nails to the knuckles, he came out of the chute, slid down the hull's back like it was a water slide, did a terrific flip over the sucker's head, and came down directly between the horns. Was I worried? Of course not!!! Was I screaming? Don't be silly! I very calmly extracted my arm, which I had swallowed to the elbow, from my throat and took another valium. By this time I figured I was so calm I was almost comatose. I could have decided to dance a two-step with the bull and taken it in stride. It took T.J. four weeks to mend from all this fun. It took me six weeks to get over my valium addiction.
Yet there was a certain "something" that each of these people took away from the arena - along with their injuries. There was a kind of pride, a sense of having been tested and not found wanting. Each of them limped a little taller after that rodeo.
So here we are once again, rodeo time. Do you think I'm going through all that again? Do I seem like the kind of fool who is going to sit out in the hot sun and the dust watching those near and dear to me being bruised, stomped, thrown, and otherwise abused all in the name of some idiotic notion of western fun and sports? You bet your Tony Lamas, sweetheart! For some insane reason, there is a bizarre satisfaction in watching some ordinary guy or gal just like you enlisting in a contest of wills against some seemingly unbeatable opponent and winning.
So I'll be there, my friends, yelling myself hoarse again. Worrying again over every friend who takes a fall and being thoroughly hooked on the greatest sporting event there is- RODEO!
Go get 'em cowboys!!!
"Bend, stretch, reach tor the sky !" Sound like Romper Room?
"Punch, duck, pull, dodge!" Sound like a boxing ring?
"Tighten those buns, rotate those hips, on your back, lift those legs, hold!" Sound like a class for behind closed doors? "Situps-50 now, pushups-50 now, run!" Sound like boot camp? "Toes out, head down, hands up!" Sound like a holdup?
All of these instructions sound like a number of different things, but to the roughstock rider, these commands, positions, and thoughts are an everyday occurrence.
Training to be a rough-stock rider takes entire body and mental conditioning. It doesn't mean you can go once a week to your aerobics class. A rider must constantly stretch and strengthen each muscle from head to foot. Then special attention is taken in strengthening the most used musclesarms, hands, shoulders, back, and legs. In doing so one also must take care that she creates strength for endurance rather than bulk. This means that the rider wants the muscles to be not only strong but also elastic enough not to pull or tear so as to avoid an injury.
Next and probably the most important thing is preparing oneself mentally. When a rider climbs on a bronc or bull her mind has to be nowhere but on the animal and her own body position, on getting her rear end, legs, and feet positioned along with the rigging and the right grip. You have to keep your head down, with your eyes on the shoulders (bulls) or neck (broncs). On broncs you must lean back and spur, getting into the full rhythm of the bucking, letting your body take the hard jolts and not even worrying about how hard the last jump was.
On a bull the rider must dig in her heels directly below her own body. From the waist down the rider becomes an extension of the bull. From the waist up a rider must be like water, following with the bull wherever he may go and all while almost sitting on her own hand.
Unlike bronc riding where pickup riders are used in assisting a contestant in dismounting after her ride, a bullrider must depend solely on herself. The rider must dismount by being bucked off, timing herself to have the bull going away from her, all the time concentrating on running, slithering, rolling, crawling to safety while the clown tries to distract the bull. This is probably the most difficult part of bullriding, as fear can work as easily against a rider as for her. Also a bull is not only large but quick enough to tum on a dime and either gore or trample a rider before she knows what has happened.
Training is painful, in that one finds out what parts of her body she forgot existed, and time-consuming because one must take time out to exercise every day. It's mentally and emotionally demanding because she must tune out all thoughts other than the animal and herself in total relation to one another. Rough-stock riding is also the most rewarding in the sense that it teaches conditioning, responsibility, and self-confidence. Is it all worth it, and worth the chance you take of getting injured? You bet it is, especially the first time you hear the buzzer and you realize you are still on top of the animal, and maybe even a contender.
Its been said, "All the world loves a clown," which I believe is true, because folks large and small, just naturally like to laugh. Maybe it's their comical, mismatched outfits or their funny painted-on faces, but clowns are a source of enjoyment, whether under the big top or in the rodeo arena.
Although both the circus clown and the rodeo clown entertain the crowd, they are as different as night and day. A circus clown faces no element of danger, whereas the rodeo clown has to be much more than just another funny face. Perhaps rodeo matador would be a more suitable title for a rodeo clown, as he must have bullfighting skills in order to aid the riders and assure their safety. Let's face it, it is no easy job to be entertaining and look a twelve-hundred pound, snorting-mad bull in the eye, but some have the talent to manage.
We have two such people here in Denver who do just that. They are Bear Baines and myself, Roy Minks. Neither of us have had any professional training, but we both grew up around stock and realize how unpredictable and dangerous these animals can be to work around. Bear hails from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I am from Missouri.
When not dealing with the animals, a rodeo clown's job does have a lighter side. As pro-rodeo clown Andy Womack has been quoted, "Wearing clown makeup makes you feel like you have a license to steal. Like liniment on a sore knee, it makes you feel you can get away with things you normally couldn't. You feel sillier, and can do crazier things with makeup on." Bear and I are both a little crazy anyway, but we do get more ballsy when our costumes and faces go on. A good example of this was at the 1983 National Gay Rodeo in Reno. Looking at all those beautiful bodies, we decided to have a tan-line contest, and have one we did. Almost everyone was more than willing to show us theirs when asked, so we viewed 670 tan lines (and everthing close) our first afternoon. The first 465 or so went well, but it was getting real hard after that.
Enough said about being a clown. In closing I would like to say on behalf of Bear and myself, welcome to Denver and the 2nd Annual Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo. We hope you will enjoy watching us as much as we relish performing for you.
Slightly dangerous, exciting, fast paced and entertaining ... thats the goal set by team members of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association's one-of-a-kind mounted drill team and for many of the members, a statement of pride in both themselves and our community. Better known throughout the country than in their hometown, the group has performed at the Reno National Gay Rodeo in 1982 and 1983 and was asked to show off at Madison Square Garden for the AIDS benefit Rodeo last October (The team never made it to the Garden because of difficulty in winning permission to ride from the show producers!) To become a team member takes not only the expensive ownership of a horse, but he ability to control his mount with enough precision to ride the intricate patterns. Many people are able to achieve the first two steps but then lack the dedication to spend the necessary hours in practice to achieve a team attitude. C.G.R.A.'s 1982 team consisted of eight people and mounts, but a week before leaving for Reno disaster struck with the death of one of the horses. The pattern was quickly re-written to a four-horses unit, and the show went on. By 1983 the team had enough members to provide eight riders plus alternates. Now in 1984 dedication is the key to this team. It is with a great deal of pride that they ride in the 2nd Annual ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGIONAL RODEO with a brand new routine. We hope you enjoy their spunk.
The Lavender Fillies is the only all women dance group of its type in Southern California. The group does formation and line dancing to jazz, disco, country western, and rock music.
Although the Lavender Fillies dancers have been together for a year and a half, they have been performing regularly for only six months. Public performances are arranged by assistant director Mary Lou Lisenbe and have taken place at such diverse events and locations as community benefits, auctions, and convalescent homes. The group participated in this year's MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) Variety Show. The Fillies have been asked to represent the San Diego Country Western dance community in this year's Gay Pride Parade.
Maile Klein, director and choreographer of the Lavender Fillies, has been involved professionally in repertory theatre and dance since the age of seventeen, when she was a member of the Nashville Repertory Company. She has studied theatre at Grossmont College and at San Diego State University and was a member of the Festival Revels company (at the San Diego Shakespeare Festival) for three seasons, dancing and performing leading roles. She has performed a variety of roles in the Globe Educational tour Company and in the Old Globe Dance Theatre.
The Lavender Fillies dancers are raising money for their trip to the Denver Rodeo through car washes and yard sales and with their share of the proceeds from benefit performances.
The LONGHORNS, an incredible group of twenty-two country and western dancers, are briskly stomping throughout Southern California.
On March 18 Stallion (L.A.) hosted a beer bust for the LONGHORNS. Special feature at the event included Pin-The-Tail-On-The-LONGHORNS, (your favorite LONGHORN). New LONGHORNS' T-shirts were on sale for the flrst time and were a hot sales item. Both were a huge success. Invited guest performers were the clogging team of Dave and Dave as well as the Wranglers' cloggers, Steve, Al, and Steve.
On March 25 The Iron Spur (San Diego) hosted a beer bust for the LONGHORNS. Pin-The-Tail-On-The-LONGHORN was an event that was enjoyed at the Iron Spur as well. They also had a chance to buy their long-awaited T-shirts. The bar was fllled to capacity.
In addition to paid performances, the LONGHORNS are also involved in many community events such as the AIDS benefit April 15 at Emerald Hall in Long Beach. All proceeds are to go directly to AIDS victims.
Southern California will be represented for the flrst time at the Denver Rodeo by the LONGHORNS the flrst weekend in June. Watch for future performances of the LONGHORNS at The Backlot, Magic Mountain, Sunset Junction, Studio One, Christopher Street West, Pioneer Days, Reno Rodeo and The New Orleans' World's Fair.