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Friday, January 27, 2012

Gay Bashers, Homophobes, and Me


In 1978, as I've related in this blog (see "The First Time I Nearly Died," below in "Related Posts"), I'd survived a ruptured appendix that went untreated for two weeks, and finally, by that summer, was on the mend, though I was still dealing with a fistula (a rupture spewing gunk from my insides) in my upper abdomen.  My then-partner, David Merry, and I decided to attend a gay rights function at a bar ("Rudely Elegant") on the west side of Columbus.  In those early gay rights day there were almost no venues where gays could safely gather except the bars.  I was just beginning to gather the courage to become a gay activist myself, and, since I was still not fully recovered from my life-threatening recent experience, David drove us to the bar.  On the way in we had to walk past a group of young straight men with an attitude (David later told me that one of them swatted his head as we went by, which I didn't learn until later that night).  I no longer remember what the gay right event was, nor what was said, but when we exited we were pleased to see that the threatening crowd was gone.  We walked to the car.

David climbed in on the driver's side, and as I went around the car to get in the other side, I was stopped by five or six teenagers, of both sexes, one of whom said, 'Here's a faggot!"  Startled, I looked up just as one of the young men ran up to me and kicked me as hard as he could in balls.  I yelled something like "Hey!  Stop that!" as I doubled over in pain.  As I looked up at him he sneered and said, "What, faggot?", but seeing David rise up from his side of the car (David is tall, and a former farm boy), he signaled to the others and they ran off. 

"What happened?" David said to me as he helped me into the car.  I told him, and he went wild with anger.  He jumped to his door, started the car, and began speeding around the streets, hoping to run down the little gang.  I yelled at him to let it go (the lawyer in me was already envisioning the trial of State v. Merry for manslaughter by vehicle), but he wasn't listening.  Luckily, the teenagers were gone, and in the end all we could do was drive home.  When I went the next day for a routine appointment with my surgeon, the great Dr. John Minton (see the post mentioned above), he was astounded that my testicles had turned quite black and were bigger than softballs.  When he asked what the hell had happened, I told him, which caused him to be as mad as David had been.

This was my only physical experience with gay bashers, though I later did have to fend off a goodly number of threatening phone calls as I became more and more of a well-known gay activist in Columbus, Ohio.  These occurred in the days before Caller ID, and if I hadn't been home to answer the phone myself, there was frequently a crude message ("Die, fag!" for example) left on my answering machine.  More than once these were even on my machine at the law school (and, to his amazement, I played one of them to the Dean who happened by my office just as I was listening to it).  When the calls were live I used the technique taught me by my mother (see "The Aging Gay Rights Activist"), who was always getting Mafia threats about prosecutions my prosecutor father was conducting in Dallas.  "Here's what you do, Doug," she told me candidly.  "Just hit the cradle a couple of times quickly to cause noises, but not enough to hang up, and then say, 'This is one of those calls, operator—please trace it.'  Then what happens is they hang up fast, and, instead of scaring you, they're scared themselves.  It's the opposite of what they'd planned on."

I think it's a rare person who's taught how to handle phoned death threats by their mother.

In those early days of gay activism here in Central Ohio, I was frequently on TV or radio call-in shows, or giving talks in various venues.  Rather than let others keep the conversation focused on how "perverted" queers are, I would immediately change the subject to whether those who hated gays weren't really bigots.  Of course "bigot" is a label few people want to wear, and this produced very heated (but defensive) discussions about their supposed bigotry.  At the gay pride parade and rally in Columbus each year for the first few parades, I was frequently the final speaker, and was known for getting the crowd on their feet and shouting.  My standard ending was the "Bigot Chorus," which you can see for yourself on this video from the 1984 march (under four minutes in length---click on the PLAY triangle in the lower left corner).  

One of my contributions to the gay movement locally was to teach gay men and lesbians to be quick to introduce bigotry into the discussion.  I'd learned that if you did that it shut up a lot of homophobes.

One last story.  In 1991 at The Ohio State University, where I teach, many people were startled when two gay men were appointed to the Homecoming Court.  There was much outrage at this effrontery (remember it was over 20 years ago, a very different era for gays).  The homophobes both on and off campus were majorly upset.  Some letters to the Columbus Dispatch protested the very existence of any gays on campus, much less allowing such deviates to participate prominently in Homecoming.
The Homecoming game was on Saturday, October 26 against Michigan State (we won by ten points).  My then partner, Jerry Bunge, and I, as usual, walked across campus to Ohio Stadium.  Near the stadium there was a shady spot under some trees where a group of male students were selling t-shirts.  As the crowd Jerry and I were part of passed by them, some of the students in our midst started cheering this little group, and I strained to see what they were selling.  The only item for sale turned out to be a t-shirt that displayed on one side a pink triangle (the symbol Hitler had  made homosexuals wear in the death camps, and subsequently adopted by the gay community as a badge of pride), but on the t-shirt the pink triangle had a red restriction sign across slashed across it.  On the other side of the shirt was this advice: "LET'S BEAT THEM BACK INTO THE CLOSET!"
Jerry and I passed by before exactly what was going on sank in, but all during the game I became madder and madder.  We had a thermos of Scotch with us, and it was consumed during the game.  When the final whistle blew, we wended the way to our car along the same route we'd come.  Fairly drunk but not happy, I asked Jerry if he thought they'd still be there, and he allowed as how he guessed not.  As we rounded a corner, there they were: three undergraduate males happily hawking the shirts.
I was furious and (filled with "Irish courage"—er—"Scotch courage"), I said to Jerry, "Come on!"  He later confessed he had no idea what was about to happen, but gamely followed my lead.
I stormed up to them and said in a very loud voice (and I have a very loud voice when I want to use it), "I am Professor Douglas Whaley from the Ohio State Law School, and I want to know what's going on here!  Let me understand this: you're advocating violence on our campus?"
The very young student I was talking to looked shocked.  "No," he protested, "not violence!"
"The what does 'BEAT THEM' mean," Jerry asked, also in a loud voice.
"'BEAT THEM' can only mean violence!" I pronounced.  A crowd gathered, mostly students who appeared vaguely supportive of the students, so I turned to them savagely and demanded, "These people want violence on your campus!  Do you want that?  This is Nazi stuff!"  The crowd dissipated quickly (they undoubtedly thought I was a lunatic).  I turned back to the t-shirts students in time to hear Jerry say, "I’m a lawyer.  Do you have a vendor's license?  What're your names?"  At that the students frantically began gathering up the shirts.  I added, "What?  They won't give you their names?  Let's get their names!"
Now they panicked and ran, t-shirts flapping in their arms.  One of them dropped his hat and Jerry lunged for it as the student stopped to pick it up, but I dramatically said, "No, Mr. Bunge, let him keep his hat!"  As they were hightailing it around the corner, Jerry and I looked at each other and burst into laughter, whooping like howler monkeys. 
This incident reminded me of a favorite "Fred Basset" comic strip by artist Alex Graham, so I had an enlargement of it made, appended this story to it, and framed it.  The picture hangs in my house still.  Here is the strip:
[Click To Enlarge]

Related Posts:
"The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010
"Frightening the Horses," April 4, 2010
“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010
“How I Lost a Gay Marriage Debate,” April 29, 2010
“Straight Talk,” May 10, 2010
“Marijuana and Me,” July 11, 2010
“How To Tell if You’re Gay,” August 31, 2010
“The Thunderbolt,”September 3, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
"How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?" November 8, 2010
"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011
"The Homosexual Agenda To Conquer the World," February 8, 2011
"Seducing Straight Men," March 3, 2011
"Coming Out: How To Tell People You're Gay," March 27, 2011
"Jumping the Broom: How 'Married' are Married Gay Couples?" July 17, 2011
"The Legacy of Homophobia," August 2, 2011
"Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting," September 19, 2011
"The Presumption of Heterosexuality and the Invisible Homosexual," October 2, 2011
"On Being a Gay Sports Fan," March 9, 2012
"Sexual Labels: Straight, Gay, Bi," April 15, 2012
"The History of Gay Rights in Columbus, Ohio," June 4, 2012
“I Support the Right of the Boy Scouts To Ban Gays,” July 24, 2012
Straight People: Thanks From the LGBT Community,” November 20, 2012
“Gay Marriage, DOMA, Proposition 8 and the Mysterious Supreme Court,” January 15, 2013

“A Gay Hoosier Lawyer Looks at Indiana’s RFRA: The Religious Bigot Protection Act,” March 30, 2015;
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Funny Law Professors

Professor Kingsfield of "The Paper Chase"

Of course law professors are a superior breed, with tons of favorable adjectives applicable to them ("intelligent," "handsome," "wonderful," "charismatic," etc.), but a large number are truly funny people, and this post is about five of my favorites.

Arthur Greenbaum.  The first example is my best friend on the Ohio State Moritz College of Law faculty, Arthur Greenbaum.  I've known him since the fall of 1979 and he and his family are part of the chosen family we've created here in Columbus, Ohio.  Among his many admirable talents is his facile sense of humor (too often, alas, laced with puns that should have died aborning).  One favorite story:

In 2001, attorney Michael E. Moritz donated the amazing sum of $30 million to the Ohio State Law School if the school would henceforth be named after him.  As you can well imagine, that happened immediately.  Shortly thereafter a reception in downtown Columbus combined the law school's faculty with many local attorneys.  I was standing talking to Art when one of the attorneys stopped to ask us why the law school had recently changed its name.  We explained, at which point the attorney looked annoyed.  "You'd really rename of the school just for $30 million?" he asked.  "For that amount we'd rename the faculty," I assured him.  Without pause, Art stuck his hand out to me.  "Hello," he said, "my name is Michael E. Moritz."  I laughed and shook his hand, replying, "Glad to meet you—I'm Michael E. Moritz too."

Stanley Johanson.  When I was a student at the University of Texas Law School (1965-68) the faculty had many great characters in their number, but one of my favorites was Stanley Johanson.  His is a much heralded name in the field of Wills and Estates, and that was the course that I took under him.  Always a delight in the classroom, Stanley could also pull off major surprises.  In law school there is typically only one exam: a major essay test at the very end of the course.  Consequently, it was no small surprise to his upper-class Wills students when one day he announced shortly after class began and we were all settled in our seats, that we should take out a pen and piece of paper, number it from 1 to 10, and get ready for a pop quiz!  This was outrageous, and unheard of in law school!  What were we?  Fourth graders?  Nonplussed, but unwilling to say anything, we dutifully obeyed, wrote down our answers to the ten questions he read off, and then, as instructed by Professor Johanson, exchanged papers with someone sitting near us for grading as instructed by him.  Not quite anger, but something approaching rebellion was brewing, but then he announced the correct answers, smiled, and said, "Just kidding—let's get on with class." 

I was somehow dragooned by the editor of the school newspaper, Joseph Armstrong, into interviewing faculty members as to what they thought about President Lyndon Johnson nominating the first black to the United States Supreme Court: the legal giant Thurgood Marshall.  When I knocked on Professor Johanson's door and he invited me into his office, I asked him whether he thought this appointment would create a "black seat" on the Court.  He replied, "No more than there is a Jewish seat."  That puzzled me since there had been a Jewish seat since Lewis Brandeis was appointed to the Court way back in 1916 (currently, in 2011, three members of the Court are Jewish, with the rest being Catholics).  Stanley paused, reconsidered, and then straight-forwardly told me, "Frankly, Mr. Whaley, I'm waiting for the Norwegian seat to open up."

Robert J. Lynn.  When I joined the Ohio State law faculty in 1976, I became very fond of one of the older professors, the wonderful Robert J. Lynn.  Bob was laidback, soft-spoken, and quick of wit, with a very dry sense of humor.  He had wonderful instincts for what would work and what would not, and, in faculty meetings, if things suddenly came to a vote and I hadn't been paying attention to the minutia of the issue at hand, I would just wait to see how Bob voted, and then go along with him.  I hated faculty meetings (see "Related Posts" below), and so did he.  He would sometimes joke about a mythical school called the "Robert J. Lynn Fascist Law School" where there were no faculty meetings, and all law school administrative issues were decided by a benevolent dictator named Robert J. Lynn.  "Sign me right up," I told him on learning of this forward-thinking institution.

When I first joined the faculty in January of 1976, I was a Visiting Professor.  Since at the last faculty meeting I'd attended at my home school I had made a motion to censor the dean for outrageous conduct (and thereby made myself persona non grata), I was certainly hoping that Ohio State would make me a permanent offer.  To that end, the hiring committee scheduled a series of meetings and lunches with various senior faculty members so we could get to know each other.  One of these was with Bob, about whom I knew nothing at all.  We went to lunch.  A hot issue of the day at the law school was the students' recent demand that they be allowed to "self schedule" their exams (meaning they could choose when to take them).  Bob was furious about this student grab of power, and over lunch he explained his position in detail.  Having unloaded his very persuasive reasons why it was a bad idea, he then realize he sounded fanatical, and laughed at himself.  "Actually, Doug," he informed me in a confidential voice, "now that I think about it perhaps I'm wrong.  The idea could spread in beneficial ways.  How about 'self-scheduled teaching'?  I'm not always 'up' for class at the scheduled hour, and I would be much more effective as a teacher if I could choose the best time for me to call my students together and impart wisdom.  After all, we still have an antiquated bell system in the school that we never use.  We could activate it so that when it sounded, an announcement could be made: 'Professor Lynn is ready for his class,' and they could all scurry to get there before I started the lecture.  It would even have the additional advantage of training the students to become volunteer firemen at the same time as they master law!"

Donald Weidner today
Donald Weidner.  I have to go sort of slowly here, since Don is still the Dean of the Florida State Law School, and I wouldn't want to suggest in any way that he is anything other than the outstanding leader that his reputation leads me to believe he is.  From what I hear from those who would know, he has been a stellar Dean, good with faculty, students, the legislature, the alums, and, all in all, a prince among men.

Donald Weidner in 1968
I met him when he was a year behind me in law school at the University of Texas back in the late 1960s.  Then he was an outrageous, over-the-top, sometimes vulgar but always hysterically funny law student.  Ever smart, he was on the law review, but a year younger than Jay Westbrook, my roommate, and me, and since one of us (I don't remember which one) was in charge of helping Don write his first article for the law review, he started coming over to our apartment, originally for help on that article, but then because he fit in with the nuttiness that was always going on there (see "The Exploding Alarm Clock" below).  He became a good friend for that last year of law school, but then I lost track of him until I was myself a law professor.  At the annual law professors' convention, the University of Texas always throws a very impressive cocktail party, and at one of these (probably about 1979), I noticed my old Property professor from Texas standing talking to people across the room.  I joined them, planning on introducing myself and complimenting my old professor on his splendid teaching style.  He was talking to a man and woman, and when I could easily do so I said, "Excuse me, Professor, but I'd like to introduce myself.  I'm Douglas Whaley of the Ohio State faculty."  "THE HELL YOU ARE!" the man talking to the professor said in an overly loud voice.  It was Don Weidner (and his wife), and I hadn't recognized this older version of the kid I'd once known (nor had he recognized me).  That led to a lot of laughter and talking, and we briefly renewed our friendship.

Thereafter I heard stories about Don being very eccentric in faculty meetings and his classroom, which didn't surprise me at all.  But when I learned he'd become a dean, I was floored.  Making Don Weidner dean would be like electing a heretic Pope.  But, as I said, he's become a highly respected Dean at Florida State.  About ten years ago he called me and offered me the chance to come to his school as a Visiting Professor.  Busy with other commitments, I regretfully turned down that chance, though I confessed to him that I'd love to see what kind of deanship the Don Weidner I knew offered.  "What do you mean?" he asked, defensively.  "As dean, I do things by the book."  "Well," I told him, "I heard you once mooned the faculty."  He was outraged at the thought.  "NOT SINCE I'VE BEEN DEAN!" he thundered.

Corinne Cooper.  Some time ago I was invited to make a presentation at the University of Missouri Kansas City Law School, where I became friends with the incredible Professor Corinne Cooper, who taught the same areas of law that I do.  Corinne is one of those people who loves a dare and is unafraid of doing things in completely new ways.  She has since retired from teaching and runs a number of projects involving communication consulting. 

We once put on a seminar together that I organized, but the story I want to tell you involves us both being presenters at a Cleveland Bar Association function about twenty years ago.  The other professor on the panel was the famous James J. White of the Michigan Law School (himself one of the most fascinating people on the planet), but this tale is about my reunion with Corinne, who I had not seen in a couple of years before the Cleveland meeting.  I was checking into the Cleveland hotel when I was greeted at the counter by a former student of mine who was the lawyer running this event for the Cleveland Bar Association.  She welcomed me to Cleveland and reminded me of the courses I'd once taught her.  As we were talking, Corinne Cooper came sweeping into the lobby, and my former student waved her over.  Seeing me, Corinne smiled broadly, but before she could say a word, my former student grandly introduced me to Professor Corinne Cooper.  I don't know what came over me, but I couldn't resist saying, "Oh, but I know Professor Cooper well—we once had a mad and passionate love affair!" I took her proffered hand, and Corinne didn't miss a beat.  She immediately squeezed my hand tightly while cooing, "And now our Love Child has finished college, and we're both so proud of him!  How are you, Doug?"  She kissed me on the cheek and we both laughed.

My former student was horrified.

Related Posts:
"How I Became a Law Professor," January 27, 2010
"The Exploding Alarm Clock," February 19, 2011
"Adventures in the Law School Classroom," September 10, 2011
"I Hate Meetings," October 31, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Cheesecake Incident in Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg, Virginia

During the 1973-74 school year, I was a Visiting Professor at the University of North Carolina Law School in Chapel Hill, N.C., moving there for that period with my wife Charleyne and our son, Clayton, who had turned one year old that December.  For spring break in March of 1974, we arranged to meet Jay and Polly Westbrook, my old friends from law school, and their son Joel, who was slightly older than Clayton, for a vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The Westbrooks
The Whaleys
When we were all gathered together down there, we took rooms at a motel, and proceeded to do touristy things in Williamsburg, wheeling the children around in strollers, looking at the recreation of colonial times in his historic city.  (Coincidentally, I graduated from York High School in 1961, not far from Williamsburg, so I'd been here before, and, indeed, had taken my college entrance exam at the College of William and Mary).  Happily, Jay and Polly had brought along a portable bar, so after a day of sightseeing, we'd return to the hotel, put the children to bed, and then have a drink or two to end the day, while regaling ourselves with stories from law school, some of which might actually have been true.

The Williamsburg Inn

On the final night we made reservations for dinner at the Williamsburg Inn, a very elegant upscale establishment, hiring a babysitter for the boys.  Of course we downed a drink before leaving the motel, and on arriving at the Inn were told there would be a wait before our table was ready in the restaurant.  In no hurry, we repaired to the bar and had another.  When we were seated not long thereafter, Jay, always the connoisseur, ordered two bottles of wine, one red and one white, and we sipped those throughout our splendid dinner.  The atmosphere in the dining room was cultured (there was a string quartet playing in one corner) and comfortable.

In those days, when I was just 30 years old, I was something of a practiced drinker, but Charleyne was not.  She rarely drank at all, and usually had only one drink when she had any.  But this evening she entered into the spirit and "spirits" of the occasion, and was in a very merry mood by the time dessert was offered to us.  I should also mention two other things: Charleyne is a talented mimic (her imitations of various faculty members at the law school were dead-on perfect), and in Clayton's toddler days the Whaley family watched a lot of the children's TV show "Sesame Street."  On the dessert menu was a favorite of Charleyne's: cheesecake.  Unable to bottle up her delight, she jumped into an imitation of the Cookie Monster's famous deep-voiced "COOKIE!" exclamation, but changed it to         

and said it far too loudly.  The string quartet momentarily stumbled in the execution of the piece they were performing, and all around the room diners' heads popped up in alarm.  After the briefest pause the normal sounds of the room returned, and we happily finished our meal.  It was suggested that we repair again to the bar for an after-dinner drink, and of course we did that.  I excused myself and went downstairs to the men's room.

As I was sitting in one of the stalls, I suddenly recollected the "cheesecake" incident , and (I'd had quite a bit to drink myself, remember) that caused me to laugh out loud.  The other three stalls were occupied, and a room that had already been quiet, suddenly was even more ominously still as those present wondered who this nut was.  That, alas, struck me as even funnier, and I went into a fit of laughter that built on itself as it occurred.

When I finally achieved control, I realized that none of the other men had left the bathroom.  Two were still in stalls and one was washing his hands, but obviously they wanted to wait and actually see this lunatic who'd been laughing like a hyena.  I was too embarrassed to come out until they were gone, so I stayed hidden, and this waiting game took forever.  After about fifteen more minutes they gave up and left, and which point I could do the same.

I'd been gone quite awhile, but somehow Polly, Jay, and Charleyne, all three having a good time of their own in the bar, hadn't missed me.  To this day "CHEESECAKE!" has been an inside joke between Charleyne and myself, being muttered in that Cookie Monster voice at the strangest moments.

Related Posts:
"How I Became a Law Professor," January 27, 2010
"I Married a Hippy," April 14, 2010
"Far Too High in Las Vegas," September 1, 2010
"Charleyne and the Giant Cookie," September 16, 2010
"Bowling With Charleyne," February  13, 2011
"The Exploding Alarm Clock," February  19, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013