CONFESS by Rob Halford

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With Ian Gittins. Hachette books. 355 pp.

Full of honest, humble, and heavy duty experience comes a memoir you will never want to put down.

Rob Halford from the “Black” Country of Birmingham, England grew up to be the front man for the heavy metal band Judas Priest.

He relates stories of family life in a post-war landscape. Nothing was ever assured. The only thing Rob knew early on was that he was not like other boys.

This is really the story of how a gay man went from being a scared, lonely, and frustrated boy into an honest, sober, and loving person.

Since this boy was to become a world famous rock star we have the memoir of the year.

Rob goes into great detail of his many misadventures with straight men. He had run-ins with police too.

He describes his identity this way following a painful breakup in the late 1970’s:

“It was five years since I’d been seeing Jason. Apart from the odd snatched, random fumble, I had been alone ever since…not just alone, but forced to suppress my longings, my needs, myself. I had to live a stifling life, or kill the band I loved.

Outside of that bedroom door, I was Rob Halford from Judas Priest, macho talisman and emergent metal god. Inside it, I was Robert John Arthur Halford, a sad, confused late twenties bloke from the Black Country, longing for the forbidden fruit of intimate male company”.

Rob Halford pg.134.

Judas Priest’s first line-up disbanded before Rob showed up to audition. His sister Sue was dating the band’s founder, bassist Ian Hill who is still in the group today. She insisted he try out. Their town, Walsall breeds humble people. Rob was told by Ken Downing that he was in the band.

British Steel became their watershed moment. Named for the filthy foundry plant in their village, recorded in a house once used by The Beatles, owned by Ringo, and used by John and Yoko for their Double Fantasy album, sold millions and spawned the now classic, ‘Living After Midnight’.

The group adopted an all leather look. They went full in as a metal band. Rob could not believe his mates did not realize he was a gay man.

Well before this time Rob had written a song called ‘Raw Deal’ about a doomed romance on Fire Island! He had never been there but imagined it.

The song ‘Metal Gods’ off British Steel was inspired by Frank the robot on Queen’s News of the World album. Rob Halford’s rock hero was Freddie Mercury. In the polarized homophobic culture of those days all of this remained unknown.

Priest fans will discover so much about their favorite group. Nicknames like K.K. Downing for Ken were used, but they were going to call Rob, ‘The Queen’. That would not have gone down well in my opinion.

A humorous book as well. He describes his arrest for lewdness in America. The cops knew who he was and asked what he was doing. Being famous can be like armour.

Rob Halford would encounter his idol, Freddie Mercury on the Greek island of Mykonos, a prime destination for gay men. They were at a yacht party. He describes a crowded space. His nerves got the better of him despite receiving a wink and wave from Freddie.

After all these years Rob Halford was ready to Confess. In his words it feels great and was just good for his soul. Perhaps it will do the same for his readers.

ELW Photography #4

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Introduction

July 24, 2020

New York City entered Phase 4 this week of recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. Outdoor dining and retail are back. I have gone out to dinner with my husband a few times already. We have seen some friends and family too!

Continuing to show my photographs of the Upper Eastside and Central Park I thought about my connection to these images.

This week I feature statues and buildings that have stimulated my lifelong sense of whimsy. A lover of fantasy since childhood I re-discovered places in the park I needed to explore.

I hope they bring back your sense of whimsy as well….

Statues

The base of the Mother Goose figure has characters like Humpty Dumpty and Little Boy Blue carved around it. A homeless man sleeps on a bench nearby. As enchanting as this statue can be there are many experiencing hard times.

This statue shows the famous author sitting on a bench reading his classic, “The Ugly Duckling”, with his top hat placed to the side. You can see the details of this work in each image including the sculptor of the work, Georg J. Jober. The architect who designed the work was Otto F. Lancmann. The statue was dedicated in 1956. The Park Conservancy works hard to preserve all of its treasures.

Hans Christian Andersen (/ˈændərsən/Danish: [ˈhænˀs ˈkʰʁestjæn ˈɑnɐsn̩] (listen); 2 April 1805 – 4 August 1875), in Denmark usually called H.C. Andersen, was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales.

Andersen’s fairy tales, consisting of 156 stories across nine volumes and translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. His most famous fairy tales include “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Nightingale,” “The Steadfast Tin Soldier“, “The Red Shoes“, “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Snow Queen,” and”The Ugly Duckling,” our subject pictured above.

Alice In Wonderland

The centerpiece of this section is the statue of Alice. I took many images of this statue. On any given day the natural light cast many unique looks at this charming monument.

Above you see the entire statue large enough for children to climb on. You see close–ups of her Wonderland cohort: The Mad Hatter, The Rabbit who is always late, and the Cheshire Cat. If you look closely at the rear view you can find the Jabberwocky!

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson , better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy.

At the base of the steps are engraved plates displaying verse from the classic book seen below…

The Eldorado

One of a series of stately apartment buildings towering above Central Park West, The Eldorado is famous for its Art Deco-inspired twin towers that mirror its predecessor’s, The San Remo. Constructed a year after The San Remo, The Eldorado is a product of renowned architect Emery Roth, whose buildings are visible all along this stretch of Eighth Avenue. Its location, at 300 Central Park West is located near the reservoir.

Art Deco Twin Towers Rise Above Central Park West In Pre-War Grandeur. This is my favourite building.

My Neighborhood

The commercial corridor has declined over the past year. Several stores closed. A movie theater shut down. The Barnes & Noble bookstore is moving to a different location on Third Avenue, a much smaller space.

Restaurants have built outdoor dining areas on the street. The ones who had outdoor tables to start are expanded now. All servers wear mask.

The Metropolitan museum of art announced a return date of August 29, 2020.

The Streets

Walking down any avenue you cannot avoid passing people. Wearing a mask is really the only thing you can do to protect yourself. Remaining indoors is only an option during horrid spells of excessive heat. As of this writing we are having our worst heat of the season.

New York City has proceeded with caution. This enabled us to flatten the curve. Now there are over 30 states with out of control numbers of virus cases. This did not have to happen. Wearing a mask is not a partisan issue. The largest problem now is re-opening the schools.

Will New York City survive? Can we invent a new economy? Do we really need to depend so much on tourism?

The retailers in our area include H&M, Best Buy, Staples, Old Navy, and Banana Republic. Independent shops are mainly services like shoe repair and dry cleaners. A major re–think must be done. New York City is not really as interesting a place as it was in the 20th Century. The internet is a powerful tool but this tech has ravaged our urbanity. If every corner is a fast food chain what is so special about living here? It seems in the past 20 years people have raised children without imagination. Just staring down at screens is Huxley’s Brave New World come to dystopian reality!

In the past 2 weeks I have witnessed a solitary officer and his car guarding a statue of Columbus in Central Park and 3 police vehicles in front of the Met museum with lights on. It was not clear to me what had happened accept perhaps a kid was playing in the fountain. We have collectively lost our marbles during this stressful time.

I have theorized our police are dispatched in groups like street gangs. This can never result in positive outcomes. We need to change how our city is protected.

People are in heavy denial. Understandably the shock of this time is powerful. But I have thought from the start that nothing will come back quickly. I do my part by wearing a mask. Such a simple thing.

I have seen horrifying results of people who think they cannot wear a mask and not get sick. The sacrifice is small yet people are unwilling in so many cases.

My photography continues in the coming weeks of Covid Summer 2020. These were just thoughts I have had while being out enjoying the weather.

Stay healthy dear readers. No matter what polls say, Vote this November!

Misfits Rising

NYC Public Library had a free exhibit documenting the Stonewall Inn in 1969. NYC lights the Empire State Building in rainbow colors. #LGBTPRIDE uses social media to promote the celebrations. STONEWALL 50 has been branded with its own logo.

There is a lot of attention when a milestone anniversary is reached in America. This year marks 50 years since the Stonewall Inn, a dive bar in Greenwich Village, became the epicenter of the modern Gay Rights movement.

Despite the importance of this moment in history it is not taught in public schools. Until this moment in time all homosexuals were thought to be deviant, perverse, and mentally ill.

A history not taught is a history made invisible to the mainstream.

Today many groups that include Women, African-Americans, Latin-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bi, Questioning peoples are struggling to have their stories told. To be rendered visible begins the process of becoming equal under the law.

Following World War II in which many homosexual and lesbian people gave their lives the straight white politics of America reinforced its culture by driving homosexuality into closeted oblivion. No visibility allows demonization. For hundreds of years homosexuals have been murdered and outcast without legal recourse.

Nazi Germany murdered countless homosexuals. Paragraph 175 was a law written when Kaiser Wilhelm was in power. Re-written by the Nazi regime to outlaw homosexuality. A clear example of the danger of letting hate become enshrined in law.

America’s laws have been cruel to minority people since its inception. Only straight white property owners were fully recognized as equal under our laws.

The hard struggle for the emancipation of slaves led to their being set free from their brutal owners. Freedom meant that white men were free to murder them. Their civil rights were not fully recognized until the 1960’s. Their struggle continues to this day. Not allowed to build wealth of any kind, African-Americans have never been able to catch up with whites.

Gay/Lesbian/Transgender/Bi/Queer/Questioning black people are for this reason not even on par with their white queer brothers and sisters. This must be stated because Stonewall happened in the crucible of the civil rights movement. Collectively our struggles must help each other.

The Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement enabled the moment when homosexual and lesbian people could collectively rise together against their oppressors.

In the 1960’s the law proscribed that nobody was allowed to wear three or more articles of clothing that were not gender conforming. Men could not wear any clothing deemed feminine and women could not dress as men. Homosexuality was illegal in many states. You could be fired if you were out. Our culture thought it normal to make fun of homosexuality; violence against our community was deemed legally fit.

Stereotypes of the homosexual as less masculine were reinforced in movies, television shows, and music. Then one fateful day the patrons of Stonewall stood up for themselves.

Keep in mind that many homosexuals were closeted for decades due to the shaming of our queerness for generations. Loss of family, work, and potentially lives were the reason so many remained silent.

This was the reason organized crime took ownership of The Stonewall Inn. Gay bars were not allowed to serve alcohol; dancing was not legal in many establishments.

Before the raids took place someone was usually tipped off that the cops were coming. The liquor would get stashed away. Anyone who was not gender conforming could escape before the patrons were taken away to jail.

On June 28, 1969 the police raided the Stonewall without warning. Several of the patrons in the bar that night refused to take the ill treatment of the police anymore.

Police raids on gay bars was common during the 1950s and 1960s. Patrons would get lined up, names taken, and some officers took it upon themselves to degrade trans people, people of color, lesbians, and gays. The newspapers would publish their pictures. Forcing gays out of the closet without any legal standing happened daily.

The Stonewall Inn’s patrons backed out of the bar leaving the cops inside. They filed out into the narrow streets. They rose up to resist the police. Despite many being dispersed after that first night many people gathered in the following days and nights that resulted in several confrontations with law enforcement.

There were peaceful protests too. Kick lines formed to mock the stereotype used to define and defile the gay community. Judy Garland had just passed away. The myth that her death fueled the riots is pure nonsense. The uprising took place because not being treated as human finally reached the breaking point.

Rocks, bottles, and fists were used to fight back the brutal opposition. Stonewall burned in the ensuing riots. The aftermath would result in other cities taking notice of the new visibility of homosexual and lesbian people. A movement began. San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and L.A. soon followed with new groups to defend the rights of LGBTQ people.

The first year anniversary of the riots were marked by the first Gay Rights March in Manhattan. It was titled Liberation Day.

In just a few years hundreds of groups would form to defend the rights of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgendered people. The Human Rights Campaign and GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) are two of the groups I have supported for years.

The first march took place on the first anniversary of the uprising.
Anti-war, Anti-Fascism, and Pro Gay Rights in 1970.

The marches have promoted themes of equality, protest against Presidents who stood against LGBTQ people, and called out policies that hurt our community.

There are still many people in power who choose to oppress rather than lift up minority people.

For the millions who stand up for equality we are not claiming special rights. We want equal rights under the law. To love, marry, raise kids, and live together in a peaceful world. Displaying our bodies in the public square allows us to claim our person hood, bond with others, and be ourselves.

Gay Pride Day has evolved over the decades since the Stonewall Uprising. Today, the march down 5th Avenue to that bar in The Village represents tens of millions of people around the world. Holland, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Russia, Israel, Poland, France, Netherlands, Thailand, Hong Kong, England, Ireland, Chile, and on and on celebrate LGBTQ pride.

The image gallery below shows expressions of pride: Top Left: 3 gay couples kiss. Middle Left: Gay Leather men march. Bottom left: Trans youth celebrate. Top right: A young man celebrates pride, perhaps coming out for the first time. Bottom right: a lesbian couple embrace.

Despite the ongoing threats of ignorant policy makers, hate groups, and others the LGBTQ community includes everyone in our celebrations. Our democratic ideals cannot otherwise be realized.

Thank you reader for taking time to read my blog! Evan’s Gate continues throughout the summer. Feel free to follow this page.

Yours Truly, a couple of years ago.
Showing leather pride in New Haven, CT for Queen’s jukebox musical, “We Will Rock You”.