Born June 21, 1935, in Phoenix, Arizona, Diane Divelbess has been “an artist all her life.”  She received a BA degree from Scripps College and an MFA from the Claremont Graduate College (now University) in California.

Following graduate school, Diane did further work in education at California State University Los Angeles and Fresno, and studied intaglio printmaking and silk-screen printing privately with artists Nick De Matties and Jack Duganne.

Diane was a tenured member of the art faculty at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. She was an art professor for 27 years and chaired the Art Department for eight years. Diane is also a past-president and life member of the Los Angeles Printmaking Society. 

Painting, drawing, and various printmaking techniques are among Diane’s specialties. She has exhibited her art along the West Coast, starting in California and later in Washington State, where she moved to be with her now-spouse Army Colonel (ret)  Grethe Cammermeyer (also an OUTWORDS interviewee), in 1990. Diane is active in the arts community on Whidbey Island.  She was a member of the Whidbey Island Arts Council, is a past president of the Island County Fair Association and continues to direct the Fine Art Exhibition at the Fair. She currently serves as chair of the City of Langley Arts Commission. Her paintings, drawings and prints have been exhibited most recently at Beretich Gallery in California, and at her studio and gallery on Whidbey Island, Washington. In 2012, Diane and Grethe were among the first same-sex couples to marry in Washington State.

OUTWORDS interviewed Diane at the soaring wood-and-glass home that she and Grethe built on Whidbey Island, a short ferry ride north of Seattle. Diane is soft spoken and, at first, a bit reserved. But her memory is very detailed; and her account of staying up all night with Grethe on an Oregon beach, waiting for Grethe’s sons to haul in their crab pots, is possibly the best first-date story that OUTWORDS has yet recorded.
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] I'm over it. I've said. One woman, God bless her, she was 95 years old, and we talked for about 45 minutes. And she was the mother of a man named Rob Eichberg who wrote a very influential book in the '70s called Coming Out: An Act of Love. it was really like the first how-to book about coming out. And then he subsequently unfortunately passed away of AIDS. But his mother was very much with him at the beginning, and she kind of carries his legacy.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] She lives in Southern California, we went to interview her. And after about 45 minutes, I said, Well, let's take a little break, and then we'll carry on. And she goes, There's more? She was done.
Diane Divelbess: And was that it?
Mason Funk: That was basically it. We asked a couple more questions, but it was clear that she ... really, she did.
Diane Divelbess: She was signing off.
Mason Funk: She had a few important things she wanted to share, and then she was done. So. Okay, cool. So do me a favor, start by ... well actually, let me interrupt myself. I just realized you're wearing an Adidas logo T-shirt.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] And wonder if you would mind changing that for us. So I just keep it really short.
Diane Divelbess: But you could always do something.
Mason Funk: I tried going Hiram's route, but it was too much trouble to do that constant shaving.
Howard Shack: You shave money on shampoo, but it's a lot more maintenance. Called manscaping, [inaudible].
Mason Funk: Manscaping. Alright. So now we're speeding, correct?
Howard Shack: Yes.
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] I'm going to tuck in a little bit more here. Okay. So do me a favor, start by telling us your first and last names and spelling them, please.
Diane Divelbess: Okay. My name is Diane Divelbess. Diane is with one N, and Divelbess is D-I-V-E-L-B-E-S-S.
Mason Funk: Okay, so Diane, just for the record, just spell Diane.
Diane Divelbess: D-I-A-N-E.
Mason Funk: Perfect. Okay. And last thing is, try to incorporate my questions into your answers.
Diane Divelbess: [00:02:00] Oh, good point.
Mason Funk: So we don't need to hear my questions to know what you're talking about. So when and where were you born, and please give me an overview of your family. Who was in it and kind of what kinds of people they were, in a very basic way.
Diane Divelbess: Okay. The question is ...
Mason Funk: [00:02:30] First of all, when and where were you born, and tell me a bit about your family.
Diane Divelbess: I was born in 1935, in Phoenix, Arizona. My father was Harold Divelbess, my mother Veda Reed Divelbess. My mother was born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma.
Diane Divelbess: [00:03:00] Her father had come into Indian territory from Texas, a little place outside of Dallas called Wills Point. My grandmother came into Indian territory from Missouri, "Missoura" is what she would say,
Diane Divelbess: [00:03:30] when she was a very young child. She claims that they were there before the Sooners, and that when the land was opened up to the Sooners, her father told them to get in the house because those people were all drunk and crashing their wagons into each other, trying to beat it to the free land. So that's my mother's side of the family.
Diane Divelbess: [00:04:00] She had one sister, Vivian, and this is actually a little bit amusing. Her sister, my Aunt Vivian, was very much of a lady and fancied herself sort of a southern belle. My mother was not quite like that at all. So when my aunt and my mother were entitled to name themselves,
Diane Divelbess: [00:04:30] give themselves a middle name, my aunt picked the name Rosamond and my mother picked the middle name Tom, which was perfect. Now, my father's family were equally pioneer family. They came into Arizona. My father's grandfather, Louis Divelbess, had come in sort of as a young man,
Diane Divelbess: [00:05:00] on horseback, looking around. And decided that this looked like a good place, Northern Arizona. And at that time, it had, as he put it, "Grass that was belly-high to a horse." Now if you go along Highway 66, the old Highway 66 now, there is no grass. It is like the Dakota badlands in spots, little petrified forests and that.
Diane Divelbess: [00:05:30] So people like my grandfather, my great-grandfather Louis, my grandfather Daniel, they became ranchers and they ran cattle. There went the grass. There began the erosion. This all preceded The Sierra Club and other like-minded organizations. So, suddenly, the livelihood for my father's family was sort of defunct
Diane Divelbess: [00:06:00] because you could no longer do any ranching. So my grandfather went into politics. And he was the sheriff of Navajo County five times, and you could only succeed yourself two times. When he ran out of two times, he would become the county treasurer, and then back to being the sheriff and so forth. And he was very gregarious as a personality.
Diane Divelbess: [00:06:30] My father was very quiet. My father graduated from the University of Arizona in law, and practiced law in Phoenix. Loved the law. He was a very generous, gentlemanly attorney at a time before you associated attorneys with hideous greed and meanness. Sleight of hand.
Diane Divelbess: [00:07:00] Anyway, my grandfather would come to town to visit sometimes, and then to my father's horror he would be down on the street, sort of garnering a big crowd and talking about everything under the sun. So it was sort of with a mixture of joy and trepidation when Grandfather was coming to town
Diane Divelbess: [00:07:30] because we knew a crowd would surely follow. And my mother taught school. She and my father met in Phoenix and had a long, nice courtship. It was the Great Depression, and you just didn't rush into something not being sure
Diane Divelbess: [00:08:00] if you could start a family and actually survive that kind of thing.
Mason Funk: Hold on one second, I'm just going to let this plane clear. It's mostly gone.
I love how Bella has taken up residence. Such a sweetie.
Diane Divelbess: That plane likes us.
Howard Shack: [00:08:30] Just get you to [inaudible] left.
Mason Funk: To my left, yeah. Okay.
Howard Shack: Yeah, that's good.
Mason Funk: It's okay, Bella. That plane is like ...
Diane Divelbess: Guess it may just circle for a while.
Mason Funk: [inaudible]
Howard Shack: We're clear now.
Mason Funk: [00:09:00] Okay. So you were saying your mom was a school ... during the Depression, you didn't start anything if you didn't know you could finish it, basically. I think that was where-
Diane Divelbess: And actually.
Mason Funk: Kind of start fresh. Let's kind of start a new little chapter here. Maybe start by saying, My parents met during the Depression. And then just talk a little bit about kind of some of their courtship and kind of how they eventually formed a family.
Diane Divelbess: [00:09:30] Okay. So, my parents met during the Depression, and like I said, my mother was a teacher and my father was a young attorney. And he actually had just gotten a position with an old firm in Phoenix, and that was a big break. But old Mr. Gust had to stake him for a pair of slacks
Diane Divelbess: [00:10:00] that would match a jacket, because he had to have a decent appearance in court, and apparently he didn't have an outfit that could pass muster. Anyway, when my parents got married, they decided that they could really support two children
Diane Divelbess: [00:10:30] but no more than that. Because my sister and I used to bug them and say, Well, why don't we have a brother? And the answer was always that two children are fine and because we can guarantee that you will go through college. So there was never any doubt that we would go to college and that we would be supported straight through. And as a matter of fact, we were supported straight through graduate school.
Diane Divelbess: [00:11:00] It wasn't because we ever thought for a minute that we were born with a silver spoon in our mouths, but actually we were. Pure and simple. We had little itty-bitty college jobs, like working in the library or something, but nothing that would pay for anything other than extra money, that kind of stuff.
Diane Divelbess: [00:11:30] That was always interesting to me that you planned for a family that you could support all the way through higher education, which was great. The other thing that was interesting was that my mother would always say that We are middle class. And she was very proud of that and wanted that to sink in. Because we would say,
Diane Divelbess: [00:12:00] we had school friends whose families belonged to the country club and stuff, and we thought that would be great because they had a nice swimming pool. And my mother said, You have a membership at the Y. You're just fine. You can play golf at the Encanto golf club that's a public links. And you don't have to belong to the country club.
Diane Divelbess: [00:12:30] Besides, we're good, solid middle class people. As it turned out later, after Carolyn and I were well out of graduate school, my sister, she was married, so forth. We caught on that my parents had joined the country club so that my father could play golf there, because he had a lot of chums and he liked to play there and stuff.
Diane Divelbess: [00:13:00] But they went out of their way not to join while we were of an impressionable age.
Mason Funk: They didn't want you to-
Diane Divelbess: Put on airs.
Mason Funk: Right. That's the word.
Diane Divelbess: We had no airs whatsoever.
Mason Funk: The biggest four-letter word in our family was ostentatious.
Diane Divelbess: That's right. That's right. You're not going to put on airs, period.
Mason Funk: [00:13:30] So coming from a family, was there anybody who inspired you to pursue a life in art? In other words, did you have a role model of any sort when you began to sense that you wanted to be an artist?
Diane Divelbess: I just knew from the beginning.
Mason Funk: So tell me what you're talking about, when you start.
Diane Divelbess: Oh, yeah, okay. So I did not have a role model as to why I would select art as a profession, vocation, whatnot.
Diane Divelbess: [00:14:00] But I always knew, I always felt that I was an artist. I felt that that was a very comfortable fit. Now, my mother loved art, and in college, she had been a history major and an art minor. I went to Scripps College in Claremont, which is a women's college, it was known for its liberal arts,
Diane Divelbess: [00:14:30] humanities core program. You could say that I ended up with a humanities major and an art minor, because everybody in essence had more units in the humanities by going there and fewer units in their major. Which, by the way, you didn't declare until you were a junior. And at that school they encouraged you to take the minimum of your major and the maximum of everything else,
Diane Divelbess: [00:15:00] because it was everything else that was being offered in one small community, and you could take advantage of that, which I thought was a brilliant idea. At one time, I had said to my father that, Well, what about the law? Maybe I should go into the law. And he said, You would like the idea of the law,
Diane Divelbess: [00:15:30] but I don't think you would like the law as a profession. He said, It's still all-male, and he said, It's very mean behind the scenes. He said, I think you would be happier in the teaching profession. So he was trying to protect me from the brutality of being, let's say, the first kind of ...
Diane Divelbess: [00:16:00] making new waves in a profession that would be very unwelcoming. And now, of course, it's just the reverse. All the professions are open.
Mason Funk: Were you appreciative, either then or later, of your father's protectiveness? Or did you bristle?
Diane Divelbess: I thought he was great. I trusted him.
Diane Divelbess: [00:16:30] He was very perceptive, and very kind. And he was also, like most attorneys, they are excellent listeners. He was very quiet, an excellent listener to the point that my mother would say, Harold, you're not participating in the conversations and it's embarrassing. You're not paying any attention at all. And then he would rattle off the entire evening's conversation.
Diane Divelbess: [00:17:00] He never missed anything because he was trained to listen. And I remember, on one occasion, I went to his law firm to talk over a problem or something. And in my usual fashion of meandering around, as you can see, he finally looked at me, and he said, And what is your point? That's a good summation of him and I have great admiration for his wisdom.
Mason Funk: [00:17:30] That reminds me that in reading Grethe's book, one of the key characteristics that she said you had when she first met you was that you were an excellent listener.
Diane Divelbess: This was a funny thing. I had been told by other people who knew her before I did-
Mason Funk: Could you say Diane? I mean, sorry, Grethe.
Diane Divelbess: [00:18:00] Oh, okay. I had been told by other people who knew Grethe before I did that Grethe was a silent Norwegian, and it was hard to get her to talk, and in fact they really didn't know very much about her other than the fact that she was an excellent nurse. So I expected the great, silent Norwegian.
Diane Divelbess: [00:18:30] And we met in Lincoln City, Oregon, over a Fourth of July. She had three of her sons there with her, and they had invited a group of us down to the beach for the Fourth of July fireworks and everything. They had very kindly and thoughtfully set up a tent and a big bonfire so that we could have marshmallows and s'mores and things.
Diane Divelbess: [00:19:00] And we had a wonderful time, and then later on, everybody went back to their various motels and whatnot. But she had asked, would somebody please come back if possible and maybe stay up with her during the night because her kids were out, three sons, were out crabbing. And they had the crab pots out on the pier, and so she would be up until they decided to haul the pots in.
Diane Divelbess: [00:19:30] So everybody said, Well you go, Diane. All the rest, you see, were already coupled up. But I was exhausted. And I really wasn't looking forward to it anyway. I said, Okay. So I went out there, and she talked all night. And I thought, my goodness,
Diane Divelbess: [00:20:00] everybody else really got this one wrong. She may be Norwegian, but she had so much that was pent up that she wanted to share. And she was fabulous, just talked and talked, and then finally she said, Oh, I wish the sun would never come up. She was having such a good time. And the reason she was having such a good time was because she was just talking away,
Diane Divelbess: [00:20:30] and the kids were out playing up and down the pier. And then of course, the kids collapsed. We fixed a big breakfast, kids were almost too tired to eat. Then off they drove, back to Seattle. And then I had to get on the bus, go to Portland, catch a plane, go down to Claremont, start teaching again,
Diane Divelbess: [00:21:00] finish up the summer quarter at Cal Poly. I thought, well that is the strangest interlude. It's like a culture shock, and then whoomp. I figured I was coming back, so in fact I went ahead ... I was kind of bold, now that I think about it. I went ahead and bought round trip tickets
Diane Divelbess: [00:21:30] over Labor Day to come up to Seattle. And I didn't have an invitation to come up or anything. Near the end of the summer, a little note did come, it was an invitation, that it would be nice if you wanted to come. And I can't remember if I told her that I already had a ticket. But I knew I was coming.
Mason Funk: [00:22:00] That's awesome. That's a great story. I love the whole image of the beach and the crabbing, and you guys just talking through the night, or Grethe talking through the night. There's the proof that you were a good listener.
Diane Divelbess: I was in shock, you know, that she had so much to say after everybody said, Oh, you won't get anything out of her, and we hardly know who she is.
Mason Funk: [00:22:30] That's funny. Okay. Well, let's backtrack now. We'll go back to your father gave you that advice, and he was a very good listener. But your sense of being an artist was being clear to you.
Diane Divelbess: Oh, yeah.
Mason Funk: I'm always fascinated by this. People who just have that sense of their own direction, their own vocation, just innately. As an artist, in say junior high and high school, when you were still in the mix of ...
Mason Funk: [00:23:00] before you could really start to enact your vision of yourself, how did you fit in or not fit in with the prevailing social scene in your schools? Were you a loner, were you the artist off at the edges, were you very much in the mix of things? Where did you fit or not fit? So if you could start by saying, In high school, in junior high school, high school.
Diane Divelbess: [00:23:30] In junior high school, especially, and then straight through high school, I was sort of a dork. The other kids, especially in junior high school, the other kids were becoming really much more socially sophisticated, so that I was feeling increasingly awkward.
Diane Divelbess: [00:24:00] My parents insisted that I take the junior, whatever it was called, something or another, ballroom dancing. Everybody else did too, so we were all together in that. And the thing I liked best about it was at the very end, when, instead of having a pianist play and then a dance instructor telling you
Diane Divelbess: [00:24:30] how to make the moves, you had a live dance band, which was thrilling. When you ever get to dance to a real, live music. But I was a tomboy, and I was intellectually smart but socially dumb.
Diane Divelbess: [00:25:00] Because there were a lot of girls, and fellas too, who were intellectually smart, but they were socially savvy. And I was not. I was just savvy enough to know that I was not. You know how that goes. But I was always interested in everything, which is why I said I was sort of a dork. Loved all the subjects.
Diane Divelbess: [00:25:30] Loved the teachers, loved taking everything, loved putting everything together, working with my hands, and reading books, and all that kind of thing. So the older I became, the more comfortable I became. Which is true. By the time you're in college, you're with people more and more like yourself.
Diane Divelbess: [00:26:00] Phoenix was a wonderful place to grow up, and fortunately for me, I grew up in a Methodist church family. And the Methodist church that we belonged to had a wonderful youth program. So that when you were in junior high school, ready to go to high school, right away in their youth program, at the beginning of the summer
Diane Divelbess: [00:26:30] they promoted you into their high school youth group. So that the time that fall opened, you were not a gawky freshman, terrified. You had spent the summer with other high school kids in their youth program, which was very active. And it had fabulous parties throughout the summer, every Wednesday evening was a party.
Diane Divelbess: [00:27:00] And it was everything from capture the flag out in the desert to canoeing in Encanto Park, or big barbecue, thises and thats, and so on. That gave me, really, an opportunity to feel more comfortable in my skin. And then the other thing that was really kind of wonderful, you asked some time a little bit ago about was there ever a hero,
Diane Divelbess: [00:27:30] an art thing. Well no, not so much, although I loved all my art teachers and everything. If you grow up in a town that was really a small city, and you're only aware of a certain style of painting, let's say a genre at that time, it would be realistic desert painting, western painting, desert painting.
Diane Divelbess: [00:28:00] Or you were fond of Indians, let's say. So those are the three things that you would see at the museum: Indians, the desert, cowboys. And then one summer, the old Carnegie Library, which had been converted from the old house into a kind of a way station for a traveling art exhibit,
Diane Divelbess: [00:28:30] because in the meantime the city of Phoenix had developed a city center, civic center with a new library and art gallery in the building process. But while this was going on, there was this old house that was the old Carnegie Library, it was out of stone. And I still remember going in there, and it had those old-fashioned ceiling fans, and then it had some box fans in the windows,
Diane Divelbess: [00:29:00] and the floors were hardwood. But I walked in, and it was a traveling exhibit from the Whitney Museum of Kandinsky's work. Bam. Big canvases. All screwed up. Well, there was no desert there, there was not a cowboy, and I didn't see an Indian fella in sight. And what is this? I remember being ...
Diane Divelbess: [00:29:30] you were not attracted to it, you were horrified in a way because you'd never seen anything like it. But you knew then, that beyond the horizon, lay a completely different world. And that eventually, maybe Phoenix would grow into it, which of course they have. But this was a first for me, on that scale. And then I'll tell you one other little, minor scale.
Diane Divelbess: [00:30:00] There was a wealthy lady that somebody told my mother about, saying she knew that I was interested in art. So she said to my mother, Why don't you bring Diane over some afternoon and I'll show her some of our art collection here. So mother said, Well, let's go over and meet this woman because she says she has a nice art collection, and you never know. So over we went. Well, they were really wealthy, and they had
Diane Divelbess: [00:30:30] some real impressionist works on their walls. So it was the first time I had ever seen some real things. And I remember going into a little ... they had a little, tiny guest bathroom thing off of another porch or room. And there on the wall was a tiny Renoir.
Diane Divelbess: [00:31:00] That was a major lesson, you can put fine art any place you want. Period. And so, unfortunately now for Grethe, she may find all kinds of things in the oddest places.
Mason Funk: You can put it anywhere.
Diane Divelbess: That's right. Yeah. Whole other universe out there, yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:31:30] Okay, cool, that's great. Those are great stories. So I guess the question that inevitably pops up in an interview like this is when did you feel the beginnings of any sort of ... how aware were you of your own sexuality? Were you aware of being attracted to girls or women? Did you think, where were you at? So kind of tell me again, the time frame.
Diane Divelbess: [00:32:00] So in terms of when was I aware of my sexuality, it's very interesting. It's an interesting question because growing up I was always, like I said, a tomboy. And so what I found discomforting at a certain age was the fact that my buddies were much more interested, suddenly,
Diane Divelbess: [00:32:30] in going after the pretty girls. And I thought that ... I was also sort of interested in some of the girls myself. But there was always this pressure. My mother would say, Oh, Diane, now you better start rolling your eyes. You need to get some boyfriends, or something. Huh? I mean, that is ridiculous.
Diane Divelbess: [00:33:00] And then I loved to play softball. So of course then, I did have a number of girlish crushes. And I always had plenty of friends that were boys, but I didn't have any crushes on them, which is a different thing.
Diane Divelbess: [00:33:30] And all through high school, I had a lot of friends, boys that were great friends, and eventually I did have a little cadre of them so I could get invitations to the dances and so on. But really, if I ever really fell in love, it was always with a girl.
Diane Divelbess: [00:34:00] But of course, you couldn't talk about that. One day, here was something interesting, though. Where we lived, eventually we moved up on a street in Phoenix called Edgemont, and it was close to Phoenix College, and actually our house bordered onto the Encanto Golf Course.
Diane Divelbess: [00:34:30] The first nine. So it was close enough to West Phoenix High School that I could walk, or at least I could walk home. I was always so late in the morning that Mother would drive me there because I was hopeless. But if I were going to walk home, there was a drugstore that sometimes I would stop, go in, maybe get a Coke
Diane Divelbess: [00:35:00] or just read through some of the paperbacks. And paperbacks in those days were really flimsy things. They had the kind of paper that would turn orange in a matter of years, that was not acid-free. And so you could get a paperback book for about a quarter. Anyway, there was a book that I spotted which was called something like
Diane Divelbess: [00:35:30] Female Sexuality or something. It had that startling name. I remember pulling that book off the rack, and glancing through it. Well, of course it had all these various kinds of terminology, girlhood, and duh duh duh, and menstruation, and pregnancy, and blah blah blah, and then there was a chapter on lesbians.
Diane Divelbess: [00:36:00] Who knew? I had no idea that there was even such a name. But of course, what an interesting chapter. And it was women who loved women. Well, that was an eye-opener. I didn't even know that there was this classification. And so I just sort of put the book back on the shelf because I was not about to buy it and take that into the house, but that was another one of those revelations
Diane Divelbess: [00:36:30] that you just kind of put in the back of your head. Because then after that, I went onto college and did not act on homosexual impulses. I had better sense, and dated all through college, and had a wonderful time. And then what happened was, in fact, I was engaged at one time.
Diane Divelbess: [00:37:00] But the closer it came to the wedding date, the more I knew this was a mistake. Because the fellow I was engaged to was really fine, he was a lovely, lovely person, and I loved his family. They loved me. But I felt like ... I knew that my life would be over,
Diane Divelbess: [00:37:30] pure and simple. Because then I would be, definitely, a wife, a mother, devoted to him, his career, our children, the whole nine yards. I knew that I would be an ornament,
Diane Divelbess: [00:38:00] a prized ornament, a well-loved ornament in the family. My art would be cherished as having a ... it's nice. Isn't it nice that Diane has something to do in her off moments, if she has any. So sometimes she paints, and that kind of thing.
Diane Divelbess: [00:38:30] And it was just not me. It was one of these things that you just know. I was making myself sick, thinking about that wedding. And so finally, I just said, I'm sorry, this just isn't going to work out. And he actually agreed.
Diane Divelbess: [00:39:00] So there was no fuss or anything. And then shortly thereafter, he married a person and they had a ... Oh, and this was funny. Mother had sort of had doubts about him because she thought, well she didn't know him.
Mason Funk: Can you start by saying, just so we can have this as a standalone story, When I was engaged, my mother had some doubts about my fiance. And then carry on.
Diane Divelbess: [00:39:30] Right, okay. When I was engaged, Mother had some doubts about my fiance. Partly, they stemmed from the fact that he was a Roman Catholic, and we had talked about different things that we would try to do. But in the long run, that was a huge block. Another thing was
Diane Divelbess: [00:40:00] he came from a very old family in Los Angeles, and by that I mean it's old money. It is not nouveau riche, and they never considered themselves middle class, nor did they put on airs. They were just a fine, old family with very deep roots.
Diane Divelbess: [00:40:30] In fact, my fiance had started out at the Harvard Boys School, and then had transferred to Phillips Andover, and then to Pomona College. He had two brothers, and they all were headed into law. That was their calling, and they were very good at it, and his father was a physician. Anyway,
Diane Divelbess: [00:41:00] there were just a few things that jangled with Mother. She didn't feel that comfortable, and she wasn't convinced that I would be that comfortable. And it didn't occur to her that he was as bright as he was. He was very smart. So later on, this was years later, she just casually mentioned one day,
Diane Divelbess: [00:41:30] Whatever happened to so-and so? And I said, Oh, he's a municipal judge in Los Angeles. Dead silence. What? My mother always thought very highly of the judicial system and so forth. That would've been a finer marriage than she had predicted, but that was one of those little bits of amusing things.
Mason Funk: [00:42:00] That's funny, that's very funny. There was one question I was going to ask. When you were talking about ... you followed the straight and narrow, to the point that you were engaged. And the first thing you did that probably broke the mold was you said, You know what, I'm not going to marry this guy after all. But I have to imagine that some women who were your classmates maybe entertained similar thoughts, and maybe were lesbians,
Mason Funk: [00:42:30] but just plowed ahead. And I wonder if you know any stories, you don't obviously have to name names. But did you later hear of any people or any women who plowed ahead, and then only 10, 20, maybe even 30 years later, they just said, I knew at some point back then, but I just plowed ahead and I finally have come to my senses and realized this is just not who I am.
Diane Divelbess: [00:43:00] Really, the question is that in college, did you know people who later on ... they kept to the straight and narrow, married, had their children, and then later on decided that this just isn't for me and finally came out, as it were.
Diane Divelbess: [00:43:30] Well, the people that I knew in college, I did know of a couple people who were actually lesbian at the time. And people were basically sort of horrified but didn't talk about them. And the other people carried on, and for the most part, in fact,
Diane Divelbess: [00:44:00] were a very stable population. Very few divorces that I'm aware of in our class. And there may have been some hanky panky before marriage, but nobody talked about it. And there certainly was not a culture of open sex before marriage like there is now.
Diane Divelbess: [00:44:30] Certainly nobody would dream of moving in with anybody before marriage. I do know of one or two people, straight people who got divorced and the feeling that rumbled through the community was more like when you take a vow, you should just stick with it.
Diane Divelbess: [00:45:00] So that was never met with approval even though they quite approve of the new couple that has formed, it was one of these strange things. Our undergraduate class was at '57. So this is pre-'60s. The '60s blew everything apart.
Diane Divelbess: [00:45:30] There's your biggest decade of change, although what was happening in the '50s near the end, you had the Hungarian Revolution. So Europe had that ripping, and we weren't completely isolated as a student body, we were taking in what money we could to donate to the Hungarian refugees and that kind of thing.
Diane Divelbess: [00:46:00] But we were still a pretty stolid kind of bunch. Then later on, I had a very good gay friend from Pomona College, and he and I used to date, and he was lots of fun.
Mason Funk: Did you know when you were in college, did you know he was gay?
Diane Divelbess: [00:46:30] Mm-mm (negative).
Mason Funk: Only later.
Diane Divelbess: Yeah. And later on, when we would get together, just howl over what we went through. Oh my goodness.
Mason Funk: So then did you ... by the way, does Bella like to be in anybody's lap? Like mine, for example, or she more of a-
Diane Divelbess: Oh, no, she's happy right there. She's a squirmer.
Mason Funk: [00:47:00] Oh, she's a squirmer. I see. I just look at her, and I think, Oh, she would be so comfortable in my lap. But maybe not. That may be more, I would be so comfortable with her in my lap. Oh, let me see. Hiram, how are we doing on this card?
Howard Shack: We have forty minutes.
Mason Funk: Forty minutes, okay. We'll go a little longer, then we'll just swap cards. So did you have a so-called moment or, I know this is way before coming out was a thing. But did you have a moment, even unto yourself ...
Mason Funk: [00:47:30] what changed for you, after you ended up not marrying that guy? And when did you begin to realize, Oh, I'm not actually interested in marrying any guy?
Diane Divelbess: Well, I had known by the end of high school that I'd had mad crushes on some of the high school girls.
Diane Divelbess: [00:48:00] And never acted on any of that, and kept hoping, I think, that in college everything would sort of just happen and you would fall in love, and blah, blah, blah. So I didn't really act on anything until I was in graduate school.
Diane Divelbess: [00:48:30] And that was fine, because I had broken off the engagement and was able then to have a healthy relationship. You're living off campus, so that was sort of the beginning of living a lesbian life,
Diane Divelbess: [00:49:00] but still you're not out in the comfortable way that you are now. So that you use the euphemisms of this is my roommate, blah, blah, blah. But then you still had to put up with old friends dropping by and wanting to introduce you to some fellow or other, invite you out in hopes that sparks would fly.
Diane Divelbess: [00:49:30] And so you sort of had to put up with that. Because they all were meaning well. But it certainly wasn't the kind of culture where you could say I have a girlfriend, A, and B, I'd like to bring her along. Because that just wouldn't work. People thought they were very tolerant if they knew of somebody who was gay and had invited him,
Diane Divelbess: [00:50:00] let's say, to a party but his partner would not be welcome. Yuck. People are patting themselves on the back, thinking that they're so tolerant, but tolerance is different from welcoming. But then, you know what happens, is that we're in this underground culture, which is a scream.
Diane Divelbess: [00:50:30] And we're no longer in an underground culture to that extent. So we've probably lost a lot of that humor because it isn't necessary anymore. All the code signals and all that, and going to the different clubs, and I was never a great one to do that because I was a teacher. So I didn't do anything much in the southern California area.
Diane Divelbess: [00:51:00] I would spend parts of my summer time in Berkeley, for example, with a lesbian group of people. And that was a lot of fun. But careful not to be caught in a gay bar in Pomona or LA and lose my teaching job.
Mason Funk: Couple things from there. One, I want to talk more about the loss of underground gay culture.
Mason Funk: [00:51:30] Because even, I'm younger than you, but I still feel it. And secondly, I want to talk about the realities of the fact that if you got caught in a gay bar at that-
Diane Divelbess: Out.
Mason Funk: You're out. So just talk to us, historically, about what the culture was like. You were teaching in a high school?
Diane Divelbess: Yeah. So when I started my professional career, it was after I had finished a Master of Fine Arts and also had a number of units under my belt.
Diane Divelbess: [00:52:00] In fact I had a community college, what then they called junior college, credential. So I initially was looking for a junior college teaching position. Didn't get it, but I did get an offer from a high school. And so
Diane Divelbess: [00:52:30] I taught four years, high school. Three years full-time, one year more or less a reduced schedule so that I could paint more. And then also some substitute teaching and so forth, and that's actually where I learned to teach.
Mason Funk: [00:53:00] Let me interrupt you for a second. Since you got the number of years sorted out, let's just kind of start fresh. Because I want to make sure we set this in the proper time frame. So just give it to us simply, I taught high school for about four years, and this was in the years roughly whatever these years were. And then continue on and talk about the realities of what would happen if you got caught, for example, in a gay bar. So just set up the teaching and the timeframe.
Diane Divelbess: Yeah. All right. When I first began to teach,
Diane Divelbess: [00:53:30] I was offered a teaching position in 1960. So I taught high school until 1964. And then at that time, I was able to get on the faculty at a college. The point is that ...
Diane Divelbess: [00:54:00] being a lesbian during those years and being a teacher meant that you had to live a completely free-of-suspicion kind of life. Now, I had a roommate, a partner, at the time I was teaching in high school.
Diane Divelbess: [00:54:30] And, in fact, we owned a house. But we lived a very above-board kind of existence, and people thought of us as two roommates who owned this house and we participated in lots of regular community activities and that kind of thing.
Diane Divelbess: [00:55:00] The underground humor would come a little bit later. It was slow to dawn on both of us who were not active in the bar scene. And we didn't dare be active in a bar scene, because if we had been seen in a gay bar, we would've lost our teaching jobs,
Diane Divelbess: [00:55:30] pure and simple. So the only time I ever went into gay bars would be, say, during the summers in Berkeley. Bars in Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley, that kind of thing. And still,
Diane Divelbess: [00:56:00] it was always with some trepidation. I remember you would go into a bar, and let's say it was a bar that had a pool table or something. And you might sign up to play pool, but you never used your own name. You didn't expect anybody else to use their own names. And what you had to try to remember was what name did I assign myself.
Diane Divelbess: [00:56:30] So then somebody would come up, or they'd say, Hi, I'm so-and-so, and who are you? and I'd make up some name. And where are you from? You make up something. What do you do? You make up something. Because you just don't want to be pinpointed as being this person in this bar at this time. That was always a bit of strain.
Diane Divelbess: [00:57:00] It was fun, but it was also a bit of a strain because you sort of had to keep one step ahead of what you were doing. And eventually, some of that can get old. What I realized about the Berkeley group, because I had a leave of absence one time and I spent a year up there, what you realized was that these people were such a closed group.
Diane Divelbess: [00:57:30] They knew everybody, but they also met every Friday at somebody's place. And then they met someplace else, they went someplace on a Saturday. And then they would end up at some place on Sunday, at somebody's home, maybe, and have a big pot of soup and bread and talk. And then get ready, wind down, for the work week on Monday.
Diane Divelbess: [00:58:00] And their lives were just exactly like that. And I could see why, but at the same time, I could see why my life didn't have to be that tied down to that rigid of a culture, either. Much later on, when I was teaching at a college then,
Diane Divelbess: [00:58:30] it was fun to go into a place in Hollywood. I'm trying to think of the name, it was something like The Frog Pond or something or other, and it was in the Hollywood Hills, and it was a lot of fun. It was a charming sort of a little bistro, and it had kind of a fat guy whose name was Rudy, and he would play the piano and play any kind of a song you wanted to call out, he would just play it.
Diane Divelbess: [00:59:00] But he had his own words, which of course were a scream. And people loved it. And he had a mirror attached so that if anybody got up to go to the restroom or something, he would call out and make you feel ridiculous. Everybody loved to go to this place. That was the kind of place that felt pretty secure because all the people were not bar rats. T
Diane Divelbess: [00:59:30] hey were ... I don't know. Comfortable, very comfortable in their own skins and not wanting to get swacked and stuff. So it was very nice.
Mason Funk: Did you ever find yourself in a bar in LA or elsewhere where there were any arrests or raids?
Diane Divelbess: No, but we always knew.
Mason Funk: [01:00:00] [crosstalk] Start fresh.
Diane Divelbess: I had never been in a bar that had been raided, but I knew people who had been arrested. Some, several times, mostly in West Hollywood, where if you just practically were out walking too late at night, you got picked up for no cause other than being alive.
Diane Divelbess: [01:00:30] And it was really a crime, the police just could run roughshod over the community. I knew a fellow that taught music and had a great voice, and he was just walking to the drugstore to get some aspirin for a friend who needed some aspirin, and then he was arrested and thrown into jail
Diane Divelbess: [01:01:00] overnight for no good reason. And one of my friends who painted this piece here was picked up one night. He and a friend were having coffee in a coffee shop. Police came in, What are you two doing in here? It was about ten at night. We're having coffee. Out, into the wagon.
Diane Divelbess: [01:01:30] Isn't that ridiculous? So you never knew. You didn't have to be in a bar, you just got picked up.
Mason Funk: Did any of these friends, did their names get published or anything like that? Because I know that getting your name published could pretty much be the end of your career.
Diane Divelbess: For David and his friend, it wouldn't have mattered because David was a painter
Diane Divelbess: [01:02:00] and his job didn't depend on that. And the other fellow, he did have a job working at a hospital, but I don't think that would've affected anything.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you this. Now, during the '60s, of course, all hell breaks loose. The war, anti-war, the women's movement. Did you become politicized in any way?
Mason Funk: [01:02:30] Did you get involved in the women's movement? Were you there when, for example, even in the early days the women's movement they were like, We like women, but we all like heterosexual women. You lesbians stay over there or don't [crosstalk].
Diane Divelbess: I remember that, oh yeah.
Mason Funk: Can you tell me what you remember about the early days of the women's movement and how lesbians were obviously invited or not invited into that?
Diane Divelbess: [01:03:00] I mentioned earlier that I graduated in '57, and then MFA '59, started teaching '60, started teaching college '64. The whole decade of the '60s was one of the biggest breakthroughs in terms of sociology. One of the big, big breakthroughs in social history.
Diane Divelbess: [01:03:30] I was actually much more active, not with the feminist movement, although I was aware of it. But because I was living in Claremont and the biggest feminist rallies were in Los Angeles, let's say. So that's where the marches were, and the rallies, and things like that. And I have to say
Diane Divelbess: [01:04:00] that one wonderful thing that came out of that was the women's building on whatever it was, Alameda or something. That was a really wonderful building that I eventually took some classes in. But I was never one of the ones at their rallies. At Cal Poly where I taught,
Diane Divelbess: [01:04:30] I did start putting up shows. I think it was in March, it was called Women's Month or something. I think February was African American Month, so we would put up themed shows in the art gallery. So I would invite ... I would put up an invitational show for the Women's Month,
Diane Divelbess: [01:05:00] and invite really good women artists, printmakers, painters, sculptors, so forth. And sometimes I would run into a woman artist who would say, I don't want to be included. I don't identify as a feminist artist. Or, I don't want to be a woman artist,
Diane Divelbess: [01:05:30] I want to just be an artist. And then there were some people, and actually I was one of those, who never really entered my work into feminist art shows because they usually wanted a sloganeering kind of art. They wanted a little bit more of a propagandist style, a guerrilla art approach. And my work didn't fall into that category,
Diane Divelbess: [01:06:00] so that was fine. But in the '60s, where I was most active in was in civil rights. I was a member of CORE, and we used to picket in front of the Bank of America in one of their branches in Pomona every Friday.
Diane Divelbess: [01:06:30] And we would march back and forth with pickets that would say, Bank of America Unfair, you know, should hire non-whites. Because at that time, all the bank people inside were white. There were no Latinos and no African Americans.
Diane Divelbess: [01:07:00] You'd be shocked to death if they have a dark face behind the teller's cage. They hired them, but they had to be janitors or groundspeople. The world was still divided, so that the whole black power movement in the '60s was a major upset. So I would go to those rallies
Diane Divelbess: [01:07:30] and they were wild things. That was a whole ... And then the other thing that was crazy about the '60s was, overnight, you went from being Professor Divelbess, and that's an incorrect term because it took years to be promoted to professor.
Diane Divelbess: [01:08:00] But when people would talk to you, they would at least say Ms. Divelbess or something. To overnight, I was Diane. You lost any kind of title. The kids started calling you your name. Well, that's refreshing but still surprising. They stopped wearing, it was the hippie-dippy age.
Diane Divelbess: [01:08:30] And so suddenly everybody was in bare feet and wrapped up in togas, usually tablecloths made in Madras, India. And they were walking around the campus that way. All the fellows had long hair. Remember that? Maybe you were one of them.
Mason Funk: I wish. I was too young.
Diane Divelbess: It was a scream. And so the administration became kind of panicky,
Diane Divelbess: [01:09:00] and they put up signs on the buildings saying No bare feet. And I remember one day walking across the campus, and one of my students was barefoot, and was wrapped up in a tablecloth or a bedspread. I said, Look, I'm going into the administration building, or the arts building or something. And you don't have your shoes on. No problem, she says. She just lowered the tablecloth
Diane Divelbess: [01:09:30] so nobody could see her feet. They just absolutely did not care.
Mason Funk: And how did you feel about all this? Again, let me know what you're, like, During the '60s when all hell was breaking loose, and then carry on about how you reacted, how you felt.
Diane Divelbess: Right, okay. During the '60s when the whole webbing of society was shredding,
Diane Divelbess: [01:10:00] part of me is saying, Whoa, what's going on? And then part of me, I was young enough to, fortunately, and had a bit of a sense of humor, that I could see this is actually a scream. The kids were such warmhearted human beings that you couldn't help but love them to death.
Diane Divelbess: [01:10:30] And they could see right through, that this was really the Vietnam War revolt and not trusting. Because they finally were not trusting the government, which they had every right to not trust. Then administration, authority just went by the by at every place.
Diane Divelbess: [01:11:00] I think the only thing that I regretted seeing change was that there was a period of time when students wanted to run everything. And that's a mistake. Also, the faculty, let's say, when faculty want to run the administration, that's a mistake. Faculty should teach. The reason you have an administration is to allow more time for teaching and research.
Diane Divelbess: [01:11:30] And so when students think that they can run everything, that means they're too immature to grasp all the ins and outs. So instead of concentrating on being the best students that they can be, they get all distracted with a whole bunch of other stuff, which is a mess.
Diane Divelbess: [01:12:00] And then it takes a while to dig yourself out of the hole and come back to some sense of normalcy, where I think we are now. It's much healthier. But it's healthy that we went through that, absolutely.
Howard Shack: [crosstalk] Card change.
Mason Funk: Yeah, we'll change cards real quick if you want to stre- Most of my memories of the '60s are very just like, little snapshots. Like going to the beach. I was born in Santa Monica,
Mason Funk: [01:12:30] but we could walk to the beach right at the base of Santa Monica Canyon, and that was kind of a hippie beach. So I remember going, being 10 or 11 years old. I'll never forget, one time there was a band playing on a little parking lot overlooking the beach. They were playing Let it Be, of course, and it was definitely a hippie moment. I remember seeing guys in very, very skimpy bathing suits and being just blown away, [crosstalk] crazy. One guy's bathing suit was so skimpy you could actually see the top of his pubic hairs,
Mason Funk: [01:13:00] which blew my mind. But I was still too young to really know what was going on. It took me a while, because I was a really slow learner. I was a slow adopter. A late adopter, I guess is the term. Okay. Let's jump forward, because I want to get to your relationship with Grethe. For a variety of reasons with her, including we were talking about touching a lot of other topics.
Mason Funk: [01:13:30] I didn't have her tell me the story of you guys meeting. Well, you just told the story of you meeting. Kind of go back to that point when you had spent this initial night, and then you bought a ticket to Seattle. One thing that Grethe said that really made an impression on me was
Mason Funk: [01:14:00] she said that she feels that if she hadn't met you, her life would've gone a completely different direction. There wouldn't have been somebody else. She said she would be a general now. I'm wondering what your first impressions were, apart from fact that she turned out to be very talkative, of Grethe. And how soon did you become aware ... I'm trying to do the math. By the time you met her, she was already divorced. But she obviously had not come out.
Diane Divelbess: [01:14:30] Right.
Mason Funk: Correct. So tell me about just kind of when you met her, what was going on in her life. And then maybe just kind of talk me through what you remember of the day when she went for this fateful interview. Kind of set the scene in what happened there, and when you heard about it, and just tell me that story from your point of view. I know that's a lot.
Diane Divelbess: [01:15:00] Yeah, that's a lot. Leading up to the time that I met Grethe, we both had some mutual friends who had sort of wanted us to meet. And the description of Grethe that I got from them was this:
Diane Divelbess: [01:15:30] Grethe has been just a fabulous nurse for us. We just don't know her very well. But she is a big, Norwegian nurse, and she has four sons and they're all big. They're nice kids, they just kind of ...
Diane Divelbess: [01:16:00] I had the impression that they just kind of sat about in the house and that they were big. Well, I tried to pretend like I was interested but I wasn't, because the description was not an interesting description.
Diane Divelbess: [01:16:30] For one thing, for somebody to be described as a big, Norwegian nurse. Hello? I just thought of some sort of big, cumbersome person who sort of changed bedpans. And then to have these big sons that were just kind of, they take up a lot of space. So that gives you the impression that they're all lazy
Diane Divelbess: [01:17:00] and they don't do anything, which of course none of that is true. Yes, they're all big, but they are really smart, and they are really busy. Each one quite different. And very successful human beings. I finally, the first summer that I was going to try didn't work out.
Diane Divelbess: [01:17:30] By the second summer, they said, Okay, we have rented a big motel suite in Lincoln City and you had jolly well better get here this time. This is your last chance, that kind of thing. That particular summer was the last summer quarter before I was going to go on a sabbatic leave, actually what they call a leave with difference in pay.
Diane Divelbess: [01:18:00] So I was banking on working that summer, because then I would be not working for that next year. So because I was working that summer, they had me chair the department. I was chair anyway, but just to continue chairing it. So it wasn't that easy to just take off for the Fourth of July weekend. It's hard enough,
Diane Divelbess: [01:18:30] but then to have to go over a major weekend. Then you have to come back and you're going to be exhausted, and then you have to carry on as though you were all rested, which you're not. So I flew up to Portland. And at that time, I was subject to always getting migraines. And partly that's because if you get on an airplane, I didn't know this until later,
Diane Divelbess: [01:19:00] but you should take an aerosol spray so that the air pressure doesn't affect you. Anyway, by the time I got off the plane, I had a migraine headache. So I was kind of weak. And I had to wait until that night, or late in the afternoon, to get the bus to Lincoln City.
Diane Divelbess: [01:19:30] By the time I got to Lincoln City, I was actually starving to death because I hadn't eaten all day.
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt for a second, because I feel like we're going to spend a little more time than we wanted to.
Diane Divelbess: I'm almost there.
Mason Funk: You are? Okay, okay, alright, okay.
Diane Divelbess: I'm almost there. Anyway, I was starving to death, so when the bus pulled into the Greyhound station, I ordered a sandwich. Grilled cheese, that's easy. Then right as soon as the sandwich came off the grill,
Diane Divelbess: [01:20:00] the friend who had set all this up and she kept on saying Come on, come on. It's raining outside, Grethe wants to get back, her kids, and so forth. I said, I just want to get the sandwich. That other person ate half of it. Here I was dying, desperate to get the whole thing. So I said, Okay. So I stuck the sandwich in my mouth, go out, get in the car,
Diane Divelbess: [01:20:30] and I take a look and I see a little bit of Grethe's face or something, and she turns around, and I see her sort of in the rear view mirror. And she's very pretty. So I was completely surprised at that. Because I hadn't suspected anybody to be young. I thought she would be old.
Diane Divelbess: [01:21:00] I thought she would be sort of lumbering, she wasn't. She was very thin, actually, at that time. And very attractive. And her kids, when I met them the following day, were teenagers. One, the youngest, was really only about 11. And they've all grown now to be trees. But they were like kids anywhere,
Diane Divelbess: [01:21:30] just affectionate and full of mischief and a lot of fun. The reason I tell you this is because all the stereotype that I had put into my head just dissolved right on the spot. I discovered a person who had a really wonderful sense of humor, and fun to be around,
Diane Divelbess: [01:22:00] and her kids were lots of fun. And she was a great mom, really a fabulous mother. So then after that weekend, and then I went back, finished out the summer quarter, and made arrangements to come back up. It was flying back up to Seattle that I realized
Diane Divelbess: [01:22:30] why I was doing it. And it was because I felt like she was sort of like an angel, flying by. And if you don't reach out and grab this angel, she's gone.
Diane Divelbess: [01:23:00] Which is true. And that worked out just perfectly. She is an angel because, I'll tell you why, at first I thought maybe she was just kind of nave. Because she was always sort of innocent. What she was innocent of was, say, the gay world. She was innocent of cynicism.
Diane Divelbess: [01:23:30] She wasn't innocent of jealousy or meanness. She'd been through four childbirths, a divorce, and all the ugliness of that. But still, she was an open personality that was not jaded.
Diane Divelbess: [01:24:00] So I found that very absolutely wonderful and fascinating and incredible, really. So as to what happened with her and the-
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt for a second, because I want to ask you one quick question before we go on. She had four boys. And at the time, you had no kids of your own, and you probably had never imagined partnering up with someone who had a ready-made flock.
Diane Divelbess: [01:24:30] No, I hadn't.
Mason Funk: So I'm just curious, for you as a person, what was it like adapting to a relationship with someone who had this passel of teenaged boys? Was that fun, what was it like?
Diane Divelbess: Well, I had fortunately, the good sense to know that Grethe was their mother, I was not.
Mason Funk: [01:25:00] So do me a favor, set this up for me. As I got to know Grethe, who already had four kids, I had the good sense. Something like that.
Diane Divelbess: Okay. So as I got to know Grethe, and realizing of course, immediately that I had this ready-made family because she came with four teenage sons. Actually, pre-teen.
Diane Divelbess: [01:25:30] She had probably two tweens, I think like 11 and 13 at the time. I realized that those boys were the sons of Grethe, who was their mother. But they also had a stepmother
Diane Divelbess: [01:26:00] and they had their real father. I had no business interfering with any of that. I didn't know about them in the first place. I knew of them, but I didn't know them. And that relationship was between those boys and their parents. So my relationship with them was completely different. It was, yes,
Diane Divelbess: [01:26:30] I'm a good friend of your mother's. In fact, I'm your mother's partner, but I am not your parent. And that gave me a great deal of freedom, and it also gave them a great deal of freedom. They were free, then, to come to me and talk if they wanted. Or not. And in fact,
Diane Divelbess: [01:27:00] because I had a certain unwillingness to participate in a lot of formal games, I'd rather read or talk or do something else, and they loved to play some games, they would try to coax me into playing some. And I would just say that I was a dud. So that became my name. Hey, Dud. Why don't you come or do something or other? So then we would do something or other.
Diane Divelbess: [01:27:30] So it became a really fun relationship. I was welcome with them instead of resented. So the relationship has always worked out really well.
Mason Funk: That's good, that's good. Okay, so now, that was great. I'm glad you refilled that in. So now, tell us what you remember about the day when Grethe went for this interview that turned out to really change both your lives.
Diane Divelbess: [01:28:00] I'm going to tell you-
Mason Funk: Hold on for one second, because there's a plane. Kind of a weird drone. I hope it's not a drone. I guess a drone would be silent, right? And then we'd just be dead.
Howard Shack: I think there haven't been drone attacks on [inaudible] in months. I think we can probably go, the mic is keeping it-
Mason Funk: Is it good? Okay, good, then carry on, please. Just go for it.
Diane Divelbess: [01:28:30] Okay. I was up, staying with Grethe. She had a little house in Renton at the time. And we were getting ready to move to a house that we had just purchased in Des Moines. So we were really all focused on signing papers and going forward with that,
Diane Divelbess: [01:29:00] as I recall. And anyway, when she came home from work that night, she said that she had had kind of a strange thing happen to her. And so she told me the story of being grilled by a security person
Diane Divelbess: [01:29:30] because she had applied for the war college, because that was the only way she could then challenge to try to become a general. As up to that point, the highest rank that women achieved was colonel. But she thought that if she went to the war college and she could prove her mettle, that she might have a chance to do that.
Diane Divelbess: [01:30:00] Anyway, so she had sent in the application, and then the person came out to go over everything, and she had had admitted that she was a lesbian. And apparently, according to her story, the man had wanted her to maybe recant. You couldn't possibly be true, maybe, and she's probably told you all this, Can you rewrite this? and all this kind of thing. Anyway, when she first told me
Diane Divelbess: [01:30:30] what she had done, I said, Well, there goes your career. She said, Well, why should it be? I have a good background, a good record with everything, and so on and so forth.
Diane Divelbess: [01:31:00] And I said, Yes, but why did you have to say that you were a lesbian? She said-
Mason Funk: Whoops, hold please. Hold for the phone.
Diane Divelbess: That was picked up right away.
Mason Funk: Okay, so just back up and say, I asked her why.
Diane Divelbess: [01:31:30] So I asked her why she had to say she had to say that she was a lesbian, and she said, Because an officer always tells the truth. Which was really a profound statement. Because I've known lots of officers and they did not tell the truth.
Diane Divelbess: [01:32:00] She's really one of a kind that way. And she had, and maybe still does, at that time, that's why I said she was nave and had this kind of innocence about her. She always believed so much in the military structure. And this is all pre-McNamara's confessions. She has always believed that
Diane Divelbess: [01:32:30] when the military gives an order, it's for the correct reason. She's not a cynic. She's a true believer, and that is such a rare thing. I'm telling you, when the army got rid of her, they really got rid of somebody. And the people that were her immediate buddies and officers knew that,
Diane Divelbess: [01:33:00] and they fought for a couple of years. They did everything to prevent that separation from happening until finally there were orders that came in from higher up that said if her bosses didn't stop acting on this, their heads were going to roll as well. That was the end of stalling.
Mason Funk: [01:33:30] What do you remember about the day of her hearing? The final hearing [crosstalk] ?
Diane Divelbess: Well, the day of her hearing-
Mason Funk: Sorry, sorry, start by saying The day of Grethe's hearing. And maybe just set up what that hearing was very simply, the day of her hearing, yeah.
Diane Divelbess: The day of Grethe's hearing was, well, was one that she was, I think, dreading.
Diane Divelbess: [01:34:00] It was at Fort Lewis, as I recall. So we all went down there. I went in a separate car, and I had her father in tow. We had a wheelchair for him.
Diane Divelbess: [01:34:30] She had her civilian attorney, and she had a JAG assigned to her, so forth. There was a whole flurry of people. I remember going into that building and seeing all these
Diane Divelbess: [01:35:00] young army people scurrying in and out with folders and whatnot, and I could see the hearing room. And I thought that we were going to try to find a chair and sort of settle down. Then her civilian officer rushed over to me and said, I don't want you here. I want you out of here,
Diane Divelbess: [01:35:30] I don't want any distractions. So I said, Fine, you know, No problem. So I sort of went out, I think I took her father with me, and we just went home. Mary didn't want a sideshow, because she knew the press would be there and all that. So she kept it really focused.
Diane Divelbess: [01:36:00] I don't know if, I'm assuming Grethe told you all the background of how we found the civilian attorney and all that. What I didn't know at the time, and Mary told us, was that all the evidence that could ever be used later again on an appeal had to be put into this first military trial.
Diane Divelbess: [01:36:30] That was the importance of assembling everything. Anyway, I was not there for that. So it was then later, Grethe comes home, and
Diane Divelbess: [01:37:00] this is then after she's then been stripped of everything. I'm sure that she was absolutely devastated. Because it's hard to believe that some institution that has nourished you for all these years and that you have served for many years turns out to cast you away.
Diane Divelbess: [01:37:30] But then, life changed, and all of a sudden, she went from being this castoff to now becoming a fighter against the injustice of it.
Diane Divelbess: [01:38:00] Because she hadn't grown up skulking around as a gay person in the military or anywhere. And had not thought of herself as a gay person, so that she was thinking of herself as a person studying to get her doctorate, and to be of service to people
Diane Divelbess: [01:38:30] and of service in the military. And found it absolutely ridiculous that this should be denied her because of her sexuality. All of a sudden, you see the fighter in her starting to come up from the ashes.
Diane Divelbess: [01:39:00] That was a whole new chapter. Then the phone starts ringing, and then it really becomes Toad's Wild Ride.
Mason Funk: Wow, wow, wow. Let me think.
Mason Funk: [01:39:30] Maybe you could tell us, again leaping forward in time, about the day when Don't Ask, Don't Tell was finally repealed. Grethe told us this story, but I'd love to hear it from your point of view, going to the White House, and she apparently led the persons there assembling-
Diane Divelbess: I wasn't there.
Mason Funk: Oh, you weren't there?
Diane Divelbess: No. She told me that she was so moved to be asked to do that. Yeah.
Mason Funk: [01:40:00] But you weren't there as an eyewitness?
Diane Divelbess: No, no. We've done a lot of things together, but then a lot of things, no.
Mason Funk: I see. How come?
Diane Divelbess: Well, because she was many times flown hither and yon, and she did a lot of speaking to corporations
Diane Divelbess: [01:40:30] or to university audiences and so on, and I didn't go on those. Then many times, though, we would be going, like to President Clinton's inauguration, and we went to Obama's one time. Along with thousands of others, to their pre-Christmas White House celebrations.
Diane Divelbess: [01:41:00] And lots of fundraisers in Washington DC, New York, and so on, and so on.
Mason Funk: Going to the Clinton inauguration, for example, sounds very memorable for me. But for you, are there any particular moments you remember from this kind of very public part of your relationship with Grethe that stand out for you?
Mason Funk: [01:41:30] Of course, you and Grethe were the first people I think in your county to be married legally. That might be one, but I'm just wondering, of all these public moments, does any stand out for you as, That was cool?
Diane Divelbess: What's interesting, when you mention-
Mason Funk: Oops, hold that thought. Grethe will probably grab it real quick. Okay, no. There we go.
Diane Divelbess: [01:42:00] When you mention some of these public events, and being invited to go to the Clinton Inauguration. Reading about it later, we found out that the Democratic Party
Diane Divelbess: [01:42:30] had no idea that so many people from the west coast would take them up on the inauguration. And of course, when people got them, they all decided this would be fun. So they all flew back. Well, they had, of course, inaugural parties in every place.
Diane Divelbess: [01:43:00] that they could think of in DC. All the big, like the JFK center, and the so forth. We also had an invitation to the gay inaugural ball. At first, I remember feeling that well, who wants to go to the gay ball
Diane Divelbess: [01:43:30] when you could go to one of the other, bigger ones? After all, we're not just gay Well, as a matter of fact, what we discovered was, and it's one of these things that you discover over and over again, I think. We started out at the gay ball,
Diane Divelbess: [01:44:00] and it was really beautifully organized. Lots of food, people packed into this place, and things going on in different rooms, and different sort of music, and so forth. Some of the entertainers were great, and stuff. And then we got a cab, and we also had tickets to one of the balls at the Kennedy Center. So we went there and it was really disappointing.
Mason Funk: [01:44:30] Sorry. Somebody went bump. Shh. Bella, Bella, Bella. Shh, come here, sweetie.
Diane Divelbess: Bella. Now she'll come back and settle down.
Mason Funk: [01:45:00] Okay. Did you get that out of your system?
Diane Divelbess: Okay, now we'll just sit and be good. We don't know how to be good, but maybe we can sit.
Mason Funk: We're almost done, Bella. We really are. We're really close. I'm not quite sure where you were going, but you said, The thing that I realized over and over again, but I'm not sure where you were going with that. So maybe pick it up there. Because you mentioned the Triangle Ball, but then you mentioned going to another party.
Diane Divelbess: [01:45:30] Yeah, the Triangle Ball, that was the name. That's right. And then we took a cab and went to the Kennedy Center because we had tickets there as well. And when we got there, it was really boring and nothing much was going on. The big excitement of the evening had been when the Clintons had come through. Well, now they had gone to another one,
Diane Divelbess: [01:46:00] so forth. Yes, there were a few bands playing and a few straights straggling around on the thing. But there were just a few old stale peanuts or something on the tables, and the people were just kind of blah. It finally dawned on us that this isn't where we belong. That the straight culture is essentially boring. You know what I mean? Couples come as couples.
Diane Divelbess: [01:46:30] They are kind of protective of their own little territory. They don't really mingle in an effusive way. I'm generalizing. So we hightailed it back to the Triangle Ball, which was a scream. It was really fun. And I say this, when I said earlier that something that I realized over and over again.
Diane Divelbess: [01:47:00] It has to do with a kind of built-in non-recognition of the wonderfulness of the gay culture. And a full acceptance of the gay culture. Sometimes Grethe refers to it as our own homophobia. And it's happened to us before,
Diane Divelbess: [01:47:30] like we love to go on the Olivia Cruises because they are a scream, and they're very comfortable. And we've talked to lots of our friends who have gone on regular cruises, and they say they're not particularly interested going on any cruises again because nothing much of going on, and everybody was just. We said, you've got to go on an Olivia Cruise. Because then you're really with kind of a whole bunch of people
Diane Divelbess: [01:48:00] that are embracing each other and having a wonderful, warm, human time. I don't know why it's taken me all of my life to come to this conclusion. But it's finally, it has come to this conclusion.
Mason Funk: That's awesome. I remember now, when I talked to Grethe before, when she talked to me about the woman who started Olivia Cruises, I forget her name-
Diane Divelbess: Judy Dlugacz.
Mason Funk: She'd make a terrific interview.
Diane Divelbess: [01:48:30] Oh, yeah. She'd be fabulous.
Mason Funk: I've got her on a list somewhere, but I remember. I'm glad you mentioned that, because it brought it back to mind. Okay, we're going to wrap up with four final, formatted questions that I ask everybody. Good, okay, no barking. To someone who, whether they're young in age or older, is about to come out ...
Mason Funk: [01:49:00] Whoopsie. Bella might have finally started. I'll ask the question, then we'll wait for the silence. Who's about to come out, as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, whatever the thing is. What piece of advice or wisdom or guidance would you offer that person? As shortly and succinctly as possible.
Diane Divelbess: Well, if I were to offer any advice to somebody, an older person who was about to come out-
Mason Funk: [01:49:30] I would say any person, I'm sorry. Any age. So start again please.
Diane Divelbess: So if I were to offer any advice to anybody who is intending to come out, I think the thing to recognize is that you-
Mason Funk: Oops. Oh, Bella. Oh, Bella. Oh, my goodness. We'll see.
Diane Divelbess: [01:50:00] We'll see.
Mason Funk: So start again, please.
Diane Divelbess: If I were to offer any advice to anybody who is planning on coming out, it would be a sort of two for one, is to really know yourself well enough that you are confident about who you are and your confidence will then register with everybody else.
Diane Divelbess: [01:50:30] And the other thing is is that other people don't need to hear your story over and over and over again. You should just come out, and be a normal human being. You don't have to brand yourself and talk endlessly about yourself
Diane Divelbess: [01:51:00] and your issues. Because actually, that gets very boring, and wearing, and doesn't influence anybody or help you.
Mason Funk: Great. Come out, be done with it, move on.
Diane Divelbess: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay. Second question, what is your hope for the future?
Diane Divelbess: The future?
Mason Funk: [01:51:30] I don't specify. I just ask that question.
Diane Divelbess: Well, my hope for the future is that people really go well beyond toleration. I want people to enjoy other people, other ideas,
Diane Divelbess: [01:52:00] other cultures, and embrace differences. I think that's what I'd hope for the future.
Mason Funk: Great. Did we get that?
Howard Shack: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: Okay, good. Number three, why is it important, I know you didn't choose to have me come here today, but why is it important to tell your story?
Diane Divelbess: Well, it's important for me to tell my story because you have offered to listen.
Diane Divelbess: [01:52:30] And you are hoping that what you gather will be used as a reference tool by future people, researchers. And you always think that maybe that something that you let slip or isn't particularly important right now might be of
Diane Divelbess: [01:53:00] some interest or importance to somebody else. Who knows? But why not collect it while you can.
Mason Funk: Great. Great. And then the last question is kind of similar to that one, but a little different. What is the importance, to you, of projects like OUTWORDS? And if you could mention OUTWORDS in your answer.
Diane Divelbess: OUTWORDS?
Mason Funk: [01:53:30] OUTWORDS is what this project is called, yeah. So like I said, it's a little bit of a reiteration, but maybe just take another pass at it. OUTWORDS being this archive that we are seeking to create.
Diane Divelbess: Probably the importance of a project like OUTWORDS is that it has a chance of a greater outreach than some of the previous projects that are, let's say, more attuned
Diane Divelbess: [01:54:00] to just lesbians or gays or transgender, et cetera, et cetera. Because it seems to me that by collecting biographies, not just sexual histories, but the whole biographies,
Diane Divelbess: [01:54:30] autobiographies, et cetera, you have a chance of reaching the human family in kind of a fatter, richer way. And I think that in the long run, that's going to be a lot more interesting to future researchers.
Mason Funk: [01:55:00] Wonderful. Thank you, I hope that, from your mouth to God's ears. Okay, that's wonderful, we're going to do what we call room tone, which is just the sound of the room with no one speaking. So Hiram will call it out.
Howard Shack: Okay, just sit quietly for about 20 seconds. This is a room tone.
Howard Shack: [01:55:30] Alright, that's good. Thank you.
Mason Funk: Thank you.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Howard Shack
Date: August 23, 2016
Location: Home of Diane Divelbess, Whidbey Island, WA