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Jim Gribben was born in 1943 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Though his childhood was difficult, Jim’s “small but mighty” mother taught him strength and resilience. As a young boy Jim fell in love with performing, dancing in local talent shows, singing in school choir, regularly appearing on The Dick Summers Show, and eventually being offered a part in the 1963 film production of the smash Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie. Shortly after graduating high school in 1961, Jim began his career as a professional dancer and choreographer. 

In 1973 while performing in St. Paul, Minnesota, Jim met the man that would become his husband. Later they moved to Mabank, Texas, where they were pleasantly surprised to find a sizable lesbian and gay community. After a friend bought Friends Nightclub, the only gay bar in town, Jim founded the Friends Players and began putting on shows to benefit various charitable organizations. Over time, Jim, along with countless other LGBTQ folks, helped create a supportive, visible, and vibrant community in Mabank. 

Throughout his varied and diverse career, Jim worked as a corporate credit manager at CA Roberts and Concord Industries, taught credit law at universities in Minnesota, Indiana, and Texas, served as board secretary for the Miss Gay Texas Pageant System, sung in the choir at Celebration On The Lake Church in Gun Barrel City, Texas, and directed, choreographed, and performed in countless productions.

OUTWORDS interviewed Jim Gribben in June 2017 at the home he shares with his husband, also named Jim, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood in Gun Barrel City. Jim told us he had decided to retire from singing and performing the following November, on his 74th birthday. He said his retirement would also be a birthday gift to ‘Jim #2’, who for 44 years had been running sound for Jim’s performances, and turning them into DVDs that could be sold for charity.

It was fascinating for OUTWORDS’ Los Angeles-based production team to compare notes with Jim on a number of topics, including what it means to be “out and proud”. Jim’s definition was much narrower. To him, coming out to strangers could be a form of disrespect, not that different from walking up to them and telling them they were raising their children wrong. This was surprising to us – but then, small-town Texas is very different from coastal California. Thankfully, LGBTQ people are living, and sowing the seeds of lasting change, in both places. 
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] Okay, so do me a favor just start off by telling me and spelling out your first and last names as you would like them to appear on the screen.
James Gribben: It's James Gribben, G-R-I-B-B-E-N.
Mason Funk: Okay and that's how you would like to be identified as opposed to Jim Gribben.
James Gribben: Yeah, Jim I would prefer but my legal name.
Mason Funk: Okay, but you prefer Jim.
James Gribben: Yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] Yeah okay. Tell me
Amy Bench: Could you pull your shirt down and straighten it a little bit. On the side as well, there you go.
Mason Funk: Yeah it's like pulling it down on the back probably.
Amy Bench: Yeah okay great.
Mason Funk: Then tell me when and where you were born please, what's your birth date and place of birth.
James Gribben: I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana Methodist Hospital on channel, I mean, on 13th Street and it was November 4th 1943.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] Okay all right. Tell me a little bit about, I always like to know just about people's family. Who else was in your family? What were your mom and dad like? What values did they espouse?
James Gribben: My mother was actually the one that did it, because the guy that sired us
James Gribben: [00:01:30] we had all kinds of problems with them and I don't need to get into that, but it was very dysfunctional. There was a lot of problems both physical and verbally of abuse that we all took. I'm one of five children, I had two brothers and two sisters and nobody in the family was musical, not at all.
James Gribben: [00:02:00] My mother is the reason for the height restriction when she became Mrs. America and that was some place in the 40s.
Mason Funk: Tell me that story, so your mother became Mrs. America.
James Gribben: Yeah, she was Mrs. America, her name was Clara Naomi Buckler and then soon and then after that was Gribben. Naturally I wasn't there when she was Mrs. America,
James Gribben: [00:02:30] but these are the stories that she had passed on to us. She is the one that gave us the inspiration as to what we are now. My older brother graduated from Butler University, he had been tested many times for genius. He was involved in the original missile sites
James Gribben: [00:03:00] and the launching of some of the launches that were done in Houston. Then I had two sisters but everybody and I had the one brother, the younger brother was the result of I don't know how to explain this, but he was the result of some mass beatings
James Gribben: [00:03:30] that my mother had taken when she was pregnant. He had, he wound up passing away a few years ago. He was at Muscatatuck State Hospital when they closed it, we never found out where they moved him and then we found out that he had passed.
Mason Funk: Wow, so very troubled.
James Gribben: Very, very troubled.
Mason Funk: Sorry to hear that.
James Gribben: [00:04:00] It was unfortunate childhood, but it was one that my mother gave us the strength to go on.
Mason Funk: How would you describe your mother?
James Gribben: Small but mighty. She was only 4'11 and when I was born I weighed eight pounds nine ounces and I was 28 inches long, so I was half my mother's size.
James Gribben: [00:04:30] She was a rock and there were times that I would beg her to spank me because she wouldn't. All she would do is she would get up her pulse, she'd go out she'd walk around the block three four times and then came back in wouldn't speak to us. That's how she punished us and I told her I said, "I would rather you spank me than to ignore me," and basically that's what she did.
James Gribben: [00:05:00] Later on she says the reason she did that is she doesn't like the physical abuse because she had taken so much of that. It was another teaching tool for her to teach us how to respect others and how to handle different types of situations without being abusive with them.
James Gribben: [00:05:30] She was 4'11 but she could be mean and hell and not in a physical way, but in a way that would teach people almost everybody that ever met my mother fell in love with her. She was just a remarkable lady and she took care of the five of us basically on her own. She had no help from the guy that had sired us.
Mason Funk: [00:06:00] It's interesting I notice you don't refer to him
James Gribben: I will not and I keep telling people don't ask me to do it because I won't. I can't refer to him that, because I had no respect for him. In fact when we found out that he had passed it didn't bother me at all because I had no feeling for him, none.
James Gribben: [00:06:30] He had, well he was just very abusive, he was an alcoholic as well.
Mason Funk: Not sober I mean and oftentimes those two go hand in hand.
James Gribben: Yeah, very much so.
Mason Funk: You mentioned earlier, tell me about coming out at the age of seven.
James Gribben: It was funny? I was seven years old I already knew that I was gay already, but the term gay wasn't there
James Gribben: [00:07:00] when I was coming up it was queer. That is one word that I have always disliked, but homosexual never bothered me but the word queer always did. I was about seven years old in a questionnaire that said one of the people that I had a lot of respect for was Reverend Alexander,
James Gribben: [00:07:30] he was the minister at Westminster Presbyterian Church where we were going. As a result I was having problems, because society at that point you're straight and all of this responsibility that you have and it was being thrown up.
James Gribben: [00:08:00] As a result he said I had told him my feelings and he says, "You should never be embarrassed for who you are, because regardless God will always love you." That stuck in my brain all my life. One of the things that and
Mason Funk: Hello.
Jim: Hi.
Amy Bench: Hi.
Mason Funk: How are you?
Amy Bench: [00:08:30] Can we leave the door kind of half ajar, we're getting a little bit of light here I'm sorry [crosstalk] like that thank you.
Mason Funk: I'm Mason, this is Amy.
Amy Bench: Hi.
Jim: Hi nice to meet you.
Mason Funk: Nice to meet you.
James Gribben: Yeah.
Jim: I forgot my phone stuff, I got to grab some stuff before I leave here.
Mason Funk: Okay yeah exactly that's awesome. You guys make a cute people even though I didn't hear him pull up, we'll just wait till he pulls out.
James Gribben: I saw him coming around.
Mason Funk: You did, I thought I noticed your eyes.
Amy Bench: I didn't hear his car at all in the mic.
Mason Funk: [00:09:00] Right good okay, so it's probably fine. It's currently probably fine, okay. It's actually good because I want to go back a second you started talking about Reverend Alexander.
James Gribben: Yes.
Mason Funk: I still want to get, did you go to him at the age of seven? When you say you came out
James Gribben: No.
Mason Funk: which one of you really, I want a clear sense of what that means when you say you came out at seven.
James Gribben: It was his son who was 15
Mason Funk: [00:09:30] Sorry I have to interrupt, since we're starting a fresh thought, say, it was the son of, introduce Reverend Alexander and then carry on.
James Gribben: Yeah it was Reverend Alexander's son that he and I, as children, was playing around. I was seven, he was 15. That's basically I was so attracted to him that we'd go into the sanctuary
James Gribben: [00:10:00] and do our little thing and it never bothered me because I knew I was comfortable in what I was doing. That's how basically that I came out.
Mason Funk: Do you mean just to clarify, do you mean in a way it was more like a coming out to yourself or did you publicly come out?
James Gribben: No, I did not publicly come out until I was probably in my 20s.
Mason Funk: [00:10:30] Okay, so it's interesting you say you came out and you really did but it was more like an internal coming out.
James Gribben: That is correct.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that a bit more.
James Gribben: I mean it was something that I was, everything that we had done I was very comfortable with even though society had put it that it was wrong, to me it wasn't wrong. To me it was right
James Gribben: [00:11:00] and as a result I just didn't carry on that fantasy of with other people. He and I did for a little while until Reverend Alexander and his family moved away from Indianapolis and then I just held it to myself, but I never followed through with it. Then the only one girl that I ever dated was Barbara Timmins.
James Gribben: [00:11:30] I mean I had girls that I danced with on the TV show and what they call the regulars, well the TV show was called The Dick Summers Show and it was equal to American Bandstand. We would go to ... and that was all done at Channel 13 in Indianapolis.
James Gribben: [00:12:00] Then that was done every Saturday morning. Naturally I had girls that I was dancing with, it was the Bayloff Sisters that I was dancing with and then Sandy Churchman was my partner when I won Mr. Rock and Roll of Indiana of which I still hold that title. I'm the only that's ever held it three years consecutively and she was Ms. Rock and Roll of Indiana.
James Gribben: [00:12:30] Between the TV show that's how everything worked out, but even then I never did act on the situation at all.
Mason Funk: I'm curious so many people of your generation and of younger generations work so hard to overcome a sense of shame around being gay or being homosexual. Are you telling me that you just never really felt a sense of shame?
James Gribben: [00:13:00] None whatsoever. I knew because of the comment that Reverend Alexander gave to me, I knew in my heart that everything that I was feeling, everything that I had done was correct. I had been performing different summer stock and things of that nature and as a result, well I had been dancing and singing since I was seven years old and performing.
James Gribben: [00:13:30] That to me everything was normal and then I naturally in high school we did the sketch book. I graduated from the third largest high school in the United States which is Arsenal Technical High School. It's basically ranked in the size of college campuses because at the time that
James Gribben: [00:14:00] I graduated there was close to 1,200 students in my graduating class that was 1961. The group from the TV show, we would go around to different TV locations, they would invite us to come in and have a dance party. I had been involved in television for quite some time.
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] Hold that thought I'm going to, can I unplug that air freshener?
James Gribben: You can't unplug it I'll have to, because it's not electrical.
Mason Funk: I see okay, can you just I guess basically turn it off here, but in some ways it's just cultural history. When you talk about going and putting on a dance show or a dance party with this group that you were part of; can you explain that to me as if you are explaining it to a Martian.
James Gribben: Yeah, it's basically anybody that had grown up watching American Bandstand related to
James Gribben: [00:15:00] what this TV show was. As I said it was a The Dick Summers Show and if I we went to, because I did the radio, introducing and talking to different teenage celebrities that were coming to Indianapolis. Then we would go to channel 27 which started a little dance thing
James Gribben: [00:15:30] equivalent to the American Bandstand or The Dick Summers Show trying to get into that venue. It was yeah because I was connected with NBC had held my contract for quite some time as a child.
Mason Funk: When you would come in and set up a dance, you called it a dance show or a dance party?
James Gribben: [00:16:00] Yeah, just like American Bandstand.
Mason Funk: For a TV, they would record it for television?
James Gribben: Yes. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any of the tapes of that because I never thought of it until I got older and I wish I could, but I don't know that Channel 13 in Indianapolis even has any archives of that. They probably don't because that was back in 1957, '58, 59' 60, '61.
Mason Funk: [00:16:30] Got you right and that's when you graduated from high school.
James Gribben: I graduated from high school in 1961.
Mason Funk: Now tell me just a bit more you know your mom just what those years were like, the person who sired you. I know that that's not some place we want to go.
James Gribben: No.
Mason Funk: In terms of your sisters what's that little beeping sound did you
James Gribben: [00:17:00] Coffee maker.
Mason Funk: Is it off now you think?
James Gribben: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay good. In terms of your mom was probably working I could imagine and your sisters, what were your relationships with your sisters and your brothers like? Were you all close?
James Gribben: No, none of us were close because of the upbringing that we had come through. My brother and I physically fought each other
James Gribben: [00:17:30] because there was that type of childhood between us that he was always smart. If I go to school Well I'll give you an example, my brother was on the track team in high school and in his senior, well he had broken the four minute mile years and years ago. We would clash and then every time I got on the track team
James Gribben: [00:18:00] and well your brother did this or I'd get some of his teachers, "Well your brother used to do this or your brother could " I always had him crammed down my throat. I loved him dearly but at the same time it was that love hate relationship that was there between us. As a result we have just never been close at all.
Mason Funk: [00:18:30] What about your sisters, do you have close relations with your sisters?
James Gribben: I have one sister that I'm very close related to. In fact, her son who, he is going to hate this if he ever hears this, we call him kick a butt. Because as a baby he would come up to you and back into your foot and you would have to kick him in order to move him and he would just giggle.
James Gribben: [00:19:00] She had him two days before my birthday and she says, "I tried to keep those legs close together so I could have him on your birthday but it didn't work." That part of the family knew everything, accepted it and had no problem with it. Everybody else in the family had a problem with it.
Mason Funk: Okay, we'll get back to that. I want to hear the story about you auditioning, going to Chicago to audition for Bye Bye Birdie.
Mason Funk: [00:19:30] Tell me that story from the beginning, how did you hear about these auditions?
James Gribben: I was doing little contests at park venues as far as talent shows are concerned and from what I understand there was a talent scout going around to these different venues looking to the teenage kids that were going to be in Bye Bye Birdie
James Gribben: [00:20:00] which he had contacted my mother and mother had taken me up to Chicago and I had the screen test at the Shubert Theater which I don't even know if Shubert is even there anymore. I was only 15 years old. From what I understand how I had gotten a part,
James Gribben: [00:20:30] but they were going on locations to start filming and this naturally because of Dick Van Dyke and everybody else that was involved in it. It was my last year of high school and she wouldn't sign the release for me to go because I was a minor. Fortunately for almost three, two and a half to three years I didn't speak to my mother
James Gribben: [00:21:00] because I missed my opportunity to be in that movie. It was later on that I actually had thanked her for not letting me go because the majority of the cast for Bye Bye Birdie are now passed away due to alcoholism, drugs or whatever. I don't know, I've always been a strong willed person.
James Gribben: [00:21:30] I've never been a follower, but in that situation with show business as it was I don't know what would have happened to me would I have relinquished and gone along with the crowd because it was a whole new lifestyle and fortunately I didn't get involved in it. I mean I've been involved with the shows
James Gribben: [00:22:00] because of summer stock and things of that nature, but not to the movie end of the park which you heard horror stories about different actors that had died because of drugs or because of alcoholism. Don't get me wrong I love my beer, but coming from somebody who was an alcoholic
James Gribben: [00:22:30] which his father also was an alcoholic so that just kind of, that was always in the back of my head and I would never allow that to happen to me.
Mason Funk: Is there any part of you that wishes the expression that comes to mind is have your cake and eat it too. Is there part of you that still wishes that maybe I could have gone and maybe I would have been okay and I could have had that experience.
James Gribben: [00:23:00] I think I could, I really do. Even though I didn't go out for it after that point, I built my own self with well I gave you some tapes of a group because I had well let me back up. Back in high school we did a thing called Sketch Book, Carla and I were the choreographers for it and it was the high school talent show
James Gribben: [00:23:30] which all high schools do them and that's where I got my taste for choreographing. I had been doing a lot of that. When I came down to Texas I started a group called Friends Players and there was a total of 32 different actors that were involved in it over the four and a half years that I had it.
James Gribben: [00:24:00] We did nothing but perform musicals that would go on on the weekend which would be Friday night and Saturday night and then sometimes the American region would invite us to bring that particular show up to the American region to do on Sunday. None of these actors had any skills as far as performing is concerned.
James Gribben: [00:24:30] I was basically the only dancer, but everybody donated their own time and their own money for their costumes and what have you. We had over the four and a half years that I had this group we raised over 100 and I think it was 160 or $170,000 strictly for charities; Wish with Wings, Meals on Wheels
James Gribben: [00:25:00] different venues of that nature. We would rehearse every Sunday and there for a while we were doing different shows a month. We just have the Sunday afternoon to practice it. I wrote the scripts, I directed the shows, I did all the choreography for every one of the shows
James Gribben: [00:25:30] I would do the individual persons and then put the whole thing together and teach it to them and that was within a month's time.
Mason Funk: How come just I've been to a few musicals, how come you would do each individual's choreography and teach him or her and then bring it all together as opposed to having a rehearsal where everybody is there and you teach them all together?
James Gribben: They have never done any dancing and as a result I'd have to work individually with them
James Gribben: [00:26:00] and then put the whole thing together is, "Okay this is what you do, this is what he does." Now you put the whole thing together and then we would go over it and over it and over it. None of them were actors, none of them have ever danced so that situation. One thing that was interesting and I'm going to side track just a little bit,
James Gribben: [00:26:30] back in 1980 I was contracted to a show called Cabaret 81 which I performed in, but I also did the choreographing for it. One of the numbers in there that we did and that was at Granny's Dinner Theater downtown Dallas. One of the numbers that was in there was the song one from Chorus
James Gribben: [00:27:00] Line not knowing that the show group, tour group from Chorus Line was sitting in the audience. They said, "Other than the costumes you did a better job than we did," so that and that was a situation where I had dancers that had performed where in my group they hadn't.
James Gribben: [00:27:30] In fact there were some of the cast and it was a mixture of both gay men and lesbians and we all worked together. It became one close like family, but they understood why I would do it individually and then bring the whole thing together. One of the numbers that my group did in one of the closings and I think it was 50 Years of Broadway.
James Gribben: [00:28:00] I did Chorus Line again which 90% of those people hated that number but it was the most asked about closing number that we had ever done because it was the crossovers. I mean everybody that did that number hated it, but everybody that saw it loved it.
Mason Funk: They hated it because why?
James Gribben: [00:28:30] Huh?
Mason Funk: Why did they hate it?
James Gribben: Because one, they weren't dancers and most of them had seen Chorus Line and two, it was a situation where we had done it so many times. It was that old story that you keep repeating something to the point that you dislike it and that's what had happened with that number.
Mason Funk: [00:29:00] Wow. Cool, that's all really, really good stuff. You are doing great and these stories are amazing. Now let's go back a little bit, what happened after you graduated from high school; where did you go next? Start by saying after I graduated from high school.
James Gribben: Okay, after I graduated from high school which is 1961 I stayed in Indianapolis and I was doing little shows around town and then also did what they called summer stock.
James Gribben: [00:29:30] I stayed and there was a couple of people that I started dating and there was one in particular that This is how I came out to my mother and this is really a great story. Once we got finished there was a local piano bar downtown Indianapolis where all of the entertainers from different venues would get together
James Gribben: [00:30:00] and because so many of us were teenagers we couldn't go into the regular bar itself because the alcohol. We would all get together in the piano bar that was shut off from the rest of this bar. There was a black lady lovely, lovely dear friend
James Gribben: [00:30:30] that I knew her and every time, at the time I was doing curly from Oklahoma so I had bleached my hair blond. When I hit the door of that place she would, there was one song that she did but every time I hit it she knew I liked that number she said hot nets, red hat nets get them at your candy store and I would boogie down to the piano.
James Gribben: [00:31:00] Her name was Aphelia and as said she was a dear, dear lady. Well it was in 1962 that my mother came into my bedroom and said, "Well I have been out with a friend of mine that I hadn't seen in a long time and she kept talking about this blond that would dance at the piano bar.
James Gribben: [00:31:30] She really liked this guy," and come to find out her name was Aphelia who was a very dear friend of my mother's that I didn't know. She sat down with me and she looked me dead in the eye and she says, "Do you need help?" I said, "No why." She says, "Are you okay?"
James Gribben: [00:32:00] I said, "Yes," and she says, "Are you happy with the lifestyle that you don't talk to me about," and I said, "Yes I'm very happy." She says, "There is just a few things that I ask of you; you respect yourself, you respect your family and you respect your friends because if you can't love yourself you can't love anybody else."
James Gribben: [00:32:30] That had stuck with me all my life, because back in the 50s, in the 60s if you were a gay person you were in trouble if they found out about it. The term with the guys, the term she was actually talking about a he but because society had the stigma of the gay person,
James Gribben: [00:33:00] the homosexual or the queer whichever term you want to use with that you would just lose it. In the sense that when you're talking about losing it I had gone to a party that I was invited to, it was called The Cosmopolitan Affair is what the newspaper,
James Gribben: [00:33:30] the Indianapolis Star Tribune wrote it up as; Cosmopolitan Affair. I think it was in 1961, it's so long ago. Anyhow there were attorneys, house of representatives, senator, judges, lawyers I mean all very, very prominent people.
James Gribben: [00:34:00] Well the party got raided and because it got and this was a huge, huge mansion and because I was under age they put my butt into a damn waiter and says, "You stay out of, stay there until everything is very, very quiet," which I did because now I'm scared. Well every one of the people that was at that party their names were listed in the newspaper
James Gribben: [00:34:30] and that's why they called The Cosmopolitan Affair. Every one of them; lost their homes, lost their jobs and lost their careers only because of the fact they were all gay. It was all men; there was no women there at all at that time. With that in that time period they would be going up and raiding the bars,
James Gribben: [00:35:00] arresting the people listing their names in the newspaper and you would lose your home, you would lose your job or your career or anything that you had built up at that time. Everybody was very, very scared about that.
Mason Funk: Do you remember any particular individuals either that you were close to for example who experienced having that fate having their name put in the newspaper and losing everything.
James Gribben: [00:35:30] Yes I do, I have several of them but Joe Parsons was one of them. He had lost everything that he, they literally bankrupt him because of that. There was, one of the clubs that I was ... this is an interesting story too. One of the clubs that I was at it was called Darlos and it was a gay club.
James Gribben: [00:36:00] It was basically a lesbians club and I worked for her for a while and then I started going to shows and doing some of the shows at a club called Betty Kay Club and that was down on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Darlos club was on Eli Lilly's property at that time in Indianapolis.
James Gribben: [00:36:30] Anyhow I was going to a show at the Betty Kay Club and I was having a little cocktail party at my house and my mother just happened to be there and we were all getting ready to go out to the show. My mother, God love her heart, says, "If you're not going to take me,
James Gribben: [00:37:00] then I'm going to stay right here and you are going to have to stay here too." Finally we gave in and we took her and there was like 20 or 30 of us. We walked in and it was owned by a lady named Betty Keller and we walked in and the next thing and at the time that I was going I was not 21 you know. I had an ID supplied by
James Gribben: [00:37:30] one of my friends in government that gave me an ID that said I was 21 but it wasn't. When we walked in Betty met us at the door and looks at me and says, "You're late," and then my mother 4'11 came up from behind me and oh my God was there a reunion.
James Gribben: [00:38:00] Betty Keller had been my mother's maid of honor when she got married. At the Betty Kay Club I met a lot of the people from the Joe Box Review which has been renowned for I don't know how long. I think it's still going on but I could be mistaken. In the Joe Box to give you a little history.
James Gribben: [00:38:30] In the Joe Box Review there was 31 people, there was 30 men and one woman and at the end of the show you would have to figure out who was the woman, because the final numbers that they did the guys would take their tops off naturally they're flat chested
James Gribben: [00:39:00] and they were all drag queens. The one that blew us away was the MC who was the lesbian had taped her breasts down and you could not tell. I mean these are the type of impersonations that came about with different people and as a result
James Gribben: [00:39:30] it's one of those things where you get to meet these type of people who they weren't ashamed of who they were or what they were and that's where I got some of my also strength was from these different types of people.
Mason Funk: [00:40:00] It sounds like well actually two questions, one is Amy and I were talking yesterday about the practice of newspapers printing the names of people who had been arrested. Amy said why would the newspapers print the names and I didn't really have a good answer. I could speculate, but I wonder if you can say why do you think the newspapers felt it was important and worthwhile to print the names of people who were arrested in raids on gay bars and clubs?
James Gribben: Yeah and that happened quite a bit in Indianapolis. There was one club called Ben Bowlings
James Gribben: [00:40:30] which was an all male gay bar. The reason that they did it it's because society was so down on the term queer, homosexual and it didn't follow society's thought as to your lifestyle.
James Gribben: [00:41:00] It was totally against everything. The Bible says you know this is wrong, no it really doesn't. The Bible has been interpreted by so many people that in some cases and this I got from Reverend Alexander too, is in some cases they have misinterpreted what actually had transpired.
James Gribben: [00:41:30] It's just like the myth of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, a lot of people thought that they were married which they weren't but I mean it's just society did that. Well, the newspapers and I got this from Barbara Timmins' father who was the editor-in- chief of the Indianapolis Star Tribune because she's the only woman
James Gribben: [00:42:00] I had almost went to bed with. Not quite but almost, well there is a side story to that but I won't go into it. He did this and told his reporters to do it because of the fact the community needed to know what these people were doing and how wrong it was. They were not an asset to society;
James Gribben: [00:42:30] they were a hindrance to society. They felt it was their duty and obligation to do this. They didn't care and if they lost their job they didn't care if they lost their home. I mean if any landlord found out that you were gay you were out. I mean some of these people owned their homes and they lost them.
Mason Funk: [00:43:00] How would they lose their homes?
James Gribben: It would be very easy, it's the community around them would find out that they were gay so they'd start ganging up on them literally pushing them out of their homes or out of the neighborhood because the stigma and the frustration between the neighbors. Also, they were afraid that they were going to be molesting their children which if you actually look at it
James Gribben: [00:43:30] most of the child molestations had been done by straight people not gay. I'm sure that there have been a few that have done that, but the majority of the time that they've arrested people and convicted them it's been straight people not the homosexual. They always it's just like when AIDS came out it was that
James Gribben: [00:44:00] this is your punishment for being gay. No, not at all. I had nothing to do with it, it was just a tragic Ebola type situation as far as I'm concerned and you either learn from it, you protected yourself or what have you.
Mason Funk: You mentioned a couple of things one, because again I think of this work we're doing,
Mason Funk: [00:44:30] this interview as a way of capturing and preserving a time that's now lost when there were attitudes that were very prevalent. One of the things you've motioned was I think you've said this there was kind of when people were arrested and put in the newspaper, the underlying message was they were so, I think you were saying they were so depraved they were willing to risk; their jobs, their homes, everything. That's how bad they were.
James Gribben: [00:45:00] Yeah. I mean that's how the community, how society deemed them is being very, very bad. They were going around molesting children and recruiting children, what have you which was not the case. Well it's just like with my husband,
James Gribben: [00:45:30] I was his first we've been together 44 years but he was married to a woman. He's got a beautiful lovely daughter which I dearly love, I helped raise but his family was basically the same thing. As they got to know us, me as an individual and us as a couple
James Gribben: [00:46:00] they started learning that what they had been taught all of these years was incorrect. We went to church; we did everything that a straight couple would do. No different in any way shape or form, but it's just one of these things
James Gribben: [00:46:30] that history has taught these people all of this bad stuff all through the years. Now all of a sudden it's all out in the open that they are starting to learn that what they were taught as children is no longer the case. They are finding out that their neighbors or their child or their friends could be gay
James Gribben: [00:47:00] and as a result they're starting to learn the hard way. It's just like the situation with the blacks. They have been dealt a very bad situation and I can see why they were rebellious, because of the fact that you can only take so much
James Gribben: [00:47:30] and then you got to give up. I'm not an activist, I will support, I will help but just like I had been doing a show the night that Stonewall happened and it was told what had gone on.
James Gribben: [00:48:00] I had been in Stonewall many, many years ago but it was the first chance that people were able to get together and to join, to rise up and stand for who we are not what we are but who we are. It's just like the milk situation out in California, that was so devastating that was unreal.
James Gribben: [00:48:30] It should never have happened but it did and that's because bigotry has come in so much to the point that they've got blinders on and all they know is what they've been taught as children by their parents.
Mason Funk: Tell me a bit more you mentioned like when you met Jim, Big Jim and you said you were his first lover, male lover
Mason Funk: [00:49:00] and he was younger and was he married at the time? Did this create a big, a lot of turmoil and was there a lot of the idea that you had somehow recruited him? What all happened, what all went on?
James Gribben: It was mother's day 1973 I was performing at a club called The Noble Ruin.
Mason Funk: [00:49:30] Where was this?
James Gribben: At that time I was living in Saint Paul. Mother's day I went over to do a few things at the club and I was sitting there talking to the owner and there is 28 days between Jim and I as far as age is concerned.
James Gribben: [00:50:00] He walked in and the owner said that he had been in there a few times, but not as a regular but just when he was sneaking away. That's when At first he was having a little bit of a problem because I was so open, everybody that I have ever worked for has always known that I was gay.
James Gribben: [00:50:30] I never tried to hide it but I never threw it up into people's face and I think it's one of the reasons why so many people have respected me is because I've never pushed my lifestyle onto somebody else. Well, Jim had always known that he was. That he was scared to death to act on it because his parents were Roman Catholic. The majority of his brothers and sisters were Roman Catholic
James Gribben: [00:51:00] and as a result that stigma in the Roman Catholic religion was there. They knew then I wound up becoming a Roman Catholic because of Jim and his family and as a result his dad would always talk about the queers and everything else like that
James Gribben: [00:51:30] and then later on in years the queers changed to homosexual and then it changed to gay. They knew, well his mother knew but mothers always know. They do. It was just one of those situations where I was very accepted; I became very accepted into this family.
James Gribben: [00:52:00] I mean he had one sister and a brother in law that asked me to be the best man at the wedding which I was but it was just that type of stigmatism that came through because it was either from the religious respect of it or just because of what they had been taught as children. Those two started conflicting.
James Gribben: [00:52:30] I never thought I'd see the day that Jim and I would ever be able to get married and not only in Jim's side of the family, but also on my side of the family they said it took you long enough. I mean it's just one of those situations where he knew it but he was uncomfortable because he was scared to death that his brothers and sisters would turn their back on him and then his father and mother would.
James Gribben: [00:53:00] Because of the fact that so many people when they come out and this is happening today which I think is very, very sad. When they're coming out to their parents their parents turn their back on them or they kick them out. We've had situations here where the youngsters from high school their fathers would beat them which had happened to one of the students from my school in Mabank
James Gribben: [00:53:30] would kick them and then kick them out of the house. They had no place to go. What you are doing today as far as this interview is concerned is what I wished I or some of my friends had had when we were children coming out to give us some type of support, some type of history as to how people react, how life is.
James Gribben: [00:54:00] This is a very important step that you're doing.
Mason Funk: Thank you. Let's take a little pause, I want to look at and we don't need to shut the camera down but I want to glance at your questionnaire and see what we, see some things that we have not covered. You had some people that you mentioned you really wanted to talk about and one of them was Dick Summers.
James Gribben: Yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] What was his role I mean I know there was the show, but was Dick Summers more than the host of that show to you? Was he a kind of a mentor, a role model?
James Gribben: He was a very
Mason Funk: Start by saying his name please.
James Gribben: Yeah, Dick Summers was a very strong man and he was straight, but he was the Dick Clark of Indianapolis and a lot of people know who Dick Clark is. If you had a problem regardless what the situation was,
James Gribben: [00:55:00] he would try to talk to you, help you, mentor you in respecting yourself and others and the community. He was very strong with that. He knew that there was a few of us on the show that were gay, didn't bother him at all. None whatsoever.
James Gribben: [00:55:30] He accepted each and every one of us as we are and he was just somebody that I had a lot of respect for and there was never anything but a friendship type relationship that he and I had which he had with a lot of others; the Bayloff Sisters, Jack Dutchman, Max and Elaine I mean these are different people from the show
James Gribben: [00:56:00] that he treated everybody the same. One time there was a little squabble between a few of us and he took us aside and he says, "Hey everybody has a problem but you still have to love and respect each other. Don't be like some of these adult children that are out there. If you are going to have a problem go to the person
James Gribben: [00:56:30] and talk to them about it or ask them why they feel this way or why they feel that way." He was very, very smart with that.
Mason Funk: Do you remember any situations or any occasions when you went and talked to him just one on one to kind of get his support or ask his advice or any particular memorable conversations you had with him?
James Gribben: There was one conversation in particular that I had with him that I do remember.
James Gribben: [00:57:00] I was doing the show with the Dijon Sisters which they were two heavy set black ladies, beautiful voices, beautiful hearts and then Phyllis Diller was there. In fact Phyllis always said, "I've never seen anybody white bucks move that fast," because my feet, they would always focus on my feet on the show. There was a situation
James Gribben: [00:57:30] where somebody had the comment that these queers should not be on this show, it's a bad influence. This was done by one of the people that worked for Channel 13. That bothered me and it bothered me because of the fact they were so vocal about it.
James Gribben: [00:58:00] I thought so I went to Dick and I said, "Why is this station allowing this person to walk around talking like that," and he says, "I don't know but I'm going to find out." Well the following Saturday I came in and that person was gone, they had fired her because of the fact that she was disrupting the unity of the people involved in the show.
James Gribben: [00:58:30] It was that type of situation. That's the one time that it really hurt and really bothered me because of the fact that it was being done during a TV performance and it should never have happened.
Mason Funk: Doesn't, that strikes me as fairly remarkable that you would go to the host of the show
Mason Funk: [00:59:00] and essentially stand up for yourself and others as opposed to just turning a deaf year, but you actually would take that step. Does that strike you as courageous?
James Gribben: No, it just strike me as a person that stood up for what they believed in. I've always been a strong person, I've never been a follower
James Gribben: [00:59:30] but in that respect that was hurting too many people, people that I cared about. Then to do that and have this connection to the TV show that should never have happened. It's just like and I don't understand, but it's just like the stuff that the comedians are going through right now. If you're in the public eye
James Gribben: [01:00:00] you've got to have not only respect for yourself, but you have to have respect for those people that are watching you that's supporting you and if you don't then what the heck are you doing.
Mason Funk: Who are you referring to when you say these the comedians?
James Gribben: Well, the situation with Kathy Griffin and the fake head of Donald Trump and yeah.
Mason Funk: [01:00:30] Okay, not really familiar with that.
James Gribben: How have you missed that?
Mason Funk: My head has been [crosstalk].
James Gribben: I mean
Mason Funk: Tell me, just give a little background what has happened that you are referring to? Who is this comedian who has been, just fill me in this if I'm a Martian.
James Gribben: Well Kathy Griffin had done this thing where she had a bloody resemblance of Donald Trump's head
James Gribben: [01:01:00] you know then I know that comedians like to make fun of especially different presidents. I mean Bill Clinton and all the things with that and everything, but I'm not an activist in that situation but you still have to respect the public and their feelings and their opinions
James Gribben: [01:01:30] regardless of what media you're in you still have to. I'm going to say this because of the fact it really disturbs me. The public media goes out for sensationalism and they will flower up or sensationalize an item that has no business being discussed that much.
Mason Funk: [01:02:00] What's an example of that?
James Gribben: O. J. Simpson that's a prime example. The man I believe he did it, but there is still bringing him up and still bringing him up let the man alone. The Menendez Brothers yes it was a horrible thing
James Gribben: [01:02:30] what they did, but why go out and make them murderers by making that move of them murdering their parents. Media just ate it up like there is no tomorrow and even today they are still bringing up the Menendez Brothers. I mean let it alone, let the situation die.
James Gribben: [01:03:00] There is no sense in perpetuating and perpetuating and perpetuating.
Mason Funk: Great, I like it. I like your strong opinions on that. You mentioned, another person you already referred to her Phyllis Diller but tell me about her, what she has meant to you?
James Gribben: Well she has always
Mason Funk: Start with her name.
James Gribben: [01:03:30] Phyllis Diller has always been a great comedian and has always been somebody that I've really liked and it's been an honor to do that TV show with her?
Mason Funk: What show was that?
James Gribben: Dick Summers Show.
Mason Funk: She appeared.
James Gribben: Yes, she was there
Mason Funk: How old was she and where was she at that time?
James Gribben: She was a very known comedian. I think at that time she had to be maybe in her mid to late 30s, I could be mistaken
James Gribben: [01:04:00] but she always had talked about Fang her husband, which wound up being a very, very nice man. She always picked on Fang but he was also there the day that she did the show. She came in and she did a little comedy act and presented herself and talked about trying to support the youth at that time.
James Gribben: [01:04:30] As I said this was back in the late 50s or late 60s I don't know the, I can't remember the exact date being 74 I'm too damn old but not really. That was one of the things that when she talked to you, she talked to you as if you had known her all your life. She never treated anybody any different
James Gribben: [01:05:00] and she talked to you on your level. She was a very intelligent woman, but boy was she supportive of people regardless of who they were or what they were. She respected everybody. I mean it's just like Buddy Merrill's orchestra, I had traveled with them
James Gribben: [01:05:30] and a little bit and he was, Buddy Merrill was the same way.
Mason Funk: Now when you traveled ... Tell me that as a story. You traveled with Buddy Mallan's orchestra, you were singing with them or what was your role?
James Gribben: I was performing, I was singing and dancing and we'd be doing one night stands and we'd be at different venues and that was learning a whole routine real quick
James Gribben: [01:06:00] or what have you. Doing one night stands that was a trip.
Mason Funk: Tell me an example of a place you would go would you really get on a bus and go from location to location?
James Gribben: Yes.
Mason Funk: What were some of the songs you would sing and the numbers you would perform?
James Gribben: Most of them were out of musicals. One of the trade numbers that I'd do that everybody loves is
James Gribben: [01:06:30] doing the Singing in the Rain that Gene Kelly did. I mean there are times where I have done that number and everybody instantly knows who it's from, because the musical itself was so great with Debbie Reynolds and that. There was a situation years ago, many, many years ago
James Gribben: [01:07:00] where the, Fred Astaire not himself but the dance studio wanted me to come and teach for him because I did a lot of ballroom at that time too. I said, "No, I can't do that," because to the fact that when I taught people, I taught them how to express themselves with the music by using their own movements,
James Gribben: [01:07:30] their own bodies where Fred Astaire, not him particularly, because he was so outstanding, but because his dance instructors they were all robots. This was sometime in the early 60s I said no I could never work for the Fred Astaire group
James Gribben: [01:08:00] because they teach people how to be robots. He says no you don't I say yes you do I can take a couple from New York and a couple from California put them together and theyll dance as if they've been dancing a thousand years together and it's really true and I did that. I went to New York I picked out a couple; I went to California I picked out a couple. Brought them back to Indianapolis
James Gribben: [01:08:30] I said okay dance everything was exactly the same. I said, "I don't teach people how to be robots, I teach them to enjoy the dance not to show off," although I do show off being a performer.
Mason Funk: Well it's interesting you should say that. Would you ever consider right now singing a little for us,
Mason Funk: [01:09:00] like for example singing even though you don't have any accompaniment. Do you ever do that just
James Gribben: Not right off.
Mason Funk: as if you're in the shower.
James Gribben: No, not right off the bat.
Mason Funk: Okay alright maybe in five or 10 minutes.
James Gribben: You've got the DVDs you tell me.
Mason Funk: Anytime anybody is a singer or performer I ask them to sing right on the spot whether or not they are willing to do. By the way can you just check let's cut for a minute, let's take a little break.
Amy Bench: Before we cut could you just get room tone.
Mason Funk: [01:09:30] Okay, so we're going to record 30 seconds of this room with nobody talking. It's called room tone.
Amy Bench: Okay room tone starting. Okay.
Mason Funk: [01:10:00] Okay. Forgive me if I crunch on a couple of comments quietly. I will try to be very quiet, so just let me know when you are speeding that.
Amy Bench: Yeah we're good.
Mason Funk: I just want to get a little bit of a sense if you could just give me in very, very simple terms, how you progressed geographically
Mason Funk: [01:10:30] from Indianapolis to Minnesota to Plano to where you are now? Just like, quick survey.
James Gribben: Now, well that can't be quick because I was in Indianapolis and I worked for a company by the name of CA Roberts Company and they transferred me to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Then from Saint Paul, I retired in 2006 after being with them for 34 years,
James Gribben: [01:11:00] no 35 years and Jim was working for National Steel. We were able to transfer down here to the companies that we were working with. Our friends were living in Plano so that's how we were there, but then we had a lot of friends that we were running around with that lived down here on Cider Creek Lake so we moved down here.
Mason Funk: [01:11:30] When did you move down to Cedar Creek Lake for the first time?
James Gribben: 1978
Mason Funk: You've been living in Cedar Creek since 1978? In this area? Just from the perspective of the LGBT movement and visibility, what changes have you witnessed in this very rural part of Texas between 1978 and now?
James Gribben: [01:12:00] When we moved down here this area
Mason Funk: Say where, when we moved down to
James Gribben: When we moved down to Mabank this area was very, very redneck but there was a large, not a real large but quite a few lesbian and gay men that lived down in this area
James Gribben: [01:12:30] that we knew we ran around with. At that time most of the lesbians because they were doctors and teachers and what have you, they were looking out for the reputation which I totally understand. They wouldn't go to the first gay bar that we had which was 231 out here on 334 high way in Gun Barrel,
James Gribben: [01:13:00] but they'd have their own little home parties. The 231 was started and then they sold it to Mike, not this Mike but a different Mike and he moved it over to what was then known as Friends Night Club and that was on 198 and 334.
James Gribben: [01:13:30] Then a friend of mine bought it, that's where we got the Friends Players because that is something that we started putting on the shows strictly for benefiting other organizations. Then Mike Slingalin who owns Gallows, we started performing over there
James Gribben: [01:14:00] and I still perform every Saturday night there and it's just been a big family affair. Not everybody but the 90% of the people that are gay that live down here in this area are very well accepted and respected and it's just,
James Gribben: [01:14:30] one of the situations where we never thought we'd be in an area where I mean I have been to Jim hasn't but I had been to Fire Island and a few other places. The community here is even totally different than the community in Dallas, because out here the lesbians and the gay men can get along with no problem whatsoever.
James Gribben: [01:15:00] Where in other locations if you're a gay man going into a lesbian bar, you can't go in unless you're with a lesbian and the same in some other men's bar is the same situation but down here everybody works together. I can give you a story of
James Gribben: [01:15:30] when I was performing at Friends night club that's before Friends Players, I always wanted to have a choir. I started a choir and it was called the Friends Choir and there was a church that started in a small street mall called Celebration on the Lake Church.
James Gribben: [01:16:00] It was basically at that time it was the majority of them were lesbians. There was a few guys but not very many. Cathy Bowser had asked if we would, if I would bring my performing choir to one of their services, which I did. As a result
James Gribben: [01:16:30] she asked if we would be willing to come to their services and that's how the choir got started with Celebration on the Lake Church. Rodger Gram Champ at that time was part of the music director for the church. He wound up directing the choir from that point on.
James Gribben: [01:17:00] That's how the choir started and that's how Celebration on the Lake Church got theirs and then I became their music chairperson for one of their outreach situations and Cathy said, Wouldn't it be great if we could have a cantata?
James Gribben: [01:17:30] Well, I have performed three cantatas consisting of the first one we did at Mabank High school and that consisted 160 choir members and then a dance group called The Dance Connection performed in one of the numbers. We have since done three different cantatas since then and that's getting seven, the first one was seven churches,
James Gribben: [01:18:00] no eight churches and then the next two was seven churches getting together.
Mason Funk: By cantatas you mean, what do you mean by cantatas?
James Gribben: A cantata is a group of songs like, well the Noel Christmas we had done.
James Gribben: [01:18:30] Behold the Star is another cantata and it's a series of music, religious music songs that tell the story at the birth of Christ. It normally lasted about an hour and then we had a young lady by the name Gloria Campos who was the newscaster, anchor through Channel 8
James Gribben: [01:19:00] she would come and narrate this, which she is just a fantastic lady all the way through. Yeah, to get eight different churches of different denominations to be involved in this situation. Knowing that they are getting involved with and we don't like to really use the term gay church
James Gribben: [01:19:30] or Unity Church, but because of the fact that everybody around here knows that it's basically gay people. Although a lot of the people that come to our church for the services every Sunday, a lot of them are straight people and are out
Mason Funk: What brings them do you think? What brings them to your church?
James Gribben: [01:20:00] I think it first started out a little curiosity and then when they found out, hey they're not going to bite you, they are not going to turn you, they are just everyday people that live next door to you and that's basically what it was. The service was uplifting and I mean and then they see that there is such a community of people
James Gribben: [01:20:30] that are there loving each other as a family and also the outreach that we do to the outside community as far as helping with food pantries and things of that nature. I mean and they said, Hey." When we did the first cantata behold the star which was at the Mabank High School in their auditorium
James Gribben: [01:21:00] as I said we have 160 people in that choir and then we had about 30 little girls that danced one of the numbers that was in that. The entry was never charged, anything; it was, bring a food item. Well, we packed up the auditorium which is a large auditorium, a performing arts auditorium that they have over there.
James Gribben: [01:21:30] Once it was all said and done it took eight pick up trucks to cart off how much food we had to go to the different food pantries around the lake area.
Mason Funk: Another thing you said in passing, when people come to your church, straight people you said that they learned that they are not going, the gays aren't going to bite you,
Mason Funk: [01:22:00] they are not going to turn you. That just reminds me again that there is this kind of popular notion that if you get too close to gay people they're going to turn you gay. Is that true and is that especially prevalent kind of out in these parts?
James Gribben: Actually it's more prevalent coast to coast really. It's sad to say, but it's really true because so many people from what they've been taught from their parents.
James Gribben: [01:22:30] The bigotry or innuendos that had been given to them from their parents, yeah that's still prevalent and I mean that's nationwide. It's unfortunate but also people were learning. Ever since they started allowing people to get married, the gay people to get married
James Gribben: [01:23:00] that concept is starting to change a little bit. There is still that a little bit of bigotry that's in there that it scares people why it shouldn't, but it's unfortunate but it's there.
Mason Funk: Well, the church sounds amazing and I love the idea that straight people like to come as well because they like, for them it's probably this is what church is supposed to be like.
Mason Funk: [01:23:30] This feels right. I think it's also so amazingly cool that you got eight churches, seven churches for two years and eight the next year all from the local area to contribute to this event. What an amazing thing?
James Gribben: Yeah. I was very, very fortunate and we did have two great Cathy Hughes from
James Gribben: [01:24:00] Cedar Creek Methodist Church. Aston Williams, no he's from the Cedar Creek but anyhow those were, Aston is a pastor for Cedar Creek Methodist and Pain Springs Methodist which is right around the corner from us. I mean we were very, very fortunate
James Gribben: [01:24:30] because they came in not knowing what to expect and wound up making many, many very close lasting friendships because they found we are nothing more than normal people. We all put our pants on the same way, we all pray the same, it's just we're just your next door neighbor.
Mason Funk: [01:25:00] Do you think folks out here, you certainly encounter more people of faith out in Texas than in San Francisco.
James Gribben: Oh yes you are in the Bible bell too.
Mason Funk: You think and that goes for LGBT people as well as straight people.
James Gribben: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Do you think folks out here are better off? You know I think it's probably true in the bigger cities on the coast, you just have a much lover participation. What's your take on the value of sort of organized religion
Mason Funk: [01:25:30] in your life and kind of in the daily life of people in your area?
James Gribben: Well, Jim and I have always been together as far as church is concerned and that's basically because of his background with his family. Yes, some other churches around here are very close knit
James Gribben: [01:26:00] to the point that they understand life period regardless of what it is, what type of lifestyle it is. They're more accepting because out here in the Gun Barrel area there is a lot more of acceptance, because I mean you can go a block and come across three or four churches;
James Gribben: [01:26:30] it doesn't make any difference down here. In our area where Celebration on the Lake Church is, there is the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church. I mean and that's all within a one block area you know. I mean religion here is a little stronger, but it's also a situation where they teach tolerance,
James Gribben: [01:27:00] almost every one of these churches teach tolerance and tolerance is so important in somebody's life, because tolerance is the best teacher. If you're not tolerant with your neighbor, then you can't be tolerant at all.
Mason Funk: Are there folks, Christian folks down here who you come across who are not tolerant
Mason Funk: [01:27:30] and who are much more in the traditional conservative vein where they feel like, "No you've got to draw the line, you've got to say what this is right and this wrong?"
James Gribben: There is a few that are still down here and the reason that I think that they are down here is because that's what the pastor of that particular church teaches. Where the majority of the pastors that I've come across and collecting these churches to do these cantatas,
James Gribben: [01:28:00] I've had to go into the church, meet with the pastor and what have you and get the approval. There is a situation where and I'm not going to go into names. Now one of the churches that was involved with our church their organist wouldn't allow the choir to be a part of that
James Gribben: [01:28:30] because of the situation and I knew some of the choir members that were there. They literally told him that he can go take a fly and leap because of the fact that they knew quite a few of us and they were going to do it regardless of what he says. Yes, it's still here unfortunately but
James Gribben: [01:29:00] over the years it's become a lot more tolerant than what it was when we moved down here. Like Michael who owns Gallows, there are times where the mayor of Gun Barrel City. Some of the city council come in there and they watch the shows and they are friends with everybody. Michael is very involved in politics down here,
James Gribben: [01:29:30] so we get a lot of straight people that come in strictly because of our shows. Then they get to know some of the entertainers and they say, Hey, there's nothing wrong with these people. Yeah, we get a large mixture of gays and straights, lesbian and men and the straight people and they all get along, no problem.
Mason Funk: [01:30:00] Now tell me when you perform every Saturday night excuse me, what do you do? Tell me your routine, are you the whole show?
James Gribben: Oh Lord no. There is a
Mason Funk: Basically if I come into town and say on Saturday night what goes on at Gallows tell me about it.
James Gribben: Yeah, it's basically a drag show. I perform as a man but the majority of the entertainers are drag queens.
James Gribben: [01:30:30] Excellent people and we just, whatever the theme is just like three or four weeks ago I put a show on there which I was hosting that was musicals from Broadway and movies. People would go out and get their songs, if you are a drag queen
James Gribben: [01:31:00] they are going to do what a female would do and they lip sync to the song and dance and perform and what have you and that's basically what a show is. It normally lasts up to about an hour, sometimes it will be a little bit longer and then after that everybody can get up and dance, so we have a lot of that situation here.
Mason Funk: [01:31:30] Who are these drag queens who perform? Are they local people who this is part of their life to perform as drag queens or do they come down from Dallas or who are they, by and large?
James Gribben: Yeah, by and large there, is a lot of them that come from Dallas. We have them coming from Axtell, Texas which is right down side of Waco and then some of the locals that actually live here in Gun Barrel.
James Gribben: [01:32:00] It's just a conglomerate of different talents that have been put together.
Mason Funk: I had no idea until just a second ago that this was a largely had a strong, a big drag component to it but even among the drag queens who perform at the show who are local folks who perform on Saturday night at Gallows and drag and then on Sunday morning they are showing up at church. This is all just kind of taken as somewhat normal by the local community?
James Gribben: [01:32:30] Yeah, well the majority of the drag queens that are down here, do not go drag 24 hours a day they only do it for show. You could be standing next to Rusty Winners and never know that that's Rusty Winners because he is a full blown boy at that point.
James Gribben: [01:33:00] Other times if you've seen him in the show, you could think that River McIntyre is standing in front of you. The illusion of drag queens and the illusion of the shows brings a lot of joy to well, it's just like what happened in Manchester here recently. We bring a lot of joy to the customers that come into Gallows,
James Gribben: [01:33:30] because we let them relax for a while and see something that they normally don't see all the time and they're entertained the whole time, so that means a lot. It gives them that little bit of being able to float away to a show which you don't get down here. We don't have the Casa Mananas and show places that Dallas has got.
James Gribben: [01:34:00] This is our community center, showing us what we can do for them and there is a club in Waco called Connects which basically does the same type of situation that we do here. It's a local community theater that we're trying to give you.
Mason Funk: That's wonderful. Tell me about the fact that you are going to retire on November 4th and what you, how you and Jim came to that conclusion and what you are going to do afterwards.
James Gribben: [01:34:30] Well, my last show will be at Gallows. November the 4th 1943 is when I was born, so November the 4th 2017 I will be retiring from show business for the 3rd time. The reason that I picked that date is because of the fact that one, it's my birthday
James Gribben: [01:35:00] but also this is my birthday present to Jim because of the fact for the last 44 years he's done my music. He's taken the shows that I've done and turned them into DVDs which we sold and the money goes to charity. Then he does all the artwork for the Joe Boxes and what have you and he said when he retires he wants to travel.
James Gribben: [01:35:30] Well, we can't travel because I'm performing every Saturday night and he has been so good about that. I sing in the choir at Celebration on the Lake Church. Jim does the sound board at Celebration on the Lake Church. We've always been together in that respect and I finally decided I'm going to give Jim what he wants.
James Gribben: [01:36:00] On November the 11th because I would have been retired for a week, we are headed down to Florida to visit his daughter and son in law and then we are going to Minnesota for his class reunion and then we'll be going to Indianapolis to visit my family for Thanksgiving. Then we are going to start travelling in our car and going to Portland, Oregon to visit some friends that had just moved there
James Gribben: [01:36:30] and to Arizona to visit some friends. I mean we are just going to start travelling and taking our time doing it and I've got 138 days left. I mean Jim is really excited about this, because he never thought he'd see the day that I would do it.
Mason Funk: Wow, well that's a big milestone, a big milestone coming up. That's wonderful and I also wonder if you would tell us about the Bible that you have there on your back.
James Gribben: [01:37:00] My mother God rest her soul. She's been gone for about 25 years, but this is a tradition that my mother has always done. With this Bible and this is almost a duplicate to everyone that the kids have gotten, meaning my brothers and the two girls.
James Gribben: [01:37:30] It's a family Bible, it's got stuff about our family in it, each other's family. Mother when they got married she gave them this. Well 43, yeah 43 years ago we got ours. Actually Jim was closer to my mother than I was and that's what this is about.
James Gribben: [01:38:00] This is a remembrance of people that have passed in our life of different situations. I lost my mother about 25 years ago and it was just about a month after my mother had passed a few years later that Jim's mother has passed, so all of that information is in this Bible. This is one that I don't carry any place,
James Gribben: [01:38:30] it doesn't leave this house at all but every now and then we'll go through it and remember their remembrance of what's in here so that's what that Bible is about.
Mason Funk: What is that Bible, here go ahead what's that?
James Gribben: When I met Jim I wasn't born Jewish I was a practicing Jew
James Gribben: [01:39:00] and the synagogue was across the street from where I lived that Jim moved into. When they found out that I was leaving the church to become a Roman Catholic at St. Paul's Catholic church down the road from us, the alteration person for the synagogue was really happy
James Gribben: [01:39:30] because he was replacing a lot of colors. When they found out that I was becoming a Roman Catholic I no longer existed. The people from the synagogue, if they run into me at the grocery store or passing on the street would rip their love color. That was a sign of the fact that I was dead to them and that's traditional.
Mason Funk: [01:40:00] Huh wow, that's a whole other chapter.
James Gribben: Oh yes.
Mason Funk: Wow, you were not born
James Gribben: No.
Mason Funk: You converted?
James Gribben: Yeah, I converted back in 19
Mason Funk: Say I converted to Judaism.
James Gribben: I converted to Judaism back in 1963 because so many of my friends were of the Jewish faith, so I started going to their synagogues. That's how all of that transitioned happened
James Gribben: [01:40:30] because I was actually raised Presbyterian. The guy that sired me was Methodist, my mother was Nazarene and each one of us has our own religion. We never followed the parents as far as their religion is concerned, because they never shoved it on us at all. They left it up ... Our life was our choice and as my mother always said,
James Gribben: [01:41:00] This is your bed, so you can just lay there. She always let us do what we felt was right for us as children.
Mason Funk: Right, what does that Bible mean to you to have this Bible? I mean by my Math it was only a year after you and Jim got together that she gave you this Bible.
James Gribben: Right.
Mason Funk: Which was quite a strong validation.
James Gribben: Of our relationship.
Mason Funk: [01:41:30] Tell me about that and what does that mean to you?
James Gribben: It meant a great deal because of the fact that I said earlier in this interview, that there were so many times that parents find out that you're gay and they turn your back on you. They want nothing to do with you whatsoever. Well, when I came out to my mother, I was afraid that that was going to happen, fortunately it did not happen and Jim is the only person
James Gribben: [01:42:00] that I've ever dated that my mother has ever liked and she became very close to him. Her giving us this Bible, meant a great deal to us because of the fact that it's total acceptance of a family relationship. As far as my brother and sisters are concerned,
James Gribben: [01:42:30] I only have one sister that I really have anything to do with and that's because my other sister she decided that she was more interested in finances and what are you going to do with your will type situation and the money than she is about a relationship with a sibling. She turned her back on us. Then my brother is still having a difficult time with it.
James Gribben: [01:43:00] Even though he is civil towards me but at one point he told his children that if you have anything to do with him I'll disown you. The last few times that I have seen him since this mother passing, he's gotten a little bit better about it.
James Gribben: [01:43:30] Now his kids I finally met some of his kids and they totally accept me but they don't understand quite what the lifestyle is but they understand the love that Jim and I have for each. Because Jim and I have been together longer than most of my family and some of his family are concerned.
Mason Funk: Wow, what precipitated your brother telling his kids that if they had anything to do with you,
Mason Funk: [01:44:00] he would disown them? Like what causes someone why, I don't know, may nave of me to ask that question but what
James Gribben: Society.
Mason Funk: I know but in his case, why did he think, what damage did he think you were going to do?
James Gribben: I didn't stand up to his standards of life. I chose to go a different direction. I chose to be with somebody
James Gribben: [01:44:30] that I cared about rather than going with what society says that I should go with and it's also a lot of his friends were bigots. It's a combination of all types of situations that have culminated with that.
Mason Funk: Do you think the LGBT community as a whole has done a good job integrating people say different ethnicities,
Mason Funk: [01:45:00] you mentioned bigotry several times. Have we been as welcoming and as inclusive as we ought to have been or need to be?
James Gribben: No. I wish I could say, yeah they have but now they haven't. There is still some of them out there that have this situation of well,
James Gribben: [01:45:30] I'm being picked on, so therefore I don't want to have anything to do with you. I don't want you into my life because all you're going to do is pick on me. That's simplicity as far as that's concerned, but by the same token that's what it is. Is that they haven't accepted themselves. This is my perception is they haven't accepted themselves and as a result they are having a hard time accepting anybody outside to be a part of their lives.
Mason Funk: [01:46:00] Have you witnessed this?
James Gribben: Oh yes.
Mason Funk: Can you give me any examples? Any, you don't have to name names obviously but any incidents you witnessed or people who have reacted this way?
James Gribben: Yeah, there is a young man that has since moved out of state, but he finally came out to his parents
James Gribben: [01:46:30] and the father beat him up and then kicked him out of the house and they said, Don't ever come back, and he hasn't. Our community rallied around him and helped him and now he's become a very fine upstanding young man with a very decent job now and he's totally away from his family because his family doesn't want to have anything to with him.
James Gribben: [01:47:00] In fact he was one of my players, so it's just a very unfortunate situation. It's interesting that we have several couples
Mason Funk: Here is Jim again.
James Gribben: that are
Mason Funk: Just hold one second, we are almost done.
Mason Funk: [01:47:30] Okay, so literally I forget where we were at but I think I'm going to ask Amy if she has any questions. I always give Amy a chance to ask any questions that have been fermenting in her mind.
Amy Bench: Yeah, there is something that you said, it's always weird asking questions [inaudible]. There was something you said a while back and I don't know if I missed something, but this is talking about when you were younger you said that people use the word she to describe ...
James Gribben: [01:48:00] Yes, that
Mason Funk: Talk to me as if I asked the question.
Amy Bench: Can you just explain kind of what the word she meant and who it was intended for and why.
James Gribben: Yeah, the
Mason Funk: Talk to me.
James Gribben: Especially the gay men because of society and being outed, they would refer to, it's a slang that the older generation referred to their partner
James Gribben: [01:48:30] or who they're dating as she, because they're a guy and as a result they are talking about a feminine type person. On the other hand, the lesbians would do just the opposite; they would refer to their person that they are dating as he. That's where the concept
James Gribben: [01:49:00] which is not true today but years ago, it's the butch in the femme. The butch meaning the more masculine, the more predominant and the feminine being the more feminine. That's where that slang came in between the men and the women when they were talking about, because that way they could freely without mentioning names talk about
James Gribben: [01:49:30] who they're dating without giving it to somebody who is listening at the next table any idea that they were gay. That's where all that came about.
Amy Bench: Interesting.
Mason Funk: That was mainly within the couples as opposed to say from outside, it wasn't, would straight people refer to gay people as she? Would that happen too or no?
James Gribben: [01:50:00] No, not unless they were friends with the person and if they were friends with the person then they would pick up the slang, if you will, of what these people are talking people.
Mason Funk: Got you.
James Gribben: To help protect them.
Amy Bench: Could you maybe clarify that because I don't know if it comes across? Maybe say that she and he were terms that the gay community used or refer to their partner even if they were actually male or female.
Amy Bench: [01:50:30] I think it comes across in conversation, but if we edit Mason or me out it's kind of unclear.
Mason Funk: Yeah, so just clarify for us this was a coded way of talking.
James Gribben: That is correct.
Mason Funk: Explain that as if you are talking to a Martian.
James Gribben: Yeah, well what it is, is that if I'm sitting in a restaurant or on a street car and I say, Well, me and Paul went here.
James Gribben: [01:51:00] Well, then and to let everybody around you know that you're talking about a boyfriend. Therefore they would use, well me and she went to this party or me and she went to this bar or he and she meaning on the lesbian side. The fact that that way the people that they are conversing with understood who they were talking about.
Mason Funk: [01:51:30] The people around.
James Gribben: The people around just thought, "They are just talking about straight dating if you will," and that's what that whole thing is about.
Amy Bench: You say the word they instead of we.
James Gribben: They meaning the people that are sitting around that straight.
Mason Funk: Yeah, but you are saying did you ever use this?
James Gribben: Oh yes.
Mason Funk: [01:52:00] Okay, could you re-tell us what you just told us but use we instead of they. You were saying they would do this, they would do that but for our purposes, for the purpose of this interview it's more useful if you say we
Amy Bench: Or I.
James Gribben: or I.
Amy Bench: If I had a boyfriend I would call him she, like something.
James Gribben: I mean even today that's used with Jim depending on a situation that we're in. Well he gets really upset when it's mentioned to him in the feminine gender,
James Gribben: [01:52:30] but there are times where we have been in different straight couple situations where I would talk about like the Busty Winners, I would have to say she rather than Marvin Casey. She is an entertainer,
James Gribben: [01:53:00] she is very good but straight people have a tendency to really get ugly if they find out that you're talking to a same sex partner. Therefore the slang came up years and years and years ago. That we all said that
James Gribben: [01:53:30] Well for example one of the guys that I was dating, I would have to refer him as a she rather than getting upset. I used to go to the Normandy Inn Piano Bar and every time I would have to say that me and she were just here last night and we had a very good time.
James Gribben: [01:54:00] That eliminates anybody in that bar who knew me would think well, I'm there with a girl. Basically that's what that whole thing is about. It's a protection point of not totally coming out to everybody that's around you. It's protecting you
James Gribben: [01:54:30] and any possible conflict that somebody may have sitting around, so therefore that's another reason why they use it.
Amy Bench: Do you ever call, answer to Mason, do you ever call Jim she?
James Gribben: No.
Amy Bench: Can you explain that?
Mason Funk: Tell me, do you ever call Jim she?
James Gribben: No, I do not. Now a couple of our friends have and he gets upset about it but to him
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, start over saying I never called Jim she.
James Gribben: [01:55:00] I never call Jim she because the fact he gets very offense when it's mentioned in that respect. He feels like his masculinity is being affected by that. Now, so many years we've been together a couple of our friends have done that and he just takes and shuts up about it
James Gribben: [01:55:30] and then lets me know about it in the car coming home. Because he does not like to, I am a man and that's what I want to be referred to as and that's how Jim feels about it so as a result I respect that. He does not want to offend anybody and by the same token he doesn't want anybody coming into our relationship.
Mason Funk: [01:56:00] It makes total sense to me, in other words, out here you still have, you navigate each situation why is that.
James Gribben: Exactly right. Yeah, you conform to the area that you are in or the people that you are with. You have to watch where and what and who you're saying it to.
James Gribben: [01:56:30] It's a protection mechanism and that's all that is.
Amy Bench: I think your hand came into frame when he said you conform to the area.
Mason Funk: Sorry I was, can you say that again? My hand came into the camera frame by the way. Can you just say we, instead of saying you just say we conform. If I said to you and Jim are you openly open with every single situation you walk into? What's your answer?
James Gribben: [01:57:00] No, we are not open to, we respect who we are and what we have together, but we don't go out like some of these younger kids go out and are throwing it into the communities face we don't want to do that. We respect the community, we respect their views, their values but by the same token we also respect ours.
James Gribben: [01:57:30] Rather than bringing attention to who we are and what we are, we're protected with the word he or she depending on where we're at the location or the surrounding as to who is around us. I mean we are openly gay in a protective sense which is unfortunate
James Gribben: [01:58:00] but it's true. In a protective sense because of the fact we're totally out when around the gay community at the bar, but if we go to a straight bar, no. We will not be affectionate towards each other or anything of that nature. We respect each other, but we will not show any affection in a straight club. We are not going to go out and throw our feelings
James Gribben: [01:58:30] and our lifestyle in others people's faces. It's just like dear friends of ours right down the road, Jim and Gale. They are very, very sweethearts. They would never force their lifestyle on us nor would we do that to them. We had Gino and his wife across the street they have now since moved,
James Gribben: [01:59:00] total respect for us. Gino told me one time and he wrote a book that I've got a copy of that was dedicated to his wife, but he also says that's one of the things that we respect you for is the fact that you don't throw your lifestyle in our faces as we would not do that to you.
Amy Bench: [01:59:30] Why is that important?
James Gribben: The lifestyle?
Amy Bench: Why is it important to not throw a lifestyle in people's faces?
Mason Funk: Answer me
James Gribben: Yeah, it's
Mason Funk: Yeah, why is that important?
James Gribben: It's very important because of the fact that your lifestyle is your business. It's just like we're members of Celebration on the Lake Church,
James Gribben: [02:00:00] but our friends who belong to different Methodist churches don't throw that up into our face because we don't throw up our church into their face. It's a point of mutual understanding and respect as to this is my area. Don't get into it but you can come out here and I have no problem with it, but you don't hit this area because that's personal and private.
Mason Funk: [02:00:30] Now if you were to, for example if instead of referring to Jim in a coded way by saying she or if you were to refer to Jim as my husband which he legally is, is that correct?
James Gribben: Yeah, see
Mason Funk: Legally he is your husband.
James Gribben: Yeah.
Mason Funk: If you were to refer to him as your husband in a situation where you didn't know, like say at the hardware store like this has happened to me. I'm at the checkout line in the grocery store
Mason Funk: [02:01:00] and the check out guy says, Oh it looks like you are getting ready to make a nice dinner for your wife? How does he know? He sees a ring he just assumes and I say, Well actually I'm making dinner for my husband. Would that in your context down here, would that feel like you are throwing your lifestyle in that person's face is that?
James Gribben: Yes.
Mason Funk: It is?
James Gribben: Yes.
Mason Funk: Huh.
James Gribben: It would be.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
James Gribben: Because of the fact that we try to,
James Gribben: [02:01:30] we both have been brought up to respect other people's feelings and other people's beliefs. Therefore and that's part of our upbringing, but it's just like me coming to you and saying, "I think you are raising your children wrong," that's none of my business. That's your business and that's something that you've got to deal with.
James Gribben: [02:02:00] As far as I mean I do finally tell people that Jim is my husband. All of our doctors know that we're married regardless of which doctor we are going to. They all know and they all found out when we filled out the information as far as who we are that we are married and he is my husband. We have no problem doing that,
James Gribben: [02:02:30] we just choose not to do it out in public. It's just like with gay pride and I just heard this the other day. Now I am not going to watch that, because here is all these queers running around in leather, showing their ass in the leather pants on the floats and throwing it in my face
James Gribben: [02:03:00] and I don't want to do it. Don't get me wrong, I have a great deal over respect and drag queens, but some of them wind up living in drag 24 hours a day, they don't know anything else. We are not like that; we want to respect our neighbor, we want our neighbors to respect us
James Gribben: [02:03:30] and that's the only way we know how to do it. It's just we are not going to throw our laundry into your basket and that's what it is.
Amy Bench: I have another question.
Mason Funk: Sure.
Amy Bench: Is there a difference in your mind between a trans person and a person in drag?
James Gribben: Oh yes most definitely.
Mason Funk: Can you explain that?
James Gribben: Tell me here.
James Gribben: [02:04:00] Yeah, the difference a drag queen dresses up in drag to do a performance and I have all the respect in transgender, but they are living out a lifestyle that they have never been able to do because they were born a man
James Gribben: [02:04:30] and now they are transferring over as a woman or vice versa. A woman doing the same thing. I have no ill feelings, I have a lot of friends who are transgender and I respect them because this is a way that they have found out really who they are and what they are
James Gribben: [02:05:00] and it's because of the fact they weren't born they way they should have been. God is the only one that has anything to do with that. That is something that they just can't control, so as a result they finally do something about it. It's unfortunate
James Gribben: [02:05:30] that the transgender are so condemned because people don't understand what they are going through and they have to be taught somehow that I was born a female but they gave me a man's body. That is an example of what the whole thing is.
James Gribben: [02:06:00] As I say I've got a few friends that are transgender both male and female. I have no problem with them whatsoever, it's the ones that wind up becoming so vocal about it that disturbs me because of the fact they're vocalizing
James Gribben: [02:06:30] what they feel but to me they're actually throwing it down to somebody else's throat. It's not that other person that they are talking to that should be feeling that. If you're going to do that, talk to them.
Mason Funk: Hold that thought, oops watch out for your battery there.
Mason Funk: [02:07:00] Just to finish this thought you were saying some transgender people are really vocal about it.
Mason Funk: [02:07:30] You can sit back in your chair the light is a little better. You are very vocal about it and you feel like that's like throwing their laundry in someone else's basket, can you just explain that a bit more?
James Gribben: Well, you know stereotypes are in every form of life; gay, straight what have you. Black, Mexican it doesn't make any difference. The stereotypes,
James Gribben: [02:08:00] they want to push their agenda into other people. Well, there is a lot of the transgender that they don't want to talk about it. This is my life, I am who I am, you accept me for who I am or you leave me alone. There are just some of those kids out there
James Gribben: [02:08:30] that it's like the me generation. You owe me a living, I don't owe you a thing. It's basically the younger kids that haven't had the conflicts that we the older people have had and the teaching lessons that we have had through the years
James Gribben: [02:09:00] to respect other people's wishes. As a result, this is where you got your big conflicts. I mean any idiot should know that this bathroom thing that they've got going all over the place is absolutely ridiculous.
Mason Funk: How so is it ridiculous?
James Gribben: [02:09:30] Well, first of all when you go into a bathroom you are going in to do one thing. You are not going in there to molest the little girl or the little boy because you are a transgender. You're going in there to do your business and get the hell out, but no, they're doing this bathroom thing because they think that because you are transgender the only thing you are going to do is go in there and molest whoever's child is in there
James Gribben: [02:10:00] that's ridiculous and it's upsetting to me. It's going back to when I was coming up as a child I knew who I was and I never went around telling anybody about it, but other people you know.
Mason Funk: Do you think the trans people are wrong in a way to be fighting for the right to go into the bathroom that fits their sense of who they are?
James Gribben: [02:10:30] No, they are not wrong at all. Not in any way shape performed you know, because they are no. Chris Jenner for one, that blew me away because I never thought that was the case but I respect what she did.
Mason Funk: You mean Bruce Jenner?
James Gribben: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Caitlyn Bruce.
James Gribben: Yeah, Caitlyn. I was just totally turned back on that,
James Gribben: [02:11:00] but by the same token I respect what she did and understand why she did it. It's unfortunate that her and that's very typical that her children in some cases turned against her because she did what she did. I have no problem with what she did
James Gribben: [02:11:30] in any way shape or form. It's just like my friend down in Seven Points and I'm not going to mention any names there, but I mean he's got the same situation. He is dressed up as a man but it's a woman and she wants to go into a man's bathroom,
James Gribben: [02:12:00] but when they find out that she is a trans they're all upset because of the fact that she is in the wrong bathroom, she should be next door. Just respect who you are and respect your surroundings, don't go throw it out in people's faces. That's the way I am.
Mason Funk: Great, Amy do you have any more question?
Amy Bench: [02:12:30] Yeah, just one more clarification. It can be kind of short, would you say and this is going back years ago. Would you say that the newspapers at that time when they were printing names of people, would you say that the newspaper editors or owners were feeling like they were doing a public service warning people? How would you describe just simply their rationale?
James Gribben: Well, they think that they were doing
Amy Bench: Could you say who they are?
Mason Funk: [02:13:00] Yeah, so the people who published, the newspaper publishers who published the names of people who are busted.
James Gribben: Yeah, the newspapers, the media when they'd go around thinking that they are doing a big favor by listing all of these names of people that they know that are gay or lesbian, they think that they are doing the rest of the community a favor, they're not.
James Gribben: [02:13:30] All they are doing is stirring up some kind of a riot, some kind of fight. Some kind of more bigotry because of the fact that they're publicizing somebody else's lifestyle which is nobody's business.
Amy Bench: Then, sorry one more. You mentioned earlier that there were gay bars but the women met at home because they were worried about their jobs. Why were the men not worried about their jobs?
Mason Funk: [02:14:00] That's a great question.
James Gribben: That one I can't answer.
Mason Funk: Do you
Amy Bench: Can you
Mason Funk: Let me ask you this question.
Amy Bench: Yeah, go ahead.
Mason Funk: Then take my question and kind of incorporate it into your answer. If women were worried about losing, about their reputations, their professional reputations and therefore didn't go to bars; why were men not worried about their professional reputations?
James Gribben: [02:14:30] Men have a tendency to be a little more mischievous than the women are. They can say, "Well, we've been to a football game and we all went out to the bar and we didn't know but we're having a good time." Where the women were more cautious about their lifestyle because of the fact that women wound up being persecuted more than men do
James Gribben: [02:15:00] as far as the lifestyle is concerned. One of the fantasies and I know this to be true. One of the fantasies that straight men have is to be able to one, turn a lesbian or have two lesbians do it in front of them. It's a fantasy not knowing that it can really damage or hurt the feelings of others,
James Gribben: [02:15:30] but also the fact that the women wind up being more vulnerable and more attacked by men than the men do.
Amy Bench: By straight men.
James Gribben: Yeah, by straight men and I have seen it with the people that I've worked with.
James Gribben: [02:16:00] They've even made these kind of comments. "It would be so exciting to go in and turn one of these dykes," or, "It would be exciting to sit there and watch two dikes do it."
Mason Funk: Then in turn the same man if they are not able to turn a dyke or watch them do it for their own pleasure, they can then become that much more angry?
James Gribben: [02:16:30] They become violent. It's, "Well okay, so you are not going to do it so let me slap the shit out of you," excuse the French but I mean that's basically their concept. I've had a few of them that I've worked with actually make that comment. There again I became very defensive and very upset
James Gribben: [02:17:00] that they would have the mindset of an idiot to make comments like that.
Mason Funk: Great.
James Gribben: They are more perverted than the perversion, so that's the way I feel.
Mason Funk: Amy, anything else?
Amy Bench: We never talked about your horses, did we?
James Gribben: [02:17:30] No.
Mason Funk: Honestly I think we are running out of time.
Amy Bench: It's just too much, yeah that might be a whole new chapter.
Mason Funk: That's a whole new chapter.
Amy Bench: Okay, I think I'm in.
James Gribben: That would be a whole new chapter.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you, I have four final questions that I ask every single interviewee and these are intended to be like really short and simple answers. The first one is, if someone comes to you, any person young or old and says that they are thinking about coming out. What little nugget of encouragement of advice would you give that person?
James Gribben: [02:18:00] The same thing my mother gave me. You respect yourself, you respect your neighbors and you respect the people you're with.
Mason Funk: Okay, but your mother had two more pieces as well. I remember there were five fingers.
James Gribben: Well, that's because I can't count. No, but there is only three that she's ever used with me.
Mason Funk: Okay, what is your hope when you look to the future? Where do you find hope in the future? What is your hope for the future?
James Gribben: [02:18:30] My hope in the future that there is more understanding of everybody with other people. And knowledge is a great thing. If you need an answer, ask the question by doing it in the right manner, don't do it as an insult. Do it as a friend looking for a friend.
Mason Funk: [02:19:00] Why is it important to you to tell your story?
James Gribben: Because I wish that I had had this type of outlet when I was going with the conflicts of growing up with society and the neighbors because I didn't have anything like this. Everybody needs a teaching tool and this is a teaching tool.
Mason Funk: [02:19:30] Related to that question, what is the value of a project like OUTWORDS?
James Gribben: OUTWORDS to me it's like taking a book and opening it up and say, Oh this is history and this is what's happened. How can I add to it or how can I take something away from it that would be helpful not only to me but to somebody else.
Mason Funk: [02:20:00] Great. All right, that's it I think we're done.
Amy Bench: Yeah, that was great.
Mason Funk: Fantastic, you gave us so

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Amy Bench
Date: June 05, 2017
Location: Home of Jim Gribben, Gun Barrel City, TX