Jim Vegher was born in 1939 in San Pedro, California, the second oldest in a family of eight kids. Jim’s devoutly Catholic father was thrilled when Jim entered a Catholic seminary in ninth grade. When Jim quit the seminary two years later, his dad was devastated. Jim’s sense of self-worth cratered. A few years later, his mother suffered a nervous breakdown. The family splintered. It was a rough beginning to an ultimately lustrous life.
John Grigsby was born in 1947 in Austin, Texas, and grew up largely in the small town of Burnet, about fifty miles away. His family was quintessentially Texan, including a grandfather who was the longest-reigning county sheriff in Texas history and an uncle who was a Texas Ranger. “I probably rode a horse before I could walk,” John says. After fooling around with his best guy friend BJ in high school, Jim married his best girl friend at 19. Graduating college and heading off to medical school at the University of Texas, his path seemed set.
Joining the military brought some order and purpose to Jim’s life. From there, he graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, got a job, dated a nurse, and eventually moved in with her. At age 32, Jim saw a guy on the beach. The guy saw Jim, too. Drinks ensued, and Jim soon experienced his first kiss with a man. “At that moment, the thing I’d been yearning for my whole life came true for me.”
After four years of marriage, John’s wife left him. Soon after, a friend took him to a gay country western dance bar outside San Antonio. John saw 300 guys in cowboy boots and hats dancing with each other, and never looked back. After medical school, he fled Texas and ended up in San Francisco. One night, he threw a birthday party for a friend. Hordes of people showed up, including Jim, who was visiting with his then-boyfriend. Although sparks flew, it still took three years for Jim and John to get together. They’ve been with each other ever since—46 years at the time of their interview.
Both Jim and John had impressive careers. Jim worked for a Fortune 500 company before starting his own medical management and software company. John served as Chief of Emergency Services at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Together, they started a joint venture with Good Samaritan to open up several urgent care centers. Along the way, they took heat from their gay friends for steadfastly refusing to be closeted, no matter the circumstances. “We never shied away from, ‘Are you two brothers?’ ‘Are you two friends?’”, Jim says. “‘No, we're a couple.’ Period.”
The turning point on Jim and John’s activism took place in 1988. Oregon’s religious right had organized a successful referendum to overturn the governor’s anti-discrimination executive order. A year later, Jim and John launched the Equity Foundation, a multi-million dollar endowment that helped fund countless organizations working across Oregon in support of diversity and inclusion—and against everything that the religious right stood for. Not stopping there, Jim and John bought a rundown mansion in Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood, renovated it top to bottom, and opened it up to countless charitable causes and events—38 functions with more than 8,000 guests during the five years they lived there.
In 2016, after 27 years, the Equity Foundation merged with a larger regional organization called the Pride Foundation, with the shared goal of creating a more fair and equitable world for all.
Over the years, like virtually every successful couple, Jim and John have had to work out their differences. “What always helped us,” John says, “is we were each other's mutual admiration society.” “I wanted to be like John,” Jim says, to which John replies, “and I wanted to be like you.”
Towards the end of their OUTWORDS interview, Jim and John recited their favorite quote from the poet Robert Browning: “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.”
Andrew Lush: [00:00:00] On the computer, blank on your screen here. And I'm going to turn my microphone and camera off, but I am here. If anything comes up.
Jim Vegher: Okay
Mason Funk: In Andrew we trust.
Jim Vegher: Thank you, Andrew. It's been a pleasure.
Andrew Lush: Thank you.
Mason Funk: All right. Well I hope you guys are excited to be sharing your story.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] I know we are extremely honored and excited to have you share your story with OUTWORDS. And we hope through the channel of OUTWORDS that it will, first of all, we're going to just have your story recorded for posterity. And second of all, we hope it's going to provide different types of inspiration and enlightenment and understanding to a wide variety of people. To get started, we'd like to just have you state and spell your first names. So Jim, why don't we start with you?
Jim Vegher: [00:01:00] Jim J-I-M Vegher that's V-E-G-H-E-R.
Mason Funk: Great. And John?
John Grigsby: John Grigsby, J-O-H-N G-R-I-G-S-B-Y
Mason Funk: Okie dokie. And now [inaudible] again. And Jim, if you could state where you were born at the date of your birth.
Jim Vegher: I was born in San Pedro, California, and the date of my birth was July 6, 1939.
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] Alright. And John?
John Grigsby: I was born in Austin, Texas, July 19th, 1947.
Mason Funk: Okie dokie. So I watched with great interest, and by the way, one thing we've been noticing, and I'm going to try to kind of modulate my voice as well, we've been noticing when we do recordings with people on zoom, there's a natural tendency to sort of speak louder
Mason Funk: [00:02:00] because it's this weird technology and we're all getting used to it. So I'm going to try to just kind of talk as if you were in the room and to the degree that you could just, maybe my lowering my voice will help you. Let's imagine we're in the same room. We're not talking across 1500 miles or whatever, cause it can sometimes feel like, you know, because of the distance. So I watched with a lot of pleasure and enjoyment, the pre-interview you did with Ray last week,
Mason Funk: [00:02:30] the prep interview, and I read your questionnaire. And it hammered on your love story, the fact that you've been together as long as you have. Longevity is only one thing, but quality counts as much as quantity, and it sounds like you found a way to build a really substantive relationship and a relationship that continues to grow and evolve over these many years. So, kudos to you both.
Mason Funk: [00:03:00] And we're definitely going to hear a lot about that. And, I want us to start with some early life stuff from each one of you. So, I'm going to start with Jim, but John, you know this story, probably, pretty well. Feel free to prompt Jim, to remind him of anything he might be gliding over too fast. Tell him about that thing. And the same will go with when we're talking to you. I don't want you to feel like you have to just sit there like a statue. But Jim, give us a little overview.
Mason Funk: [00:03:30] Some of these questions you will have already answered, but we'll just make sure we get into the formal interview. Give us a little overview of your childhood, your family, your parents, what they were like as people. And maybe up to the time you went to the seminary.
Jim Vegher: I was the second oldest, the first male in a family of eight children, four boys and four girls.
Jim Vegher: [00:04:00] We were a very devout Catholic family. My dad went to mass and communion every morning at 6:30 before he went to work. We had a grotto in the backyard dedicated to Lady of Lourdes when she appeared to St. Bernadette. So my dad built a grotto. So it was a really deep, very Catholic family, very religious.
Jim Vegher: [00:04:30] We all went to Catholic school. My mother had eight children in 13 years, the first five came before one of the oldest was five. So we were all close together. So it was kind of bedlam. I went into the seminary right after the eighth grade and spent over a year, probably less than two years,
Jim Vegher: [00:05:00] but over a year, and then I left because it was a boarding school, it didn't feel right to me. So, I left and came back and I went back to my Catholic school. Well, when I came back it was all over that I'd been in the seminary. So I was this Holy person that was kind of separated from the rest of my classmates, socially. I had to work to regain my place in high school.
Jim Vegher: [00:05:30] I didn't play sports, so I was kind of invisible, probably, in high school. My father and his two brothers owned a grocery store, so at the age of 10, because there were so many kids at home, I went down to the store, even when I was in elementary school, as a way of babysitting, so I wouldn't add to the congestion at home. That perpetuated itself all through high school and everything.
Jim Vegher: [00:06:00] So I never went home after school, either in elementary school or high school. I went down and worked with my dad and came home when he came home. Which didnt do a lot for our relationship, especially as I got to be a teenager, because instead of being at home I was down there working with my dad and it was kind of rough.
Mason Funk: Ill interrupt you occasionally. You described your dad as devoutly Catholic and very, very strict, for lack of a better word.
Mason Funk: [00:06:30] I wondered, when you went to the seminary, I imagine that must've been like a point of pride for your father, and then when you left, I would imagine it might've been the opposite. Is any of that true?
Jim Vegher: Great observation. My father didn't give us a lot of attention, so I went to the seminary because I knew it would please him. And when I didn't like it and came home,
Jim Vegher: [00:07:00] yes, there was a definite break in our relationship. I had a brother, he was the fifth child who was incredibly good looking, he was the athlete of the family. My dad was a college quarterback, he was a quarterback high school football star. That brother became his favorite and the rest of us just kind of didn't get too much attention.
Jim Vegher: [00:07:30] My father was first-generation Austrian, my grandparents were immigrants from Austria, and so there was that Austrian militarism and he was very much like that. He was very strict and very rigid about things. And my mother was Irish. About 1955, my mother had a nervous breakdown, and the family disintegrated from that point on.
Jim Vegher: [00:08:00] The family became very dysfunctional, and we all suffered during that period. I was still in high school and the younger ones really suffered more than I. When I graduated from high school, I moved out of the house. RightI think within that week after I graduated. Got my own apartment, because I had been working all the time at my father's store and got paid
Jim Vegher: [00:08:30] because it was a union store, so when I turned 16, I was a union member and got union wages. So, I was able to afford my own apartment at that point. Then I joined the army. I was up for, you know, the draft was kind of during those days and I didn't like the idea of being drafted, so I joined the army, and that was the beginning of my life. That changed everything.
Mason Funk: [00:09:00] Let me have you pause right there, because that's a great pausing point. And now lets switch over to John. And John, could you kind of paint me a picture of roughly the same years in your life, say roughly from when you're born, you're a very interesting family, your father being a long-term serving sheriff, possibly the longest serving in the country, or at least Texas, and up to the time when you went off to college.
John Grigsby: Sure. I was born in 1947. I'm the oldest of three.
John Grigsby: [00:09:30] My parents were middle-class, actually, my father was in sales. Most of my time in childhood, because I was the oldest, I gravitated to a little town called Burnet, B U R N E T, Texas. It's about 50 miles Northwest of Austin. And that's where my grandparents lived, my aunts and uncles and so forth. And so I had the whole clan to myself and it was my grandfather who was the longest living sheriff in Texas history, maybe in the United States history.
Jim Vegher: [00:10:00] County sheriff
John Grigsby: He was a County sheriff of Burnett County, which is a pretty big County. I had another uncle who actually was a Texas ranger. So I had a lot of macho influences in my early childhood. I probably wrote a horse before I could walk. This is a very small town and well-recognized in terms of the family.
John Grigsby: [00:10:30] The interesting upbringing there was the jailhouse, the County jailhouse was on a square. And the living quarters of my grandparents is in the same building with the jail. So literally there's a pull-down slot in the living room that would allow you to push treys through to the prisoners because they had one quarter of the building.
Jim Vegher: Your grandmother
John Grigsby: [00:11:00] And my grandmother did all the cooking, did all the washing of the sheets and so forth for the prisoners, did all that stuff. And I helped her. But I spent a great deal of time up there with them. And I think I learned a lot of values from them in terms of work ethic and so forth. Like I said, I had a brother who's four years younger and a sister four years younger than him, so I was the oldest. Pretty much a good student, kinda on the nerdy side. I had more family or neighborhood girlfriends than boyfriends like Jim,
John Grigsby: [00:11:30] I did not play sports. My father didn't expect it. He didn't do that much sports either. He was pretty busy in the real estate business and that's probably why I got our love for houses and moving around. But it was just a neighborhood there in Austin, Texas.
John Grigsby: [00:12:00] And my best friend was Judy who lived around the corner and we still correspond today. My next best friend ended up being my wife. She was my childhood sweetheart actually all through high school. And I stayed again pretty much an introvert and did not do a whole lot in high school. High school was not that great,
John Grigsby: [00:12:30] but I was a good student. My father valued education very much, as did my mother. He only had a year of college. My mother went to business school, so he valued education. They prompted all of us to do better. And then I [crosstalk]. I'm sorry.
Mason Funk: When you say the high school was not that great. What do you mean by that?
John Grigsby: Well, it was a large high school. I think we had three or four hundred in the high school.
Jim Vegher: [00:13:00] [inaudible] 4,000
John Grigsby: No, no, no. And there were different clicks, if you would. And again, we were probably in the lower echelon in terms of socialization, in high school. But, like I said, I was pretty studious. I just didn't fit in with a lot of the main crowd. Again, Texas is Texas, it's football, football, football, and that was not my thing.
Mason Funk: [00:13:30] [inaudible]
John Grigsby: Yeah. So I never quite fit into that whole part.
Jim Vegher: So you made all A's.
John Grigsby: So I studied and got into the University of Texas instead. Actually, it was at UT that I had my first male friends of any sort, because I joined a fraternity in my first year, and I had like-kind of males, in terms of studious people.
John Grigsby: [00:14:00] There was a mix of jocks, but for the most part, people were there to learn. And we had a lot more in, more in common, I would say. And I enjoyed, very much, the first few years of college.
Mason Funk: You mentioned in your prep interview that when you eventually came out, it was your buddy from high school
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] who was like your kind of guy [inaudible] and that you can float around on some level in high school.
John Grigsby: Correct.
Mason Funk: Tell us a bit about that. What I'm really curious about is kind of what you did within your mind, what you did with that experience after it happened, how you sort of organized it in the catalog?
John Grigsby: BJ was his name, actually, his initials for his name, that he was called by BJ. He and I were the same age. Actually, his father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force and lived in San Antonio.
John Grigsby: [00:15:00] We met through a mutual friend, neighborhood friend, older, probably about three or four years older than we were. And he's actually the first person we had any gay experiences with. At the time we were, I'm going to say age 14, 15, somewhere in there. BJ and I got together, again, at the same age,
John Grigsby: [00:15:30] and essentially fooled around as we will say it. But it was just something that we thought was, later on, a phase we were going through. Partly, I started then dating in high school. And again, I ended up getting married at age 19, into my first year of college. And part of that was first, we we'd been going together for three or four years, but I thought,
John Grigsby: [00:16:00] whatever the thoughts I had of being gay, and I didn't know that word at all, I knew there was something off of what other males were talking about in terms of getting all excited about girls and so forth. I thought marriage might be the cure-all, because in those days, most of us didn't have sex before marriage. Certainly not with the person we were going to marry. So essentially my wife and I were both virgins at 19.
John Grigsby: [00:16:30] but the fireworks didn't quite go off the way they were supposed to be described. It was okay, and we were married for four years. But I had just buried the early relationships and had written them off as, Oh, puberty, going through experimenting. There's no way I could be gay. And in those days it wasn't gay. There was no way you could be queer.
Jim Vegher: [00:17:00] In Texas.
John Grigsby: In Texas, in particular. There were no positive role models. I can't tell you that I knew anyone who was gay at the time. Like I said, we just passed it off as young males fooling around because we hadn't discovered girls yet. And as soon as we found girls, then everything would be okay, as normally as it should be. Didn't quite work out that way.
Mason Funk: [00:17:30] Apart from you and BJ, were other boys kind of doing similar stuff and just sort of writing it off? Or did you feel like you were the only one?
John Grigsby: I pretty much felt like I was the only one. My only experiences were with the neighborhood older boy and with BJ.
John Grigsby: [00:18:00] And again, that was pretty infrequent. He lived in a whole different city, so we didn't see much of each other or get together much. There's no other outside experiences at all. Then again, I got married, started dating Sue in high school and stayed there, in terms of just getting married early.
Mason Funk: [00:18:30] Yeah. Just so you guys know, I'm having some interference [inaudible] I just have to reassure myself, everything is recording smoothly, even though I'm getting [inaudible] stagger. Andrew's just texting me, definitely the recording is still smooth, which is the whole idea. That's why we do these [inaudible] so that we're not relying on Zoom to record the actual interview. Okay, cool.
Mason Funk: [00:19:00] Well, thanks for sharing that. I'm going to switch back to Jim, tell us about you. Describe the army as kind of blossoming for you. Can you just paint us a picture of those years and what they meant to you?
Jim Vegher: I'm sorry, I didn't get your question or ...
Mason Funk: [00:19:30] Okay. Sorry. That's probably [inaudible] just paint us a picture of your years in the army, where you served and [inaudible]
Jim Vegher: Okay. You're breaking up just a little bit on this too.
Mason Funk: Hey, Andrew, I think it might be worth pausing the recording and you could be going [inaudible] well jump in back on again.
Andrew Lush: Okay. You got it.
Mason Funk: So I'm going to leave, gentlemen, excuse me. Im just going to leave and come back, sometimes that's the magic that enables a smoother connection. [inaudible]
Andrew Lush: [00:20:00] Here they go and turn myself off.
Mason Funk: Okay. Thanks Andrew. Alrighty. It's kind of good that it happened actually, when I was asking a question, cause I could just rephrase the question and we can keep going. Which was, Jim, about your years in the army and how that represented a kind of a blossoming for you. So let's talk about that.
Jim Vegher: [00:20:30] Having worked with my father all the time, I thought that's all I could do, was working in a grocery store. Because he wasn't the type to tell me I could go to college or I could be anything I wanted to. So I thought that was all I was capable of. I got into the military. So the first thing that happened is I was thrown in with a bunch of men, and for some reason there were no cliques, because I got transferred, I had to go to school for a year.
Jim Vegher: [00:21:00] I was in army intelligence and I enlisted to get that specifically. And as long as I was able to stay in their school. So I went to school for a year in Massachusetts, my first year, to learn what I needed to learn. But I had so many friends for the first time in my life and I didn't have to work at it. That was the first thing. Probably the second thing was getting acknowledged for doing a job well. I'd never gotten acknowledged before, so that was new.
Jim Vegher: [00:21:30] And then I thrived. I thrived both socially, intellectually. I got a letter of commendation. I requested a transfer overseas and I was stationed in Turkey on the North coast of Turkey, right on the black sea. It was confidential, so I can't tell you what I was doing, but it was the most fascinating work I'd ever even imagined myself in, and I excelled at it.
Jim Vegher: [00:22:00] That changed my whole thought process about my capabilities. And I realized after I got out, the entire four years was just ... I didn't want to leave. I almost made it a career. But I thought, I traveled the world, and I was able to go to Europe after that. I said, There's too many options out there, I need to go to college. And so that's what I did when I got out. I went to night school; I went back to work and went to night school at a community college, and I transferred to the University of California.
Jim Vegher: [00:22:30] And so thats the impact that the military had on me. It changed my life completely from a person who thought he had no choices to someone that this whole world offered me choices. It was pretty profound.
Mason Funk: Did that result later on, I'm curious ... Well, first of all, I would assume that when you're in the army, this is obviously pre the era when anybody would talk about being gay,
Mason Funk: [00:23:00] you know, long before Don't Ask, Don't Tell when it was just completely, absolutely forbidden. Did your own awareness of your own sexuality evolve in any way while you were in the army?
Jim Vegher: Interesting question. No, not sexually. I developed big crushes, but I kept it for myself. And I had crushes of some of the ...
John Grigsby: Bromance.
Jim Vegher: [00:23:30] A bromance. John, that was great. I just thought that's what it was. And it was usually the good-looking, popular ones who were nice to me. And so it was that kind of a thing. I felt accepted and these were the people that I was kind of attracted to, but it didn't manifest itself. I never did have a sexual relationship with a man prior to when I came out. And that took quite a while.
Mason Funk: [00:24:00] Yeah. But you were definitely, it sounds like, from your strict upbringings, from never really pleasing your dad, you were just thirsty, it sounds like, for this kind of male bondings [crosstalk]
Jim Vegher: Thats a great way to describe it because yeah, it was such a departure from what I was accustomed to and who I thought I was.
Jim Vegher: [00:24:30] I learned that I had more capabilities than I even thought. It was really limitless because it seemed like everything I did, I did fine. I did well with it. My dad, one thing he did, he taught me to work hard and to never give up. And so, no matter what I did, I put everything I had into it. And so that was one of the things, but it was so funny you say that because so many of the people that I served with were drafted, and these were college graduates and they just hated it.
Jim Vegher: [00:25:00] And I said, What do you hate? This is the best life I've ever had. There was that disparity between people who I would say had a more normal upbringing than to myself. And I thought I'd died and gone to heaven really, because it was great.
Mason Funk: Yeah. All right. Thank you for that. Thank you for all of it, thank you for details. John, lets come back over to you for a minute. So you got to UT and your fraternity.
Mason Funk: [00:25:30] Interestingly it sounded like it kind of served, I don't know if you guys have ever done this kind of comparing and contrasting, but it sounds like your fraternity served [inaudible]
John Grigsby: Very much some of the same as Jim's experience in the service. It's very much a bonding as fraternities are. And again, in fact, two of my fraternity brothers actually went to medical school with me. So three of us actually went to the same medical school from there.
John Grigsby: [00:26:00] But essentially, like I said, I was married through my sophomore, junior and senior year of undergraduate. So it was studying hard to get into medical school. But still had some fun with the fraternity. And we would still go to parties and our best friends were fraternity brothers and their wives or girlfriends. Again, a lot of people got married early in those days, and unfortunately, most of them ended up divorced because you outgrow each other.
John Grigsby: [00:26:30] But we had a very good set of friends that I kept lifelong actually. So that worked very well. Like Jim, my father very much influenced me in terms of work ethic and because he was in real estate, he had construction friends. I think my first job was probably about 10 or 12 and first of all, at a gas station, flipping hamburgers,
John Grigsby: [00:27:00] but then they put me on the construction trades. Like Jim, every summer, while everybody else was going into the swimming hole and playing, I was working, but it was one of the common value systems that Jim and I had, which was a strong work ethic and don't fail and don't complain and just get it done. It served us well. Both of us, I think,
Mason Funk: What made you want to go to medical school?
John Grigsby: [00:27:30] I really don't know. But the joke in the family is I was never taken to a doctor, so I went on to become one. You just didn't go to the doctor in those days very easily. It was before people had insurance and of course healthcare wasn't as expensive as it is now, but I had a need for probably taking care of people,
John Grigsby: [00:28:00] some about fixing people. I'm sort of a ... Both of us are pretty much controllers and fixers. And we certainly have that role in our families, were both eldest sons, both of our fathers died young. My father died at 42 and so we had widowed mothers for a very long time, and were sort of probably surrogate husbands for a while, but we took over the patriarch role. And then when our mothers died,
John Grigsby: [00:28:30] we took over the matriarch role for both of our families. We have like five nephews between the two sides and they've only known us as a gay couple. And it's our relationship that our mothers put up against the siblings.
Jim Vegher: Back to the medical school.
John Grigsby: But back to medical school, it was just ...
Mason Funk: Sorry [crosstalk] more about that? What you said about the relationship with your mothers put up against the siblings.
John Grigsby: [00:29:00] We had a great relationship from day one, Jim and I did. And as our siblings would struggle with some of their relationships, we were the stable ones and it was sorta like, Well, Jim and John do this, or Jim and John
Jim Vegher: If you could only have a relationship like John and Jim.
John Grigsby: Yeah. So we were sort of put up there as the beacon of
Jim Vegher: What to achieve.
John Grigsby: [00:29:30] What you can achieve in a relationship. Which was nice, I'm not sure our siblings enjoyed it, but it worked for us so far. But then ...
Mason Funk: Over to Jim real quick.
John Grigsby: Yeah, sure.
Mason Funk: I feel like I might forget, and I don't want to go down any paths that are uncomfortable or your difficult memories. But when you said your mom had a nervous breakdown and the family kind of disintegrated, but your father then passed away I'm gathering pretty young.
Jim Vegher: [00:30:00] Well, he actually was 62.
Mason Funk: Okay
John Grigsby: Which is young.
Jim Vegher: Which is kinda young. And he died of leukemia and I didn't have a good relationship with my father and none of us did, we all scattered as soon as we were old enough. A couple of the girls stayed home to take care of them. Four, out of the eight, were scarred beyond repair, and four made it.
Jim Vegher: [00:30:30] Four had alcohol/drug problems and depression issues, and four of us made it. During the bad times, my mother relied upon me. I became her husband basically because she and my dad were just, they couldn't get along. He was rigid and he thought she was in a bad mood all the time.
Jim Vegher: [00:31:00] Couldn't understand why. Well she had a real depression. She had electroshock treatments, all that kind of stuff, and he just didn't understand it all. So he wasn't empathetic with her at all. So she gravitated toward me, her oldest son who didn't know he was gay, but I think I must have had the qualities that -- if you want to a have stereotype, gay men tend to be able to be more empathetic,
Jim Vegher: [00:31:30] with especially their mothers, I think you find a lot of that, and I was. But I also had a lot of resentment toward it because I was in high school and I needed her and she needed me. And so we had some problems during that time and, and because our home life was so horrible, I wouldnt even go into that. I had a lot of resentments that I had to work out with professional help to be able to love her again.
Jim Vegher: [00:32:00] And so I did work specifically around her before she died. I said, I need to get over this. And I did. That was really bad times. I had a younger sister that also had a nervous breakdown in high school, with shock treatments and the whole work in high school. John and I are still taking care of her today in some respects. She's a daughter we wanted to ...
Jim Vegher: [00:32:30] Because she's one of these people that we admire highly. So I wouldn't even need to go into that, but that's a whole story unto itself. She's coming to Oregon and moving up here from California cause she wants to be close to us. And we're thrilled. So, that came out of that whole family dynamic where I was, and I still am the father figure.
Jim Vegher: [00:33:00] My sisters were my best friends, my three younger sisters, I had an older sister that was divorced from the family, but my three younger sisters were always my best friends and they still are. And so we are really still very close.
Mason Funk: Great. All right. Thank you for those details. It does sound like a very complicated family history, but I appreciate your sharing. So yeah. Yeah. So let me check my notes. Pretty soon,
Mason Funk: [00:33:30] I mean, I know we're not covering everything and it seems like if I can't cover everything that Ray covered in one hour, in two hours, I started thinking what's wrong with me, but I like kind of going deep down some, the rabbit holes and we're going to get to your relationship pretty soon here. What I want to find out is you at a certain point, you both came out to yourself and eventually your families.
Mason Funk: [00:34:00] And you know, John, you came from this very Texas culture, your father passed away before you ever came out to him.
John Grigsby: Correct.
Mason Funk: So what was it like in the years when you subsequently eventually came out to your mom, your siblings, your community, you kind of imply that you sort of had to leave Texas to build up a new life.
John Grigsby: Yes, that's correct.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
John Grigsby: What started it, it gets back to BJ, my friend. When I got divorced, well, it was a tumultuous first year of medical school.
Jim Vegher: [00:34:30] You were divorced in medical.
John Grigsby: Well, my father died dancing to Auld Lang Syne with my mother on ...
Jim Vegher: New Year's Eve
John Grigsby: On New Years Eve, which was two weeks right before my first set of final exams in anatomy.
John Grigsby: [00:35:00] Shortly thereafter -- in that same six-month period after my father died and I had to get through the exams, right before the next set of exams -- my wife asked me for a divorce. Which was June to June, the first year of medical school. Well, after that BJ knew I'd gotten divorced and he said, Maybe you need to look at a different lifestyle and so forth.
John Grigsby: [00:35:30] Let me show you what I found in the last year. Because I went to medical school, he went off somewhere else and I said, Okay. And again, I had no relationships while I was married, at all, it just never occurred to me. I went to San Antonio and actually BJ set up a double date. And we went to a ...
Jim Vegher: With a guy.
John Grigsby: With a guy and a friend of the guy he was dating.
Jim Vegher: [00:36:00] BJ had already come out
John Grigsby: BJ had been out for a year or two. Probably about two years, out to his mother, I think and some others. But he had found gay life in San Antonio, Texas, which none of us knew existed. So he took me to that, I guess it was June or July of that year, to my first gay bar, which was a country Western dance bar way outside of San Antonio.
John Grigsby: [00:36:30] And you walk in, and there's 300 guys in cowboy boots and hats and the whole bit dancing with each other. Just the most mind blowing thing I'd ever had. Because up until that, I thought something was just wrong with me. There was no positive role models and nobody possibly could be gay. So it was different,
John Grigsby: [00:37:00] and that sorta started it. I went home with that guy, and that was the first gay experience I had since I was kind of in my early, early teenage years. And his name was Pat and as Jim will say, it wasn't the sex that was the thing, it was the first male kiss. It was the first time to feel that emotion that everybody really talked about in the heterosexual world,
John Grigsby: [00:37:30] that it finally came to fruition. And yes, it was the fireworks. You finally understood there was something definitely there, and still wrong by cultural standards. And so I stayed pretty closeted all through medical school. But I did come out to my mother,
John Grigsby: [00:38:00] first my brother, who was kind of a hippie and anything anybody wanted to do was just fine with him. So he was fully accepting and I sorta tested him out. But I was really depressed there for a while, when I did come out to my mother. I just did not want to be, I still didn't want to be gay at that point. And she accepted very well.
John Grigsby: [00:38:30] Like all mothers, I think they say, well, is it a phase? Or whatever. But she knew before I knew that was what was interesting. She even asked my ex-wife if I were gay, before I knew I was a gay. Which says something, but I always say, mothers know whether they want to admit they know or not, I think they figure it out, particularly this day and age. But after coming out to her, it was like -- in Texas, particularly with her family --
John Grigsby: [00:39:00] go live your life, but don't discuss it. And again, I wasn't there very often, I was in medical school. The last two years of medical school, you do your clinical years, and you're allowed to go virtually anywhere. Well, I hightailed it out of Texas. I went to the East coast and the West coast, about several months. So I ended up in Boston doing some rotations at Harvard. And then I ended up in San Francisco and fell in love with San Francisco.
John Grigsby: [00:39:30] Of course, there was a big gay life in both places, and there was no turning back at that point. Everyone in those days could not stay and be gay in the middle of the United States. Everybody went to the East coast to the West coast, to the big cities. Sodomy laws were still on the books in Texas and marijuana was a 30-year felony. And I mean, it was pretty gruesome in Texas in those days.
Mason Funk: [00:40:00] Do you remember like anybody from those days who did stay in, you know, maybe migrated to Houston or Dallas, but kind of stayed close to home and that just made their way?
John Grigsby: Again, I didn't know very many gay people. BJ left, I think he ultimately returned to Dallas. But no, I think everybody left and really saw that there was a much bigger, better world than there was in Texas.
John Grigsby: [00:40:30] Most Texans never leave Texas. That's where they stay. If I hadn't been gay, probably I would still be in Texas too, but as Jim saw the world, I saw the world -- at least in the United States, and saw what I could. And ultimately I did my internship in San Francisco and then my residency down in LA. So I became a West coast guy.
Mason Funk: [00:41:00] Yeah. Let me interrupt you because I want to have you just tell us the story of that first kiss. In as much detail, like, literally spare us no detail.
John Grigsby: Those are questions you should ask Jim. He is much better at verbalizing those kinds of emotional pieces and personal pieces. Remember I'm the introvert in the family. And I only share what I share when I'm comfortable.
Jim Vegher: And I tell people things they don't even want to know.
John Grigsby: [00:41:30] But all I can describe is that, like I said, it was the early fooling around and early teenage sex was just sex, but it was the romance, it was the kiss, it was the caress. It was all the things that people told you about that happens with love. That was the first experience. And then I would have been
John Grigsby: [00:42:00] about 23, I guess, 22, 23, somewhere in there. And it was quite the experience because of that.
Mason Funk: Was it on the floor or was it in the car.
John Grigsby: Actually it was back in his apartment. Yeah. We danced the night away with everybody. And again, we had double dated and then he asked me to come home with him and I did. And that was the first kiss.
Mason Funk: [00:42:30] Great. All right. I'll let you off the hot seat now, for a minute.
Jim Vegher: Lets see. Yeah, yeah, hes sweating.
Mason Funk: So Jim, first of all, Andrew sent me a note, I think occasionally you're looking over towards the webcam, Jim. If you could just try to assiduously avoid the webcam.
Jim Vegher: Got it. I will really work on it.
Mason Funk: Thank you. So take us up to your first kiss.
Mason Funk: [00:43:00] It would happen at 32. I know you were going to have to give some details along the way, but set the stage for us, where were you at that time, living? How did this first kiss come about and what happened?
Jim Vegher: I was living in Santa Barbara. I went to University of California at Santa Barbara. I had to work full time. I had my GI bill, but I had to work full-time. And so when I got out, I stayed on with them.
Jim Vegher: [00:43:30] I opened up one of their new stores as assistant manager, one of their brand new stores. It was in a small beach town, just about five miles South of Santa Barbara. And this guy was coming in all the time, asking for the manager and ... I'm going to back up just a little bit. I was living with a nurse at that point because I'd never had an experience.
Jim Vegher: [00:44:00] And I didn't have an option. I was still a devout Catholic at that point, and there was no option. I was either getting married or stay single the rest of your life, and that was it. So I was trying to make this work. So, I started dating this nurse and then I moved in with her. And this guy kept coming in and Id seen him on the beach. I was kind of a beach person too those days. I'd seen this guy and he was very attractive. Well, he came in and he started talking and we started being friends at my work.
Jim Vegher: [00:44:30] He invited me over to his house for a drink after work. And I tried to get out of it and [inaudible]. One night, I said, okay. And so I went over to his house and we had a drink and two drinks, and he put his hand on my knee and he started taking my clothes off and I tried to stop him. And I said, No. But then he
Jim Vegher: [00:45:00] It's a little fuzzy, but anyway, he asked me to spend the night and I did. And it was the same thing with me. It was the kiss that changed the whole dynamic for me. For the first time in my life it was all the bells and whistles. I felt down deep in my soul. That thing I'd been yearning for all my life, that feeling that everybody else said they felt,
Jim Vegher: [00:45:30] the same thing that songs were written about that I didn't think was true, it came true for me. I had this overwhelming feeling of being madly in love from that point on. It was something I will never forget as long as I live. It was just that rapid, I spent the night and that was it. I was out the next day, I wasn't in the closet. I didn't question it. That was the answer to everything.
Jim Vegher: [00:46:00] Nothing fit right before that, and so I made up this persona where people would like me. So I was this happy go lucky, kind of a guy, and I was going to do my best to get through this life. But I didn't understand how the world works. I felt outside the world because nothing felt natural to me. After that night, that was it. I mean, I was just out, I told my sister the next morning, and I just knew that was the answer to everything from that moment on,
Jim Vegher: [00:46:30] I knew exactly how I fit in the world. It all came into place that rapidly, but I was 32 and I've been searching like crazy. So we stayed together three years.
Mason Funk: What happened? What happened to your devout Catholicism?
Jim Vegher: I became an agnostic. That took me a while, I had to work on that, but I had to get rid of it.
Jim Vegher: [00:47:00] I had to just divorce myself from the church. And I think what happened to me, I was able to look at the church and my devout Catholicism standing outside the church, looking at it from the outside in, because when I was immersed in it, I was immersed in the indoctrination from kindergarten all the way through high school in the seminary. And I believed it, I believed it to be true. Once I stepped outside and looked into it,
Jim Vegher: [00:47:30] I saw all these cracks that didn't make sense to me. I just said, I have to give this up. And so I'm now an agnostic, probably boarding a little on atheism. I don't know whether there's a God or not, and it really doesn't matter to me. I think I fulfilled what I was supposed to be, and it's so interesting because I embraced it,
Jim Vegher: [00:48:00] within 24 hours, I embraced my homosexuality, so I didn't have any coming out thing that a lot of people have. I waited too long.
Mason Funk: I waited a long time also. I'm curious, after you sort of said goodbye to the church and let go of it almost overnight, was there any part of it that you ever missed? Was there any part where it's like, Oh, I did enjoy that one part, you know, whether it was singing songs?
Jim Vegher: [00:48:30] Yes, yes. The music. I was an altar boy, clear up through high school. I served at weddings. I love the idea of weddings. I love the idea of getting married and I didn't see marriage in my sight because it wasn't even talked about in those days. This was 1970 something, but early 70s, so I missed that. I missed the pageantry. I sang in the choir and I love the music.
Jim Vegher: [00:49:00] And so it was those things that I still miss today. But I don't miss, I do not miss any of the dogma or any of that, because I don't think that makes you a good person. I think I'm a better person now than I could have ever been had I stayed in the church and not acted on my homosexuality.
Mason Funk: Great. Okay.
Mason Funk: [00:49:30] So essentially you both ended up in San Francisco we're to kind of skip over a few years to get you into this birthday party, that if I remember correctly, BJ was throwing for somebody?
John Grigsby: Actually, I was throwing the party for BJ. It was his birthday. He was living in Sacramento.
Mason Funk: Hold on one sec here. So this story, you guys can just tell interrupting each other, feel free. Let me just ask, how did you meet and be sure to give me ...
Jim Vegher: [00:50:00] Do you want Johns story or my story?
John Grigsby: Mine's the truth and is only one minute, his is five minutes and its embellished. So I'll start out. Actually, I was throwing a birthday party for BJ. He came in from Sacramento and I told him to invite whoever he wanted to invite to come to the party because I didn't know that many people. I was with the guy at that time, we had an apartment overlooking ...
Jim Vegher: [00:50:30] Delores.
John Grigsby: Delores Park in the Castro area. San Francisco was wonderful in the seventies. And so I threw the birthday party, and BJ did come and he invited an entourage. And part of that entourage were these two guys that he knew, and those two guys invited Jim and Ron, his other half at the time, to come to the party.
Jim Vegher: We were visiting.
John Grigsby: [00:51:00] They were visiting the two guys. And so sure, come on. It's a party in my apartment, and we partied. I just actually ended the relationship with Jeff, but Jim was still in a relationship with Ron. And then I'll turn the story over here.
Jim Vegher: Id become a ski bum after I got out of college because I was in the service and I was working, I said, I need a break. So I moved to Lake Tahoe and became a ski bum,
Jim Vegher: [00:51:30] working nights at Safeway in Truckee, it was the town on the Donner summit there, right near Tahoe. Id ski all day. I knew that Ron, the person I was with, that brought me out, this wasn't going to work. I wanted a husband, I really wanted a husband. I knew marriage wasn't there yet, but I wanted somebody for the rest of my life and he played around a lot.
Jim Vegher: [00:52:00] And so I was ready to leave. But having been my first, it was a tough thing to leave. So, I moved up there to kind of get away from him. He came up to visit, we went to San Francisco, we got invited to the party. Well when John opened the door, it was love at first sight.
John Grigsby: That's where it gets a little shaky
Mason Funk: Why do you say that, John?
John Grigsby: Because it took us three years to get together thats why.
Jim Vegher: [00:52:30] No, no, no, no, but he's not telling the rest of the story. Ron was an A-Lister gay. And so he had friends and he didn't want to be ...
John Grigsby: Tied down with you.
Jim Vegher: Tied down with me that weekend. So he went off to play volleyball on the beach somewhere with his friends. So I went up to Lake Temescal, which is a Lake above Oakland there, where it was kind of a gay beach. So I just went up to the beach ...
John Grigsby: By yourself.
Jim Vegher: By myself. And who puts their towel right down next to me was BJ and John.
John Grigsby: [00:53:00] We decided to go to the beach that day too. It was a beautiful day and did the same thing and just looked over there, Oh, you were at the party.
Mason Funk: John, what were your impressions when Jim walked in for the first time.
Jim Vegher: He didn't notice me.
John Grigsby: He was one hot number, what can I say? But he was attached. The party was full of some very nice looking people,
John Grigsby: [00:53:30] and I met them as a couple. Actually, that was just part of it. Most of them were couples to that party. But I did meet Jim that day, and we did chat and so forth. Because I was hosting the party, I didn't have as much time to meet him. So we got to talking. And then I ...
Jim Vegher: [00:54:00] I think the common denominator was we were both working to get out of relationships. And so that there was a commonality there that had possibilities because I knew I had to leave. There was no doubt about it. This would never work for me because we didn't have the same values about relationships.
Mason Funk: Did you commiserate a little bit about the relationships that you were ending?
Jim Vegher: Yes.
John Grigsby: Well, what ended up happening is I made some excuse for going up to Tahoe. I forgot what the excuse was.
Jim Vegher: You had a meeting in Reno.
John Grigsby: [00:54:30] I had a meeting in Reno.
Jim Vegher: Could we go to dinner?
John Grigsby: So could we go to dinner? And we had dinner and that did exactly what you said, we started talking. And then I asked him to spend the night, or he asked me to spend the night, or I assumed I was spending the night, however that happened. But it was, of course, the conversation of the difficulty I was just getting through a relationship where he had cheated on me. And Ron was essentially a man about town,
John Grigsby: [00:55:00] and we started talking about our common value systems, but he also let me know he was still in that relationship. And one of the things, I think, that helped us the most was that through dinner, as we talked about that, I realized he was in a relationship, that was his value system, which was mine. And it was basically hands off. And so there was not going to be any aggressiveness on my part.
John Grigsby: [00:55:30] And there wasn't on his part. So we literally became good friends. I probably wanted a relationship sooner than he did as we started talking, but he also ...
Jim Vegher: I had to get my career started again. I had to basically go down and get my career going before I could get into another relationship.
John Grigsby: And so he moved back to Long Beach and LA area, still seeing Ron, who lived in Santa Barbara.
John Grigsby: [00:56:00] I was still up in San Francisco. I think we did meet a couple of days, but I subsequently ...
Jim Vegher: We stayed in touch.
John Grigsby: We stayed in touch, but didn't see each other much until I moved to LA. There was only five places in the country to do my residency in emergency medicine, and that was one of them. And so I moved to Los Angeles and, of course, he was in Long Beach, and he would stop and see me sometimes, or we would have dinner or whatever periodically.
John Grigsby: [00:56:30] Again, I was a busy resident, so I didn't have a lot of time off. And Jim was with a national company and busy too, and getting out of the relationship.
Jim Vegher: I had gotten out of the relationship shortly after I moved to Los Angeles. I went to work for, as John said, a global company and they transferred me to the Long Beach area. John being in Los Angeles, we were able to date, but didn't have any relationship going. He had his own life at that point. And I had mine.
Mason Funk: [00:57:00] What was it like during those years? Because you mentioned it was basically a few years until you sealed the deal, like what was going on inside of you? I want you both to answer this, when you would spend time with this person, like, what were you, was there room even to contemplate a possible future or were you still buried in your work lives?
John Grigsby: Oh, I think there was room for the relationship. It's just that, from my standpoint I had,
John Grigsby: [00:57:30] when I was in San Francisco, I mean, it was gay Nirvana. I mean, it was just gay, gay, gay, and dating and out. And pretty much a tramp when I was there, as everybody else was. Jim was not. And again, he had been with Ron, as his first and only. And as we started dating a little bit, I was still active,
John Grigsby: [00:58:00] and I was still dating men and women. Up in San Francisco, I had a nurse friend that we dated for a long, long time. I enjoyed the company of women and we would go dancing together and so forth, but then I would see men too. Jim was mainly with Ron. And then as he worked out of that relationship, and again, we were both busy.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] Also this might be after you, well, let me pause for a second. I want to go sideways for a second. John, when I started OUTWORDS, I was committed to interviewing people from every single letter of the LGBTQ community, including the Bs. And as you know, the bisexual community within the LGBT community gets a lot of shame. We did a panel just last week to celebrate bisexuality day. We invited five of our bi-sexual pioneer interviewees
Mason Funk: [00:59:00] onto a panel to talk about the state of the bisexual community. So, I become curious, when you mention that you continue dating women, you know, after you'd already had some substantial relationships with men, would you ever consider yourself bisexual?
John Grigsby: No. I dated women because I enjoyed their company and they were easy. They knew I was gay,
John Grigsby: [00:59:30] I didn't have to pretend. I didn't have to be the male person that they expected. So they were like best girlfriends. I didn't say I never did, but I rarely had sex with a woman after my first gay experience. So, no. It wasn't bisexuality. It was definitely a preference for men, but I enjoyed the company of women. Particularly, I really enjoyed this nurse who I worked with and we would go dancing every Saturday night at the disco
John Grigsby: [01:00:00] and enjoyed each other. But part of that was, again, I had met Jim and I had wanted a relationship. In fact, at one point when I was still living in San Francisco, and before he went back to get his career, I asked him to move in and to get together. And he basically gave me the answer and he said he had to go get his career in shape. He had to end the relationship with Ron
John Grigsby: [01:00:30] the way he wanted to end it. And then we would explore that, and that took a while. And then, like I said, I moved down, we saw each other, but, well, you can tell the story of asking me then.
Jim Vegher: Well there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to end up with John in my life forever. I knew that, and the more I dated him, the more I realized that, that he was what I wanted
Jim Vegher: [01:01:00] and he was perfect. It didn't take me long to end things with Ron, Ron hung on too long. He kind of liked his cake and eat it too. And I had trouble letting go because it was my first and he kept telling me that I would never find anybody else kind of a thing. That same old mind game thing. I moved to Long Beach and John was in Los Angeles.
Jim Vegher: [01:01:30] I proposed to him one time and John said, No. And he said, I've played around, you haven't. You need to play around for a while and make sure this is what you want. So I did, reluctantly. And so I'd go out to the gay bars and go home with people. But I ended up having, cause being a relationship guy,
Jim Vegher: [01:02:00] I had same relationship on Monday nights, same relationship on Tuesday night, same guy on Wednesday night. So I had about five relationships going all at the same time, because one night stands didn't work for me, really. I kind of like relationships. I had all these little mini relationships going. I called John one night. I don't know how long, this didn't take very long, it took about maybe two months. Do you think? I called John and said, Here's what's going on. I don't like it, this is not what I want to do.
Jim Vegher: [01:02:30] And Johnson said, I'll be right down. He got in his car and came down and that was it. And so he wanted to make sure that I got whatever I hadn't done out of my system and to make sure that I wanted what I wanted. And it was [crosstalk] yeah. All that whole courtship and everything was pretty wonderful in itself.
Jim Vegher: [01:03:00] And John's mother played such a strong role. I don't want to change subjects, but we've got to talk about John's mother, just a little segment because she was unbelievable. Can I talk about her now?
Mason Funk: You can both talk about her.
Jim Vegher: Her name was Daisybel Grigsby. That was her baptismal name.
John Grigsby: One word.
Jim Vegher: One word. Daisybel. And she was Dolly Levi of Hello, Dolly. I mean, she was stunning. And when John's dad died, Daisybel just put on her diamonds
Jim Vegher: [01:03:30] and put on her furs and got in her Cadillac, and she went out dancing every night. Daisybel was a type of woman -- clear up until the day she died, she died at 78 -- she walked into a room and it just lit up. I mean, it was her smile, and she was so genuine. When she had come to LA from Texas, all of our gay friends wanted to have a cocktail party. If Daisybel was in town, everyone wanted to have ... Cause she's the mother everybody else wanted.
Jim Vegher: [01:04:00] All of our friends wanted her because not only was she accepting, she was stunning, she was fun. If she wanted to dance, we'd have to take her to gay bars to go dancing and we'd go to Oil Can Harry's out, you know, out in the Valley and these things. But she was probably one of the persons I love the most out of this world, even, probably more than my mother. She was just this bigger than life personality
Jim Vegher: [01:04:30] who just not only accepted John, she accepted me and she was just this wonderful person. And we got to be very close toward the end. She died of cancer, and we got to be very close toward the end. She played a huge, huge part in our lives, both of our lives. So just want to mention that because I didn't want it to go without Daisybel being mentioned.
John Grigsby: [01:05:00] Back in the courting days, again, it was trying to look at our commonalities and our common value system, because again, Jim, very extroverted and in sales and so forth, I was pretty introverted. We had the strong work ethic together. One of the stories was coming down there after shift [inaudible].
Jim Vegher: Oh, yeah, yeah. John was in residency and he used to do these things.
Jim Vegher: [01:05:30] I was at an entry level with a grocery product manufacturer, McCormick and company, and we had to go in and reset stores every time a grocery store remodeled, we'd have to take care of our product. And so I told John, well, I had to go in at midnight and work at night. And all of a sudden I was in this Alpha Beta grocery store or something like that, down in Long Beach, and there was a tap on the door and somebody called me and said, there's somebody here for you. It was John, just got off a shift in his residency to come down
Jim Vegher: [01:06:00] and help me stack spice cans on a shelf. So if that isn't true love. So he had it worse than he said he had it.
John Grigsby: I had my own agenda, well put it that way.
Jim Vegher: Our whole relationship is kind of that way. It's just been kind of one of those things, falling all over each other doing things and surprising each other with things. And so it's been ...
Mason Funk: [01:06:30] John, tell us from your perspective about that call from Jim, where he said, I'm trying, I'm dating, I'm trying to play the field, but I don't want that. I want you. And you said, Ill be right down. Tell us that story from your perspective, what you remember. Come on John.
John Grigsby: Well, you've got the facts straight.
John Grigsby: [01:07:00] It was a risk on my part to send him out in the world and that's the way I viewed it. And so I said, He's worth it. I had had a few different relationships myself, I knew what I wanted. It was just finding the right person, and he was the right person. But again, we had all these obstacles there. Remember, he told me No
John Grigsby: [01:07:30] in San Francisco, two, three years later, I told him No. And then it was, Go out, see the world, which he did. And as he said, he had these mini relationships. Yeah, it didnt take long, and I was head over heels that he had passed the test, he still wanted me, that there would be an us, and we would try to make all that work,
John Grigsby: [01:08:00] because it had been two years, I won't say of waiting, but hoping and waiting. I never found anybody that would have taken his place there. If he'd come to me and said, I found Mr. Right, of course, that would have been it, because again, we always honor the relationships. Because monogamy is one of the things that, again, a common value system. We wanted a monogamous relationship.
John Grigsby: [01:08:30] Many, many of our friends didn't want them. They had open relationships and so forth, and we said, Whatever works for you, but this worked for us. I immediately went down because it was like, I didn't want to risk anymore, and if he's ready, I'm ready. So that's how it happens.
Mason Funk: That's good. All right. So I'm going to check my notes here. It's about 2:20. I think we've probably covered the territory
Mason Funk: [01:09:00] or the waterfront, as my mom used to say. And I want to get you guys, I know you have some years in LA including in Silver Lake, but I think your lives as a couple ...
John Grigsby: Is out here. [crosstalk]
Mason Funk: [inaudible]
John Grigsby: Correct
Mason Funk: And so I'm trying to think of how to jump in. Well, first of all, because I want to make sure we covered the Equity Foundation.
Mason Funk: [01:09:30] I know there were some precursors, but what was the Equity Foundation? I always thought it was Equality Oregon. Was that a different organization?
Jim Vegher: That was probably the gay rights organization, Equality Oregon.
John Grigsby: The political organization.
Jim Vegher: Yeah, more of a 501c4 kind of an organization.
John Grigsby: Basic rights organization.
Mason Funk: Okay. So what was the Equity Foundation and how did you guys conceive of it and what did you do?
Jim Vegher: [01:10:00] It was a response to ...
John Grigsby: Start off by stating The Equity Foundation.
Jim Vegher: The Equity Foundation came into being with a discussion John and I had as a result of ballot measure eight, that was a referendum put on the ballot by the Oregon Citizens Alliance, an anti-gay, religious affiliated group,
Jim Vegher: [01:10:30] to overturn governor Neil Goldschmidt's executive order, banning all discrimination against gays and lesbians in state government. This was in 1988 and the religious right was furious with that. So they got enough signatures to put it in on a referendum and they won, it got repealed. And John and I were talking and said, we need to do something. The gay community doesn't have a lot going on. It had a real active, highly regarded political action committee,
Jim Vegher: [01:11:00] the Right to Privacy PAC. And it was highly regarded and very active, but I said, We need something more than that to augment that, we need a foundation that can raise money and build LGBT institutions. And at that point it was gay and lesbian, the LGBT hadn't really come to fruition yet. And so we said, if we raised enough money, gays don't have any place to put their money. Either when they die,
Jim Vegher: [01:11:30] they have to give it to their Alma mater or give it to their church or give it to their family. Why not build a structure that can accept bequests from people's wills. The gay community would have to come out to do this, you know, because we would have to go out and talk about ...
John Grigsby: Visibility campaign. The only visibility in those days were the gay pride parades, which were terrible public relations ...
Jim Vegher: [01:12:00] In those days.
John Grigsby: In those days. Again, there was no one who thought of any of the more normal people ... Were working side-by-side you, or teaching your kids, or are in hospitals, are doing whatever, we were all invisible. In fact, Jim and I were, would get flack from our gay friends here. They were older. We'd get flack from them for being so out.
Jim Vegher: [01:12:30] We were always out. Not ...
John Grigsby: In your face.
Jim Vegher: But we never shied away from, Are you two brothers? Are you two friends? No, we're a couple. Period. And so back to Equity though, what John and I decided to do, we decided to go to the gay leadership, which was the Right to Privacy PAC. And we asked to get on the agenda of their executive committee or something like that to present this idea.
Jim Vegher: [01:13:00] So we met with them and presented this idea to them and they liked it. They had been thinking along the same lines and they said ...
John Grigsby: An educational component, that way it could be a 501c3, but what we saw as a visibility and education component.
Jim Vegher: That would raise money for organizations that didn't have the structure to raise money themselves that needed money. We asked them if they would loan us some of their board members and they did,
Jim Vegher: [01:13:30] they loaned us six board members. John and I basically started this thing and we put it into effect. We had our first fundraiser, which just raised up enough money to buy stamps, and ran it out of our guest bedroom for the first three years. We started with a mission of visibility; to make us more visible, out in the community and doing good work. Not only for LGBT folks, but for the community at large.
John Grigsby: [01:14:00] We are your neighbors, we are your friends, we are your coworkers.
Jim Vegher: That's right. How that transpired was we joined all the workplace giving campaigns, both federal, state, and private. So we would have to go put on presentations at the federal offices here at the public transportation, trying to give a talk to their employees,
Jim Vegher: [01:14:30] and we had to come out. So it was a means to coming out with an organization. I gave presentations in boardrooms of corporations based here. That was really what we wanted to do, we wanted to come out as an organization, raise money. Then we remissioned it -- I can't remember -- about eight years after that, because we thought the whole visibility thing didn't have enough depth to it.
Jim Vegher: [01:15:00] So we remissioned it to ... Our mission was Access to Worth. It was basically to be in action in recognizing every human beings intrinsic self-worth. What that meant is we had to go out to people who opposed us, you know, the OCA people, and listen to them, without making them wrong, and to see what possibilities emerge out of that.
Jim Vegher: [01:15:30] That became what drove us to go out and be in conversation. We really had some really wonderful ones because we could use grants. For example, we'd get a grant from Catholic charities and they had to sign the grant contract that they would not
John Grigsby: Non-discrimination clause.
Jim Vegher: All the non-discrimination clauses; gender identity, and sexual orientation, along with all the other things, and we had to walk them through that.
Jim Vegher: [01:16:00] And so that covered two things. We were able to come out in a way that showed we cared about them as much as we cared about the whole community. As much as we cared about our community. We didn't want it to be a gay and lesbian foundation, we wanted it to be a community foundation. So we developed a byline that, if I can remember it, An open invitation to stewardship, originated by Oregon's Gay and Lesbian Community. So that's how we kind of did it.
Jim Vegher: [01:16:30] We finally got to a point where, me, especially -- I retired before John, I retired at 55 -- I went to work full time there. Well, I started taking ownership as founders do, and they start doing more harm than good, a bottleneck to progress and all that stuff. So, John recognized that,
Jim Vegher: [01:17:00] so he took me away for a weekend to talk me into giving it up to resigning. That was one of our first tests that I knew this man I married was my wall. Because I just screamed, No, how could you make me do this? This is my passion. This is what I want. John wouldn't budge, would not budge. And he said, You become a bottleneck, you know? And
Mason Funk: Well, hold that thought, because I want to get back to that because there's a lot in there that I want to explore, but I want to kind of get to it in a little bit. Sorry to interrupt.
Jim Vegher: [01:17:30] No, thats great.
Mason Funk: I want to ask though, I would assume that during those years you were working closely with Donna Red Wing?
Jim Vegher: Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. We knew Donna Red Wing well, and her partner ...
Mason Funk: Semitra
Jim Vegher: Yes. Semitra yes, yes. I remember them well. Yeah.
Mason Funk: You know, it's interesting because we interviewed her shortly before she passed away. And she talked about this building of bridges.
Mason Funk: [01:18:00] She talked about ballot measure 9 and number 8. And then afterwards, how some of the women who were from the OCA side came and said, like the sort of religious women said, can we put together a group of women, you know, who sort of have an interest in the Bible and spirituality, maybe just meet. And they did. And they learned that just by talking, they could not necessarily change their minds, but the agenda wasn't to change their life, the agenda was to create [inaudible]
Jim Vegher: [01:18:30] And see what possibilities, it was all about possibility. You never know what comes out of those things. Yeah. She was a real, real mover and shaker here. I mean, Donna was really a powerful force here.
Mason Funk: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Im really interested in this, what you've described with these older gay men, I assume mostly gay men, who ...
Mason Funk: [01:19:00] It's a two-part question, one is to tell me more about the kind of pushback you've got. And then secondly, to revisit what you said about gay pride parades, you described them as not very effective public relations vehicles, and we've had conversations with various people we've interviewed about the phenomenon of gay pride parades with lots [inaudible] and kissing and public demonstrations of affection. Some people see them as really in your face and kind of distasteful.
Mason Funk: [01:19:30] And other people say, Yeah, that's also important to how we evolve as a community.
Jim Vegher: We are opposites. We are total opposites on that.
Mason Funk: Go for it. [crosstalk]
John Grigsby: Starting with the older friends, we just had a whole group of older friends. Some were a couple, some were singles and so forth, we called them The Lavender Hill Group, but a lot of them were wealthy gentlemen up in the Hills of Portland.
John Grigsby: [01:20:00] They partied together and partied well and everything, they were all closeted and would not let anybody know, although everybody did know. And it was just kind of interesting to us, but we started interfacing with them -- it was even pre-Equity days. We would have conversations with them and we started particularly after Equity, because that was the first time even we started interfacing with lesbians and the women's community,
John Grigsby: [01:20:30] because they were very separate. They never mixed, never, ever mixed.
Jim Vegher: That we know of.
John Grigsby: That we know of. One of our first parties after Equity, because half the board was women and half the board were men, thats the way we started it. We had co-chairs ...
Jim Vegher: Always was a woman.
John Grigsby: Always a woman. So that's why we started it sort of the equality thing. The parties we'd always go into were all male parties,
John Grigsby: [01:21:00] and then we gave the first one where we actually had the women here. And then later on, we had the straights here. But we were the only ones who did it for years and years. And at the very first one, everybody stayed in their own corner, but over time everybody started mixing. And that was the way it was. But they would get on us at times, like, Nobody's business, keep to yourself. Don't advertise it. But we had a lot of
John Grigsby: [01:21:30] When we first moved here, we had a big house, and we turned it over to charitable events. And so that's the only reason for having a big house, is to throw a party in. We would have these events there.
Jim Vegher: Well, it was like the Oregon Symphony wanted to have their women's tea there. And it was a big old abandoned house when we bought it. You know how gay men are,
Jim Vegher: [01:22:00] they buy an old house and they have to redo it. And so we redid it all. But when we finished it, it started with the Oregon Symphony wanting to have their women's tea there, or their annual women's tea there, so we opened it up. And then, it just started ... Somebody else would ask us, so we decided, Well, let's use this for free. Let them use it for free for nonprofits. So we had about 8,000 people through that house and 38 functions in the five years we were there, but I'm not sure ...
Mason Funk: [01:22:30] Yeah. So the guys, they saw you as flaunting.
John Grigsby: Yes. They saw us Out too much. Because every party was always at the home of John and Jim or Jim and John, it was never my home or his home. It was always our home. And all these fundraisers were all straight fundraisers. And like I said, there were about 38 functions over four or five years.
John Grigsby: [01:23:00] We were as open as you could get without saying the gay word in every other sentence. But our friends did not understand that, they really wanted us to stay quiet.
Jim Vegher: Because it's nobody else's business. That was the thing they used more than anything.
John Grigsby: Yeah. Its nobody's business, your sexuality is your own. But we never considered sexuality, we considered it as a couple. A couple who are, again, neighbors and coworkers and so forth.
John Grigsby: [01:23:30] So their whole framing of it around homosexuality was not the way we framed it. We framed it. In fact, to this day, we have more straight couple friends that we have gay couple friends.
Mason Funk: This was strategic of you.
John Grigsby: Well, I think it was, and it was also ...
Jim Vegher: It just evolved.
John Grigsby: We had just evolved. I don't think we said, well, we're going only do this,
John Grigsby: [01:24:00] it was just part of an evolution of being out. And it was another way to be out. Cause we didn't March in the parades.
Jim Vegher: Well, what we didn't make a habit of too, if we were in talking to somebody, and if it was appropriate, we use the gay and lesbian word. My feeling, our feeling was people don't use that. They shy away from that. People would sit up when you all of a sudden, in a conversation, Well, as a gay couple, I would say. That's what we are, and people just kind of shake their ... Or, We know this lesbian couple.
Jim Vegher: [01:24:30] People don't, didn't, weren't using those words even in public or ...
John Grigsby: Public discourse.
Jim Vegher: Yeah. Or even sitting down in a conversation at a party or something. And so we made it a point to do that. And Equity pushed us a long way toward that, they really did. They gave us the credentials, I think, to be able to go out and talk about gay things, LGBT issues,
Jim Vegher: [01:25:00] because of our association with the Foundation. So it gave us license in some respect to talk about the Foundation, and we did all the time.
John Grigsby: And we would try to get indirect advertising by gifts to ...
Jim Vegher: Oregon symphony.
John Grigsby: Oregon symphony or to the art museum or whatever, to the arts and so forth. And so in the program with all the other names, we would have like, Equity Foundation, and it would start conversations on who are these people and what do they do?
Jim Vegher: [01:25:30] And we have our own fund. We did a lot of work with donor-advised funds. We have a donor-advised fund endowment fund, which gets half of our estate when we die. We left Portland for 12 years -
John Grigsby: - When I retired. I wanted to get away from medicine altogether.
Jim Vegher: When we came back, the board of Equity ... We turned it over before we left --
Jim Vegher: [01:26:00] after this big rousing weekend that John finally made me -- so I resigned, and then we turned it over to the next generation, which was the best thing we could've done. But we came back and the board asked us to rejoin the board because they wanted the founders to help them plan the future for the foundation. They asked us to bring two of the founding other founding board members on with us, which we did. And we met once a month for board meetings.
Jim Vegher: [01:26:30] And we basically moved them toward a merging with Pride Foundation in Seattle, which we completed, what two years ago now?
John Grigsby: Two years ago.
Jim Vegher: And we didn't merge, basically, they bought us out.
John Grigsby: Acquired us.
Jim Vegher: Acquired us. And Equity, I looked at their numbers, and by 2017, we'd given away $6.2 million in grants and started from just a handful of people getting together and committing and having the passion to ...
John Grigsby: [01:27:00] But it was time to evolve from just a state ... Equity was primarily Oregon, and Pride Foundation was already a regional organization. So it made sense to not compete and to get bigger.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Yeah. I want to go back now because you were talking about this big weekend brouhaha, but the underlying theme was
Mason Funk: [01:27:30] how leaders can become bottlenecks. And I just wanted to devote a little bit of time to that because that's wisdom for a lot of nonprofit founders out there, and leaders. And so if you could just expand a little bit upon this idea of founders and the sense of vision and passion and possessiveness they have, and that they don't always know how to get out of the way when the sun comes. What wisdom do you feel like you could share on that front?
Jim Vegher: [01:28:00] First of all, I think possibly it was more about me. It was my baby. And even though we pushed it, John was working full speed and I kind of roped him into this, and he came along willingly. But this was my kind of thing more than it was John's, but John supported it by being on the board and being co-chair and all that stuff, heavily.
Jim Vegher: [01:28:30] I think what happened is I developed a lot of the systems and everything, and I'm a perfectionist. I want things done a certain way. I have a little bit of perfectionism, probably borderline OCD perfectionism, because I like things done. I wanted this to reflect in its pieces and how it presented itself as a top notch organization.
Jim Vegher: [01:29:00] When we went into a board meeting, I wanted us in coats and ties, and I wanted our stationery to be a business-like ...
John Grigsby: A business model.
Jim Vegher: So when people received it, it gave people recipients the feeling that, Gosh, this is something I may need to take a look at.
Jim Vegher: [01:29:30] And I don't think things were always done that way by, especially, fledgling organizations. And so I set it up along a business model in all of its stuff. And I thought I was the only one that could hold that together. I think that in a nutshell, is kind of why I just didn't want it to fall into a sloppy organization. Its bookkeeping system was above reproach. I mean, every penny was accounted for.
Jim Vegher: [01:30:00] We published an annual report that was just right out of Dun and Bradstreet every year, and that hadn't been done in this community, and it showed everything that we did, all of our finances and that sort of stuff. And so even after 20 some years in existence, run locally by various people, we still were able to transfer about $3 million in assets.
Jim Vegher: [01:30:30] It perpetuated itself over that much time. So I think that was the biggest ...
John Grigsby: I think its very true, even in your professions and so forth, if you stay in the same job much more than 10 years -- is what they normally say -- you just sort of get stale and complacent. Most of us get energized with new projects or new jobs and so forth.
John Grigsby: [01:31:00] And I think it was just time to turn it over too. And I will say we got re-energized when we got back and actually with helping it merge with, or be acquired by Pride, and met great folks there and so forth. I just saw, again, what happens with people get just too complacent with the organization and they need to move on after a while.
Mason Funk: [01:31:30] Right. Great. Okay. So I'm gonna take stock again. Let's see, there are a few people that you put in your questionnaires, and I want to make sure we have time for them. Jim, you mentioned governor Barbara Roberts and I was looking at John, I got confused. Jim, Governor Roberts, and somebody named Chris Herrmann, do I have that correct?
Jim Vegher: [01:32:00] Yes.
Mason Funk: And then John, you mentioned Bob Paris and Mary Bonauto
Jim Vegher: No. Thats me.
Mason Funk: Oh, did I get them mixed up?
Jim Vegher: Yes.
Mason Funk: Okay. I thought I had. Okay. So John, am I right that you have written down governor Roberts?
John Grigsby: Yes. I don't know where to start with that. Governor Roberts. We had various phases of our life, I want to say that.
John Grigsby: [01:32:30] When we first got in here to Portland in 1982, and we had this great big house, the way we ended up with a big house was the fact that in those days, capital gains, you had to spend equal or greater or pay capital gains tax. So we sold the two-bedroom ...
Jim Vegher: Silver Lake.
John Grigsby: The Silver Lake house for $250,000, and we had to spend 250 -- well, this was the deep depression era, the horrible depression in 1982.
John Grigsby: [01:33:00] So we ended up with a colonial house. It was advertised as 10 bedrooms.
Jim Vegher: 12,000 square feet.
John Grigsby: 12,000 square feet, with a pool and four lots. But anyway, it became this place where we entertained, and so forth. So that was our charitable years and so forth, that we did for four to six years. We started getting interested more and more in politics. Again, part of it was Equity Foundation and what was going on politically in Oregon with the rural,
John Grigsby: [01:33:30] urban split that we have in this state. By that time, we'd given up all the big houses and we were down to a condo in Northwest, but it was a very unique place. It was what they call the penthouse. It was on the ninth floor ...
Jim Vegher: Of a historic historic building.
John Grigsby: Of a historic historic building. And it was built by a lumber person. And it was sort of like your typical older Manhattan apartment.
Jim Vegher: [01:34:00] Upper East side, upper West side.
John Grigsby: Mahogany and beams and two fireplaces and all that stuff. Well, we did a fundraiser there, did a number of fundraisers, and one of them was for Governor Roberts.
Jim Vegher: When she was running.
John Grigsby: When she was running. And these were all fundraisers, and it was a packed house, $500 a person and all that stuff. But she was a unique individual in our lives,
John Grigsby: [01:34:30] in terms of all gays and lesbians in the state. She just was out there on our behalf and we wanted to help her get elected and she did indeed get elected. And so she was one of those special, special people.
Jim Vegher: And became a friend after that. We still see her, not socially ...
John Grigsby: But at events. We still see her and so forth. And then Chris Herrmann was the ... What was your title? CEO?
Jim Vegher: [01:35:00] She was CEO of Pride Foundation.
John Grigsby: She was CEO of Pride Foundation. She was just incredibly impressive as an individual, of really facilitating the merger of these two cultures and everything. Because we had been essentially competitors. And I just watched her work and how she brought everybody along and how respectful she was of all of the Equity side -- and us in particular,
John Grigsby: [01:35:30] just realized that we were founders -- and really facilitated that merger and made everybody happy, which you wouldn't have thought it necessarily would have been. It all turned out great, and I really credited her for that. So, I think she was one of those special people.
Mason Funk: Awesome. And then Jim, you mentioned Bob Paris, tell us about Bob.
Jim Vegher: Are you familiar with Bob Paris?
Mason Funk: [01:36:00] Let's just say no.
Jim Vegher: Bob Paris was a bodybuilder. Before I was gay, I had just this crush on him. I thought he was the most gorgeous man I'd ever seen in my life. He was Mr. Olympia, he won all the top bodybuilding prizes in the world, Mr. Universe multiple times. He was before Arnold Schwarzenegger. He'd won everything, and he was incredibly good-looking.
Jim Vegher: [01:36:30] After I came out, I read this article that he came out gay, and darn if he didn't. He married his bodybuilding buddy. And this was way back when And he was world famous in a macho industry and he came out similar to what I did, he finally came out, and just came out immediately.
Jim Vegher: [01:37:00] I mean, he may have realized it before, but he just came out to the world. Not only did I have this mad crush on him, but I just thought someone that had everything to lose, his whole life had been this. I used to lift weights and do a lot of muscle training stuff, but
Jim Vegher: [01:37:30] if anybody knew the work it took and building your whole future on this, and then just coming out the way he did, and it was with class, he just did it so well. And they got married even before marriage, I mean, they just basically considered themselves married and he just did it as a proud gay man. And so I was always very inspired by someone who gave up everything that he knew and everything he had worked on his whole life for a higher place in life. And that was about fulfilling who he was.
Mason Funk: [01:38:00] That's the greatest story. I was completely unfamiliar.
Jim Vegher: Look at some of the old bodybuilding magazines. [crosstalk] He was an inspiration for me just because how he did it. And who was the other one?
Mason Funk: [inaudible]
Jim Vegher: [01:38:30] Mary's always been out there, I just loved watching ...
Mason Funk: Start by stating her full name.
Jim Vegher: Mary Bonauto. I always watched her and learned from her, because she was not a grandstander by any means, but she argued before the Supreme court, the whole marriage thing. We were members of GLAD, that GLAD in Boston
Jim Vegher: [01:39:00] that she was associated with, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, as it was called. I watched her there and just her work, and how she comported herself was just so inspiring to me. She never went after the attention, but she was just a giant in my estimation, in the work she did. And we all benefited from it.
Jim Vegher: [01:39:30] I try to emulate people like her. I don't have the personality. I talk too much, I think, she's a more quiet person. She's like John, and just achieves quietly. I have to tell you a thing about John, it just brought up something. Going to digress just a little bit. We went to this big fashionable dinner party when we lived in LA, in a big mansion, in an area of LA called San Marino. And John and I were just newly together then, I think. Weren't we?
Jim Vegher: [01:40:00] And so John went around the table, actually he'd gotten out of his residency and was actually running the LA USC medical center emergency department. And somebody next to him asked him, Well, what do you do? And John says, I work for the County, period. That was it. Boy, if that's not a lesson to me.
Jim Vegher: [01:40:30] But that's my John, he's never promoted himself for the great things he's done. So anyway.
Mason Funk: I want to visit briefly one of the stories you told about [inaudible]. I'm in a marital relationship,
Mason Funk: [01:41:00] we've been together 14 years now. And of course, every couple has to give and take a little bit, but hopefully it's not just like, okay, it's your turn to be happy and my turn to be sad, and my turn to be happy [inaudible]. So can you talk us through that particular dynamic in your relationship that had to do with finding joy,
Mason Funk: [01:41:30] the things maybe that the other person found joy in and how you struck that balance?
John Grigsby: Well, it was the particular episode you were describing ...
Jim Vegher: Can I just interrupt for one second. It took a while, this is one episode, this is where we began. But along with doing personal work, it grew and it evolved, through doing work. So go ahead. I'm sorry.
John Grigsby: [01:42:00] We just started, yeah. That was early in our relationship. It was our first house ...
Jim Vegher: In Silver Lake.
John Grigsby: In Silver Lake on Kenilworth. One of the things we had in common was home, entertaining there, and family coming there and all the rest of them. So home was very important, and getting it just right, and upgraded and so forth was part of that. Of course, in those days, a lot of it was about sweat equity in building wealth.
John Grigsby: [01:42:30] And we were, my late twenties, your mid thirties. So it was time. But again, I came from a school - work work, no play at all. And Jim did the same up into a point, and then he became the ski bum and he became the beach rat and all the rest of it. And that was so, okay.
Jim Vegher: [01:43:00] That was perfect.
John Grigsby: So we ended up with a compromise early on, which is, Okay, the best way we can do this is have days on the weekend. Cause we worked Monday through Friday. So it was just, we'll do this. So yes, one day we would go to the beach and I would chain myself to the chair and try not to rearrange the Palm trees and the rocks. And then we would have peel the wallpaper off the ceiling day,
John Grigsby: [01:43:30] the next day, nice Sunday afternoon, and Jim would cover down the plaster all over his [inaudible]. And we both had to suffer in silence, if you would, in those early days. But, as Jim said, it evolved. I learned how to relax and enjoy, play a little bit more.
Jim Vegher: We did quite a bit of personal work, because living with a doctor should be a whole class in marriage,
Jim Vegher: [01:44:00] how to get along. If you marry a doctor, it should be a whole separate thing, especially ER docs, because they are trained to have to be right. They cannot doubt their decisions ...
John Grigsby: At the time.
Jim Vegher: Whatever they say, they have to be right. Well, that transfers to home. And so, I had to learn how to live with this. I had a tough time retiring.
Jim Vegher: [01:44:30] So, I did some work with this group that worked with people retiring, that were having a tough time, and it evolved into things. Basically, my work was who I was. I didn't know self-worth was intrinsic, that you should have self-worth just because you were born. I thought it was what you achieved along the way. And when I quit work, I had this big empty space. Now, what do I do? Volunteerism, didn't do it.
Jim Vegher: [01:45:00] It was kind of a paycheck, and that kind of thing, and the titles. But I did a lot of work. Well, I started changing, and John didn't know who he was living with because in order for me to get along with this person who had always be right. I had to kind of be a little devious around things, I kind of sabotage little things here
Jim Vegher: [01:45:30] and there to finally not have to do something that he wanted to do. Because I didn't feel I was at enough worth. He was so educated, he was so smart that I could tell him, No, I want to go to the beach. You want to build our wealth and build our future. I want to go to the beach. It's a nice sunny day. So we had to learn how to live with that. Well, I had to learn how to live with that by saying what I wanted to do.
Jim Vegher: [01:46:00] And I never could in our early days, because I didn't feel worthy enough, actually. John and I, throughout this process, did a year and a half of couples work to bring us together. And we had to learn how to talk to each other, we had to learn a whole new language about, here's what I want, what do you want? Let's see how we can both have what we want. We had to learn to see each other's differences.
Jim Vegher: [01:46:30] It's just differences, not a right or wrong. And so I changed dramatically. Guess what? John didn't change at all. Just kidding. But what that did is it brought us together and it changed our language and it changed how we are with each other and a whole new way that just really solved everything. It was the best.
Mason Funk: John joking aside. Do you feel like you had to change also?
John Grigsby: [01:47:00] Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean, when one person changes and they're a different person, you do. I think what always helped us is we were each other's mutual admiration society. I always wanted the traits he had and he wanted some of the traits ...
Jim Vegher: I want to be like John.
John Grigsby: And I want to be like you. So that helped the foundation. We talk about a common value system, but our way of getting anywhere is totally opposite.
Jim Vegher: [01:47:30] We are just as opposite as they come.
John Grigsby: And it's always interesting, the goals there, but how we would achieve that goal is very opposite. So we've learned that through the years too.
Jim Vegher: We laugh about that now.
John Grigsby: Yeah, we laugh a lot about it, but in the early days, back in the early days, it was a compromise of just that. And I didn't feel like it was a hardship on, really, either side, because it was fair and even, and both got what we wanted, at least for the day. And that was that.
John Grigsby: [01:48:00] But it all got so much better through the years. And I think all couples do need, if they stay together long enough, probably some professional help every now and then. Too many things happen in your life, I mean, whether it's the death of your parents or with Jim, it was his retirement. His whole self-worth was a lot tied up in who he was and what he did and everything. And all of a sudden he was a house husband and I was still working. And that was a dynamic that really altered us there for about a year
John Grigsby: [01:48:30] that we had to ... I had no problem with it, I wanted a house husband. In fact, I forced him to retire early because he was getting ready to expand his work in a software thing from ...
Jim Vegher: I had my own company by then.
John Grigsby: From Hawaii to New York city. And I just said, why? You're going to be gone. Let's say this is huge success, and 10 years from now, you sell it for $30 million.
John Grigsby: [01:49:00] What are we going to do with it? We're going to give it away because we've already got everything we want. And I don't want to lose my best friend for 10 more years. Because I had things pretty well under control by that time, I was running two emergency departments with my eyes closed. So it was okay. That was sort of ... That was a difficult year, but again, I would just say most couples, because of outside influences
John Grigsby: [01:49:30] or events in their own life -- whether it's illness or retirement or whatever -- may need some help there as a couple.
Jim Vegher: Yeah.
John Grigsby: But both people have to kind of want it and do the work.
Jim Vegher: It made all the difference.
John Grigsby: It really made us closer, I think, and share more for these later years.
Mason Funk: [01:50:00] Yeah. That brings me to the present moment when you all together are confronting sort of the biggest challenge of your life together, which is Jim's disease and his diagnosis. I wonder if you could talk about that.
Jim Vegher: John hasn't wanted to talk about it yet. I don't know whether he does now.
John Grigsby: Well, I'll talk about it in the terms ... It's not real yet, quite frankly, because he hasn't been sick yet. He's in remission.
John Grigsby: [01:50:30] We, intellectually and cognitively, know the prognosis and the statistics and all that stuff, but I will say it hasn't registered too much at the emotional level. The only thing I will say is it wasn't supposed to be this way. So my genetic history is really bad heart disease, and it's related to inability to metabolize cholesterol.
John Grigsby: [01:51:00] So my grandfather died in his thirties, my father died in his early forties, my brother died in his fifties. So I was supposed to be gone in my sixties. Well, I'm 74. It was always, me first, Jim takes over, gets everything wrapped up, and he lives a nice long life. And the reality is that may not be the case.
John Grigsby: [01:51:30] And that's a bit on the scary side because I don't have this skill base that he has nor do I want to think about when you've been with somebody for 44 years, the whole alone kind of thing kind of gets you. I have, we have unfinished business. And so we've been pretty much dealing with We are taking care of way too many people. Two years ago, I became executor of my uncle's estate.
John Grigsby: [01:52:00] They didn't have kids. My aunt's in assisted living. They have this vast estate in Texas, all in property. And then I have all these dysfunctional cousins.
Jim Vegher: That are heirs.
John Grigsby: That are heirs. And then my aunt has gradually turned over everything to me. She's 94, in assisted living. She will probably outlive both of us, she doesn't take any medications, she's in great shape. So she'll be one of these people that lives to be 106.
John Grigsby: [01:52:30] Her minds slowly going, she can't run the businesses. So we are, but I'm sort of the front guy, the mega guy, the big long-term planner. And Jim is the one who does all the work. So were managing five trusts, three companies, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, besides our own. And Jims doing all the work and he does it all on computer. And also our division of labor is
John Grigsby: [01:53:00] I haven't managed our own personal accounts for 30 years. You know, he puts money in my billfold. I barely can use an ATM. So it's a little on the frightening side, but we're getting through it. It just hasn't hit us ... I don't think it's hit us on the emotional level yet until he really starts showing it or feeling it or whatever. It's a scary time to have this, of course, in the pandemic.
John Grigsby: [01:53:30] And we've been pretty well isolated, we were pretty much self-quarantined for the last four months. I do all the grocery shopping. I've had to make one trip to Texas, we're hiring a bookkeeper down there, we're trying to transition. We've talked about how do we deal with this on a pragmatic level? And it's sort of three phases. Phase one is transition everything we can to get it to others because that's the responsible thing to do. Phase two is let's enjoy what we can,
John Grigsby: [01:54:00] and make the best we can with what we got. And then number three is we'll deal with the end point as the end point. So back to what Jim's said, I don't want to deal with it until I got to deal with it and I choose to compartmentalize it, which is the way I get through life anyway. When you're in the emergency department, you cannot get too close. So you compartmentalize everything. And so mine is compartmentalized. It'll stay that way for probably a long time. So that's the way I'm coping with it.
Jim Vegher: [01:54:30] I have this mantra that, I've had this fabulous life with John. This doesn't scare me in the slightest. My prognosis when this first started, she gave me six to nine months. And if I know John's taken care of, my only concern is getting all the transitions, so it won't be a burden on John, but as far as dying ...
Jim Vegher: [01:55:00] And I never thought I'd feel this way, but I think I have no regrets. I've had it all, I feel. This last 44 years, I've had more than I ever thought life had to offer emotionally, and from a standpoint of just being so close to another person. I'm 81, also, and everybody dies. I've had it all.
Jim Vegher: [01:55:30] And so it hasn't really hit me yet either because I don't seem to be a bit afraid of it.
John Grigsby: But I mean, they give you lots of, well, not a lot of options, but they gave you options. But again, Jim chose, as we've often talked, if this situation did show up for either one of us was, how would we want to handle it and so forth? So, it's quality of life versus quantity.
John Grigsby: [01:56:00] They said, well, the standard treatment is, and it was going to start out with five weeks in the hospital, and then the 25% five-year survival rate and all this stuff that they give you. And we started looking at each other going, No, no, no, let's take the six to nine months, hope for the best, plan for the worst, and do the best we can. And like we say, we all die and we have a pretty good, I think, view of death.
John Grigsby: [01:56:30] To a certain degree, when we talk about this, it's the death I would want, because I would have time, being the controller that I am, to prepare and organize and do all that stuff, because what I always thought was going to happen, I was just going to be like my father and brother, and grandfather, and just keel over and leave all this unfinished business, no time to say goodbye, no time to do anything. So that was it. You know,
John Grigsby: [01:57:00] each one has an advantage and disadvantage, but I don't know. We often quote
Jim Vegher: Browning.
John Grigsby: Browning, Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.
Jim Vegher: And that's kind of in our saying.
John Grigsby: So, this last life has been grand, not ready for it to end, but that's where it is.
Mason Funk: [01:57:30] What do you hope that you do kind of collectively as a couple? What do you hope your legacy will be? How will people remember Jim and John?
Jim Vegher: Boy, we haven't really thought about that. We're planners, and so we have this endowment set up, it will give money out in perpetuity from our fund, for the things that we think are important.
Jim Vegher: [01:58:00] For example, I want things like HRC and some of the national organizations like GLSEN and GLAD, and all of those things, to have money from us in perpetuity kind of thing. So, that's kind of what our legacy is. And locally also, I think we will have a legacy with our families
Jim Vegher: [01:58:30] because our families have been very ... Our nephews will know us really well as a couple, and they do. Those are the legacy that ... We paid a lot of attention to them, as if they were our kids, and we never missed their birthday. We never missed Christmas. And we gave them big gift, a monetary gift if they graduated from high school. And so we've always paid attention to them.
Jim Vegher: [01:59:00] So that's kind of our legacy also that their uncle Jim and uncle John cared about them. And our sisters and brothers, we stayed close to them and have helped them out in many, many ways because we care about them and didn't ask for anything in return. That's kind of our legacy more than anything. I think we'll have a legacy here in Portland, as long as people who knew us are still alive,
Jim Vegher: [01:59:30] but that's slowly. I think our legacy will be perpetuated by our Pride Foundation fund, more than anything.
John Grigsby: Yeah, it's given in perpetuity to the things you gave to when you were alive and active, causes and so forth. So that's kind of where we are.
Mason Funk: Wow. That's great. Anything else you want to say on, I have a few short, final questions that ... I know we haven't covered everything.
Mason Funk: [02:00:00] I think the Providence years are destined to remain a great mystery, which is okay. Because there doesn't, even if it was Ray, there was a way to assign him to talking about them, but is there anything that you feel like we haven't covered, a story, an anecdote, something about each other that you treasure.
Jim Vegher: Oh, you know what pops up? These things pop up. One of the happiest days of my life, you know, John is so organized and planful,
Jim Vegher: [02:00:30] and this may not seem like a lot to many people, but I was just so stunned by it, and it happened right after we got together and we still lived in Silver Lake. It was a weekend, he said, Were going to pick out our silver pattern. You know, that was what married people do, and we weren't married yet because it wasn't available. But I just thought, This is for real. And it was just another example of him telling me
Jim Vegher: [02:01:00] I'm going to be with you forever, but it's just something as simple as that, I knew about married people doing that, but John brought it up, we're going to go pick out our silver pattern. So that has stuck with me like crazy. And it was just something that ... And he does that all the time. He does things like that, that I would've never thought of. And it just comes out and it's profound.
Jim Vegher: [02:01:30] For me, these are profound things that happened to me in my life that he does, that he still does.
John Grigsby: In thinking back, just historically, we've seen the whole gambit of evolution of gay and lesbian rights. I think if you look at our history, pre-Stonewall and all the horrible things in the sodomy laws,
John Grigsby: [02:02:00] and all the rest of it. And then we went through the evolution of coming out and then all the political eras and so forth. And then you got into, finally, ultimately, gay marriage. Now, there's couples having children. We never thought in our lifetime, we would see gay marriage. I mean, that was just unheard of. And now not only to see it
John Grigsby: [02:02:30] and see how many of them are, and now to see the next generation having children together -- we had actually talked about that early on, and it just didn't make sense at the time. But it's been a very interesting life from a gay perspective to see that spectrum. I'm so glad we were able to see all of it and to experience all of it, from the crazy days,
John Grigsby: [02:03:00] both in San Francisco and LA with the gay bars and all that, all the way to gay marriage, it's just been a very interesting lifetime of experiences.
Jim Vegher: Yeah. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Jim, one last question for you. I typed this out from your prep interview, or maybe actually from your questionnaire, you said you promised yourself at one point that you would not let your dysfunctional childhood prevent you from having a successful life. Do you remember that?
Jim Vegher: [02:03:30] Yes, I remember. I remember telling myself -- my family had so many mental issues, depression and all that stuff and they ruined their lives -- I said, I will never fail. I will have the life I want. And I made that declaration as a young person. I forgot when, but it was shortly after I graduated from high school,
Jim Vegher: [02:04:00] that, I will not fail. And I didn't know how I was going to achieve it at all because I was certainly not one full of self-confidence in those days either. But I said, I will not fail. What I did, and I lived a lot of my life with is this persona that I developed so no one would know how defective I really was. I had this personality trait that, it kind of came easy, but I was always a happy person,
Jim Vegher: [02:04:30] never down, never depressed. I was always up, and I really pushed myself to be, and then pretty soon it became, I think, my underlying personality was that anyway. But I can remember making that declaration. When I got away from home, it started happening. I just put forth every effort I had. And I realized that I wasn't as dumb as I thought I was,
Jim Vegher: [02:05:00] I wasn't as defective as I thought I was. And then I came to the conclusion that John had, that maybe I'm smart, even. It took a long time ...
John Grigsby: I wouldnt choose a dumb person.
Jim Vegher: But it took a long time for me to really even think that, because I was not fed that ever in my early childhood.
Jim Vegher: [02:05:30] But later on ... And the military did that because I started achieving right from that point on. And then I thought I could possibly have what I want. I didn't know how it was going to happen. And boy oh boy, it did. I just got so much more than I ever dreamed possible, and it's still that way, it is absolutely still that way. I love getting up every morning. John and I, we go to bed at the same time,
Jim Vegher: [02:06:00] we get up at the same time. We do everything at the same time. We just do everything together.
John Grigsby: The pandemic has not been a problem.
Jim Vegher: No, 24/7
John Grigsby: 24/7. We got used to a long time ago.
Jim Vegher: It's not a problem because he's the person I love being with, and that never changed. And he taught me so much. John believed in me more than I ever believed in myself. When I formed my own company, John asked me to form my company. When I left McCormick,
Jim Vegher: [02:06:30] I got promoted up to a regional sales manager and they basically created a job for me when we moved here, but I had to be on a plane five days a week, but he wanted me home. And so I created my own company and it was just the most fun I ever had in my life. And I ended up creating two companies to feed patients into John's emergency departments. And we opened up a bunch of clinics with urgent care centers.
Jim Vegher: [02:07:00] He believed in me more than I ever did, than I ever believed in myself. And he just said, I want you to do this. And I said, Okay. And it happened. And I didn't know at all what I was doing in those days, but boy, did we have the time of our lives? And we came out unscathed by the skin of our teeth and a couple endeavors. But anyway, so that's our life.
Mason Funk: [02:07:30] Okay. Final questions. I know [inaudible]. First question for each of you, really, really short. If you could tell one thing to your 15 year old self, what would it be? John? You go first, really sharp and sweet.
John Grigsby: Be yourself, come out. If you're gay, sooner than most of us did.
John Grigsby: [02:08:00] The world is your oyster. The amount of time spent hiding in internalized homophobia took so much energy and time away, of opportunity to grow and do and enjoy and so forth. So I think that would be what I'd tell my 15 year old self. Wasted a lot of time, don't waste it. Come out, be who you are and take advantage of the opportunities.
Mason Funk: [02:08:30] Jim.
Jim Vegher: My 15 year old self, if I would have told myself that I can do anything, I would've changed a lot. If I said, You are okay. You can do anything you want. And that's all I would have had to tell myself, I think. If I had gotten that message
Jim Vegher: [02:09:00] that I was an okay person, I was okay. I was not defective or that sort of thing. So yeah, just to be able to have a positive viewpoint of who you are. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Do you guys, individually, do you think if that's a thing as a so-called gay super power, is that something that makes us queer people?
Mason Funk: [02:09:30] I use the word interchangeably with gay lesbian, bisexual, transgender, is this kind of a gift we've been given as people that we then uniquely could give to the world?
Jim Vegher: Oh boy, can I go? When we remissioned Equity part of we had [inaudible] declarations, and one of them was as gays and lesbians, we have a unique opportunity
Jim Vegher: [02:10:00] to give to the world, to make it a better place, or something like that. And yes, absolutely. First of all, we both think it's genetic, it's purely a gene ... I am a homosexual genetically, that's my belief. And that was my belief the minute I came out, because my own experience, my life could not have changed within 24 hours the way it did. I fully understood who I was and what my place in the world was.
Jim Vegher: [02:10:30] Yes, absolutely. I think we are gay genetically that's who we are. I don't know whether it's a superpower or not, but I do think we are unique. We have unique gifts, absolutely unique gifts to give to the world.
John Grigsby: Without stereotyping us too much, the whole gender thing is sort of interesting in terms of some of the qualities, and again, without generalizations,
John Grigsby: [02:11:00] a lot of us have a lot more feminine side to our heavy-duty masculine side, and how that plays out with your relationships with women and with men. It's just very interesting in terms of it's softer from a man's point of view, at least the men that I grew up with anyway. So, I think it is unique. I think there's others that are unique too, but I think we have our own uniqueness.
Jim Vegher: [02:11:30] My relationship with men improved when I came out and I realized that I was gay. Because I knew who I was, I felt good in my own skin then, for the first time in my life. And so my relationship with men, I'm not talking about gay men, I'm just talking about men in general. I gravitated more toward women because I felt safer with women, but after I came out, I felt safe with both sexes equally.
Mason Funk: [02:12:00] Great. Great. Now we've kind of covered this, but why is it important to you guys, for example, why did you decide to accept this invitation/request to tell your story? Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Jim Vegher: I think its because we've been together so long and we've learned so much. We have come through how to get along.
Jim Vegher: [02:12:30] How do two men who think so differently, who see the world differently, but have the same value system, how do they get along so well, and how do you keep a relationship going for so many years that works? And I think to tell our story will help other people, maybe pick up some clues or some hints from that. Maybe that's what we want to leave behind,
Jim Vegher: [02:13:00] maybe that's part of our legacy to leave the story of our life and what works for us. So maybe it'll work for someone else.
Mason Funk: That's great. John, you want to add anything?
John Grigsby: I think part of it is just telling the next generation, you can have it all. You gotta work at it, but you can have it all. And to a certain degree, its role modeling a relationship of 44 years that's worked.
John Grigsby: [02:13:30] And so I think that's part of it, cause we don't know many people that have been together as long as we have. [inaudible] What are their secrets? And how did they make it all work so well, and have such a good life?
Jim Vegher: Being so different.
John Grigsby: [02:14:00] Being so different. [crosstalk] coming through a few trials and tribulations like you do, but early on, they were pretty rough.
Jim Vegher: No, they weren't.
John Grigsby: Not with you. I'm talking about pre ...
Jim Vegher: Oh!
John Grigsby: Not with you. By that time we were all smoothed out.
Mason Funk: [02:14:30] I sort of wonder, I'm tempted to ask whether when I asked about your legacy, from what you just said, does it feel important? Like the legacy you're going to have the world is your relationship.
Jim Vegher: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. We've been a role model for our family, and they will acknowledge it -- our married siblings and our nephews. I have two nephews, one graduated from the US Naval Academy, super jock, super smart.
Jim Vegher: [02:15:00] His brother, super smart, super jock. They treat us as if we are their most beloved family members. It's uncle Jim and uncle John. And they're in their early twenties.
John Grigsby: And thirties, now.
Jim Vegher: No. And then John's were raised in Texas.
John Grigsby: One of them's a football coach in college and so forth.
Jim Vegher: And we started this joke way on when they were just little kids,
Jim Vegher: [02:15:30] this was uncle John and I was aunt Jim. And they still call me aunt Jim, and it's lovely, I feel it's an endearing term for me because they'll write a card or something, Dear uncle John and aunt Jim. And so that's just the way it attracts my [inaudible]. These are Texas, straight, all of our nephews, they are.
Jim Vegher: [02:16:00] John's are kind of rough and tumble guys. Well, mine are too. And boy, they don't think twice about us as their uncles. They would be devastated if we had broken up along the way, somewhere. And that's nice. That's a legacy to leave the next generation of straight folks, to leave that legacy with them.
Mason Funk: [02:16:30] All right, final question. What is the value to OUTWORDS? Our mission, I can actually tell you, we just finished recrafting our mission statement, which is to ... OUTWORDS travels the United States collecting the stories of LGBTQ pioneers and elders, to build community and catalyze social change.
Mason Funk: [02:17:00] However, I'm curious regardless of what we think our mission is, and the value of it, what do you see as the value of recording interviews of LGBTQ so-called pioneers and elders across the country, and gathering them all together in one place? What's the value of that? And if you could mention OUTWORDS in your answer, that would be great.
Jim Vegher: I think what OUTWORDS is doing is preparing the next generation to learn from the lives of those that went before them,
Jim Vegher: [02:17:30] the next generation of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals. Because I think that we're all in this together. I think all of us were born the way we are through all the LGBT, queer community. I think we were all born this way, and this is what we were meant to be. I think OUTWORDS will memorialize our lives,
Jim Vegher: [02:18:00] our struggles and our successes for future generations forever, as long as the films survive. That's why I think an archive is so important, where people can draw from it, if somebody wants to do a story on it, whether it be the New York Times or anybody,
Jim Vegher: [02:18:30] they have access to an archive beautifully put together. And I think that's really critical because if it weren't for OUTWORDS, it wouldn't be there, there would be nothing left. And so you are our legacy in many respects, so thank you.
John Grigsby: Yes. I agree. OUTWORDS provides ... I like history, our history. I think it gives the next generations and generations to look back through our stories,
John Grigsby: [02:19:00] just as we look back at the pioneer stories, what did they go through? How did they get where they got and so forth? And then, like Jim said, what trials and tribulations did we go through at the time, and yet what successes we had. Did we leave the world a better place for being here? And so all that's part of it. I think.
Jim Vegher: So we thank you for doing what you're doing really.
John Grigsby: [02:19:30] We're struggling, equally, we've got all the Equity memorabilia, if you would, sitting in boxes in the other room, trying to figure out what on earth do we do to it? Because it was not only a major chapter in our lives, it was a major chapter in Oregon, in the community. And so it's like, okay, now what happens to that? It's a similar thought.
John Grigsby: [02:20:00] You've put it into action. And we admire that. We applaud that.
Jim Vegher: Yeah. Very thankful for you to be doing this.
Mason Funk: Thank you. Well, we could talk off camera about at least one institution I know who would probably be happy to receive your memorabilia, which is the one Institute here in Los Angeles. But we can talk about that, like I said, off camera. [inaudible] for what we're doing.
Mason Funk: [02:20:30] They mean a lot, and it's a real honor, and it's just a pleasure to have gotten to get to know you. I wish we were in person. I wish I were literally sitting in your living room, this is the next best thing.
Jim Vegher: Well, we may be here for a while. So if you're ever up this way, please.
John Grigsby: If anybody ever gets to travel again.
Mason Funk: We're still trying to figure out how to go to a restaurant safely.
John Grigsby: [02:21:00] Ours is still ... Is eating outside for the most part. And those days are coming to a close, Portland is not an outdoors place in the winter time.
Mason Funk: [inaudible] Well, hopefully, we'll figure out a way within the next few months to meet face to face.
John Grigsby: Thatd be wonderful.
Mason Funk: But meantime, thank you so much for your time.
Jim Vegher: And, are we off camera? We're not off camera now. Are we?
Mason Funk: Andrew, you can shut down the camera.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Andrew Lush
Date: October 01, 2020
Location: Home of John Grigsby and Jim Vegher, Portland, OR (Remote)