Michael Slingerland was born in 1950 in Greeley, Colorado. The youngest of three boys, Michael lost his mom when he was an infant. When Michael was eight, his father moved the family to Wylie, Texas. He dated boys throughout high school. At the same time, two gay friends took their own lives. Michael avoided that fate, though probably not by much.

After high school, Michael attended Texas Tech University, then worked internal affairs for the federal government for 37 years, eventually retiring in 2004. On the personal front, Michael met his first partner in his 20s through a personal ad in the back of a magazine. They lived in Irvine, Texas for 27 years. When they broke up, Michael ran a couple of businesses in the Dallas area.

After about ten years on his own, Michael met Chris Garlow, scion of a wealthy Pittsburgh family. Michael and Chris became business and life partners, investing in real estate and other ventures. Michael did the research and Chris came up with the money. In the midst of opening a bar, Chris was diagnosed with cancer and died two years later. A year later, Michael opened Garlow’s bar in Gun Barrel City, Texas.

Garlow’s was the second gay bar in Gun Barrel City. Initially, the police pushed Michael around and even arrested him for walking home drunk. Over time, the town adjusted, partly because Michael threw himself into local politics, serving on the town’s planning committee and economic development council. In May 2018, he ran for City Council and lost. He’s still decided whether to try again.

Gun Barrel City sits about 60 miles southeast of Dallas on Cedar Creek Lake, a popular weekend spot for both gay and straight folks from the big city. The town has a fistful of churches and fast food joints, and then there’s Garlow’s, a low-slung building with a dirt parking lot. That’s where OUTWORDS met Michael in June 2017 to record his story.

Michael’s a big, plain-spoken guy. He laughs a lot, but you can tell he’s battled his fair share of pain and loss. So we were happy to learn about his new relationship with a guy named Kevin. About six months later, Michael and Kevin got married. Thanks largely to Michael, even in honky tonk towns with names like Gun Barrel City, there’s room for love – no matter who’s doing the loving. 
Michael Slingerland: [00:00:00] I like it.
Mason Funk: Okay. So you want to call that out?
Amy Bench: Okay, this is room tone at the bar with the refrigerator on.
Michael Slingerland: Something we're awfully excited about.
Amy Bench: Yeah. [inaudible].
Michael Slingerland: Let me-
Amy Bench: If he says it ... Can you just say, "Room tone with the refrigerator on?"
Michael Slingerland: Do what now?
Amy Bench: Say, "Room tone, refrigerator on."
Michael Slingerland: Room tone, refrigerator on.
Amy Bench: 30 seconds.
Michael Slingerland: [00:00:30] 30 seconds. See, it's already down to 19 degrees. It'll take it down to 13, and then it will shut off.
Mason Funk: Okay. So we just need 30 seconds of this sound without you or me talking.
Michael Slingerland: Right. That bad boy was hard to get back there. All that stuff was put in there before the bar was built. We built the bar after it was all in there.
Mason Funk: So we need 30 seconds without anybody talking.
Michael Slingerland: [00:01:00] Okay. Nevermind. I'm going to take a nap now.
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] That should be good, right?
Amy Bench: Yeah. Can I-
Michael Slingerland: It's still at 10 degrees. Let's roll. You got 10 degrees to work with here.
Mason Funk: My only question when we look at the shot is it felt like this side of his face was just a little dark. Do you want to maybe just-
Amy Bench: Which side?
Mason Funk: The front side.
Amy Bench: [inaudible] came up already.
Mason Funk: You have already? Okay.
Amy Bench: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Looks good to you? Okay. Tell me your first and last names, please, and spell them.
Michael Slingerland: Michael Thomas Slingerland. Michael, M-I-C-H-A-E-L, Slingerland, S like Sam, L-I-N-G-E-R-L-A-N-D.
Mason Funk: [00:02:00] Okay. Where were you born and on what date?
Michael Slingerland: I was born in Greeley, Colorado, in 1950. April 22nd, 1950, at 12:56, actually.
Mason Funk: Okay. Then when did you move to Texas?
Michael Slingerland: When I was about six weeks old. My dad was a x-ray lab technician, anesthesiologist, and he got transferred out here. We got picked up and moved a lot.
Mason Funk: Okay. But once you moved to Texas, did you guys can settle down?
Michael Slingerland: In Wylie, yeah. I went through elementary school in Wylie, Texas.
Mason Funk: [00:02:30] Okiedoke. All right. Paint me a little picture of your family. Who was in there? Your mom and your dad, and any siblings. Tell me a little bit what your parents, like what kind of family were they? Were they conservative? Were they crazy? Were they free spirits? Just give me a picture.
Michael Slingerland: All right. It was my dad. My mom passed away when I was a baby, so I didn't have a mother. I had two older brothers, Gene and Sean. It was a good family.
Michael Slingerland: [00:03:00] My big brother usually stayed in trouble, Gene, and so my brother Sean and I played Little League sports and baseball and that kind of stuff. My dad worked. He raised all of us. He didn't get married, and so he raised all of the three boys. He worked a lot, and so we didn't see him as much is what I suppose you should, but that was what it was. So my brother and I played sports, and we went to high school together. He was a year older than I, and so he kind of helped me go through all the trials and tribulations and stuff. I was the baby of the family.
Mason Funk: [00:03:30] Okay. Okay. So you played Little League.
Mason Funk: Beyond that, what kind of kid were you?
Michael Slingerland: Lazy and a late bloomer. I didn't really want to grow up, and I didn't think I should have to because I was babied all my life, and I didn't have to, shouldn't get a job, I shouldn't have to work, and I didn't want to, so I was a late bloomer. I was lazy. I went to college simply because everything happened to fall into place to where I could. It certainly had nothing to do with me
Michael Slingerland: [00:04:00] and my energetic and my achievement factor. It just had nothing ... Everybody just seemed to fall into place, and I just did. I went to Texas Tech later on, as it [inaudible]. But no, I was lazy. I didn't want to get off the couch. If it didn't include something to go do and have fun with, I didn't want to do chores. I didn't want to do any of that. I did them.
Mason Funk: So does that mean you were kind of like the life of the party? Were you that?
Michael Slingerland: Well, sometimes. Early on, probably. But when I came out gay, no.
Michael Slingerland: [00:04:30] Not so much, because in that era, you weren't the life of anything. People didn't like you that much. You lost all your friends. You were the only one that came out, so you were your only friend. So you didn't have a big to choose from, and even though there were gay kids in the school and you knew them all and you didn't out them, but everybody made fun of you anyway. But no, I guess I was the life of the party before I did that, I guess.
Mason Funk: [00:05:00] So did you literally come out publicly when you were, say, still in high school?
Michael Slingerland: Yeah, and my first boyfriend was Jim Geisler when in the eighth grade.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
Michael Slingerland: Jim Geisler was a shorter guy, chubby. He had short, little bitty hands, but God, he could play piano. God almighty. We sit there and I'd sit on the bench with him. He'd play piano and just play and play and play, and his little hands would just go really cute, and they would just ... and I just loved him. He was a sweet guy. Then his family moved away, and then I got with Stan Horowitz. Stan and I were together for about a year and a half through school.
Mason Funk: [00:05:30] So paint me a picture. This is, say, early to mid '60s? Well, mid '60s.
Michael Slingerland: Well it was early '60s, 'cause when I was 13, The Beatles came out, and they were the first things that ... I actually had a boyfriend, and I was actually ... he wasn't out, and I wasn't out to a lot of people still, but most of the people already knew. But I was at his house. We had spent the night at his house, and The Beatles came on overnight,
Michael Slingerland: [00:06:00] Ed Sullivan, and that's when I first saw The Beatles, watching it at his house. But I've always had a boyfriend. I don't remember not. If I wanted one, I had one. If I didn't want one, I didn't.
Mason Funk: Was it hard for you to ... Did you feel shame? Did you feel embarrassed? How did you feel about the fact that you were obviously different from a lot of kids in this regard?
Michael Slingerland: [00:06:30] Well, I think, I didn't like the bullying. I got bullied a lot. When you were growing up, especially before you got into high school ... when you were in elementary school and maybe even the first year or two of high school, they just were unmerciful, just bullying you, because you're different. They didn't understand it, and I didn't understand it. Nobody wants to be gay. I didn't want to be gay. I wanted to be a normal guy with wife and kids and 4.2 children and 1.4 cars in the garage and everything, have a normal life,
Michael Slingerland: [00:07:00] but it just doesn't work out that way. I'd date a girl but I would always end up that night with a guy, and then this always went on and on and on. I got in trouble a lot of times 'cause I would never take it an extra step with a girl. So I've always had a boyfriend. I didn't want to be, but it just turns out that ... I was the epitome of I was born this way. I never ... don't remember not being that way, and so, when you're 19 or 20, you come out in stages. You come out to yourself first,
Michael Slingerland: [00:07:30] cause you can't fix it, and you're not going to kill yourself like a couple of my friends did, and you're not going to change it. You can't do anything about it, so you come out to yourself and said, "Okay, this is it," and that's when you adjust your life to either doing that or don't doing that. That brings on the shame, because then all of a sudden, you're there and it's out now, and everybody knows, and the people that have looked at you and people say I'm gay, say, "No, you're not," they said, "Yes, you are," and "No, I'm not." Yeah, I felt shame of it, sure,
Michael Slingerland: [00:08:00] I think for the first little bit, because these people were my friends for years and years and years, and then all of a sudden, even though coming up I had boyfriends and this and that and the other, we didn't just come out and we didn't hold hands in class. We didn't ... but everybody kind of knew, but nobody just brought it out and put it to the forefront. Then all of a sudden, they were confronting you with it every 15 minutes, so you had to just come out and do it.
Mason Funk: Tell me about these two friends of yours, you had two friends who actually killed themselves?
Michael Slingerland: [00:08:30] Yeah, one was Mike Fox, and he and I used to go to school together every year. I'd walk by his house and we'd walk to school. My dad was the x-ray and lab technician, anesthesiologist at the hospital, and his dad was the pharmacist, and so [inaudible] dad and my dad knew each other real well and Mike and I would go to the movies on Saturdays. We'd go to the pharmacy across the street and they had a lunch counter and all that, so you'd go over there, and his dad would feed us, and then we'd go back to the movies. One morning, I went by his house to go to school and his dad came out and said, "Mike's not coming to school today.
Michael Slingerland: [00:09:00] " He didn't tell me why, and so that night, my dad told me that Mike had hung himself. And he was nine.
Mason Funk: Do you have any idea why he did that?
Michael Slingerland: He didn't tell me. I didn't have a clue. He never said. We talked a lot about different things like that, about not being right, not being different, fixing things or not doing it, but he never let it on to me that it had affected him that deeply to
Michael Slingerland: [00:09:30] where he would do that. 'Cause we talked a lot. We would walk to school. From the time I picked him up we had 30 minutes walking to school. It's a different era back then. You walked to school, and so we talked about stuff, but I didn't know that he would do that. If I'd known that, I would have probably tried to stepped in and done something, but I didn't know that.
Mason Funk: But you knew that he felt like he was gay?
Michael Slingerland: Oh, I know he was gay. We both talked about it. Sure, I did. We both talked about it. Im sure you know this.
Michael Slingerland: [00:10:00] When you're gay and you're in school and nobody knows it, or some people know it, whatever, you gravitate to your own. We gravitated to each other, not just because his dad did what my dad, and all that. We gravitated to each other even in school, because you have to have somebody to talk to. You can't be just ostracized all your life from everything and all organizations, and you can't just not talk to anybody for hours and hours and hours on end, and then come home, do your homework, and go started over the next day. You got to have ... All the weird people, we just hung out together. As it turned out, weird was gay.
Mason Funk: [00:10:30] Wow. And then you mentioned another friend?
Michael Slingerland: Yeah, and I'm trying to ... I knew you were going to ask that. I can't remember his name right now. It was several years later, after that, and it was ... But I can't remember his name right now. He was going into high school the next year, and he had killed himself also. Oh, David Horowitz. Got it. David Horowitz, and he killed himself, too.
Mason Funk: Wasn't he one of the ones you said was a boyfriend of yours?
Michael Slingerland: [00:11:00] No, that was Stan Horowitz. Stan was when I was in elementary. David's daddy was a preacher, and it was a terrible toll on David, because David was gay and it was hard on him to be the preacher's son. Everybody looked up to him like he was gonna, man of the cloth and yada yada, and his son was gay. He finally killed himself.
Mason Funk: How did he kill himself?
Michael Slingerland: Ran himself into a ... car into a tree. I don't know. They said 70 something miles an hour.
Mason Funk: [00:11:30] How did that affect you? How do you feel about that, looking back?
Michael Slingerland: Well, initially when it happened, it was really devastating, because I could have been with him and it wouldn't have bothered me that much, 'cause back then you're looking at it like they looked at it. You're not particularly tickled to death that you're queer anyway, 'cause you didn't want to be this, so if there's a way out, why don't you ... That's their way out, so you're thinking could have been just as easily been me with him in the car.
Michael Slingerland: [00:12:00] I would never have hung myself. I don't think I would have ever done that. I think he did the right thing. He just put it in gear, put the foot on the floor, and ran it into a tree, out in Farmersville, Texas, which is not that far from Wylie. He used to go to Wylie High.
Mason Funk: So why do you think you didn't?
Michael Slingerland: Honest, 'cause I'm a Catholic, and I'm a coward. Whether I'm a queer or not, I'm a good Catholic. Now,
Michael Slingerland: [00:12:30] I don't go to Catholic ... I haven't been to Catholic ... I had religion lessons all the way through school, which was good or bad. Once I got out of that, I vowed I'd never go back to church again. I hated it worse than life itself, but I still go to church now. I mean, when you grow up you do different things. I don't know. Being a Catholic and I'm a coward. I don't think I could actually do it. I've thought about it all my life. Have I got a nine millimeter at the house?
Michael Slingerland: [00:13:00] Absolutely. Could I do it? I could drink enough Scotch and do it, if I felt, yeah. I know I could, and I've thought about that a lot, but I'm never going to, I don't think. I'm 67 years old now. The worst is behind me. The thing we got today, what do I think about the kids coming up now, or how would I fight? I let them fight the fight now. We trailblazed a lot and got a lot of things changed and a lot of things done, but in a very short period of time, they've carried it over the top. The two guys
Michael Slingerland: [00:13:30] that actually got marriage put together here in the state of Texas in the United States live out here, and they come to the bar all the time, and they've got a lake house out here. It shows you've got some hope, that there's different, that there's going to be ... So no, not now. I think probably all that left in my 30s and 40s, and you don't think about it anymore. When I got with Chuck for 27 years, that went away a lot, because then you were with your own kind all the time. Even though you lost your entire friends set up when you came out,
Michael Slingerland: [00:14:00] you made a whole 'nother friend set up, and so it was just a different way of life at that point, but it was a life that you embraced because you missed everything at that point that you had never had. You never had that closeness with any of your friends, 'cause you were just different than all of your friends. You were never going to be that, and so now all of a sudden you had friends that you could actually talk about and do things, and just, "How do you feel?" And, "How do you feel?"
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] So do you personally feel like you miss, to this day, do you miss, 'cause I know I do, that ... one thing we never experienced was that sense of just being part of the-
Michael Slingerland: The mainstream.
Mason Funk: ... [crosstalk] flow.
Michael Slingerland: The mainstream, the camaraderie and the mainstream, sure. I was told to not come out for sports because they didn't want me in the locker rooms, and stuff like that. You get singled out quite a bit, but back then, it was racist. I don't know that it was racist. I think it was biased as hell, but I don't know that it was racist. I just think that it made people uncomfortable,
Michael Slingerland: [00:15:00] and I don't blame them, not necessarily, because we probably would have been uncomfortable, me, if it was changed. I didn't understand it and I didn't like it, but yeah, I missed a lot of school like that. I missed a lot of friends like that. Case in point. I had my eighth grade birthday party and invited everybody, and everybody said they're coming, and everybody was going to show up, and got everything ready. Not one person showed up to my birthday party. I thought to myself, "Damn. That hurt."
Michael Slingerland: [00:15:30] Those things like that, it's just like you. There's things like that that you never forget, things that touched you, little bitty things or major things that just touched you all the way through your life, that you are never going to let go of, because it just ... there's a scar there or something there that just never is going to be put right. You can't fix that, no matter ... That's like the camaraderie or the belonging and knowing that you can walk into a crowd and you're not going to be put down for it when you were coming through it. Yeah, I missed all that.
Mason Funk: [00:16:00] I'm curious to know whether, as someone who was, you said you were raised in church and then you got as far away from it as you could or something like that, but now you still go. Do you think about God in terms of whether God made you as you are? Do you ask yourself that question?
Michael Slingerland: No. Well, okay, certainly. And Kathy Bauer, who you mentioned earlier, Kathy and I have had the discussion, too, because if you go to the Celebration Lake Church out here,
Michael Slingerland: [00:16:30] in the gay church, then they, obviously, they're Christians. I'm a Christian. Whether I'm anything else, I'm a Christian. Do I think God made me this way? Obviously, he did. God doesn't do things wrong. God does things right. Now, we don't agree with way he does things sometimes, but it's the way that it is. I ask God to forgive me every day, not for being a queer, because I make mistakes every day. We all sin in some form, fashion, every day, and so every morning,
Michael Slingerland: [00:17:00] I talk to Jesus and I ask him to forgive me my sins. That encompasses quite a bit if we need it to, which kind of makes it better. As far as when I go to church now, Kevin, my boyfriend, likes to go to church. So I go to church with him. I think it's hypocritical, to be honest with you. I don't need anybody to know how many times I talk to God every day, or how many times I talked to Jesus every day, 'cause I talk to him going down the road. If I need to visit with him for a second, I talk to him.
Michael Slingerland: [00:17:30] I don't bend his ear all the time because probably I'm doing better than most, and so I don't need him all the time. Let him go work on something that he's got to go work on and something that's going to need his attention more. But if I need him, and I talk to him, and I never say amen, either, because if I say amen that means it's over, so I just shut it off, and then when I just need him I just start going and talking to him again. I do it every day. I mean, I don't have a hard and fast ... I just sit and talk to him. But going to church, it makes everybody think,
Michael Slingerland: [00:18:00] "Well, there's Michael. He's praying." I think to myself, "Well, Michael already did that three times today, so I'm glad you got a good look at this part of it, too." I don't need that.
Mason Funk: You think a lot of people go to church just for the show and tell?
Michael Slingerland: Oh, sure they do. Sure they do. Do you ever watch these amphitheaters that fill up with 200,000 people and they're all sitting there? You don't think they couldn't just sit down and talk to God at home and visit, and then go on? Every place you worship, if there's more than two people in a room and you're talking about Jesus, you're worshiping.
Mason Funk: [00:18:30] Now, interestingly, we had a great conversation with Jim Given this morning.
Michael Slingerland: Right.
Mason Funk: He described Celebration by the Lake Church, and then he talked about how he's put together three of these what he called cantadas , where seven or eight local churches choir members come, and they all join together.
Michael Slingerland: They do.
Mason Funk: [00:19:00] He painted a picture which, frankly, to me sounded overly rosy about the level of acceptance, genuine acceptance, in this area of queer people. He made it sound like everyone is just ... I don't mean to exaggerate.
Michael Slingerland: No, and I don't want you to. I'll tell you exact, how we get it, since being a bar owner and a business owner. I'm on the Planning and Zoning Committee here in town. I'm on the Economic Development Council here in town. I'm on the City Council here in town. There's a level of acceptance about homosexuals in this town that's above and beyond. Now, you can go 15 miles out of this town
Michael Slingerland: [00:19:30] and that acceptance level is not what it is here. The people in Gun Barrel City like the money. Homosexuals have money, and they're going to bring money out here, and they're going to spend the money. Now whether they agree with your lifestyle or not, they've learned over the years to shut up, and just take the money. Now the churches and all the others, there's a rosy picture. They all want to have the Fellowship and all get along and all that, but it's the same thing. All of them have businesses. All of them are business people in this town, and they're not going to offend anybody in this town, so they're going to make it less offensive,
Michael Slingerland: [00:20:00] maybe, but everybody does get along in this town. The mayor is one of my best friends. He and I go to lunch all the time. He's not gay, but everybody has already gotten over the fact that I am gay, and that I am a more high profile person because of that stuff. But I did that to make the bar, not because I wanted to be on that stuff. I wanted everybody to get it out there that we're gay and we're here, and the bar's gay and it's here, but the bar has got more straight people now than ... because the people, it's a very accepted bar.
Michael Slingerland: [00:20:30] It's the number one bar on the lake, so whether it's gay or straight is irrelevant now. We've all kind of meshed together. You can come in on a Saturday night and see two guys kissing or two girls kissing, or actually, a guy and a girl kiss and nobody really gets too excited about it one way or another. So it is very accepting. I have not gone to the choir practices or the choirs that the other churches put on, but I've never heard one word disrespectful about it from anybody, and I know a lot of those folks that go there. So I think it does well.
Michael Slingerland: [00:21:00] Jim's also directed a lot of plays, the one act plays that we did, like at the American Legion. The American Legion and I, the gay bar, we go into a lot of charity events together, and so we pool our resources so that we can help do more things for people. There's that acceptance, too. So the other bars, we all get together. Nobody cares. We've gotten past that. Nobody really gives a damn that we're gay anymore.
Mason Funk: So would you say that's, as far as you know in your experience of Texas, is that-
Michael Slingerland: [00:21:30] It's unique. Very unique. That's the only reason that keeps you here. I wouldn't go back to Dallas. I wouldn't want that rat race anymore, and I don't want the competition anymore to go to Dallas. The guys that come down here are just perfect. I don't need to go up to Dallas and have competition, because it's too hard anyway. I like the situation down here, because you already fit in. Everybody knows your name. There's not any place in this town where the ... like Jim Given. Everybody knows his name.
Michael Slingerland: [00:22:00] Everybody knows the people that actually work for the community and do stuff for the community. Everybody knows who you are. You don't want to lose that. You're doing so much good for the community.
Mason Funk: Is there a certain kind of line? How do you feel about this idea of what is considered too ... what is considered sort of acceptable behavior and what is considered sort of in your face behavior? Is there a kind of a line you have to sort of toe out here where it's like it's okay that you're gay, but just don't kind of shove it in people's faces?
Michael Slingerland: [00:22:30] Well, yeah. I don't think we should shove it in anybody's face anyway. The young kids, and not necessarily out here, but at the gay parades in Dallas, they go out of their way to be flamboyant and out of their way to shove it in their face and that. To me, that sets us back, because that's not exactly who we are. It's like you said, people said every now and again we have to show our gay card so people believe it, but I'm not flamboyant. I'm never going to be flamboyant.
Michael Slingerland: [00:23:00] I don't think so, and I don't think you are either, but that doesn't make us any less gay. Out here, mainly, girls and guys, they hold hands on the street. That's not a big deal out here. Have I kissed my boyfriend in public? Sure. I did Saturday, but I mean, it's not just a long drawn out kiss. It's just a peck and we move on, so it's not in your face anything, but it's also, if she wanted to kiss her husband or boyfriend,
Michael Slingerland: [00:23:30] they're going to do it in public, and it's not a ... there's not a line out here. I think you could cross the line probably if you mugged down really hard or did something just really unacceptable. There's even an unacceptable within men and female. There's just unacceptable standards that you just don't want to see. You don't want to see your little kids watching mom and dad mug down or humping on the hood of the car or something like that, so no. You just want everybody to try to act according.
Mason Funk: [00:24:00] How about, like the example I gave to Jim was back in LA, I was in the checkout line of the grocery store not too long ago and the guy, the checkout guy, was tallying up my food and he said, "It looks like you're going to make your wife a nice dinner tonight." And I said, "Well, no, actually I'm going to make my husband a nice dinner." And I asked-
Michael Slingerland: That's my phone.
Mason Funk: Oh, that's your phone? Okay. Well, that's okay, 'cause I'm asking the questions. Okay. It will go away. As long as it goes away. But my question to Jim was, "Do you regard that is kind of in your face?" And he said yeah, that that's not something that he would do, necessarily.
Michael Slingerland: [00:24:30] Well, I get that. All my life, I've had-
Amy Bench: Can you wait a second? We've got a big truck.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Amy Bench: Let that go away.
Mason Funk: Waiting on a truck.
Amy Bench: [crosstalk] super loud. Okay, go ahead.
Amy Bench: All my life.
Michael Slingerland: Yeah, as far as having it in my face about that, I've always ... with Chuck, my first boyfriend, he went off, he made a living, he had a Ph.D., and I had a job, too,
Michael Slingerland: [00:25:00] but it was not like his job. He made a lot of money, and I came home and I did the laundry, and the cooking, and the cleaning, and all that crap. With Garlow, I did the same thing, he and I did all that, and so I still do that. As far as I go out here and buy groceries. No one asks me, actually ever puts it in my face whether I'm going to cook anybody dinner. They already know I'm going to cook somebody dinner. But this is such a small community. I could see where LA, that would be something if they didn't know you,
Michael Slingerland: [00:25:30] but everybody out here, you can't go to Walmart without people knowing you, so you don't go to Walmart. So no, not really. I don't get that a lot.
Mason Funk: So you're saying that maybe in a place like LA, I might be more likely to say that to a guy because I'm never going to see him again.
Mason Funk: But out here, it's kind of like a ... And I'm not judging. I'm just trying to understand how life is, what it's like out here.
Michael Slingerland: Well, it's different, because they're not going to say anything untoward to you 'cause you are going to see them again. Maybe tomorrow with the movie or maybe the next week, if they come in to your bar,
Michael Slingerland: [00:26:00] and they don't know who you are, then all of a sudden they walk into your bar and you own it, and then they're not allowed in here anymore. A lot of people don't say things because they don't know ... It's too close knit out here. The town is very cliquish, too. If you're not in the certain clique, which all small towns have got a certain clique to them, so you don't want to offend anybody, whether it's gay or whether it's even straight or whatever you could say to hurt somebody's feelings. African-American or anybody else, and so
Michael Slingerland: [00:26:30] I think everybody pretty much, knowing the climate down here with the gay population, everybody just kind of keeps it pretty close to the vest, I think, more than they ... because they know what it is. Your bread and butter is here because the gay people spend money, so you're never going to offend anybody gay, straight, or anything. You don't know what you're getting.
Michael Slingerland: So yeah, I would say in LA, "I'm never going to see them again. I can say whatever the hell I wanted to say to you."
Mason Funk: It just is totally interesting because it's just such a different-
Michael Slingerland: [00:27:00] Well, it is, but it's a whole different ... we got 5,600 people in this town, except on the weekends, and then we explode to 120,000, whenever the lake is up and that's where we get all of our population.
Mason Funk: Wow. Let's backtrack a little bit on your life and just do a little more storytelling. So tell us, your first boyfriend that you were with for 27 years
Michael Slingerland: Chuck.
Michael Slingerland: Chuck Russell.
Mason Funk: Tell us how you guys met.
Michael Slingerland: We met at Whataburger.
Mason Funk: Can you do me a favor? Just start with his name, like, "I met Chuck Russell."
Michael Slingerland: [00:27:30] I met Chuck Russell, back in the day, there was no Internet. There was no way to meet a guy. There was a back page of a dirty rag here in town, a magazine, there where you could write an ad, put it in it, and then someone could answer that ad in the next week, and then the next week, and that's how you actually met people. So I met Chuck, when I first actually met him, but I had talked to him through the back pages of this dirty rag sheet for maybe a month or two,
Michael Slingerland: [00:28:00] and then we met at Whataburger over in Irving, which you don't know where Irving is, but it's way down on the other side of Dallas. Okay? We met at Whataburger and we sat and talked for a while, and it wasn't terrible. We both agreed to give phone numbers and all that kind of stuff, and we called each other, and he called me and so we went out. We started seeing one another. He had a Ph.D. in health science, and he worked for the city of Grapevine as a health officer.
Michael Slingerland: [00:28:30] Back in those days, they had health officers in the school districts, and so he was with them in the city. So he was with them, and I was working at that time for a office furniture company. At any rate, I had a menial job but he didn't, so we lived in Irving at the house that he owned at that time. I moved in with him, and we lived there for 27 years.
Mason Funk: What years were these, roughly? Just roughly.
Michael Slingerland: [00:29:00] Oh, roughly, I met him when I was in my 20s, 'cause I had just come out, and then, so I left him when I was 47. Then there was a drought, we call it the world classic drought that I didn't have anybody forever. I don't know why. I couldn't got a dog with a pork chop wrapped around my forehead. I couldn't get a puppy to come to me. But there for several years I didn't get anybody, and then I got Garlow, and then Garlow and I were together until he passed away.
Mason Funk: Okay. What caused you and Chuck to break up? Did you break up?
Michael Slingerland: [00:29:30] Yes. We broke up, and it was terrible. He got laid off. Eventually, they did away with his job, and he was making, back in those days, now you've got to understand this is back in the '70s and early '80s, he was making $86,000 a year. Back then, that was a lot of money to bring ... They said, "Don't worry about a job. You don't have to work for ... You just stay home and we're going to pay you a year's salary." Well, he did that. He just stayed home, but he never looked for another job. He didn't go anywhere, and I still went to work in every day,
Michael Slingerland: [00:30:00] and so I would come home and he'd be on the couch and not doing anything, and then I'd get home and clean and cook and do the laundry, and then I'd get up the next day and go to work. Then I'd get home the next day. Finally, it got where he wouldn't even get out of bed. I would come home and he'd still be in bed. It got to where he didn't shave and clean up and shower or nothing. This went on for months and months and months. I got tired of it. I loved him, but I lost respect for him. I wanted him to be going and doing,
Michael Slingerland: [00:30:30] and there was so much ... He had a Ph.D., could have got a job anywhere. All he had to do was just go get one, and then had that $80,000 or $86,000, we could have put it in the bank and just meant ... But he didn't. We didn't do anything. I left him, and I moved over to north Dallas, to a zero lot line condo. He finally found a job at the University of Chicago, and he asked me to go to Chicago with him but by then I was done. He went to Chicago and I stayed here,
Michael Slingerland: [00:31:00] but that was a good thing for me because the entire AIDS epidemic, I had a lot of friends pass away during the AIDS epidemic. Most of them worked for AT&T at the complex out there. They employed a ton of people out there at LBJ. With him, we didn't cheat, we didn't do anything, so the entire AIDS epidemic just kind of passed me by. I mean, I didn't cheat and I didn't do anything so I just didn't ... I never was exposed to any of that kind of stuff, so that worked out I guess pretty well.
Mason Funk: [00:31:30] You said the AT&T complex?
Michael Slingerland: Yeah, there was an AT&T complex. A hundred years ago, this was the number one AT&T complex in the United States. It employed like 7,000 people and it was on the corner of Preston Wood and LBJ, on the corner up there in Dallas. But there were campuses and there were buildings 35 and 40 stories high and were several of them.
Michael Slingerland: Now we got to ... want to wait for this to come down?
Amy Bench: [inaudible].
Mason Funk: That's fine.
Michael Slingerland: Let's, yeah.
Mason Funk: This is good.
Amy Bench: [00:32:00] I was looking [inaudible].
Mason Funk: Okay, he said a few nuggets. Just tell me when we're speaking.
Mason Funk: Okay, so first of all, just in terms of your personal history, did you get in trouble with the law a lot when you were a kid?
Michael Slingerland: Not when I was a child. As I got older, but I wasn't a juvenile delinquent, but I didn't go to jail. I didn't get in trouble until I opened up the bar, and when I opened up the bar, we had officers on our team here in the town that were trying to make a point, and so I would go to jail a lot.
Mason Funk: [00:32:30] Tell me what happened.
Michael Slingerland: Well, several things. One, I would get pulled over. I lived out in Eustace. My partner and I had a farm out in Eustace , a ranch, and I would drive back and forth. If they saw my vehicle, they would pull me over for DWI, and I never got a breathalyzer, never got a blood test, not got anything, didn't have to do a walk, Walk this, never anything. They'd just put me in a squad car, impound my car, and charge me DWI. So Mike Head, my attorney, is in Athens, and I have him on retainer and still do.
Michael Slingerland: [00:33:00] It charges me $1,700 per DWI to get me out of it, and I call him and I get out of it the next day, and we move to the next one. I've had 11 times being pulled over for DWI. I've never been convicted of anything, 'cause I still have a liquor license. If you get convicted, you don't have a liquor license anymore. But the funniest one was they were raiding my bar one night, the cops were. The Henderson County Sheriff, the Department of Public Safety, the Gun Barrel Police,
Michael Slingerland: [00:33:30] and every other law officer in the world that they could think of was around the bar. They were stopping people right and left leaving the bar, and pulling people over for DWI. Well, that particular night, I was drunk and I was, so I decided not to drive home, 'cause I just lived 300 yards from here, so I was going to walk home. I did. I walked home, and I got out of my bar and walked down to ... Soon as I hit public, I got arrested for public intox for walking home. That's when I got on the City Council and on the EDC and all the other stuff, and since then, I've not been in jail and that's been three years.
Mason Funk: [00:34:00] So what exactly was the ... Why were they arresting you and pulling you over for DWI all these times?
Michael Slingerland: Well, a lot of times, if you left the parking ... it's called hunting, and you can't do that. It's against the law. You have to actually have probable cause in the state of Texas to pull somebody over and even question them for anything, but if you left this parking lot without your blinker on taking a right or a left, they said you didn't have your blinker on, and they could pull you over
Michael Slingerland: [00:34:30] cause that's really a violation, if you really want to get to it. They got doing that quite a bit. But when they would walk up to your window, they would say one of two things. They would say, "How much have you had to drink tonight?" or, "Where are you coming from?" See, that's not probable cause. Probable cause is, says, "Would you like to know why I've stopped you?" That way they have to show probable cause, and so Damon, the police chief, and I got into a real big fight about that, and I just told him ... USA Today came in and did a big article on it with us,
Michael Slingerland: [00:35:00] and so did The Voice and The Advocate and every other ... 'cause, well, I have a lot of friends of mine that are in the press, and so if I wanted it to go, and it did, and I made it go viral. I made it go that way, and so when I made it go that way, it went everywhere. So New York came in here, and NBC came in here, and we gave a lot of interviews. Finally, the mayor asked me to back off and [inaudible]. I said, "I didn't start this. You did." He said, "Well, can you make it go away?"
Michael Slingerland: [00:35:30] I said, "Sure, I can. Just as fast as I can bring it back in." He said, "Well, stop it," and we all kind of went and had a meeting and everybody said, "We'll stop harassing you and we'll stop coming and doing," and I said, "Okay, I'll stop this, too." So the Henderson County District Attorney came to me and apologized and everything was fine, and so it all went away. But I had to do that, because I own a business here. I have too much money in here just to be a ... You can't be a hard ass just because you got a point to make. I made my point. We ended it.
Mason Funk: [00:36:00] But what was the crux of the story? You haven't said why they were pulling you over. Were they harassing you-
Michael Slingerland: It was a gay bar.
Mason Funk: Okay, so that's what you need to tell us.
Michael Slingerland: Okay, I'm sorry. There were two bars at the time, Friends and us.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk], sorry. At the time, you mean-
Michael Slingerland: Okay, there was another gay bar in town back then called Friends, and I bartended there for six years. A good friend of mine named Jerry Francis and I, we both bartended there at the same time and we got fired at the same time.
Michael Slingerland: [00:36:30] We happened to be in Louisiana, get ready to go down and gamble and stuff, and we were supposed to work the next night. That was on a Friday and we were supposed to work the next night and we got fired. We asked them why we got fired and they said, "Well, just come in. We'll tell you," which they did, but we got fired. Garlow, my partner, got sick. It took a couple ... two and a half years later, he passed away of cancer. So I decided to open up this bar. Well, that bar was going on and still doing as good as they were going to do,
Michael Slingerland: [00:37:00] and so I opened up another gay bar in this town so that there would be two gay bars, and they would have a place to go back and forth. Well, at that point in time, we had several police officers in this town took exception to having two gay bars in this town, so they decided to try and run us out. They didn't run us out. The other bar closed down a year and a half later, and so we are here, but I had more money than he did, to be honest with you. I could stand the heat worse than he could.
Mason Funk: [00:37:30] So were they harassing the owner of that bar the way they were harassing you?
Michael Slingerland: No, because he wasn't out in the ... He wasn't trying to be a gay bar. He was just being a little hole in the wall nothing bar where all the gays knew about it, but didn't advertise it, didn't anything. Instead of doing that here, we came out and we're a gay bar, and everybody in Dallas knew who we were. The Voice came out here and did articles on us. The Dallas Morning News came, articles on us, and so we were pretty much out in forefront of trying to ...
Michael Slingerland: [00:38:00] But I wanted Garlow's to be a household name. I didn't want it to be just a hole in the wall. I wanted everybody, and everybody in Dallas knows who we are. You can't go up on Oak Lawn and not know who we are, so that achieved it, but we got harassed a lot because we talked earlier about being in somebody's face. If that was probably it, we probably did do that to an extent, but I needed to do that in order to get it ... You can't budget for advertising. Even good advertising or bad advertising, it's still advertising,
Michael Slingerland: [00:38:30] and your name is out there so you needed to go out there and just let everybody know you're here. That's what we did, and people took offense to that.
Mason Funk: Was it good for business that you got arrested?
Michael Slingerland: Well, some of it was. Everybody gets a kick out of it now. It's embarrassing now because when I walked home that night, now everybody laughs at me 'cause I got arrested. Well, I'm the only person in this town that's ever been arrested walking home being drunk from a gay bar, or any bar actually, I guess. So every time we all go to lunch, everybody just laughs at me, say, " Well, have you gotten arrested going home walking?"
Michael Slingerland: [00:39:00] So, "No, I haven't, but I don't walk home anymore." Say, "When I'm drunk, I drive. I can't afford to go home and walk. I don't get stopped when I'm in my car. I only get stopped when I'm walking."
Mason Funk: That was a case of you kind of crossing the line. You were doing what you thought you needed to do for your business. They took exception.
Michael Slingerland: A couple of the officers did, and I'm sure that ... The chief of police said he didn't have any idea or know anything about it, and I think that's bull. I think he knew exactly what was going on,
Michael Slingerland: [00:39:30] but he couldn't put himself out there when it all came and backfired. Like I said earlier, once it backfired on them, then we just needed to kind of let it go, because everybody knew about it. If I needed to start that up again, all I'd had to done was hit a ... 'cause David Wells and a bunch of other people in the media out here are a lot of good friends of mine, just call them and it starts back up again. So I've always got that in the bag.
Mason Funk: The specific story was you went to them and you said the cops out here busting me because I have a gay bar?
Michael Slingerland: [00:40:00] Well-
Mason Funk: Is that the crux of the story?
Michael Slingerland: Well, David Wells is a very flamboyant writer, and so I couldn't have told it probably as good as he did. He embellished quite a lot to where people would actually come down here and pay attention, until the whole gay rights movement from New York came down here and wanted to be a part of it and fix me and help me, which is wonderful. I mean, I know people now that I would never have known, and still talk to them all the time, and so get publications out of there. A hundred years ago,
Michael Slingerland: [00:40:30] my big brother owned Uncle Charlie's up in New York, the gay bar in New York, but I didn't know them then. Now I know all those people now. But it did help. It helped the bar. It had to do that in order for the bar to get good billing fast. You can't just keep pouring money in the business every month and expect it to pay itself back. You got to, eventually, got to get the name out there, and if I'm going to jail every month or every two months or every three months, let's get something out of it.
Mason Funk: Gotcha.
Michael Slingerland: [00:41:00] It was costing me $1,750 up to $5,000 bucks every time I went to jail, so whenever I got walking, I got a $365 fine for walking home and that was like cab fare. I mean, that's the cheapest thing I've paid in ... That's how this damn bar was $365 just to walk home.
Mason Funk: Wow. How long ago did this happen? This whole-
Michael Slingerland: Oh, I think all that was three years ago, four years ago, something like that. I've been on the City, all that, for almost three years, so it's probably been four years ago.
Mason Funk: [00:41:30] So tell us now about your civic involvement here in Gun Barrel.
Michael Slingerland: Well, rather than go to jail, I decided to join them instead, and so I became a public face more than I wanted to because of that. First I joined the Planning and Zoning Committee, which is really a nothing committee but it gets your foot in the door to the city. Then I got on the EDC.
Mason Funk: Can you say that over again? We had a motorcycle.
Michael Slingerland: Oh.
Mason Funk: Tell us about the planning committee.
Michael Slingerland: The planning and zoning committee is a nothing committee. Basically, what you're doing is
Michael Slingerland: [00:42:00] if somebody wants to rezone their thing, you vote on it, and usually you let them. There's not really a reason not to. But it's a stepping stone to get you into the next thing, which is the EDC, and that's what you want to be. The City Council has very little to do anything in this town.
Mason Funk: What's the EDC?
Michael Slingerland: Economic Development Corporation. We own all the money in the city. If we want to develop somebody, if we want a business to come into this town, if we want to give them the land, it's like Elder Dodge is opening up a place up here,our street, and we gave them a half a million dollars to come in here and open up a car lot.
Michael Slingerland: [00:42:30] The EDC has all the purse strings, and so I wanted to be on the part that has some influential parts of what to do with that, and so that's what we did. Dickey's Barbecue and all the other fast food chains that come in here, we help them come in here because the EDC owns a lot of land. So when we want somebody bad enough, we give them $200,000 worth of land right quick, and they move in here. Then we give them tax abatements but that's all of us, because somebody still has to pay that bill, but we have $1,400,000 cash in the bank so we can do that.
Michael Slingerland: Then with the city, you just join the city because that's the next step. Most of the EDC is on the council anyway, like Rob and I and everybody, so it's just the next step to wherever you have enough clout to where you can do about whatever you want to do, and they don't go to jail anymore, and it's so better.
Mason Funk: So much better.
Michael Slingerland: It's so better.
Mason Funk: I want to go back to something you said a little while ago, about the pride parade in Dallas.
Mason Funk: [00:43:30] You said those people, they're flaunting it, they're shoving it in people's faces. But let me ask you this question, from the point of view of devil's advocate. Why do those people not have the right to do what they want to do? When does it become shoving it in people's faces if they're having their own party and the public can pay attention or not?
Michael Slingerland: I agree. And I don't-
Mason Funk: But you also made a very strong point about how that's crossing the line.
Michael Slingerland: It is crossing the line, because they're wearing underwear and not covering up the bottom part of their bodies, and they're trying to be naked out there.
Michael Slingerland: [00:44:00] They finally have a dress code for the damn thing, for the parade, which they didn't use to have. But the younger people, and I didn't say the older people, the older people still have respect for having gay values and the morals that we do when we're in a parade and that kind of stuff. But the younger people were trying to get naked and then they finally had to put in a dress code, and then they finally had to ... There was always a gathering at the end of the parade at a park, and they've had to curtail it 'cause they would get naked and to start running around being stupid. I don't give a,
Michael Slingerland: [00:44:30] whether you're gay or straight or whatever, you don't get naked in public. You just don't. That's not the way ... and I mean, I'm old. Okay? But you just don't. That's flaunting it to me.
Michael Slingerland: What is it to you? I know you're interviewing me, but what is it to you?
Mason Funk: I love getting naked in public, but that's a whole other story.
Michael Slingerland: Okay. Bless your heart. Somebody's got to.
Mason Funk: [00:45:00] Just that [inaudible] here. But I guess the thing I want to discern from you is so it's a question, in your mind, it's not a gay straight thing. It's just a kind of a propriety thing.
Michael Slingerland: Yes. There are some things you just don't do in public. I mean, and we alluded back to where we kiss in public or whatever, that's not a big problem. But trying to go overboard in a society that you know wouldn't be acceptable if you were straight, so why can you do it if you're gay? You can go to jail by taking all your clothes off if you're straight, so what makes you think you can't go to jail if you're gay?
Mason Funk: [00:45:30] Well, the thought that comes to mind for me is for centuries and centuries, needless to say, gay people couldn't do anything in public without getting harassed, busted, bullied, shot, or beat up.
Michael Slingerland: I agree, I agree.
Mason Funk: So some people take particular value and joy in the fact that for one afternoon a year they can let it all hang out. Yes, in public. Yes, in public, and the rest of the world can just kind of get used to it, and if they don't like it, they don't have to look. That's their attitude.
Michael Slingerland: [00:46:00] I understand that, and that's good for them. I'm, on the other hand, just don't.
Michael Slingerland: Now, I go to the parade. I didn't go this last year, and I don't know that I'm going to go this year. Several of the people want to go, put a float in it this year, and so we're tossing that around, so we may do that this year. I don't know. For me, being an official, if the city and police department can crack down on you for being naked, then I don't think it's probably appropriate. Okay?
Mason Funk: [00:46:30] I'm also just trying to, one of the really fun things about this project is understanding the cultural differences in our country, and it's just [crosstalk]-
Michael Slingerland: Maybe it's the rural part of me instead of the urban part of me.
Mason Funk: Yeah. The Texas part of you.
Mason Funk: It's a more conservative place.
Michael Slingerland: It is. Whether we want to admit it or not, sure, it is.
Mason Funk: That's okay, too.
Michael Slingerland: Aw, really? California? Oh, you're kidding. Come on, now. Say it isn't so.
Mason Funk: [00:47:00] [crosstalk]. Okay, so what else do we need to talk about? So you said, you alluded ... definitely we're not going to discuss politics on camera, but you alluded to the fact that some people say, "How can you be gay and vote for Donald Trump?"
Michael Slingerland: Well, I voted for the least of the two evils. I didn't like either one, and I certainly wouldn't have a problem with having a female president. That doesn't bother me one way or another. I just think that particular candidate had flaws,
Michael Slingerland: [00:47:30] but they all have flaws, so you go with the least flawed, you think. I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat. I'm an Independent. I feel like any time you should be able to think for yourself, no matter if you're gay or straight or whatever, if you can't think for your straight, then probably you shouldn't vote. I mean, if you're just party line because you're gonna drink the Kool-Aid, what the hell good are you? Actually get a thought between ... There's actually places you can get both sides of the story and the truth from both sides,
Michael Slingerland: [00:48:00] so why don't you weigh them, and see which way you want to go? That's what I do. I try to figure out what's the best for my situation. So did I vote for Donald Trump? Yes. I did. But he was the lesser of the two evils, in my mind. Not in California, but in my mind.
Mason Funk: Sure.
Michael Slingerland: Not in Texas, but in my mind.
Mason Funk: Gosh, I feel like we've covered so much territory. Amy, do you have questions?
Amy Bench: [00:48:30] I did. Let me see if I can find [inaudible].
Mason Funk: Okay. I always let her have [inaudible].
Amy Bench: I guess, can you just tell me to ... how did you get into the bar industry? Is this a natural fit for you? How did that [crosstalk]?
Michael Slingerland: Well, before-
Amy Bench: But answer, always, even if I ask a question, [crosstalk]-
Michael Slingerland: Okay. Before Garlow passed away. Garlow, we had done really well. We built houses together and we bought houses together, and we had rental property and stuff. We had done fairly well, business wise,
Michael Slingerland: [00:49:00] and he'd always wanted to do, always, other things. He wanted to open up a used car lot, so he had me ... I was his lackey. I would go and research this and go do that, and then bring it to him. This is this and this is this. Then he said, "Well, let's open up another bar," over against the gay other bar, 'cause he didn't like Friends particularly. He actually worked at the street bar here, Garlow did, dealing cards. Whenever he said, "Let's open up another gay bar," and I said, "Okay," he said, "Well, get into it and let's figure out what it would cost and how much and whatever." So I said, "Okay,"
Michael Slingerland: [00:49:30] and I did all that stuff, and so I got all of it together and everything, and about that time, he got sick. So for the next two and a half years, we tried to get him well and it didn't work. He passed away. So the next year, I was at a New Year's Eve party with a bunch of friends of mine out in Ben Wheeler, Texas, which is the other way, more easter than here, by about, say, 30 miles. We were all sitting around getting drunk on New Year's Eve, but we weren't going to drive, and so we sat out there. All, there were probably 30 of us,
Michael Slingerland: [00:50:00] and out of the 30, eight of us decided, "Let's go ahead and open up another bar." Well, we all decided that night, and we went boom, boom, boom, womp, and here we go. So we started looking for a place and I found this place. It seemed like a good idea, so I bought it, and then I applied for the liquor license, and then by the next month, out of the eight people, four of us were left, because bars are work, and it takes time and it's money. But it was all my money. I was the only one putting money in it.
Michael Slingerland: [00:50:30] So after the, got it up and got it running and the license got here and everything, by that time there were three of us, and that was Jerry Francis, Glenn, and myself. Now we've been here, we are in our eighth year, and now there's Glenn and I. You weed them out just like, I mean, it's a hard business, especially for the first three or four years when you're just putting money after money after money into it, and there's no end in sight. I mean the economy sucks, the lake's down,
Michael Slingerland: [00:51:00] nobody's out here, you're trying to invent ways to get people to come in this damn thing. So it was just a struggle, but we made it. After about the fourth year, it turned around and started making a profit. So now it does fairly well.
Mason Funk: What are some of the ways you came up with to get people in the door?
Michael Slingerland: Well, we have foam parties, which Friday night, we're going to fill up the entire bar with foam, and we're going to scrub the floor with the soap, because we're going to redo the floor the next Monday, but we're going to have a foam party here next Friday, and then we also do Jell-O wrestling in the back with the lesbians,
Michael Slingerland: [00:51:30] which they think it's a real big time, with the lesbians that go kick the crap out of each other. The gay guys like it, but not as much as that. We usually have a drag queen as a referee out there, so Nathan usually is the referee. So we do that and we have Texas hold 'em games, and card games, and card games, and stuff like that. I mean, anything that you can think of, possibly, we've tried it and done it. Because you're fighting nine other bars for a very small market business, and so you try everything you can do to get somebody to come in here.
Michael Slingerland: [00:52:00] It's like these squares out here, this barrio. That's Mario that Candace came up with, and she colored all the little squares and all the little things where you roll dice and you go around the board, and you win drinks and you win this, or you go back steps or whatever, and it's gay because you can cut across with the gay bridges and stuff. I mean, she thought all that up. She does real good job with that. That's how she got people in here, to come in here on nights that no one else would come in here, and they'd play that stuff. It's free to play it and we give them free drinks.
Mason Funk: That ends up making you money?
Michael Slingerland: [00:52:30] Yeah. What you want to do, like cards and people coming in here, basically what you're wanting to do is probably at least by 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, you want your parking lot with a lot of cars in it, 'cause nobody stops at a bar where there's nobody there. So I don't care if they're all out here drinking water playing a game, as long as they've all driven their own car.
Mason Funk: Gotcha. I love this. This is the tricks of the trade.
Michael Slingerland: Well, it's true. You don't-
Mason Funk: I'm going to open up [crosstalk]-
Michael Slingerland: Oh, are you really? I like it. If you need an investor, I hope you. Actually, let me give you this damn thing.
Mason Funk: [00:53:00] You can walk away.
Michael Slingerland: I can walk out of here tomorrow.
Mason Funk: How do you fill this place up with foam? Literally, how do you fill it with foam?
Michael Slingerland: Well, can I turn around?
Mason Funk: Sure. Just [crosstalk].
Michael Slingerland: See that black thing right behind the ceiling fan? That is a pump that pumps out foam and it will fill up 2500 feet of foam, six foot tall, in 15 minutes. What happened was I had a friend of mine out of Dallas, said, "You want to do a foam party?" I said, "I don't know what a foam party is." He said, "It's where we put barriers up and we fill it up,
Michael Slingerland: [00:53:30] and people get out in the foam, and they dance." Which we have the lights and all that stuff, so he came out here, and he charged a cover, so for part of the gate, he gave it to me. Well, if he'd come in, it wasn't a bad thing but it only brought in a certain amount of people, but it could have been expounded on. But I didn't know that I wanted to pay him $500 to expound on it, so I got online and I bought the machine for $500, and so now we have three of them a year. So now we have it packed three times a year,
Michael Slingerland: [00:54:00] and we do our own now. If it doesn't seem like it's that ... 'cause I'm not smart, but if it doesn't seem like it's not that complicated, now I'll just buy one and will just do it and make sure that we can get it done and then we work, so that's how we do it.
Mason Funk: It's enough of a draw just that people can dance in foam?
Michael Slingerland: Oh, yeah. On Facebook we've had over 1300 hits on it for people that know about it. Now, how many show up, you don't never know. That's been on Facebook about 10 days, and it's had 1300 hits in 10 days.
Michael Slingerland: [00:54:30] So we do pretty well with that, and then the girls, they all advertised their own stuff, so that does pretty well, too.
Mason Funk: Amazing. Amy, more questions?
Amy Bench: Yeah, and answer-
Mason Funk: That's [inaudible].
Amy Bench: Would you ... So you touched on this a little bit, but would you consider Gun Barrel City like a gay oasis in a conservative east Texas? And if so, why?
Michael Slingerland: Yeah. Well-
Amy Bench: Will you kind of repeat that back to him? Like [inaudible]-
Mason Funk: The question.
Michael Slingerland: Yeah, good question. Now, I think it is possibly, simply because-
Amy Bench: [00:55:00] Well, wait, wait, wait. Don't repeat good question.
Michael Slingerland: Well, I thought it was a good question.
Amy Bench: Repeat the, "I think that Gun Barrel City is," if you could say that him, whatever it is.
Mason Funk: And why. In other words, if we don't hear her question, make sure [crosstalk]-
Michael Slingerland: You said it to me.
Mason Funk: Would you say Gun Barrel City is kind of like a gay Mecca in east Texas, and incorporate my question into your answer.
Michael Slingerland: Yes, and it is, and it's simply because-
Mason Funk: No, what I mean is you can't say, " Yes, it is," 'cause we don't know what you're talking about.
Michael Slingerland: Oh, okay.
Mason Funk: Imagine you can't hear my question. So Gun Barrel City is-
Michael Slingerland: [00:55:30] Okay. Go. Gun Barrel City is kind of like a gay Mecca out here in the middle of nowhere, simply because 15 miles out of town, the gay community isn't as prevalent as it is right here in town. We get a lot of lake people from Dallas. The gay community comes out here, and they've been coming out here for hundreds of years, ever since this lake's been incorporated, and they all have boats out here and they have houses out here. It lends the city to be part of that.
Michael Slingerland: [00:56:00] Most of the people that they ... You invite somebody from Dallas to your lake house, and they come out here and then they buy a lake house, and then eventually they move to that lake house and they sell their Dallas house, and then the next batch come through. So it's always a new crop of people. Then, the gay people have come out here and started opening up businesses out here, like W House just opened up here, David and Thomas opened up a gift shop out here just the other day. So there several gay businesses that are moving in, just not bars, but the prominent gay people coming out here and opening up really nice businesses and stuff.
Mason Funk: [00:56:30] Now, you mentioned, when I asked you something on the questionnaire about names of individuals, I forget what the question is, but you said you have hundreds of people coming in here every night, you wrote this, for whom this is basically probably like a one of a kind ... They come in here as an escape from what's in the outside world, vis-a-vis being gay.
Michael Slingerland: [00:57:00] Well, a lot of people struggle with being gay, and they struggle with it on the outside world a lot. Here, everybody, whether you're gay, straight, or whatever, you have an inclusiveness feeling in this bar. I don't think that that's ... I think Garlow does that. That's certainly not me, because I'm not the type of guy. I'm not going to be huggy, unicorns flying out of my butt, none of that. I'm just Michael, but Garlow was that. You have an inclusiveness when you walk in here to
Michael Slingerland: [00:57:30] where no one's going to talk bad to you, nobody's going to bully you, nobody's going to talk down to you, no matter what you are. They do lose the struggle and the stress that they have in the day to day world when they walk in here. So yeah, we have a lot of kids that come in here and say that.
Mason Funk: What are some of the, these days, take two types of people. Take sort of a, well, let's take one example. Take a married individual, man or woman, who is still very closeted. Will he or she come in here sometimes?
Michael Slingerland: [00:58:00] Sometimes, but not very often, 'cause there's a lot of men out here that are married that are closeted, and there are hundreds and hundreds, but they can't coming here simply because, which is stupid, 'cause back whenever I was gay and didn't want to come out, I was afraid I'd see somebody in a gay bar that I knew. Well if they're in there, why are they in there? But we don't correlate that really well. You're not ...
Michael Slingerland: [00:58:30] really get that so well, and I think that's the same thing out here. If you get on Craigslist, there's hundreds and hundreds of men out here that are gay that advertise on Craigslist every day, but they don't come in here.
Mason Funk: Then how about for, say, middle aged gay guys who are out there living, say, 15, 20, 30 miles from here. What are the struggles they face in their daily life if they want to be gay but they also want to be in society that Garlow's kind of provides them escape from, what is the reality of their day to day lives?
Michael Slingerland: [00:59:00] Well, number one, I think, is you don't have to be gay to come in here, and so if you're gay but you don't want to be gay out in society, but you're wanting to kind of look around and see what the gay community has to offer, you can come in here and be more incognito because you don't have to be gay to be in here. It's not a stigma anymore. Used to be a real stigma to go into a gay bar, and you and I both know when we were first going into a gay bar,
Michael Slingerland: [00:59:30] my God, it was like the worst sin you could ever do in your life. So nowadays, especially with this type of bar, where that stigma isn't here to where you can go in here and check it out. Now, you may not stay long because when I first went into my first bar and I didn't know what to expect and it and I saw two guys kissing or whatever, and it was embarrassing to me because I didn't know what to expect, so I left. Then I got to thinking about it, well, probably it wasn't that bad, so I went back. Obviously, you do go back. But they do that, too, but they don't know what to expect when they come in here, but that stigma's gone.
Mason Funk: [01:00:00] That's interesting. Yeah. They can actually come here ... Is that your phone?
Michael Slingerland: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Mason Funk: Okay. I was clarifying, they can come in here actually and kind of check out the terrain because it's not known as an exclusively gay bar.
Michael Slingerland: Yeah, matter of fact, it's known more as not exclusively.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor and start over again, just say that last part.
Michael Slingerland: [01:00:30] It's known not as an exclusively gay bar. People know this as an everybody bar, and that's one of the good things, I think, for it, and it's got a good name for that. But now, if you want to meet your boyfriend here, yes. If you want to meet your girlfriend here, yes. And then we do it all the time.
Mason Funk: Then do you meet young kids or younger people from around the area who are still very much very trepidatious about coming out that can come here, but they're still really facing a lot of difficulty in their personal life?
Michael Slingerland: [01:01:00] We have a lot of younger kids that are coming up now, we have a lot of entertainers that are gay, and our new gay entertainers, the new drag queens are in their 20s, and they're coming up now. The old queens are kind of just taking a side step and Nathan and Jason and Jake, they're young kids now that are coming up, and their friends that are coming in. When they're your friend and they're young people like that, they don't have that feeling of that like we did back in the day, 'cause we've broke a lot of ground, and they've broke a lot of ground in the last five years. I mean,
Michael Slingerland: [01:01:30] a lot of things have changed in the last five years, and so I don't think them coming into a gay bar now, any gay bar, has that stigma that it used to be, but especially not this one. What do I want to say? They're not scared to come into a gay bar like we used to be. They're not intimidated by in a gay bar.
Mason Funk: Do you happen to know if the local high school, like the nearest one to here, in the high schools in the area, do any of them have Gay Straight Alliances?
Michael Slingerland: [01:02:00] Yes, they do. Kaufmann, and we support it, and the teacher of the year, we supported her. We were the number one sponsor for their high school here, for the academic, and her name was Nancy Schaff, and she's a very good friend of mine. Her husband's on the EDC with me, and that's how come we had to sponsor it, 'cause he bullied me into it, so I wrote a check and we did that. Then she won teacher of the year.
Mason Funk: She's the sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance?
Mason Funk: [01:02:30] Okay. Just hold that thought.
Mason Funk: When we're rolling we'll get it. Jimmy Palmer and Chris Garlow. Okay. Everything's good in there. Okay, we're still rolling? So let's just start right in. Jimmy Palmer was?
Michael Slingerland: Jimmy Palmer was my boss at the city of Richardson, Texas.
Amy Bench: I'm sorry. Can you lean back when you talk?
Amy Bench: Oh, there you go.
Michael Slingerland: He was my boss at the-
Mason Funk: Start over completely.
Michael Slingerland: [01:03:00] Okay. Jimmy Palmer was my boss at the city of Richardson of Texas, and I was in the Water Department at the time, going to high school. Every summer, I worked for the city of Richardson putting in water meters for new houses, and I learned how to run a backhoe and then I became the crew chief of the thing. So I graduated high school, and he asked me if I was going to go to college and leave him after summer was over, and I said, "There's no college. I'm poor. We don't have college." He said, "If I could get you to college, would you go?" And I said,
Michael Slingerland: [01:03:30] "I don't know. Maybe. I never thought about it," and he said, "Well, let me make some calls, and then I'll talk to you." Well, he called Doc Wheeler for the city of Lubbock, Texas, and talked to Doc and asked him if I could transfer from the city of Richardson to the city of Lubbock and work on the Water Department in the computer room, filling up overhead storage tanks at night and going to school during the day. So apparently him and Doc had a conversation and they got back that couple days later, and he said, "You can transfer up there.
Michael Slingerland: [01:04:00] The City of Lubbock Credit Union will loan you all your tuition for your housing and your books and everything, and then you pay it back as you work for the city at night, and then go to school during the day." And I said, "Okay, I'll do that." So I transferred to the city of Lubbock and went and got two degrees, got one in architect design and one in marketing, and then I graduated, came back out of Lubbock, Texas the next day. It was terrible. The sand would take the paint off your car. It was just terrible.
Mason Funk: [01:04:30] But what does that say about Jimmy Russell?
Michael Slingerland: Jimmy Palmer.
Michael Slingerland: Well, he didn't have to do anything for me. I mean, I just worked for him, but took an extra interest and an extra step that I would probably have not have done. I mean, I didn't show any aptness that I should have ... that I was all that and a ... I was just a normal guy that worked, but I had worked hard and became one of the bosses of the crews, but that didn't mean anything. I was still just 18 years old, and so that's when I went to Texas Tech.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] So why do you think he did that, though?
Michael Slingerland: He liked me. When we would have troubles, we were always on call in the Water Department. Main breaks and stuff like that. I would always be one of the first ones they'd call out because I didn't mind getting in the ditch and going to work and fixing the dang thing, and so I'd get down in there and I'd work and everything. You get muddy and nasty and cruddy, and he would come out there at the end of the evening, and he'd bring out some beer, and we just sit out there. I was underage, but we just sat out there and just shoot the shit and talk,
Michael Slingerland: [01:05:30] and he would just talk and we got to know each other. He wasn't gay that I knew of, and he didn't think I was, I don't think. I don't think there was an ulterior motive for any of that. We just got to be friends, and he wanted to help me, and he did. There's people all the way through your life, Mason, that try to help you. Now sometimes we realize it and look at it and see it, sometimes we just blow it off and don't take advantage of whatever that is.
Michael Slingerland: [01:06:00] In this particular instance, it was just blatantly right there that I needed to take a look at this because there was not another opportunity. It was either that or I wasn't going to really do very well, or at least I didn't think I was going to do very well. So I needed to try to, whether I was college material or not, which I didn't think I was, but if I was college material or not, I needed to at least try. Plus I was intrigued by the people that I was going to meet there because I had been starved to death of not meeting gay people, and there were so many people at Texas Tech University that I knew there had to be more than just me.
Michael Slingerland: [01:06:30] So I needed to go into that environment, and it got me out of this environment, which I was stuck. You can't do that unless something else happens catastrophic in your life and makes you do something else, and so that made me do something else, made me get on with the next part of my life, whatever that was, and then he helped me do it.
Mason Funk: I can totally relate to that part. You look back and you're like, "Wow, that person really gave me a step up."
Michael Slingerland: Yes. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't probably, I don't know what I'd have done or amounted to.
Michael Slingerland: [01:07:00] I may have been just the same as I am right now. Who knows? But I'm going to give him every bit of, 'cause he didn't have to put me there. He didn't have to put me in that particular spot that moment. He didn't do another damn thing for another employee there but me, and so, I mean, it made me feel ... He was good to me. And I saw him every day until he died. I mean, I always went back and saw him periodically until he passed away.
Mason Funk: [01:07:30] Good. Okay. Now let's talk about Chris. I mean, I know you guys had an important relationship, and sadly, he passed away. But what kind of person ... Tell me about Chris Garlow.
Michael Slingerland: Chris Garlow, when I met him, he was a spoiled brat. His daddy was rich. His daddy was in construction in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Chris was inept at everything. He couldn't really do much, but he didn't really want to try to do much. When he was 27 years old, his daddy just told him, he said, "You're not good at working so you just need to stop," and he made him.
Michael Slingerland: [01:08:00] He retired when he was 27 years old and his dad gave him his money, but he was dating Monsignor at the time in New York City, and so him and the Monsignor were together until the Monsignor passed away. Then the Monsignor passed away and he got with a guy named Bob. Him and Bob were together until Bob passed away, and so this was over years. This wasn't just a minute, but over years. So he met a guy named Lee, and Lee was headed to Dallas,
Michael Slingerland: [01:08:30] and he said, "You need to come with me, Chris," and Chris said, "I can't." So finally, he went back to Pittsburgh with his daddy, and he actually drove a truck for his daddy, hauling fuel to fill up the bulldozers and stuff like that. His daddy finally just said, "You're just really not good at this," and he said, "Well, I went to go to Dallas with a friend of mine," and he said, "Okay." So his daddy took him down to the Chevrolet dealership and bought him a gray El Camino and said,
Michael Slingerland: [01:09:00] "Tear your butt." So he came down here to be with Lee, and him and Lee got together down here, and then Lee and him were on Prescott, down on Cedar Springs, down here in the gayborhood, and he had a heart attack and died, Lee did, in the kitchen. That's when I met Garlow, was in that area, and then he and I started running around together and then he moved out here and I moved out here. That's when we bought a house over here on ... He had a condo here first,
Michael Slingerland: [01:09:30] and then when I got here, we bought a house over here in Harbor Point. Then we, together, he and I started buying condos, more condos over there, and so when he passed away we had six condos, and then we bought ... We were in the construction business and we did pretty well, so we bought some rental houses and he was a great investor. He would take care of all the money. He knew when to buy and when to sell, and his dad in the construction business, how his dad got rich is his dad opened up a construction company and he got a great big job up in Pennsylvania,
Michael Slingerland: [01:10:00] so we went to the bank and had wanted to borrow some money from the bank. The bank told him, "No, you can't have the money," and so they did the job anyway. E.W. was his name, and Alma was Chris's momma's name. Anyway, E.W. went and did the job and then went back and bought the bank and then fired everybody. Now it's called S&T Bank Shares, and it's on the New York Stock Exchange. At that time, Garlow and I had a 117, 000 shares of that stock.
Mason Funk: Haha!
Michael Slingerland: [01:10:30] So his daddy called him up one day. He was in Pittsburgh and he said, "Son, you got to buy stock, 'cause you're spending more than your dividends." He said, "Okay," so he came back home to me and he says, "We got to start buying more stock," and I said, "Okay," so we started buying stock. But he would do it and tell me what we were doing, and so if we made ... There's a building out here on the way to Kaufmann that, I built it and designed it and did all that, and it cost a million dollars to put it up, and we did it and put it up, and that money went all to S&T Bank Shares stock.
Michael Slingerland: [01:11:00] So he and I were buying lots and lots of stock, and then one weekend, this is the first time this ever happened, too, but one weekend he was up seeing his momma, Elma, and Elma went to bathroom. They were all going to go out and eat and Elma, in the bathroom, had a brain aneurysm and died in the bathroom floor. Apparently Garlow and his daddy were trying to get her out of the bathroom but they couldn't get her to say anything, so they went in there finally they found her dead, and Chris called me and he was just crying, crying, crying,
Michael Slingerland: [01:11:30] so he was going to stay for the funeral and all that stuff. So we'd talk and talk and talk, and he'd cry and cry and cry. So finally, the funeral got done and everything was done, and I said, "I'll pick you up at baggage," and he was flying back in. This is the first time we ever did this. He came through the baggage and he was crying and I was standing there in baggage. He came up and kissed me right in front of everybody, and we just stayed there and hugged forever, until he quit crying. Then when we got back into the car and was headed home and he thought about it a minute,
Michael Slingerland: [01:12:00] we didn't say anything for a long time, and he said, "Well, that ought to give everybody something to talk about." That was all he ever said about it, but it was wonderful. I got him to quit crying.
Mason Funk: So it must've been ... I can only imagine losing him. That must have been terrible.
Michael Slingerland: Oh, yeah. That was terrible. We tried everything, I mean, absolutely everything to get it to go away, and every time you would go to a doctor, they would give you high hope, but nothing worked. Nothing ever worked. Nothing worked,
Michael Slingerland: [01:12:30] and we were spending money, tons of money, but we both had Blue ... Garlow, he had Blue Cross and Blue Shield when I met him, so we just got on the same policy and put it under the company name, so we both had Blue Cross and Blue Shield, so I mean, then they were spending tons and tons of money. Nothing worked and couldn't get him well. He had a do-not-resuscitate clause, and so we were sitting in the bar one night and he said, "If I ever get sick,
Michael Slingerland: [01:13:00] I want you to unplug me," and when you're about half drunk, you pat each other on the back and say, "Yeah, don't worry about it, I got you," and all that. Well, when it comes down right to it and you actually have to unplug somebody that you love so very, very deeply, and I had to unplug him. He died three hours after we unplugged him, and it was just terrible. That's why I didn't date anybody, because I don't want a man that I'm going to have to bury. I don't want to bury another one. I'm not going to go through that again.
Michael Slingerland: [01:13:30] That was the hardest thing that I ever did in my entire life, and I'll never do that again, not for anybody.
Mason Funk: So you stayed away from men for a long time?
Mason Funk: Tell me about that, and tell me what happened [inaudible].
Michael Slingerland: Well, I stayed away from men. I dated. I know this is going to sound so cheap and so tawdry, but it's true. I dated all the married men out here, when their wives were at work, I would have sex with them, and then we'd go off running around and go to flea markets and stuff.
Michael Slingerland: [01:14:00] They'd be retired and I'm retired, and so we'd play, and so I didn't have to have them. They weren't going to take anything home for me, and I wasn't going to get anything from them, and their wife wasn't doing anything, so I dated those men for three years and didn't ... I just stayed away. They don't come to my bar. I'm never going to run into them anywhere, and so I just-
Mason Funk: [inaudible]. Okay.
Michael Slingerland: I just dated them, and I had one guy that I would date. He would call me and he would take his wife up and take her to Lowe's over here because she was the cashier, and he'd come over to my house, we'd have sex, and then he'd pick her up, take her to lunch, and then I would go on with the rest of my day. So I did that forever, and then I thought about that for a while, and I thought, "That's really not right. I shouldn't do that." So I stopped that. All except for one guy, and I dated a mortician, but his wife deserved it. She was just a real crabby bitch anyway, so I did it anyhow, and his name was David. He moved to Mesquite, and it was kind of a little farther then I wanted to go, but I did it anyway, and so finally, I still ...
Michael Slingerland: [01:14:30] because she was the cashier, and he'd come over to my house, we'd have sex, and then he'd pick her up, take her to lunch, and then I would go on with the rest of my day. So I did that forever, and then I thought about that for a while, and I thought, "That's really not right. I shouldn't do that." So I stopped that. All except for one guy, and I dated a mortician, but his wife deserved it. She was just a real crabby bitch anyway, so I did it anyhow, and his name was David. He moved to Mesquite, and it was kind of a little farther then I wanted to go, but I did it anyway, and so finally,
Michael Slingerland: [01:15:00] I still ... Then I met Kevin. Kevin and I have been together now two months, and the other day David called me and asked me what I was up to, and I said, "I have a boyfriend," and he said, "Okay, I'll leave you alone," and I said, "Okay." So now it's Kevin, for the moment. I don't know how long ... whenever you're, in the start out with a relationship, and it's been a hundred years, and I know it's been a long time for you because you've been in a relationship for a while, but you wait for the other shoe to drop for a good while until you decide this is, or not this,
Michael Slingerland: [01:15:30] and you're just sitting there. You don't get invested and anything until you see if it's ready to invest, and so we're in deep like. And so I really, we have a-
Mason Funk: You're in what?
Michael Slingerland: Deep like.
Mason Funk: What does that mean?
Michael Slingerland: Means I like him a lot. He's really a lot of fun to be around. Am I in love with him? No. Do I love him? I kind of love him sometimes, but that doesn't mean I'm in love with him. I love certain things that he does. He makes me laugh sometimes. To make him laugh sometimes, and that makes me ... You feel that, but that's deep like.
Michael Slingerland: [01:16:00] That's not in love, and if you hang out with each other and keep hanging out with each other, then love comes eventually, and it generally, if that's the way it's supposed to go, it will. Never push and never ... I wasn't looking for him when he showed up, but I never looked for any of the men I've been involved with. I've only been with seven men in my entire life, and so I'm not a whore, so it takes a while for me to get kind of warmed up to that.
Mason Funk: Does that seven men include all the married men?
Mason Funk: Really?
Michael Slingerland: I was a good boy. I really was.
Michael Slingerland: I'm not now.
Michael Slingerland: I'm not now, but I was a good boy. Kevin spends a lot ... he doesn't live with me, but he does. He doesn't stay at home, but it's worked out really well.
Mason Funk: Good. I have high hopes for you and Kevin.
Michael Slingerland: I do, too. I really like him. He's just fun to be around. We talk a lot, and I really think that's what you've got to have. We talk every morning and really invest each other,
Michael Slingerland: [01:17:00] with his kids and stuff, and I help him with his kids and stuff, and that makes it worthwhile, so I like that part. I'm not going to be their stepmom. I'm going to see to that.
Mason Funk: Tell us about taking Kevin's kids to school.
Michael Slingerland: I do. I've taken them to school couple of times.
Mason Funk: Just, again, take my question out of it. So tell me-
Michael Slingerland: Okay, every now and again, Kevin has to work early at the insurance company. He's an underwriter and he has to do paperwork before the day gets started, catch up with what he's doing, and every now and again he needs me to take the kids to school.
Michael Slingerland: [01:17:30] So the last time I took them to school, Kelsey's the youngest one, she's 16, and I have a Camaro convertible, and so I dropped her off and she wanted ... A lot of kids don't want you to just pull up to the front door, but this time we got to pull up to the front door and so everybody got to see us get out of the Camaro and all that. Then the middle daughter, Jamie, she quit school, and her dad had called the principal trying to get her back in. Her dad had to work that day that she was supposed to go in front of the principal and explain this and that and the other,
Michael Slingerland: [01:18:00] and so Kevin says, "Well, Mike will take you up there," and she said, "Okay, that's fine," so I went by and got her and took her up there and sat in that principal's interview and got her back re-enrolled into school and stuff. So the principal was sitting there and he's kind of being a dick. I didn't like him that much, but anyway, so he asked her, he says, "Is it okay him being in here and me talking to you?" She said, "Oh, yes. Yes, it's fine." He says, "Well, who is he to you?"
Michael Slingerland: [01:18:30] She said, "That's my dad's friend, and he's my friend," and that ended that, and so we just sat there, and she talked and talked and talked and got it all squared away and got it straightened out. After it was all over, I took her to a job interview where she's getting her job. A part-time job for the summer at Cici's Pizza. I know, it's sort of the mom thing, and then we went out and I bought her lunch. I mean, it was something to do. I mean, it's fun. I like his kids. His kids are really good kids. They've been in here. They watched their dad do a show in here one night, and so we let her,
Michael Slingerland: [01:19:00] the 16 year old's not supposed to be here, but we let an exemption and let her in here one night, so he's been in here and see her dad playing the cowboy and all that kind of stuff. They've all been here. So like I said earlier, either they like me, they just haven't said anything to me to my face.
Mason Funk: Excellent. Amy. More questions?
Mason Funk: Amy's probably just getting warmed up.
Amy Bench: [01:19:30] Before we started the interview, you made kind of an offhand comment, and I don't necessarily want you to go political, but you said, "I'm probably not as liberal as I should be." Can you just talk about what you meant by that?
Michael Slingerland: Certainly. I'm not as liberal as I think I should be, or at least I'm told I'm not, but I think it's, one, it's my upbringing. I'm a Catholic, and it was very difficult growing up and being a Catholic being gay at the same time, and so when you get older, you have your principles and morals
Michael Slingerland: [01:20:00] that you've been raised with all your time. Whether you're gay or not you still are instilled with that. As you get older, people question your liberalism if you're gay, like the gay card that we both sometimes have to show that, "You're not gay. You're not liberal." And I'm not liberal, but I'm not a conservative either. I'm an Independent, and I think people ought to be able to think with their own mind, whether it's gay, straight, or whatever, and make their own decisions, and not just be like we had said earlier,
Michael Slingerland: [01:20:30] not just try to live up to what everybody else seems to think what liberalism is. Gay is liberal, and it really is. We get it, even in Texas. Austin is liberal. It's the only city in the whole state that's liberal, but they're liberal. We don't respect them. No, I'm just playing. We do. I mean, I like Austin. It's a lot of fun. Go down on Second Street and it's a lot of fun down there, but I don't begrudge them. Everybody's got their own way to think.
Michael Slingerland: [01:21:00] They've got the answer to what they think, not to me, so I don't worry about that. I'm just not going to be ... I'm not going to be as liberal, I think, is the gay community thinks you should be, but I don't think anybody that owns a business that has to show a profit and employ people and make a living and pay payroll and do things are going to be as liberal, because they can't just give it all away. It's just not a way financially for the government or for the small businessman to do that.
Mason Funk: [01:21:30] Is there one area, and I'll go back to you in a second, but is there one way in which you feel like you want to be more liberal or tolerant or accepting, that you are not quite there yet?
Michael Slingerland: Oh, no, I don't think so. The kids in this bar teach you a lot of things, and the liberal ways and the gay way that they think,
Michael Slingerland: [01:22:00] you don't always have to agree with it. But I look at it and I decide what path they're on and what path I am on, and in the long run, it's really not that diverse. They're going to eventually, as life does things to you and it changes you, whether it's good or bad, but life changes you to a direction that you may not of thought you were going to be in in the next, last five years or 10 years ago, so I think that it will all get there eventually in the same run.
Michael Slingerland: [01:22:30] People need to mature. Once you mature, then you have that liberalism, but it's not the same that the young kids think that they have. So no, I don't think so. I think I'm as liberal probably as I'm ever going to get. I don't think it's going to really gonna change much, no.
Amy Bench: I would love to hear your definition of liberal, and why being gay is liberal to you.
Michael Slingerland: [01:23:00] Well, I think, I'm phrasing this, being gay is not necessarily liberal, except for the fact that most gays are liberal. That's what the community teaches. That's what they want you to believe, and it's the all going, seeing, loving, touching, nurturing, feeling good, feeling that all the gay community wants you have, while that is good,
Michael Slingerland: [01:23:30] but that's not the way it truly is in real life. That's not way real life truly is. You can be feely touchy and you can be ... but in real life, a lot of things are not really feely touchy. A lot of things are cruel, and a lot of things don't make sense, and a lot of things that you don't want to look at in the reality of it all just it isn't going to be that touchy, feely, that liberal way America, or the people of America,
Michael Slingerland: [01:24:00] or the people as a whole, aren't that kind, aren't that wonderful, aren't that loving, aren't that spread out, aren't that welcoming, aren't that all inclusiveness. Most people have got everything pretty close to their vest and they don't share like everybody seems to think they do. You liken it to our, and not to get into this, because I don't want to go into this,
Michael Slingerland: [01:24:30] the Muslim community in the bombings of the terrorism that we have right now, and everybody says, "Well, you should let them in. They're just friends and their family and everything," and the liberal people just want to accept them, inclusive and all that. But when we have a bombing and it tears 40 people or 30 people and whatever, and the radical Muslims or radical Islam have taken, Isis have taken responsibility, how come the moderate Muslims don't stand up and just be horrified by what's happened to us?
Michael Slingerland: [01:25:00] But you never hear a word from them. They just said over there that the only difference between a moderate Muslim and a radical Muslim, a radical Muslim wants to cut your head off. A moderate Muslim once a radical Muslim to cut your head off. He's just not going to do it.
Amy Bench: Can you tell me what ... about your bracelet?
Michael Slingerland: It's Garlow's bracelet.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, to start up by saying, "This bracelet I'm wearing."
Michael Slingerland: [01:25:30] This bracelet, I bought 3,000 of them to be in the gay parade one year, and I alluded to Jerry Francis earlier when we opened the bar. We were going to be in the parade down and give away 3,000 bracelets. Then he said he wanted to do the back patio, and I told Jerry, I said, "Jerry, there's only so much money, and I'm not going to just spend and spend and spend. Either we do the patio or we do the parade." He said, "Well, I'd rather do the patio," hence we have David.
Michael Slingerland: [01:26:00] The statue of David's now on the back patio, and we spent $1,100 on a concrete statue instead of going to the parade that year, but I still have the bracelets. So every now and again we have bracelet day and everybody gets a new bracelet. We're still giving them out, and that's been almost eight years ago, so that's it.
Amy Bench: Do you guys [inaudible]? I guess I-
Michael Slingerland: It says Garlow's, Gun Barrel City, Texas.
Amy Bench: So it's an advertisement for the bar.
Michael Slingerland: [01:26:30] Yes. Yes, and I bought them out of ... Well, it's interesting. I went to China and I talked to this lady that didn't speak a word of English, but I got in touch with her about bracelets. Had a guy in town here, not in town, but in Dallas that wanted 38 cents a piece for them. I thought, "That's awfully high for bracelet," 'cause I was going to buy a lot of them, and so I went to China and I talked to her back and forth through an interpreter, and got back and back and back, and she said, " Send me your logo," and I sent her the logo. She said, "Do you want them raised lettering, or indented lettering?"
Michael Slingerland: [01:27:00] I didn't catch what she asked me, so I thought I said indented, 'cause she said it would be cheaper, but apparently I told her raised lettering, and so we got raised lettering and it was, I guess, a little bit more expensive, but I got them for 22 cents a piece or something like that. Almost half. Anyway, I made a great friend with her, and now her and I talk. She's actually learned English a little bit now, so she'll email me every now and again, ask me if I want to buy something, and I say no, but I mean, we talked back and forth. It worked out well. I made a friend, and she got her ...
Michael Slingerland: [01:27:30] It's a big conglomerate over there, but I didn't know who the hell they were when I met them, and so it worked out.
Mason Funk: That's amazing.
Michael Slingerland: That's where we got our lit sign out front, too. The scrolling signs, the electric signs, everybody wanted $10,000 to do a sign on both sides, and I thought that was a little high, so I got in China again and started talking. I didn't get it from her but I got it from somebody else. No, Korea. Got it from Korea. I ordered the sign. I paid $2,600 bucks for both sides and I got it in here, and Glen,
Michael Slingerland: [01:28:00] we plugged it in here on the pool table and Glen was looking at it. He says, "Michael, we got a problem." I said, "What's the problem?" He said, "Everything on it's in Korean." I said, "Are you kidding?" He said, "No," he said, "Come here," and I looked at it and I said, "Well, crap. I just lost $2,700 bucks. What are we going to do?" He said, "Well, let me jack with it a while," so we jacked with it and jacked with it, and we found out how you could ... We didn't have a manual. They didn't send anything for it, but he jacked with it and it took three days, and he finally got it converted into English. Then he got on a laptop, he could actually put it in there,
Michael Slingerland: [01:28:30] so eventually what we started doing, he'd type something in Korean and convert it into English on his laptop and put it on the sign, and that's how we started doing it. Now he's got the sign talking to the laptop, but it took about a year to get it done. But it was just something stupid. You did it, but I bought it and it was Korean. We get into stupid things like that, and it's fun. It's like the POS machine. Glenn told me one day, " Our paperwork's not right. We're going to get in trouble if we don't do this,
Michael Slingerland: [01:29:00] and this is what we need to do," and I said, "What do we need to do?" Said, "We need to buy a new point of sale machine and a thing." I said, "Okay, how much is it?" He told me, and he said, "Then we need a program that I can program what we want in it." I said, "Okay, how much is that?" He told me. I said, "God." And I said, "Okay," so we did it, and he got it in here and got it done, and three weeks later it got finally programmed. It was a mess. We were down. We couldn't take credit cards, but we finally got it going. I mean, but you just do things. You try things and stay up to date, and now all of our paperwork is good,
Michael Slingerland: [01:29:30] so it keeps you out of trouble. It cost a couple thousand bucks but it's worth it. Anyway, but everything costs so-
Mason Funk: Every time you turn around, you're spending $2,500, $5,000 dollars [crosstalk].
Michael Slingerland: Oh, I know. I know.
Mason Funk: I mean, I'm impressed 'cause you must find a way to still convert it all into a profitable business.
Michael Slingerland: Well, this hasn't been in the last three or four years. This has been when I was spending money like a drunk sailor when we opened. I mean, God almighty, the bills just never ended and the business just wasn't here, and you were not having the ...
Michael Slingerland: [01:30:00] The bar has got to have a certain amount of seats in it to get people in here to have enough people drinking to pay the overhead and rate. When I was at the other bar, Friends, it holds 56 people. This one holds 122 on the floor and 200 and some in the back, and so we had enough places to put people to where he could actually get people in here, and if they drank you could actually make a profit. Then our problem was just getting the people in here, hence the foam shows in the Jell-O things and whatever else you could think of to get people in here,
Michael Slingerland: [01:30:30] and that's how he did it. But if you had a big enough complex or big enough building to get them in here, then you can do it. So we did it, and having a lot of faith and good people. I've got good people that work for me, and everybody's got a good idea and they're trying to get it. So finally, he turned the corner couple years ago. Plus I bought everything now. I own one of everything that's ever been invented for the bar. You can't own another thing that I haven't already bought, so the expenditures are over. I mean, it may break,
Michael Slingerland: [01:31:00] but I know who to get to fix the damn thing. It's better now. It's the expenditures are still there but it's not two or three or $4000 a week like it was. The initial outlay was, buying the building, was $220,000 bucks. That's when it starts nickel and dime-ing you to death until you can get it to turn a profit. So you just spend it.
Mason Funk: Can I get-
Amy Bench: I have a-
Mason Funk: [01:31:30] Oh, I was going to say it's kind of like when you buy a house. You can't believe you spent that much money on a house, but then six months later, you feel poorer than you've ever felt in your entire life 'cause you spend money.
Michael Slingerland: Yes.
Mason Funk: Then you finally stop bleeding money, and then you start being able to-
Michael Slingerland: Well, especially on a bar, too. When I bought this bar this was a plumbing warehouse, and so we converted it and started building on it. Then I wanted it to be this, so I had the murals painted. I had a girl come out of nowhere and did all the murals, and you just kept adding to it, which cost money and cost money,
Michael Slingerland: [01:32:00] and eventually, sometime or another, you have to tell yourself, "Quit building. They're coming anyway. Quit building. You don't have to just keep adding money to it. Stop it for a minute. Let it make itself. It's going to have to catch its breath eventually. Just stop spending money on it." So I eventually, I did. Now, do we spend money? Yes, we still spend money, but the bar itself spends its own money now. I don't take any money out of the bar, either. I've never taken a check out of the bar. I have my own, and so the bar just needs to take care of the bar, and it does it. If I want money-
Mason Funk: [01:32:30] Oh, God. Okay. We're going to have to stop, and literally, when we come back we will have our final few-
Mason Funk: Ready, Amy?
Amy Bench: I had another question that I don't remember, but I have this question. You were talking about Chris, and you were saying that he was ... Was he dating a priest in New York?
Mason Funk: A Monsignor.
Michael Slingerland: A Monsignor, yeah.
Amy Bench: Can you talk about that?
Michael Slingerland: I don't know that much about him. I know about him but I never met him. He died-
Mason Funk: [01:33:00] This was before they ever met.
Michael Slingerland: This is before I ever met ... Garlow's killed four lovers 'fore he got to me.
Michael Slingerland: He did. He was always younger than the men he dated, and then he and I started dating and we were the same age. So he died when he was 57 of cancer. Our birthdays, his was the 19th of April. Mine was the 22nd, so for two days a year, he was older than I was for two days. I was the youngest guy he ever dated.
Mason Funk: [01:33:30] Okay. That's good. So other questions?
Amy Bench: But he never talked about it?
Michael Slingerland: He talked the Monsignor. I've got a lot of his stuff. I mean, every time one of them died, he'd get all their junk, and I have it. Then I got rid of it, so every man that died, like that urn over there, that came from the Monsignor out there on the back patio. He brought it over from England. There were two of them. When we moved it over here to open the bar, only one of them made it. The other one broke. But they came from England, or at least that's where I'm told they were come from.
Mason Funk: Okay. Okay. You might remember in the, maybe, next few minutes. So my final four are, first of all, if someone comes to you here, for example, and says, "I'm thinking about coming out," to whoever they may be coming out to, and this intended to be just short. If you had 30 seconds to give them a little bit of wisdom, a little bit of advice, what would you say?
Michael Slingerland: [01:34:30] This has happened before, and I find out how old they are, because it's going to be devastating. No matter how good or how bad you think it's going to be, it's going to be devastating. Then I ask them, "What's your mom think about it?" 'Cause dads usually aren't that accepting of it, but moms usually can get dad to come around, so I find out how mom thinks about it. If you're going to come out, you're going to come out, and probably they already know it. If you've been gay for a while, they already know it. If your mom's good with it and you're good with it, come on out. It's not going to change ...
Michael Slingerland: [01:35:00] It's going to change your entire life, but it's not going to change your home. You're going to just make different friends and new friends.
Mason Funk: Okay. What is your hope for the future?
Michael Slingerland: Well, I think the way the gay community is pushing now is better than it was, and we talked about this a little bit, about being flamboyant, out and everything. I think we've went through the legislature and I think we've went through Congress and went through the Senate,
Michael Slingerland: [01:35:30] and gotten a lot of things approved like gay marriage and things, and we've went about it the right way finally, instead of just shoving it down their throat. Early on, if you wanted civil union, which is instead of just cramming marriage down everybody's throat just because, by God, that's what you thought, well, there's ways to do things. One of the ways was is to go and take it through the legislature and take it through the court system and get it approved, and that's what we needed to do. The two guys that are out here in Texas, Mark and his partner, they did that. So we're on the right track now.
Michael Slingerland: [01:36:00] When we want things done, we've got people, intellectual people, that are actually taking a hold and going the way we need to go, versus ... So the future's brighter. I think we've got a good set of ground rules now that we didn't use to have. Everybody used to think that you could just shove it down their throat and they had to accept it. Well, a lot of people just don't have to accept it. People in Iowa just don't accept things as readily as California does, so if you take it through the courts and you do it the right way, it really doesn't matter what they have to say.
Mason Funk: [01:36:30] Do you think the courts ... Nevermind. That's a big tangent. I'm not going to go there.
Michael Slingerland: Good.
Mason Funk: Why is it important to you, or why was it important to you in this case, to tell your own story?
Michael Slingerland: I think, for me personally, I've been touched and blessed in a lot of different ways by different people that have come into my life,
Michael Slingerland: [01:37:00] and sharing that to younger people and getting them to know that there is out there, if they just do it, it's out there to do and it's out there to achieve, and you can get happiness and you can have that, the dream, or be blessed. You can go farther and you can not just be this nothingness that you're ... I have so many kids that come and that are gay, and they're working at Burger King. They don't have another way out of anything, but this gives them hope and it gives them a way to think
Michael Slingerland: [01:37:30] that there's a way to do things. You can go to college. You can do different things. There are opportunities. Just stay awake, stay open, and recognize them when they swing by, because your life changes every 15 minutes. Sometimes the phone rings and you were talking to somebody and then now you're not talking to them, but it changed every 15 minutes. Just keep awake and your life will change.
Mason Funk: Great. Somebody walking through. Come on in.
Michael Slingerland: Candace.
Candace: Sorry. [inaudible].
Mason Funk: [01:38:00] No, it's okay. We're at really one more question to ask.
Michael Slingerland: That's Kevin.
Mason Funk: Hey, Kevin.
Candace: You're fine. Hi.
Mason Funk: Oh, he went to the restroom.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right. Last question.
Mason Funk: Oh, what is the importance ... It kind of mimics the question you just answered, but what is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS?
Michael Slingerland: Well, and I did some research on what you all are doing, and simply what I think you're trying to do, the older community has a lot to add to the younger community of
Michael Slingerland: [01:38:30] how we got started and going back to Haight-Ashbury back in the day, when everything was just different and then all of a sudden it became normal. But the kids nowadays, they have no idea where the heritage came from and how we got to where we got. I think with you interviewing the people that you're talking about interviewing, they're going to have an idea where you're going. It gives you grounding on where this whole thing should go, and what you're going to get in the future versus just kind of feeling around and not having an idea.
Michael Slingerland: [01:39:00] It changed so much in the years that I've been with it, and my God, can you imagine what's going to happen in the future? If we stay the course, my goodness, who knows what's going to next, but at least it gives you an idea and gives you hope.
Mason Funk: Great. Great. Thank you. Amy, did you have any final questions [inaudible]?
Amy Bench: I just-
Mason Funk: Oh, sorry.
Amy Bench: You mentioned why you became a bartender. Can you just talk about that? About making you comfortable talking to people [crosstalk]?
Michael Slingerland: [01:39:30] Well, I started out being a bartender when I went to, back to Texas Tech days, I got to Texas Tech and I was a computer operator for the Water Department at night, and I gave all my money for books and tuition and everything from the credit union, and it would take in my salary. So there wasn't just a hell of a lot of money left after I paid all that. I mean, it was food, but I needed a part-time job, and plus I didn't know anybody. So I needed to go to a job, and so I became a bartender and learned bartending
Michael Slingerland: [01:40:00] so that you have instant friends. There's nobody in bartending that doesn't have the first [inaudible] it's not their friend. So you made instant friends and you had people that talked to you, and if you are terribly, terribly looking, you could actually get a date. So I started bartending because I wanted the friendship. I was out of Wylie, Texas. I wanted somebody different. I wanted a new atmosphere, and I had told you, the minute I could get out of Wylie, Texas, we did it, and so we needed a change of scenery. Bartending was the way out, and bartending was,
Michael Slingerland: [01:40:30] for me, plus it made me money. I could go out and do things. I could bartend when I wasn't working at the city at night, and then bartend on Saturday days and stuff, so I did pretty well with that.
Mason Funk: That's great.
Amy Bench: Good, yeah. That was the question.
Mason Funk: All right. We're done. It's official. We're done. Thank you so much.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Amy Bench
Date: June 05, 2017
Location: Garlow's, Gun Barrel City, TX