Norman Rockwell, Provincetown, and the Creation of a Holiday
by Steve Desroches
A gentle old man plays the fiddle on a fall evening with a grinning, glowing jack o’ lantern at his feet. A little girl dressed as a ghost gives a good-natured scare to a well-dressed man and his dog, who react with playful, exaggerated surprise. A grandfather smoking a pipe carves pumpkins with his grandson, passing on a Halloween tradition as autumn leaves drift in the air around them. These idyllic autumnal images are quintessentially New England, presenting an American life that may seem too good to be true. But it all depends not only on how you look at it, but what you are looking for. Norman Rockwell knew exactly what he was looking for and found it everywhere. Kindness.
Critics and cynics often dismissed Rockwell’s work, not just for technique, but also for subject, often referring to him solely as an illustrator and not an artist. Rockwell was not naпve, nor a blind idealist. His artwork, like that of any artist, was his clear viewpoint and vision. As an artist he so clearly spoke with a declarative voice that his very name is synonymous with American idealism. Norman Rockwell’s paintings may have come from his mind’s eye, but they were also documents of the world around him. Those moments exist. The moments are real. He himself struggled with whether he was an artist or an illustrator, and eventually settled on calling himself a visual storyteller.
“He had a deep understanding of the human psyche,” says Stephanie Plunkett, chief curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. “He chose to paint happiness. He authentically observed people. He observed who we wanted to be. He saw the good in others. These are the moments that even in difficult times were meaningful. He was aware that life was hard and difficult, but that’s not what he wanted to paint. Humanity is filled with good, too. And that’s what he painted.”
Rockwell may be best remembered for specific works like The Four Freedoms, Rosie the Riveter, and The Problem We All Live With, one of his works addressing the civil rights movement as he painted a little Ruby Bridges on her way to school. But of course, Rockwell was a prolific illustrator with his work gracing the covers of magazines like Country Gentleman, Boy’s Life, and most notably The Saturday Evening Post. The Golden Age of Illustration largely overlapped with the period in American life when magazines were also at their height of popularity and circulation, so millions of Americans saw these images everywhere. From the 1880s until the end of World War II illustrators had enormous influence on American cultural life, and Norman Rockwell was their undisputed superstar.
The heyday of illustration and magazines began during the Gilded Age, a time of enormous economic growth in the United States, which led to the expansion of a large middle class and increased immigration to fill the jobs of a rapid industrialization. That led to greater commercialization, especially around holidays, and not just the holidays, meaning Christmas, but all of them, with money to spend and European immigrants reintroducing Old World customs and traditions to American culture. It’s when Halloween first became big business.
In 1912, the Dennison Manufacturing Company, a paper goods business in Framingham, Massachusetts, began publishing Bogie Books, highly illustrated catalogs selling their Halloween decorations and costumes. Almost immediately the biggest magazines of the day followed suit, creating special illustrations for not just Halloween and Christmas, but for everything from the Fourth of July to Groundhog Day. This popular feature led to a national standard of holiday cultural practices, as it presented once regional and insulated traditions to the entire country by illustrators like Rockwell and his contemporaries like J. C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish, and N.C. Wyeth.
“They had the most popular illustrators do the covers of Saturday Evening Post for the holiday issues,” says Lauren Walker of the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island. “Readers always looked for who they were going to get to do the holiday covers, as they knew it was going to be good. The issues with holiday covers were always the best sellers.”
A native New Yorker, Norman Rockwell spent much of his adult life in New England, first in Arlington, Vermont, and later in Stockbridge, where he died in 1978 at the age of 84 (and for a time he had a studio above a restaurant owned by Provincetown resident Alice Brock, of Alice’s Restaurant fame). Many local friends and neighbors were models for his work, as was the imagery of New England itself, giving the season of autumn a particular affiliation with the region for its foliage and heavy Celtic influence on the celebration of Halloween. While those more reserved and staid New England towns influenced and suited Rockwell’s demeanor, Provincetown played an important, albeit brief, role in his life and work.
By a young age it was clear he was a talented artist, and he enrolled in art school at only 14. His parents were conservative and overbearing, so much so that when he reached the age of 18 and enrolled in Manhattan’s National Academy of Design and then the Art Students League, they insisted he still live with them and directed most every aspect of his life, both professionally and personally. It was a source of frustration to him. Despite being quiet and timid, he wanted to break free and explore all that life had to offer a young artist, whether his parents approved or not. That proved to be impossible for him in New York City under his parent’s surveillance.
“He had a very structured life,” says Plunkett. “And he was a very dutiful person. His friends from the Art Students League are living this wild, bohemian life down in Greenwich Village and he had to be home by 6:30 for dinner.”
He wanted to cut loose, or at least his definition of it, and he’d heard stories about a place that almost took on mythical proportions for its wild ways: Provincetown. In 1912, at 18, the rather naпve and sheltered Rockwell convinced his parents to let him go to Provincetown to study under Charles Hawthorne. He worked hard here focusing on fine art rather than illustration, a field he was already successful in at that young age. Based on letters and diaries in the archives at the Norman Rockwell Museum, he had an absolute ball in Provincetown and received quite the education, much beyond the classes offered by Hawthorne, says Plunkett, though Rockwell spent much of that summer as a wall flower at the raucous parties and artists’ balls. He very much wanted to return to Provincetown, but both his parents and work demands prevented him from doing so. He did come back to Provincetown periodically much later, most notably for the last time in 1947 when he fulfilled a long promise to judge the costume contest at that summer’s Beaux-Arts Ball. He’d planned to stay the whole summer, but left in mid-July after his wife had a nervous breakdown and he fell off his bike and had to go to the hospital in Hyannis to have his jaw wired shut. It’s clear that that summer of 1912 was something he held onto in his memory for the rest of his life.
“The experience was very invigorating for him,” says Plunkett. “He had a very freeing kind of experience, but he never lost his head.”
(a.k.a. Varla Jean Merman)
It was a dark and stormy night. A rumbling in the distance acted as an ominous warning. What is that terrifying sound? A hideous beast?! A shrieking banshee!? Donald Trump?! No, it’s just lactose-intolerant Varla Jean Merman after performing her iconic Easy Cheese number (seriously, you’d be sick, too. That stuff isn’t even cheese! It’s “cheese product,” whatever the hell that is). Varla Jean is hopping on her broomstick, complete with mini bar, and landing in Provincetown for Spooky Bear Weekend to present her Halloween show Pieced Together! All My Best Parts at the Art House, featuring Gerald Goode on piano. Jeffrey Roberson, the man behind Varla, took some time to talk to Provincetown Magazine about why he loves all the amateur drag queens out on Halloween, why some folks think the holiday is “Satan’s Birthday,” and why he wouldn’t be anywhere else on All Hallows’ Eve than Provincetown!
Provincetown Magazine: What’s your earliest Halloween memory?
Jeffrey Roberson: My earliest memory of Halloween was first grade. We had a parade at my elementary school and on one side of me was a boy who put Vaseline on his face and then pressed coffee grounds into it so that he looked like an unshaven hobo. The boy on the other side of me had a brown paper bag over his head that was covered with glued hair clippings from his father’s barbershop to look like a wolf. I remember the wind blowing hard and everyone started getting hair clippings in their mouths and eyes. Children were crying. The boy with Vaseline on his face was accumulating the most clippings and had an actual beard made of hair by the time the parade was over. Suddenly, I found myself oddly attracted to him! To this day, a beard over coffee gets me going. I, as to be expected, was dressed as “Raggedy Andy” in a striped romper my mother made me from a DIY section of Good Housekeeping. And of course, it was topped off with a mop of red hair she elaborately fashioned out of crepe paper streamers. The point of this story? This was the first time I donned a red wig!
PM: It seems a lot of drag queens first did drag on either Halloween or Gay Pride. Is that the case with you?
JR: The first time I did drag was in high school. There was a “senior auction” for charity, and students could “buy” a senior and make them do anything they wanted for a day. I gave my junior girlfriend the money and made her buy me and “force” me to come to school in drag for the day. Side note: this was a “red flag” for her and we didn’t date much longer after that.
PM: Some drag queens call Halloween amateur night because so many dabble in it on the high homo holiday. Does it bother you to see so many in drag on Halloween?
JR: No! Doing drag is so liberating! Everyone should experience it. I find the guys who, year after year, have to only dress in hyper-masculine, sexy costumes to be more annoying. You can dress sexy ANYTIME. Have some fun and don’t worry about not being sexually desirable for a moment! That being said, I never do drag on Halloween since I do it all year. I only dress in hyper-masculine sexy costumes. Hey! I have an excuse! I’m sexually undesirable 51 weekends a year!
PM: You’re from Louisiana, which is more conservative than many part of the country, especially here in Provincetown. Some religious conservatives call Halloween “Satan’s Birthday” or the “Devil’s Holiday.” Was this something you ran into growing up in the Deep South?
JR: I’m from New Orleans. Every weekend is the “Devil’s Holiday.”
PM: What can audiences expect from your Halloween show Pieced Together?
JR: First, why come in with “expectations” to a show called Pieced Together? I’m kidding! They can expect new songs, classic chestnuts, and spooky stories! All of which will meet the Varla Jean Merman Gold Standard…which is actually quite low.
PM: Have you ever seen anyone dressed as Varla Jean for Halloween?
JR: Yes! For many years, people would come dressed as me, Miss Coco, and Evie from the movie Girls Will Be Girls. I must say, however, my look was the hardest to authentically pull off, and thus, usually the most tragic look in the trio.
PM: You’ve been coming to Provincetown for Halloween for several years now. Varla could go most anywhere on Halloween. Why Provincetown?
JR: It’s no secret that I have a lot of bear fans. But more importantly, I am a big fan of the bears! In fact, I’m a huge fan of the big bears! Here’s hoping I’ll be coughing up a nice hairball by the end of the weekend! That’s why I will be dressed as a sexy Spiritus Pizza slice, clogging down Commercial Street at 1 a.m.
Varla Jean Merman presents Pieced Together! All My Best Parts on Friday, November 1 at 9 p.m. and Saturday, November 2 at 8 p.m. at the Art House, 214 Commercial St., Provincetown. Tickets ($35/$45) are available at the box office and online at ptownarthouse.com. For more information call 508.487.9222.
Sneak Peek of New Roy Cohn Documentary Comes to Provincetown
by Steve Desroches
TOP IMAGE: Roy Cohn. Photo Courtesy of HBO
Evil. It’s a big word, if not in length than in meaning. It can of course be used flippantly or for intentional hyperbole. But to the Abrahamic religions, and other belief systems around the world, evil is not just an adjective, but a very real force. Something to fear, something to denounce, something to battle. Culturally, and politically, the word has gravitas. When President George W Bush declared Iran, Iraq, and North Korea the “Axis of Evil,” some bristled that invoking the word carried tones of apocalyptic religious warfare or could conjure a dehumanizing image of complicated world affairs and those caught in between. The takeaway is that the response to the word evil is that it should always be used judiciously, as it removes humanity and replaces it with the demonic. But when speaking about Roy Cohn, the word evil is used with rapid-fire certainty by those who knew him: his colleagues, associates, even members of his own family.
Indeed, history has not been kind to Roy Cohn, and many feel it’s just desserts. That’s apparent in the new documentary Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn, so named after an anonymous panel sent to the AIDS Memorial Quilt two years after his death in 1986. Cohn is of course the infamous lawyer who became a rabid conservative wunderkind for his significant role in sending the Rosenbergs to the electric chair in what many people, from all points of the political spectrum, essentially agree was little more than judicial murder. He’d go on to be Senator Joseph McCarthy’s right hand man during the witch hunt for Communists leading to the “Lavender Scare,” the purge of gays and lesbians from the State Department. He then became the go-to lawyer for the notorious Studio 54 and had a Rolodex of rich, powerful, and corrupt clients, including a young New York City real estate mogul named Donald Trump. That of course has renewed interest in Cohn, considering his close personal relationship with the man who would be president (at least as of this printing). And Bully. Coward. Victim. is one of those current examinations, but with an intensely personal touch. It’s directed by Ivy Meeropol, the granddaughter of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
“Calling him evil doesn’t get to the meaning of what it means to be human,” says Meeropol. “It’s all true. But just to call him evil doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s not enough. It’s dismissive. There’s no point. Could I challenge myself to have empathy for this person?”
And to some degree Meeropol admits, she did. His evident self-loathing, how deeply closeted as a gay man he was, and his death from AIDS are all aspects of his life she takes no pleasure in. That being said, her view remains that he was a vicious, reckless man with little to no conscience. And yes, evil.
The documentary, which premiered earlier this month at the New York Film Festival and will screen for one night only here in Provincetown this week, is an examination of Roy Cohn the man rather than a historical rehash or fevered connect-the-dots to Trump project. When it comes to Cohn, “why” is an impossible question to really answer. Bully. Coward. Victim. looks to answer “who,” as in who was he really. The answer isn’t as scary as his historical reputation as an unscrupulous monster, though it’s just as disturbing. This character study reveals the weaknesses and insecurities of this ruthless and incredibly powerful man, showing that behind the bravado was a pathetic, lonely creature.
One of the great successes of Bully. Coward. Victim., one that is of particular interest to us here on the Outer Cape, is that Meeropol managed to show just how special a place Provincetown was to Cohn. He was no casual visitor. He began spending summers in Provincetown in the early 1970s, right about the time he became Donald Trump’s lawyer, and continued to visit until shortly before his death. A significant portion of the documentary is set in Provincetown and includes interviews with familiar faces, including Anne Packard, John Waters, Peter Manso, Ryan Landry, Bobby Wetherbee, Tony Kushner, and Noreen Bahring, as well as incredible footage of the town in the 1970s and 1980s. It was here that this miserable man was his happiest, knee-deep in cocaine and hustlers as he occasionally used Provincetown as a locale for money laundering.
Adding to the poignancy and geographical immediacy of the film is that the Outer Cape is also an important place for Meeropol and her family. When her father and uncle were orphaned by the execution of their parents, they were adopted by Anne and Abel Meeropol, who over time brought their sons to the Outer Cape. Meeropol’s parents Michael and Ann brought her and her brother throughout their youth, eventually buying a house in Truro. Meeropol thinks back to her days as a child and theorizes that she very well could have walked right passed Roy Cohn on Commercial Street at some point, both caught in a strange gravitational pull toward Provincetown. But Cohn’s association with Provincetown does not sour what is a very special place to Meeropol, who met her husband at an event at the Fine Arts Work Center on Valentine’s Day in the mid 1990s. Her 2004 film Heir to an Execution,about her grandparents, screened in town, giving her another landmark moment.
“The film had been to Sundance, but having it shown at the Provincetown Film Festival and having Larry Kramer there and stand up in the back of the room and give me a standing ovation,” says Meeropol. “It was one of the highlights of my life.”
As the Trump administration continues to attack the standards of law and decency of our country like a corrupt semi-literate kraken, connecting the dots of how we got here can look like a scribbled rat’s nest. But it’s clear that a straight line can be drawn from Roy Cohn to Donald Trump. Those who study the relationship can see that in the best of times Trump could seem like a ventriloquist dummy on Cohn’s lap and in the worst, a full-on Linda-Blair-style possession. Those who know their history see the Trump presidency like a shriek from Cohn’s grave.
“Oh gosh, so much,” says Meeropol on Trump resembling Cohn. “Recently, Trump was speaking about the whistle blowers, calling them spies and traitors and said, ‘You remember what we used to do to spies?’ If you don’t know your history, and a lot of Americans don’t, he was referring to my grandparents. Roy Cohn taught him that.”
Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn screens at Waters Edge Cinema at Whaler’s Whar, 237 Commercial St.f, second floor, on Wednesday, October 30 at 7:30 p.m. A Q and A with the filmmaker and several subjects in the documentary will follow the screening. Tickets ($20) are available at the box office and online at provincetownfilm.org. For more information call 508.487.3456.
What makes a dining experience truly special? Delicious fresh foods prepared in unusual ways. Good lighting and comfortable ambiance. Superior service. Throw in a spectacular view of the harbor and there it is. Ron Robin, owner of the Mews, agrees with all of the above plus one thing: Love. He loves his restaurant and the people that work with him; they love him and the restaurant; it’s like a family.
And this family extends into the winter with the fabulous Monday Night Coffeehouse. Started 29 years ago on a whim, friend and musician Peter Donnelly invited Ron for a night of music with other musicians at his home. Ron offered his closed restaurant space with a fireplace, and the rest is history. Every Monday night from the first in November to mid-May, locals and tourists gather for song, spoken word, conversation, and that warm conviviality of a fireplace and friends on the Outer Cape in the winter. Check out the Mews anytime, but especially the Monday Night Coffeehouse, and share the love!
The Mews Restaurant
429 Commercial St.
Rock to Stop Homelessness
The Homeless Prevention Council (HPC) will hold a fundraiser on Saturday, November 16, 6 p.m., at Hog Island Brewery, 28 West Rd., Orleans. The event features entertainment by The Broughams, an old school ‘60s cover band, a 50/50 raffle, and awesome auction. Tickets are $20 (minimum donation) and include entertainment and snacks. All proceeds benefit HPC.
HPC serves close to 2,000 people each year in the eight towns of Lower Cape Cod. That’s 2,000 children, families, and elders who need our support and contribute to our workforce. Their mission is to provide case management solutions to support self-sufficiency and stability in our community.
For information and tickets, or to be a sponsor for the event call 508.255.9667 or visit hpccapecod.org.
Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum to Publish New Book
Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown 400 recently announced a plan to publish a commemorative book for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing in the “new world” in Provincetown in 1620. The PMPM is working with Cape Business Publishing Group, LLC to produce the commemorative book. The book will be published in the Spring of 2020 and will be available for purchase from the PMPM and also be sold in the museum’s gift shop for years to come. Cape Business Publishing Group, LLC, in a collaborative effort, is donating a portion of the publishing run to the PMPM to help support the Provincetown 400 celebration, which is overseen by the PMPM.
“The Provincetown 400 Commemorative book will be a keepsake for visitors and local residents, too,” said Dr. K. David Weidner, Executive Director, PMPM and Co-Chair of Provincetown 400. “The book will give us the opportunity to raise funds to support a series of signature events for the 2020 commemoration focusing on Provincetown and the region’s importance to the birth of the nation. We chose to work with Cape Business Publishing Group because of its proven track record for producing high quality publications for a cause.”
The book will cover the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing, their interaction with the native Wampanoag people, the signing of the Mayflower Compact—the first democratic governing document in America and considered a precursor to the U.S. Constitution.
“We are very excited to be working with Dr. Weidner and his team to pull this off. It just feels right to have something like this to celebrate a most important part of history, which occurred right where we live and work,” said Robert Viamari the owner of Cape Business Publishing Group, LLC. “My team is so excited to work on a project of this caliber, and we cannot thank the folks at PMPM for having confidence in our ability to deliver a quality product.”
The commemorative book will be hardbound in full color and also include stories about the significance of Provincetown in American history and how the town has continued to serve as a place where people seek freedom. From the land where the Wampanoags first made their mark, to the establishment of the Portuguese fishing community and the whaling industry, to the early 20th-century migration of artists and writers, to the rise in LGBTQ tourism, Provincetown’s unique history will be featured throughout the publication.
Provincetown 400 events include a week-long stay in September 2020 in Provincetown Harbor of the Mayflower II replica, re-enactments of the signing of the Mayflower Compact, and a visit by more than 2,000 Mayflower descendants as just a few highlights of the 400th commemoration.
The PMPM is also preparing a new exhibition to more accurately portray the history of the Wampanoag native people, their presence on Cape Cod prior to the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims, their interactions with the Pilgrims, and the significance of that time period in history. The new exhibition, opening in spring 2020, will be the only one of its kind in the United States. The PMPM is working with the Mashpee, Mass., based Smoke Sygnals, the leading Native American creative agency in the Northeast, on the new exhibition. It will be located in the Museum’s Mayflower Room and will include interactive videos and panels to educate visitors on the accurate story about the local Wampanoag people and their interaction with the Mayflower Pilgrims and other colonists.
The Alzheimer’s Family Support Center’s Annual Walk For Alzheimer’s In Provincetown
The Alzheimer’s Family Support Center brings the fight for free services to Provincetown for the annual Walk for Alzheimer’s, Sunday, October 20, beginning in front of Provincetown’s historic Town Hall at 11 a.m.
The annual Walk for Alzheimer’s in Provincetown has something for everyone: trolley rides for those who can’t make the three-mile trek, lunch by Cosmos Catering, and live music and dancing with multi-piece big band the Sound Dunes. Last year’s participants spanned the age gamut from infancy to 95. With an anticipated 400+ people in attendance, the Provincetown Walk for Alzheimer’s has become the largest “dementia-friendly” event in the region.
The fundraising goal for this year’s walk is $100,000, with more than 80 percent of every dollar raised going to fund free services. All funds remain in our local communities.
Says one caregiver, “My husband’s dementia diagnosis left me facing challenging decisions—alone—until we attended our first free support group meeting offered by the Alzheimer’s Family Support Center. I have not been alone since! Knowing that this group of kind, caring, resilient individuals will walk every step of the way with us helps every day to brighten our journey and lighten our load.”
Walk teams and donations can be made online by going to alzheimerscapecod.org and clicking on the walk button, or simply registering on the day of the walk. Checks made out to AFSC can be sent to 2095 Main St, Brewster, MA, 02631. The event is free and open to the public.
The Alzheimer’s Family Support Center of Cape Cod, created by caregivers,provides free support services to the 10,000 Cape Cod families currently living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases, helping navigate the complexities and challenges particular to cognitive illnesses throughout the entire disease progression. Services, including supportive counseling, education, care planning, advocacy, support groups, connection to other available community services, and social and cultural events are provided free of charge, within an innovative, research-based social model. For more information call 508.896.5170, email [email protected], or visit alzheimerscapecod.org.
Annual “Green” Party
The Provincetown Conservation Trust is having its Annual Meeting/Party called the “Green Party” on Friday, October 18, 4 – 6 p.m. at Provincetown Commons, 46 Bradford Street.
This annual event raises awareness about conservation for our Provincetown eco-systems, protecting it for future generations and expanding accessibility to these areas for residents and visitors. The Trust will give a presentation on their accomplishments this past year, priority projects for next year, and information on how you can help preserve and protect Provincetown.
All are welcome and there will be complimentary wine, beer, and appetizers. There is no cover to attend; but donations are gratefully welcome to help the organization continue their work to protect and care for Provincetown’s precious natural habitats. For more information visit provincetownconservationtrust.org/events.
Soup Kitchen Seeks Volunteers
The Soup Kitchen in Provincetown (SKIP) is seeking volunteers for its upcoming 27th season starting on Monday, November 4. They will become part of a dedicated team that provides lunch to more than 125 members of the Outer Cape community every weekday through Friday, April 24. Meals are served on holidays that fall on weekdays, and a weekend “to-go” meal is also provided every Friday.
Orientation for both new and returning volunteers is scheduled for Tuesday, October 22, 11 a.m., in the SKIP dining room at the United Methodist Church, 20 Shank Painter Rd., Provincetown. The session lasts under an hour and refreshments are served. Those interested in attending are asked to email SKIP at [email protected]. Those who’d like to volunteer but are unable to attend the orientation should visit SKIP’s website: skipfood.org and complete the form on the volunteer page and read the volunteer handbook.
New and returning volunteers are urged to attend orientation because changes prompted by the results of a volunteer survey last season will be announced. These include improvements to the SKIP scheduling system. For that system to work efficiently, SKIP must know each volunteer’s day or days and which of those days or weeks will be missed due to vacations and other absences. Volunteers are able to choose from two shifts. The first is from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. for cooking and set-up. The second is from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. for serving and cleanup.
In another change, SKIP will offer new kitchen-training sessions taught by Executive Chef Bethany Gregory. This training will be especially helpful to new recruits.
At this year’s orientation, attendees will receive a revised Volunteer Handbook. It answers several of the basic questions new recruits might have. It also covers such things as volunteer responsibilities, shift times, contacts, and health-department rules. With the handbook, everyone will receive a volunteer form that must be filled out. They’ll also receive a small gift when they return the form.
“The commitment of volunteers is the single most important factor in SKIP’s success,” said Philip Franchini, SKIP board chairperson. “They help with food preparation, set-up, welcoming guests, serving, and cleaning up. Plus they enjoy working with other dedicated volunteers.”
Last season, the volunteer team included nearly100 people coming from as far away as Eastham. Some volunteered for one shift on one day each week. Others came several days each week. “They all shared the good vibe that comes from helping others,” said Mark Bjorstrom, vice chairperson and treasurer.
SKIP extends its thanks to all former volunteers and invites them to return for another season. “If you haven’t volunteered in the past, we ask you to consider participating,” said Franchini. “Come work with a great group of people for a very worthy cause.”
SKIP is fortunate to have many volunteers who return each year. One has been on hand since the Soup Kitchen began in 1992. But it’s necessary to add members to meet its growing needs. For questions about volunteering or other SKIP matters, call 508.487.8331 or email [email protected] You may also visit skipfood.org.
Provincetown LGBTQ Welcome Center Announces Fall Programs
The Provincetown LGBTQ Welcome Center (The Center) is pleased to announce programs for the 2019 fall and holiday seasons. Founded by the LGBTQ tourism organization, The Provincetown Business Guild, The Center is a 501(c) 3 non-profit initiative that provides an “on the ground” resource for LGBTQ visitors, Provincetown residents, and allies of the LGBTQ community. In its second year, The Center has moved to a retail location on Commercial Street, the hub and heart of Provincetown. The Center is also becoming a home for LGBTQ luminaries, activists, and advocates to explore our shared history, fight for equality, and build community in a time when LGBTQ rights are repeatedly being challenged by elected officials across the country.
The fall and holiday season programs include:
Stonewall at The Center—Zero to Equal. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots in 1969 New York City where, like most of the country, homosexuality was illegal. Stonewall veterans David Bermudez and Bob Isadore will be at The Center during key Provincetown fall and winter events to meet with residents and visitors, discuss their Stonewall experience, and answer questions. Dates include:
• October 21, 3 – 4:30 p.m. (Fantasia Fair)
• November 2, 2 – 4 p.m. (Spooky Bear)
• November 30, 2 – 4 p.m. (Thanksgiving Weekend)
• December 7, 2 – 4 p.m. (Holly Folly)
• December 30, 2 – 4 p.m. (First Light Weekend)
Fantasia Fair at The Center. Fantasia Fair, the longest-running transgender event in the world, is a weeklong celebration that has been held annually in Provincetown since 1975. It has been and continues to be a model for other transgender conferences. Part learning experience, part social gathering, and part reunion, Fantasia Fair is a full immersion experience where attendees can spend an entire week presenting their gender as they wish. 100% of the proceeds from The Fantasia Fair Follies will benefit The Center.
Resident & Visitor Community Coffees at The Center. Various weekends throughout fall, visitors, residents, and part-time residents are invited to gather at The Center to get to know your neighbors and enjoy some hot coffee, tea, and good conversation! 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. on each of the dates below.
• October 19
• November 9
• November 30
To learn more about the Center or to donate, visit facebook.com/ptownlgbtq.
by Steve Desroches
Keep calm and carry on.
In 1939 the British government printed millions of posters with that phrase to prepare the citizenry for the horrors to follow at the start of World War II. And indeed that reminder would come in useful as the Nazis unleashed the Blitz on Great Britain, an almost constant bombardment that lasted nearly nine months, leaving the country’s cities in near ruin. In actuality, very few of the posters actually were used, and the public service announcement didn’t resurface until an original poster was discovered in a used bookshop in far northern England in 2000. Since then it’s become a popular catchphrase reminding the world about the British steely resolve and their ability to keep it together under the most extreme of circumstances.
Of course, these days it seems things in the United Kingdom are anything but calm, or even united, as they now have their own Trump in Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they wander through the impossible tricky thicket of Brexit. Indeed it appears that stiff upper lip is beginning to quiver. One can only hold it together for so long when burying your feelings. Just ask Lady Mary on Downton Abbey. Or you can take in Fiona Goodwin’s solo show this weekend as she brings A Very British Lesbian for her Provincetown debut.
Americans do seem obsessed with our former colonial rulers. And since the Revolution went our way, we frequently cozy up to their comedy, in particular. Be it Benny Hill or Monty Python, Catherine Tate or Little Britain, Americans can’t get enough. With their dry humor and savage wit, and those irresistible accents, the British can make near anything funny, including the tragic and sad. It’s something Goodwin particularly appreciates as the comedic actress and stand-up comic laughs, saying no one would listen to her story if she didn’t make it funny, otherwise it would just be a miserable tale of a woman who hated herself for far too long, wasting time unable to come out, but still managing to remember tea time. But what exactly makes a very British lesbian?
“Well, in a general sense, this particular lesbian,” says Goodwin. “It’s very British to keep your feelings to yourself, to keep a stiff upper lip, to not really express much of anything. That’s so very British. It’s also how I stayed in the closet for so long.”
Perhaps the most British thing about the show is Goodwin’s ability to make what is a sad story so funny. She credits her parents, and indeed the English people, for their gallows humor. As Mary Poppins says, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. And for Goodwin, who is also a practicing psychotherapist in Los Angeles (you didn’t see that coming, did you?), humor is one of the most powerful means of communication there is. It’s helped her make sense of her own story that includes religious fanaticism, an exorcism to rid her of homosexual demons, missionary work in the abject poverty of Honduras, the isolation of failed relationships with unavailable women, 30 years of hiding in the closet, and somehow ending up as a behavioral specialist on the reality show Britain’s Worst Teenager.
Goodwin’s story is ultimately a triumphant one, as she pulled herself out of the well of loneliness to a place of self-acceptance and happiness. This coming-out story from across the pond paints a vivid picture of the cultural climate for LGBT people in the United Kingdom. Here in the United States there can be a distorted image of increased tolerance in Europe for LGBT people. But that was not the case at all, particularly under the homophobic Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who in 1988 promoted and shepherded legislation into law that forbade the “promotion of homosexuality,” a tactic used most recently by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those days were anything but a laughing matter for LGBT people in the United Kingdom.
“I think it has become more liberal, but it wasn’t when I was young,” says Goodwin. “Plus, I lived in the country. I didn’t live in a big city. As they say, I was the only gay in the village. That’s not true actually. There was a lesbian couple that lived down the street, but I’d cross to avoid them. I was terrified of them.”
This marks not only Goodwin’s Provincetown debut, but also the East Coast premiere of A Very British Lesbian after performances earlier this year in Santa Monica, California, and in Seattle. This past summer Goodwin brought the show to the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, where it received rave reviews. It was there that she began to hear about Provincetown. Fellow performers and audience members from all over the world told her coming to Provincetown was an absolute must. As a lesbian who didn’t attend her first Gay Pride parade until she was 50, she’s especially keen to visit Provincetown, and doubly excited to do so during Women’s Week. Having done the show both in the UK and the USA she’s confident in its universal appeal, even if the audiences in each country are quite different.
“I think that British audiences are more ‘make me laugh, damn you,’” says Goodwin. “Here the audience is much more with you. Americans are more open. The British are more critical, maybe cynical. And Americans are very kind to the British. If you have a British accent you can get away with murder!”
Fiona Goodwin presents A Very British Lesbian at the Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Thursday, October 17 at 4:30 p.m., Friday, October 18 at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, October 19 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets ($25) are available at the box office and online at pilgrimhouseptown.com.