Arts & Entertainment
Pages past tense #16
By Charles Alexander
Originally printed 7/12/2012 (Issue 2028 - Between The Lines News)
I was 23 when I started Wayne University - before it became WSU - as a trial, non-matriculated student.
It took me eight years to earn my degree, at a time when tuition was $25 a credit hour. I had many incompletes, dropped courses for lack of sustained follow through, switched from a Sociology major to English Teaching in the Community College.
That diploma made all the difference when I finally received it in 1972. (Having tried and dropped Spanish, German, and Italian. Top grades however in French; one course at a time, with no other subjects to distract my memorization focus.)
It was Ernie who encouraged me to attend Wayne University. (He was finishing his B.A. in Journalism, a pursuit he resumed when returning to Detroit.) "Keep in mind Al: good looks don't last. If you haven't got a career to sustain you when you hit 30, it's no go for a gay guy - unless of course you're rich, or being kept."
Soon Ernie began writing for the Wayne Collegian (years before it became its present, once-radical incarnation, The South End) as its drama/music/dance critic. He earned two admission tickets plus byline. It was a freebee for me, a Humanities course in itself.
At the Masonic Temple -- one of Detroit's top entertainment venues - ticket allotment to media reviewers was handled by PR duo James Cornell & Pete Prass. They were a couple, partial to gay reviewers, so naturally Ernie and I got excellent viewing seats.
(Unfortunately, P & J liked to party a bit too much, returned home to their Palmer Park bungalow, fell asleep carelessly smoking in bed, and shockingly died, a year or two short of the proverbial, male-climatic, late-40s.)
While writing for the Wayne Collegian Ernie became friends with faculty advisor Frank Gill, who was also music critic for the Detroit Times. (Detroit had three majors newspapers.) Frank was "gay friendly," and often boasted about being at a London party with Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, Oscar Wilde's lover, in attendance.
I recall hearing Frank Gill, tongue in cheek, tell a Collegian copy editor, "Hey! You can't write a headline Liberace Gives Gay Concert. It may be clever by half, but it's libelous by full."
In stature Ernie was short; and I'm sure we stimulate intermission gossip when we attended concerts. Certainly quite a bit more when we took in ballets. "As a seen-everywhere couple in Detroit's year-around cultural world, Mutt & Jeff Go Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo."
Looking back on my cultural singalong with Ernie I heard many greats: pianists Dame Myra Hess (who stopped playing, turned to the audience and coughed, to silence the many winter coughers in attendance), Rudolph Serkin, Arthur Rubinstein, conductors Paul Paray, Eugene Ormandy, George Szell, Arthur Fidler, soprano Maria Callas - all gone. All immortal on tape.
Once I even got to misbehave while "enjoying" a ballet performance. The young balletomane seated on my left initiated an ever-so-gentle (but rhythmically sustained) game of kneesies. A pas de deux of sorts. Somehow it went well with the music. He left with his girlfriend, looked back, winked, smiled knowingly. (Fifth position, anyone!)Charles@pridesource.com