Advocate Days and Other Stories – Mark Thompson (Queermojo)

Buy it Now at Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

Back when I was a young queerlet in college, my roommate/BFF/first lover and I used to get in his white Vega and drive from Boulder to Denver in search of casual sex and our monthly copies of The Advocate and After Dark. In my wildest dreams, I’d get my journalism degree, move to San Francisco and work for what I thought was the most important periodical in the world.

But I got sidetracked.

Mark Thompson didn’t, however, and we’re all the luckier for that. Thompson contributed some of the most important and thought-provoking features for The Advocate during its halcyon days. In his most recent book, he casts a fond but fair eye on those days as well as the print debacle that The Advocate eventually became. And when it comes to those dark recent days, he does not spare the rod. That’s what I liked most about the “Advocate Days” part of the book. Thompson and I share many of the same journalistic values – we both prefer substance over style and thinking instead of entertaining.

Those values are also what carry the “Other Stories,” where Thompson presents portraits of such gay luminaries as Harry Hay, poet Paul Monette and the pioneering performance artist Ethyl Eichelberger as well as smaller, more finely painted cameos of men he knew working with AIDS organizations and others who moved him. These chapters are both heartfelt and heart-wise, strong and brimming with love. And he ends with a wonderful ode to his partner, Malcom Boyd, called “On Being a Preacher’s Wife.”

The only shortcoming I can possible think of for these miniatures is that they aren’t long enough. I could have read about Harry Hay, Ethyl Eichelberger and self-made shaman Fakir Musafar all night long. Thompson’s talent is such that he not only gives their accomplishments context but he also allows you to understand the commonalities that drove them all to make their individual marks.

So, if you’re old enough to remember The Advocate when it was a queer cultural force instead of a slick mag selling Melissa Etheridge and $1000-a-plate HRC dinners, you’ll enjoy Advocate Days and Other Stories. And if you’re still young and energetic enough, maybe it will inspire you to start the next queer cultural force.

We sure as hell need one.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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