Gay parent

Revisiting the 1960s with Rebel Spirits

Posted on May 30, 2018. Filed under: Art, Family, Gay parent | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

This is a print of painting Gregory Thornton created to honor these casulaties of the 1960s.

Ever get an email from someone you don’t know, and it turns out not to be from a Nigerian prince who has an inheritance for you if you only wire $2500? A few weeks ago, I did. The email was from the Stephen Fagin, executive director of The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas. The museum chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history. Who knew? It’s located in The Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald perched himself to assassinate President Kennedy. Anyway, their special exhibit titled, “Rebel Spirits” hosts a canvas print of a painting my dad, Gregory J. Thornton, created in the 1960s. My dad’s client and president of a large printing company purchased the original painting, and Coretta King, Martin Luther King’s widow had one of the prints.

The museum’s executive director tracked me down because they are creating an awesome collection of interviews with people related to items in their museum. The director set up an interview with me to discuss the painting, the painter and the 1960s for the museum’s oral history collection. Last week, we spoke on the phone for an hour. I can’t say that I felt all that eloquent, but I seemed to have pulled off the interview. I sent the museum a copy of the thank-you letter Coretta King sent to him along with some other vintage documents I managed to locate in my files. If I find more info on the audio cassette tapes, I’ll send the museum a copy of the digitized recording for them to use with the exhibit and/or archives.

Meanwhile, I also digitized 10 more audio cassette tapes. This batch was a sorry sample. Two tapes were broken and half the others sound like a conversation in a train station during a hailstorm.  Nevertheless, I found some interesting segments.

Stay tuned. –And if I ever get to Dallas, I’m going to check out The Sixth Floor Museum!



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Push Play, Then Work

Posted on May 10, 2018. Filed under: Art, Family, Gay parent, Poems, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

May 10, 2018

Greg and Emily 1956

Dad & Me circa 1956

I’ve been busy. Not just busy, but crazy busy. You might not see it because so much of what I’ve been up to means I’m buried in my office. I’m knee-deep in a memoir about Gregory Thornton, my dad (or maybe these are short stories?). If you know me, you probably are aware that my Dad was an eccentric, gay artist. Like gay men of his time, he stayed in the closet, had a family and, after the culture shifted he torched his marriage—and not in a passionate way. Starting in 1977, he also fairly consistently recorded his life on audio tapes. When he passed away in 2000, he accumulated 10K hours of cassettes (yes, 10000 hours!!) Earlier he arranged to have the Kinsey Institute archive them. He thought they would make a fascinating book. I think so too.

When I started this book project a few years back, I traveled to Bloomington, Indiana to visit the Institute and listen to the tapes. I stayed for as many days as my hotel budget could tolerate and listened to my dad ramble mostly familiar stories. Sometimes I transcribed an interesting segment.

By last year, I gained enough credibility with my Kinsey contacts to trust me with tapes outside the Institute.  Now, I am privileged to receive a package of ten tapes via FedEx every few weeks. Meanwhile, my master-geek husband discovered Audacity, a nifty sound program that allows me to digitize the cassettes. After duplicating the batch, I send them back and return to listening until the next batch arrives.

My dad had a big personality, a voice that carried throughout the house and an ego to match. In telling this story, my biggest challenge is to not feel cast into his shadow, which is where most people ended up when they were in his presence. Don’t get me wrong. We were great friends, but I have to pay attention to my own voice to write this story. I think writing this blog will help. And, since I’m often asked how the book is going, this is an easy way to share updates.

So feel free ask me questions. If you know any books about having a gay parent—not BEING a gay parent—let me know. In preparing a book proposal, I could use some help finding competitive literature. Gotta go.  Gotta change the tape!

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