A few years back I started working in Special Collections at the University of Southern Maine. USM has a massive LGBTQ+ collection. Through my work with these collections, I’ve had the honor of meeting several legends of Maine queer activism, though I assure you, they are far too humble to admit that they are legends.
I’m not sure who first told me the story of Valerie’s, or if I heard it in one of the oral histories in the collection, but I have always loved it. What I do know is that it is a great story with drama, comedy, and even some romance.
…This is where we talk about COVID-19, briefly. I created the above audio segment as an independant study project for my grad program at UMaine. In a perfect world, I would have used the production studio at WMPG, but the station has been closed since March. So, I spent a lot of time in my closet with a laptop and a podcasting mic. Some of those legends of Maine queer history were kind enough to Zoom with me, and I’ve managed to put together a “rough draft” of something that I think is really special.
There is no way to tell the whole story of what went down at Valerie’s and why in a single half hour. For example, there is a whole subplot involving the Wells and Ogunquit police using attractive undercover officers to lure gay men in the dunes (oh hi, entrapment) that seriously deserves an entire documentary. Roland’s deserves an opera, and I’d love to see a Lifetime movie about the Stowe House pickets.
What I can do here is offer some supplemental content in case you are intrigued by the story of Valerie’s.
- 1999 interview with Stan Fortuna and Peter Prizer from the USM Lesbian and Gay Oral History Project.
- 1999 Interview with Susan Henderson (from the same collection)
- Steven Bull Querying the Past Interview
- Peter Prizer Querying the Past Interview
- Stan Fortuna Querying the Past Interview
- Maine Gay Task Force Newsletter Archives
Endless thanks to Steve Bull and Stan Fortuna who co-host the delightful and deeply informative weekly queer talk show OUT cast on WMPG. Thank you also to Peter Prizer, Steve Irving, Steve Leo, and Mariah Breeding who in addition to Steve Bull and Stan were gracious enough to Zoom with me , though I’m sure it was amusing to watch me sweat blue hair dye in my closet. I hope I’ve done the story justice, and I look forward to trying harder next time to get it right. Thanl you for everything you did so that we can be who we are in Maine.