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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joseph A. Herzenberg, November 1, 2000. Interview K-0196. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gay social life in the Triangle

Herzenberg briefly reflects on gay social life in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. He remembers some gay men who enjoyed a vibrant social life and one gay man who organized a book group.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Joseph A. Herzenberg, November 1, 2000. Interview K-0196. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Well, did you ever see, I mean, I know, for instance, I am someone who goes to bars, but I don't necessarily like the bars, and I like dinners and dinner parties and that kind of thing, did you ever see, when you became more acquainted with the gay culture in this area, did you see any different groups of gays, different types? I mean, of course there is every kind of gay under the sun, as many as different kinds of people, but did you see factions, if you will, in the gay community?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
I don't think factions is the right word, because that suggests that these groups were at odds with each other somehow.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right.
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
I would just call them social circles. And I think that there were lots of them. And I think that Gerry Unks or Dan Leonard, or what's his name—Charlie Delmar, they can all tell you about some of those. I was never really a member of any of those, or almost not a member; there is one, for example that I still go to. These two guys, they live in Durham, but they have an annual New Years Party, usually, like the 10th of January or something like that, and they invite the same men, it's about 30, I would guess, from Chapel and Durham, to go. Now, I don't think that we are really a social circle, but we are sort of like one. I mean, we have gotten to know each other. But, I have a feeling that there are lots of them. I don't mean to say there are, you know hundreds, but dozens of them. And I am really ignorant of the lesbian ones; I am just not that kind of a social person, for better or for worse. So, I think the further back you go, the more there were, for example, somebody just died. I think his name was Jack Fulilove. I may be mis-pronouncing his last name—F-U-L-I-L-O-V-E. He was old, 80ish and his partner, I believed died before him. But I have a friend, a straight man, who is his nephew, or maybe his cousin, I don't know, he is related. And he told me that this guy Fulilove and his partner, they had this rich social life—and see, I didn't even know that they existed.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
I think that I have heard of this gentleman, in fact, in fact I was hoping to interview him, he was in his 80s and he died just within the year.
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
Yeah, I think maybe six months ago, fairly recently. So, I think that there were a lot of these things. Another person who would know about these is David Jones. David, would know about them because his dead lover, Alan Burman went to college and law school here and was part of some of those things, or Lee Culpepper. Lee is a lawyer, he works for the University. I mean, there are other people who know those—I wouldn't say far better than me, because I don't know anything about them really. There was a group called the Mary Renault Society, it was started by a guy named Hoagie H-O-A-G-I-E, Gaskins, G-A-S-K-I-N-S. Who lives in the Friendly Castle.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
That was Mary Renault?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
Yeah, R-E-N-A-U-L-T. She is a South African novelist who wrote about gay people in Ancient Greece. I believe Hoagie, who by the way, as far as I know, the first person in North Carolina to die of AIDS, he died around 1983, he owned—he was a student here and later owned a little book store on University Square. A Little Professor Book Store, you know it is not a chain, it is like a franchise. He worked there and he bought it from the older couple that started it. And I believe that Hoagie started this thing called the Mary Renault Society, which may still exist by the way, it was a book reading group, and that group met I think once a month on a Sunday evening, and they talked about a book, or they had a—sometimes they had a guest speaker and the guest speaker would give a talk about something and there would be a discussion, but what was posing, that's a lay word, the façade was that it was a book club, but it really was a social network, you know, I went to it for a while. Trying to make them more political. [Laughter]