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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bill Hull, June 21, 2001. Interview K-0844. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Safe spots for gay men in Chapel Hill and at UNC

Although some gay men remained closeted, Hull argues that gay bars served as ideal socializing spots. He describes the sexual havens on the University of North Carolina campus.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bill Hull, June 21, 2001. Interview K-0844. 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

CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Did you see any subcultures within the gay community when you were there in Chapel Hill? I mean, you speak of a very integrated—obviously there was some people that would have gone to the bar scene—
BILL HULL:
It was all a subculture.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
So there were not subcultures of the subculture?
BILL HULL:
Not that I am a aware of, other than just cliques, which just happens in any social group, but I do not remember anything other than the fact that gay people were gay, we felt comfortable, but you had to be discrete.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
But not everybody was necessarily openly gay.
BILL HULL:
Pardon?
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Everyone who was gay was not necessarily out of the closet.
BILL HULL:
Oh no, that was the T-room crowd, that is what we called them.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right—
BILL HULL:
As far as I was concerned.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right, particularly, the people that were in the closet were in the T-rooms.
BILL HULL:
Not all of them—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
But, as a general rule.
BILL HULL:
You could meet interesting people or people that you never thought would do it, oh yes. Everybody would do the T-rooms; there was such a freedom there.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Oh yeah.
BILL HULL:
I mean, I wasn't a toilet whore, but I mean, I went there.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Oh God, I think everybody has.
BILL HULL:
You had encounters. It was social. You would sit outside Wilson Library and smoke cigarettes and giggle and follow somebody in and check them out.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right, right.
BILL HULL:
Now that was the cruising that you were talking about [Laughter] in the footnote. It was obviously a sexual hunt, whatever.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Well, I am delighted to talk to you about it. Your brother was not as, acquainted with that, so I am very, very pleased. Where were the main places there in the early 60s when you were at UNC?
BILL HULL:
The same thing, Murphy Hall, Bingham Hall, Wilson Library.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Bingham is the last one and it has just gone under construction.
BILL HULL:
Pardon, what?
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Bingham is the last T-room and it has just gone under construction.
BILL HULL:
Which is that?
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Bingham Hall. Well, they are remodeling, which means that they are going to rip everything out and make it to not facilitate cruising anymore.
BILL HULL:
Well, I have not been in any of those places since the early 70s. That sort of thing. I don't really care—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Oh, I know.
BILL HULL:
There was one night for old times sake, we went rushing into Murphy Hall and it was a ladies room.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Yeah, and there are still urinals on the wall. I didn't even know that it existed.
BILL HULL:
I know, we wanted to go and sit on the urinals and pee. [Laughter] We wanted to go and terrorize somebody. We wanted to light toilet paper and throw it in the stall. [Laughter]
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Were there any glory holes in Murphy Hall, or peek holes?
BILL HULL:
I don't remember Murphy Hall. I remember Murphy as going up stairs on the second floor and talking to people.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right.
BILL HULL:
It was a social gathering, I didn't—well let's see—I did pick up people in Wilson Library, but Murphy was sort of like, you would go in, and I even went in with my lover, just to go up and meet with gay people and talk with them. Because you did not want to go out to the bar and scream. Another place that was very gay, but it was not gay, it was more hippie. But, heck when I was there, it was more beatnik, but later became very gay and beatnik was Harry's bar and grill.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right, I believe that is the one that Pat Cusick and John Dunn and different people hung out at.
BILL HULL:
Yeah, that was the whole, that was where we met and talked about what we were going to do about sitting out front of the post office. Oh God, why can't I remember their names. It was a wonderful place, it was very liberal, I mean—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
John Sears wrote about that and I can't wait to interview Quinton Baker because he lives in Hillsborough now. Although, he is unlisted and I am having a hard time in finding his number, but, John Sears in Lonely Hunters wrote a whole thing about the Civil Rights Movement and how you had Armistead Maupin being the conservative columnist and then you had the three gay people, Pat Cusick, John Dunn and Quinton Baker, three predominant people on the other side of the aisle and so there was really this situation in which gay people were running the civil rights movement and a gay person was preaching against it. [Laughter] So, it was like the war of the gays over this issue. What about Armistead, did you ever meet him?
BILL HULL:
Only after he was who he is now. I met him in Raleigh in probably the 80s.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Did you know about him, when you were in school?
BILL HULL:
No, no, no, not a thing.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
You didn't know that he was gay or anything?
BILL HULL:
I didn't even know who he was until Tales of the City came out. Then there was a fundraiser in 85 or something like that, when the Mouse Trap was still in Raleigh, they had a "Meet the Author" sort of thing. That is the first time that I met him and we chatted, but we had nothing in common. He was probably much younger than I am.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
I was just absolutely shocked.
BILL HULL:
I'm old. [said in a silly voice] [Laughter]
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
So, nobody cruised in Dey Hall in that period? Or you didn't know of it.
BILL HULL:
I didn't know of it, I took a lot of courses there. I knew a lot of gay faculty that worked in Dey Hall. I had sex in Dey Hall with a faculty person or two. But, I didn't see it as cruisie. There was another place—there are all of these places that have evolved. Having being in Chapel Hill up until the last two years ago, for the last twelve years, I had to relearn where people went and hung out. Somewhere around Carroll Hall there was a place.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Was it Gardner?
BILL HULL:
Gardner! Yeah, in Gardner we used to go and watch movies. We would go the restroom; maybe, it was not an open place.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right.
BILL HULL:
It was in one of these new buildings.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Was it in the basement of Venable?
BILL HULL:
No, but it was near Venable.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
When you were there, had they taken the doors off the stalls in Wilson yet?
BILL HULL:
Oh yeah, it was like open show. You just sat there and watched people jerk off across from you.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Exactly, that is what they all said.
BILL HULL:
Yeah, and that expression for the glory hole right next to the urinal?
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
The TV?
BILL HULL:
The TV, yes. I know somebody that would really be pissed if he walked in there and you were in that place.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
That is what everybody says, do you remember who it was?
BILL HULL:
The person is dead, thank god I can use his name, John Pruner. [Laughter] He's dead, his mother might get me, but yes. I mean, he was known to go in there and set down a tea service. [Laughter] That's rumored, I have not seen it. [Laughter] Or sit there with magazines and just display them to people across the way.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
TV booth at Wilson, and that was his throne, huh?
BILL HULL:
I mean, the rumor was that he would set up a tea service down there, but John Pruner was very, very territorial.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
What did John do, did he work in town, was he a faculty member?
BILL HULL:
He was a blue-collar worker in Durham, not blue collar. Probably middle management at Duke. I should be ashamed of myself for saying this, but anyway, he was. He was pretty prominent, middle management, somewhere in the Durham community.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
He was just known to come over to Chapel Hill and he just expected to keep his place.
BILL HULL:
Yeah he was like dorky, whatever. Back in those days if you went in there and he was there, you just left, it was like stepping into the Queen's private ballroom or whatever. You just left.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Did you notice kind of, when you went down there, were there people that you would see that you would not see anywhere at bars, that would be there?
BILL HULL:
Yeah.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Would you consider them closet cases or would they—
BILL HULL:
Closeted in the purest sense of being unsocial. If I saw people that I saw in the bars, you just said, "Hey girl." You were looking for something strange, I guess.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Exotic, you were looking to get a quote, unquote, "straight boy."
BILL HULL:
Well, not necessarily straight boy, you just wanted to see somebody that you didn't see dancing with their shirt off at the bar.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
I guess.
BILL HULL:
I didn't do it that much. If I went down there, it was usually with someone else and we were probably drunk after the bar. So, we just sat there and giggled. I don't know, I didn't look on it as—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Because all of those buildings were all unlocked, twenty-four hours, right?
BILL HULL:
As best that I know. But, I didn't go in there to find a boyfriend or a husband, it was just a sexual encounter and it was usually with somebody with me and we were like, "Hey let's go down and cruise" [in a drunken slurred voice]. We would drive down on the sidewalk, because we couldn't steer the car. [Laughter] It was pretty bad.