Aaron Lucier oral history


Aaron Lucier


Zachary P. Dale

East Carolina University


July 26, 2018

Brewster Building

East Carolina University

ZD: It is Thursday, July 26th, at 3:39 PM. Zachary Dale is conducting this interview, and we are at East Carolina University in Brewster B208. I will now turn it over to my interviewee.

AL: My name is Aaron Lucier. I always say my day job is I'm the Director of Housing Operations at ECU or whatever job I've had at ECU at the time. My night job or my non-ECU official paid job that I generally said, rabble-rouser, community organizer. In recent years, I always say I'm one of the usual suspects. Because you walk into the room and it's the same socially connected, mutually project minded people trying to change something about our town or our city or our state, or whatever is going on, and you walk in the room and it's the same people and you go, "Oh, it's the usual suspects." I'm just continuing to live my life so hopefully somebody will protest my funeral, preferably the ... which baptist church is it?

ZD: The Westboro? (1:24)

AL: Yeah, Westboro. I'm living my life so the Westboro Baptist Church will really probably protest my funeral. That would be the hallmark, the crowning glory of my life achievement. I want to live my life for that goal.

ZD: I love that.

AL: Yeah.

ZD: Do I have verbal consent to conduct this interview?

AL: Yes, you do.

ZD: Absolutely wonderful. Thank you so very much for agreeing to this interview and I'd like to start with you telling me about your life before you came to ECU.

AL: Well, I have five siblings. One of those is a step-sibling, two are halves, and two are full. I have an older sister, an older stepsister, then I have a younger sister, and then I have two younger brothers. Grew up in I would say the orbit of Philadelphia, so I lived in and around the Philadelphia/Delaware Valley area. Sometimes on the shore, sometimes in Philadelphia, but around. It was challenging because we did move around quite a bit, so I was always the new kid, which in the social standing of the world is never a great place to be particularly if you're also nonathletic, way too smart for your own good, and gay, secretly gay or didn't know I was gay yet, but gay. (3:02)

AL: Also I had the advantage of growing up in the Delaware Valley and coming out. Even being able to go to the library and being in more liberal New Jersey at the time, finding a copy of the Kinsey Report. Being able to find that in a public library which you wouldn't have been able to do in the south necessarily, or it would've been in some glass restricted case or whatever. I had the ability to learn and research me being, like I said, a little too smart for my own good about being gay. I honestly knew that I wasn't alone, also there was gay people there on the peripheral even back then that weren't necessarily outcasts like they may be in some other areas of the country, but just sort of whispered about politely. "Oh, they're those kind of folks." Not in a bad church kind of way, but just "They're those kind of folks".

AL: I didn't necessarily have the worst view of being gay from that. I did have it a little bit more from being raised from a Catholic. My parents, I later found out, kind of knew how I was and they encouraged the priesthood pretty hard. When I was getting ready to graduate high school the options seemed to be the military, which didn't seem practical to anybody at that time, the priesthood because I was sensitive, I was smart, I was devout, or perceptively, or going on to higher ed. I made the decision. I really thought about the priesthood for a while, but decided to go to college. (5:01)

AL: Went up in a small branch campus of the University of Pittsburgh. I was in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Because my grades were good, they weren't great because, once again, too smart for my own good. I was bored with school so I didn't do the homework, which meant my grades were always mediocre. Even though I took most, short of mathematics, pretty much do anything I want in terms of classwork, I just didn't want to do it. I go to college. I'm there and build a small group, a network of friends. Johnstown was a bit of a wake up call for me because it wasn't as liberal as Philadelphia, it wasn't as liberal as South Jersey. It was very, they were a lot more conservative and a lot more protected. I arrived there with a leather jacket and purple hair, and they weren't ready for me. They're like, "Oh, what the hell do we do with him?"

AL: At the same time from my high school experience of moving around I adjusted like ... The best thing I could say is I learned early on if you didn't find a comfortable space, you make your own. You kick the other things out of the way and you say, "This is my space and I've made it." I made my own space there and that was the student literary magazine and a group of friends. The reason I say this is this brought my interest of staying and working in higher education. I created a space at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and it was clearly my space. I got a lot of respect for that because I was student senator, program board president, president of the Newman student association, editor of the literary magazine. I mean, I was the student affairs junkie. I did all the things that a student affairs. (7:14)

AL: I quickly realized that I didn't want to go into business, which was my degree is in business and economics. I wanted to go into student affairs. I did my four years and was mentored into student affairs, and I wanted to go to a good program so I went to Florida State. It was really the only program I applied to and I got in and I didn't do the RA housing thing. As an undergrad I pretty much had an eh relationship with housing at UPJ. Florida State wanted a strong programmer in housing because they were trying to do better programming. They took a risk on me and I took that assistantship because it paid the best because it included housing. Because I was trying to budget this off-campus thing and it wasn't working here in Tallahassee.

AL: I went to Florida State and got into housing. Did a brief time in University of Pittsburgh, University of Western Illinois after Florida State, and then was job searching. Had a job interview here. Had a good interview, but decided to turn it down because I didn't know if I wanted to head to Greenville, and also there was some other professional reasons. Funny enough I took a job somewhere else and it didn't work out, so I was looking for a job the following year. A colleague of mine did come to East Carolina and she was looking for another hall director, and I took the job because I didn't have anything else going on. I was having a really crappy job search that year, and it brought me back to East Carolina University. I always tell people I declined my first job offer at ECU and took it the second time a year later. I take that as a little bit of provenance that this was the right place. (9:05)

AL: I was coming from living in Pittsburgh. I worked at Western Illinois, went off to another school, and then quit that job and was living in Pittsburgh. That summer in Pittsburgh I'd reorganized Pittsburgh Pride. I was part of the committee that had reorganized so I was coming off of a high with this job interview of we reinstituted that there was a pride. I had dozens of bars to choose from, I was living the urban lifestyle again, and was really feeling it. Pittsburgh is not a panacea, don't worry it's nothing like Queer As Folk portrayed it as. That was not the real Pittsburgh, but it was still a lot gayer and a lot freer than moving to Greenville, North Carolina with one bar, however good it was.

AL: I arrive at the doors at East Carolina University and as a hall director and pretty out. Fortunately for me I really did my job search out and I got a job through a coworker so she knew I was gay and so I was very honest and direct about. Even when I was at Western I was involved with the LGBT student organization there. When I was at Florida State I was involved with the LGBT student organization there, and I helped found a sort of secret group at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown that met through the counseling center because it was a lot more conservative. We were whispering and knocking on doors and having secret meetings. (10:36)

AL: I wasn't really in the closet towards my last years at Pitt, I was pretty much honest who I was. I arrived at Florida State gay and out, I arrived at Western gay and out, so I was going to arrive at Greenville as gay and out. It was a little bit more shocking here. Tallahassee, I mean, it's a big school, but here it was just a little bit more of a shock to the system. I was the second gay hall director. There were some other ones that hadn't come out yet and whatever else but Jeff Gersh had arrived a year before so it was in his second year. He thankfully knocked some of the closet doors open. Because the thing is no one was surprised that there was a gay hall director because there was one the year before that really knocked the closet doors off.

AL: Thank god for Jeff because I arrived and I was a little bit more a background person than him. He was there so he was advising the student group along with John O'Brien from music. I started going to the meetings because I wanted to be supportive of the student group and I knew it was relatively new. They were the advisors and eventually Jeff Gersh left and John kind of faded, went back to his primary work of that so I got to be the advisor. (12:05)

ZD: What year was that?

AL: Dear lord, my arrival at ECU was '95. My arrival at ECU was '95, so 23 years ago. I didn't become the advisor until year two of my time here when Jeff was leaving or stepping back maybe. I've advised the student group for about 22 years.

ZD: That sort of leads into our next question about what was your involvement with BGLAD?

AL: Well, I started attending before I became the advisor. There was a lot of concern at the time and we had this at Tallahassee too, a lot of concern about gender parity. The L, the lesbian, we were really at that time switching the gay rights movement to be the gay and lesbian rights movement. There was a lot of concern in the '90s about gender parity. There was a male co-president and there was a female co-president and there was an attempt at the time to have a male and female advisor with some success. The female advisor changed from time to time, and I honestly couldn't really tell you some of the names of them because a lot of times they became.. (13:33)

AL: It was an attempt for gender parity so they'd get an advisor who was just an advisor in name because they wanted gender parity. They wanted a male advisor and a female advisor. Generally the male advisors at that time were more active. John O'Brien and Jeff Gersh and then myself. Then John O'Brien stepped back, Jeff Gersh took more of a roll, and then Jeff left and I came. There's been other advisors along the time, I haven't been the solo advisor. Probably for the last decade I've probably been the solo advisor but that's ... People say, "Well, why do you keep doing it?" I was like, "Well, if somebody would come to a meeting and they said they want to take over the advisorship I'd probably let them have it." Nobody's ever showed up at the meeting and asked for that but we will see on that one.

AL: I arrive and there's this fledgling student organization led by some really good students, Rich Elkins was one of them, trying to make their way through the university that wasn't always that friendly to them. I have to say, those early years, it was tough. You go to the room reservation space and they'd be like, "You know, there's no spaces available." There'd be subtle little things and they weren't getting student government funding at the time because it was considered a political group. It was put in a category, political groups, like the College Republicans and stuff like that that didn't get funding because being gay was political at the time as it was viewed. Jesse Helms was the senator of North Carolina. I mean, this is the time we're talking about. (15:13)

AL: The meetings were still somewhat secretive. They wouldn't post things. They would never post a list of members. They'd email this person and they'll tell you where the meetings are depending on where they were. Sometimes they'd start the year with a regular meeting in public, then they'd make some of them nonpublic. There was concerns about safety and concern and allowing people space to be in the closet. There was never, like, passing around a membership roster that much unless you wanted to. I think Rich and probably with other people would've told you that. There was still a real concern about protecting people's privacy at the time.

AL: That also connected you to things like The Paddock Club and the bar, because you'd see people out, or after a meeting, or let's go out to the club or I'll see you at the club this weekend. So there's a lot of networking there. And I was only 3 or 4 years older than he membership at that time, I was 4 years out of grad school. Or 3 and a half years out of grad school, so I wasn't so much older than these students that I was completely foreign. And some of them were nontraditional students. Rich was only a year or two younger than me, he wasn't really that much younger than me. So I pride on a pretty good social connection with him too. That's how I got here, and started. (16:50)

AL: In that time, when you list yourself as the advisor of the LGBT Student Organization on their website or wherever else it is at, you become the defacto faculty and staff who you're gonna go to about gay issues. Because there's no resource, obviously, at the time. There's no person who represents that, so I became the de facto. So I get emails from people saying that they're thinking about working at ECU and what's the climate like? Or I'm moving to Greenville? Or I live in Greenville and my parents have kicked me out, what am I supposed to do because you're the only person listed. My involvement grew some committees and some things involvement in the university because we don't have a LGBT office. So who's the faculty staff representing LGBT concerns? It would be the advisor to the student group. It opened some doors for me in the university, in terms of involvement and getting around and closed some doors too I'm sure.

But there was a fledgling community organization. And Marty was the name I need to tell you about and I'll look it up later.

ZD: Marty Daughtry? (18:06)

AL: Daughtry. Yup so, I'm sure somebody else has mentioned Marty Daughtry. But that was the name I was gonna mention to you. I got involved in the Fledgling Community Organization that was occurring at that time, a year or two after, maybe 3 after I've arrived. I think it was ... No, actually it was pretty much close to the time. There was a real desire of activism at that time. That's when a lot of pride groups were being formed, and a lot of prides being formed at that time. So the late 90's, HIV and AIDS had come along and had its impact. Some of that community organizing left over from the AIDS fight went into prides and other community organizations. There was a desire to build a community organization so I instantly probably joined into that fight as well. And that became Down East Pride. And that was 3 years, I believe, we successfully had pride events before Hurricane Floyd came along and messed everything up. Hurricane Floyd killed off Down East Pride. (19:16)

AL: The roots of the problems of Down East Pride were already there. It was the final nail on that coffin. It's hard to maintain a pride parade or pride festival in a small town. There's only so many people gonna write checks for that. I think we were having trouble maintaining the... And also people burned out too. It became your separate full time job to prepare for pride, and I had a job to do. Other people had other jobs to do, and we were all staring at each other. Why are we doing this? Because people were... some people were excited about it, some people were like "we shouldn't be doing this, it brings too much attention to the community." Brings too much attention to me because I discovered the bar, and I'm gay at the bar, but I'm straight everywhere else. Those kind of things. We get as much flack from outside the community, inside the community, and some cases as outside. Yeah, so.

ZD: What kind of programs did people put on? (20:31)

AL: Lots of panels. Panels, panels, panels, panels. For human sexuality classes. For diversity classes. For faculty were who were just interested in having gay students as a panel. Lesbian history, because of that whole gender parity issue. When we're having discussions about bisexuality there'd be bisexuality awareness. We weren't taught, and transgender haven't even entered the vocabulary really yet. I think we maybe had a program on drag queens and cross dressing.

AL: Mostly a social support though. It was much more about the social than programs. A lot of the meetings were quite boring, there were just business meetings and talking about what we're gonna do next. We're gonna do a movie night, or we're gonna do a pot luck, or we're gonna go to Down East Pride, or we're gonna do a bar night. Whatever it is. It was I think the funnest or the most re memorable meetings is when there was some battle on campus we wanted to get involved with. Either finding the SGA had funded us as a... or had approved us as a political organization, therefore we weren't eligible for funding. Or when some people yelled at us as we were going into our meeting one time over in Bate, which was called general classroom at the time, before it was named Bate. They followed us and pounded on the door, caused quite a stir. (22:19)

Or when the Campus Crusade for Christ group had their involvement with There's Another Way, I believe it was called. That was fun. Because that's when the community really gelled. When there was a challenge, there was a lot more energy. Those were the times that really stand out, I remember better.

ZD: Well tell me about this conflict with Another Way.

AL: Another Way, Campus Crusade, and all that always had that funding. So they put nice ads, these glossy ads, the pre-printed, like already developed ads into the student paper saying "There's another way. You don't need to be gay basically. I was a lesbian until I found husband here who has was gay at the time. We were happy together. And now whatever. And there's another way." They posted them and they were putting them in the newspaper. We had a meeting, and it was decided that we would raise money. We did a table in front of the right place, which is still the tradition today that if you needed to raise a little money. And people could put their name by giving $2, so we could raise enough to put the ad in the paper. Everybody was contributing, you look at the names there was a lot of people on that list. (23:47)

AL: There's a funny story though, with that, really kind of funny. I was dating my now husband at the time who was an undergrad here at UC. He came over and did his undergrad at Lenoir Community, he was a nontraditional student so I wasn't dating an undergrad as a professional, a traditional undergrad. Put that out there everybody who's listening to this in the future. He came over to UCU and he's like, "I'm gonna put my name in the paper. I'm gonna put my name." His name is Clifton Hill. So its not so "Oh my gosh, that's so unique." Not terribly. It's not John Smith either. But he's like, "I can tell you exactly what's gonna happen with this. One of my friends that goes to my church goes to UCU. She's gonna see the paper, she's gonna see the name. She's gonna call this person, they're gonna call that person, they're gonna call this person, they're gonna call my aunt, and my aunt is gonna call my mom. That's how everybody is gonna find out about that I'm gay because its gonna be in the paper." And I'm like, "You are got to be kidding. You're putting your name in student paper here in Greenville. As listing as only being supportive of LGBT rights, LGB rights at the time. One student's name, you're gonna be hidden in the middle of this ad." Be damned, he had it right down to the letter that he got called "What's this mean Aaron? What's this mean Clifton? What's going on Clifton?" And that's how he came out to his family. He came out to his family in that response ad that we put in the middle of the paper. (25:35)

AL: Now they were putting little corner page ads, I think they were corner page ads. And we blasted them with the inside fold of the paper. Yes, yes, yes. We blasted them with the inside fold, the double pages- that's how many people we can get. People were submitting checks for that and I had never had felt so proud. I was on a little team that designed the ad and picked up the quote and all that. I was on the inside loop with that one. I was walking around campus with a chip on my shoulder after that, because we really felt good about that because there was no arguing. Because back then people read the paper. You read the paper because that was it about campus. That was like, there's gay people here and we bought the inside of the paper. And it was glorious just opening up the ... That's a really proud moment, but also funny that it Cliff had basically came out to his family on the fast track in the East Carolina. So he came out to his family in the East Carolina. His claim to fame is much better than mine in terms of coming out with the families.

ZD: Well tell me a little bit more about your off campus involvement. (27:02)

AL: I got involved in 2 ways. Down East Pride and the community organization around that and then got involved on the Board of PiCASO, the Pitt County AIDS Service Organization, who I'm still on the board of. Once again, 27 years later. I love a project... I feel the need to create space and that space is a safe space or some sort of community space for myself and people like me or people that support me or whatever else. Getting involved with Down East Pride was a natural fit. Cliff used to kid around with me, but it was partially a joke and partially true. I used to keep in my car a clipboard, a small folding table, a pack of pencils, and some paper, and some poster board. You can be an official whatever, but putting up wherever you go, a folding table, a chair, a clipboard to collect names, and a poster board to say what you're doing. Protest will travel. I will community organize wherever you want. And I literally had those in the trunk of my car for the longest time. People were like, "Why do you have a folding table, a chair, some clipboards, and some pencils, and some poster board in your car?" And I'm like, "You never know when a protest is gonna come up. Or some sort of need to organize a community. Or some slight or some gay bashing or whatever else that occurs that we need to respond and I'm ready to go." So that's my involvement with that. (29:15)

AL: I hate to speak in such general terms, but its hard to speak about one specific moment because there's so much of it. And there's other names too. I never claimed... Sometimes I get probably in a little bit of a reputation for being like "Aaron says he's involved with everything." Well, I kinda was, but I wasn't the only person. So I never want to take, I was Down East Pride because I wasn't. I was just one of many. I wasn't PiCASO, because there's been a lot of people involved and a lot of people who contributed. I'm not BGLAD because it's a student group and I just advise them. I would never take a claim to fame on any of those, but I have to say I was in the room and that's important to me. I was always in the room.

ZD: Let's back up a little bit and talk about BGLAD's Pride Week. (30:19)

AL: That's a coming and going thing. You'd like to think that it was some sort of set, like "Oh my god, we're gonna have pride week for sure!" Every year was a debate. Are we gonna do a pride week? Or what are gonna do for pride week? Loved them, though. Because there was a period that we were doing them pretty and... Jeans Day, I'm sure some other people. We used to do Blue Jeans Day, which caused a consternation on campus for sure. Because all suddenly people were running back to their residence hall room to change their clothes suddenly, because they realized that they wore jeans on Blue Jeans Day. So we took something that was rather commonplace and made it the item. "Wear blue jeans on Friday if you're gay." You just put an ad in the paper on Thursday saying, "Tomorrow wear blue jeans!" And they do an article on it and all of a sudden everybody on campus is in panic about accidentally wearing- Denim Days! That's right. Not blue jeans, Denim Days, that's right. So they're wearing denim, dear God its right back to... you never see so many sweat pants on campus. I loved it. (31:37)

AL: I had wear professional attire, so I'd always wear a blue denim ribbon or blue jean ribbon and stuff like that because I couldn't do it. It was great to see, because as the years went on with that, more and more of the faculty and staff would do that and be comfortable with it. We saw that change. I hate to think that part of those recognition things of change because. You know, part of those recognition things have changed because ... And even the purpose of the student organization has changed over time. But there was a necessity to it back in the day that maybe isn't there anymore, because folks identity development has changed the fact that, "Oh, I'm gay but I'm also a bio major, so I'm more interested in being involved in the biology club than the LGBT part."

AL: And so that change is big, because there was really kind of a feeling back in the early, you know, the late '90s and early 2000s that there was a necessity, a real ... There wasn't the LGBT resource office either, so those students were the representation of the student in the LGBT community. And so they were ... people got you know, a faculty staff member wanted talk of the LGBT community if they went to that meeting. And that meeting had a real purpose, the fact that it was the only thing happening. And so that did change. You know, when we developed the resource office, I do think the student organization lost a little of the gusto. Because they felt a little like, "Okay then what were we, if we're not the representation of LGBT on this campus?" And they had to find their own way with that, and realize that their club that has a focus, not necessarily a necessity, which is different. And that was a challenge. A little bit of a challenge right? And I think I've lost track of what I was talking about, or the question. (33:43)

ZD: That's alright. Since we've gotten to the resource office, why don't you tell me about your involvement in its creation?

AL: Well once again, I'm very fortunate in this. I wasn't the creator, and I wasn't the impetus. I wasn't the person who wrote the check. But I was in the room. Literally. And figuratively in the room as that developed. So there was a lot of whispers about you know, we should have one. Some of the other institutions our size had one. ECU you know, you know, the students were clamoring at meetings about it, and saying we really need to. And so along comes this grad student, Summer Wisdom who came from App, which had a resource office. And she was like you know, "I really think we should." And so the feedback came that we really need a benchmark. And so her sociology project turned into a study, and was supported by the Provost who was very, Marilyn Sheerer, who's very LGBT friendly, supported the project. And she did the research of saying you know, so did a study of institution size and climate and related it to the foundation LGBT resource offices on campus.(35:07)

AL: And I got asked to be on her, because of my once again, I'm the official gay of ECU. I'm you know, at the time because the advisor of the student group by default because there was no resource office, was the official gay of ECU. So my husband always used to say, "Aron who's here? The official gay." And I was like, "I'm not the official gay." And he was like, "Who do they email when Theresa like LGBT problem?" I'm like, "Me." "Then that makes you the official gay." So I sort of avoided that title, but a lot of times I got it by default because it was kind of the official gay of ECU. So I got to be on the committee. And I'd never been on a master's thesis committee, and it was really great to be on. Basically I got to read a few drafts, give some feedback, and got to be at this thesis defense. (35:57)

AL: And Marilyn since she supported the project, decided to bring the chancellor. So this poor grad student Summer, who took it in her stride, I mean amazingly you know, suddenly has the provost, and the chancellor showing up to her ... I mean I'm sorry, I'd be nervous about my masters defense enough already. But dear God, you're bringing who? To what? To where?

And he asked questions. He was enthralled. He really asked ... he was involved. But clearly she set the benchmark that we were falling behind. And he asked some questions that basically said guess what? It's gonna happen. And so it turned into an assistantship for her. And it turned into an assistantship for her. So the LGBT resource office was a room and a graduate assistant. And in an academic building. And it's still an academic building until the new one opens. But it was a room, and a graduate student at first, and an idea. And some hacked together furniture, and it was amazing. Because to be in the room and see the decision-making and the click-clocking in the chancellor's mind and saying you know, "Why don't we have one?" And the provost was saying, "You're right. Why don't we have one?" And got to be in the room for that. So that was pretty amazing. (37:29)

AL: I was involved in you know, there was a kind of a guidance you know, or a campus guidance committee for they first year or two. Obviously being the official gay of ECU and being the president of ... the advisor to the student organization, I got to be on that. So got to be in on some of the early decision-making and early you know, direction. But it formalized and it formalized in a way which was great, that like I said, it impact the student organization. About two, maybe three years after the formation of the research office, the student organization stalled. And no-one got elected. Like the person who got elected president didn't come back. And so there was ... we were gonna start the fall without a student organization. So I called for a meeting, and recruited some people and re-started the student organization. Which advisors sometimes have to do. And people like ... so I was like, "This is the first time we have lost a president and lost some energy. So you know, like I said, after 27 years you've kind of seen almost everything but I do I you know, that's where Amy Bright got involved. So she kind of solved the gap and she became involved. So you know, she kind of helped restart the organization again. (39:07)

AL: Because I really think it lost its way for a little bit. So we're not the resource office, but what are we? And that's ... I was like, "Fair enough." I was like, "These are some interesting questions. And you know, with the resource office what am I?" You know, as the advisor. And I've had to ask myself, I was like, "I'm the advisor. That's what I do." So it's like any other advisor. My role's changed because I'm not the official gay of ECU kind of exception, which is perfectly fine. Because there's other people that do that role. And I can focus on my day job now. And my community work, and Picasso and other things. So it just changed the projects I was working on.

ZD: Is there anything I haven't asked you, that you would like to share? (39:50)

AL: Well we talked a little bit about the bar. The Paddock club was really essential. The drag queens would do fundraisers for those student group at times. You could post flyers for the club, and announce them at the bar, and reach out to some students that might not have ever heard of. They were helpful with pride events, and stuff like that. Not necessarily big on that but you know, like writing checks or anything like that, but they were certainly supportive. We had meetings there from Down East Pride from time to time. And other events and things, and fundraisers and drag fundraisers for Down East Pride. And you know, there was some talk of doing a Miss Down East Pride I think at one point. I don't think it really got that far. But you know, I think people forget that before we had resource offices and before we had community centers, we had bars. And they served multitude. Some good, and some bad. They were not always the best ... you know, if you wonder why alcoholism runs in the gay community, I think there's a long list of reasons, you know. The social pressures whatever, but one of our main social institutions being a bar probably didn't help. But they were there and the shows and the community that developed from that were important. (41:25)

AL: So the Paddock was really a hub before the resource office was. And then the trials and tribulations of the decline of the Paddock, and the rise of lets see, make sure I get the club names in order. Paddock was largely killed off by the development ... It wasn't Barcode. Was it Barcode? Yeah I think it was Barcode. And that was over at the corner of Greenville Boulevard and Dickinson. So it was right there on the corner. And so Barcode opened. And it killed the Paddock off. So one night I was at Barcode and I went probably where the people went. We heard that Paddock had closed. Like that they had just basically announced that it was the last night. And that was really hard to hear because I felt kind of guilty. Why wasn't I? Should've been at the Paddock, but Barcode was a lot more popular. Paddock had some of its own issues, you know, on the ... some of the ... you know, it was not a great building. Sometimes the bathrooms didn't work great and you were sick and tired of it. And there was a lot of little ... some drugs going on towards the end, because the number of people had gone down. And it was really sad.

AL: And then Barcode funnily enough burned down. And they moved. Well at first they opened the Paddock club, since as a late night club, without alcohol BYOB club. So the people that owned Barcode bought the Paddock's lease. And opened that as a club. Then the Barcode burned down, and they opened the Great ... the Mining Company. Which is the stupidest bar name in the history of time. The Great American Mining Company and popping something like. And everybody referred to it as the Mining Company. But it was jungle themed, it was bizarre, and it was the energy was different. The Paddock was gone. Even though it became of the location of the Paddock by the fact that Barcode burned down. (43:38)

AL: And then eventually that became Crave. Not Crave, Limelight. So it reopened as Limelight. Which had the involvement of some of the people that you were involved with Paddock club. And I felt a lot more comfortable about Limelight; was a lot better. And the history moves on from there. But it was funny you know, but it ... one of the ... Paddock closing was very sad. It was like the bar I knew you know, that's the bar. You can't close. But I'll be one of the people helped kill it if I think about it. Because I moved on to Barcode you know, and that was where we were heading, and a lot of people were going.

AL: But that was the height of the bar scene. You know, when we had two bars for about six months. "Which bar'll we go?" It wasn't oh my God it's not just that we're going to the bar, which bar are we going? Greenville's got two gay bars. You know, the pinnacle. We had moved up in the world. So yes. So that's ... there's some parallels to what happened you know. The internet changing how people find things, and find people. You know, and AOL and how people ... the decline to the bars and how those things have changed, now the apps.

AL: So some of those things have also changed the student organization, because let me tell you, the most popular meeting of the student organization. Has anybody already told you this? What was the number one attended meeting of the year? The first meeting. Because everybody wants to see who else was there. And see who the ... and that they were also out and comfortable and didn't need the student group. They still wanted to see who was new. Like oh who's the new well, let's be bold enough to say the new me in town. Or the new kids in town. (45:34)

AL: And so the first meeting you'd have people like, "I ... they haven't been at a meeting in years. What the hell are they doing?" It's the first meeting. Because everyone wanted to see who was gonna come out that year. Who had maybe come out over the summer and suddenly arrived, and you're like, "Oh my God, he's gay?" You know? So it's always interesting; the first meeting was always packed. So. Because the internet wasn't there. You couldn't meet well, or you could ... the internet was there at that time, but we weren't meeting on it so much yet. So it changed over time.

ZD: Is there anything else you want to add?

AL: Think that's it. I think that you know, there's a lot of little stories, but you know, like I said, some of them are lost in the memory. Certainly you probably have heard some snippets and I probably like go back you know, when some of these maybe get published and I'll be going, "Oh my God, I didn't mention that." You know, because that's how it happens. You know, you need the trigger, the memory. But yeah, I think that is about it.

ZD: Well thank you so very much for agreeing to do this interview. I really appreciate it. And I'm so glad you wanted to share your story.

AL: Okay. And work calls, so I'm gonna have to bolt.

ZD: All right. (46:54)

Aaron Lucier oral history
In this oral history Aaron Lucier discusses his experiences as an openly gay man working at East Carolina University and his involvement in its LGBT community including participation in and advising of BGLAD. He also discusses the former Down East Pride organization that served all of eastern North Carolina.
July 26, 2018
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