Picture It: Lexington Ky, 1982

My fifth novel, The Case of the Missing Drag Queen, is set in Lexington, Kentucky and takes place in the fall of 1982. It’s my first story set in the city where I grew up, came out, and spent my salad days. Writing it has been a walk down memory lane.

I chose the year on purpose. By 1979 when I came out, gay bars were the center of the homosexual universe. Thanks to the 1969 Stonewall uprising, police raids of gay bars had become increasingly rare. Outside of the bar, life could be rough, but inside, we could dance, flirt, make-out, and sometimes, fall in love.

In September of 1982, the Centers for Disease Control identified Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome — a mysterious illness striking gay men, hemophiliacs, and Haitians. We were blissfully unaware of the looming crisis. In less than two years, everything would change.

I wanted to write about gay life before the specter of AIDS emptied the bars. My friends and I hit our local bar six nights a week. Even on Mondays, the bar was packed, and after the bar closed at one o’clock, the party continued at apartments and homes all over town.

Research for my story turned up other interesting facts about 1982.

  • The University of Kentucky Wildcats ended the football season 0-1-11. That’s right. No wins, one tie, and eleven losses.
  • A little girl named Madonna released her first hit, Everybody.
  • MTV had been on the air for a year and played nothing but music videos.
  • John Belushi died of an overdose
  • Michael Jackson released Thriller
  • Cats opened on Broadway
  • Chariots of Fire won the Oscar for Movie of the Year
  • Bette Davis Eyes won the Grammy for Song of the Year
  • Let’s Get Physical was the most popular song of the year
  • Nobody famous was gay. Nobody. Even Liberace and Elton John were straight.
  • President Reagan declared a war on drugs
  • Bud Light and Diet Coke were introduced
  • Cheers debuted on television
  • Time magazine’s man of the year was the computer

Seems like only yesterday, doesn’t it? Funny how time flies when you’re having fun. I wouldn’t want to be 24 again, but what I wouldn’t give for the hair I had then!


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