Book Review: And Then I Danced

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, July 2016 Issue.

Been there, done that. Yep, you’ve had experience and you’re willing to talk about it. Why not? Someone could learn from the things you did. Mistakes can be avoided. Or, at least, as in the new memoir And Then I Danced, Traveling the Road to Equality by Mark Segal, people will be entertained.

Not long after his birth in 1951, Segal’s parents were snatched from the middle class and shunted off to “the other side of the tracks” with the loss of their bodega. They became “the only Jewish family in a South Philadelphia housing project,” which set the tone for Segal’s outspokenness.

Indeed, when he was in grade school, he committed his “first political action” by refusing to sing a Christian song. When he was 13, his beloved Grandmom took him to his first civil rights event. By then, Segal knew that other boys peeped at ads for women’s underwear, but he preferred studying the men’s clothing pages. He knew he was different – but he also knew that he absolutely couldn’t talk about it.

After learning that there were gay men in New York City, Segal convinced his parents to send him there following his high school graduation. Having “no idea where to go” as he settled in, he began exploring his new city and, “after a few days of looking around,” he came across the Stonewall bar and a man who “was creating an organization called the Action Group.”

Organized activation suited Segal, and it became a job of sorts for him. He worked on behalf of gay pride marches and parades, a gay youth organization, and a gay alliance. He became politically active. He and friends interrupted live broadcasts with what they called “zaps,” which gained the attention of news media. That got them on camera, and arrested.

It was a different world by the mid-‘70s, but there was still much to do. A friend asked why Segal didn’t start a gay newspaper in Philadelphia. And so, “Meet publisher Mark Segal.”

About half.  That’s what you’ll find in the first half of And Then I Danced. Yep, there’s more – a second life, in a way – and it’s every bit as enjoyable to read.

With gentle humor and the slightest touch of sardonicism, Segal writes further about people he’s known, his newspaper, and a different kind of activism. That in-the-trenches stuff is great to read, partly because his narrative is indicative of the times in which it all happened. Readers also may, like me, be impressed with the creativity used to help gain LGBTQ equality.

But there’s more: Segal lets readers into his personal life: his loves, losses, and (spoiler alert!) a very happy ending. “Drama seems to follow me,” he writes, and readers will be glad for it.

It was nice to see this memoir cross my desk. I was getting tired of Big Star Bios and while there’s name-dropping in this book, it’s not egregious. No, it’s kinda fun and worth picking up, so be there with And Then I Danced. You’ll be glad you done that.

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