Recently, I was contacted by a mutual colleague after the Kansas City Star posted an article about Michael Burnes, the granddad of this city’s gay bars. The first thing my friend said was that she couldn’t believe I’d give a quote like that to the Kansas City Star.
And that was only the beginning. Within hours, I had heard from many people, and they all wanted to know: How was it possible that the only comment I could offer about Michael Burnes and Missie B’s was a negative one about bachelorette parties in the bar?
How did this happen?
The reporter initially contacted me because a good friend of mine had suggested she call me for background information on Burnes and his bar. She told me she’s a married woman who lives out in the country and didn’t know much about the gay bars. As a favor to my friend, I thought I was basically giving the reporter a “Gay 101” lesson on the history of what Burnes has done for Kansas City.
I do not recall being told that I was being interviewed for a story, nor was I told that our conversation was being recorded. She also got my title wrong — I’m not the editor, but the editorial director. And she described Camp as the “magazine for the gay/lesbian/bisexual /transsexual community.” We don’t use the word “transsexual” and instead use “transgender.”
After I read the story, I immediately called the reporter and told her how shocked and angry I was that she quoted me in the story. I had told her about how Burnes has been a legacy in this city, having opened bars like the Dixie Belle, DB Warehouse, and others before opening Missie B’s. I had spoken of how philanthropic and generous he has been to the community and about the Angel Tree fundraising campaign for a health-care clinic every holiday season at Missie B’s.
And I spoke of one personal story: My former partner and I wanted to raise money for the Julie Geis scholarship fund after this important lesbian woman from Kansas City died tragically in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. We asked Burnes for a $500 loan to get our T-shirts printed with the slogan “These Colors Don’t Run.” He lent us the money, and we sold the shirts at various bar events. We raised nearly $4,000 in sales for the fund. When we tried to return the $500 loan, Burnes said just to keep the money for the scholarship fund. As a veteran and a good person, he was that generous to the cause.
The reporter used none of the good things that I said about Burnes, but only a negative comment about how I feel personally about bachelorette parties in gay bars. I’ve been candid about this issue to my friends: I think bachelorette parties in gay bars are disrespectful of LGBT people who can’t marry in Missouri and Kansas. But that’s my personal opinion.
I told the reporter that if I had wanted to make that kind of statement in print, I would have done it many months ago on the editorial page of Camp.
Overall, the Star article was favorable about Burnes. I just wish the reporter had told me she was interviewing me and recording my comments for her article.
When I interview people for stories in Camp, the first thing I tell them is that I’m recording the conversation and that any time they want to tell me that something is off the record, it remains off the record. Often people say things in the interview that I don’t print, even though they didn’t say it was off the record, because I know it would embarrass them.
So just to clear the record: My comment about bachelorette parties in gay bars that the Star reporter used was only my personal opinion. It wasn’t about women or straight people in general. It was about marriage equality and being respectful. I apologize to any LGBT people who were offended or who thought I was speaking for the community.