Stonewall OutLoud – StoryCorps
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‘Honey, You Got A Terrific Nose;’ Two Siblings Reflect On Their Father’s Legacy

David Hedison grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, as the son of Armenian immigrants. In 2005 he recorded a conversation with his youngest daughter, Serena, at the flagship StoryCorps booth at Grand Central Terminal.  There, he spoke candidly for the first time about how he got cosmetic surgery — a nose job — as a young man in order to achieve his dream of becoming an actor.  He went on to have a prolific career as a television, film, and stage actor. Most notably, he starred in the American sci-fi television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea from the 1960s and was cast in two James Bond movies (Live and Let Die, 1973 and License to Kill, 1989).
David Hedison in London, 2019. Courtesy of Alex Hedison.
He died in 2019 at the age of 92. Recently his daughters, Serena and Alex, came back to StoryCorps to reflect on the secret he shared, and the legacy he left behind.
Alex Hedison and Serena Hedison at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles on January 24, 2023. By Garden of Sound studio for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Alex, David and Serena Hedison in Malibu, CA, circa 1975. Courtesy of Alex Hedison.
This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Originally aired Feb. 10, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.


Two Bartenders Remember the Highs and Lows of Working at Brooklyn’s Historic Starlite Lounge

Sometimes a bar is more than just a business, it’s a part of history. These bars are places where cultures flourish, and often become a second home to devoted customers and a treasured landmark that neighbors proudly claim. For many years that was the Starlite Lounge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which was one of the first Black-owned gay bars in the city.

“It was the most welcoming place in the world,” Albert Johnson remembers.

Closing night at the Starlite Lounge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in summer 2010. Courtesy of Donna Cuthbert.

Albert tended bar at the Starlite for nine years, and in 2010 he came to StoryCorps with fellow bartender Donna Cuthbert to talk about their time working there; the nights of dancing, the beloved jukebox and the eccentric regulars—some of whom refused to go home.

That same year the property owner sold the building, and despite efforts by the local community it was last call for the Starlite. But its legacy as a gathering space for the gay Black community lives on in the memories of its former employees and patrons.

Originally aired December 30, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.


A Couple Determined to Marry: How Jack Baker and Michael McConnell Became Husbands in 1971

In 1966, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker were introduced to one another by a friend at a Halloween barn party in Norman, Oklahoma. They quickly fell in love and decided to get married, despite the fact that it was illegal at the time.  

In the Spring of 1970, they walked into a government center in downtown Minneapolis, dressed in suits and ties, and applied for a marriage license. A few days later, they received a letter saying that their license had been denied. But they didn’t give up. 

Close-up of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell holding hands, featuring their wedding rings, in Minneapolis, Minn., March 2017. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps.

They filed an appeal that went up to the United States Supreme Court. And even though their appeal was dismissed, in 1971 they found a way to become husbands. Jack and Michael came to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship, and how they made the law work in their favor. 

Michael McConnell (left) and Jack Baker (right) in their backyard in Minneapolis, Minn., July 2015.


Top Photo: Michael McConnell (left) and Jack Baker (right) with their wedding cake, featuring a two-groom topper, in Minneapolis, Minn. on September 3, 1971. By Paul Hagen. 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired October 14, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Her Aunt Saw Her for Who She Truly Was

In 2018, at the age of 63, Dee Westenhauser came out as a transgender woman. But growing up in El Paso, Texas in the 1950s, she remembers having a hard time fitting in.

At StoryCorps, Dee sat down with her friend, Martha Gonzalez, to remember the one person who made her feel comfortable in her own skin.

Photo: Dee Westenhauser and Martha Gonzalez at StoryCorps in El Paso, TX. By Nicolas Cadena for StoryCorps.

Originally aired April 5, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was rebroadcast on March 11, 2022 on the same program.

How A Shared Language Helped Two Young People Find Their Voice

In 2006, Luis Paulino immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. He was a child and didn’t speak any English, so he struggled during his first year in school.

Four years later — then a senior in high school — he’d meet Angel Gonzalez, who reminded him of his younger self. Angel was also a transfer student from the Dominican Republic, and he was facing challenges that Luis could understand.

Angel Gonzalez and Luis Paulino, in New York, after Luis’s high school graduation in 2011. Courtesy of Angel Gonzalez.

They came to StoryCorps to remember that time, and how they got through it together.

Originally aired January 7th, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The Santa Protest — How One Man’s Firing Became A Fight For AIDS Awareness

In 1989, at the height of the AIDS crisis, Mark Woodley was caring for his dying best friend, while coping with his own HIV status. Although an architect by training, he saw an ad in the Village Voice looking for Macy’s Santas. He applied and got the job. He loved the experience of bringing joy to children, and Macy’s invited him back the following holiday season. 

By 1990, he had started taking the drug AZT, which was the primary treatment for AIDS. When he went in for his physical, he was honest about his medication regimen — AZT in combination with Prozac — and he knew he made a mistake.

Mark waited for Macy’s to respond, but no news came about the job. He was called into an HR meeting and told that they wouldn’t be rehiring him back as Santa. He filed a lawsuit against the department store.

Around the same, Jon Winkleman, a young gay man, was taking his first steps into activism with the coalition group ACT UP — along with their subsidiary group Action Tours, which carried out covert direct actions. He read a blurb in the back of the New York Times about Mark’s lawsuit, and he and the group decided to do something about it.

The Action Tours protest at the Macy’s 34th St Store in NYC on Nov 29, 1991. Photo by Meryl Levin.

After the protest, Mark never returned to Macy’s as Santa, but in the following years, he donned the red suit again at different pediatric AIDS clinics and organizations. 

After losing his job as Macy’s Santa, Mark Woodley welcomed the chance to play the part for children with H.I.V. at the State University Health Science Center in Brooklyn. Dec. 16th 1994, by Michelle V. Agins, for the NY Times.

Mark eventually moved to Amsterdam, where he opened a small import business. Jon stayed in New York until 2015, when moved back home to Rhode Island. He is still an activist. They connected virtually for StoryCorps almost 30 years to the day of the protest. 

Mark Woodley in Amsterdam, and Jon Winkleman in Rhode Island, after their StoryCorps recording on November 22nd, 2021. For StoryCorps.
Top Photo: The Action Tours action at the Macy’s 34th St Store in NYC on Nov 29, 1991. Photo by Meryl Levin.

Originally aired December 10, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Life of Honor

A gay veteran recalls serving in silence.

Joseph Patton

When Joseph Patton joined the Navy in 1955, he had to serve in silence. At the time, the LGBTQ community could not be open while in the military. Despite being the “perfect sailor,” Joseph was kicked out of the Navy under the assumption that he was homosexual. At StoryCorps, Joseph remembers the pride he took in his service and the beauty and joy that love has brought to his life.

Listen to Joseph’s original StoryCorps interview.

Para subtítulos en español, haga click en el ícono de YouTube en la esquina derecha, y escoja “Spanish” bajo la opción de “settings” y “subtitles/CC.

Mother and Teen Reflect on the Pride and Joy of Growing Up Transgender

Kaysen Ford had just finished 5th grade in Tuscaloosa, AL, when they started to tell friends and family that they were transgender.

Their mother, Jennifer Sumner worried that Kaysen would face bullying as a transgender kid growing up in the South. In 2015, when Kaysen was 12, they came to StoryCorps to talk about being comfortable in their own skin.

During that conversation Jennifer shared how proud she was of Kaysen for being courageous and true to themself. Kaysen explained that, “It shouldn’t be scary to be who you are.” 

Kaysen has since moved with their family from Tuscaloosa, AL, to Birmingham for access to local services that empower transgender people to live more authentically, like Point of Pride — an international network of gender-affirming support programs — and Magic City Acceptance Center a drop-in center for LGBTQ youth and their allies.

Six years later, Kaysen, who now identifies as nonbinary, has graduated high school. They came back to StoryCorps to mark the occasion — and to reflect on their first conversation.

Top Photo: Jennifer Sumner and Kaysen Ford during their road trip celebrating Kaysen’s graduation June, 2021. Courtesy of the family.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or just needs someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally aired June 25, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Our Own Mountains to Climb: How A Personal Trainer Inspired a 90-Year-Old to Embrace His True Self

A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard from 90-year-old Kenneth Felts, a man who amidst quarantine, decided it was time to confront a truth he’d been hiding for more than 60 years. 

After coming out — first to his daughter, then publicly — Ken wanted to talk to the one person who inspired him the most: his personal trainer, David Smith.

The two met back in 2013, at Ken’s local rec. center in Colorado. From water aerobics to weightlifting, what started as a professional relationship quickly blossomed into a friendship; one that ultimately helped Ken find the strength to be exactly who he was.

Top Photo: David Smith and Ken Felts in Denver, Colorado in 2013. Courtesy of David Smith.
Bottom Photo: David Smith and Ken Felts at a training session in 2017. Courtesy of David Smith.

Originally aired December 11, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Love In The Time Of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: “I Was Ready To Bust Out Of The Closet With Rainbows And Glitter.”

Mike Rudulph grew up near Birmingham, Alabama and enlisted in the Marines when he was 20 years old. At the time, he hoped that the military environment would bring him the sense of purpose he had been missing.

This was in 2000, during the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” when LGBTQ people in the military couldn’t serve openly.

Mike went on his first deployment to Iraq in 2003. When he got home, he met the man who would later become his husband, Neil Rafferty.

Photo: Mike Rudulph and Neil Rafferty at their StoryCorps interview in Birmingham, Alabama on April 18, 2015. By Carolina Escobar for StoryCorps. 

They got married in 2018, the same year that Neil ran for public office in Alabama — and won! He is the first openly gay man to serve in the Alabama State legislature. 

At StoryCorps in Birmingham, Alabama, Mike and Neil sat down to remember the early days of their relationship.

Top Photo: Mike Rudulph and Neil Rafferty in 2019. Courtesy of Mike Rudulph.
Bottom Photo: Mike Rudulph and Neil Rafferty. Courtesy of Neil Rafferty.

Originally aired August 15, 2020, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.