From Dire Straits To Friends For Life: How Living On The Road Brought Them Together
In August of 2014, Kat Valentino was living in a run-down motel with her family. They eventually decided to move into a van — a blue, 1991 Ford Econoline.
She’d soon find a community of others living out of their vehicles, mostly those impacted by the Great Recession who had foregone traditional housing, seeking a different way of life.
Along the way she met Vincent Mosemann, who became her friend and later her roommate.
Kat and Vincent came to StoryCorps to talk about what brought them together.
Top Photo: Vincent Mosemann and Kat Valentino at their StoryCorps interview in Oregon on January 26, 2019. By Dupe Oyebolu for StoryCorps.
Originally aired February 4, 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 Very Good Choice”: How One Woman Lost A Mom and Gained Two More
There are many people you may walk by every day and never know their story. Including people like Kathleen Payne, who’s worked here at StoryCorps for over a decade. Many of her colleagues didn’t know her story — until she brought Corinthia Isom to a StoryBooth in 2015.
Corinthia was only a child when her mom, DeSeane, died from an AIDS-related illness in the mid-90s.
DeSeane had been raising Corinthia alone, but before she passed, she’d arranged for her daughter to be cared for by a couple she’d met in an LGBTQ gospel choir in New York City.
Kathleen was one of the women who took Corinthia in, and they sat down together to remember DeSeane, and the start of their relationship.
Top photo: Kathleen Payne and Corinthia Isom at their StoryCorps interview in New York City, New York on September 29, 2015. By Carolina Escobar for StoryCorps.
This interview was recorded in partnership with the The Recollectors, a storytelling site and community for families left behind by parents who died of AIDS-related illnesses.
Originally aired July 12, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
How One of the First Legally Married Same-Sex Couples in the US Made it Down the Aisle
On November 18, 2003, in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared that “…barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution.” This allowed same-sex couples to be legally married in the state of Massachusetts, the first state in the United States to do so.
David Wilson (above left), one of the plaintiffs in that landmark case, was also one of the first to be married when the law went into effect on May 17th, 2004. In 2010, David first came to StoryCorps to reflect on his difficult path to get to his wedding day.
Nine years later, David and his husband, Robert Compton, came to StoryCorps to reflect on their journey as they approach their 15th wedding anniversary.
Top photo: David Wilson and his husband Robert Compton at their StoryCorps recording in Palm Springs, California in 2019. By Jud Esty-Kendall.
Bottom photo: David Wilson, officiant Reverend Ms. Kim K. Crawford Harvie, and Robert Compton on their wedding day on May 17, 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts. Courtesy of David Wilson.
Originally aired May 17, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Longtime Friends Reconnect in a Homeless Shelter
Longtime friends Barbara Parham and Jeanne Satterfield first met during the 90’s — two native New Yorkers who had moved to Boston and found a sense of community and camaraderie in the city’s LGBTQ scene.
The pair ran in the same social circle for a number of years, but gradually drifted apart. Barbara had moved back in with her mother and was caring for her during a serious illness. And Jeanne was working full-time as a drug and alcohol counselor.
They’d see each other on occasion — sometimes at the doctor’s office, once at a memorial service for a mutual friend — but for the most part they were leading separate lives.
It wasn’t until 2017, when Barbara and Jeanne really reconnected; this time, at a place neither one of them expected to be: the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter.
Top Photo: Jeanne Satterfield (left) and Barbara Parham (right) in front of the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter in Boston, Massachusetts. By Jud Esty-Kendall for StoryCorps.
Originally aired December 21, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Samuel Taylor and Connie Casey
When he was 15 years old, Samuel Taylor came out to his mother, Connie Casey.
In an attempt to “fix” her son, Connie sent Samuel to a series of ex-gay conversion therapy ministries affiliated with Exodus International. Samuel was in therapy for three years.
Samuel, 22, came to StoryCorps with Connie to talk about his experience—and to hear about the evolution of her beliefs.
Originally aired June 28, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
This story was originally broadcast a few days after Exodus International folded and apologized for promoting reparative therapies. At the time of this broadcast, subjecting minors to conversion therapy remains legal in 45 states.
John Curtis and John Wikiera
John Curtis and his husband, David Wikiera (pictured at left), have two sons. The couple adopted their first child, also named John, from Vietnam when he was a baby.
At StoryCorps, John and his son, 11-year-old John, talk about the boy’s hopes for the future, and the father’s desire to be a parent.
Originally aired April 12, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Above: John and David arrive home from Vietnam with baby John in 1998. Photo courtesy of John Curtis.
Tracy Johnson and Sandra Johnson
North Carolina National Guardsman Tracy Johnson (left) is an Iraq war veteran and an Army widow. She is also believed to be the first gay spouse to lose her partner at war since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Tracy married her long-time partner, Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson, on Valentine’s Day in 2012. Later that year, Donna was killed by a suicide bomber while serving in Khost, Afghanistan. She was 29 years old.
The Army did not consider Tracy to be Donna’s next of kin, but when Army representatives arrived to inform Donna’s family of her death, Tracy presented their marriage certificate and asked to be part of the military escort that would welcome her wife back to U.S. soil. This request was ultimately granted at the insistence of her mother-in-law, Sandra Johnson (right).
At StoryCorps, Tracy and Sandra talk about finding out that their wife and daughter wasn’t coming home.
Originally aired February 16, 2013, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
Above: Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Public Affairs Office.
Michael Wilmoth and Bryan Wilmoth
Bryan Wilmoth (right) and his seven younger siblings were raised in a strict, religious household. When Bryan’s father found a love letter from a man in his box of things, he drove him into the countryside and dropped him off in the middle of the night with a five dollar bill.
Over the years, all of Bryan’s siblings either ran away from or were kicked out of their family home. He made efforts to reconnect with them, but many were initially resistant, so it took a long time for their relationships to grow.
At StoryCorps, Bryan and his brother Michael (left) recall how their family grew close.
Click here to watch “A Good Man,” a StoryCorps animation of Bryan and Michael’s conversation.
Originally aired January 25, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.