My sister, Brenda, was lovers with Anita Ornelas. Today, we would say partners, but in 1961
it was lovers. Anita was a WAC
at Ft. Sam Houston, and when she wasnÕt at the barracks or the beery WAC Shack,
lived with Brenda at her apartment on Army Boulevard. Terry and I had seat-of-the-pants
jobs, and we were kind of seeing each other.
"She's sweet, just like you, Carolyn," Brenda
and Anita would tell me, "good for you", trying to propel me away
from the paregoric-snorting Adrienne, whom I was also attracted to, like a
moth to bad flames. Not just
Adrienne. The paregoric.
On Friday nights in San Antonio, all the gay people in
town partied at the Acme Bar. Saturday
mornings everyone came over to Brenda and Anita's for Bloody Marys, hashbrowns,
bacon and eggs, menudo laced with Brenda and Anita's homemade killer hot sauce,
and gallons of coffee so strong it could march over and jump into your cup.
afternoon, after we stacked the dishes and all the other guests left in expectation
of the night's partying ahead at the Acme, we four - - Brenda, Anita, Terry and I - - piled
into Brenda's red Corvair and headed south on I-35 to Laredo, Texas, and,
after we got there, across the
bridge over the Rio Grande into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Los Dos Laredos,
home of the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande, intended in the 1840s
to have been a nation independent of both the military dictatorship of Mexico
and the Republic of Texas. Every year, Los Dos Laredos hosted a month-long
bash in honor of George Washington's birthday, "where they sell red,
white and blue jalapenos," Anita told me.
I was looking forward to eating them until I realized Anita was pulling
Bada-bada-bala-bamba! Para bailar la bamba. Para bailar la bamba. Se necessita una poco de gracia! Una poca
de gracia! para mi para ti y Arriba y Arriba. Anita and I looked each other straight in the eyes and
hurled the words out through bared teeth, enunciating, enunciating.
We wandered around Nuevo Laredo, up and down Guerrero
Street, through El Mercado's jumble of shops and vendors. Terri suavely handfed
me tacos de cabrito while Brenda and Anita, old married couple, walked behind
us and smiled hopefully.
We meandered in and out of nightspots on Iturbide Street,
Mexican bars and gringo tourist traps. "These are the real words, Miss Scarlett", Anita
said to me. Marijuana que
fumar; not limonada
que tomar. I repeated, Marijuana que fumar, marijuana que fumar.
Of course, we were the Funtastic Four: Anita, pride of
the Wac Shack, Terry with her fedora so rakishly tipped, Brenda, the Oueen Bee and Carolyn the Kid, busting
each other up with gallows humor. Anita
sought hard work and hard play. Terry wanted conquests, politely accomplished.
Brenda and I, beset by rebellious dissatisfactions, sought wit and
whiskey almost in a desperation, unable at that time to see over the horizon
and certainly clueless about the creeping mood
disorders that would soon begin to bedevil us.
On a patio of a Boys Town bar, a group of young gringo
men started to harass us. Anita called the waiter over and spoke to him in
Spanish. The waiter went
to the men and scolded them in English to leave us alone, don't bother the
We knew who was being bothered in Boys Town. Anita, with Terry beside her, went to
the bar and spoke to our driver. He
finished off his beer. Our horse-drawn
carriage clip-clopped us back to downtown.
We wandered into in a nightclub and sat at a table near
the stage. We had just gotten
served when the performer stepped onto the stage and began to sing. She was so close to me, just one table
stood between us. Womanly allure radiated from her person and from her creamy
voice. I sighed at her eyes,
her smile, her curves, her flair. I loved Mexican women.
an older woman - - probably in her 30s, maybe even 35. I loved older women, too. Her beautiful eyes glanced around the
faces of the customers. She pressed her hands against her thighs, almost elegantly
crushing the red fabric of her dress.
The next time she glanced at me, I had to wink. I couldnÕt not wink. A quick wink. A small, quick wink and
a beaming smile. Her eyes stayed on me. She flashed a smile and winked back at me.
right into my eyes and moved closer to the edge of the stage, and she sang
to me, gestured to me.
My heart was thumping in my throat. I hoped I looked worldly, but how could
I look worldly with my eyes big as saucers?
Her cherry lips were so close I saw their enticing asymmetry,
her eyes so near I saw the kohl around them shining from the stage lights
and the hot, humid night.
Could she hear me gasping?
Again, she smiled at me and sang and moved toward me,
her head tilting.
Her performance ended. She bowed graciously to accept the applause, then, as she turned
to leave the stage, smiled at me and blew me a tiny, tiny kiss.
It was quiet at our table.
Was I dead or just making croaking sounds inside? Could the others hear them, too?
Anita, "My, my, Miss Scarlett."
Brenda, Anita and Terry lifted their glasses, and so
did I. We toasted each other
with our tepid whiskey sours.
A roving photographer walked over and snapped our picture.
My heart was still thumping.
The next day, Sunday, I dreamily drank Singapore Slings
and Zombies, cold, luscious and deadly. I opened the back seat passenger door and threw up just as
our car crossed back into the U.S., while Terri grabbed my shirttail and the
Border crossing guards laughed indulgently, and the skinny stray puppy
Brenda had scooped up out of the street and fed a tamale, farted plummily
in the front seat.
Soon, we were back on I-35, heading north out of Los
Forty-six years have gone by. IÕm 67 now, and this gorgeous singer,
wherever she is, must be in her late 70s or early 80s. But she sings and dances, winks and smiles
at me in my memory, forever an older woman of 35 to my 21-year-old self.
And my heart still thumps.
Carolyn Weathers, Long Beach, 2007
NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
All four women in the photograph ended up as characters
in Carolyn Weathers' story about the pre-Stonewall bar scene in San Antonio,
"Cheers, Everybody!" published
by Clothespin Fever Press in 1987, in the book, Shitkickers and Other
Texas Stories. (Out of
BRENDA WEATHERS left San Antonio for Los Angeles
in 1964. She was one of the Los
Angeles Gay Liberation Front members who stormed the American Psychiatric
Convention at the Biltmore Hotel in 1970, to protest the "curing"
of homosexuals by shock aversion therapy.
In 1974, Brenda founded and was the first executive director of the
Alcoholism Center for Women. Brenda
was executive director of the Long Beach Women's Shelter when she died of
cancer in 2005. She figures in the recent bestseller by Lillian Faderman and
Stuart Timmons, GAY LA.
All her life she protected animals.
CAROLYN WEATHERS left Texas for Los Angeles in
1968. Along with her sister,
she was also a member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Lesbian Feminists
and was also one of those GLF-ers storming the Biltmore Hotel. In 1970, she was one of the first, if
not the first, out lesbian on Los Angeles TV on a local Regis Philbin show.
From 1986-1993, she and Jenny Wrenn, operated the non-defunct Clothespin
Fever Press, Los Angeles' only lesbian book publishing company.
She is grateful to have a mention in GAY LA. She is a librarian with the Los Angeles Public Library.
that she and her sister, Brenda, were Texas Baptist preacher's daughters.
ANITA ORNELAS finished her stint in the U. S. Army and afterwards stayed
on in San Antonio as a civilian, and she and Carolyn continued as friends..
Unfortunately, they have lost track of each other over these ensuing forty
years. Carolyn has done online
searches for her. Anita is not
in the Social Security Death Index, which is a hopeful indication that Anita
is still kicking around somewhere. She was originally from Colorado. Her father,
as she was fond of saying, emphatically, swam the Rio Grande from Mexico in
the 1930s and "really was
a wetback." Anita had a gay brother named Julian.
If anybody knows anything about Anita's whereabouts, please let Carolyn
know c/o Mazer.
TERRY RIVAS, the good, the gallant, and Carolyn
drifted apart, and Carolyn would like to know what happened to her. (Carolyn
did indeed, as Brenda and Anita feared, take up with the paregoric-snorting
Adrienne and got into all kinds of trouble, which she probably would have
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