NUEVO LAREDO, 1961 

From left to right: Terry Rivas, Carolyn Weathers,

Brenda Weathers, Anita Ornelas

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.

 One Saturday 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 my leg.

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 other customers.

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.

 She was 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.

I gasped.

 She looked 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? 

 Then, from 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 Dos Laredos.

 

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 print).

 

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. 

Carolyn  relishes 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 done anyway.)

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