Dyke, Mindy

Barbara Ester’s interview with Mindy Dyke on December 12, 2012.

On finding lesbian community

When did you come to Miami, Mindy?

"October of 1975."

You came to Miami to find a job. You were a New York Dyke so naturally, you were going to search for lesbians.

"Absolutely, because I cannot live without lesbian family around me."

How involved were you in Lesbian Feminist politics?

"Very involved. I was leaving New York City where I was still working on the Lesbian Switchboard and in the Women’s Center. I was very involved in the women’s community in New York. When I got down here, within a week I needed to find some lesbians."

What was the first step you took?

"I called the National Organization for Women. I called NOW and I asked them if they had any lesbians within their local organization and if they knew of any lesbians, or bars, or bookstores, or anywhere where I might find a lesbian."

Was NOW forthcoming?

"They were very good. They told me right away about the Lesbian Task Force which was actually a part of NOW, and about Maryanne and Louise. I asked if they had their phone number. They said they did and there were other lesbians, a huge group of lesbians involved with the Lesbian Task Force. I remember it was a Saturday night and it was probably around four or five in the afternoon. I called up, and Maryanne got on the phone. I said, “Hi, I’m a New York Dyke and I just moved down here and I’m looking for Lesbians. I called NOW and they gave me your phone number. Are you the Dykes I’m looking for?” She said, “We are” and they invited me over that night. I drove over there, met them, and had a good time with them. They told me about other Dykes and invited me to a meeting of a Gay Task Force, a mixed task force."

Was it through NOW?

"No, but I went with them. It was some place downtown."

What was the reason for the meeting? Did they have a political agenda and what did you get out of the meeting?

"I got out of it the fact that I am not used to being around gay men. I still don’t like most of them. I could see that they wanted to take over the conversation. The dykes weren't letting them. I didn't really get much out of that meeting. I wasn't real interested in working with them, but I did meet Holly, Ingrid and Sybil. That was the only gay meeting I went to. I wound up working with gay men again when Anita Bryant came to destroy our Miami community but that was a little bit later."

Going back to the Lesbian Task Force, wasn't there a board of directors of some kind?

"They claimed that there was no leader. Maryanne and Louise really were the leaders but they didn’t want to say they were the leaders."

So you felt they were the leaders?

"Absolutely."

From that meeting with Maryanne and Louise, and the social connection you made with them. What next?

"They told me when the next Task Force meeting was. It was shortly after I had met them. The meeting was held at the YMCA. I met most of my friends there. After the meetings we would go out to the Nook, this little bar in Coral Gables. We’d get a couple of pitchers of beer and dance. I got to know some of the Task Force womyn better, and more womyn at the bar. I remember meeting a womyn named Morgan, who eventually changed her name to Morgana."

Were they doing any political action? What was the Lesbian Task Force’s goals and purpose?

"We really weren't politically motivated. Mostly, we wanted to increase our membership and do more fun things together."

Do you consider socializing as lesbians, coming together as lesbians in a community, a political action?

"Oh, absolutely! Everything I do is a political statement and action, because I’m a lesbian! Yeah sure, it was a political action just creating those spaces. We did things like have a Lesbian Art Show on the Miami River Walk. We didn't want to do “Gay Pride." I had spoken to our group about Lesbian Pride Week in New York. The Dykes split off from the gay men completely and we demanded that we walk first in the parade too! We called it the Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade. The lesbians marched first because were tired of being behind any men including gay men! They really didn't represent who we were! Many would get dressed up in their drag queen costumes. Some would carry on wearing roller skates, feathers and boas. They did not represent the Dykes. When it came to Gay Pride in South Florida, it was the same thing regarding the gay men. Miami didn't really have a parade. Ft Lauderdale did, but there was really not much gay pride going on in Miami. The Lesbian Task Force decided to have a Lesbian Pride Week with all different kinds of events. Two of the most largely attended were the dance and the art show."

On womyn's music

So, political action was creating our own space as Lesbians. I remember one evening during Lesbian Pride Week, some womyn were dancing and others were doing some form of movement performance. In another room, you borrowed a guitar and sang song after lesbian song. Did you sing any of your own music?

"I might have sung a couple of mine."

Were you already being called "Min. D. Dyke?"

"Yes."

Did any of the womyn know of the music you were playing?

"No. Even in the conversations among the lesbians I didn’t really hear them speaking about Womyn’s Music. No one had really brought it up until I did. They may have, but I don’t remember anyone mentioning it."

You knew about Olivia Records, Kay Gardner and Alix Dobkin?

"Absolutely, and Lucy and Martha Wilde. They were on the album called A Few Loving Women. The album was a contemplation of various N.Y. dykes and I remember when they were recording it."

Were you in Miami before Martha and Lucy came to live there?

"I believe so…. I remember running into them and thinking, wow that’s really far out. I didn't even know they were down here."

Joan and I met them in San Diego at Las Hermanas, the Womon’s Coffeehouse.

"I've been there. I have pictures of me there with Meg Christian. I knew Alix Dobkin before her first album Lavender Jane Loves Women came out. There was a group that was called “The Lesbian Liberation Committee” (LLC) of the Gay Activist Alliance (GAA). We met at the same place as GAA, an old firehouse at 99 Wooster Street in an area of lower Manhattan called SoHo., which stands for South of Houston (pronounced house-ton) Street. Everyone knew it as “The Firehouse.” Again the dykes were not satisfied with being behind the boys so we split off from GAA and became, Lesbian Feminist Liberation (LFL). LFL met at The Firehouse also. I met Alix through LLC and then I started working on the Lesbian Switchboard, which was a voluntary telephone hotline and referral service for the lesbian community. I would publicize all of her concerts whenever anybody called. We had a huge calendar on the wall and we would tell them what was going on for lesbians in New York City. Alix and I became friends and I usually get to see her when she comes to the Miami area."

Did you know Martha and Lucy back then or just because of the album?

"I knew them because they used to be at The Firehouse all the time, as well as all the women that sang on that first album of the N.Y. City dykes. I knew them all because we met every Sunday."

You were probably one of the largest influences in bringing live lesbian music to Miami.

"Absolutely and also recordings, because they didn't know about the recordings either. I had pretty much whatever was out at the time. I had The Chicago and New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band’s album, Alix’s Dobkin’s Lavender Jane Loves Women,/i>, Cris Williamson’s The Changer and the Changed, Meg Christian’s I Know You Know and as I mentioned, the New York dykes had their album A Few Loving Women. I also brought my dear friend Fran Winant’s books of her poetry, music and art. Her first book was Dyke Jacket. No, that was her second book."

On the move to Miami and lesbian culture

How old were you when you went to Miami?

"I had just turned 22."

And you got your job? Had you applied from New York?

"No, my two best friends from x-ray school and I just came down. We lived with my parents who had already here for a year. There were no jobs in New York. Too many x-ray technologist schools let out at the same time and the newspaper that advertised medical jobs, New York Times was on strike. We had no jobs and we had to move out of the dorm that we were living in because we were no longer students there."

Had you been in Miami before?

"Yes, to visit."

Your parents moved down there.

"Right, so the three of us came down on spring break."

Did you discover Lesbian Culture at that time?

"No, not at all."

So you didn't know if you would be there permanently. Did you contact lesbians and NOW before you got your job?

"As soon as I got here, I started searching for the lesbian community. I knew that there were jobs because my father was also an x-ray tech and he used to mail me the Sunday want ads from the Miami Herald. There weren't one or two jobs; there were 3 columns of jobs as opposed to no jobs in New York. When the three of us came down here we applied at different hospitals. We trained at New York Hospital Cornell University in New York City, so they knew we had a good education. We would apply at one hospital and then go to the next one and tell them we were offered a position somewhere else. The interviewer would ask how much they were payin’ and would up their salary offer. We went from no jobs, to hospitals fighting over us. It was wonderful. The three of us got jobs in different places and we did that so we could meet more people. At that time my two roommates were straight. They certainly knew about me, accepted me and loved me, and they both still do. In October of 2013 we will have been friends for forty years! One of them is still straight and the other one has been in a lesbian relationship with the same woman for the last 35 years. She lives in my apartment building. That’s Lynne and her partner Connie L. Lynne is whom I went to school with. Connie R. was our other schoolmate and roommate. She is still straight, moved back to N.Y. and got married, and has twins. Connie L., Lynne’s partner, is also an x-ray tech. She was the one who was working with Lynne and Patti Jo West. The three of them worked in the same hospital. My other roommate Connie R. was working with Connie L.’s partner at the time, named Lele at a different hospital. We had the big party and everybody showed up and all the dyke x-ray techs as well as straight ally techs got to meet each other. That was another way of meeting a whole different group of lesbians. Many of the lesbians in the medical field did not participate in Lesbian Culture."

What’s that line that defines or separates Lesbian Culture?

"Connie L. and Lele really didn't have that many friends and most of them were either gay men or straight and in the medical field, yet they were lesbians. They were a couple. They moved to Miami from Michigan together. Eventually they broke up. Connie L. brought Lynne out, and they’ve been together for 35 years."

What was the difference? Were the lesbians in the Lesbian Task Force more political and how would you define that?

"We all felt more comfortable around other lesbians. Being Dykes. Being strong Amazons and possibly having read Lesbian Literature like Naiad press, or discovering Womyn’s’ Music."

Were you involved with NOW or was it the task force that drew you?

"Oh, it was the task force. I wasn't a “NOWEE –WOWEE.” I didn’t feel I had that much in common with straight women even though I was living with two of them… but that’s because we had the x-ray thing in common. We lived together for two years in New York in the dorm and they loved me and accepted me. I had a lot of conflict about my own anti-feminist feelings. I love and respect women’s energy and efforts towards equality. Many of the straight feminists were afraid of being labeled lesbians, They certainly were less aware of any Lesbian movement. They weren't really involved in any kind of women’s or gay or Lesbian movement. The medical crowd that were gay and Lesbians certainly knew of each other, certainly acknowledged each other, maybe went to the bars together once in awhile, maybe partied with each other but certainly not in any kind of Lesbian feminist thought awareness. There was much more of the x-ray connection."

But you were still creating community?

"Sure, and I tried to intermingle them, like having Patti Jo, in both places, being in the x-ray lesbian side and the circle of dykes I was hanging out with. That opened it up more. My roommates were hanging out with the lesbians because the lesbians would come to the house and hang out. They felt very comfortable with them because they felt very comfortable with me and they’re very open-minded women."

So besides the Lesbian Pride Week? What other times do you recall?

"Many of us would hang out at either Maryanne and Louise’s or at Mary Sim’s house."

They seemed to always have their homes open to lesbians coming over. Do you remember music nights? Did they do that all the time?

"Oh yes, all the time and you never knew who was going to be there. Lynne Blustein’s house too, and they were a whole other group of lesbians. That was a little bit later. That was more like in the late, late ‘70’s or early ‘80’s. I remember Maryanne and Louise being there, at Lynne Blustein’s house and Patti Jo for sure."

I think you took me there, perhaps ’78. I remember you coming to my apartment and sharing songs and singing. I recall Helise Dubnick, who also is a singer & songwriter. She had a big collection of records. Do you remember her and her music collection? Did you know her through the Task Force?

"I believe that she and I met in upstate New York around Woodstock. I just spent time with her recently going through some of her records."

So they were old ones too, like the ones you knew. Did you know that at the time that you had this in common?

"I think Helise was there the night that we met you and Joan and I think Helise played some music on that guitar."

Oh I recall and she played some of her own songs. Alrighty, so we’re thinkin’ about the Task Force. Do you remember a split in the Lesbian Task Force?

"I don’t ever remember that. It might have happened. It probably had to do with having to be a member of NOW."

Did you split from Miami at some time and then come back?

"I did. I left for less than one year at the end of 1978 and in the winter of ’78 I was in New York. I moved back to New York and I moved back to Miami in the fall."

Before you left, I remember us going to see Donna Summer. She was popular and backdrop for our disco dancing at the bar Sebastian’s. Right around that time, in February you asked me if I wanted to go to the Pagoda, the womyn’s vacation resort and community on Vilano Beach outside of St. Augustine. We saw Flash Silvermoon and Pandora Lightmoon, musicians extraordinaire, and Morgana the belly dancer. The main performers were the Berkeley Women’s Music Collective. How did you hear about Pagoda?

"I think Flash called me and told me about it. I was very, very good friends with Flash and Pan in New York. We still are connected, especially now with Facebook. We face book each other often. Flash and I are connected in really special ways. I am also connected that way with Pandora. This past March, Flash, Robin & I surprised Pan on her birthday with a small party! Flash and Pan were lovers in the ‘70’s but had broken up for many years. The Goddess brought them back together, which really made me happy to learn."

You, me, Deanna, and Ramona drove up in your car and stayed at a motel down the street and had a marvelous experience.

"I am still very good friends with Deanna. Last year she graduated college at the age of 53, and I flew up to Atlanta to attend her graduation. She happens to be in South Florida. We had dinner with her last night!"

Wonderful!

On attending music festivals for women, and related stories

"I have pictures of the Berkeley Women’s Music Collective. I heard them at Michigan Women’s Music Festival. I remember going up to the Pagoda with Nancy and Bairbre and you and me and being upstairs in that loft and having to climb down the stairs to go to the bathroom and Bair saying “can’t we just pee out the window."
That was when you did a concert there. We also went to the Pagoda together to see Linda Shear, another lesbian singer / songwriter from the Chicago area. I heard her at Michigan when I went to the festival one year. Her lover Trina was a sign language interpreter."

So you had a connection there too? How did you stay connected with the Pagoda?

"Probably through Morgana."

So Michigan from Miami. When did you first go?

"My first festival was ’76 or ’77. I think it was the first. It was on the old land for sure. I had been to the old land for at least three different festivals. I remember three different things happening."

There’s one story you tell about a woman that had died. Did she pass away in Miami?

"No, it was my friend’s grandmother that had passed away in New Mexico. My friend who used to live in New York moved to New Mexico. Her grandmother passed away and she wanted to bury her on women’s space. She put her in a blue wooden box on top of her truck and drove her to Michigan to the festival. When I found my friend at the festival she told me that her grandmother had passed. I remember her telling me stories about her grandmother for years. She said, “I’m going to have a little ceremony to bury her.” I thought she had the ashes or something. She told me that a group of wimmin were going to meet in this particular spot at midnight and asked if I’d be part of the ceremony. I was honored, of course. Well as I started getting closer and closer, something started smelling worse and worse. When I got to the exact location I said “oh my Goddess, what is that smell?” She said, “Oh, that’s Granny." I said, “What do you mean it’s Granny? You didn't bring your dead grandmother here like in one piece did ya?” She said “Yeah, on top of the truck.” I said, “Oh my goodness.” I mean, you could smell it for miles. We buried her grandmother on that land. It didn't bother me that we were doing it, but the smell bothered me, but nothing else bothered me about it."

You have some amazing stories. Any other highlights from those days to add?

"Oh absolutely, the night that Sandy McFarlane had a flat tire on her Volkswagen on 17th Ave and 69th Street. Even back then the area of Miami called Liberty City was pretty tough! There were at least 5 cars making a dyke caravan and none of us had a jack. Five cars, lots of dykes, lots of spare tires, but no jack. We all pulled over, got out of our cars, and held up the back end of the woman’s Volkswagen in mid air until she changed the tire. She had a tire iron. She just didn't have the jack to pump it up with. We stood there in the middle of the street and cops were going by, screeching to look but didn't stop to help. They would just stop and look and keep going. That had to be one of the funniest things."

"One Sunday we were really hot, and we wanted to go swimming. Maryanne & Louise knew of this entrance to Miller Lake before Tropical Park, which now surrounds the lake was ever built. We all drove over there, parked our cars, took off our clothes and went jumping into the lake. There must have been 15 naked dykes in the water when the police showed up. And they’re like, “Oh you ladies are gonna have to get out of that lake." We said, “We’re not going to until you leave. We’ll leave but we’re not getting out of this water till you go.” Oh, it was so funny. We laughed for hours and days about when we got caught in Miller Lake."

"Another time, me, Maryanne and Louise were driving on Bird Road around 87th Ave. I don’t know what we were looking for. We pulled into this strip mall and there was a Jamaican restaurant there. It’s not where we were going though. In the window there was a sign that said,” we sell Jamaican moon pies.” Louise said to me, “What’s a Jamaican moon pie?” I said, “I don’t know” but in broad day light; I pulled my pants down and I said, “But this is a Jewish moon pie!” She laughed about that till the day she died. Even when she was dying literally, I said, “You wanna see a Jewish moon pie, Louise?” I showed her my Jewish moon pie. May she rest in peace. I must say that Louise’s passing was another event that was so devastating but yet so incredibly Lesbian. There were sometimes 30, 40 lesbians in her room at this hospice-nursing center. She was never alone as she was transitioning and she knew we were there. Maryanne, her partner for 46 years, felt like she could go home and get some sleep because she knew Louise wouldn't be alone. We took turns in shifts; all of Louise’s friends, and her sister Lean were all there, all of the time!"

Do you recall when they decided to open Something Special? What were the circumstances around that?

"I do. It was just about the same time that I was trying to open my own business called Bagelgrams and Eli was opening up her German restaurant Zum Alten Fritz in a new location. All of us were involved in these new ventures. I went to them to ask Maryanne and Louise for business advice because they had just started Something Special. They were open for lunch on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I was taking some classes at Miami Dade College at the North Campus not too far from them. I would leave school and go over to have lunch with them. They would fix me a big ole salad. They stopped serving lunch but they continued take out orders and dinner. I was working 11 PM to 7AM taking x-rays in a hospital. I would get off of work and drive up to Miami Dade and take that class and then stop back there, eat lunch and go home and go to sleep."

How about the Bizarres?

"Oh yes, the Bizarres, they were fun! We would just set up in the backyard of Something Special, tables and racks and you could buy anything, exchange anything, from sheets to clothes to crafts. I remember Lilly Harris doing massages in her massage chair. Oh, they were fun. They were fun times."

On the Women's Preservation Society and lesbian events

I was thinking earlier about Charlotte Brewer and the Women’s Preservation Society. How did Charlotte come into your life?

"She came to the Task Force and we started talking and exchanged phone numbers. I remember our first sort of date. We had gone bike riding or something. I hurt my ankle. She came over the next day to see how I was doing. She came over to my apartment. I was living with Connie R. and Lynne. She had biked over and we wound up making love, that day, and we went together for a couple of years. That was interesting time, to say the least."

Charlotte had a whole other perspective when she named this group Women’s Preservation Society. What she wanted to do again was create community space for lesbians to have meetings and display arts and crafts and music making and so on. It didn't last very long. I think it came after the Friday Nights Women’s Group. There always seemed to be something going on. There were womyn’s’ softball games in Miami and Ft Lauderdale. There were always lesbians at those games. Patti Jo West, your dyke x-ray tech friend, was also a shaker and organizer of softball games.

"Yes, her and Carol Cotton."

That reminds me of the bar Blackies. A lot of us would go there after a softball game. Do you remember Blackies?

"She had a couple of different places. She was also involved in the Cherry Grove. She was a bartender there. She opened up the place with upstairs on Coral Way, and when that closed she moved it to S.W. 8th Street south of Le Jeune Road."

I remember you performed at Blackies. You sang and played guitar. They also had women’s music on the jukebox.

"The bar up in Hallandale called Tops wasn't’ doing it. I remember that freaky looking clown light at Tops. That’s what I remember most about Tops. It was scaring looking. It was a lamp."

What about Lou’s? Do you recall an incident involving a racist attitude? I don’t recall the details, but know we didn't go there again.

"That’s starting to sound familiar, because I remember not going there anymore. That would certainly not surprise me because racism really wasn’t tolerated by any of us."

Do you remember any other incidences about that with lesbians? Judy Thayer or Mary Sims going to jail or Louise getting arrested for carrying a pocket knife?

"I remember that. I don’t remember Mary or Judy in jail."

On Anita Bryant

What else? How about politics?

"Certainly, Anita Bryant. Anita Bryant cannot be left out. It was in ’77. In 1977, Bryant became obsessed when Miami-Dade County added an amendment to its human rights ordinance, making it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment, loans, and public accommodations based on "affectional or sexual preference." Announcing, "I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before", she founded Save Our Children. As the group's name implies, Bryant's central -- and ludicrous -- argument was her fear that children would be molested or converted by gay perverts. "As a mother," she famously explained, "I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children."

How did you get involved?

"Charlotte and I were still together and a lot of the lesbians were in the task force. A bunch of us worked on the phone bank calling up democrats and explaining the referendum. Jack Campbell, who was the owner of a gay man's bathhouse, was also running for City Council. He organized a lot of it and he had money, and paid for a lot of the phone banks that were set up. There was a gay men’s hotel on Biscayne Blvd. and that’s where one of the phone banks was. We would go over there at night and call registered democrats and explain the referendum to them. It was written to confuse the gay allies. If you voted no you were voting yes if you were voting against the gays you voted no. I remember Charlotte and I following a car that was putting up posters against the gay people. We stayed one block behind them. As they would put one up a poster we would pull it down. Every single one they put up we took down until they figured it out. Then they started chasing us. We were really scared that night that we were going to get killed. Everything they had just done for the last 3 hours was in the back of our car. During that time, you’d be sitting in a traffic jam at five o’clock going home from work in bumper to bumper traffic. The person who was in front of you for a possible hour had a bumper sticker that would say, “KILL A QUEER FOR CHRIST!” or “THE ONLY GOOD GAY IS A DEAD GAY! It was insane. That was a very hot political time. I was working at Jackson Memorial. The gay x-ray techs would go into this little tiny bathroom and we would have like a gay hug and then we would come out and go and do more work and then someone else would say “okay, time for the gays to hit the bathroom again” and we’d all go in and hug each other, the faggots and the dykes, it didn't matter. We just would go in, hug each other and come out. The political climate was everywhere. The doctors were talking about it, and so were my co-workers and the patients too. It was all over the news. The night of the vote, I was at the Fountainbleau Hotel waiting for the vote to come in. I was there by myself. I was sitting at a table and on the table was a platter of olives and pickles and those kinds of things. This TV reporter came up to me and he stuck his microphone in my face and he said, “And what do you think about this?” And I grabbed a pickle and shoved it in his face and said “and what do you think about this” and the cameraman caught it. The next day one of the radiologists came up to me. She was married to a cardiologist who also worked at Jackson. She said, “Mindy, you know what happened last night? I was sound asleep and my husband woke me up and said, “honey, wake up and look at the TV.” I opened my eyes and there you were on television sticking a pickle in some man’s face. My husband said, “Isn’t that Mindy?” And there you were! Why were you on TV sticking a pickle in some man’s face?”

"I said, 'Well Doc, if they fire me you know why!' I told her I was there against Anita Bryant. She said 'oh Mindy, they love you too much here. They’re not going to fire you or anything.' I worked with her somewhere else many years after that and we’re still very dear friends."

On the boycott/womancott of Florida orange juice

How did you feel when the vote came out?

"I was just devastated. I couldn't understand how these people could buy this crock of crap? I do believe the wording of the referendum did confuse a lot of people. Some really wanted to show their support for the gay community but didn't realize they had actually voted against us. We boycotted, and womoncotted Florida orange juice. Anita Bryant lost her job. She lost the endorsement for Florida Orange Juice. You couldn't get orange juice in a gay bar in Miami for years. Forget about any ordering a screwdriver or any drink that contained orange juice. There were signs everywhere with the orange and the international no sign. No oranges in every gay bar, dyke bar, even some biker bars, it didn't matter. A lot of people did not know that Florence Henderson was involved with that Anita Bryant in this gay attack, but her name was not out there. She was in that television show, The Brady Bunch. The actor who played her husband (Mike Brady) Robert Reed was actually gay. There were conflicting reports on his cause of death. Some said it was AIDS, although some reports were that he died of colon cancer. After his death, Florence Henderson basically had this change of heart and started trying to support the AIDS movement. I've never been a Florence Henderson fan. Also, the woman who played the Brady’s maid/nanny (Alice Nelson) was rumored to be a lesbian named Ann B. Davis! You can’t talk about Miami without this story."

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