A Review by Jefferson Harman
[Note: Due to personal constraints, I was unable to release this article in June as I intended. I am publishing it now in conjunction with Gary Lynn Floyd’s West Coast CD Release Concert on August 22nd, in which he will appear with Harriet Schock at Kulak’s Woodshed in North Hollywood. A link to the concert is included in the links at the end of this article.]
During Pride Month 2023, a spectacular event honoring one of the heroes of the LGBTQIA+ movement for equal rights took place at the historic Stonewall Inn. On June 5th, Harvey Brownstone, the first openly gay judge to serve on the Ontario Court of Justice, was honored with a special event at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The invited guests included a collection of celebrities, activists, authors and musicians—all of whom are supporters of equality for the LGBTQ community.
Award winning entrepreneur, columnist and women’s advocate Laurie Towers, hosted the event in the upstairs cabaret lounge. She was assisted by writer John Pietaro, and they both introduced the honored guests.
The first honoree was theatrical agent, producer, radio host, and prisoners’ rights activist; David Rothenberg—host of WBAI’s Any Saturday. Now in his eighties, Rothenberg recounted his experience living across the street from the Stonewall Inn during the legendary June 1969 protests. He also spoke of his work as the founder of The Fortune Society, a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides support to the formerly incarcerated.
The Guest of Honor, Harvey Brownstone, was then introduced. Brownstone officiated the marriage of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, whose marriage triggered the constitutional litigation at the United States Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage (United States v. Windsor). On June 14, 2008, Justice Brownstone was presented with a proclamation signed by New York State Senator Thomas Duane. The proclamation was in recognition of Brownstone’s role in having officiated at hundreds of same-sex weddings for New York citizens, who travelled to Toronto to get married. In 2021, Brownstone retired and launched his own internet talk show, Harvey Brownstone Interviews, consisting of a YouTube channel, website and podcast channel. The show features interviews with celebrities and authors.
The next speaker was activist Judith Kasen Windsor, who married Edie Windsor (mentioned above) after Thea had passed from complications related to a heart condition in 2009. She spoke lovingly of them both, and shared remembrances of Edie, who passed in 2017.
Jim Keaton, five-decade president of Helen Reddy’s fan club, who had been one of Reddy’s closest friends, was also honored. Keaton was in attendance with Mark Reinhart, who has been his husband for 38 years. He was the first guest on Harvey’s show, and spoke eloquently about Reddy’s 50-year career as an actress, singer, songwriter, recording artist and activist. The interview was well-received, and he was invited back to the show for an additional five segments.
Not present, due to an obligation, but still very much a part of the evening, was veteran singer/songwriter, Harriet Schock, who wrote Reddy’s 1975 Top Ten hit, “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady.” Schock wrote two tribute songs that were played that evening by musical guest, Houston singer/songwriter Gary Lynn Floyd. The first song, “I Am Yours,” was written for Brownstone and recounts his experience coming out to his parents. His disclosure resulted in a devastating rift between them. After the split, he experienced extreme financial difficulties, and worked several odd jobs to meet his bills and pay for law school. As he became successful in life, his parents softened and they were ultimately reunited.
The second song, “Because You Lived,” was written by Schock for Keaton, telling the true story of how Reddy had saved his life when he was 14. His life in rural West Virginia had been difficult. When he was ten, the family moved to Arlington, VA where, as he described it, “It was like the same place we had left, only with a bathroom.” Having been abused and struggling with feelings of being gay, he contemplated suicide. Then he saw Reddy on TV singing “I Am Woman.” When she sang the line, “If I have to I can do anything,” it had an enormous impact on him. He wrote a detailed letter to her describing his situation, and to his surprise, she wrote back. The two began a correspondence. Soon after, Reddy’s husband, Jeff Wald, offered him a job running her fan club. This evolved into what would become a lifelong friendship between Keaton and Reddy, as well as his own lifesaving work as a 911 Dispatcher (Crisis Hotline outside the US).
Both songs were met with tearful and generous applause.
Gary Lynn Floyd, who performed those two moving songs, recently recorded an album of Schock’s songs entitled Present Schock, The Songs of Harriet Schock. In addition to the two tribute songs, Floyd also sang “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,” from a man’s point of view. The lyrics were revised by Schock for this version, and it appears on the new album, along with the tributes. Two more songs presented were a duet with Floyd and singer Denise Lee, who performed “Beat of My Heart” which he co-wrote with Schock. Singer Maria Gentile, who bartended the event then sang her original song, “If I Was A Boy,” which was about her own experience growing up and feeling out of place. Maria has her own talk show on Facebook Live, What’s the Story with Maria.
Special guests in attendance included author, actress and TV host Wendy Stuart (If These Walls Could Talk), author Tom Santopietro (Sinatra In Hollywood, The Importance of Being Barbra), television writer and author Susan Silver (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart, Maude), actress Louise Sorel (Vivian Alamain, Days Of Our Lives), author Edward Miskie (Cancer, Musical Theatre and Other Chronic Illnesses), lyricist Doug Thompson (Watcher In The Woods), Debra Batzofin, Rose Apuzzo, and Jeffrey D. Dalrymple. Many of the aforementioned guests have appeared on Harvey’s show, which you can check out here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaE5NJCAmpqkFvyJRpOpokw.
Overall, the night was full of laughter, sharing of stories, historical anecdotes, wonderful music, and a lot of happy tears. It was in its own way, an historic occasion.
Please take a look at the links below for more information on the honorees and guests, as well as The Stonewall Inn.
The Stonewall Inn
Gary Lynn Floyd
Songs & Stories with Gary Lynn Floyd and Harriet Schock
Interviews with Harvey
Jim Keaton on Helen Reddy
Jim Keaton and Unjoo Moon
(Director of the Helen Reddy Biopic Film, “I Am Woman”
Harriet’s Song for Harvey, I Am Yours
Jim Keaton and Harriet Schock
Gary Lynn Floyd
Movie – “Edie And Thea, A Very Long Engagement”
© 2023 Jefferson Harman. All rights reserved.