Welby Ings

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in zero.com. [00:00:05] So we'll be, I've encountered you a number of times in the past. And when I say that when I've been doing preservation work, I've encountered some of your work and some of the things you've said, and I thought it'd be a really good opportunity to come and talk to you about some of those things, and also what you're what you're doing now. The first time I encountered you was when I was presenting material about the homosexual law reform. And I think you stood up in a meeting on the North Shore, and, and and spoke, Can you recall that meeting? [00:00:36] Yeah, it was a it was at the, the, in the middle towards the end of a fairly fraught time. [00:00:45] And it had been called by the church organization, but it was called a public meeting. And by that stage, we got ourselves reasonably organized in Oakland. So we, we, we were, rather than having the those organizations coming and disrupting our meetings, we were going to the meetings, so we're putting ourselves inside this faces. And when we just before I left to turn up, friend rang and said, they're not leaving the quiz in. And I said, Well, how do they know? You know, how do they know who's queer? And they said, Well, you know, you, you know, you need to get in, because we're a group of us who were potential speakers. But I think, Peter wills and I said, we had one guy who was who was to be the speaker, we thought that there were two or three others, we always did this of having backups, so that if anything went wrong, we went live down stranded. Anyway, so I found a friend of mine who had two sons, and I said, Can you be my wife for this time, we're going into the, into the mouths of the new right. So I grabbed the Bible in the house, and we listened to the car told the kids to shut up, we got the Ember, this channel leading down and there were all these queer women, including me and who must have got, you know, sorted out and said, No, you're not coming in, said I was standing there, we're walking young girl, for God's sake, don't look at me and say, Good, I will be. We get down there. And this is big, big South African guy and Afrikaans guy, and he said, it kind of looked suspiciously. And I am not going to get in. And he said, Who invited you? And I said, our pastor did bang for my teeth. And he said, [00:02:23] Who's your pastor? So I made up a name. And I thought, fact, this isn't gonna go too well, somebody's gonna say get a wealthy or something. So I said to him, but, but two sons and a wife, and I do not want to be standing out here in amongst these people have given sake, listen, come on, listen, this isn't fair. My kids should not be subjected to the service of God, listen, we got and the thing erupted. Because about at least half of the people in there were queer, you know. so pissed off at the dog, because it must have happened, it must have been a few Gordon and a few hidden. But anyway, all the all the quiz data outside the meeting, and they were making a lot of noise. And they started it. And there were no queer speakers. And so we asked if we could have equal representation, because it was a public meeting. And the police were there by that stage because they'd been [00:03:12] sufficient disruption up to that time, especially in those weeks leading up to that the incident outside the Salvation Army when the flag was lowered to half mast a whole lot Little things like this. So it was seen as disturbing the peace. [00:03:26] And anyway, a speaker got up, and he was booed by the crowd. And, and we realized that this wasn't got we had the strategy, when we went into a meeting of not sitting in one group of boys put himself well round. And so it sounded like you were the full crowd, even though you were a minority. And we also had a strategy of when you were speaking, identify two or three people in the family from up there and keep talking to them. So you look as if you're talking to the whole crowd, and the whole crowd and course, within the crowd, these people are doing the noughties, and you're going on a year, alright, so as a way of kind of affirming what you were doing, because it was a shit atmosphere, it was a shit place to be. Because the the [00:04:10] you were just unwelcome you were you knew you were seen as as an aberration. And, and my partner, he didn't care. He didn't want to be part of it. I totally understood. So any said to me before I left for God's sake, don't get yourself on TV or anything. He was he held the national title in the triple jump at that stage. And he was he was out. But of course he didn't want his career damaged. And he was he was a good man. He was a good man. But you know, you realized as you're going through that, that other people were also paying the cost for you for you being out. But anyway, as Speaker poor bastard, he started and then it it just turned to shit. And everyone's yelling, and he started screaming back and they just got up and remove them off the stage. And so the crowd just started stamping the feet on the ground and insisting insisting and they said, All right, assuming we didn't have another session, you can have another speaker. And we had a lovely elder woman. She was a grandmother. And she looked like everybody sort of anti money. And she was a very good speaker. She wasn't queer, but I think she had a clear grandson. But she said, you know, we thought well, she would be good because she would, you know, break that preconception. But she said on I know, it was a bit hostile. So I thought I'd better but I was out. But it stage. But you know, that was at that time before the law reforms through there were two big issues. One, you were criminalized. So you could you know, not to be gay. But if you were practicing gay is a fine line. But the big issue was that you could be fired from your job because we're no human rights protections. So you could lose your job, you could lose access to accommodation, and you could lose, you didn't have to be given goods and services. And that was what the real anxiety was. And, and I was teaching at a school that stage they knew I was out, and they knew I was politically involved. I don't I think they quite knew what was going to happen. But anyway, the I got up and I end, what was his name? Jeff Bray book, Jeff Bray book is ago that 18 chins, and sorry if he's alive, but you did have a team change. And anyway, I walked through a stage with shake his hand, and he just put his hand away. And I thought fabulous. And, and of course, the audience just started roaring on the audience didn't, the family in the audience started rolling, but it sounded like the audience knew. So when I got to stand up, I couldn't even even prepare to say, I just thought, but you realize that it was a really important thing, because not only for the people outside because they could hear. But people inside had taken a big risk that come in to the heart of the same world that wanted them criminalized. And it was a really, it was a really difficult situation. So I thought, I'll talk about being a teacher. And so I introduced it by saying on it from the time I was 12, I was a criminal. And then I said, I'm a teacher. TV was there, and they bought podcasters. So the next day, when I got back to school, there was people marching outside the school. And this was at the time of the petition was in full swing, and my my teaching would work, I would work class. [00:07:10] I'd like sorted because I'd always seen it on TV. And I said to them, Look, you know, you know, I'm gay. And you know, I exercise my right to speak, I'm not saying that you have to help the same views, but I would defend your right to speak. And they said, Oh, you know, these people that saw the petition will go out and deal to them. And I said, No, that's them exercising their right to speak. [00:07:28] And it's real, it's not real, it's not real. [00:07:30] These were little big tongue and kids who come over to do woodwork at this that school and but of course, the church was very staunch. And if we think it's staunch now it's nothing what it was like, in the early 80s. And, and they were being quite torn because they had a, you know, they had a teacher who they were got on really well, you know, and and, but they also had a pastor who was saying the opposite. And the two things weren't marrying up. And they were having a lot of trouble. Because they understood the concept of funny, but the didn't understand the concept of, you know, a gay man teacher who's teaching them how to use the word life and how to do housing joints. And that didn't match up. And they, they saw my partner and they he didn't match up either. So anyway, the the women from the office went out, and they were where they could become happier when necessary. And I think they moved they moved the protesters on. But um, but that was that that was an incident. But really, I took that position of of saying, you know, saying when I was 12, I was a criminal to show them what they're doing to kids. And then to say I was a teacher, because I knew that would get to them. But it was also the core of the fact that we are everywhere. We're not in the ice we are we were decadent florists. And yeah, we put me out to the same society today. [00:08:47] So that's probably what that incident was, what age were you when you were doing it? Probably late 20s. [00:08:55] Might when [00:08:57] should come up from Ty hippie? Late 20s, early 30s. [00:09:02] Had you ever been involved in anything like that before? [00:09:05] Yeah, in the early days, we used to the police used to have a habit, if your there was a club called the Aquarius club. And they just have a habit of if you were walking home with a guy, they would pull over and stop you. And that the standard line was you meet the description of this being a burglary you meet a description of that was the standard thing that was just a hassle. But I used to always walk hand in hand with my partners. And if I if I met somebody, and we were going home, I if I went to hold their hand and they didn't then that was off. I was that I didn't want to know. And so Ian and I were walking home. And then we stopped and there was actually there were training things. So there's a lot of stuff isn't that well known, but at the conferences, these to be workshops on how to handle yourself with the police. So you knew you had to give your name and address. You didn't have to give anything more. And then you just kept saying, am I being arrested? Am I being arrested in so we were taught to use the correct record technique, and never ever to get flustered? And of course, they will get used to it if you have somebody respond to them very calmly, but keep saying Am I being arrested? And if they say yes, so put a put a heavy number, please. You know, and so they knew they got introduced to the fact that there were people who weren't. [00:10:23] I think the police's attitude to gain the and had been formed from the box, which was a that was one dimension. That was one of the words we had to live in. But it wasn't, of course, it was only a very thin wafer thin part of the society. So they didn't expect to be spoken to as equals, they expected us to be afraid. And we had every right to be afraid because although you could be put into prison for seven years at that stage, very few people did the seven years if anything was three months. But at the end of three months, you cannot you've lost a job. You've lost your rent your house and the goods and your name was corrupted. So that's what real feel. So though we were talking about the law reform that truly I think for many men, the real issue was not the decriminalization, it was the human rights amendment that came later. And we you know, we'd fought during the free year, and what's the one boat, Warren freer, and there's another bill next to it before the wild one. [00:11:22] And both we had stopped those going through because they wouldn't give equity. There was sort of gung ho at 21 maybe you can, you know, you can have equity or you can have decriminalization, so we'd held out but it was it was at a cost. Because you still I mean, I had I, I mean, first time I went to Mount Eden to visit someone I was 23. And it shocked me, you know that this is where that's when I first got a sense of my people, isn't it strange? I mean, today, it sounds like an anachronism that we've talked about gays as being people in this post guy environment. But in fact, the the the necessity of it was, you didn't see yourself as a people, then you became quite vulnerable, you had to have something to hold on to. And I think that's why the words gone from today. But that's why we still wet things like family, and within family as constructive aunties and mothers and sisters and, and those words still flicker a little bit around today. But I don't think many people understand what that really was. That was a community of people often who had lost the right to their biological family through coming out with access to and so they formed alternative families, and they look after each other. And certainly, all the stuff I learned about how to handle yourself with the place came from it came from me. So and you learn very quickly. [00:12:41] walking hand in hand was that an Oakland [00:12:44] with that kind of staunch nuts come from from your anger, [00:12:48] anger. I grew up and cookie artwork was a little family district and a great family great family and effect. Funding later on, my twin sister came out and such as my next sister come out, so half of the family actually required but the time when I was dragged out for being caught filling up a fellow former in the back of the German class, it was not a good time, it was not a good time. And [00:13:14] and I learned I learned through my last years of secondary school, and probably through my teachers college years because I didn't have access to anything more. I learned that I had to be some kind of social liberation, even though but I've never fallen in love. And another sounds a bit sloppy, but it was when there happened that I realized this was all crap. And and then I was very angry. Before the days of being politically angry. I was factor off. And I just thought this is correct. This is correct. And and so that's where it came from. And so I was the art director for New Zealand gay news. And the flat I was living in which was it? I think 27 Collingwood street that was where we did the produced it out of there. David Russell was the editor and house was basically made up of people who either worked on New Zealand gay us or feed the people who worked on New Zealand gay news, but it was I mean, we had a secret mailing list for that it was you had to be very careful had to be really careful. We had offices at the bottom of Queen Street upstairs. And I'm always remember they just smelled a bubblegum from paste places things for pasting up. And, and, and the publisher that used to publish it. This is really strange thing. One the newspapers published I think cracking the feminist newspapers, they all this strange little thing, but no one knew he was weird. If you need anything dicey published, they would do it. So um, it was a it was and there was I mean, of course, was a lot of tension there that time between is as we're trying to work out a puppy feel like a public gay identity because prior to that, all identity because it hadn't been disseminated. All identity was kind of in in a closed area. But suddenly, you're in the public domain in print, and issues of what's the impact of sexism on the way we talk about ourselves. ageism? Oh, there's a lot of isms floating around, you know, and just sort of the early magazine had quite a socialist leaning. But that's because we had so much trouble generating any New Zealand copy, that we had to kind of grab it off from overseas. And then those things coming in from overseas had to be smuggled into the country, because customs was really tough. And they would stop them coming in, [00:15:21] what kind of year was [00:15:23] 19 late into the 1970s [00:15:26] I'd have to go back through the issues of New Zealand gay news, but I Lyft when you Zealand gay news turned into out magazine. So it was sided covers for them for Beth, [00:15:38] only about a year and a half modeling. But, but that was you know, like one of the stories about you know, that, that we often put it up here is that Stonewall was kind of started the movement and, and you said it was driven out of the new universities in New Zealand. That is correct. It's much much older than that it grew up, I believe, what my experience was, it grew up through families. And we're often in small towns of small communities. And there was identity there. And they were names like they had radio is going to go on website of it not say the names, but they were particularly Savage, but they were code names for people that they were, this was a stage when it was coming out of the stage when gaming were divided into what's called Butch and bitch. And that never set well with me. And so I came into that world that was just beginning to close. And I think as sensibility as we got more access to information, we realized you didn't have to be in those roles. But that's kind of roles the families were in and I think that's why families use things like the head words for mother aunty sister but not for father uncle, they only other turn the head was it I had it all that thing. So it's within the family. Although it was protective, it was also soft integrating in a way if you look at its language was soft integrating. So um, so but the interesting things you see that will at the universities, this was more working class, and it never got documented as well, universities very good at documenting their own stories. So if we look at the trajectory of law reform and gay rights in New Zealand, it tends to be told for the for the writing of the articulate, and they seem to themselves in it. Whereas I think you're our histories are probably uncover something else which is older than that. That's why I like Chris brick walls book, because it went back and it started getting some of that other stuff. And so we can see flickers of it way, way before and it quite defined gaming. [00:17:33] So what do you think the Stonewall what kind of impact did that have on New Zealand? [00:17:40] Really, it was it became part of a an accepted narrative. It became evidence or part of a written about narrative. And so you got a sense that you was something more than the narratives that were supplied for you by Dickie Murray by TV characters, because they were the only other narratives with these you know if you could smell element of this country's very dark novels with a gay guy always died at the end anyway. So he was a historical narrative that didn't frame you as an object. It didn't frame you as dysfunctional. And so I guess we we swapped, we ended up quickly because it was something that framed us as something strong and self actualize. [00:18:22] But it was foreign. It was an American thing from an American context. And it didn't actually, it's like, the British often think that the Wolfington report had huge impact on New Zealand had fuck all influence on New Zealand. Fuck all, you know, in truth, what had influence in New Zealand was just growing slowly percolating stuff that came up through the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s [00:18:44] of of stroppy people, certainly the most stroppy political people that I remember as a kid with a drag queens, they were really, they were really struggling, they had Mel's, like septic tanks, and they they would take on anybody. And, and the the interesting thing was to see as the gay rights thing rose up, they became marginalized, and so did the language and so did their culture, because they were not palatable to the overground that we were trying to get to give us equal rights. And so the the flagrant screaming Queen became a kind of this terrible thing that they became a kind of embarrassment. And if you watch the profile, it begins to disappear in there. And sometimes since the same thing happening as we work towards gay marriage, that the danger we have with that kind of assimilation is that we can actually sacrifice elements of our own culture [00:19:44] that have stood the ground when we weren't there. And they will always be on easy, they will always be socially and easy, then they're not designed to fit in, but they are designed to be part of society. Sorry, I'm wandering off the question. [00:19:56] No, no, no, that's, that's fascinating. Do you think your anger kind of manifested itself in your creativity, [00:20:05] know what my anger did. And this is actually only brought up a couple of years ago, somebody noted, and I hadn't even realized it, really in my work. Because I don't just do queer stories. You know, I, I see myself as a queer man who tells stories, but not as a queer storyteller. And [00:20:25] I've got this huge thing, apparently, and I see now this big thing with injustice, a big thing, but it's not limited to just the queer issue. And I think, you know, I think lots of people who have grown up queer oftentimes find that one of the benefits of it, and then he blowed a bit benefits, but one of the benefits is that oftentimes, if you get your shit together, you develop very good empathy for other people, whether it's the fat ginger hit a girl who's called a slap at school, or whether it's somebody whose belief system was different. Or somebody who's coping with some kind of disability or someone who has been brave steps in the face of opposition. The best, you know, the one of the best payoffs of growing up marginalized is that you become empathetic. [00:21:10] You mentioned earlier, at the North Shore meeting, you keep on referring to way And I'm just wondering, what, who was we? [00:21:18] Okay. [00:21:19] We was something that looked like a group of vagabonds out of the type of drama club. Really, it was a, [00:21:26] there was a little meeting called the LPS recall. And Warren, Warren Lindbergh, me. I think one of the world's guys that might have been Peter wells, was it, I think, must be about eight of us down here. And, and this was when the first talk about this law reform friend was built was coming in. And the idea that we had to be, we actually had to be politically reasonably smart with it, rather than traditionally, our approach had been to carry a banner and yell loudly, you know, well, that had been great for the adrenaline it didn't move politics ahead. So and we were looking at how we might, how we might play that out. And, [00:22:10] and that group grew bigger. And then interestingly, happened to those early marches, the the marches at the end of the 70s, down Queen Street, when they were like eight of you, carrying banners. They were they and the police didn't like it, like the standard approach. You'd always stand next to a police policeman, police woman to start a conversation with you and they weren't allowed to talk to you. And but you just tried to humanize yourself to them, you know, and then be seen talking to the cop as you're walking down the street carrying the banner. [00:22:37] Yeah, was just it was just politics. [00:22:40] But anyway, they sound like a manipulator. But that's it was just survival. And then I remember those marches through four years of I remember we had banner, gay rights of Waikato, which had two walls from wall and the dog and put up flats, you know, walls on it holding hands and, and those matches, his been very lonely. And then in the turn of one incident, this this organization set up called hug, it was on afraid of gays, and suddenly the marches were packed, lots of guys felt that they could join them, because they could now be mistaken for heterosexual they were wearing hug badges, you know, and go fuck off. But that was the terms that they could join. That was the terms they could join. So while I guess a few radicals were pissed off I, in my heart, I knew what it was to be afraid to come out. And, and that's a quite a rough road for me, I just still is today. But being on suddenly being on a match match, where it was all trendy, trendy, was very, very disorienting and very, quite deeply disturbing your new political, it was a good thing. [00:23:49] But you realize that there are a whole lot of people missing from the match, who were never going to be there anymore. And they were the ones who were screaming their tits off, you know, from the from the back of somebody's getting in, bear drag [00:24:03] four years earlier. [00:24:05] So but it had to happen. That was the nature of mainstreaming and the mainstreaming. While it was toxic to some, we lost some cultural stuff through it. [00:24:17] It made it safer for a lot of other people. And I think it also made it safer for a lot of parents, of gays and friends of gays. It started to break down this strange split we had between lesbian women and gay men who kind of what, what really oppositional at that stage and, you know, slowly, we kind of [00:24:37] the [00:24:38] commonalities a little bit more, instead of realizing that one of the quickest way to deceive, you know, disempower a minority is to get them to fight inside themselves. And [00:24:50] so does that kind of answer your question? [00:24:52] What did Laura form mean to you? [00:24:57] Well, it meant [00:25:00] the truth. That means was that my mic didn't get hassled anymore. We, after the thing that happened on the on the North Shore, we started getting phone calls at home. And, and he would [00:25:15] I mean, he [00:25:17] he didn't take shit from anybody, but he wasn't used to women screaming obscenity, we're not screaming Bible verses down the phone at them. And we had, we had a we were living in Graceland at that stage, I'd come up from Target. And was just before I started building the house out in the bush, and we he was getting, [00:25:38] he was getting upset about the whole thing. He said it's gone too far. And you know, [00:25:43] and I knew I'd been part of it. But I loved him very much. And it's hard when someone you love is getting hurt. And and I still don't know the answer to that. I still don't know how you negotiate your way through that. But on my birthday, a [00:25:59] baby, the post office was next door. And they were these these lovely women and and they'd seen the thing on TV. So they knew what, you know, what my political involvement was. And they were a lot of people were ambivalent at that stage. But I don't think there were a lot of people weren't hostile, they just didn't understand because this looked different to what they had understood gay was. So there was seen quite ordinary people. But they were also seeing that in a conflict situation. So it was unsettling the status quo. So we're ambivalent. Anyway. One of them popped and said, Oh, is possible for you in the post office and other Oh, it's my birthday today as well for my birthday. So Winton, and we were joking, hand over this little parcel nice, I thought didn't look like anything on you. And I opened it up and was a cigarette packet full of shit. And they, it had a nice fit, because the women in the post office were kind of crowd around and saw it. And they suddenly realize what this was about. [00:26:59] I didn't know where to put, you know, what do you do with a cigarette packet fellowship. And that were that were really shocked. And they said who sent it knows it was looked with it was nothing? And I said I don't worry. I know this is and I think I realized then that that people understand things when the ordinary when the ordinary is infected with with with the intolerable. And then two days later another one arrived and [00:27:27] see that's quite light at my You're right. And it was a cigarette packet. This was so tacky with cotton will dip to catch a neon razorblade in it, you know, and, but those things there were I think that what happened was for many people, I mean, those are graphic examples, but for many people [00:27:44] what the law reform did, it showed ordinary people that showed that they were queer, meaning it kids, or that they were lesbian women who look just like your daughter, and, and who did most often wear a suit when I went on a march. I mean, I only possess two other bloody things, but I do it because I see it as a political thing to reinforce the ordinariness of things but I don't actually believe there's any such thing as ordinary, but to reinforce, [00:28:16] to kill off the otherness, you know, when you make something into the other you can treat it like shit if you stop it looking like the other and yet, I'm quoting the same thing because I don't agree with kind of the whole integration thing. So it's a contradiction. [00:28:31] How was it view or can you describe for me what it's like when you're kind of thrust into the media spotlight? We're must be quite unsettling we you actually don't have necessarily control over the story or the narrative. [00:28:47] That's very perceptive question. I don't know if you know the old name for the Herald used to be granny Harold. Granny Harold used to always when I was on a march outside the when the [00:28:57] victorious fan sauna got raided, they sent another undercover cops and most people probably know about this, they seem to know that undercover cops. And then they they made some arrests. And that sooner was was tied in with what was to come out magazine. And although a lot of people are disparaging about them. They Richie appeared and Tony Carter, which were actually they gave a lot of money under the table to political quick causes. And they certainly with a thorn in the side of the customs that they they really were a lot of battles, not them on their own. But when people kind of wipe them off and go they were just commercial ripoff agents. That's that's actually not true. I don't think that's a deep enough analysis of what was going on. And the so they they rang up and said, Look, would you be willing to march outside the courthouse. And so I was teaching down in Hamilton at that stage. So I took a day off, went up, it's still a photo got somebody around marching down with a sort of a sign saying a couple of boogers as a couple of couple of Sooners a screw. [00:29:57] Fuck, [00:29:58] but there were about six of them matching up and down, up and down course the hero described I think as two people in the game Chris said it was 100 [00:30:06] it was awful. It was awful a bullshit really, [00:30:08] that it was a it was a [00:30:11] it's a pretty, [00:30:13] pretty frightening [00:30:16] match. Because really, those were the ones that were it was unsafe. That was where you were left with a core, those little core of people. And a lot of people didn't have a lot of lot to lose like a lot of people know, some people weren't employed by what they were privately employed. Now they weren't. It wasn't in something like teaching where you could lose your job quickly on something that your business relied on you being socially safe, if you like. So there are some very, very brave people really, really brave people who fade now into anonymity. But they were the ones they're cutting the sidewalk up doing that stuff that was a lot harder before it became fashionable to shop, be gay and walk down the street. [00:31:01] Did you ever feel unnerved by the media? [00:31:04] Yeah, I did. Because I saw I saw what it did to people's stories. They could it could be very, and I still, I still get really, I still know that at any given time, you only have to look at tabloids to see what how they treat how little they value life. [00:31:21] And I look at somebody's story re contextualize and turn them into, you know, putting a time like, you know, the beast of something or something on it. It's It's dangerous. It's very dangerous stuff, cultural, it's dangerous stuff. [00:31:36] And so I've seen how lives have been mounted with it. I've always been reasonably lucky because of risk being reasonably articulate, I guess. And that's been a godsend. But, but I've always been careful with if I'm interviewed for something. Because you realize that not all people who present themselves is concerned are actually that ethical when it comes to cutting up a great story. And you can find yourself. I mean, like the news broadcast that went out from that thing where they closed down the meeting, [00:32:11] that took a couple of highlights out of the thing and made it look like this was a flaming battle. Actually, it was a very, there was actually a lot of joy around it. But there was also a real sense of, of fear. And the fear was in the family. Because you just seen half over half of the people shut out of a public meeting. It's very hard thing to watch very hard when those your friends and you're walking past hoping they don't acknowledge you so you can get in. So it works on very subtle levels. So when you when you see those things, re taking the eyes out of something to tell the story in a particular way. I think over time, it teaches you to be more careful with the media. What was interesting, though, that although we had workshops at the end of the 70s, about how to handle yourself with the PlayStation, liver workshops with how to handle yourself with the media, there's an interesting thing. I think today, it's something that probably fairly useful, but I don't think just for queer people, I just think for anybody who's in a marginalized position. Unfortunately, you know, you look at David graves, arguing arguments, things don't get more civilized, they just just changed the nature slightly [00:33:21] going through something like that having sexual reform. And some of the the kind of intense experiences that you had those experiences stay with you, I guess what I'm asking is, you know, doesn't have a psychological impact, you know, 2030 years down the track. [00:33:38] In truth, the things that really changed me were more fundamental, like, falling in love, that change me [00:33:48] learning that, if you're honest to the people that you love, it's going to be easier for them. You know, I start telling family, stuff like that, those are the things that were really profound. But I think those those other situations, they they there is something cumulative that sits under the surface. And in the law reform, I learned not I learned not to be afraid. And I actually did much more from my public speaking than ever doing speech contest at to college ever did. So that was that was a good thing about the speech contest that Tillman college were really cracked learning and devices but but, you know, like, for the age thing, this weekend, I got a video on American video, I didn't actually know what it was, it was called rent, but I didn't know what it was going to be. But it was about AIDS. And I sort of thought a fact another tragedy gauge thing, you know, because you've after a while, we've kind of, if it didn't hit the human face that you knew it was turned into an issue and that sort of kind of lost stuff. But I had [00:34:51] and I'm not when people with with narratives I'm in fact, that was hard to watch. The grief was very hard to watch. And [00:35:01] it's not that the ghosts of all your past come back, you just it was very hard, very hard for me to cry. But somehow that triggered of the grief, and you're sitting there thinking. [00:35:17] And so something in the, in the other layers of you, the deeper layers of you. [00:35:24] There's residuals of those, those things, those type of things, but it doesn't. I mean, I've always been a staunch believer that you don't, if you let something like that disable you, you actually defeat the purpose of it. [00:35:36] But it leaves my one of the cool things that did one of the cool things that he did is I'm really good with handling this now. I'm much more I just understand it as a very ordinary thing. And so you know, like with a death in the family or something, it's it can be quite level headed. And you realize that the person who matters most in person is opinion, who matters most of the person who's dying from everybody else. They're the ones who have to be looked after. And they're the ones who need to be listened to. But I would never have had that if I hadn't come through as lots of lots of gaming wouldn't have if they hadn't come through that that process. So there are layers but they're not they're not fundamental. They're not operating up on the on the top level [00:36:22] that kind of moves into the the next area where I encountered you, which was when I was photographing the at Memorial quilt and there was a panel for in a absolutely beautiful panel. [00:36:36] That was the guy was walking home holding hands when the cop stopped us. Yeah, it was a lovely man. Lovely man. [00:36:44] When the quote thing first came and I thought I was a bit Neff, you know, I thought [00:36:50] and I and really, it didn't help me with the grieving process simply because I've never sort of thought of, you know, I will now grieve and sort this out that's never been [00:37:01] pulled out of a fanboy sort of think like that. Yeah. But, but I wanted to realize that he was a man's life who would be overlooked, he would be overlooked. [00:37:15] But he was a good man, really, really good man. And he was the first man I ever fell in love with. So very, very profound. And [00:37:26] and I thought, well, I, I make the quilt just a simple, just about the simple things like the tow rope, we had him cutting up his pajamas and my shirts and paying the hills outside the window. And then I also did another one for Kevin with him with wings on. And, but they became [00:37:46] they just became a way of just making sure that those people weren't lost in the statistics, there's member, Kevin's funeral guided something that really pissed me off, set up and told how many people are I told people how many friends he had, he died of AIDS, it was like a running tally. of fact, none of us are numbers, none of us an accumulation on a score, you know, [00:38:13] each of us is a unique contribution to this to what's here. And, and so that's what I tried to do with the quilts. But then [00:38:23] they did. In the end, I kind of pulled away two incidents happened with the quotes that I found difficult. [00:38:31] I think they were very good idea, a very good way of getting human face across. But they had a memorial at the at the Art Gallery. And they were reading up the names as if it was a piece of poetry, you know, and it was all Phaedra Fuck, you know, in would have told he didn't die, you know, just it's not. That's not it? Yeah, these are, these are real people. They're not theatrical names in some theatrical gesture of grief. The other one was that a doctor crew was doing something about might mean Gay Pride Week or something. And they had Kevin's quote grounded, and they asked us to stand behind it and smart hold it and smile, like it was a banner or something. And I I thought this is this was my mate, this may [00:39:16] describe it, but anybody who's lost someone with, with AIDS, it's not. [00:39:21] It's not pretty thing. You know, it's it. Not fact, they're standing here, all smiling and go Ross, if we're carrying a banner going, you know, come to the gay parade. And in the likely that the producer was getting pissed off. And and said, you know, would you just smile, Fuck this. So [00:39:40] I don't lose my reg real from [00:39:43] this fucking madness and then told them to take the quote out of the thing. And then, you know, walk off. And it was it was not a particularly well handled situation, but is the difficulty with the quotes is that they could move into field. And in doing that, while it becomes a more consumable product, it loses its relationship to real people, when it just becomes a set of tearful stories. And I know, I know that that's partly how it operates. But it had attention. Because I was trying to do two things, I was trying to deal with the grief of individuals and communities. And it was also trying to be a public statement. And there's a tension between those two things. So when you see them all laid out, you know, in in New York, you look at it, and I go What the fuck? You know? What Fuck, that's, but you know, when you might brings you up and says, you know, I'm looking for a bit of, you know, such and such cloth, because I want to put it on the quilt and you go around, and you have a cup of coffee, you have a beer with him. And he's working through it. He's never touched a sewing machine in his fucking life, and he's trying to do the best thing he can. It's a very different thing. It's a very different thing. And the two [00:40:56] fact the two don't, they can't meet up but they kind of hit with the purpose. What [00:41:03] do you think that perhaps it was the moment between creating the quote, and then actually gifting that quote to the quote, project, back to when that kind of change happens. So from from a kind of a personal, grieving or signify type thing to them, making it a public statement, as it [00:41:23] as perceptive, that's perceptive analysis, or probably, unfortunately, in making the thing, your relationship is enshrined in the so even though you gift it over, you can't pull your relationship out of it. It's not a thread that you can pull it out as you hand it over. And so that's why that tension exists. And the I think, some people I mean, I knew a couple of people who did the most showcases, and that's cool. That's fine. That's what they want to do. But for people who were they really weren't quite grief things. It's hard. [00:41:53] I'm not saying that the initiative is wrong. I'm just saying that many of these things, because they're difficult, they have difficulties in the It doesn't mean they shouldn't be done. But they're not all black and white. And, and when you hand it over, although you are handing it over for that public use us still you and your relationship with that person. [00:42:14] Still integral to it. And, and that's part of what gives it its power, but also, what causes it to run into tensions when it's used in a public environment. [00:42:26] What was your first knowledge of HIV and AIDS? [00:42:32] It's a really good question. I was living in Thai hippie and the which actually isn't a shithole that most people think it is. And it was when I first heard about it. And the first thing was talking about cat flu. And then that we knew it was Americans and the lots of jokes about it being airline stewardess because leaving them on Stewart so a lot of jokes went around in lines to it sort of was equivalent with FX suntans and sluggish behavior really, you know, and and invite you because it was [00:43:00] great. [00:43:02] But the [00:43:06] The first thing I heard was that it was it was cat flu. And then, this was I think, before the word aids came out. And then the because the anxiety is what the hell causes it. And it was somewhere at some stage it was to do with poppers. There was quite a an association with it with him all night trade. And then there was kissing could do it. And then you know, that all the pandemonium broke out, and people thought that, you know, looking at a gay man, I mean, when I was teaching woodwork, I remember one time we we had a meeting with Rick teachers and and partway through, everyone had a cup of tea, and I finished my cup of tea, took it out to the kitchen, and [00:43:48] wash the cup, turned it over, went back yard and then went back out to the kitchen for something and one of the guys had some Jeff and was scaring out the inside of my cup. You know, that will do that when you guys go. And and [00:44:02] faqir says, This is quite a bit of stuff kind of going on, for us [00:44:07] through this. But [00:44:08] anyway, I think I've missed your question. What was it that you asked me? [00:44:12] Your first knowledge of a champion? Sorry. [00:44:15] So it was about poppers. And then, but fairly early on came the idea that if you used a condom, you were fairly, you probably were going to be safe? I'd never like I still don't like them. But I The reason I'm alive is that I use them, but I don't like them, you know, but [00:44:35] most of my mates didn't use them. And they did. So that's all there is to it. I'm not even a you know, like, I see some people go save six, or sometimes I go fuck off. sometimes not. Not sometimes, you know, you're either gonna have to do all the time or not at all. And but [00:44:59] I think there was a there was some frustration, one of the big frustrations that we ran into was that when the health department started taking over the age thing, there was a fear that our people would lose the identity, one of the great things that we were able to do is we knew how to talk to each other. Whereas the straight world didn't know they did. It's like jumping out of airplanes with parachutes on you know, and, of course, I mean, we know what the fuck, and I remember I used to go around the country writing on toilet walls. No, come up the bomb, you know, or use a mosquito can give you aids, if it doesn't wear a condom, you know, just stuff like that. Just, it was just graffiti. Because you're just doing anything you can go [00:45:38] is graffiti yet. [00:45:39] But But you were that was just huge. And that was especially in the time when the health department was taking over the language and the way to get those messages out. And because they weren't getting out. I mean, we're dying. And it was only when, when our main kind of reclaim some of that stuff, and started putting our own stuff together. The early stuff had to be underground, because was the only only way that you could get kind of get the message across. [00:46:04] What was it like? losing so many friends? I mean, I mentioned for a lot of people that would happen later in life, but actually for somebody in their 30s what was what was that like? [00:46:17] So sound tough, but you grow to accept it. You just grow to accept it. And the harder ones with the suicides because they never sometimes even the families didn't know why that it happened. And there were quite a number of suicides. [00:46:35] But you knew in the family you didn't have to ask if someone committed suicide, you knew what it was [00:46:44] that the heart of things were things like going to some of the funerals where [00:46:50] it was in the family get asked that nobody was to know that that he was gay. And so the end [00:46:59] that please with you not to you know that they want that kit secret and because you've had to go through a journey of, of reaching becoming an honest man. And then you caught without of love and respect for them, but also in conflict, because you know that he didn't tell his family but he he was out inside his environment. So those, those those, those some of these films were tough. But some of them were amazing to something fucking amazing. I remember one guy, he is a naughty boy, he really is a very naughty boy. But he'd grown up high church Roman Catholic. And at the funeral, there's Ave Maria was standing on one side of the the church was all his biological family. And on the other side was [00:47:39] the guy family and very many manifestations. Anyway, it was all very high church all the way through. And then as it as a conference being taken out, his voice comes over a recording of his voice, which can be particularly unnerving when he's in the box, you know, and he said, this is finding like to leave you with this, this last message, we're carrying the coffin out and outcomes. Donna summers, Bad Girls, you know, I was just, he just went off. [00:48:04] That is so good. That is so good. So you know, there was there was, there was great stuff in there too. But it was it was stuff that had its feet. On the cold concrete, you know, it was having to do it, it was dealing with the real, real, the real thing, but the unknown made it the unknown known made it [00:48:22] quite a hard thing. [00:48:26] One of the interesting things I found visiting San Francisco recently was that there was a whole segment in gay Castro that doesn't exist, you know that there's a whole age group that just very minimal. And I'm guessing that's probably the same in New Zealand, we're, that number of people taken out of side society kind of travels with you. So I mean, like your your age group? [00:48:54] Yep. [00:48:55] Yep, that's true. Let's let's just affect [00:48:59] the show effect. And [00:49:04] the benefits are that those of us who, and it was only fate, it was only fate that [00:49:11] was living in type is not a lot of gay people who call it a hit. But you know. [00:49:18] And it was a time, fortunate by the time I left I had the information. But I'm [00:49:25] very careful mean, very informed men also died, you know, because there's an element of luck in it. That's just the hard truth. So, yeah, there's a gap. There's a gap. But we I sometimes think we notice it as I'm really interested in, in the changes in query language. And you can see this gap where there's a whole piece of queer languages not melon, and that was that died out with those guys in the US, there's only a few people who have kind of got through who can who still use that, who can still understand that. [00:49:58] So what are some examples? [00:50:00] Well, most people talk about polarity, which is you know, polarity, which is stuff that came into New Zealand with the merchant navy and on Julian and Sandy. But there's other things like counting report re quarter to say set ultimately, that's that's accounting. It's also similar to the accounting and the fairgrounds. There's [00:50:19] two and terms like [00:50:20] described it to me, but more sort of, I don't quite understand this. [00:50:23] It's a there's a gay counting. It's a counter that was 123456. Okay, but that language is quite similar to the language of the underground language of prostitutes and the underground language at the fairgrounds. But, but other terms like why Toma white tomo was a white cat, a policeman, and they it was because that was talking about them having big assets because their pants was so big, but all Commodores Commodores were the cars in the 80s that were the plainclothes castle cop was called a Commodore because all of their plainclothes cow plane cars were Congress, everybody knew what they were. But those those words, you you, most people don't know them anymore. But they come from that that little group. And [00:51:04] so people know the older pillory. And people you know, the new kind of texting language, all that all the online acronyms, and they know all their acronyms. But this is a little piece in the middle. That's, that's not so well known. And true. And that was a very successful between modern English. That's not non A, which is a more of a Queen's thing on a behold and true, you know, prove the whole [00:51:28] block totally. [00:51:29] But today we go. Totally. Yeah. So um, this is Yeah, so there was in that in that group that's kind of dropped down. And it didn't completely drop it up. Because none of those things are discreet, completely discreet. And there is there is lots of stuff. And I think that if you look at us Historically, the stories that run through that space are the ones that reached the media, and the oral histories because we can't get to so many of those mean, they're harder to pitch together. That's that's basically it, especially with those oral histories, disagree with the idea, the ground narrative of the birth of the tribes, and all that sort of stuff. [00:52:05] Do you think that lots of people in the 80s and 90s. Also, you know, we lost potential leaders, we lost people who now would be seen as the kind of elders of the LGBT community? [00:52:21] No, no, no, because I don't think I tend not to look at it in a deficit model. I just think that those those men gave us something, they, I'm not turning them into matters. But they, they, [00:52:37] they taught us [00:52:41] that if you don't become political, it has a terrible cost. If you don't take control of your own communication, it has a terrible cost. So today, we have, you know, the website, you putting this on all these things, they exist as good things, because there was a time when they didn't exist. And we saw the consequences of that. And even though that may not be logically put together, it is a consequence of a knowing that is cumulative. And so, you know, our people, I mean, I could be 12 years old, going back and put the article there, and I could contact rainbow youth on my computer. fact that wasn't there in the 1960s. You know, so we understand as a people the importance of not only telling our own stories, but also of activating media and and, and and making sure that the way our stories are told more authentically our own, rather than being grafted onto a sensationalized other picture. [00:53:37] My third encounter with you was at the Asia Pacific Games, the Human Rights conference, where you're giving a paper on Dockers. And [00:53:47] I'm really fascinated by the idea of hidden histories of language that has maybe been lost that are used in specific groups, can you tell me where that interest comes from the [00:54:01] I like quite honest people and and so within that, I'm not glorifying the sex trade because there's some some crap stuff about it. But, but I'm also not dismissing it because there's some really good stuff in there. But the same way as with you doing this, you realize when in the broader narrative of what it is to be a New Zealand when there's a gap, and there's a gap, there's a gap so that most people didn't even know there are six workers even if you go I can take you through a truth in 1914 1516 [00:54:31] and here they all are, will go off, you know, as the concept of it as just make Bigelow male gigolo, you know, and you fuck, fuck [00:54:42] no, no, no, no. And, and so I just think that it's important. It's also important for our own people, for us to understand that there are dimensions to being gay. It's not a singular thing. It's not a monolithic construction. And, and also for people to realize that six workers are not [00:55:00] tragic school dropout to a junkies who, you know, will steal the eye of a needle. It's, it's, it's another industry, it's another industry. So I was really interested in in kind of going back and trying to get some of that narrative. And I did some of it through oral histories. And there was some of the most interesting interviews, like interviews with elderly men and statehouses up and Bob Wellington, you know, and and when they start talking, they slip into the language, and all the stuff comes out just just wonderful stuff. That's the richness of oral histories. And, but I was really interested in this language, because it's not the same as gay language, because not all male sex workers were gay. And, and it's like, gay language doesn't have a lot of word from a lot of words for money, where's that's an important one. They don't have names for clients. So while they might have similar words, for the police, there are others that are quite different. So it's interesting, kind of trying to get this other stuff so that people didn't go on. Now, sex workers, they must be the sleazy gay, young gay guys, which it's not, it's a different, it was never a culture that was well accepted into gay society anyway. And it's never been that accepted into women's sex work. And so the set is a kind of a strange, isolated, little phenomenon. And I'm just interested in in those parts that they become and Richmond's to what it is to be a New Zealand. [00:56:28] So how did you find people to talk to networks? [00:56:31] somewhere you do? We just use networks. And that's the wonderful thing about inside researchers, we just their families, [00:56:40] a grapevine and and with it comes to authenticity, people go you can talk to him, he's all right. He's family. And that's that that's the hidden part. I mean, I'll do this interview with you, because I trust you. If you were from Metro, I'll be guarding this very different even though it's still going in the public domain. And, and that's the one of the great things that that our people can do is inside researchers is that we have although we have a very high responsibility, then because we live in that same community or, or lot of people in that same world that we're trying to document. [00:57:14] It means that we can get to stuff other people can't. And that's a good thing. [00:57:19] Talking to those older men about male prostitution, did anything surprise you? [00:57:26] The humanity, the humanity, it No, it didn't surprise me. It just reminded me again, and the [00:57:35] strength, the strength of some of those people, you know, you know, in my Gleason, so very rough hotel down the bottom of town, some of the stories and the dealings with the police which I thought we had it rough, nothing, nothing compete. Just the tenacity of some people and you go, Jesus don't start wimping about what a hard life you've got you nothing compared. But more than that was the, you know, I can think of one worker who [00:58:08] he worked both as a man and as a woman, but he, he does prison visits all the time. So he's retired, you know, prison visits is in the Murray Women's Welfare League. And he's a good man, just a really, really great man. And, and that's the thing that sometimes going my dad used to say this thing about, sometimes to the hottest fire comes the strongest iron. And I know it's a kind of a, an old cliche, saying, but it's actually very true. Some in some of them, I mean, who have paid pretty rough costs, but they don't see that as part of the persona. They, they give a great deal back a great deal back, you know, from oftentimes to a society that oftentimes treated them like shit. But it's not revenge, it's just compassion. And that's pretty cool thing, you know, get to [00:58:58] your film boy from 2004 kind of brings all those threads together in terms of, you know, male prostitution, small town, you all kind of creative [00:59:09] energy. And by the way, I love your visual aesthetic. It's just amazing. [00:59:16] Talk to me about that film, is it something that could have been done at any earlier in New Zealand, then 2004? Do you think? [00:59:25] That's an interesting question. It didn't, I wasn't waiting for permission to do it. And stylistically, I don't think it could have happened much earlier. Because it was draw it drew a lot of its, its aesthetic of music videos. And I was interested in how it might tell the story in a way a music video would but music videos would never tell a story like that. So it was kind of looking at the hedge demonic construction of societies music videos using their device, but telling a story that wouldn't touch and MTV sees it looked a little bit like a TV commercial impact. So in that regard, the subject FUCK IT people were talking about male prostitution. Back in the 30s, you can still trace it back through literature. [01:00:06] So [01:00:08] no, no, I don't think I'm I mean, I wrote my first book a queer short stories, and it was published in 1982, or something. was not if you think you'll do it, you do it. You know, so I don't know. I don't think it was waiting for its time. It just that stylistically, it was much more of a of [01:00:27] a period. Do you think it was harder to make a quick story? [01:00:32] Yeah, because you pay a cost, because then everybody wants to put in the queer ghetto, and go so what's your next film about what queer things the next film about and you go Actually, my next film was about pedophilia. I go [01:00:45] and you go on interest in the human condition, you know, in what it is, it was about a false accusation of pedophilia, and it was sort of like, well, that's a bit strange going off the off the mark and, but one of the things I've got that I'm really quite staunch about is just because you are Marty or gay or whatever else does not give people permission, even your own people to put you in a shoe box and go that that's, that's the definition of your territory. No, no, no fact that cleaners is is a ticket to being able to talk about the human condition. And, and you look at people you know, I look at [01:01:24] people like that talking about the same thing way, way back, same issue going issue would going I might talk about some queer stuff, but don't assume that I'm only going to talk about queer stuff. [01:01:34] Just and let's not post gay, let's just common sense. Yeah. [01:01:39] Well, speaking of words, what word would you use to describe yourself or words? You know, gay, queer. What [01:01:46] would you still use gay? I mean, I I know I use queer sometimes in academic writing but [01:01:52] I heard it called out too many times to put to really said anything more than just a kind of a literary term it doesn't fit [01:02:01] okay, but but really, probably would just rather use the term Fuck off. You know? I think he's really really I'd really if if I was known as a good man, that would be cool to him, you know, or kind or thoughtful or strong those things help but you know, I don't want people to introduce themselves as a heterosexual I'm not particularly interested I just want to know and because it up make an embarrassing you know, assumption like you know, when I invite you to try and hook you up with their sister or whatever you know, I don't deal with that. That's the only that's the only kind of declaration [01:02:37] and that's quite cool now is that you know a lot of a lot of our younger gay men don't [01:02:43] it's not hiding sexuality is just going I'd rather not have that as the major thing you use to determine who I am [01:02:53] but but if the issue comes up I'm fucking in the [01:02:58] rock feel it [01:02:58] because I you know, very front pensive of, of of, of gaming. [01:03:04] So with boy it was was it not it was nominated for an Academy shortlist [01:03:09] at what was shortlisted here. [01:03:11] What does that mean for you? [01:03:12] Well, it's funny because it it got really bad reviews in New Zealand it was it was put in the New Zealand Film Festival and it got slated absolutely slated and the same as with most of the film that followed it a bunch of didn't even get selected for the New Zealand Film Festival but one Lucerne and it's it's won all these awards overseas but still hasn't screen here still hasn't screen and won't want it's just but I don't make my work for New Zealand anyway I love this country and I the stories from it feed what I do, but I don't make it I don't make the work going I want you know I will make this so it fits New Zealand sensibility and so there's no it doesn't look like a I mean I cannot wait there's seating is recognizable, but it's not stylistically a New Zealand short film. It's it's doesn't belong anyway, it's just a different way of talking and mounted looks like the 1961 New Zealand but it's it's not a New Zealand looking film it certainly picks a [01:04:13] lot of kick for like when they didn't accept it and the New Zealand Film Fest where apparently the response was too long and too doc fuck it was doc it was telling a shitty story but it was true story you know, so so I didn't I I didn't I just I'm very proud very proud to be you know, be here and be in New Zealand a lot of my stuff's interested in the rural because that's [01:04:37] that's where I grew up. And and it's kind of where I live [01:04:41] still [01:04:42] and and and it's easy for me to talk from a voice that I understand and that's why sometimes queer things come into my work because that's the voice I understand. But soda academic voices and a whole lot of other voices of [01:04:55] like [01:04:56] texting while you are building houses those things come into play of [01:05:01] TechCrunch answered [01:05:03] it does I'm wondering what what effect on you doesn't have not having a New Zealand audience [01:05:10] sometimes it feels said and that's because the people who help no film is one person's name and the amount of generosity talent that goes into that is phenomenal and I've worked with people who I'm an aura just both for their talent and their goodness you know, just fully belief in something [01:05:32] and the difficulty is that their friends don't get to see it you know, they can give them a DVD but you know you make it with the production value so it works on a screen with all its nuances of sound and all its great all that stuff is sitting that you get it DVD is [01:05:47] fact it's tragic [01:05:48] you know it's not it's not so good [01:05:49] it's not said and so you know you're sitting over in Berlin watching the thing or you're you're in now [01:05:57] with the bio [01:05:58] aware of it beard was playing up there you go fuck no one will ever see this in New Zealand no one will see it like this. No one will see it. And it's funny the university tomorrow at screen the university is putting a screening down at the cinema Academy but that's just because it was part of my professorial address and because I want to really address on practice lead scholarship not you know I'm creative scholarship and so those fists a few people sort of here and so they've asked for another screening but it's but that's just kind of in house better no no just you know all I really want because I'm not I'm not a person is hugely swayed by awards or anything All I want is enough selling get money to make another film that's it and then I want to make the best film I can that's it I don't give a fuck about the you know when when boys in the New York Film Festival me standing up there put the fucking special spotlight on you all these people standing up you don't know standing up giving you an ovation and you just go [01:07:01] it doesn't doesn't register but on the walk I'm thinking I want to help me get some more funding [01:07:09] if I can get to make my next face and that's a little fact fact that glamour I'm not not interested in that but just if if it could get me my next piece finance that would be cool. Be cool.

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