Personal Histories – Roger Goodman (OC 68) (page 2 of 3)

And my friends loved me for it, and I loved me for it and I loved them back. I would say, I’m fifty-three years old, and it would be an honest thing for me to say that some of the very best years of my life were the years I lived here as a student, learning to be a faggot. An honest to God in your face faggot…

[After coming back from a study-abroad program in England in 1967,] I couldn’t believe what was going on with the faggots in that Con lounge. It was outrageous. It was blatant faggotry. Just blatant faggotry, without any qualms, or any sense of needing to hide a thing…And our part of the Conservatory lounge was when you walk into the doors from where that pond is…we were in the corner on the left. That was our corner. We had it….’Cause it was comfy, and the couches were L-shaped so you could see each other. We also had a very good view of who was walking by, so we could make nasty, catty comments about them…

There was a young man whose name was “Needs-a,” which was short for “Needs-a dress.” “Needs-a dress” was very femme, but “Needs-a dress” never said anything about being gay. So there would be all these faggots standing in the Conservatory lounge…and he would come walking through…and Steven [Lord (OC 71)] would say, “Oh, Needs-a!” And then he’d put his hands up to his mouth like this and say, “Do you think she’ll ever know who she is?” And we’d laugh…We had the sharpest senses of humor and the sharpest tongues, and we could destroy with a word if we wanted to…

The wit was so sharp, so right on target, so utterly riotous. People were even starting to snap fingers back then, and nobody was snapping fingers back then. I remember Steven Lord would stand in the Con Lounge, with his hand like this on his mouth, and one hand on his hip and he’d watch these men walk by. And he’d go [Snap! Snap! Snap!] with a sneer on his face like, “Who the fuck do you think you are girl?”…It meant that someone walked by who was not out enough. Cause we really wanted everybody out. Out out. So there was out and there was not enough out.

[Being “out”] meant to be outrageous in the Conservatory lounge. Being heard, being audible and visible and very queer. And it had a wonderful “fuck you” attitude…Very quick, dry, sharp-witted commentary on life. And some of us were very much the aesthetes…Oberlin had its aesthetes. It also had its outrageous campy queens…

[Camp] was outrage, but it was also a way for us to have community of identity. We were the special ones. We were the ones who the other Conservatory students looked to for our gifts, for our talents. We were the most gifted. There were lots of better technicians, you understand. There were better pianists, at least in terms of technique. There were better violinists, there were better singers. But we were the most gifted in terms of our musical gifts. We were the most emotional, we were the most expressive, we were the most exciting in performance…

I studied with an incredible piano teacher and pianist in London, at Trinity College of Music, who was a student of a student of Brahms. So my Brahms interpretation came directly down from Brahms himself; it was a wonderful lineage. And I came back to Oberlin and…played some Brahms on a student recital. And I remember that the audience was very uncomfortable about it, because it was outrageous. And it was angular and it was round and it was beautiful and it was passionate. And I remember Steven Lord, I heard him saying afterwards to some students in the Con lounge, he said, “Well you may not like it, darling, but you can’t argue with it, can you?” And that’s who we were. That’s who the queer men students—because there were no out lesbians—were; we were the ones you couldn’t argue with interpretably in our music. We may not have been the best technicians, but we were the best musicians in the Conservatory. There was no questioning that. And it made us feel special. It made our closet doors disappear. Not just open up, but disappear…

And you know, that was before Stonewall…Oberlin had its Stonewall before Stonewall…Stonewall were all my magnificent, brilliant, bright, lit-up queer friends…We were special, we were spotlighted, we were respected, and we knew it. And we played it for everything it was worth…

Ant Trip Ceremony album cover, with illustrations of band members with hookah inside mouth (Goodman at top right). Courtesy of George Galt.

Ant Trip Ceremony album cover, with illustrations of band members with hookah inside mouth (Goodman at top right). Courtesy of George Galt.

I didn’t spend all my time with this Conservatory circle, you understand. I had a number of straight friends, who were dear friends. I was even part of a rock and roll band. I was the lead singer. I’m a has-been [laughs]. I’m a has-been that never was. There was a band here at Oberlin that was quite remarkable. And I’ve come to find out that the recording that we did became a cult recording, a cult LP and has now been digitalized into a CD. And the group was called the Ant Trip Ceremony…It was very much a drug-involved name, because drugs were the mode of life for me, and for the circle of friends who were not gay. The gay boys in the Conservatory did not do drugs. I did lots of drugs, and I did those drugs with my straight friends. The Ant Trip Ceremony came out of our drug experience, of three of us…


Outskirts (Lynn/Evans)


Pale Shades of Gray (Steve DeTray/Joe DeTray/Roger Goodman)


Locomotive Lamp (Gary Rosen)

Copyright (c) 1999 (recorded 1968) Ant Trip Ceremony

And we all hung out together; me, those men, and their girlfriends. And those girlfriends were very woman-identified. And those men had a sense of their maleness that allowed for physical affection between me and them without them cringing. I could walk around campus with my arm around their shoulder or their arms around my waist. They knowing full well that they were straight, but being completely comfortable with their sexual orientation…In some ways they were as dear to me as my fabulous queer circle. And in some ways they understood me better. Because they saw me as more than queer. They saw me definitely as queer, but they saw me as much more than queer. Whereas, when I was with my circle of bright young friends in the Conservatory, our main identification was as queer artists. And I think that had a lot to do with the drug culture. You cannot take hallucinogenic drugs every weekend with the same people without developing a completely different kind of friendship dynamic than you have with those with whom you don’t take those drugs…

We were not just smoking marijuana. Not by a long shot. Marijuana was just our daily smoke, like a cigarette. The weekends were spent with absolutely hallucinogenic drugs…We were drinking LSD in its purest form…We were going to Mexico and picking mushrooms and we were going to the Southwest and picking cactus…There was one guy who flew to Nepal and brought back hashish. And part of the drugs opened me into a doorway of my greater consciousness to that which is me. I never misunderstood the drug as God, [but] drugs opened the door to a level of consciousness…

And it’s interesting to me that Oberlin was the beginning of my conscious journey as a spiritual human being. I wanted something more than just being human because I knew there was something more than just being human, that there was something more than just being a snail. And it was the ‘60s, and the Eastern spiritual paths were very popular. People read Buddhism and read Hinduism…I looked at Christianity, I looked everywhere to find an answer to questions that were not being met by me being a scandal…Part of spirituality came because of the drug culture at Oberlin.

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