Sep 18, 2013

Summer 1977: The Gay Ghost of Davenport House

Darry: always standing beside me
11th grade was so crowded with new friends and boyfriends - - the preacher's son who liked nude horseplay, the rabbi's son who didn't know he was gay, the boy I slept with at music camp, plus others I haven't posted on -- that you may think I dropped Darry, my best friend in junior high.

But he was there every day, by my side through all of the events at Rocky High, steadfast in his loyalty and affection. He accepted my interest in boys without question, though he often tried to push me toward girls as well.

One night in the summer of 1977, shortly after I returned from Switzerland, Darry took me to a stand-up comedy show at Augustana College.  Afterwards we drove onto Arsenal Island, to the Davenport House, where Colonel Davenport, the first European settler in the Quad Cities, was murdered on July 4, 1845.

"What are we doing here?" I asked. "The Davenport House is closed at night."
“I work here, remember?” Darry said. He had a part-time job as a docent.

It was a two-story clapboard facing north to-ward the dark-flowing Mississippi, with green-shuttered windows and chimneys on each end. From the front porch I could see the lights of downtown Davenport, with the Centennial Bridge spanning the river.

When we climbed onto the porch, Darry pulled out a flashlight.
“I’ve been here before,” I protested. “Lots of times."
“Have you ever seen the room where Colonel Davenport died?”
“No – that’s always closed to the public.”
“Closed to the public, maybe. Not to us.”

Darry led me through the parlor, now a museum, past the gift shop and the dining room to the kitchen, which had mostly modern furnishing, including a new refrigerator and stove. An old servants’ stairway led up to the second floor, to a narrow hallway.  The banister staircase on the other end led down to the parlor.

Darry  pointed his flashlight beam down the hall. “They found him in his wife’s sitting room, there by the banister, and carried him to his bedroom, here, where he died.” He opened the door on the east end. It was sparsely furnished, with an old four-poster bed, a wash basin with an old-fashioned pitcher, a dresser, and two round red-upholstered chairs. One window looked north, onto the dark yard with the Mississippi beyond, 

Darry walked over to the dresser, creaked open a bottom drawer, and retrieved a pile of magazines. He climbed onto the bed -- not the one Col. Davenport died on, I hoped -- and sat propped up against the pillows. I climbed up next to him. The bedspread smelled of must and lavender room deodorizer. He began leafing through one of the magazines  –Playboy, I realized, shocked.
“Hey, that’s porn!”

The rest of the story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood

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