Honorees

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Frank DeMayo

Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all and my dear, I’m Still Here …

Frank began his illustrious theatrical career at the tender age of 15 when he was cast in a small role in the Hamden Player’s production of Picnic.  The next season they mounted a children’s production of Cinderella, choreographed by Hamden native Judyth Nilsson.  This was the real beginning!

He danced with his mentor for nine years during which he got to sit on the edge of the Shubert stage in New Haven and to sing Over the Rainbow.   Two European tours later, he hung up his ballet shoes when he realized it would be a little hard for a chubby 5’4” dancer to make a living. Singing and dancing were important to him, however, so he went full throttle into the role of Emcee in Cabaret.  A straw hat circuit tour as a chorus member in the summer stock production of Cabaret starring Anna Maria Alberghetti and Silvia Sydney followed, but that is another story.

Plush velvet sometimes, sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here …

At age 12 he had discovered Judy Garland, whose music would change his life. A pair of Ruby Red pumps were given to him for his birthday some years later, which only made the Garland obsession worse.  He began impersonating her for some years.  His neighborhood was also made aware of his obsession because he constantly played Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall on speakers in the yard of the home where he grew up.    When she died in 1969 his activism began.  The Stonewall Inn in New York was a weekend hangout in those days.  The ensuing riots that resulted from the police tormenting and busting gays called him to action.  He became a member of the Gay Liberation Front.  There was not much that could be done on the home front in Hamden, CT so he traveled to New York City to hand out pamphlets, or ANYTHING that could get him involved to try to create change.

To earn a living, he began work as a hairstylist in 1972.  Still practicing the craft to this day has also afforded him the time and resources to pursue his other ambitions.

I’ve seen all my dreams disappear, but I’m here …

1985 began a down spiral for him, when he lost his mother, father and best friend in 16 months.  Alcohol, cocaine and cigarette addiction followed for the next 18 years.

In 1980 he met Andrew Dufault who has been his companion since that day.

It was at the opening of the New Haven Gay and Lesbian Community Center where as a founding member he eventually found this true voice.  Mentoring young teenagers became his calling.   He believes it is so important to listen, really listen, when people are in need.  That, if anything, is what he is proudest of.  While not college educated but coaching from his own experiences in life, he has made a difference in the lives of quite a few young people.

In the early days of the center, the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Community Centers held meetings of the northeast Region twice a year.  It is here that he met Michael Linnemmann and Jay Yoke who would become his dearest friends and travel companions.

The center also created a family of lifelong friends … friends that will be there for the rest of his life.  Most especially Julie Schlessel and Tammy Aiello, with whom he has created his own family, along with the couple’s two children, Jacob and Julian.

A new chapter was opened when, at age 62 he decided to begin college, something he had always wanted to do, by enrolling in Gateway Community College, where he is currently earning a degree in baking and culinary arts.

I’m almost through my memoirs, but I’m here …

He would like to thank all that have gone before him.

Lord knows at least I was there, now I’m here, look who’s here, I’m Still Here!