Parting Glances: Sled-teams, celebs, P51s

by Charles Alexander

It never fails. Long about July I'll have forgotten how bleak, brutal, backbiting February -- short guy with 12 sibling rivals -- can be. (Little wonder: by midsummer it's HTJ: "Hotter than July," in more ways than one.)

Winter keeps me hibernating. No sled-team trips for pleasure to "hotspots" Ferndale, Royal Oak, Ann Arbor, or Chicago. Living in Detroit's Cultural Center I stick to the DIA (Detroit Film Theater now has long-awaited new seats), Main Public Library (carries Village Voice), and, for stimulating culinary delight, Twingo's restaurant, just a hop, skip -- and occasionally a fully appreciated jump -- away; and, for chats, at nearby gay-owned and operated University Copy Center.

I've been a fan of Twingo's for years. It's had two owners: Geoffrey Kalish -- who liked on occasion to get in drag and sing an unvarying repertory of three throaty torch songs (A-sharp for gown; B-flat for delivery); and, for one year of innovative, renovated ownership: John Lopez, dining-out impresario of Union Street, Agave, and Atlas Global Bistro.

(John -- straight, Mexican. diversity simpatico -- did a Traverse City restaurant stint in 2004. He left disappointed, frustrated, finding the popular tourist spot "gringo haven, provincial, smilingly homophobic," following that city's much-publicized rainbow bumper-sticker fiasco.)

Twingo's LGBT-friendly. Waitstaffers Molly, Jessica, Jen, Swanky, Amy, Melissa, Scott, bartenders Greg, Steven each have chummed around with 'our gang' long enough for celebrating, occasional high camp, and ally support. (Scott -- Queen B-Movie Buff of Twingo's happy hive, with total Betty Davis script recall -- came out a "star" to his family at 16.)

In addition to frequent "family" diners (and a sadly misguided neighborhood crossdresser) Twingo's draws celebs: svelte model Kate Moss, out-and-about FOX-TV anchorperson Charles Pugh, Detroit Opera Theater director Dr. David DiChiera, noted pointillist artist John Strand; five-star dining columnist Molly Abrams, and, "ready for my close up, Sunset Boulevard": moi-meme.

Apropos of Black History Month I was fortunate to meet a true celebrity (and hero) of World War ll fame: Alexander Jefferson, Lt. Colonel (Ret). A native Detroiter, former school teacher, he's a member of the speakers bureau of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. He stopped by University Copy Center for Black History Month repros.

Manager Bob Maddox, staff members John Fowler, Julio Dominguez, gave the colonel something of a hero's welcome (and a generous discount for "services rendered to our country above and beyond the call of duty"). Sensing a PG exclusive, I modestly introduced myself. (The colonel hadn't heard of BTL; or, no big surprise to NASA, aviation, or the London blitz, me.)

Jefferson -- who 63 years ago flew 18 P51 "redtail" Mustang escort missions over Europe, was shot down over Germany, spent many grueling months as a prisoner in Stalag Luft lll, near the notorious Dachau concentration camp -- was wearing his trademark Tuskegee Airmen's bomber jacket and flight cap. (He was awarded 14 medals and a Purple Heart.)

He's mentally sharp; physically fit at 85. How many of you are still around? I ask. "About 200 out of 992," he says. "As the first all-Negro 332nd Fighter Group pilots, flying 200 combat missions, we made history, and brought about full Armed Services integration."

The Quotable Jefferson: "It's hard to fly with eagles when you work with turkeys." And: "This is the best country in the world. Many times somebody asks me well, Col. Jefferson, aren't you an Afro-American? Hey, wait a minute, I say. I am an American. Everybody here [NASA Conference attendees] you are an American, give yourselves a hand." Gays included?

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