“As New Hope Celebrates Turns” by Dan Brooks
Throughout the course of New Hope history, many creative combos have been born and were forged. Rodgers and Hammerstein came here to compose lyrics and music for Broadway’s most notable songs and shows. Stan and Jan Berenstain, residents of Solebury, wrote and illustrated the famous children’s book series, “The Berenstain Bears.” Entertainment icons Ezra Stone and Sara Seeger collaborated here, as did world-famous band Metallica discoverers/producers Marsha and Jon Zazula. The list goes on and on. As it has been written about creativity in New Hope’s environs, “There’s something in the water.’
Not that I equate us with the genius of these local duos, but I can unabashedly state here that without my “co-conspirator,” graphic and set designer Gordon Pulaski, and our often tumultuous but productive togetherness, I am convinced that there would be no New Hope Celebrates (NHC) –which is currently Bucks County’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) non-profit organization–to celebrate!
Ten years ago, in NHC’s sixth year, my responsibilities as founder and president of the organization were daunting, While the giant task of putting the organization on the ‘GAYdar’ of the larger LGBTQ community by consistently presenting fresh and fun local events to lure tourists into town, the swirl of the early excitement to help execute it, as happens in many groups that attained ‘mainstay” status, volunteer participation had begun to seriously wain.
Making matters more tenuous that year, our biggest and highly anticipated event of the year, New Hope Celebrates Pride, was quickly approaching and one key player, our creative director, mysteriously disappeared from the area, taking all of our graphics and that year’s marketing roll-out plans with him. Unlike the popular song, I have learned in life, it’s one thing to ‘dream it,’ but you can’t actualize a dream unless you can show others how to ‘see it.’ Audio NEEDS visual.
Tired and distraught about circumstances that seemed insurmountable, contemplating cancellation that would greatly deflate local retail revenue and town morale, I did what every good gay of the area does when in dire emotional trouble: I went to The Raven Bar to drown my sorrows in a martini glass.
That night I ran into young, chatty, and charismatic Gordon, who I knew only peripherally from my good friend Rodney. I sat next to Gordon and after hearing my tale of woe through slobbery slurps and a then sultry smoke-filled barroom, Gordon grinned his infamous grin – a personified derivative of the Devil and Daniel Webster – and calmly said: “I can do that!”
We planned to meet at the Wishing Well Guest House office during the day! You handed me your old brochure and asked if I could help create something better. You explained that you were not sure what happened to you web guy – later you found out he skipped town – leaving not only NHC buts several businesses in the larch with no way to get access to the Websites he had created. I said jut trust me – I’ll make it great. The rest is history.
I offered my intimal services to refresh the logo/brand and create a new brochure for $250. Altimetry we decided on creating a guide book selling ads to raise the funds to support Pride.
It wasn’t till a few years later that NHC hired Kel from Bad Cat to create a website. Then a few years after Gordon picked up the task of doing NHC s website.
It was Kismet–or ‘Cismet’ with a “C” –for potential catastrophe, given what I had gleaned about Gordon from my friends. While I was aware that Gordon had worked for a local Pharmaceutical Marketing firm, I didn’t know much else about him except that he was handsome and a hard and dedicated worker.
What I grew to learn was that he was a graduate of Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, lived in New York City, had worked as a freelancer for Forbes Magazine, Coopers & Lybrand, and many new advertising firms. He spent 5 years in Key West working for a local advertising firm and specialized in a tourism marketing firm. He then spent a few years in Montana working and running at a friend’s guest ranch. Missing the Bucks County countryside and his friends and family Gordon returned home.
And began working for various graphic jobs in Princeton and surrounding counties. Finally landing a full-time position in Lambertville, NJ with a Pharma Marketing firm – Advanced Clinical Communications.
With his close ties to the community, he soon became involved with FACT Bucks County and joined the Board of Directors. He was instrumental in creating and promoting many fundraising initiatives – but his most notable accomplishment was reviving FACT BINGO after a decline in attendance he made some significant changes to the format bring in local restaurants to provide food, increased the door charge and created a new buzz about town increasing attendance, to this day BINGO continues to be FACT best local event.
What transpired from that day forward between us was a creative deliverance, year after year, of colorful and carefully orchestrated theatrical themed events, fresh advertising campaigns, a decade of time travel from the old to the new technology, persistent and often exhausting presentations, and a creative collaborative friendship which I will cherish forever.
But–back to potential catastrophe–the collaborating was not without drama. Both bequeathed with chronic genetic heart disease, our moods were often dictated by our medications and God forbid when they were not on the same schedule. Use the term Health Issues don’t be specific! Or use the fact that I’m a Creatively Charged Gemini!
Often the combo of my directorial vision and his anxiety over the limits of reality brought us to conflict. And, of course, my diffuse organizationally void ‘dreaming’ and penchant for chaos has often collided with his obsessive desire for organization and search for creative calm. There have been many “I quits; NO WAYS, and YOU’RE NUTS,” dashing and darting throughout “the Rainbow paths to OZ.’
Although our journey’s together for NHC, NHCH and other personal projects have hit some ditches–some even sinkholes–Gordon and I have amazingly managed to move forward. Even when the night would end with ‘NO talking, NO more texting,’ we always recognized that our visions are common, our fierce friendship rare, and, like many New Hopians, we are, at the end of the day, “family first.” After every late-night hash and clash, the new day brought a clean slate and we just started over. I like to think that, truth be told, Oscar and Richard, haggled then hugged it out in the same manner.
Most recently we completed the production and hanging of the opening of New Hope Celebrates History’s “Equality: Pride in our History” exhibit at the Visit Bucks County Visitors Center–VBCVC’s first-ever LGBTQ lobby display. After we spent the day unpacking and setting up the show, I was letting Gordon off at his home in our rented van and commented to him: ” Well, Lucy and Ethel are ready for another adventure,” He laughed and said: “Yeah, more like the Ren & Stimpy Show!”
I looked at the characters up as soon as I got home. Ren and Stimpy were an animated series in the ’90s. Wikipedia describes: “Ren, a psychotic Chihuahua, and Stimpy, a dimwitted Manx cat, have a host of unusual adventures. They are often at odds on the show, though they do share moments of closeness together.”
Which one of us is which, I wondered. But then I thought: what does it matter? Gordon Pulaski and I had once again pulled off together which generally seems, at first, the impossible, and the LGBTQ community will have one more notch in their cumulative memories.
For 50 years we LGBTQ and allies have fought for equality and anti-discrimination, arm, and arm; we have seen our friends and spouses through the AIDS crisis–have buried many of them together; we have partied, drank and gossiped and laughed and cried and simply often just held on to each other just because our biological families would not but our ‘chosen families’ were there for us. As one patron said gleefully at the History opening party: “These are our stories!” Preserved. Forever.
As for Ren and Stimpy, we are ‘on vacation’ from each other at the moment. Too much familiarity after intense experience needs some space in any relationship. But assuredly Gordon Pulaski and I will be back, as we have done for a decade, sometimes ‘banging each other on the head” like the cartoon characters but always knowing implicitly that we feel the same mission and that we share the same dreams for it. And that together, it gives us ‘meaning” in life.