In memoriam: Julie Roberts 1947-2012
There’s just no way around it. Readers will have to cope with the political incorrectness. The best photo of my recently deceased friend, Julie was taken on Halloween night of 1982 in her townhouse when we teamed up with our friend Ellen as the fictitious punk rock band “Rape, Pillage and Plunder”—punk rock had burst onto the scene and the three friends, all with responsible jobs where we wore suits everyday just wanted to have some fun. Julie (left) very sadly succumbed to bone cancer last month at the young age of 65. Her story of welcoming me, a gay man, to Washington, D.C. three decades ago is too important not to tell.
Harken back, if you will, to a day when most gays you knew stayed completely in the closet—and certainly your parents and employers were kept in the dark about your dark secret. The fact that Paul Lynde died and Adam Lambert was born in 1982 is colossal irony indeed. The first compact disc was manufactured, but there was no Grace for every Will in those days. You had to dig for your allies—you had Bette Midler on the stereo, and hopefully you listened to the Divine Ms. M’s advice and “got you some” friends. Mine was Julie.
I was in New Orleans, and when promoted and transferred to D.C. my friend Albert, with whom I’d shared many a debauched night in the French Quarter said he had this friend named Julie who was fabulous, fun, and “gay friendly.” We were operating our own pink underground railroad where “friends of Dorothy” could meet other gays and our allies. Back then, we left quaint phone messages on pink “While You Were Out...” pads, and when I returned her call, she said she’d spoken with Albert and was anxious to visit. (Instant acceptance—and she knew I was “one of those”—wow!)
“Have you ridden Metro yet?” she chirped. Back then Metro was brand new and looked like a futuristic world underground. “I’ll meet you at the Rosslyn station. It’s the longest escalator on the underground and you’ll think you’re taking it to heaven, but I’ll be waiting at the top. I’m wearing a white skirt and a blue blazer.” So here I was a wide-eyed twenty-something wandering the underground, knowing there was a friend in heaven. Sure enough, there she was, dressed as described, with a smile as wide as Texas. We immediately hugged, giggled about Albert, and drove off to Hard Times Cafe for chili. Albert didn’t tell me she was as funny as Lucille Ball and got in about as many jams. Thus ensued years of slumber parties, house parties, and Halloween parties—where again, back to the photo, pardon the fact that we laughed the next day that Rape Pillage and Plunder were fine together, but when Julie went off on her own to get a cocktail with that word written on her shirt—it was just so wrong—as we say today “on so many levels.”
Six weeks before this photo was taken, Julie invited me to Dewey Beach with her and a bunch of her friends. With “We Got the Beat” and “Gloria” blaring on the radio, we drove for seven hours to get to Dewey and found a lot of her friends mixing many many cocktails. It was a motel setting like Where the Boys Are was filmed, and I had a blast running room to room frolicking, chugging booze, and having pillow fights with the girls. Unbeknown to me, the founders of CAMP Rehoboth had just started a summer house share a few miles north up the beach. Could she have known back then—when she was my “training wheels”—that I’d come to settle in Rehoboth, find gay friends, make a life, and write a regular column she’d one day occupy?
More importantly, if life is truly about how we treat others, have I done as much for others as Julie did for me?
Julie had moved to Florida and our visits had diminished. We stayed in touch through mutual friends and I learned that a month before she died, Julie married for the first time, her boyfriend Terry, in hospice. Her bridesmaids were palliative care nurses, and her sense of humor remained until the very end. When “Rape” died, Pillage and Plunder joined several of her friends for a Big Chill gathering—a very odd name in the blazing heat that is Washington D.C.
I don’t know where we go when it’s over here on earth. Nor do I know how to explain how important the acceptance and love Julie showed me at a vulnerable time was. I just hope that someone met her at the top of the escalator, hugged her, and showed her love, kindness and support. She did it for me, and it will never be forgotten.
RIP Julie Roberts.
Brent Mundt resides in Washington, DC, but lives in Rehoboth Beach.