Tommy Zane

In 2006, Ricky Paul was approached by Jonathan Valania of , an online magazine and bloggery in the 215 and beyond, about writing a gay column. Shortly thereafter, Tommy Zane, a fictionalized gay character based slightly on Ricky, and Gaybo were born. The column ran until December, 2007. Here are two excerpts from Gaybo.

Gaybo: Jersey Mall Horrors

My lover Ramon and I ventured forth into South Jersey this weekend, to spend some time with his family in Vineland. Mamacita was only too happy to see her favorite hijo. It was me, Ramon, Mamacita and his 49 cousins — in a pull out sofa. Or at least that’s how it felt, grabbing and crowding me all the time. Anyway, Ramon got nostalgic to see his old haunts, so off to Cumberland Mall we went. Now, this is no King of Prussia, with four flagship stores. No way. This is your typical run down, lowball, loser-ass kinda mall. And it was Friday night, during Christmas shopping season. What sights to behold!

We checked out Ramon’s old employer, Chess King. That was long gone and replaced with Hot Topic. All these creepy goth teenagers, some doing time at The Columbine Training Center, real miserable-faced bastards. We got an ice cream at Unfriendly’s, which also goes by SoSlowly’s which merged with SoPimply’s. The gay teen boys had such looks of desperation in their eyes. The manager ran out to the parking lot and I could swear I saw her slugging whiskey from a flask. At FYE, I found a cheap copy of Carnival of Souls but didn’t plan on the 4-year-old’s lollipop smear as I waited in line to pay.

We zipped through JC Penney looking for an exit and caught a nasty 30-something druggie couple screeching over some sneakers. That carried out to the parking lot, and I saw security rushing over to cool things off. Ramon & I drove down the road to grab a meal at The Millville Queen Diner, and what an ugly, inbred, obese group of people splayed out before us. It was like wandering into the House of Horrors at the amusement park. They offered us free day-old shrimp. An African-American woman wore the hat Oprah donned in The Color Purple. Now I know where all the carnies go off-season: Millville. There must have been an extra 10 percent off the bill if you weighed over 300 lbs.

That night, I dreamt I was visited by The Ghost of Retail Past, in the form of Two Guy’s Department store, a relic Target-type establishment from the 1970s. Two Guy’s took me to a bar where all the old stores were drinking and partying. Clover and Grant’s were playing darts, Bradlees made a pass at Woolco and Montgomery Ward was stripping. He invited me to join him on the box, then I woke up. What does it all mean? Am I whoring myself too much for cheap bargains?


Gaybo: She Sells Seashells By The Seashore

Nothing screams hetero entitlement and excess like a walk on the Boardwalk in America’s Favorite Family Resort, Ocean City, NJ. Never one to deny myself some good laughs at the expense of others, off I ran to the Shore with my girlfriend, Raven. As we meandered past the miasma of over-priced Curly Fries Stands and petrified pizza outlets, I noticed a sign proclaiming “the crust is full of meat!” And the meat is full of maggots, I snarkily replied in my own mind.

Suddenly, my attention was sideswiped by the shrill shrieks of a young Mediterranean girl with long hair. The cries were not from a spoiled child unable to get her way — this kid was in pain! We ran over to join the gathering crowd. Turns out, one of those pre-historic hermit crabs had fastened its pincers onto the girl’s palm. “Get it off me! Get it off me!!”, she wailed.

Her calm father slowly (sadistically?) pried the creature off his daughter’s hand. The clerk in the store hastily dialed boardwalk paramedics, who asked him enough questions to fill out a stack of Blue Cross forms. I envision future truth-in-advertising labels affixed to the crab shells: “Vicious, Hungry, Bloodthirsty, Biting Hermit Crabs — End of Season Clearance!” These will be sold next to adorable tarantulas and cuddly leeches. As we ventured past the many neon-signed junkeries and latest video game challenges, I found myself saying things my parents would have said 20 years ago. I remember when none of this was here. Funnel Cakes were only a penny! They used to use boll weevils the make cotton candy! Of course my response would have been something like, “Yeah, Mom, that’s fascinating, can I get 20 bucks for a half hour of Skee-Ball and a soda?”

All along the boards of this so-called family resort, I couldn’t help but notice shades of myself from yesteryear. Queer young people lost and bored amidst the endless blur of straight America. Many trying in vain for acceptance among a never-ending litany of fakery and lies, all in hopes of gleaning Mom and Dad’s approval, or at least a glimmer of respect and dignity in their otherwise confusing and sometimes hopeless existence. I sat on a bench facing the sea and imagined myself at 14, or 18. I could be surrounded by my family and friends, but so often felt alone. Surely, times have changed in 20 years, right? I stared at a lighthouse out on the horizon, and said a prayer.