Mike Brunstedt Interview, 12 July 2023

Mike Brunstedt (b. 1964) was born in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and grew up in Macedonia. Mike discusses coming out as a gay man in the 1980s while attending Case Western Reserve University and his subsequent discovery of the Cleveland's underground gay and straight club scenes in the 1980s. He discusses attending various gay and straight clubs in Cleveland's Flats district in the 1980s and 1990s, including his participation in Cleveland's underground Club Kid and rave scenes. Brunstedt discusses moving from Cleveland to Houston, Texas, where he lived from 1993 to 2000 before returning to Cleveland. He discusses various changes in Cleveland's underground club scene between the 1980s and 2020s. He also reflects on the evolution of Cleveland's LGBTQ+ communities since the 1980s, including the impact of the AIDS crisis on the underground club scene and gay communities and his efforts to preserve Cleveland's LGBTQ+ history.

Participants: Brunstedt, Mike (interviewee) / Habyl, Riley (interviewer)
Collection: LGBTQ+ Cleveland
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Riley Habyl [00:00:01] Okay. Today's date is July 12, 2023. This is Riley Habyl with the LGBTQ+ Cleveland Voices Oral History Project. I am with Mike Brunstedt at his home in Cleveland. So, thank you for speaking with me, Mike. To begin, can you please state your name for the record?

Mike Brunstedt [00:00:19] Sure. Like you said, my name is Mike Brunstedt and I have a home on the West Side in Cleveland.

Riley Habyl [00:00:28] So when and where were you born, Mike?

Mike Brunstedt [00:00:30] I was actually born at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 1964. Then I contracted double pneumonia—so they left the Marine base and came out here. And I've been in Cleveland from 1965 to 1993, and then I came back in 2000 to the present.

Riley Habyl [00:01:01] So what year did you—. I should say—. So, growing up in Cleveland—what was the experience like living in Cleveland as a child?

Mike Brunstedt [00:01:12] Well, I think most of us loved the city. I actually did grow up in the suburbs, and on TV you would always hear people say bad things. But as you're living here you think, "I don't know, it seems kind of nice." Then when you get a car and you have a chance to drive around the country, you realize that it's just mostly a misperception. It's a wonderful place to live.

Riley Habyl [00:01:45] What is your current occupation?

Mike Brunstedt [00:01:47] My husband and I, we have a printing business [Full Color Printing] and we mostly just deal with files, and then we sub out the print jobs to what are called trade printers. And they—. They're printers that don't want to deal with the public and we get a discount, so it's a good setup. We have, you know, vendors, clients in all over the world, and we also have clients all over the world. Well, we actually—. Most of our clients are in Canada or the U.S., but more of our business is outside of Cleveland.

Riley Habyl [00:02:26] What year was your business established?

Mike Brunstedt [00:02:28] Originally, I st—. I—. Actually, my ex started it [Full Color Printing] in 1997. When we moved up here in 2000 and we broke up. I carried the business through 2010 until I met my husband. He was laid off during the financial crisis—so I actually met him around 2009—because he was in architecture, and after the financial crisis nobody needed an architect. So then we decided to take the business more seriously and we put up all kinds of websites, and we joined Plexus—our local Chamber of Commerce—and the NGLCC. So, it's going very well. We are lucky to have a lot of Pride business because for traditional print businesses June is a slow month. So it's all working out well. And then we take vacations in July.

Riley Habyl [00:03:40] That's fantastic.

Mike Brunstedt [00:03:42] Yeah.

Riley Habyl [00:03:42] So, what is your level of education and where did you go to school?

Mike Brunstedt [00:03:46] All right, so I have a Ph.D. in polymer science. That's basically plastics and rubbers. But I decided to slant that more towards the biomedical side of things. I went to Case Western [Reserve University] for undergrad, and then I went to Akron for—the University of Akron for a while, and came back to Case and finished up my Masters and Ph.D. And then I—. You know, I was disappointed to find out that most of the jobs that I had studied for weren't located here. So I had no choice, but I left Cleveland for about seven years, and then I finally just decided to make a career change and come back to Cleveland. So that's how it happened.

Riley Habyl [00:04:40] Is that when you left between 1993 and 2000?

Mike Brunstedt [00:04:42] Correct, yes, mhm. I went to Dallas and I really didn't care for it.

Riley Habyl [00:04:48] Why is that?

Mike Brunstedt [00:04:49] Well, it—. And this was when it was only half the size. It just doesn't have the amenities it should have for the amount of traffic there is, and so I—. I just didn't like it. The weather is terrible. It's cold in the winter and it's hot in the summer. And my whole—. All my relatives are up here, so, you know, I knew I wasn't going to be there forever. Some people do stay there, but that's for them.

Riley Habyl [00:05:29] Can you tell me a bit about your childhood and family background?

Mike Brunstedt [00:05:32] Sure. I'm the first child. I'm two and a half years older than my sister. We—. Well, I was born in Bedford, Ohio, and then we moved to Oakwood Village, and then we moved after that to Macedonia, where I spent all the way through, basically, until I started college. So most of my life is, um—I grew up in Macedonia with my sister. My parents divorced. My dad is in Tampa, or Clearwater, or something—and my mom's still up here. And, I don't know. I mean, as far as my childhood goes, as far as being gay—. I knew I was jealous of other boys in maybe second or third grade—more like first or second. But I was a serious student so I really didn't think anything sexually at all until maybe three years into college. Yeah, so, I was pretty I was in the dark about it all. And then I don't know if you're ready for the next question, but I can fill in the rest of that later.

Riley Habyl [00:07:09] Sure, we can go where—.whatever direction you'd like to go. We could always come back to things too.

Mike Brunstedt [00:07:13] Well let's—. What's the next question?

Riley Habyl [00:07:16] Actually, about—. When did you first meet other gay people, and when did you first start thinking about your identity, and—

Mike Brunstedt [00:07:27] Okay, well, that's—. (laughs) That's what we would do next anyways, right? Okay, so—. The way this all happened. The way I pried myself away from books was largely in the summer. Back then everyone used to go dancing, so—. I mean, there were even dance clubs 10 minutes from our house. Everyone was dancing all the time, so we started doing that in the summer. And of course, we only went to straight clubs because I didn't even know there were gay clubs, and I wasn't telling anybody that I was thinking I was gay or anything. So we start out there, and then, you know—. When you do that regularly—which a lot of us did—you're always looking for something different. So the first time that I was truly exhilarated in a nightclub was in—. Around 1984, when I was about 20. We went to the Nine of Clubs [1273 W. 9th St.], and it was an underground club. I didn't know it at the time but most of the men were gay—because nobody was talking about that—and most of the ladies were just underground types. I don't know. They could have been lesbians. I don't know. But it was a place where it was dark. You didn't have to pick up a girl to go dance, so we were all just doing our own thing. And then you kind of start to get—you kind of start to get sucked into this whole underground nightlife thing. You know, one weekend on Memorial Day on Sunday night, somebody says—. One of my friends says, "Oh my God, there's this huge party at this place called the Ritz." So I'm like, okay, let's go there. When we got there—I mean, the line was like three blocks long, and so I went, "Well, you know, we only have till 2:30," but we got in—and it was a gay club. My straight friends took me to a gay club. I think they knew more about my sexuality than I had time to think about back then. So here we are in this gay club, and of course what I did was, I said, "Oh, this is a gay club! Let's go back to the", um, where were we—"Let's go back to the Beach Club and the Flats." So we went back to the Beach Club. And then as soon as I got rid of all of them I went back to the Ritz [1021 Sumner Ave.]. And I stayed until 7 a.m. And boy, it was an eye-opening experience. I saw—. I mean, I saw two people actually have sex in the balcony, which is like—. It's not like a little corridor, there were—. It was like a VIP lounge, and these two guys just started having sex, and then—. So then, on the way out they had all these publications. So I picked those up and I was just stunned that there was a list of 25 gay bars that I didn't even know anything about. So I started going to those, and I also went to the underground clubs. And it was a fun time. It was stressful, too, because Case is not easy. It's not easy to graduate from Case Western. Especially grad school. Well, all of it. So unfortunately, the career path I chose then led me to a degree where you kind of had to move to—. I was too specialized, so I kind of had to move. So I moved to Dallas. And then I looked for years for another job and I found one in Fort Worth, which is right next to Dallas. So that I was like, you know, you only live once. Let's just chuck it all and live where I want to live. So we came back up here.

Riley Habyl [00:12:20] If we could go back to your early introduction to the club scene—the friends that you were going with, were those straight friends, or family members, or—?

Mike Brunstedt [00:12:32] Okay, so, the crowd that I ran around with back then, they were straight. I know that now. I just didn't realize that most of the men in the clubs were gay because there really wasn't a lot. Everyone was just interested in dancing. It wasn't about sex. Remember, this was also the, um, the start of the AIDS thing, which really changed a lot of behavior, but—. So my friends were straight, and I think they figured out that I was gay, even though I don't think you can tell by looking. I don't know. But—. So with those people, we spent a lot of time in the underground clubs and they took me to a gay underground club. And then after I found that book, I found like there's all kinds of other gay clubs that are underground. So on any given night of the week, you had at least two good choices where you could actually go and dance. And I would do that for hours until I was drenched every time, yeah.

Riley Habyl [00:13:59] Can you describe the state of the underground club scene in the early eighties?

Mike Brunstedt [00:14:04] Yes, it started out—. It was all driven by the deejays, but it started out mreally as a mix of college kids and streetwise kids that probably went to the Cleveland public schools and skateboarded around, and did crazy things with their hair, and things that I would never think of doing, and it was really just an interesting mix. Some of the things I saw—. All right, here's a few examples. One night at the Nine of Clubs, somebody brought his Raggedy Ann doll, and he set it up against the wall at the dance floor and danced with it. I mean—okay? (laughs) Another person—he tethered a Barbie doll to his belt loop, but the tether was so long that Barbie was bouncing off. (laughs) So I'm like, "Well, that's a bad night for Barbie." And then, you know, late in the evening when it started to clear out—. One day I turn around and two guys and a girl locked in arms and just rolled down the stairs, and rolled right into the middle of the dancefloor. And to me, this was just—. I had never even thought anything like this would ever happen, and it just kept drawing me in and drawing me in. And every club was so different and so big and so nice. I mean, I saw so many national acts, and then as time went on, this was also—. There's kind of a transition, which I realize more now. There were gay bars before I went to the gay bars, and a lot of those actually have 'pig rooms' in the basement. And if you don't know where that is, that's where horny men go to have sex. And I know the guy across the street, he ran one of those. And um, what they did was—on the main level, on the second level, on a third level, it just seemed like a normal place. And in the basement, you would just check your clothes and go have sex, and then at the end of the night they would like, hose it down to get ready for the next day. And they actually had, um, red lights in the basement, and if the police came, the red lights would flash and everyone would stop having sex. Now, I missed all of this. So I told you that—and this is all a couple of years after, well, I told you I was shocked to see people have sex at this nice first gay club I went to. But apparently, it was a lot more common than I thought. So what happened over time was—people were petrified of HIV and AIDS. It never got that bad here. But I can tell you if any of my friends ever went to New York City, I wouldn't be friends with them anymore just because of that. So what happens was, a lot of these original gay clubs—they closed, or closed the pig rooms—and then nobody came and they went out of business. And so this club I'm describing—later, like maybe two years later—opened up as a gay nightclub called Detour [1281 W. 9th St.]. They had video screens—television screens in the floor—and it was paradise. And in that basement, it was all cleaned up and they had pool tables instead. So what really happened then is, as time went on people became less interested in sex and more interested in dancing and watching shows and stuff like that. So, you know, there would be fashion shows or whatever. And there were several clubs—maybe six or seven clubs that were all doing this—and so they were always trying to one-up each other. So, you know, one night some—someone would have their—they bought black lights and so they would have a glow party. Well, all right! So then all of a sudden the kids running around are painting themselves with neon paint and everyone's glowing, and it just kept getting crazier and crazier. And somewhere around probably 1990 was actually the birth of Cleveland's Club Kid scene, which—. A lot of people don't know that we had a Club Kid scene, but I have the pictures, and I always wore a helmet, but I painted it differently every night—sometimes there was a pyramid on top of it. I always put, like, glow things on top of my glasses so I could see through. I remember one kid, he wore a birdcage on his head. Somebody else one night wore a traffic cone with a wig coming out the top. It was pretty crazy. And then—. So then, you know, that started happening in the clubs. Then the deejays were like, okay, we'll throw raves. And then people were staying out forever—all night. And unfortunately then—. I left at this point. Disappointing. But—. So what really happened was the gay c—the gay clubs became less sexual and more underground. It kind of affected the drag scene, too, because people who like to dance don't really want to watch a drag show. So Cleveland's drag scene kind of died, and I don't think it came back until maybe Bounce [2814 Detroit Ave.] had the drag shows that were way too long, and that was around probably maybe 2000? Now drag is huge. And at—. While we were doing all of our Club Kidding here in Cleveland, I'm sure other cities still had their drag scene. But for people here, it was just all about dressing up strangely and dancing all night, so it really wasn't about shows that interrupt the evening. So—.

Riley Habyl [00:21:46] Before we go into a little more detail about changes to the club scene during the HIV/AIDS crisis, and then the evolution of the underground scene—. Can you tell me a bit more about some of the differences that you experienced in the early '80s regarding attending straight clubs and the straight underground dance scene, versus the gay underground dance scene?

Mike Brunstedt [00:22:05] Okay, so we might as well just start with the straight clubs. Cleveland has pretty much—and they're always been certain incidents—. But Cleveland's always been pretty much open to whatever. So, you know, I never had any trouble getting into a straight club—drinking at a straight club—staying at a straight club—but they were never dark enough for me to go out and dance by myself. So there was one club called Noisemakers in the Flats, and they had a little, tiny little section underneath the DJ booth that I would go dance in, 'cause, I don't know (shrugs)—but the whole thing, it just didn't work for me to try to meet a girl and then go dance. I wanted to dance harder than she would anyway, so I had no trouble being in the straight clubs and they had no trouble with me being there, it's just—. Here were clubs where, you know, it was very dark and very easy to do whatever you wanted to. Now, there are—. Okay so, the Nine of Clubs [1273 W. 9th St.] and Aquilon [1575 Merwin Ave.], Lift [1575 Merwin Ave.], and Metropolis [2325 Elm St.], Trilogy [2325 Elm St.]—those were what you might call straight clubs with a lot of underground kids. Most of the men—. Well some of the men, a good portion of the men I know now were homosexual. Then, you know, there were clubs like the Ritz [1021 Sumner Ave.] and U4ia [10630 Berea Rd.] and Detour [1281 W. 9th St.] that had the same deejays, so the serious straight people would come to those. And so it was—. There really wasn't a lot of difference. It's just like, the people who come to watch the fun people in the gay clubs were gay men or women, and the people in the straight clubs were—that came to watch the strange people were straight people, so they were all there to watch the same people. Yeah.

Riley Habyl [00:24:44] Would you say there was a better atmosphere in the gay clubs, as far as you're talking about the lighting in the gay clubs and how there wasn't a lot of—the straight clubs weren't as dark and they didn't have, you know a big LGBT following?

Mike Brunstedt [00:24:56] Okay, well, the underground straight clubs were nice and dark. The underground—. All gay bars were always dark. It was just the traditional straight clubs that were a little too light inside do whatever you wanted to do.

Riley Habyl [00:25:13] That makes sense.

Mike Brunstedt [00:25:13] Yeah. I'm just saying, there was a lot of overlap between the underground in the gay world and the straight world. More, more—. Now I realize more than I knew back then, because we used to have—we still have reunions and you know, Iike, they'll have the Nine of Clubs reunion over Thanksgiving or Christmas. And so now, you know, you notice that the men were gay. I mean how would I—. I never even knew. But we were, I wasn't really interested in sex that much anyway. So, because of AIDS, I mean I was like, well, you know—if I'm going to go to college forever, I mean you might as well kill me when I'm a freshman, not when I'm doing my post-doc work or my doctoral will work. So I was, uh, pretty careful.

Riley Habyl [00:26:12] Mhm. When did your—. In what context did you first start hearing about HIV?

Mike Brunstedt [00:26:17] Oh, I just remember my mother. She would get the Plain Dealer every day and she would say, "God I'm so sick of hearing about AIDS!". Every article. It was an obsession with the newspapers. But, I mean, just like when—just like when there's a recession—when you're in college you don't know. You don't know that there's a recession—you just know you have a lot to do, too much to do. Well, I mean, I knew HIV was out there. In the beginning I don't think it really was in Ohio that much, but it did come. But it was rarely talked about. People just stopped having sex. That's kind of what happened.

Riley Habyl [00:27:12] I know you mentioned that you went with a lot of straight friends to the bars in the early '80s. Did you end up making any friends that were out as gay in the mid-eighties?

Mike Brunstedt [00:27:25] Well, you know, let's call it the mid-eighties, because the early eighties was more when they had the pig rooms and all that, which I missed. Even though I was just a few blocks away at Case Western I didn't even know any of this was happening. So, I'm sorry, what—. What was—. What were we going after here?

Riley Habyl [00:27:48] Sort of thinking about—

Mike Brunstedt [00:27:49] Oh, oh—. I know. I remember. So you wanted to know if—. There's this—. There's this thing called gaydar.

Riley Habyl [00:28:02] Mhm.

Mike Brunstedt [00:28:02] So, you know, from time to time, you could meet a gay person—and if they were interested, in my view, gaydar is just when two man—two men look at each other and don't blink away, because straight men don't look at other men in the eyes. So, in my view, that's what gaydar is. So, you know, if you lock eyes with somebody then it's possible that you might be hooking up. And there was also, I must say, no such thing as long-term relationships for gay men. But I never heard of any of that. In fact, you couldn't even get people to call you back, so there was a lot of hopping around. In fact, before the AIDS crisis, the city—and this is before my time—but the city was gripped by venereal disease outbreaks. And so the city even contacted High Gear—which is one of the publications for the gay community—about putting safe sex notations in—in the publication and articles about how to not spread V.D., and stuff like that but—. So even without AIDS, I mean, all this sex was causing a lot of trouble even before that.

Riley Habyl [00:29:48] So would you say that, around the time that AIDS became something that people were more aware of in Cleveland, did that cause any major changes to the way that people in the community interacted with each other, or that—or the way that relationships were formed?

Mike Brunstedt [00:30:08] Oh, I don't think it's—it was as, is—it was as extreme as some of the things they showed on the news where, like, a town would isolate somebody if they knew they had HIV. It wasn't like that at all. I remember being at U4ia and someone whispering, which was—it was hard to whisper there, but maybe back in the choir somebody whispering some—something about some guy who had HIV. But if, if there was—. The bars I went—. The places I went there just wasn't a lot of sex going on. You know, people just wanted to dance. And I should say, there were all—. There were still seedier gay clubs but I didn't go to those. So I'm sure they were having sex there, but, um, I don't—. I mean, I know people who lost a lot of friends, but they're just a bit older than me. It, it didn't really—. I personally, I only know of—. Well, I'm HIV positive, but I only know of a couple of other people that are HIV positive, and I am like—. Well, let me change that. When I moved to Dallas, they were still having sex down there a lot. That's probably where I ended up contracting it. So there were some funerals down there. It just didn't seem to be that big of a thing in the circles that I was inserting myself in. So we were safer. We were trying to be safer.

Riley Habyl [00:32:25] Do you think that was out of a greater sense of awareness of the crisis in Cleveland, or—?

Mike Brunstedt [00:32:33] Well—

Riley Habyl [00:32:33] Where do you think that difference came from?

Mike Brunstedt [00:32:34] I think on the coasts it took people by surprise more, and so maybe they didn't have time to change their behavior. I think that the gay clubs that I went to shared the same deejays as the straight clubs, and when the Flats just blew up into 20,000 people going a night, there was—. That heavily also heavily influenced the gay clubs that I went to because they were—they were trying to attract the same entertainm—entertainers. Alright, let's see. RuPaul. I met RuPaul three times in one weekend. I met her at Aquilon on Friday, which is a straight underground club. I met her some—. I might have—. I saw her at U4ia that same weekend on Saturday—and then I also saw her at the Ritz on Sunday—and so this was pretty common. The same thing would happen with Deee-Lite, Deee-Lite (hums Deee-Lite's "Groove Is In the Heart"). You know that song, "Groove Is in the Heart"? The same thing would happen with them. You would see them at a straight club on Friday—then a gay club on Saturday—then a straight club on Sunday. So they were all sharing and drawing from the same deejays—the same entertainment—so they really weren't all that different. I don't know if I answered your question.

Riley Habyl [00:34:18] Perfectly. No worries.

Mike Brunstedt [00:34:19] [Laughs.] Okay, good. All right, good. This is easy, alright, you just talk. Yeah, I don't know. I think we might be ready for another question.

Riley Habyl [00:34:29] Sure. Did you ever experience any instances of discrimination, or any negative attitudes, within the straight clubs? I know you mentioned that there were some, you know, gay performers that came to the straight clubs and there was a lot of intermingling between the gay and straight clubs.

Mike Brunstedt [00:34:47] There was. Well, the gay and underground clubs. I didn't exp—. I didn't—. I never really saw any incidences of people getting thrown out of a straight club because they were gay. But remember, gay people who—gay people have plenty of their own places to go, so they didn't really need to go there. Everything was cool in and around clubs. The scene was completely seamlessly mixed and in fact, it wasn't—. It was pretty much—. I don't want to say asexual, but it wasn't about sex, so nobody cared.

Riley Habyl [00:35:38] What would you say it was mainly about? Or, what was the main attraction to the underground club scene specifically for you and your friend groups?

Mike Brunstedt [00:35:47] It was the deejays and the dancing and, you know—dancing on boxes—dancing on the bar. It was just dance, dance, dance, sweat, sweat, sweat. It was the music, and the darkness. You go into the dark, yeah.

Riley Habyl [00:36:06] Can you tell me a bit about some of the—. Or I guess, some of your favorite clubs to go to in the '80s?

Mike Brunstedt [00:36:12] Oh, yeah, sure. Well, I already told you about the Nine of Clubs—people rolling down the stairs. There was a place on the fourth floor of a building in the Flats [district] where you took a freight elevator up, and it was—. It had different names on different nights. Its main name was Aquilon—that was the upscale name. And when they opened, what they did was they would have a big band playing from nine to eleven. So 20 people—a 20-piece band playing from nine to eleven—and then from midnight to four, they were playing techno and trance. So they figured out how—. It was very nice. They figured out how to fill the club up from nine until forever. And they also had a lot of fashion shows there, so they, you know—they had built a runway and they left it up so people could dance on the runway and stuff like that. There was U4ia, which was a wonderful place. It had, it—it had a stage where you could dance—had a dance floor—it had boxes that you could dance on. It had three levels where you can watch people dance and a bar that went almost all the way around the entire block, (laughs) so you could dance there or you could drink there too. I'm trying to think, what's the—. My favorite of all time was originally called Metropolis and it alternated names between Trilogy and Metropolis. It was enormous. It had—. Under normal circumstances, they had three deejays because they had two rooms and a VIP room with their own deejay. This place was nuts. One Christmas I walked in—not on Christmas day, but, you know, the weekend—and the place is full of snow—

Riley Habyl [00:38:41] Fake s—?

Mike Brunstedt [00:38:41] Fake snow. But—. I don't know what is going on here! So there's snow everywhere, they had put styrofoam trees up and they had Christmas lights. This is what they would do just to attract people for one weekend to their club. One—. For Halloween they had put the hoods of cars everywhere—and the little gnomes like After the Apocalypse—and a stench in the air. And for—in the summer they had a courtyard outside and they built a lighthouse and put a swimming pool and sand in. So, it the places would spend a lot of money on keeping people interested in coming to their place. Now, another way that they reached different audiences was they would offer different types of music on different nights. So that way, you know, people weren't always going to the same place and people knew where to go. Unless you were from out of town—then you had to research. But, and then there were—there were all the—the acts that came in. At the Ritz one Sunday night, they built a ramp to the second floor of this club through a window so Grace Jones could ride her motorcycle up this ramp and down into the middle of the dance floor. It was like this—. It was like this all the time, it was crazy. So, I mean, I wish all of this was still happening, but unfortunately times change, so—. But that's what a little bit of what it was like. It was—it was crazy, people are wearing strange clothes, and lights. And there was this one guy who I thought, "Oh, this is interesting." He carried around a flower pot, and people said, there—you go buy your drugs from him, but I didn't do drugs. So, the drugs were in the flower pot, and then he had always put a piece of tape over his mouth and put a hole in it so he could smoke and drink (laughs). I know. Where did the strange people go? Love it. Anyway, so, yeah. So I think you can kind of figure out why I went dancing a lot. It was very insane and a lot of fun, yeah.

Riley Habyl [00:41:45] It sounds like it was a world of its own almost.

Mike Brunstedt [00:41:47] Yeah, it was. It was, yeah.

Riley Habyl [00:41:51] Were you a part of any underground subcultures within these clubs? I know you talked about the emergence of the Club Kids in Cleveland. Were you part of the Club kids or—. I'm trying to think of some of the other subcultures that I've read about. I know there was a—. Not sure the term for it, but there was Glow Kids or something like that, I'm not sure if that's—

Mike Brunstedt [00:42:20] I was both of those. I was a Glow Kid. After we were introduced to Club Kids, I was a Club Kid too. So, yeah, I wore the craziest things. I—. Yeah. I had a lot of fun.

Riley Habyl [00:42:43] Could you tell me a bit more about what the Club Kids were and what drew you to them, or how that scene came about within Cleveland specifically?

Mike Brunstedt [00:42:52] Oh, sure. So, well, I already told you about how people were painting themselves in neon paint or blacklight paint. There was progression of craziness. One time somebody brought in a national act—and all it took is one person—but I think one or two people brought a whistle and they were blowing their whistle. And I was like, "I got to get a whistle!" (Riley laughs) And that's what it was—we were all trying to outdo each other. So within two or three weeks, almost everybody had a whistle and one person would blow the whistle and then everybody—. The whole club was just blowing whistles. I remember one night I was—this is a little off-beat, but yeah, I was definitely a Club Kid. We were dancing with our glow shit on, and then three Club Kids came into the club and just sat down on the dance box in the middle of the room, and we're all just, like, staring. What are these people? And then within two or three weeks, we had, you know, our own 25 or 30 Club Kids just running around from club to club—wearing the strangest outfits—going straight to the front of the line. That was one good thing about it. I don't know that—since I was so busy with school I didn't really make fr—great friendships with a lot of these people. And I mean, those are the only, like, subcultures that I recall being a part of.

Riley Habyl [00:44:44] In the '80s, were you active in the broader gay community outside of the underground scene in any capacity?

Mike Brunstedt [00:44:56] In that there—. There wasn't much. It was gay clubs and parties. I mean, we had a community center which was designed to help people, but I'd never volunteered there and I never needed help, so I didn't do—. I didn't have anything to do with that. But even by the time—. I didn't—. Okay, so, we had great publications. To start in the seventies—. What She Wants was considered, or it was described as—a lesbian and feminist publication. We had High Gear, which was a gay publication—but the High Gear was completely funded by ads from gay bars and lists of gay bars. And there were a few articles here and there (Mike's phone chimes). And they did talk about some problems, you know, like HIV or venereal disease or some other issues like—something, maybe some controversies. But I was studying for—. I was studying so that I wouldn't fail out of Case [Western]. I didn't come close to failing out of Case, but I—. That I kept going because it was too late to quit, honestly. So I really didn't have, I really didn't—. The only interaction I had with these people really was from time to time we had—. We may have slept over and had sex or something, but the only other thing I had in common with most of these people is we all liked to dance and act weird.

Riley Habyl [00:46:58] So you don't feel like there is a strong sense of community, or community cohesiveness, outside of the bar scene and club scene—at least as far as you were aware?

Mike Brunstedt [00:47:09] I meat at that time, if you think about it—I think our first Pride parade was 1988, so that wasn't happening. There was no [LGBT] Chamber of Commerce because nobody that owned a business was going to say, "I'm a gay-owned business," unless it was obvious you were in, maybe in Lakewood somewhere. No, I don't think there was much going on. There were a few good publications, but by the time I came along High Gear and What She Wants were done and the Gay People's Chronicle had started. But that was something where you had to subscribe to it and they delivered it to you. Well, I didn't have time to read a newspaper. But they went through a lot of—. You know, they did—. All three of those did a lot of good writing. Now, since you had to subscribe to Gay People's Chronicle and they delivered it, you know, the mags that you found in the clubs were basically just, you know, program booklets of bars, and lists of bars, and parties at bars. I mean, there wasn't much, there wasn't much back then. It just like—there wasn't much to gay male relationships. There—. People just moved around a lot, yeah, so it wasn't—. It was nothing like it is today. I mean, imagine I come back to Case in 2000 and they have an LGBT Center at my school. I mean, that blew my mind, so there wasn't much back then.

Riley Habyl [00:49:09] When did you first start noticing some of the changes as far as—your relationship to the community or the—to the gay community more broadly, or your awareness of a sense of community?

Mike Brunstedt [00:49:20] Right. Okay. So, yeah, when I returned in 2000—think it wasn't until Jeff came along, and it must've been 2009 my husband—and then he was laid off and we're like, well, we have to—. We have to get out there and market a business or, you know, we're—we'll be broke. Oh, we'll be broke. So that's when we figured out or learned that there was a gay Chamber of Commerce called Plexus. Probably had 50 members back then—and that was extraordinary because a lot of cities didn't have a chamber of commerce for LGBT at all. In fact, even the term LGBT is kind of new, and—in the eighties you were either a gay or a lesbian. It was just—. That's it, nobody had thought of other things. So we decided to join Plexus—which is the gay Chamber of Commerce. We meet a lot of people there. There's now over 350 members in the gay Camber—Chamber of Commerce, which is very useful for if it was—. It was instrumental in our new Pride that took over from the old Pride, the—the Pride in the CLE. They organized the first one in two weeks. Because for a few years we had two Prides, but what happened was—and I think it was 2014, '15, '16—and one summer there was the Pulse nightclub shooting—I think that was that far back. And then that was the summer that people were driving busses into crowds of people or like running around just stabbing people in England. And it just became too expensive for the people throwing the Pride the old way to make it safe. So one year it rained, then the next year all this happened and they were like, I don't think we could do this anymore. So they weren't going to have Pride at all, and then the Plexus stepped in and they organized the Pride—changed the name to Pride in the CLE and they did it all within two or three weeks, yeah, location, everything. Because now you have to have people on the rooftops, you have to have helicopters, I mean, it's insane, it's sad, it's really sad what you have to do. So we were talking about organizations. So, I think since Cleveland's been so gay for so long, like back to the fifties, you know, we have a lot of older gays here that have—are good at organizing things. And I think it was because of their efforts that we landed the 2014 Gay Games here. And now that we have, you know, 350 members—including several Fortune 500 companies with departments that have budgets to shovel cash at gay causea. It's just incredible. And I think if you think about it, with that kind of organization, we can do almost anything we want to here. So I think that there wasn't much in the eighties, but there's more here than in most places right now.

Riley Habyl [00:53:45] Do you think that the visibility of the LGBT community in Cleveland has increased over time?

Mike Brunstedt [00:53:51] Oh, yes! You know, one interesting thing was after we won the Gay Games, it really forced us to peek further out of the closet because we had to—. We had to find places to have all of these events. We had to train the police on how gay people might act a little differently. We had to get sponsors. And what we did was we stuck our necks out of the closet. And I don't want to say we—because I had very little to do with, you know, the event itself, but I'm just—. As an observation, the whole community had to stick their heads out of the closet, and what we found is what I've known the whole time: Cleveland doesn't really care. They were like, "Come on out!" And so the 2014 Gay Games is—I believe—the most sponsored LGBT event in history. It had 15,000 personal sponsors and 2,000 companies and organizations around the city that were sponsors. It's the only Gay Games that, at that time—I don't know if anybody has since—that ended up with money left over so that they could start a—like a trust or something. I don't think it's that big, but it—they threw the whole event and had money left over which is impressive. It's the first gay event to have, you know, a title sponsor—so it's something to be very proud of. Now, Cleveland also is the only city to—in the world—to have held the Gay Games and the Stonewall National tournament—Stonewall National summer tournament—it's the only city in the world.

Riley Habyl [00:56:10] What do you think it is about Cleveland that made that possible versus other cities?

Mike Brunstedt [00:56:17] See, I think we just have—. We have a strong bench here. We have activists that are like—I'm 59, I will be in a month. I'm 59. I know people that are 69, 79, and they're still active in the community organizing things, and they have time to do it, and so you end up getting good submissions and you end up winning a lot of things. Plus, Cleveland is an easy place to attract events because downtown is practically like all arenas and event spaces. You can do something on a ship. I mean, it's a great place to have an event.

Riley Habyl [00:57:03] How would you compare the LGBT community generally in Cleveland to when you were living in Texas, the community there?

Mike Brunstedt [00:57:14] Ah, okay—

Riley Habyl [00:57:14] Are there any major differences that you experienced?

Mike Brunstedt [00:57:18] Well—

Riley Habyl [00:57:19] —in terms of, like, environment, attitudes?

Mike Brunstedt [00:57:26] Other than the fact I couldn't stand living down there, I think it really wasn't that different. They were younger, because the city is basically younger. Nobody lived there before, so it's a younger crowd. I mean, we have young people too, but we have young and old. They have—. Most of their people are not old because people didn't live in Dallas, like in the fifties, you know, not as many. They had—I know they had a nice community center. Again, I mean, there just wasn't a lot of infrastructure back then. They—they were more sexual than Cleveland. They were—. There, there was more sex going on—and there were more deaths as well. So that—. I mean, that's the major difference is like, people were having more sex down there. I don't know, they just seem seemed horny all the time. So (laughs) it wasn't—. It didn't—. It didn't seem like that here—and it doesn't seem like that here, so. Although now—. I don't want to talk about what it seems like right now. But at that time where I was transitioning to and from, and from to—that was the major difference that I noticed is that people were having more sex in Dallas than they were in Cleveland.

Riley Habyl [00:59:14] Sort of related to that note—. When did you first start noticing the impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis on the underground scene and the, you know, the crowds and the scenes that you were a part of in the eighties and nineties?

Mike Brunstedt [00:59:30] Well—. There was no mention of HIV in the underground scene because those places really weren't places where you wanted to pick up people to have sex. It was more of a party. And the gay scene, you know, I—. The places I went people just didn't talk about it. I heard about it more in college than I did at any nightclubs. It seemed, it just seemed like—. I just—. I mean, this is why you'll need other interviews, because to me it just didn't seem like a problem. It didn't seem like anybody was talking about it or anybody really went places to hook up with people for a night. I think that kind of stopped. I think I missed that by a few years.

Riley Habyl [01:00:48] Were you involved at all in the—. And I know that I've read about in the eighties and nineties how there was a big push to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS in the bathhouses and in some of the clubs. Were you involved in those types of scenes at all, or did you know anybody—?

Mike Brunstedt [01:01:05] Oh. See, I never went to those clubs or bathhouses. Yeah—oh, the bathhouses, wow. I went to a bathhouse once and they had a swimming pool in there. I was shocked, and I was like, "Why do they have a swimming pool?" (Riley laughs) I just didn't—. I went to the bathhouse once. I—. I—. We—. I had sex. I mean, luckily I didn't catch anything, but I only went to a bathhouse one time.I think in my whole life, I think I've only been to a bathhouse one time.

Riley Habyl [01:01:48] Do you remember around what year that was?

Mike Brunstedt [01:01:51] Oh, let's see—

Riley Habyl [01:01:51] Like the early, mid-eighties or?

Mike Brunstedt [01:01:53] It would be probably around '88. Maybe '86. Somewhere around there.

Riley Habyl [01:02:03] Within the underground club scene was there a lot of—. At least within the gay underground club scene, did you ever experience or hear about—. I'm trying to think, it—. Was cruising culture a big thing within the underground club scene?

Mike Brunstedt [01:02:21] Yeah, okay, so—. I mean, people—. Moreso in the gay underground clubs than the straight ones. You know, people did want to meet other people. I think—. You know, I'm not an expert, but it may be the beginning point of male-to-male relationships that lasted longer than two weeks. It may have been at this time because I know, from what I've heard, a few years before that nobody was interested in getting your phone number, calling you back. In fact, you didn't even have to—. You just went in the basement and had sex. So I think AIDS might be the birth of longer-term gay male relationships, but I'm not an expert.

Riley Habyl [01:03:18] Why do you think that is?

Mike Brunstedt [01:03:20] Why I'm not an expert?

Riley Habyl [01:03:22] Oh, no, like— (both laugh)

Mike Brunstedt [01:03:23] Because I didn't have any long relationships. I had to study. So why—why do I think? Because people were trying to be safer. It, it was palpable. It just, people—. I mean, people were—. The only place people would really talk was in the ladies' bathroom because it was big—and they didn't talk about AIDS, they talked about catching up, so. But I think there was obviously more of an interest in dancing, less of an interest in casual sex and. Hell, we may have just discovered that this was the birthing of longer-term male relationships because before this time the longest was a couple of nights, that was it. And that's if you slept over. Again, I'm not really an expert at sex, though. I haven't had a lot of sex.

Riley Habyl [01:04:35] No worries. (both laugh) When did you start noticing major changes within the underground club scene, in Cleveland specifically?

Mike Brunstedt [01:04:43] Well, I mean—. Major changes. It was a—. It was—. At the time it seemed gradual, but the transformation from having one small or one small straight underground club called the Nine of Clubs and one large gay club that was barely an underground club—but on Sunday night. That was—. Probably within four years, you raced all the way to having six or eight of them—underground clubs of both types. And then the rave scene. And that was really from maybe five years, '88? Well, maybe it's longer, but it took a while, but—. See, what happened was the Nine of Clubs split in two, and one of the owners started Aquilon. And then other club owners are like, well, you know, "How can I get people to come here on the weekdays"? So, you know, some of the smarter ones would hire the deejays and then the people would follow. It definitely grew and grew and grew to like, supporting thousands of people on an evening. But it—the change was, as I already described it, was just from—from strange—I think local kids that maybe went to the Cleveland Public Schools—to this fantastic Club Kid scene and rave scene where people were staying out all night long. It was, yeah. I mean, that's really the changes, just, it grew. And, you know, when there's competition, people always try to outdo each other. So it just gets weirder and better, yeah.

Riley Habyl [01:07:08] More extreme almost?

Mike Brunstedt [01:07:09] Yeah, more extreme. More fun.

Riley Habyl [01:07:12] And is that the point at which—. In about 1993, was that the point that the scene was at?

Mike Brunstedt [01:07:20] Yeah, it was. Yeah. In 1993, there were like at least three rave—three raves a week—and you could go to several nightclubs on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and Sunday.

Riley Habyl [01:07:37] Were these raves hosted at any—. Did they change locations?

Mike Brunstedt [01:07:43] Yes. Yeah, yeah. What I'm speaking about are true raves. And so yes, they were held at—. And Cleveland had a lot of empty places back then. So there are plenty of places that if you could find the owner, you could throw a rave and give them a couple thousand dollars. But yeah, so that—. I don't know if you've ever heard of the Aragon Ballroom, but that was the place of Cleveland's first rave, which was fun and all ages too. And then there were—. There were some—several raves at empty warehouses throughout the Flats and Warehouse district. And then there was one on a level above Noisemakers that they weren't using. So there were plenty of places to have a rave. They were all over.

Riley Habyl [01:08:51] As far as the demographics of the people who went to the raves, was it a big, er—. Was there a big gay crowd involved in these raves, or was it more of a mixed scene as far as attendance goes?

Mike Brunstedt [01:09:03] Well, half the deejays were gay, so—. There was always—. And I—. Like I said, I didn't know, but there were a lot of gay men. In fact, I think all of the male Club Kids that I know—maybe like 90% of them—now I know are gay. Were gay. Are gay.

Riley Habyl [01:09:28] Yeah. When you moved back to Cleveland in 2000, I believe you said—

Mike Brunstedt [01:09:31] Right.

Riley Habyl [01:09:34] —was the scene recognizable, as far as the state of the scene when you left versus when you came back? Was it—

Mike Brunstedt [01:09:41] Well—

Riley Habyl [01:09:44] —completely different or very similar?

Mike Brunstedt [01:09:46] Well, the—. The Club Kid thing died out, but the music was still crazy and there were still lots of raves and things. It did start to slow down. I should've never left. Maybe some of my places would still be open, but—. Through various tragedies, like—somebody drove their car through the entrance of U4ia, and then the club was closed for months, and then maybe after that, nobody went again. I don't know. Various strange things happened. And so then, when you get back, you have to find out where the new places are. The—. In the 2000s, the second Grid and Orbit [1437 St. Clair Ave.] and Bounce were the main gay places to go. Metropolis and Trilogy were still there, and there were still raves. Obviously the Nine of Clubs—which later became Alter House—had closed and so had Aquilon/Lift, I think where—. They had another name they called themselves—Smart Bar—that had all closed. But there were other places and, there were more of—. I would say like, those, those things that happened in New York with voguing. There were some of that, which I wasn't interested in.

Riley Habyl [01:11:32] Balls? Ballroom?

Mike Brunstedt [01:11:33] Um, Yeah. What did you call it?

Riley Habyl [01:11:34] Ballroom, like the ballroom scene?

Mike Brunstedt [01:11:36] Yeah, I wasn't really interested in that, but that was going on, but that was mainly more African American. So it was—. It was still good. There were still lots of choices. It wasn't like it was in '93, though. It wasn't as expressive.

Riley Habyl [01:11:59] It's about 2:30. I'm going to get to some of my—I guess, ending questions, if that's all right with you. I don't want to keep you too, too long.

Mike Brunstedt [01:12:05] Sure, No, you can keep me all you want. We can keep going if you want, or we can do whatever you want.

Riley Habyl [01:12:13] I've got a couple more, if that's all right.

Mike Brunstedt [01:12:14] Sure.

Riley Habyl [01:12:15] Yeah. So between then and now, what are some of the major changes that you've seen either in the underground scene, the club scene, or just in the LGBT community in Cleveland in general?

Mike Brunstedt [01:12:29] Oh, I think we touched on this. I mean, what? Well, clearly people don't dance as much anymore—which is sad and tragic. It's a really good way to exercise. But Cleveland has grown up and organized and it has infrastructure. And I mean, we have Studio West [Studio West 117, 1384 Hird Ave.] here. We have Plexus. The LGBT [Community] Center [6705 Detroit Ave.] is doing great things in a, a brand new space. So I think the—. It's like—. Oh, and of course, there's more than just being a gay or a lesbian. There's like this whole crazy spectrum that you can be now. I think it's just—. The scene has just grown up into like, 40 year olds, you know what I mean? It's just, it's—. Actually, the difference is astounding to me from what I remember—having no infrastructure to all of this infrastructure. I mean, it's pretty crazy.

Riley Habyl [01:13:53] Would you say it's easier to be out about your identity now than like, it is compared to the eighties or the nineties?

Mike Brunstedt [01:14:01] Well, aha, I think, yes, it's much easier. I don't think—. Remember, I wasn't focused on my sexuality, I was focused on trying to graduate and then trying to get a job. But I mean, things are very different. Yeah, I think in a good way. Now, of course, I mean, these—. Some of these apps are not good, but that's grandpa saying that here. I mean, I don't know how you just like—you just have your phone and it points you to somebody that wants to have sex. That's a little crazy. It's still dangerous too, people. But yeah, I think Cleveland has just grown up. Mhm.

Riley Habyl [01:15:07] Do you think that the gay and straight underground scenes or the—. Do you think that those sort of scenes have become more intermingled over time, or is, is there still a separation between—?

Mike Brunstedt [01:15:24] Oh, I see—

Riley Habyl [01:15:24] The gay underground and the straight underground, or is there a lot of crossover?

Mike Brunstedt [01:15:28] Okay. The underground itself barely survives. But the mainstream, from what I've heard, some of what the kids are listening to, because I still listen, is—. Would work for me. I w—. I could dance some of that stuff. But as far as having underground nightclubs, it's all become mainstream and so it's pretty much gone, yeah.

Riley Habyl [01:16:13] Just trying to check my notes here—. (papers shuffle) I think we've touched on most of my major questions.

Mike Brunstedt [01:16:16] Okay.

Riley Habyl [01:16:16] Is there anything that you'd be interested in talking about that we haven't mentioned so far?

Mike Brunstedt [01:16:23] Um, well, I did a lot of talking. Um, yeah, probably—. I think we touched on pretty much the whole thing because I wanted to get in—. I wanted to get in the blurb about how we're so organized and how we were able to land the Gay Games, and I talked about Plexus and the NGLCC. I don't know, I didn't say what that is, but that's the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce—and that has grown quickly too. Yeah, I think we touched on it. Pretty much.

Riley Habyl [01:17:11] Cool. As a final question, what is a message that you like to hear, er—. One more time. What is a message you would like others to hear about your experiences, or the experiences of people like you?

Mike Brunstedt [01:17:29] Oh, we never touched about Pride Museum—.

Riley Habyl [01:17:32] Yes. We should get back to that, and the Cleveland Flats website.

Mike Brunstedt [01:17:36] Well, the ClevelandFlats.com website [theclevelandflats.com] is also on PrideMuseum.Plus. It's under a section where you can see the Club Kids, you just click on that. But—. Asking about why I wanted—if there was anything else I wanted to let you know. I think Pride Museum [pridemuseum.plus] says that. The reason I started this was because I heard—. Well, things have changed so much. I think you—. History. You gotta document it somehow. So I wanted to do that. But I had heard some 'experts' say some things that I was like, "Well, I got to look into that." Somebody was saying that Columbus had a gay Pride parade before Cleveland. I was like, "Nobody even lived in Columbus!" So I had to—. I had to do some of this work. So I started collecting things off of eBay. And it just so happened, I mean, I don't think we got lucky, I think it's greed. But one of the people I bought stuff from, he's like, "Oh gosh, I have free boxes of stuff over here." So we actually met during the pandemic—in December, outside—and went through all the stuff. And I bought it all, and I scanned all and I put it in and I'm like, "Oh my God, we have a Pride museum!" And then as I'm going through this, you know, this is what I discovered about—. Well, the first thing I did was—. Er, the next thing I did was I, I was—I went through an analysis of all of the mainstream publications in the Cleveland area—which is mainly the Plain Dealer, but there were others way early on. And I just put it in buzzwords, like—I don't think I used gay because gay had two meanings back then—I think I used lesbian and homosexual. And then, um, I clipped all the articles. I don't know, I think there's hundreds. And so that's when I was like, "Oh, these poor women." They were fighting for the same things in the seventies that they're struggling to fight for now. It's just—. Frankly, it was depressing. I—. But I wasn't going to stop. So then, you know, you start talking to people and there—. Our friends John [Nosek] and Leon [Stevens], they run High Gear, and they ran High Gear for years—so they had old copies of that. So I scanned all that in, and then I found the missing, um, additions on microfilm somewhere and I bought a thing and I clicked and converted it to digital one at a time. Boy, that was fun. That I also was able to buy the entire collection of What She Wants from a library in Wisconsin. And then I met—. My friends pointed me to Martha Pontoni who had all of the issues of the Gay People's Chronicle—and she had already had them turned into PDFs. So what I really wanted to do was, I thought if I finished those three publications then I'll have enough to bring this to the wider world and market—try to get a team together to do this. Well, it took quite a while. We, but I did use some of the skills that we used for our printing company. And you can do certain tasks over and over in Photoshop, so I was able to make a lot of the pages readable that way. Then I figured out, well—. So then they're on the site. I'm like, okay, none of it is in text form. It's all JPEGs, you know, it's not OCR, which is optical character recognition. So I'm like, okay, so you have 40,000 pages here—none of which can be read unless you go through it one at a time. So then I figured out a way to have Google do the OCR. Then I was like, okay, this is good. We have all this information. Then I realized that when Google slurps up your site, they'll start with all the pages and then they cut them down gradually. And I'm like, well, I don't like that. So then we found a company that would just do our own search engine. And so now—basically from the late 1800s to around 2015—it's all searchable. And so now if anybody—. And you know, I never did find out if Columbus had a Pride parade before us, I never did. But I can go find out! So, yeah, PrideMuseum.Plus. I'm very excited about that. And after my vacation, I'm kind of looking forward to opening that up to the broader community and seeing who's interested in using our infrastructure to maybe give it a home.

Riley Habyl [01:23:47] Do you have any plans for that as of now?

Mike Brunstedt [01:23:50] No, because I'm going on vacation (laughs). I had to build—. I had build a contest, a contact list, and now I have to write the letter or email thing. But I'm going on vacation, so that—. That'll happen. Okay.

Riley Habyl [01:24:09] Do you have all of the materials for the website, um, housed anywhere? Like if—do you have physical copies of all the materials you have?

Mike Brunstedt [01:24:16] We, I have—. Okay. Martha [Pontoni] has the original microfilms for Gay People's Chronicle, but I have all the files. But I don't have any of the paper issues for Gay People's Chronicle. We have quite a few of the High Gear. I have none of the What She Wants. But in my view, that's not going to make a great museum just having old newspapers. What's gonna have—. What's gonna make a great place to visit is something that uses that information interest—. In an interesting way. So I'm not really so concerned about having a lot of artifacts—although I do have a lot of photos and stuff like that—and they're in my closet for now—for now. But, so I—. I don't have a lot of the newspaper stuff. And I figure, you know, with time people would probably donate their stuff. But for right now, my thrust was really getting the information in a way somebody can use it.

Riley Habyl [01:25:39] And just from experience with the—with this oral history project and then the other project that I'm working on related to this one—the [PrideMuseum.Plus] website's been a fantastic resource.

Mike Brunstedt [01:25:50] The—. The uh, digital map that you want to make?

Riley Habyl [01:25:52] Yes, oh my God it—

Mike Brunstedt [01:25:52] Oh, I can't wait to see that, and I hope if we ever do have a home we can use your Cleveland oral history project as well.

Riley Habyl [01:26:00] Yeah, that would be so cool.

Mike Brunstedt [01:26:01] Yeah, I think this is—. Yeah, this will be a great—a great hookup combination of our work.

Riley Habyl [01:26:08] Thank you so much.

Mike Brunstedt [01:26:09] Sure.

Riley Habyl [01:26:11] And if it's alright with you all, I'll circle back to that last question.

Mike Brunstedt [01:26:15] Okay.

Riley Habyl [01:26:17] So what is a message you would like others to hear about your experiences or the experiences of people like you?

Mike Brunstedt [01:26:28] Okay. The message—

Riley Habyl [01:26:32] —for somebody who might listen to this now or in the future.

Mike Brunstedt [01:26:36] Right. I think that—. It doesn't matter what I want people to hear. It's all right there on your recorder and you're going to transcribe it and people can just look it up. It'll be fine.

Riley Habyl [01:26:54] Fair enough.

Mike Brunstedt [01:26:54] Yeah, yeah. I'm not concerned too much about that.

Riley Habyl [01:26:57] Great. Is there anything else you'd like to add before I stop the recording?

Mike Brunstedt [01:27:04] No, I think I got it all in.

Riley Habyl [01:27:06] Great. Thank you so much for speaking with me today.

Mike Brunstedt [01:27:09] Sure, it was a pleasure. Beep.

LGBTQ+ Cleveland

This collection features oral history interviews with LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Same-Gender Loving) community members, leaders, and activists in the greater Cleveland area. Interviews explore the history of Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ communities, groups, organizations, places, and spaces both past and present. Interviews in this collection were conducted by Riley Habyl, a graduate student at Cleveland State University Department of History, beginning in the summer of 2023.…