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John Porcari Pride

My brother died on April 16, 1989. He was 6 years older than me. He was a wonderful brother, son, uncle, friend………… He left too soon and I wish he was here to share so many memories. Growing up, of course he was older so we didn’t hang out. As I got Older, during the late 1960’s and 1970’s, we became a lot closer. Johnny, which is what we called him when we were younger, loved Music. He was my influence for the eclectic music I love today. Especially Motown. Johnny graduated from Freeport High School in 1969. While he was In High School he dated and went to his Prom. I overheard some conversation About some issues in school, but I was young and really didn’t understand or Know what they were. He was apparently abused both in High School and Religious instruction. My family did not know this until much later. Back then You really didn’t talk much about these things. I guess, you really didn’t talk Much about a lot of what was inside of you. Johnny was raised by my mother, My grandmother and grandfather. There were always lots of aunts and female Cousins at our home. Fun, laughter, music, parties, 61 South Main Street was Always full of family. My brother’s Dad and our mom divorced when Johnny Was very young. He really didn’t have a male influence in his life. Yes, our Grandfather was there, but he worked and was involved with the Freeport Fire Department, American Legion, The Elks Club, Veterans of Foreign War And many other activities, clubs and causes. (Sound familiar 😊) There was never a steady male influence. I feel my brother was Conflicted in many ways. As I was getting older, I didn’t notice any Girlfriends he would bring home and talk about. He had the opportunity To go to college, colleges – Indiana State University, Hofstra, Farmingdale, A college in Germany and actually studied Theology at Molloy College (ironic) John was bright, good looking, charismatic, and very talented in his Ultimately chosen career. John was a hairdresser. Not just a hairdresser, A specialist in color. Back in the 70’s hair color was mixed and he knew how To get the right color for his clients. He could also cut and blow out hair, but His specialty was color. He had celebrity clients like Hedy Lamar, Milton Berle (his toupee) and many politician’s wives. He worked in well known salons, such As, Cinandre and Kenneth’s in Manhattan. Clients had him flown to Washington DC to color their hair. He was busy and well compensated for the times. John Met lots of people from all over. Working in the city gave him access to so Many different people that it made him strive. He could be himself. He could Be with and love who he loved. Johnny was gay. He never said it directly, but it Was evident. Again, not so accepted by many, back then, so it made it difficult To just be yourself comfortably. We all knew, but my family just didn’t talk About it. As if it was unmentionable, really? John would party at Studio 54, Dance with the stars, before “Dancing with the stars” Liza Minnelli, Cher, Bianca Jagger…… Champagne Moet flowing. Dance, Dance, Dance. Now it was the 70’s, free love, peace and no real restrictions. Of course, There was the Viet Nam War.

At this point, John embraced who he was. He lived and loved in his homosexuality.

Not overly flamboyant, but then Again, I wasn’t with him all the time. He frequented the clubs and gay bars In the city. He would go to the bathhouses. He had boyfriends, handsome Guys. He always said to me that I needed to come to the city and experience The culture. He worked and partied hard. I, of course, had my own life. Still in High School and what that entailed. Growing up with my own questions. Not knowing who my dad was. (Another story)…. My brother’s homosexuality Was not a concern of mine. I was fine with it. Really, did it matter? You love Who you love! He traveled with his partners. He went to Europe. He lived his Life. Unfortunately, his lifestyle ultimately caused his death. Unprotected sex, Not uncommon, was flowing free. Hell, Woodstock! John wasn’t aware or just Was in the “moments”, so to speak. He started feeling ill, or we were told by Him, early 1987. You wouldn’t know it, as he never really complained. He was slowing down somewhat. He talked about becoming a priest. Hence, His degree in Theology. He donated to the church, formula and diapers for Mothers who could not afford them. He was a very giving man. He was Thrilled when I married and had a family. He loved my husband and my Two boys. Christopher’s middle name is John, after my brother. He was Also his Godfather. At this point, John was not feeling well and now we could See it. He was diagnosed with Pneumocystis Pneumonia. HIV/Aids were all The worry at the time. Especially in the gay community. People were dying. Some of his friends were dying. The medical community didn’t know a lot About this disease. Just like COVID, so much different information is being said. John went to North Shore Hospital, Infectious Disease and they started him On AZT. A very strong drug. We talked. I listened. I would, sometimes, take Him for his treatment. He hung tough. This was devastating news for all of us. His/ our lives will change forever. The news all over the world was not good In relation to HIV/AIDS. People were dying and there was no good news. No cure. Plenty of remedies, unaffordable for most. No answers. Most Importantly, we wanted to keep him calm and happy. He thought he had At least 5 more years. This was so hard to accept. I could only imagine what He was going through. He had moved back home from Manhattan, not just Because he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, but because he had been assaulted In his apartment, tied up, beaten up with a sneaker print on his face, by a man Who his roommate brought home that night. He moved back home with my Mother and my grandmother. He had his own apartment, on top of a store, Where we all grew up, in the middle of the village, Freeport. He had family All around him and we were all available to help. He really seemed fine for A while. We noticed him losing his balance every now and then. We just Thought he was tired, with work and the AZT drug. He would have weekly Visits to his Doctor. One night, March 26, 1989, to be exact, it was our Aunt Joyce’s Birthday, and another celebration at 61 South Main Street party. We were having a great time. Dancing, singing and partying. He went to get a beer out of the refrigerator and fell. I noticed. He came out to sit for a while and seemed offbeat. Not like him. He was unsteady most of the night, not having anything to do with the beer. My family were very big beer drinkers. My mother, grandmother, the whole family. The drink of choice. Always a 36 pack in the refrigerator. I am sure if they were all here today, their beer of choice would be Jones Beach!!! I digress. Sorry. My brother also enjoyed beer. After noticing his fall and unsteadiness we knew things were speeding up. He had survived the pneumonia, he was feeling the effects of the AZT and his overall health was taking a toll. We knew it would not be long. Funny how anywhere you went, if you had AIDS, you were a leper. He fell that night March 26, 1989 and was in the hospital April 14th. He couldn’t speak, he sounded like he had had a stroke. He had his mind, but could not express anything. He had tears coming down his eyes when he tried to speak. We couldn’t understand everything he said, only some. I talked about the past with him and growing up. He smiled, I laughed, just to bring some comfort. April 16, 1989, Randy and I were waiting for a babysitter to watch the boys so we could go visit my brother in the hospital. The babysitter was late. When we got to the hospital, he was gone. We were too late. ☹ The night before, I visited him and we had a nice visit. We reminisced. I of course spoke and he smiled, nodded his head, sometimes a tear would fall from his eyes, he knew it was soon. I assured him I would see him tomorrow. I told him Father Ralph would be there tomorrow. I knew when we went to the hospital the next day and he had passed, that he had waited for Father Ralph and went peacefully. I was sad and angry. I thought why would God take my brother when there are so many bad people in the world?'' I wanted my children to really meet him. Understand him and know that he was a good man. Yes, and know that he was gay. After he passed, I visited Father Ralph and he made me feel so much better. I was no longer angry with the church. I wondered why this disease took my brother and so many people. My Aunts put together a piece to the Memorial Aids Quilt and it now is incorporated into the massive display of quilts recognizing Gay people. You can search his name today and find his piece of quilt. It has a hair blower on it, The Wizard of Oz Tin Man, he loved that movie and Judy Garland. So many memories and bits of his life. I think of him often and again wish he was here, but now he is watching from above and smiling. The Gay Pride Movement is very important. It helps those who are not ready to come out, those who need to be heard and acceptance for just loving who they love. My brother would love to be part of all the exhibits, tributes, parades and recognition. I wish he could see how far Gay Pride has come. I know celebrating Gay Pride he would hoist a Jones Beach J.I. IPA and a Jones Beach Bathhouse blonde proudly. I think he would probably be more partial to the Bathhouse blonde, as he frequented bathhouses in the 70’s, LOL. In recognition and memory of John Porcari, I celebrate Gay Pride and Jones Beach Brewing Company’s support for this cause. My brother would be so proud today.

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