Queerty has obtained an exclusive firsthand account of the incident that rocked the gay world last week, when two men, Dennis Mayer and John Hart of Palm Springs (right), were arrested on board an Atlantis cruise ship in Dominica under threat of “buggery” charges, which could have carried up to a ten year prison sentence in the Caribbean island nation.
The men were eventually charged only with indecent exposure, to which they pled guilty, and were released after being taunted, scolded, and fined. But the episode has divided the gay community between those outraged at the cruise line for docking in such a gay-unfriendly port, and those outraged at the couple for their foolish behavior, which definitely included public nudity, and may or may not have also included public sex. Beyond the two men themselves, no detailed direct reports of the incident have surfaced. Until now.
Our witness, fellow cruise passenger Juan Claudio, tells it like this:
My boyfriend and I, and a busload of other guys, did see what was happening on the balcony of the Celebrity Summit as we waited for our excursion to depart.
At first, I wasn’t paying attention, until I noticed a few Dominican females near the security gate of the pier where the ship docked, waving their arms and hands towards the ship, and talking loudly about something on the ship. The others on board the bus also looked, and we noticed one, then two guys on the balcony walking around naked. My first thought was, ‘If we can see them, can they see us?’
The ruckus at the dock became more excited when it appeared, at first to me, that they were engaging in oral sex. The two guys in front of me then said, ‘No, they are fucking!’ As I leaned forward in my seat, I noticed that they were fucking, and in a standing position. It was very, very obvious that they were engaged in fucking. We were not that far away from the ship, maybe one half to three quarters the length of a football field. Again, did they know we could see them?
Claudio says some of the girls on the pier then grabbed a port police officer, who hadn’t been looking at the ship up until that point.
When the girls pointed to the balcony for the police officer to see, he then, himself, noticed the guys fucking. The police officer started to walk towards the ship, as other police officers also started to observe the action on the balcony. The balcony was just above Deck 5, where the lifeboats are stored, and only two or three staterooms from the elevator banks, on the port side of the Celebrity Summit facing the town.
As the police officer walked, then stopped, then walked again toward the ship, the two guys on the balcony were still fucking. By this time, we could see many people on the pier and onshore taking photos of the action taking place on the balcony.
As the police officer was walking towards the ship, many of us were thinking that these two guys would soon be going home. It’s the notion of fucking in plain view of those on the ground that was the shocking thing. It doesn’t have to be a gay thing since straight couples shouldn’t be doing that as well.
Claudio says that at this point, the excursion tour guide, who hadn’t noticed the live show on the ship, boarded the bus and began the excursion into Dominica. By the time they returned, he says the two men were being driven to prison. And the mood on the dock had changed.
After we returned to the pier after the excursion, some of the locals were not as friendly to us as they were before the balcony scene. I got the sense that they didn’t want us there anymore.
On the bright side, Claudio says that the incident “added some flavor to the whole experience” of his holiday with his partner Eugene. “This was our second Atlantis cruise,” he says, “and we intend to do more.”
Another passenger, Hugh Hysell, agreed that the episode didn’t put a damper on things for the 2,000 or so cruisers who moved on from Dominica.
“The mood was gossipy and very light,” says Hysell. “Most everyone found out about it throughout the course of the day, and Rich Campbell addressed the incident in detail at each of shows later that evening. He said that he was working with the guys and an attorney — and, as was later reported by the cruise director, a congresswoman — and that the guys did something really stupid, and would likely be out of jail the next day.”