From the Editor: The woman you see at the right goes by the name Janet Webb, but I call her “Gram,” a somewhat lazy pronunciation of “Grandma.”
This Janet’s a pretty radical lady and has been roaming this planet, wreaking havoc, for almost eighty-five years. Considering all she’s seen in her time, I decided to ring her up for a spur of the moment interview.
After the jump, read Janet’s thoughts on the gays, meeting my late grandfather, getting older, my younger self and what she thinks of anti-gay marriage activists. Her response may not be safe for work. That’s my granny!
Meanwhile, hats off to my mother, Marsha, who took this lovely picture with her camera phone. Mom, you’re so 21st century! Xoxo.
Andrew Belonsky: Hey, Gram. What are you doing?
Janet Webb: I’m having some ice cream.
AB: Oh! That sounds nice.
JW: It’s coffee flavored. Do you want some?
AB: I would love some, thank you.
JW: Oh, I wish you were here so I could give you some!
AB: Me too! So, I’m going to interview you, okay?
AB: Alright, first, how do you feel about moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, from Florida, where you lived for nearly for decades?
JW: I like it. I like it very much.
AB: I mean, moving into your daughter’s casita, does that make you feel like you’re losing independence?
JW: Well, you know, Andrew, we’ve never been this close before.
AB: You mean geographically close?
JW: Yep. And I didn’t know how much I missed her over the years. I don’t see her every day, but I know she’s here. So everything is wonderful, honey.
AB: What about to my sister, Laura?
JW: I don’t see much of Laura.
AB: That’s probably for the best. So, how old are you going to be this year?
JW: [Laughs] Eighty-five!
AB: That’s old! Looking back on 85 years, what are three events in history that really affected you?
JW: Oh, boy, that’s really hard to answer from the top of my head. So many things have happened in my life time – World War II, Korea, all that crap. A lot of war. Too much. Um, on a personal level – I think having a family that I have had, being as happy with my husband – not that we didn’t have our disagreements, because everybody does – and here I am, content and happy in the latter years of my life.
AB: Do you still miss Papa? [Ed. note: Pronounced pu-pu.]
JW: Oh, yes. I talk to him every night.
AB: Does he ever answer?
JW: I’ll let you know when he does!
AB: Will you tell me again how you met Papa?
JW: I met him on a bus.
AB: On a bus; like a harlot!
JW: It was 1944. We had an amusement park not too far from where we lived, and every Monday night they had dances, and my girlfriends and I were all going. And he was on the bus – he sat behind us, and that’s how I met your grandfather, on the bus. While we were there he danced with us, all of us girls – there were four of us. So we danced, but he wasn’t there the next Monday night. But he was there the following Monday. He had gone to pick up – he had ordered some new dress blues, his Navy uniform – and he had gone away to get it. After that, he was with me all the time.
AB: Did he start talking to you, or did you start talking to him?
JW: Well, I don’t think any of us – we were all just jabbering away. He was by himself, which was he was most of the time until I met him, and when we got to the park, he danced with the other girls and then he asked me if I’d like to dance, and I said I’d love to, so we danced and then it was intermission and he said, “Would you like to go out for intermission with me?” And I said, “Sure.” And we went.
AB: And did you guys kiss that first night?
JW: No, no. Heck, it was probably a month or more before we got home and he said, “Well, I’ve got to run and get my bus.” And he pecked me on the cheek and that was all it was – that was my first kiss from your grandfather.
AB: Was it love at first sight?
JW: Andrew, I thought he was awfully nice.
AB: But he lied to you, though, didn’t he?
JW: Yeah. He lied to me.
AB: What did he say?
JW: He gave me a fictitious name. [Laughs] He said his name was Petrovich. And I said, “What did you say your name is?” And he said “Petrovich.” And I said, “You mean ‘Peter’?” And he said, “No, my mother named me Petrovich, and my last name is Rabinsky.” And I said, “Oh!” It was a few weeks before I found out that he was lying. A friend of his told me and I found out his name was Stanley. He was always cutting up and joking!
[The editor as snappy by Brad Walsh during last year’s Princess Cordless photo shoot.]
AB: How old were you when you got married?
AB: Do you think that was too young or was that just right?
JW: For me it was alright. Well, let’s see – we were married in ’46â€¦ Yeah, I was twenty-three.
AB: And when did you have Marsha?
JW: Five years later.
AB: You waited a while, huh?
JW: No. We just couldn’t get pregnant.
AB: Oh, really?
JW: After two years we decided it was finally – we needed to have a baby, and it was almost five years. Heck, she was born in 1950, and then it took five more years to get your Uncle Peter. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s easy to have a baby.
AB: I won’t. I won’t let anybody tell me that, no. So, what you think of gay marriage? Should two men be able to get married? Should two women be able to get married?
JW: Why not? If that’s their proclivity, why not? What they do with themselves is fine.
AB: What do you think about all the people who argue that they shouldn’t be?
<JW: That they’re just trying to be assholes.
AB: When you were growing up – obviously gay people existed, but do you remember any gay people growing up? Did you ever hear about them?
JW: Yeah, there was a boy in my class; his name was Walter, but we didn’t realize until after he graduated that he was gay. We didn’t know – we were that niave maybe or maybe stupid, but we just didn’t know. We knew that he was different from us, but he would go to our parties, but – he was a good kid.
AB: What happened to him?
JW: You know, honey, I don’t know. I don’t even remember seeing him at our last reunion, and I was there for the 60th. I don’t know. But it was live and let live. Nobody bothered him. We had fun.
AB: So back then, being gay wasn’t – obviously people didn’t come out and say, “I’m gay,” so it was just accepted that some men slept with men?
JW: It was just – well, we heard people say, “Oh, I think actually he is gay.” Yada, yada – you know the routine, but nobody paid much attention to it until it was put in front of your face: “Did you know that Walter was gay?” And I said, “Well, we have known Walter all of our lives, so what difference does it make?” And they looked at me kind of funny, like they thought I was going to jump off the deep end, or something. But I liked Walter – he was a nice boy who grew up to be a nice man. I wish I knew what happened to him.
AB: When the Stonewall Riots happened, what was your perception of that – of gay rights, of all these gay people were all of a sudden saying, “I’m here, I’m queer.”
JW: Honey, I didn’t realize what they were doing.
AB: Oh, really?
JW: No, I didn’t have any idea. In fact, I think your grandfather told me, because I couldn’t conceive of any other way of having sex than they way I had it.
JW: So, that was it, but it was fine.
AB: What about me? When I was a kid, did you think I would grow up to be gay?
JW: No. I never gave it a thought.
AB: Really? Because I wasn’t very – boyish.
JW: No, you weren’t very boyish, but a lot of kids aren’t.
AB: What was I like as a kid?
JW: You were a delight. We loved you – your papa and I loved you – well, I still do, and he would if he were here, too. You’ve always been a thoughtful child, and man. Always. Even when you were little and we were at your house, you would always come and make sure we were okay and had everything. You always were.
AB: Is there anything in your life that you regret? Any one big regret?
JW: That it didn’t last long enough with your grandfather, that he was taken away from me too young. We had so much more to go. He didn’t get to know you kids like I do. I was laying in my bed the other night, and I was talking to him and I said, “I wish you could see this house, my little house – you’d love it. But there’s not enough room for you.” [Laughs] But you know that’s Papa’s humor; that’s the way we were. Oh yeah! Good luck at finding somebody for you to love like that.
AB: Yeah. I’m actually seeing somebody right now.
JW: Are you, darling?
JW: That’s good.
AB: I like him very much. He’s pretty cool. I like him.
JW: Being cool is not enough, honey.
AB: No, I mean – I can chill with him and we have fun. He’s a cool guy.
JW: God, I love you!
AB: I love you, too, Gram.
holy shit, andrew’s hot!
This put a smile on my fave.
Sorry Granny. I just kinda think this is Queerty’s typical juvenile self-indulgence for a website that self-promotes it’s editors (they so badly want to go to P Diddy’s White Party) but I see so little lesbian content (unless negative) or anything other than caucasian guy twink models. Some of us have been there, done that! Also, there are more than two parties in this Presidential race yet this site is as Gaystream as the Avocado Magazine.
Everyone love’s Granny. Andrew, I wouldn’t have a beer with.
Hey I loved it! It’s a blog, not the Wall Street Journal.
I loved the story. It makes me miss my Maw Maw so bad.
Super cute interview.
Oh for goodness sake, who’s going to be bad-tempered about this?
It was super-cute. And hooray for old radicals — people who lived through the middle of the twentieth century saw some real drama go down.
Alan down in Florida
An absence of snark for a change. How refreshing.
Love the interview, Andrew.
I hope you know how lucky you are to have such a cool grandma, and to still have her around. Both mine were gone by the time I was a young teen, along with one of my grandads. And the other grandfather refused to speak to me again when I came out (mostly because he was a wuss and his second wife always hated me and used any excuse to cut me out of their lives).
Lovely, my great gran died last month (94 years young R.I.P.) we were very close and she didn’t know, so it’s lovely you’re gran is so accepting. Nice touch with the hugs and kisses.
seitan-on-a-stick wise up! It’s the personal touch that makes Queerty, well, Queerty. It aint CNN, or the BBC… It’s way more interesting. 😛
Great interview. Nice lady. Thanks for recognizing the wisdom in your elders. I think you showed the AARP bit by supporting Senator Gravel, but it didn’t hold up with him saying “transvestite”. Sorry, I did my part with the $2,300.00 donation.
Your Gram is a total sweetheart…a wonderful interview.thank you for sharing it with us……Gram is full of wisdom, down to earth charm, honesty and a great deal of love and your PaPa sounds like a salt of the earth kind of guy who had a great sense of humor:)
really, thanks for sharing..you made me misty eyed…..
reminds me of my Grandpa when he was alive..just a lot of fun and a good guy……give your Gram hugs and kisses from all of us:)
Beej the Pink Sheep
I love Gram!
“Being cool is not enough, honey.”
Good advice, little lambs. Good advice.
Nice interview for you to have, the love she has for you lept off the page. It made me miss my grandmother, she’s been gone since 1980, but she pretty much raised me from about 4yo until I was 12yo, then later she lived with us when she couldn’t live on her own.
“That they’re just trying to be assholes.”
I actually laughed out loud at that 8^)
You’ve done many interviews, Andrew, but this one is by far the most enjoyable.
So touching! Warms my heart to read this. My boyfriend and I visited my grandma 2 weeks ago, and this makes me want to go again. Thanks, Andrew.
Nice interview. Thanks.
This is the kind of self indulgence I can live with and enjoy. We gay people hear so much negativity and hate directed toward us that we need to hear kind, loving words from our elders. Makes me miss my grandaddy. I was so fortunate to have had someone that thought I hung the moon growing up. I totally believe that the difference between those of us who make it through the nastiness we often encounter when coming out and those who don’t are that some of us knew we were loved even though we were different. Keep close to her Andrew and take in all the love she has to give you cause she rocks!
Ahw that was sweet. I adored it.
Oh, she’s so sweet in that picture. Big hug!
3 Â· seitan-on-a-stick who said ‘…Some of us have been there, done that!…’
Well, some of us are still young (22), good-looking and haven’t been there and done that! I find the interview very interesting and can’t see any reason why an editor should not promote himself, especially such a good-looking one as Andrew!
I think you are just ‘sour grapes’ ’cause you got issues!
Aww, that was lovely! You have one awesome Grandmother, Andrew. And she looks much younger than 85 in that picture!
What a delightful old girl! You lucky boy, you!
I actually (and finally) registered for this site so that I could respond to this post!
I find it apalling that ANYONE could be so jaded as to read this posting as self-serving and negative.
Yes, this site could have more content about a wider demographic of lgtb issues and people. But it’s a light-hearted, pop-culture based blog (meaning subjective opinion). It’s not CNN, it’s not a .gov site, it’s not the New York Times. If you can’t take it with a smile or at least a grain of salt (I don’t agree with everything posted, either) then for heaven’s sake don’t read it.
And though I respect a healthy difference of opinion, I find it difficult to respect any opinion that includes needless personal insults.
Gram is great! What a fantastic slice of what America is. What a great reminder that not all older people still fear us and our (hopefully) rights. If only that kind of acceptance and patience could trickle down to everyone, even Queerty responders!
Give Gram a huge hug for all of us who don’t have our dear grandparents with us anymore. Like so many readers, it made me miss mine very, very much!
andy, I love your Gram!!! Fantastic article. Thanks for sharing that wonderful lady with us!!!
Reading this interview made me teary and reminded me of how incredibly lucky I am to be sandwiched between these 2 amazing people. Mom/”Marsha Ann”
…thanks for sharing that interview with your grandmother…it brought a tear to my eye, literally.
Jack E. Jett
My Mom passed away on Mother’s Day. This interview is awesome and reminds me how awesome Mom’s are.
Great concept Andrew…Someone should start a blog that interviews gay mom and dads.
That was a very enjoyable interview. My Gram is going to be 90 and everytime I see her she tells me to tell my bf he owes her hugs. Grandma’s are great!
Sorry Granny. Your family doth spoketh! BTW – I would help you cross the road.
Gay Conservative Liberal
Um, tearing up here and calling my grams now.
What a wonderful woman! I guess the joke was on us though, eh? I mean, did we really think we were “boyish”? Were we fooling anyone?!?
She’s beautiful, sending a Big cyber kiss to her.
Hey seitan-on-a-stick: go eat some carob and shut the fuck up! If you wanna see more representation of people you think should be on the internet, then YOU work all day every day posting stories that interest you on your own fucking blog. I mean, how low can you be to hate on someone’s sweet-hearted interview with their grandma? Don’t be mad just because you’re vegan and hungry all the time.
laura (big sister)
Hey what is Gram thinking, I see here at least once a week, and go and get her groceries. But I do love her and we are lucky to have her in our lives.
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