Meet The Crew: Walter Beck

Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013

Walter Beck Our lovely Bi-Laureate Writer and Activist

∗this biography is in interview form∗

Lynnette:
So let’s start with the basics. We know your name, duh. How are old are you and where did you grow up?

Walter:
I’m twenty-seven and I grew up in central Indiana, what used to be small towns and cornfields before the strip malls and housing divisions moved in.

Lynnette: You have been an activist for a long time. You must have started in kindergarten.

Walter: Well I grew up in a political family, I don’t mean politically powerful, but most of my family are political junkies like I am. I grew up around debate, discussion, etc.
I got my start in LGBT activism in the Summer of 2003, right on the heels of the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas. I was sixteen at the time and it lit a fire under me. I started small, you know, research, reading, that sort of thing. I went to my first street demonstration when I was eighteen, down in Evansville, IN.

Lynnette:
You have been a grassroots activist during a time when it wasn’t “popular” to be so. What kept you going?

Walter:
Well not popular is a bit of an understatement, I live in Indiana, the town I grew up in has half a dozen churches, all of them very conservative.
I’ve always been a fighter, I was fueled by what I call “righteous anger”, I was raised to believe that as Americans we are entitled to certain inalienable rights, no matter who we are and where we come from.
Outside of that, it was a lot of cigarettes, black coffee, and good rock n roll. All essentials in my activism. I never worried about popularity, I’ve been the outcast, the weird kid all my life. Popularity is way down on my list, after “Am I using the right brand of toilet paper?”

Lynnette:
So let me get personal. and you can answer however you wish. May I inquire how you identify? And when and how did you realize that identity.

Walter:
Officially? I identify as bisexual. I was about thirteen when I realized it. I didn’t come out publicly until I was twenty-three.
Although with my weird sense of humor, I have used the term “half-cocksucker”.

Lynnette:
That must have been very difficult in a small town.

Walter:
It was weird and it’s only gotten weirder sense. I mean, I see where kids now come out when they’re in middle school. I can’t remember a single person in my class in high school who was out publicly, we all waited ’til we were in college and we’re probably amongst the last generation to wait that long. Which is a great thing.
Personally, I use the term “queer” a lot. Mainly for it’s weirder, more gonzo edge. It implies a great complexity and depth.

Lynnette:
One question about your activism. What would you say has been your biggest are of work so far?

Walter:
There are two areas of activism I’m great at, street work (protests, rallies, etc.) and poetry/journalism.

Lynnette:
I can feel you frustration in not being able to follow your bliss right now in all aspects of you passions. So many people can relate to that. And these are two areas that need all the help they can get.

Walter:
I was a king hell street organizer back at Indiana State. I could have my crew out on the streets with signs and flags at the ready with less than an hour’s notice.

Lynnette:
Wow! We need that. Local organization in the bisexual community is sorely lacking and is really holding us back.

Walter:
We were the queer outlaws of ISU sort to speak. The official university LGBT group didn’t want anything to do with us. They were mainly upper middle class pretty types who were into fundraising and soft soap speeches.
We were a bunch of stone-broke working class folks who wanted to get out there and claim what was rightfully ours.

Lynnette:
Have you noticed a lack of a good representation and prescience for the queer community on campus. I am concerned our college students are being spoon fed tripe.

Walter:
I think it goes beyond just college campuses. Now that LGBT folks have entered into mainstream America, we have accepted the pretty, safe, and damn near sterile stereotypes we were given by Main Street USA.

Lynnette:
Yes the white picket fencing of LGBT. Sanitizing our diversity.

Walter:
Growing up, I was introduced to queer culture by my older brother, he’s gay, and he turned me on to John Waters, Rocky Horror, GWAR, all that sort of thing. To me, to be queer in any sense meant you were out of the mainstream, you were raw rock n roll, you went waved your flag and your middle finger right along with it, you dig? As I said in an article I wrote a couple years ago for this rag down in Texas, Rob Halford from Judas Priest speaks more for me than Lady Gaga ever could.

Lynnette:
But she never a waivers from her bisexual identity I give her credit for that. But yeah. I get that. My choices in music have always been off the grid for the time. The blues is my happy place That sounds odd.

Walter:
Ah not really, my poetry has been heavily influenced by the blues.

Lynnette:
Speaking of music you are a very creative person. Besides being musical and a writer. I would love to catch you in Rocky Horror.

Walter:
Another thing I can pin on my older brother. I do enjoy performing in our local shadow cast. It’s the last bastion where you can be as outrageous as you wanna be, it’s still the shelter for the truly queer.
And yes, I am the poet laureate for Translyvanian Lip Treatment (our local shadow cast), they call me The Fudge-Packing Bard.

Lynnette:
Has anyone taped the performance?

Walter:
My performances at Rocky have never been taped, at least not that I know of. There are plenty of pictures, but no video recordings.
Surprisingly, there are very few videos of my poetry performances, there are a few floating around, but not as many as I’d like. The records of my most notorious shows exist as photos only.
There was a gig I did at ISU years ago, it was my first performance there and my first poetry gig in over a year and I worked myself into such a frenzy that I almost passed out on stage.
The campus never really knew what to think of me as a poet, they had never seen anything like what I was doing. You know, at most open mic nights, there would always be a few poets, but most of them would get up there, read their verse quietly and then sit down. Me? I’d get up there shirtless, covered in stage blood, make-up, the works, sometimes I’d have these intense noise recordings playing behind me, and I would just burn up there.
Stunned silence was a fairly common reaction.

Lynnette:
Made them think. Shook up the rhetoric in their heads. Not used to visceral art.

Walter:
One of the most notorious was only seen by a handful of people, it was at this joint called ZimMarss, the local drag bar. There were maybe six people in the audience. Anyway, I went up there and did a forty-five minute set stone drunk. I was a pitcher and two quarts of beer down already before I even got on stage (the show started late) and I went up there with another pitcher in my hand.

Lynnette:
So tell me about the Rainbow Asylum. I called in months ago when I first came out.

Walter:
The Rainbow Asylum is a weekly music/black comedy show on the Outright AZ Radio Network on BlogTalkRadio, it’s co-hosted by me and Mike Shipley (aka Head Nurse Mikester).
It was sort of funny how it started. I was a special guest on Outright AZ, which is the flagship show of the network. The show was scheduled for an hour, it ended up being two hours.
Mike was one of the hosts and we had such a good time, I said we should do our own show.
The Asylum was set up to be deliberately non-political, Mike and I are both hardcore political junkies and activists, so the Asylum was designed to be our weekly break from our work.
We wanted a show where we just played weird records, poked fun at mainstream LGBT culture, and bashed celebrities.
It started at an hour with just Mike and I, but soon we increased the show length to 90 minutes and started bringing in our cast, Ryan “Pinky” Sandefur (aka Miss Sandra Furr) to do the Concrete Carpet, Chad Edward (aka Lady Eydie) as our Official Media Whore, Dave White (aka Abby the Lab Tech) to do the lab bits.

Lynnette:
Well it’s obvious you guys have a really good time with it. I want to to do call in stuff soon.

Walter:
Call in is the only way to do it for me. I like working off the cuff, doing improv, that’s when the real humor comes out. As Bill O’Reilly infamously said, “Fuck it, we’ll do it live!”

Lynnette:
So I know right now you have a full plate between you job and writing. How do you see you being involved with activism in the future? Obviously through your writing. Have you thought about getting involved with a local group to “light a fire” under their asses?

Walter:
Right now, my activism is mainly my writing and I think it’s been tremendously effective. Much to my surprise, I get messages from all over the country people telling me that I inspire them. I had a brother out in Arizona tell me last night that “we’d all be fucked without people like you”.
I do see myself going back to street activism and soon. We are quickly gaining momentum and to make that last mountain peak, it will take street guys like me.

Lynnette:
It really will. And I have to agree on both parts. I see our window opening up right now. Poetry and writing have always been a unstoppable force and tool in activism.. Keep it up.
You have some published articles correct?

Walter:
Oh many, I’ve been a freelance journalist since 2005. I started out as a music journalist, I ran the heavy metal fanzine Underground Violence for five years, I’ve worked for the Indiana Statesman (ISU), The VU 1801 (Vincennes University), The Front Row Report, the UK based Polari, and most recently, the Hendricks County Flyer. I’ve also had articles published in the Trans Advocate, MOOT, the blog for Sibling Rivalry Press.
I’ve always gravitated towards the underground press, mainly because they’re the only ones who will publish my style. I can write the straight-laced reporter type stuff, I have to for the Hendricks County Flyer. But when I’m at my peak as a journalist, I’m pure gonzo. Hunter S. Thompson is on my Mount Rushmore of Inspiration Writers. The mainstream LGBT press won’t have me, I did get a letter of “thanks but fuck off” from the Advocate. It wasn’t worded exactly like that, but that was the gist of it.

Hell, I couldn’t even get on at our LGBT rag here in Indianapolis. Too outrageous for even the mainstream LGBT press, there’s a certain pride in that for an outlaw writer.

Lynnette:
Essential we keep that edge. We must not fall back into complacency

Walter:
Well that’s one of the reasons I’ve been with Polari for two years. It’s one of the longest freelance gigs I’ve had because they let me write like I write. Although I did get hate mail for one of my articles. I started out with them as a music journalist and I wrote a review of Charles Manson’s new record “Horsefly”. Some of their readers went fucking apeshit on me for that one. The editors stood by me.

Lynnette:
That’s good. that’s the way it should be.

Walter:
Well I wasn’t there to talk about Manson’s case or the horrible crimes he was convicted of, I was there to talk about his music. Certainly kept the edge with that one, eh?

Lynnette:
A taboo subject. Charles Manson.

Walter:
I’ve always been a controversial writer and artist and one thing I’ve learned is that if I’ve offended someone, I’ve made them think, because they’ve had to think “Why was I offended?” Has it come with a price? Sure it has, I’ve been banned from venues, been blacklisted from jobs, etc.
I wouldn’t recommend pushing the boundaries to everybody, you have to be built to handle it.

Lynnette:
You have quite a body of work. One of your first pieces was the civil war short story. Which was moving.

Walter:
Well it was one of my rare pieces of fiction. A lot of it comes from my own background, I spent five years as a Civil War re-enactor and I’ve been an avid history buff since I was ten years old.
I have six books of poetry that have been released, most of them are out of print since they were limited releases. “Menthol Slim One-Twenty Blues” is still available from Writing Knights Press, my first two books “Life Through Broken Pens” and “As the Cannons and Muskets Roar” will receive a special re-release in the Fall.
I have several recording projects in the works, my Civil War short story that you mentioned “Under the Pale Gray Moon” will be recorded next month with electronic/industrial artist Miearth, it’ll be our second release as the noise poetry duo Neon Signs. It’s sort of a teaser, a tester for our second full-length album, which we are in the process of writing.

Lynnette:
Fantastic. Keep us posted.

Walter:
This was enjoyable. Cheers!

Lynnette:
It really was!!
BI BI!

Out and Proud!

Out and Proud!

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One thought on “Meet The Crew: Walter Beck

  1. Pingback: Interview: Walter Thomas Beck III | The BiCast

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