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Lavender Country

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Lavender Country’ eponymous album cover, from the band’s bandcamp site

Horning in on Loomis’s territory here with an addendum to his Saturday music post and a short film for the night. This morning I was time-wasting motivated by a twitter query about famous people from your home town. (The standard answers for Port Angeles are John Elway, who lived there for several years as a child, and the short story writer Raymond Carver, whose short stories Robert Altman’s Short Cuts were based on, who spent his final years and is buried in Port Angeles, survived by this wife and a solid third option, the poet Tess Gallagher.)

This led to my discovery of a minor musical celebrity from my hometown, Patrick Haggerty. Haggerty grew up on a dairy farm just outside Port Angeles, joined the Peace Corps only to be kicked out and sent home once his sexual orientation was discovered, and moved to Seattle, where he formed Lavender Country and released the first (by a wide margin) gay-themed country album. They performed the first Gay Pride event in Seattle in 1974 and a local DJ was fired for playing “Cryin’ these Cocksucking Tears” on air in 1973. They played around the West Coast for a few years, eventually sold all 1000 copies of the album, and broke up. He stayed active in Seattle politics for while, running for city council as a socialist, and faded into obscurity. The magic of the internet–namely, someone uploading Lavender Country to youtube–has led to a late life revival of his band. In 2016, Dan Leberski made a 15 minute documentary about him, and it’s well worth our time. Entering his 70’s and living in a trailer near Bremerton, he alternates between $ 30 gigs playing oldies at nursing homes, and playing club shows alongside punk rock bands. The reverse-coming out story, in which his dying father forced the conversation because he couldn’t afford to wait for his son to initiate it, is particularly lovely and poignant.

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