By KJ Philp, November 2015 Issue. Meet the rest of the Class of 2015 here.
If you ask Arizona’s Hip Historian what he considers the biggest myth about Arizona that he’d like to dispel, odds are pretty good that his answer would be “that there is no LGBT history here.”
With his one-of-a-kind suit jackets, his statement eyewear, his unmistakable enthusiasm and nearly never-ending wealth of Arizona knowledge, Marshall Shore has made documenting Arizona’s LGBT past a top priority.
“We do have a history that is important,” Shore adds. “Arizona has a deep LGBT community history … I know we will uncover other great stories.”
From his contributions to Echo and the LGBT archival project in partnership with ASU and Phoenix Pride to the upcoming documentary PHX: A Gay Old Time and advocating for local landmarks, such as the 307 and The Pioneer Cemetery, Shore has his hands full.
It was about six years ago that Shore says he felt called to address a greater need. And that’s when he took a leap of faith.
“I quickly realized that my passion for community building, information and theater added up to a job that didn’t exist. So, I created it,” he said (to find out more, visit marshallshore.com). “I developed a variety of presentations that I have taken around the state and to local groups, [in addition to] providing tours. All of it doing what I like to call ‘edutainment.’”
And the Hip Historian brand was born. Since then, Shore’s been committed to documenting and telling the stories of the Wild West.
“Without those stories of those LGBT pioneers that persevered, went to jail, died, or stood up to society for being themselves,” he said, “we would have no concept or context of the journey that we have taken to arrive at marriage equality.”
And when he’s not archiving, researching, presenting, volunteering, creating or curating, Shore can be found involved in a cause or effort that’s important to him.
“Giving back to the community is important,” he said. “Either through donating time, money or another option is to become part of the leadership.”
Shore added that choosing to sit on a board is a “very passionate thing” for him, and he holds his involvement with one n ten, a branch of the YMCA, Valley Leadership and The Pioneer Cemetery near and dear to his heart. And he’s proud of the progress Arizona has made since he arrived here only 16 years ago.
“[Paul and I] relocated to Arizona when there was a proposed constitutional amendment that would have been detrimental to the country’s entire LGBT community,” he said. “Politically speaking, there are community voices … that have helped lead Arizona. Still, the issue of homeless youth in the LGBT community is still there. And there is still news across the globe of persecution of our LGBT brothers and sisters.”
Web-Exclusive Q&A with Marshall Shore
Echo: Not many people know that you are not an Arizona native, tell us how you arrived in Phoenix 16 hears ago.
Shore: Many folks don’t know that I am not a native Arizonian, but instead a Hoosier, meaning that I grew up in the midwest. Odell, Ind., was a small town of 25, yes 25 people. It had two roads and a stop sign. I knew that this was not where I was going to grow old. So, I got myself through an undergraduate degree in communications at Purdue University, followed by a master’s from Indian University in Library Science and I accepted a librarian position in Brooklyn, NY. A place that was the antithesis of my home town – I was living in an apartment building that had more people on my floor than were in my entire hometown. NYC was an amazing experience, and where I meet my husband of 22 years. He was working in a small theater on the then ungentrified Lower East Side. Our apartment was invaded by a rat, caught fire and then our landlord raised the rent 20 percent, which was the last straw. We became adventure bound and moved to Phoenix.
Echo: Your education and background is in communications and library science, tell us how that translated to history for you.
Shore: When we moved to Phoenix, the dream of a mid-century modern living space was attainable. We moved into a 1960 complex in Central Phoenix, that was so ’60s with it’s blonde plywood built-ins, mini milk-chocolate tile and a blender inset into the counter. I was working at Harmon Library in South Phoenix where, almost the moment I arrived, I began hearing about the oral history of the community. I didn’t see really happening through other parts of town. Meanwhile, many folks were claiming that there was no history here, but seeing the canals that the city was built on I knew that was not the case. I began asking questions, exploring and listening to people. Quickly people told me that I knew more about their hometown then they did.
Echo: Was there a defining moment when you knew Phoenix was YOUR home/community?
Shore: After being here for a couple years we began looking for a house, the two non-negotiable were 1) it had to be near light rail and 2) a mid-’50s ranch as original as possible. We found a house a 10-minute walk to the train, built in 1956, that was pretty much a time capsule with its buttercream yellow tile with matching oven … We painted it sea foam and cantaloupe. We keep the house to about 1964-65 in terms of furnishings and collections, though I do have my Hello Kitty collection, in residents, as well. Friends call our house the un-museum, because everything is touchable, useable or drinkable.
I also participated in a leadership group here that introduced me to new facets of the valley, as well, as a diverse group willing to work for the betterment of the community.
Echo: Why, in your opinion, are archives and other forms of documented history so important to the LGBT community?
Shore: One example is the the recent demolition of the 307, which was a drag bar and gathering place for the Valley LGBT community, since the late ’40s when it relocated to 222 E. Roosevelt St. (but kept the name of its former address so that patrons could locate the bar after its move, since there were no publications, such as Echo, to advertise in and alert patrons of the relocation). The first local publications went to print in the mid-’70s, after Stonewall. Prior to that there is little in print, most of the early LGBT History are the oral stories that we pass along.
Echo: The LGBT community has changes a great deal in the past two decades, from a historian’s perspective, how would you summarize those changes?
Shore: When I first came out to my Dad 30 years ago, his first question was “When you find someone will your health benefits cover both of you?” Looking from the recent seismic shift of marriage equality. We have come along way!
I can remember a time when a guy on a neighboring farm was brutally murdered for being gay, another incident had myself being chased by a baseball bat wielding trio. Moving to NYC for what colleagues called a “lifestyle choice,” [gave me] easy access to Christopher street, an original gay ghetto and meeting my other half, Paul …
LGBT movies are no longer just for art houses, but now play in mainstream theaters. I personally have gone from sneaking into the house, a Betamax copy of Making Love, excitedly anticipating the arthouse premier of E.M. Forester’s Maurice and the fundraiser viewing of Torch Song Trilogy to being able to walk into almost any mall and watch Brokeback Mountain, or attend the Phoenix Art Museum for a rare screening of Lonesome Cowboys and Andy Warhol’s last movie that was filmed right here in Arizona.
Echo: You’re a representative of the Arizona Humanities Council, what can you tell us about your work with the council?
Shore: I am a listed speaker with AZ Speaks, which is a program of the AZ Humanities and provides opportunities for groups across the state to have access to high quality presenters on variety of topics. I have presented programs about neon signs in Arizona, Arizona’s stretch of the iconic Route 66, Macabre Arizona and Ghost Towns. For more information about AZ Speaks, visit azhumanities.org/programs/azspeaks.
Echo: You sit on the board for historical cemetery Pioneer Cemetery, what’s that like and why is it important to you?
Shore: I have been on a few boards including … The Pioneer Cemetery, which is located at 15th Ave And Jefferson. It is a place that most people don’t realize is there and it tells a unique story about Arizona. First, that it is placed on top of a Hohokam Village and the last person was buried there in 1914. Second, that some of its most notable residents include Jacob Waltz; the Lost Dutchman, one of the most famous tales of Arizona’s past; Daryl Duppa, who is said to have provided the names for Phoenix and Tempe; Mayors of Phoenix; and even a few prostitutes.
Echo: What are some causes you’re passionate about?
Shore: I have developed a unique style of dress that started when I was quite young … fast forward a few years and I now have a curated collection of wearable art (pictured right). I have long had a penchant for suit coats and now have a growing collection of custom art jackets that are painted with Arizona history themes by such local artists as Mary Lucking, Hugo Medina, Glen Guyett and Jordan Christopher Diamant with Arizona theme of fish, Route 66, and the state flag and George Quaintance …
The first piece of clothing that fit the Arizona theme would be a Jeremy Scott track suit done in conjunction with the Keith Haring Foundation. I wear it to commemorate the 1986 mural that Kieth Haring painting with a bunch of South Mountain High School students. I first saw the track suit at the Phoenix Art Museum and a exhibition of graffiti and fashion through the museum’s fashion collection. It was love at first sight, and realizing that it fit into Arizona History was just there icing on the cake. There is a new documentary about his style, Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer.
I have created my own line of shirts that are available at Made, Zinnia’s on Melrose and some holiday markets around around town.
Using clothing show Arizona pride and engage folks with iconic history. I have created the art and silkscreen myself and all this on up-cycled shirts. They are intended to spark conversation from mention of “View from the Ho” when the word Ho only meant Westward Ho. To the Lob Cabin Motel which was torn down a few years ago, but originally it was a classy joint where each room was a log cabin and people came to honeymoon on Van Buren, then it took a turn south and became the last hourly rate hotel in the city. Probably my favorite at this moment is the motorized bicycle, which was first created here in Phoenix, it predates the gasoline engine, it was steam powered.
In 2016 I’ll be telling a story about fashion with the Arizona storytellers at the art museum in the spring.
Echo: What would you consider your greatest feat?
Shore: Preserving Arizona signage history by making Glen Guyett a household name…. What you’ve not heard of Glen? if you have seen that fabulous My Florist sign, or the flashy Courtesy Chevrolet sign on Camelback, or even out in East Mesa the jaw dropping Buckhorn Baths sign. Then you are familiar with his art. He designed many of the vintage signs that dot our landscape and create that fabric of streets that make the valley unique. After meeting Glen and become friends, I developed a series of postcards that highlight some of his best work and are avail at The Clarendon Hotel and Antique Sugar, a great vintage clothing shop downtown.
Echo: Who are some of your role models/inspirations and why?
Shore: My Dad is an inspiration, though he was in farm country, he is vey much a unique individual, a showman who can build custom cars from scratch. I gleaned that same if it doesn’t exist build it, created it, design it mentality. As well as the courage to be myself. There is Allan Kleiman a Librarian, currently working in NJ, that showed me that life and libraries need to push the envelope. Lastly, my friend Arturo who is the partner of a good friend, Brian, back in NY. He would simply ask if I was still having fun with the boy I was dating, 22 years later we (Paul and I) are still having fun.
Echo: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Shore: Hard to say what I’ll be doing in two weeks, let alone five years, though I know I’ll continue to documenting obscure, weird and quirky, Arizona history and sharing it in a entertaining way. There are a hand full of projects on the horizon:
• The Clarendon Hotel celebrates 40 years. Don Boles – An Arizona Republic reporter that was researching land scams, horse racing and mafia. He went to The Clarendon Hotel for a meeting that never happened, as he was leaving his car exploded. That was 39 years ago, The Clarendon Hotel is looking some interesting ways to commemorate the 40th anniversary.
• History Underground: Obscure Anecdotes Of Phoenix Events. This second Sunday series is at one of the coolest and newest bars in town, Valley Bar, where I chat about Winnie Ruth Judd and other quirky history in the intimate library. For information and tickets, visit valleybarphx.com.
• WEARizona: Under the Big Top. This show will be an after-hours event of the Grand Avenue Festival, which will feature the 10th annual PAPA parade of the Arts from 8 to 10 p.m. Nov, 14 at the Unexpected Gallery, 734 W. Polk St. in Phoenix. For information, visit wearizona.org.
• Arizona Oddities. I write articles for arizonaoddities.com, a website that covers quirky Arizona, on a regard basis.
• The Arizona State Fair. I’ll be at the Hangout Lounge at the Arizona State Fair at 6 p.m. Oct. 21, 6 p.m. Oct. 29, 8 p.m. Nov. 5 and 8 p.m. Nov. 7 (right before The Jackie Fontaine Show).
• AZ Humanities. Join AZ Humanities for a family friendly Halloween event steeped in Arizona History. Details, azhumanities.org/ghostly-stories-with-marshall-shore.
• 50 (the exhibit). In 2016 I’ll be turning 50. What better way to ring in the mile stone than curate an art exhibit. Chartreuse Gallery on Grand and 13th avenues is already booked. More information to come!