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Activists Take Out Frustration on ... Ronald Reagan

11:18 AM, Jun 22, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Victor Fiorillo reports for Phillymag.com

Last Friday, an attaché of important gay people from Philadelphia made a trip to Washington D.C. as invited guests of President Barack Obama for the White House’s first-ever gay pride reception. There, they danced to the sounds of a Marine Corps band; they dined on crab cakes and canapés; they hand-delivered letters from concerned citizens like this 18-year old who has had four people close to him gunned down, and noted rhyming raconteur CA Conrad; and some of them took advantage of photo opportunities to give the late President Ronald Reagan the middle finger.

Photo Credit: Phillymag.comPhoto Credit: Phillymag.com

“It’s not a gesture that would use in the White House when representing our city and our community,” opines Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal (center), who opted for a sarcastic thumbs-up pose in front of the portrait of George W. Bush over the more vulgar one demonstrated by his Reagan-loathing peers, Matthew “Matty” Hart (left), the national director of public engagement at Solutions for Progress, and self-taught photographer turned toast-of-the-town Zoe Strauss (right).

“I have friends who work in that building,” Segal explains. “I’m not going to do something that could embarrass them or that could somehow damage a campaign that is so important. ‘Be on your best behavior,’ my staff told me.’ I think they know me too well.”

This wasn’t Segal’s first trip to the White House, having twice visited during Bill Clinton’s gay-friendly tenure. “One of the things on my bucket list was to dance with my boyfriend at the White House,” remarks Segal.”And this is the second time I got to do it. We come up to the main foyer, and what do they play? Barbra Streisand. ‘The Way We Were.’ And I thought, Are they going to play nothing but Barbra, Bette and Lady Gaga? I was waiting for ‘Over the Rainbow.’ I mean, this is the Marine band!” Clearly, Segal, a dedicated activist but also an astute political hobnobber, wants to be invited back.

But his counterparts couldn’t seem to care less. Hart posted his photo on Facebook with the caption, “Fuck Reagan.” Strauss simply posted hers without commentary. After all, the murderous facial expression and double-barreled bird-flipping seem to speak for themselves. Comments ranged from “you forgot to add with a chainsaw” on Hart’s “Fuck Reagan” note, to my personal favorite, “star wars … up yours,” on Strauss’s. ...

“Yeah, fuck Reagan,” reiterates Hart one week after the reception. “Ronald Reagan has blood on his hands. The man was in the WhiteHouse as AIDS exploded, and he was happy to see plenty of gay men and queer people die. He was a murderous fool, and I have no problem saying so. Don’t invite me back. I don’t care.”

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