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KING 5 NEWS Interview with Gaysha Starr and SGN Employees
to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 26, 2020 - Volume 48 Issue 26
Remembering George Bakan
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Remembering George Bakan

by Gaysha Starr
Olympia 29
The Empress of Good Fortune &
the First Asian Pacific Islander
Empress of Seattle
1999-2000
Special to the SGN

How symbolic for me to pay my respects to George Bakan, the publisher of Seattle Gay News, on the 93rd birthday of my father, Primo Matencio and the day of the final funeral for George Floyd. George, to all of us in Washington state's LGBTQIA community, was our father. Even if you didn't know him, you benefited from his lifelong commitment to activism. Whenever I would introduce him on stage or acknowledge him from the audience, I would credit him as "The Grandpapa of Capitol Hill" and the crowd would cheer.

When I first started doing drag, I met George in the spring of 1993 through his photographer Anya. I was photographed for the first time in the paper with my drag mother Hiram Starr, and I was wearing a Carmen Miranda outfit for a Gloria Estefan number. Thank god that issue is somewhere buried deep in the SGN archives.

Every Friday, the drag queens would grab an SGN to see whose photo and name in bold print would appear, because back then we didn't have Facebook or Instagram, just the SGN. I came to the office with Anya and told George I would like to write for the paper and that I had experience writing in my high school paper. Slowly, he gave me unpaid assignments, and when Anya moved on, I started to write about drag events and our queens.

George believed in and loved drag queens so much that he featured us regularly in the paper, donated ad space for our shows and fundraisers, and even gave weekly columns over several decades to Boy Mike, Mark Finley, and myself. Each of us had our own point of view and voice, but George believed strongly that all drag queens were part of the community. In reflection, I probably drove his editors crazy turning in my column late or on drag time. One of my biggest regrets in my writing will probably be turning down offers to write for the paper, even as of last week. [i.e., the first week of June.]

The adjective "generous" would be one of many positive words to describe George as he gladly gave the pages of his paper to help fight causes such as HIV/AIDS awareness, equal rights for our community, marriage equality, helping elect out members of our community into office, championing small businesses on Capitol Hill, and up to last weekend, condemning police brutality. On a social note. George would often invite a colorful mix of guests to the events he had press passes for, with nothing expected in return. He just wanted to make sure that everyone had a great time.

I have freely shared about my drag mothers: Hiram Starr, Coco Vaughn, Kahlua Ice, and Cicely of Portland, OR. But I have rarely credited my drag fathers: Adam, Toby Noon, and Steve Tracy. Without hesitation, I would call George my grandfather. And my fellow SGN staff: Shaun Knittel, Nate Gowdy, and Dru Dinero, as my brothers. George also took great care of staff members past and present, including Rick McKinnon, Maggie Bloodstone, and M.K. Scott. All who have worked with George at the paper or on committees know that George was direct and sharp, but fair and always considered the best interests of everyone.

I am in debt to him and the SGN, as they were my media sponsor for my campaign for Empress of Seattle in 1999, running my ads and content during the campaign for four weeks and through my reign with my Emperor, Mitchell Christie-BOXX, and our court. Because of his coverage over the years, people also knew about the Imperial Court of Seattle and other nonprofits and their purposes. I would still blush when George would comment on my Facebook posts or feature me in the paper without my knowledge.

I know that I would not have the outlet to write and express myself without George and Seattle Gay News. I would not have the ability to help with community activism and fundraising or my secondary career as a drag queen writer without his support for 27 years. He was the one who directed me toward working with GLSEN and PFLAG. We would randomly chat, and he would say, "You know, Gaysha, this organization could use your help..."

George helped all of us have a voice to tell our stories. Now it is our turn to tell his and to honor his life and legacy. Rest in Peace, Grandpapa George.

Tell a friend:

Remembering George Bakan
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George Bakan: Rescuer of lost souls
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IN MEMORIAM - Randall Jess Spohn
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Remembering not only an editor, but a friend
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Remembering George Bakan
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A tribute to George Bakan from Julie Shaffer
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Tributes and eulogies for R. George Bakan (via Facebook)
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