Thursday, January 7, 2010

Joseph Amster's "Amsterama"

I've known Joseph Amster for more than 30 years.  Astonishing!

We met as Drama students and actors at Orange Coast College, and reconnected more than a decade later when he was the editor of the Orange County/Long Beach Blade - a GLBT monthly magazine.  At the time I was the secretary of a Lutheran (ELCA) church that was making a commitment to reaching out the the GLBT community, and we were running an ad once a month.

I put two and two together, called Joe, met with the publisher, proofed three pages of sample copy, and soon was e-commuting:  proofing and correcting submitted copy via e-mail and going down to the Laguna Beach office once a month (three buses each way for a four-hour round trip) to mark the final draft.  The Blade's creator/publisher (the splendid Bill Lapointe) found out that I'd learned my proofing skills as Editorial/Opinion page editor of my high school's monthly newspaper, and asked to see a writing sample.  He liked what he read, and asked if I'd draft a "Religion and Spirituality" column on spec.  His current columnist was heavily, heavily Christocentric, with a Pauline bent for quoting verse after verse while giving spiritual advice to the GLBT readers.

Bill wanted something more inclusive.

And that, kids, is how Daddy became (with the click of a mouse) the Rev. J. R. Boyer.   

I obtained a Universal Life Church (ULC) ordination with the click of a mouse.  With that, I was instantly qualified to perform any religious ceremony or rite except circumcision.  So the pen name was accurate.   I planned to "out" the ease of ULC ordination in a piece titled "Believer, Beware!  Wolves in Sheep's Clothing," which was printed after I'd been writing the column for a year.

It was one of the best periods of my life, although during it, Robert was having difficulty with his HIV meds and beginning the slow decline that led to his death.

Through all of this, Joe was flexible, supportive, and remarkably compassionate - a far cry from the stereotype of the cynical, hard-bitten Big City editor.

After Robert died and I moved back to my hometown, I managed to remember the word "Amsterama," Googled it, and lo and behold!  JOE!  

He is doing well, still writing, and the proprietor of "Amsterama" - a shop in the Oakland/Bay Area.

The Wonderful World of Amsterama, his blog, is one of the best on the Web, (in my admittedly biased opinion).  

However, as a crack editor myself, I can assure you of one thing:  there will be NO typos.

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