Once in a time, long ago, and in a city many miles away, there were two wonderful people.
One named Judge, who worked in a Disney-like shopping mall called Horton Plaza at a trendy 80s retail store, the GAP. The other was Eric, an office space designer and waiter, at a chi-chi boutique restaurant called Perets.
Judge and Eric led separate and very different lives. Judge dreamed of a life on stage in front of adoring crowds and was refining his talents at the local dance studio when an angelic presence appeared in the studio doorway and told him of a small dance group called the “Bugle Boys” was looking for dancers. Judge would be a good fit, he thought.
Eric was partnered with the magician of cosmetological creativity, Ted Jones. Ted was the most sought after hairdresser in the southern lands and was even on a monthly retainer for the Burgermeister (mayor) of the city. Eric, after having endured a less than a storybook life as Prince of Cattle Country, fled the harsh environments of the Dakotas for warmth and adventure of the west.
Then one typical sunny afternoon, Eric ventured to the colorful commerce destination of Horton Plaza to find a pair of jeans. Horton Plaza at the time was a brand new shopping center in the heart of downtown San Diego. You could easily get lost here or lose your car in the multi-leveled parking lot if you didn’t pay attention. The colors, shapes, and textures really made shopping at Horton Plaza truly a sensorial experience.
As Eric wandered his way through the mall, an unknown force began guiding him. He ended up at the GAP store and was greeted by a well-seasoned sales clerk. Judge was an expert salesperson and treated Eric with the utmost bit of professionalism. After hearing what Eric was looking for, Judge was able to size Eric up with a variety of, 38 inch inseam, jeans and explain the features, advantages, and benefits “FAB” of each garment. Eric left the store with a pair of jeans, and Judge gained a loyal customer.
A strange and timely coincidence?
Time passed quickly. Judge was now performing more shows with the Bugle Boys and working fewer hours at the GAP. As luck would have it, Eric and his partner Ted, would always seem to run into Judge at various events throughout the city. So much so, that Ted thought unsavory deeds were taking place between Judge and Eric. This of course was nonsense. Judge’s interests were strictly platonic and Eric was a devoted partner to Ted.
Life continued to reveal surprises for Judge. His dream of dancing in front of adoring crowds was coming true at the local marine theme park. Eric continued his work designing office spaces but his real calling was designing homes, but breaking into that business wasn’t as easy as he had hoped. Designing office spaces and furniture was the closest he could get to living his dream. Little did he realize that his world was forever about to change. It was the late 80s and a dangerous and deadly cloud loomed large over the Gay community. Ted would soon become a statistic, leaving Eric to make decisions about his future and their destiny together.
In those days, the winds of change blew frequently for Eric and Judge.
The air in this place of surf and sun became toxic for Eric. Pollution from living in close proximity to the airport caused him to develop asthma. Ted had fallen victim to eternal sleep whereby not even a kiss from this handsome prince could revive him. Eric had to move. There were too many bad memories here. He recently read in Sunset magazine, of a City of Roses in the Pacific Northwest. Portland, Oregon is where he would call home.
Judge, after having danced for years, set his sights on the lights of Hollywood (West Hollywood) to start the next chapter in his life. The early 90s, in the city of beauty and wanna-bees, shimmered and sparkled and could easily consume any novice star and starlet. Judge’s hospitality skills from working in the southern lands of San Diego were great tools that earned him a lucrative position of hotel Doorman at a well known Mormon-owned signature property in Century City.
Life was good. Judge’s apartment was walking distance to nightlife and his neighbors at Holloway House were simply enchanting! Pride was taking place this weekend in June and it was Saturday. Judge was attired in yellow suspendered shorts, yellow “Crush” socks, and a turquoise T-back tank top. He was dressed to slay, and dressed to play that day. There would be a variety of seemingly magical activities happening throughout the day and into the evening that would keep any Fairy Godmother busy granting wishes. Judge was dressed to lure the affections of any charming prince that would find him the fairest of the lands or at least of the city. Well, since that didn’t happen, he headed home. On his walk home, he saw two statuesque frames before him. One was unknown but the other was definitely familiar. It was Eric and a date, who also happened to be equally as tall at 6’6″. Awkward conversations ensued and in an instant, both Judge and Eric went their separate ways never to be seen again for almost a decade.
So much life had passed before the eyes of our two characters. Judge now was a concierge in a boutique Hotel living in Amsterdam, NL, and Eric was a successful home designer living his dream in Portland, Oregon. But for Eric, something or someone, was missing from his life.
It was Thanksgiving in 1999, and Eric was in Seattle, Washington visiting a friend who had set him up on blind date later that weekend. Judge too was in Seattle to surprise his mother and sisters for the holiday. After spending a couple of days with Judge’s family, and knowing there were other friends (Charlie & Bruce) from San Diego who had moved to the Emerald City, Judge wanted to spend time with them too. This was a short trip and Judge would be flying back to Amsterdam the next day, on Sunday evening. Charlie and Judge used to model tuxedos in bridal fashion shows throughout California, and had stayed in touch during Judge’s time in the faraway lands of dikes, cheeses, and wooden shoes in the Netherlands.
That Saturday night, Charlie and Bruce wanted to take Judge to a club called, the Cuff. They had plans early Sunday morning and told Judge to meet them at coat check at midnight.
This is where serendipity played its hand again.
As the hour of midnight approached, so did Eric. Here is where he had planned to meet his Seattle friend and host. As he was heading to drop off his jacket at coat check, Judge was grabbing his coat at the same time. “Hey, I know you”, Judge said. The magic spark ignited its flame of opportunity and bromance. Judge, after recognizing the familiar face before him, proceeded to inquire more details to confirm his assumption. When Eric was asked where he lived and he said Portland, Judge asked where he lived prior to Portland. Eric responded with San Diego. That’s when Judge asserted, “It’s me Judge, from the GAP at Horton Plaza!”
Eric looked deeply into the brown eyes of this familiar stranger to process what was happening. Judge looked different from the last time he saw him on the streets of Los Angeles. He no longer had a Jheri Curl, a mustache, and he had packed on some muscle. Not to mention he was wearing a woolen cap. But there was something familiar in the eyes. Eric knew those kind eyes that reflected his image back to him; a gaze that touched his soul. All of the years of stifled feelings and emotions made everything around them disappear. It was within that moment of recognition that Eric and Judge embraced each other for the first time.
Charlie and Bruce arrived at coat check at midnight to see that something special had just happened. Not wanting to break up the reunion, they extended an invitation to Eric to stay overnight, giving Judge more time to reconnect with his old friend. The two stayed up all night reminiscing and catching up about the past 10 years of their lives. After breakfast, Eric planned on driving back to Portland. Judge was being picked up by his older sister at a mall just outside of Seattle. He wanted to spend his final hours with family before flying back to Amsterdam that night. Eric volunteered to drop Judge off on his way out of town. The mood on the drive was somber and it began to rain as they arrived at the drop off location. This was a hard goodbye. Finally after so many years apart, distance would again force them to part ways. This time mobile numbers and email addresses were exchanged.
March 31, 2000, was quickly approaching and Eric was celebrating a birthday. After months of calls and emails, Eric wanted to know if his feelings for Judge were genuine and didn’t want a long distance relationship. A party was being organized in Eric’s honor and he wanted Judge to attend. Judge had recently accepted an invitation to go skiing in the French Alps the same weekend of the party. Upon telling Eric this news, Judge could sense the disappointment in Eric’s voice. Realizing how important this birthday was, Judge agreed to come to Portland for Eric’s party. Six weeks later, Judge moved to Portland.
Real life isn’t a fairytale. Both Eric and Judge have had to kiss a few toads in order to find true love.
Twenty-three years later, Eric and Judge are still together. In this time, they have had two homes built (Eric’s designs), a wedding, and even adopted a cat.
Eric and Judge are living, and loving, happily after all.
See and hear the real story of Eric and Judge met in their own words from Our Bold Voices.