By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
It's weird: All week long, I've been talking to friends about homophobia in hip hop, and here's one of the best freestyle rappers in town saying, essentially, "Who cares?"
Faggot have this effect on inhibitions. One fan bounds onstage to announce, "If anyone wants to take their clothes off, get up here and go fucking crazy!"
Carroll mockingly sings the Jermaine Stewart song: "We don't have to take our clothes off to have a good time/Oh, yea/We'll drink the cherry wine—get your fucking clothes off, faggot!" His persona is that of a drill sergeant for sexual liberation.
"I'm 48 years old and I'm up here doing this in front of all you shy little people," he thunders. Then he tears into "Mongolian Beef" ("retards need to be fucked, too, dammit!") No one streaks, but many dance around the band as Carroll humps a guitar amplifier.
The singer thanks the audience— "I hope you're cleaned out now"—and closes with "You're Gay, You're Dead," singing, "I woke up/I found you dead/You don't have AIDS/Why you so dead?" The song is idiotic, brilliant, funny, and sad:
You cannot breathe
When you are dead
You cannot breathe
When you are gay
If Carroll seems fearless, he's had more to fear than most people. "Do you want to know why I'm Faggot?" he asks me on the same night as the show, when we're alone. The humor has suddenly drained from his face.
"I'm Faggot because my friend was murdered in front of me in 1998. We were gay-bashed, and the whole time, the guy that was killing Brian was screaming at us, 'You want a piece of me, faggot? You want a piece of me, faggot?'
"Ever since then, I've thought, I'm not going to live the rest of my life with these nightmares of this man brutalizing me and killing my friend and screaming 'faggot' at us. For years, if I ever heard that word, I would cringe. I would even go into post-traumatic stress shock. So I'm not going to let him have the power. I'm going to take that word back."
According to news accounts, Edgard Mora, the man who caused the death of Brian Wilmes near a San Francisco leather bar in 1998, was convicted of a hate crime, adding two years to his three-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Carroll testified about the homophobic taunts at trial. Yet he had qualms about his role in the politics accompanying the case.
"I didn't ask to be the poster boy for hate crimes," he says. "I didn't even ask for this guy to come up and start beating us. I always felt weird about the whole thing. I felt like the city was trying to use me for an agenda."
Carroll is suspicious of anyone advocating on his behalf, and says he's never had anything handed to him. He was born in a farm town outside Cleveland, Ohio, and according to family lore, his father's response to the news that Mom was pregnant with him—her fifth child—was, "Jesus Christ, not again!" Faggot's "Have an Abortion" opens with the lines "Oh no/Not again/Have an abortion/I should have been."
With a few drinks in him, Carroll will call himself a "mook." He does a sort of hillbilly version of an Irish jig, and talks about his Catholic upbringing. "When I was 14, I got to suck the priest's dick," he says. "I'm not going to sue the church. I liked that guy's dick. I was in confession, it was great."
By the time he woke up to find his partner of 17 years, James Gilkison, dead on the couch in 2001, they had been through much together. Gilkison had given up acting in San Francisco to study law in Sacramento after learning that he had contracted a rare disease during a Peace Corps stint in the '80s, which would eventually rob him of sight. "He passes the California state bar, blind," says Carroll, "and we're thinking, 'Yay, we finally made it through all this hard work.' And I wake up one morning and he's dead." Carroll says the pharmacy mixed up Gilkison's prescriptions.
"The law said I couldn't sue the pharmaceutical company for killing my husband because I'm not his husband," says Carroll. "I had no rights. So fuck you, faggot, is what I feel like. You're all a bunch of faggots."
Carroll says he freaked out for a year and a half until he talked to his friend Molli Slade, who said, "Why don't you come to Minneapolis and just start over?" Carroll did just that in 2003. Nine months later he was in a band.
"I got in from San Francisco, and I was bored," says Carroll. "I called up Rainbow Cab, and I said, 'Take me to the Eagle, I guess.' I was trying to get a blowjob."
On the taxi ride, Carroll says he struck up a conversation with the driver, and played himself off as an art scout from California. The cabbie invited him to his studio in the Sexton Building, and, once there, pointed to a window visible from his own. "'See over there?' he says. 'There's a lesbian over there who makes clothes, and I always watch her and her girlfriend make out.' But it was Jason and Saira, not lesbians."