By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Betsy: I was sitting there for about an hour [before my friend arrived]. Gary is toasting everyone in the room, everyone is toasting Gary. I felt like a jackass until he asked me out.
Gary: I was actually not looking to be in a relationship per se — I was single and just enjoying that. But there she was, this beautiful, smart, talented, young woman, and I started talking with her. I basically said, "I don't necessarily go out with politicians but I'd like to go out with you." And she said yes, and after that I just knew I was going to be with her.
B: We've actually never lived together. He's on the Met Council, I'm on the City Council, and our districts don't overlap. We're used to it. It's not an ideal situation, but we're both very dedicated public servants.
Together, Shannon Blowtorch and Tea Simpson make a bad-ass couple. On show night, you will find both of them about their business: Shannon is spinning records, or engineering sound for a show — running from the DJ booth and back to the stage, not idling for more than a few seconds. When she isn't on stage strutting her dynamic vocals, Tea is more low-key, sipping a cocktail with a close friend at the bar.
Tea: I was going to college in Mankato, and we met at the second or third official Pride. I was the MC, and Shannon was in All the Pretty Horses, and they were performing. I ended up being the sober driver for the band that night. I thought she was a bitch when I first met her. I didn't like her at all, so I'd be like, "Oh yeah, that band's great, but that chick's a total bitch." I ended up taking them back to the hotel, and she invited me up. She had a magazine with Poison Ivy of the Cramps in it, who is one of my idols, so we started bonding and talking about music. We were both probably really nervous, so I can't recall exactly...
Shannon: Yeah, we talked mostly about music.
T: Yeah, it was probably all music, and then she walked me to my car. And I figured if she had good taste in music, she couldn't be such a bitch if she liked me.
S: I remember that she was hot, and fun. She was kinda dancing everywhere and was the life of the party. I like that ... Tea is a fuckin' sweetheart. She would do anything for anybody, she has good ethics, the whole team player mentality, and that's what I look for in everyone ...
T: So, what I thought was a bitch at first ... [giggles]
S: I was a kind of a bitch.
T: Yeah, ya know .... But I like it. I think it's a good quality to be a tough lady.
S: And I embrace it. We are a good balance. It works.
Darrell Paulsen and Nikki Villavicencio-Tollison have both dedicated their lives to fighting for disability rights, at times through civil disobedience. The couple was once thrown out of the Minnesota Senate chambers for chanting, "I'd rather go to jail than die in a nursing home!" during a hearing on cuts to the Health and Human Services Budget. Today they are engaged with a baby, but it was their shared passion that brought them together four years ago at a rally in St. Paul.
Says Darrell, who also runs a nonprofit for disability advocacy and sensitivity training: "I convinced my people to put together a documentary about the work that I had been doing over the years. So I was waiting for one of my camera guys to get up there, and as I was walking around waiting to see how that was gonna go, I came across this young lady, who I actually thought was a girl. I thought she was very young. And I was very confused by it just because she was all bundled up — "
Nikki: It was a cold March day.
Darrell: But I looked down and realized that her feet were exposed. I didn't really say anything. I just introduced myself and told her what kind of stuff I did. And she said, "Well, I kinda do the same stuff." And I looked at her, and as I walked away, I said, "I'll see you later!"
N: After the rally was over, me and a few other folks with disabilities were waiting for our ride, because I was at the time taking Metro Mobility. And he came by again and kind of asked me for my number.
D: I asked her if I could wait there with her and talk to her, and she said, "Sure."
N: I gave him my phone number.
D: I called that lady for three weeks. I called her every day, multiple times a day, and she wouldn't answer, she wouldn't return my phone calls. And actually I was sitting outside the Science Museum ... and all of a sudden the phone rings. And it was her! And I was so excited, I told her I'd just call her right back. And I was so excited I must have sounded like I was crying or something, because I immediately called my mom and told my mom, "She called me! She called me!"