I'd been out of the closet for several years
when I met my first lover Don Higdon.
We were a couple for four years, from 1969 through 1973.

Don was an aspiring actor with a truckload of talent.
He was younger than me, still a student at Birmingham-Southern when we met,
and was participating in College Theatre productions just as I had.

Above left: Don relaxing in our apartment.
Above right: Some head shots that Don assembled
after he finished college and began pursuing acting gigs professionally.

Don also worked in community theatre productions after he graduated,
mainly with the newly-launched Birmingham Festival Theatre.
Above: Don playing Michael in BFT's production of Boys In The Band.

Side note: Don's and my friend and future film actor Glenn Shadix,
seen in the yellowish shirt above, played Emory in that production.
Glenn died in 2010, way too young, but he left us with an indelible memory
by playing the Otho the crazy interior decorator in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice.

Sadly, the film career that Don aspired to while we were together
never got a chance to truly take flight.
He died in Los Angeles in 1993 from complications of diabetes.

But you can catch a brief cinematic glimpse of him via YouTube,
playing a bit part in the 1975 Don Johnson vehicle Return to Macon County.
Don's the well-behaved guy on a date being harrassed
by testosterone-intoxicated good-ol'-boys in the film's first five minutes.

Don and I met at an LSD party in Birmingham.
After we moved in together, we continued taking acid,
Not so much at parties, but mostly just the two of us
at our apartment near the BSC campus.
Each of us, in his own way, found those psychedelic explorations
philosophically enriching and creatively productive.

For my part, it broadened the kind of imagery
that came out of my brain when I drew pictures.

Don posed for a photograph that was the basis
for my drawing of a naked flying figure
whose posture suggested something between exhilaration and crucifiction.
For me, the image symbolized the kind of cosmic transcendence that I felt
both while going on my spiritual journeys with Don
and simply sharing my life with him.

The figure often found its way
into comics and psychedelic posters
that I drew during those years
It added an intriguing note of mystery to the Barefootz universe
because its realistic rendering was in such contrast
to the dominant cartoon style of my series.

Don was a talented artist himself.
We drew each other frequently,
sometimes sitting across our living room
and sketching each other simultaneously while we tripped.

Above left: a drawing of Don using a different drawing style
that I had begun experimenting with.

Above right: a drawing of Don in bed with Shannon Eubanks,
who was his co-star in a surreal e. e. cummings play called him.

Don had a gift for likenesses that I've never had.
He would transform me into a hand puppet one day
and do a realistic portrait of me the next.
One Christmas Don gave me
plush-doll versions of my Tops & Button characters.
His mom helped him sew them.

Don and I collaborated several times
on theatre projects.

Above left: I created a poster to promote
the inventive stage production of Dracula
that Don directed for Arnie's Advanced Directors Lab.
And if you don't find the look of my poster very horrific,
maybe I should explain.

Hamilton Deane and John Alderston's original text.
as fashioned for the play's mid-1920s production on Broadway,
wasn't altered at all in my boyfriend's version.
However, Don's introduced an interpretive twist.
Instead of a villain, Count Dracula
was a Timothy Leary-like, visionary guru
whose only ambition was to "turn the world on."
In other words, becoming a vampire
amounted to expanding one's consciousness
in a pleasantly groovy way.
(Van Helsing was just a mean old narc
who was trying to spoil the fun!)

Hence my poster's flower-powery look.

Above right: This is a graphic I created
when the opportunity arose
for Three Clowns on a Journey,
a trippy one-act play of mine
that had been workshopped back in 1968
while I was briefly a grad student at Penn State University.
My fellow PSU theatre student Judi Brickel had directed it there
and we remained fast friends for years afterwards.
There had also been a production of the play in 1972
at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta.
So it had a track record by 1973,
when good ol' WBIQ-TV agreed to air my adaptation.

I directed Don
and our College Theatre friends
John Thomas and Karyl Kesmodel in the TV version
(in which my script's inclusion of the word "urinate"
made the producer a touch nervous at first,
though she stoically agreed in the end to allow it).

Don and I look like such happy-go-lucky youngsters in the photo above
me in my paisley shirt; Don in his newsboy cap—
hopping into my old VW bug, the first car I ever purchased on my own.

I expected us to remain a couple for a lifetime.
But it wasn't to be.

I took Don's 1973 decision that we should break up in stride. . . .

(Uh . . . well, maybe not.)

But over time I realized that he had probably
made the best call for both of us.
Our lives had begun veering slowly in different directions.
I already knew that in my heart.

During the five years of bachelorhood that followed,
I worked at an art studio and and at an ad agency in Birmingham,
drew new Barefootz stories for Comix Book,
and self-published the first two issues of Barefootz Funnies,
all the while trying to figure out how to carve
out a future for myself without Don in it.

But time heals.
In 1977 I moved to New York City,
where I discovered a sexy New Yorker who turned out to be
a better candidate for a long-term relationship than Don had been.

Read on to learn about him.

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