by Mark Finley
‘We’re in the garage.’ It’s a moment that’s burned into my memory with laser like precision. I was about to go off the handle when he flashed that ‘everything is going to be great’ smile that only Martin could do so effortlessly. That gentle grin stopped me cold – for two reasons: 1) I knew that he was right – we’d be great; and 2) behind that sweet calming countenance was a powerhouse that didn’t let anything stand in his way or keep him from what he wanted.
I was first introduced to Martin in the early to mid ’90s when we were both heavily involved with the Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle. I was merely a past Miss Gay Seattle – but he was Imperial Prince 26 and well on his way to becoming Emperor Rainier 30 – so when he came to me with ideas I listened.
This was the era of endless fundraisers and benefits for any and all HIV/AIDS organizations at least twice a month. As you can imagine, attending them time and time again, one could grow bored before the show and begin trying to figure out how many times a $1 tip could make its way through all the performers hands. Martin came to me because he knew I would literally do anything onstage or for an event. With the help of the Capitol Hill Gay AA group we started Bat’N’Rouge, the annual Drag Queens Against the Dykes Softball Game – which is still going on today!
The other event Martin and I concocted was The Mr. Nude Seattle Contest.
You must remember that this was before Grindr, Scruff, smart phones, cell phones – NO Internet – and only hustlers and plumbers had beepers. So the prospect of seeing that guy you always see at the gym or the bar or in class or wherever naked was a pretty novel thing in those days.
The first year we held it at Club Seattle (now Steamworks). Surprisingly enough it wasn’t the right atmosphere. The second year was held in the aforementioned garage of the Richmark Building at 12th & Pine; next to the liquor store and SGN’s offices. We made it through with flying colors. They always say ‘third time’s a charm’ because we found our home for the next nine years at the Langston Hughes Cultural Theatre.
But enough about Martin’s endless dedication to his community; his concern that everyone in the entire gender spectrum be treated with the same dignity and respect – long before it was the ’cause du jour’; and always the one to stick up for the underdog – no one was ever going to be bullied or belittled on his watch. Martin’s gracious and giving spirit touched so many people. He was never one to ‘toot his own horn’ with his many accomplishments in his day-to-day life as a well respected and beloved hair stylist and instructor. If you don’t believe me, take a scroll through his Facebook page – have a tissue handy.
I had fallen out of touch with Martin for longer than I would like to admit when out of the blue I got a message from him saying he’d like to put on The Mr. Nude Seattle Contest again. It had been over a decade since we’d done the last show – times had changed but he hadn’t – his drive and ‘let’s do this’ work ethic was in top form. The only hiccup was it wasn’t as easy to get local business sponsors as it used to be. And I hadn’t worked with Absolut’s causative sponsorships for years. We pow-wowed on the phone, called in a few favors and came up with the means to do the event. It was great fun having everyone back again, laughing backstage with Latrina Bidet and Ed, Martin’s long-suffering-steadfast-husband, about the shows and events from years past. But something was different – Martin’s glow wasn’t as beamingly bright as in years past. I sensed that there were things he wasn’t going to and didn’t want to discuss.
At the end of the night I gave him a big hug saying ‘whatever, whenever, wherever – I’m always just a phone call, or email, or text, or smoke signals, or really loud holler away!!’ Unfortunately, that was the last time I was to see my friend Martin. As with everything these days – I learned he had passed from a post on my Facebook feed. I was immediately overtaken with grief and loss, crying into my hands.
It wasn’t more than a moment had passed though before an image of Martin popped into my head, and he gave me one of those smiles and said, ‘Stop crying, you silly queen. I’m fine – look at me! I look twenty years younger! So no more tears. Just remember all the good times we shared and all the good we gave. Keep it going!’
R. Martin Allen-Diveley is survived by his father, Clarence Diveley, and his husband of 17 years, Ed Allen-Diveley.
This article was originally in the Seattle Gay News