By Anita Moyt | photos courtesy of Steve Solomon
If you don’t know Steve Solomon by name, there is a good chance you at least know his face. He is ingrained in the Memphis gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. He has contributed his time, money and talents to see itgrow and develop over the decades to where it is today.
“I love going to parties.” Solomon said. “And I love making people feel welcome. My mother and father got divorced when I was two,” Solomon told Focus Mid-South. “And my mother brought me back to Memphis where she was from. I was born in Pennsylvania.”
Solomon went to several schools in his teen years, all in Tennessee.
“I attended Columbia Military Academy (CMA) in Columbia, Tenn., for sixth, seventh and eighth grade,” Solomon explained, “then to Christian Brothers High School (for ninth grade) and back to CMA for tenth grade. I begged her to (let me) come back and go to a regular high school. I graduated from East High School in 1967. It was considered one of the three best high schools in Memphis back then.”
Solomon, age two.
Solomon in 1967 with his mother, Jane Levy Solomon, standing in front of their apartment on North Graham.
Solomon says that his mother ‘used to love gay people..It was the thing to be friends with gay people.’
Solomon confesses he is a mama’s boy. But there was no coming out to her; Jane Levy Solomon was already tuned into her son’s sexuality.
“My mother used to love gay people,” he said. “She was very open to everything, very liked; she loved to go to theatre and schmooze. It was the thing to be friends with gay people.”
One day when he was 17, Solomon came home from his after school job to find he had visitors. “I came home from working at Kroger as a sack boy and there sat Robert Montalvo and Price Schwartz,” he said.
Jane, a legal secretary, had met Montalvo while seeking donations of props for a fundraiser for her association of legal secretaries.
Solomon said she asked Montalvo,“Come over; I want you to meet my son…he is a closet queen…bring him out.” “I thought they were cute,” Solomon remembered, “and they thought I was the cutest little Jewish boy they had seen.”
“I say he is the mother of us all,” Solomon said of Montalvo, “and I am his eldest child. We still go (to Montalvo’s home) for Christmas dinner and we are still friends to this day.”
As many men and women did, Solomon attempted to follow status quo.
“I went to college where I met this girl,” Solomon continued, “and I made a mistake and we got married at 21. That’s what nice Jewish boys do. We were married for one and half years. I am thankful there were no children. ”
Even though Solomon “was messing around” with guys all the way back to CMA, he did remain loyal to his wife during that short marriage. “But she thought it strange when I drug her to the Lavender movies,” Solomon said.
Speaking of nice Jewish boys, Solomon said he is “about as reformed as you can get,” and is a dues-paying member of Temple Israel, a very accepting synagogue in Memphis.
Solomon went on to graduate from what was then Memphis State University in 1971. “In 1972, I really came out,” he said; “I was young and cute and had a lot of friends.”
1973, standing beside his new ‘73 Mercury Montego MX Brougham.
Jane died young, but left her son with great memories of a loving mother. “She would be a great fag hag and a great social director” Solomon said. “She loved men. I got that from her. She died at age 52, in 1973. I was 25.
“In 1976-1980, I was with Jerry S. Coates,” Solomon said, when asked about long- term relationships. “We gave some really wild parties,” Solomon remembered. “We were still friends after we broke up. He passed away in 1988.”
“I was single until 1985,” he continued, “and then I was with Michael Fortner who died in March of 1989. That’s when I jumped in to the community things with the Coalition and with Heartstrings,” Solomon said, explaining the beginning of his involvement in community outreaches. “I was co-chairman for Heartstrings Memphis and the Memphis Gay Coalition. I brought about 150 volunteers from Heartstrings over to the Coalition.
“I knew there was a need for the community center,” he continued. “A social place without alcohol where GLBT individuals could feel safe. I was on the original board of directors of the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) in the ‘80s. I was vice president. We had to find a place to rent for it. We chose the storefront across from (what use to be) Jwags on Madison and Claybrook. I coordinated volunteers and staffing at the MGLCC. Everybody knew me.”
Today Solomon, among other responsibilities at Out Memphis (formerly MGLCC), is still responsible for the monthly men’s potluck. “The first Wednesday of the month, since 1989, I’ve coordinated the men’s potluck,” Solomon said. “I have never stopped being involved.”
Another social activity Solomon personally coordinates is the Third Thursday Dinner Group (not part of Out Memphis activities). This is an RSVP dinner for men only at various restaurants across town.
Solomon in February 2013 with Reservation Manager Nick Pavlick,
a fellow travel agent with RSVP Vacations.
Many associate Solomon with his career as a real estate broker. “I have been a full time realtor since 1990 (Sowell
& Company Realtors) and a travel associate with Cruise One since 2010,” he said.
He’s held the designation of GRI or Graduate Real Estate Institute since 1999, and is a Life Member of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) Multi-Million Dollar Club. He previously served on the MAAR Grievance Committee and Ambassador Committee and presently is on the MAAR Professional Standards Committee. Solomon specializes in the residential market.
Solomon’s second career involves the travel industry. According to his bio on CruiseOne.com, “I definitely know the advantages and perks of a cruise vacation. Once I went on my first cruise in 1990, I was sold on cruising. I have been on cruises to Europe, Mexico, Alaska, The Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central America. I have planned and coordinated vacations for many friends for over 35 years. I absolutely love to plan and coordinate. I have been on 33 gay cruises,” Solomon said. “I book people on straight ones, too.
“I have always been active in Memphis,” Solomon said. And at 68, he shows no signs of slowing down. “Everybody knows I am there,” he says. “I will (work or volunteer) till I drop dead or win the lottery. I play it every week.”
Solomon can be reached at (901) 278-4380.
At home with his cats Oliver and Hershey.