St. Sukie de la Croix

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St. Sukie de la Croix (born Darryl Michael Vincent, September 16, 1951)[1] is an internationally published journalist, columnist, fiction author, playwright, and photographer. De la Croix is best known for his 2012, University of Wisconsin published bestseller, Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall. By researching and compiling factual sources for the book, de la Croix gave awareness, depth, structure, and life back to the slowly fading history of Chicago’s LGBT communities.

His countless interviews, columns, and various other works have explored the underground cultures and aspects of Chicago’s LGBT community dating back to the 1670s. In his many years as a Chicago journalist, de la Croix has had several columns in local publications, both in print and online: Outlines, now known as Windy City Times; Nightspots; Chicago Now; and Chicago Free Press[1] just to name a few.

Along with his columns and blogs, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, de la Croix was approached by the division of Chicago’s municipal tourism authority to script and conduct the first ever LGBT History of Chicago bus tour. Later in the decade he had two plays, A White Light in God’s Choir (2005), and Two Weeks in a Bus Shelter with an Iguana (2006), performed by Chicago’s Irreverence Dance & Theatre company. Then in 2008, he participated as a historian in a PBS television documentary, Out & Proud in Chicago.[1] De la Croix has also been sought out for his ability to captivate an audience with his lectures; speaking for various organizations such as Boeing, Chubb Insurance, and Horizons Gay Youth Services[2] along with various others.

In 2011, de la Croix was honored with an Esteem Award for Outstanding Magazine Reporter or Columnist.[3] And in November 2012 he was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.[2]

Childhood[edit]

St. Sukie de la Croix was born in Bath, Somerset, as Darryl Michael Vincent, to a very impoverished family. His father, Stanley Reginald, was a truck driver while his gypsy mother, Doreen Mary, worked in an engineering factory. He was an only child and grew up an hour away from Stonehenge in a community populated by many pagans and gypsies. Due to his community and socialist parents, De la Croix wasn't raised to follow a specific religion. When asked what he considers to be his religion his response is that he's pagan.[1] However, he makes a note to point out that he doesn't care to abide by a label as most Americans tend to.

De la Croix attended Westhill Boys School until the age of 16. During his time in school he felt odd and out of place as most adolescents feel. He was able to find comfort in books later realizing he didn't want to fit in. He lived in a "vacuum of [his] own making"[1] and that's the way he preferred it. At the age of 16, with his family's low economic status, the British class system wouldn't allow de la Croix to advance to university.[1] With no other options he began to work.

Marriages and other Family Relationships[edit]

In 1971 de la Croix married his wife of 12 years, Frances. He was openly bisexual before and during the marriage to his wife and others. They had two children together, Lucy Anna Marie and Daniel Jon. He also has four grandchildren from his daughter; Abigail, Jai, Jacob and Ben.[1]

In 1981 he left Frances for a man named Diesel Balaam. They wrote a satirical column together for the Emerald City News which was published weekly in London’s Capital Gay from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. They were together for six years.[1]

After de la Croix met his husband of almost twenty-five years, Ian Henzel. The two are still together.[1]

Frances, his ex-wife passed away in 2011.[1]

Early and British Career[edit]

In the 1960s, de la Croix became what Americans would now call a radical hippy and yippie. However, he was more focused on the political, socialist and anarchist matters than the nature loving aspect of the culture. In 1967 while listening to the Incredible String Band de la Croix couldn't make sense of some of the lyrics being sung. It was at that point that he realized writing doesn't have to make sense. He then started writing articles for underground and alternative press.[1]

It wasn't until the early 1980s that de la Croix switched his attention and began writing for a number of Britain's LGBT publications: Gay Times, Vada, Capital Gay, and the Pink Paper.[2]

Life in Chicago[edit]

Arriving in Chicago in 1991 de la Croix recalls—in the introduction of Chicago Whispers—how a local once told him if he were to stand on a street corner in Chicago and close his eyes, he could hear the past: “The rat-tat-tat-tat of Al Capone’s machine guns, the Haymarket Rioters, and the screams of the passengers on the SS Eastland capsizing into the Chicago river in 1915. Peel away… the past like the layers of an onion, and underneath hear the whispering of ghosts as they tell their untold stories.”[4] He began writing a column entitled "A Letter from America" for the Pink Paper. De la Croix describes the column as "a wry, humorous look at gay life in a large American city."

It was the summer of 1997 when de la Croix says he started listening to the "Chicago Whispers." He had begun working for Tracy Baim as the associate editor for a gay paper, Outlines (now known as Windy City Times),[4] and was the managing editor of Nightspots:[1] For both papers he would report on various aspects of Chicago's gay community. While going into the community and listening to the conversations of people at the gay bars, de la Croix realized that the past was a popular topic.[4] The first time he realized the past being the center of conversation was when he went into a bar called Cell Block. Inside the bar where, what he called, two "leather queens" arguing about the exact location of a bar that had long since been closed.[1] This prompted de la Croix to go in search of a book about the history of gay men and lesbians in Chicago which lead him to discover no one had written one.

With a microcassette recorder in hand, De la Croix started interviewing bar patrons and asking them questions about what they could remember of past Chicago gay bars and other information tied in with the culture. This lead to him writing a weekly column for the Windy City Times entitled "Chicago Whispers." After six years of the audience participation driven column, de la Croix did a ten week spin off series for the Chicago Tribune.[4]

On top of the spin off series, de la Croix was now being approached to do various lectures throughout the city as well as the first ever LGBT Chicago bus tour.[4] As grateful as he was about being approached to write the script and conduct for the bus tour, he felt much more comfortable writing the script only, not conducting.[1] Regardless, he was still the person for three summers that conducted the five hour long tour. Come the Spring of 2004 he hit a metaphorical wall, and wanted to pursue different forms of writing.[4]

Taking a job at the Chicago Free Press, he tried to focus on different works and projects that were separate from his gay history work. As time would have it he found himself going through the thousands of pages of information he had gathered over the years about Chicago's LGBT history: Rediscovering leads he hadn't followed through with; trying to figure out various connections between several differing people and places. It got him hooked again. From there it was apparent that he was the one that had to write the book he had once looked for hoping to buy.[4]

Chicago Whispers[edit]

St. Sukie de la Croix didn't want to be the Englishman that wrote a book on the history of a country he wasn't from, but was reminded that history was and is written by people that weren't there: If they were, it would be an autobiography.[1] From there he set out to write a book on Chicago's LGBT history, but didn't want to make it an academic book.[5] After all, he was a reporter, not a scholar. Not being allowed to enroll in university because of his family's economic status denied him the knowledge of what the "proper structure" and protocols where when it came to writing an actual book. This gave him the upper hand on most other historians. With that being said, De la Croix wasn't attempting to be a historian. As a reporter he cared about finding out the information and sources he wanted and needed by whatever means necessary.[5] He was inspired by the stories of the people and community, not just the history. The information he was seeking and discovered is what consequently lead to people calling him a historian.

Chicago Whispers starts in the 1670s with the Native Americans and early settlers, and ends at the beginning of the Stonewall Riots. Through its twenty-four sections, de la Croix binds all the historical aspects together; from art, theatre, mafia connections, bar life, and politics.[6] He uses an incredible amount of sources to support his writing thus creating a story for the people he is writing about. Where as most history books aim and spewing facts, Chicago Whispers gives a plethora of facts in a bright and enticing manner. It also serves to fill in the gaps of what was once forgotten or lost through the decades. In a sense Chicago's LGBT history was a giant puzzle, and Chicago Whispers is the finished result of the complete puzzle.

Origin of 'St. Sukie de la Croix'[edit]

After going to see a gypsy/fortune teller—who's prediction eventually came true—de la Croix decided to officially change his name from Darryl Michael Vincent to Sukie de la Croix in honor of the fortune teller. He added the 'St.' years later after trying to figure out why only the Church could deem someone a Saint. When asked what he is the saint of, he responds saying that he is the patron saint of homosexuals.[1]

Awards and Acknowledgments[edit]

  • 2011 Esteem Award for Outstanding Magazine Reporter or Columnist.[3]
  • 2012 inducted into the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Croix, St. Sukie De La. Personal interview. 16 Apr. 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame." Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Sukie De La Croix." Sukie De La Croix. The Esteem Awards, 2011. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Croix, St. Sukie De La. Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago before Stonewall. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2012. Print.
  5. ^ a b Shapiro, Gregg. "ChicagoPride.com Interview with St. Sukie De La Croix." ChicagoPride.com. Chicago Pride, 7 June 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
  6. ^ "UW Press - : Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago before Stonewall, St. Sukie De La Croix, Foreword by John D'Emilio : Gay & Lesbian Interest, History, Chicago." UW Press - : Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago before Stonewall, St. Sukie De La Croix, Foreword by John D'Emilio : Gay & Lesbian Interest, History, Chicago. University of Wisconsin, 01 July 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.