Interview with Dan Iverson

Phoenix, Arizona on February 16, 2020 | Interviewer: Revulai Detiv

Filter by topic:

92 of 92 rows (click a missing row to make it appear)

Revulai Detiv: Hello, this is Revulai Detiv. I'm here with Dan Iverson and we are at the AGRA Rodeo, and today is February 16th [2020]. So, to start off with, what year were you born?
Dan Iverson: 1954.
RD: Where did you grow up?
DI: I grew up in Murdo, South Dakota.
RD: What was your childhood like?
DI: I grew up on a farm and a ranch, and I knew at the time I did not want to follow in my father's footsteps. The ranch was homesteaded by my grandfather in 1904. Fortunately, I had a brother that wanted to take over the family place, so I was happy about that.
RD: Was it an apprehension with continuing farming?
DI: I wanted to be in the city. I wanted to be around people, do something different. So, I just didn’t want to be stuck on the farm and have to do all the chores that farmers and ranchers have to do.
RD: Makes sense. So, how do you identify in terms of gender and sexuality?
DI: I am a gay man.
RD: Did you ever end up coming out to your family?
DI: I went to one of the International Gay Rodeo Association's conventions in 1987 and I won an award there. And the convention was in Albuquerque, and after I left Albuquerque, I went to South Dakota to spend time with my folks, and I had my award. So, I showed my mother the award and it said “International Gay Rodeo” on it. And that's how I—she said she already suspected it anyway, but that's how I actually showed her. And that was in 1987.
RD: Were they pretty supportive?
DI: She was very supportive. I do not know when she told my dad. I never, ever had the conversation with my dad about it. But my mom and dad had been married for almost 60 years so—not at that time, but before my dad died, they'd been married for about 60 years. So, I'm sure that they—he had to have known about it. But I just didn't have that conversation with him.
RD: Did you ever attend college?
DI: I attended Black Hill State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. And I was on the five-year plan. Just ‘cause it got me off the farm, and there was college kids, and it was a small, friendly, beautiful campus. And so, I was on the five-year program, but I did graduate.
RD: What did you study?
DI: I was in travel industry management—hotel, motel, restaurant management. That kind of stuff.
RD: Did you have any favorite experiences from college?
DI: I was a member of a fraternity, and we had a fun bunch of guys, and we did the usual fraternity things and football games. We threw keggers and fundraisers and I was president of the fraternity my junior and senior year. So, yes, I enjoyed it very much. And that was another reason to do the five-year plan, because I didn't want to go have to go back to the farm.
RD: Makes sense.
DI: My folks were probably not very happy about that.
RD: It’s a once in a lifetime thing.
DI: That's right. Yeah. No, I enjoyed my college days very much.
RD: So how did you first become involved in rodeo?
DI: I was going to a bar called Styx in Phoenix and they had a Country and Western Night. Now, I always made sure I went to that. And they had a group going to the National Gay Reno Rodeo in Reno one year and I decided to go with them. So, we all got on a school bus, went to the airport, flew to Reno, and I attended the National Reno Gay Rodeo. And I'm not sure if that was ‘82 or ‘83, but it was either ‘82 or ‘83—I kinda want to say ‘83—and I had so much fun, and then I heard that Colorado had a gay rodeo association, so I made arrangements to go to their first rodeo or their second rodeo, whatever it was. And I just met a bunch of people, and became interested, and kept track of where I had been and who I'd met. And that's how it all started. And one of my friends from Phoenix won the gay pageant. She ran for the pageant, and she was Miss Reno Gay Rodeo the year I went and that was—she was one of my friends. So, between her and I, we were able to keep track of what was going on.
RD: Nice. When did you get involved with…in the ring?
DI: Oh, in the arena? Through my contacts with the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association and Charlie's Denver, I found out that Charlie's was opening a new bar in Phoenix called Charlie's Phoenix. And I stayed in touch, and I went there, and I heard that they were going to—John King and his staff—was going to form a rodeo association. So, I went to the first meetings, and I am one of two founding members of AGRA that's still involved, myself and John King. And I've just been hanging out ever since.
RD: So, how would you compare the gay rodeo versus the straight rodeos?
DI: The gay rodeos, I enjoy the events that they have. The camp events, the wild drag, steer decorating, goat dressing. I really enjoy those. And when straight friends of mine know that I'm part of the gay rodeo, they ask me the same thing: “What do you do?” And I tell them about how much fun we have with camp events versus the straight rodeos that I grew up being around. And I have several straight friends that always say they're going to go to a gay rodeo because they want to see how the camp events are done. And they like the idea that we do chute dogging from the ground, running out of the chute and grabbing the animal. Taking the animal out of the chute versus getting down—catching it off a horse. So, they're curious. So today, I've had probably ten friends that have showed up, straight friends who have been to a gay rodeo.
RD: Did they really like it?
DI: They enjoy it. And there was always some questions about whether they wanted to show up, ‘cause they thought maybe…you know, being straight people with all the gay people. They've all said it was absolutely no problem. They were very comfortable with the gay crowd. Yes.
RD: That’s good to hear. How has being involved in the gay radio affected other aspects of your life?
DI: I worked in Tempe, Arizona, for many years. I left South Dakota in 1980 and moved to Arizona, and I was working in Tempe, Arizona. And…I was able to schedule, for many years, all my vacation time and all my weekends that were available were to go to gay rodeos, gay rodeo events, related events, and/or anything gay. Not just rodeos, I'd do gay prides around the country, gay square dance exhibitions, all kinds of stuff. And I worked all my vacation—scheduled all that around all those events.
RD: Was your work community supportive of that?
DI: The manager, the general manager, of the hotel I worked for for many years came to me and asked me if I would help write a sexual…whatever you call it, to the bylaws of the hotel. And so one of my other friends that worked for Intel, we sat down, and we wrote up a thing and the general manager accepted it. And that was in the employee handbook for the hotel I worked at.
RD: And that was in the 80s?
DI: Um, 90s—early 90s.
RD: That sounds pretty ahead of its time.
DI: Right. And I had never had the conversation with him, but since I was heavily involved with AGRA, one of our local gay publications had rodeo pictures on the front cover, and I actually seen one of them at work one day, and I didn't take it there. And one of the house—I worked for a hotel—and one of the housekeepers was carrying around this gay publication and there was a picture me on the front page. And she was carrying it around, and I'm not sure what was said, I never questioned it or anything, but I'm assuming that everyone had figured it out by then.
RD: Did you ever experience any harassment at the gay rodeo?
DI: I've been harassed out in the general public, many years ago. Nobody at work. None of my family members. No one here has hassled me. But back in the 80s, early 90s, on occasion, I've been hassled. Currently, I'm a winter visitor in Arizona. I go back to South Dakota to my business during the summers, and the little town I grew up in (it was 1200 people when I grew up there, now it's 400 people) and everybody in town knows that I'm a gay man and I'm not hassled by anybody. So, yes.
RD: What kind of business do you do?
DI: I have a little motel. A little motel called Iverson Inn, and it’s listed in the rodeo program. [Laughs] And I advertise in all the gay websites and everything, gay community pages, and all that kind of stuff. And, you know, if somebody’s traveling across South Dakota and needs a motel room, I'm there.
RD: That’s good.
DI: Yeah.
RD: Do you think the larger LGBT community supports the rodeo?
DI: Yes, they do. Yes. Since I've been around, since 1984, there's—I can't tell you how many people that I've met over the years. And this is the big event for me, ‘cause I like to see—I don't see ‘em—with me spending winters in Phoenix and summers in South Dakota, the only time I get to see people is at the rodeo, and I just look forward to rodeo weekend so I can see all my friends. And not just from Arizona, but from other states. Because as a contestant, I used to travel all the rodeos, and I've met people, and some of my best friends are people that I've met at the rodeos that I don't see but once or twice a year. And I just look forward to rodeos so I can go and see all these friends of mine.
RD: That’s good.
DI: Yeah.
RD: Could you speak a little bit more to that, that strong friendship bond?
DI: Yes. I just love some of these people to death. And we get together and we hug and kiss and do—not in a sexual way, you know. And it's just so nice to see them. I'm just so happy to see them. And I consider them among my best friends ever, some of my rodeo friends. I just really look forward to seeing ‘em. And I'm not one of these ones—I don't text, and I don't call, and I don't write. But I know in my heart that they're my friends. They know in their heart that we're friends and that we love each other and everything. So.
RD: That’s pretty strong.
DI: Yeah.
RD: Have you ever experienced any protests at the rodeo?
DI: Yes, yes. In the early years, we had PETA people and protesters outside our gates. It hasn't happened recently that I know of. I went to the Sunshine Stampede Rodeo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I believe that's where it was—I don't know, five or six years ago, could have been longer. And there was a large crowd of PETA people and protesters across the street from us.
RD: Oh, wow… [unintelligible]
DI: I haven't seen anything recently. Oh! Every year for gay pride in Phoenix, a huge group of protesters with megaphones screaming at us as we're marching down the streets and going into the Gay Pride Festival. That's really sad. Really is sad. Yes. [Applause and cheering in the background.] Something good must be happening.
RD: Yeah. Have you ever done any rough stock events?
DI: Yes. And I don't remember what year I started, but I used to do chute dogging and steer riding. Never won any buckles, but I was a really close runner up several times in chute dogging. But I gave it up a long time ago.
RD: Did you ever get injured?
DI: Yes. In 1988, in steer riding, I don't remember exactly what happened, but the steer threw me off somehow and I landed on his horn, and it was in my groin area. And so, I got stabbed by a steer in my groin area. And it took several months to recover because it would never heal. And I finally had to go into the doctor, and they had to open it up, and they found that a tip of his horn was still in there, and that's why it wasn't healing properly. So. And trust me, all my friends got a big joke out of that for years.
RD: How has the gay rodeo changed over the years?
DI: I think we’re…when I started, everybody seemed to be the same age. Now we're getting to be—a bunch of us are getting to be a lot older, by 35 and 40 years. And I don't think the younger crowd has quite the interest that us older people have. And I would sure like to come up with a system where we could encourage some of the younger generation to be involved. Yes, there's a bunch of them. I don't think there's as much interest as I would like to see. So, I encourage younger people that I know. Fortunately, I get a bunch of free comp tickets for the rodeo, and I try to pass them out to my younger friends just to get ‘em here, to let ‘em know that, you know, there's another whole lifestyle. So. And I just think we need to do something to get younger participation. So, I encourage them when they're here.
RD: Why do you think that is, that lack of interest?
DI: I don't know that. I don't know. But I would sure like to figure it out and come up with a way of getting ‘em here, getting' ‘em involved! And every now and then we get a few new members, and I really enjoy it. And I make a point of talking to them, ‘cause I want to keep them involved. I've even offered to pay people's memberships if they would just join and come to the meetings and do some of our functions. Sometimes people take me up on it, sometimes they don't. So.
RD: What does it mean to be a cowboy for you?
DI: I don't know if I consider myself a cowboy. I only wear my cowboy hat when I'm going to a rodeo function or at the Gay bar. Country bar. When I go home to South Dakota, I do not wear a cowboy hat and I work on the fa—even after I got older and my folks are still on the farm, and I'd go home and spend a couple of weeks with them. I would work, I would never wear a cowboy hat. When I was growing up, seven or eight or nine years old, I had to work in the hay field and my dad would always want me to wear a cowboy hat to protect myself from the sun. And he would say, “You need to wear a cowboy hat,” and I refused, and now I'm paying the price with dermatology problems. I just, I don't consider myself a cowboy. I mean, I just—I consider a cowboy someone that wears a hat and boots all the time. And I have them on now, and I'll have them on tomorrow for the rodeo stuff. But I don't really consider myself a cowboy. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I just, yeah. I'm more comfortable in tennis shoes and a baseball cap.
RD: Are you active in any religious communities?
DI: I am a Lutheran. Missouri Synod Lutheran, and I go to church in South Dakota every week when possible. And when I'm down here, there's a church three quarters of a mile away from where I winter, and I go there as often as possible. Here today’s Sunday, and I didn't make it, but. No, I'm a Lutheran.
RD: How has that kind of influenced your time at the rodeo and your life in general?
DI: My folks were dedicated Lutherans and we had to go to church, we had to go to Sunday school, we had to go to Walther League, which is a thing within the Lutheran church. And I just, I think it's important. And I—my folks are both gone now, but I want to, you know, I just think church is important. And I feel better when I go. See, I'm not real…If somebody asked me to recite a scripture or something, I could not do that. But, you know, I listen to the sermon, and I go as often as I can.
RD: That makes sense, that kind of maintaining dedication.
DI: I think that's right. And my folks, I was baptized in a country church clear out in the middle of South Dakota. And it's been—they haven't had a membership there for 40 or 50 years, and we've been trying to restore the church. And I've been behind the project because I knew how important it was to my folks. And so, I'm helping get this church restored and up and running again. Just because, you know, it's a Lutheran church that my grandparents helped build back in the ‘20s, and I just think it's important to keep that kind of stuff going.
RD: How is restoring the church going?
DI: It’s going very well. Very well. It's expensive for a little church that doesn't have any congregation anymore. But there's a group of 10 or 15 people that are interested in restoring the church. So, we're working on it. I don't know how I got off on that. [Laughs.]
RD: Could you tell me about your experience building up the AGRA?
DI: We had our very first rodeo here in 1986, and I did not compete, but I was part of the administrative board of directors, and I remember that we were trying to increase liquor sales. So, I volunteered, as did several other people, and we carried a tray of beer around and sold it through the stands. Well, nowadays, we don't have to do that anymore because everybody understands where the beer tent is and where the bars are. And the crowds are much better now than they were back in those early years. And, I'm just hoping and praying that we continue to get the crowds that we get. I am not into new technology stuff. I'm the old school. And I'm just thankful that we do have some people that understand all that stuff to keep it going. But the crowds are much better now than they were in first few years.
RD: How has the showing been this year?
DI: Yesterday it was wonderful. I was kind of concerned because I was in the dance hall. But people tell me that the stands were full and there was a lot of people out on the patio and people in the dance hall. So, I'm very happy. I do not know numbers about yesterday, but the people that I talked to would tell me if there is an issue and they were very happy. So, that makes me very happy too. Even though, again, I don't have any numbers.
RD: That’s still good to hear.
DI: I'm always happy to hear that we're having a good rodeo.
RD: Is there is anything in particular you would like to go over?
DI: I just would like—one of my experiences was, many years ago, I think it was 1992, my rodeo partner Greg Olsen and I went to the San Diego Rodeo. And on Monday morning after the rodeo, as everybody was there, all the other contestants were loading up their horses, and cleaning out their stalls, and doing everything. We all sat around, and it was a beautiful day in San Diego, and we decided to go to the Washington, D.C. rodeo, which was the next weekend. So being from Phoenix, we left San Diego with the intention of going to Washington, D.C. We got back to Phoenix Monday night. We did the laundry Tuesday morning, at noon on Tuesday I called work and asked if I could have another week off. They said yes. We loaded up and took off for Washington, D.C. with horses in a trailer and three of us in the pickup. And we drove all the way to Washington, D.C. and we went to the rodeo, had a wonderful time. It was just quite different. I had been to New York City before, but I had never been to Washington, D.C. and we were there for the gay rodeo.
DI: And that's where I met one of my very good friends. We needed a woman for our wild drag team, and my friend Jen [last name redacted], didn't know her at the time, she was standing there, somebody knew her and says, “Hey, they need a lady for their team.” She joined in and we won the wild drag buckle that day. She's been a very good contestant ever since. She's winning all arounds, and she's [won], I don't know, probably 100, 150 buckles. And, you know, we just got her started because she was standing there at the right time. And we just—that's what’s so enjoyable about gay rodeo. It’s the friends you meet, and the travels, and the fun you've had. And people keep telling me I should've wrote a book. Well, too late in my life for something like that. But, you know, we came home from a Texas rodeo one year, back to Phoenix, and we ran out of fuel in the middle of the night at 3:00 in the morning and, you know, it was just one of those things.
DI: That's life. I went to the national finals, the IGRA finals rodeo in Reno, Nevada, the year that they canceled the rodeo. And we were in a motel room in fall in Nevada, and when they found out we were part of the gay rodeo, they kicked us out in the middle of the night, and we had to sleep in our truck. And so, I've got wonderful experiences, good and bad, about gay rodeo. And I just, I have every intention of being a member of AGRA until there is— ‘till I'm gone, or there's no AGRA. And there had better be an AGRA for many years to come! So, that's just some of my experiences. They've all been good, you know—bad things, but you just got to look past the bad part and turn it into a good experience.
RD: Are there any good experiences you’d like to share?
DI: No. I'll probably think of 20 of them after we're done here. But no, those are some of the good ones.
RD: Is there anything else you’d like to touch on?
DI: I really appreciate you taking the time to interview me and I'm sorry I was dragging my feet. I just was concerned about not being able express myself.
RD: I think you’ve done a really good job.
DI: OK. Well, thank you very much.