What It’s Like to Be Best Friends with Your Gay Dad

Written by | Gay Voices

Father and Daughter

Photo by BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

Long before Dan Savage was a dad to D.J., Cheyenne Jackson to Willow, or Ricky Martin to Valentino, there was Paul Galluccio and Pamela.

Why You Should Know Paul Galluccio

Over several decades, Galluccio has created a mini-empire of mostly gay-oriented businesses across the country. He continues to oversee a string of businesses from his home base in Ft. Lauderdale.

In New York, he owns or is the principal partner of The Townhouse , a landmark New York City gay bar, and the Westside Club, New York’s second-oldest bathhouse. In Ft. Lauderdale, his endeavors include O.B. House, a breakfast restaurant that emphasizes natural ingredients, and beauty spa Olivier Salon. In nearby Hollywood, he’s got The Rooftop, an “all-natural” hotel complex. What’s more, Lips – New York’s fabulous and successful drag-themed restaurant – has spawned outlets across the country.

He has been honored for his business success and his donations to and work for gay, AIDS-related and community charities and endeavors. At 82, Paul remains passionate about work and life. Although he has set aside more time to enjoy life, he is still on the lookout for promising businesses he can help grow. “I oversee everything,” he says. “I’m in constant contact. I still have ideas, still have things I want to do.” However, he adds, “I never worked a day in my life. Every day for me is a holiday!” Of all his achievements, however, the one he remains proudest of is his relationship with his daughter.

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The Evolution of Paul and Pamela

Like many gay men of his generation, Paul was still in the closet when he married a woman. It was a difficult marriage: His wife struggled with mental instability, and in 1972, after 12 years of marriage, they were divorced.

Because he feared his myriad business interested wouldn’t allow him to devote full attention to his daughter, he allowed his wife to be awarded custody. But he remained extremely close to his daughter, who spent every available free moment with her dad. “My mother’s problems brought us both more together,” says Pamela, a real estate broker in suburban Westchester County, north of New York City.

Every school holiday, every weekend, every other Wednesday, and all summer, she would take the train from the suburbs to New York City, where her dad was living at the time. “He pretty much raised me,” she recalls with affection.

“I’d keep her all summer,” he says. “I’d take her to Two-Mile Hollow.” That’s the gay beach in East Hampton, NY, where he owned a second home. “I gave my daughter everything she needed.”

Paul took Pamela and her friends to brunch at the Plaza Hotel. He took her on trips abroad. He lavished her with gifts, vacations and, most importantly, the love, understanding and attention she craved.

Paul and Pamela through the Years

Paul and Pamela through the Years – Photos courtesy Pamela Galluccio

Dad and His Friends

As she was growing up, her father’s lifestyle, which included visits to The Townhouse and other gay hangouts ,was never an issue. “Gay life was never taboo for her,” Paul recounts.

In fact, far from being a problematic situation, growing up with a gay parent provided Pamela with a rich array of experiences: “Every week, a different group of dad’s friends would take me to Broadway shows, the opera — they took me everywhere! Dad’s friends showed me how to do my hair and make-up, what clothes to buy. I went to my first baseball game with a gay man. A Broadway dancer took me to my first show. A gay man was even with me when I bought my first bra!”

Although Pamela never shied away from introducing her friends or boyfriends to her father, she says she never introduced the issue, either.

“My parents divorced when I was five,” Pamela recalls. “So it was never a ‘thing.’ I never had a sit-down with somebody about ‘my gay dad.’ It was just there.”

Pamela believes that the first time her husband-to-be met Paul was at their high school graduation. But, she adds, “I can’t remember because it’s not that important. We went to East Hampton. He just figured it out. We never discussed it.”

Grandpa Paul

Pamela has made sure that her own children enjoy as close a relationship to Paul as she had.

When Paul had a boyfriend, “it was always ‘Grandpa and his friend,’” she notes. “It was just accepted. By the time they were old enough to understand, it wasn’t a big deal. My daughter’s and son’s friends all know.”

Paul fondly recalls when his granddaughter, now a nursing student, told him, “Grandpa, you’ve given us the best life. You’ve taken us everywhere. We’re so proud to have a gay grandfather. My grandson,” he adds, “feels the same way.”

Both Pamela and Paul recognize that the closeness of their relationship and her ready acceptance of Paul’s sexuality, helped pave the way for gay dads everywhere.
“When I was a kid, people would ask, ‘Who’s this gay man who has a kid?’ It wasn’t acceptable then,” Pamela proudly notes. “He truly was a pioneer.”

Pamela has accompanied her dad on two Atlantis vacations and they’re currently planning a third “When I’ve accompanied him on Atlantis cruises,” she says. “When people heard our story they would thank Dad and myself.”

Today, Paul is living with the reality that his struggle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal autoimmune lung disease, means that his remaining time with his family is limited. Having outlived most of his friends and lovers, he is facing this final battle secure in the knowledge that he lived life to the fullest, and that his only child and grandchildren will continue his legacy when he’s gone.

Want More?

Interested in the realities of being a gay parent? Check out the experiences of these three families:

A Look at Gay Parenting — Exploring the Journeys of These Parents

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Last modified: June 12, 2019

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