Prime Timers was founded by Woody Baldwin, a retired professor. Baldwin felt that older gay men needed social outlets within a community that catered almost exclusively to youth. The first Prime Timers meeting, held in Boston on August 15, 1987, attracted 42 men. Today Prime Timers has thousands of members and more than 50 chapters in North America, Europe and Australia. According to Prime Timers’ World Wide web site (www.primetimersww.com), “Prime Timers are older gay or bisexual men (and younger men who admire mature men) who enrich their social lives, engage in diverse activities, and enjoy opportunities and friendships with other Prime Timers throughout the world.”
Fort Lauderdale Prime Timers, South Florida’s leading Prime Timers chapter (there is also a chapter in the Palm Beaches) was organized in June, 2003. With 370 odd members, It is the second-largest Prime Timers chapter, second only to the one in Palm Springs, California. Peter Gavigan, President of Fort Lauderdale Prime Timers, describes it as “a purely social group of gay men in the Fort Lauderdale area.” Unlike SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment), which is philanthropic and even political in its outlook, Prime Timers “is a purely social organization; just an opportunity for elderly men to get together to have a good time, to keep everybody active in the community and hopefully maintain your health that way.” Another obvious difference between SAGE and Prime Timers is that while SAGE has both male and female members Prime Timers is basically for men only.
“One of the nicest thing about the group is that people join and get involved right away,” says Henry Penas, Secretary and Past President. “If I saw there was somebody new [at a meeting] and he is by himself I would introduce myself and bring him over to a table where I know there are guys who are very outgoing and chatty and make him feel at home. And I tell the new members that the best way to meet people is to come to the luncheons or to the dinners because then you are sitting at a table with a group of people and right away you have somebody to talk to and if you do that a couple of times they begin to recognize your face and your name and then you are in. So in the last two years most of the new members have gotten involved right away. They come to things, they get to be known, they get to know people and over the years a lot of lasting friendships develop, I guess some hooking up but mainly lasting friendships.”
Fort Lauderdale Prime Timers meet on the first Sunday of the month, 2 p.m., at the Pride Center at Equality Park (2040 North Dixie Highway, in Wilton Manors). Over a hundred men attended the February 3 meeting, which featured a presentation by Robert Boo, Executive Director of the Pride Center, and a pot luck lunch. But the monthly meetings are just the tip of the Prime Timers’ iceberg. According to Gavigan, “we have tennis on Monday, we do bowling on Wednesday, on Friday we do Bocce. We do dinner one or two times a month and we have lunches. We go to the movies. We go to the theater and to all sorts of other field trips and other activities.” Other Prime Timers-sponsored events include mixers at local bars, a Ballet Group, an Opera Group, an even a trip to the clothing-optional beach at Haulover Park in North Miami.
Though Prime Timers want to have fun, they also have a social conscience. One of the Timers’ ongoing projects involves collecting soda can rings. The Ronald McDonald House, which provides accommodation for the families of hospitalized children, has a soda can tab recycling project. Every can tab received by the Ronald McDonald House is sent to a recycling company. The House gets between 37 and 40 cents per pound and the money is used to defray the expenses for the operation of the Ronald McDonald Houses. Prime Timers collect soda can rings for the Ronald McDonald House both from the soda cans that are consumed during Prime Timers events or from soda can rings that members bring to club functions.
For more information about Fort Lauderdale Prime Timers visit www.ftlprimetimers.org
or write to Fort Lauderdale Prime Timers, PO Box 100666, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33310. For more information about the Ronald McDonald House’s soda can tab recycling project, phone 305-547-5683.
By Jesse Monteagudo