Sitting down with Tommy Waters, the events coordinator at the Richmond Renaissance Conference Center, is a lot like meeting a friend for drinks, but without the alcohol. He’s friendly, funny and full of great stories.
GayRVA.com: You work with your partner of 20+ years, Jon Beattie, here at Renaissance Center. How did you two get together?
Waters (pictured left with Beattie): We were working on a little boat called the Annabel Lee. There were lots of gay young men and women on that boat. I was hired as a singer and he was food and beverage manager and chef. He was my boss. I never met anyone who was so easy to talk to. I was also working the ticket booth near the bow of the boat one day and Jon came up and made small talk. Jon had been out, but I could tell he was nervous. He asked me on a real old-fashioned date! I thought, why not? Now we’re going on 21 years later. Everyone tells me I got so lucky!
Did you kiss at the end of the date?
No and he didn’t pick me up for the date. We met at the restaurant. We started dating and we have never stopped seeing each other. After about eight or nine months, I wanted to move closer to the city. Jon said he had a place. All I could think was that now he’s going to see me take a shower. But I moved in and from the first day it was so much fun, so easy. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a fantastic cook.
Why did he like you?
I’m very positive and that endeared me to Jon early on. I’m not an Eeyore on a rainy day. I try to look for the good in everything.
How did you end up as an events planner?
I was going to school and waiting tables. I started working at a small center planning events. I could plan a party with almost no money and make it work. That’s when I knew this was what I wanted to do. I went to school for psychology. Trust me, it helps in this job. I have a talent for working with people. A bride’s mother called me and said ‘We have the perfect dress and the perfect place so all we need is the perfect gay guy to plan it all.’ Bingo! Here I am!
What do you do for fun?
All throughout that time, it was just work, home, eat, sleep. We weren’t really hiding, but we weren’t going out. I was the youngest of seven kids and one Thanksgiving, my Dad asked, ‘When are you going to bring home a girl?’ and Jon raised his hand and said, ‘She’s right here!’ We were living a happy life but not being out and proud, not being part of the gay community.
So I joined the Rainbow Bowling League because a friend said it was a great way to meet people. Jon didn’t come but I loved it. That first night I realized what we had been missing. Some of the guys hit on me, but I told them I was going home to my partner of many years. I never say boyfriend or husband, but I’m open to what people call their other half.
Then Jon started to come to hang out and made lots of friends and we started bowling on a team together. From there we progressed to the nighttime bar scene, the restaurants and we discovered our love of drag shows. We’ve made lasting friendships from drag.
We’ll start at Babes because lesbians start earlier than gay guys, then do Barcode, Nations and my favorite, Godfrey’s. But I’m not a night owl. We’re home between 12 and 1.
Where do you like to eat?
Nations is always really tasty. My favorite thing to do is sushi. I love it! I’m a big supporter of Raul (Cantu) and Nacho Mama’s. He’s a good humanitarian. People don’t even know he’s doing stuff for them. He’s one of my role models. We do cook a lot at home and not just a box of mac and cheese, either.
What do you like about Richmond?
It’s a Metro area but still small enough that it doesn’t overload me. It’s just big enough for me and still has that down home kind of feel.
What don’t you like?
(laughing) One way streets and the parking situation! Around here, I work with the parking lot owners to make it easier for our guests to park nearby. I have the gift of gab.
If you hadn’t been an events planner, what would you have been?
On a cruise ship singing! People used to say I could be Richard Marx or Bryan Adams. I had that soft rock sound.
How would you like to be reincarnated?
My funny answer is I’d want to come back as one of the Pussycat Dolls. They’re famous, talented, rich and good looking. But seriously, I’d want to be me with some alterations. I’d have more opportunities in my school years, a more nurturing and accepting environment. Less bullying, but everyone gets bullied. I’d still want to be me.
Jon says he’s still trying to figure out if this is some weird plan he concocted or if he’s just that lucky. It’s me. I’m the lucky one.
Photo by Kevin Clay.
Karen Newton is a freelance writer and full-time nerd who isn’t happy unless she’s going out every night for food, music or art and blogging it at www.icouldgoonandon.blogspot.com.
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