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Couples Chronicles ó Interview 30
I Love Him More Today Then I Ever Have
by Demian
First published in September 1989
© January 7, 2018, Demian

Bill Urban, 34, and Charlie Mueller, 46, have been together for nine years. They run the three-year-old Baltimore Alternative, a monthly, gay-oriented newspaper. The paper also circulates in DC, Pennsylvania and Delaware, covering news, alternative AIDS therapies and the arts. Bill is the founder and editor-in-chief and Charlie is the managing editor. Before starting the newspaper, Bill held a variety of jobs, including being an actor/waiter in a theater/restaurant. Charlie had been a construction worker for 20 years until joining Bill on the newspaper two years ago. They live in Baltimore. [Bill has since died.]

How about some family background?

Charlie: I was raised in Columbus, Ohio, with two sisters in a Lutheran family. My grandfather, great-grandfather, uncles and cousins are all Lutheran ministers. But it didnít filter down. I have no religion at this point.

Bill: I was raised on the eastern shore of Maryland, an only child in a Polish-Catholic family.

Iím a practicing Roman Catholic by faith, but Iíve really gotten into metaphysics the last year and a half. I combine the eastern know-how with the western religion.

I found a Catholic church, a very good parish where I feel comfortable. I donít feel the need for Dignity or groups like that.

Are you out to your families of origin?

Charlie: Yes. My dad is even up to reading the newspaper.

Bill: Iíve been out since I was 16. My mother wanted to find me a good doctor, but I told her I didnít want a doctor ó I wanted a construction worker, since doctors were never at home. She got the idea that it wasnít a ďphaseĒ I was going through.

Did you have any major relationships before this one?

Bill: I had one for five years. Unfortunately, it was with a rich, older man. I was spoiled and really didnít have to work, though I did modeling. I was more of a plaything for him.

I was only 18 when we first got together and his friends were taking bets on how long we would last. There was no support and I didnít know what to expect out of a relationship. I never had a chance to nurture the relationship like I have with Charlie.

Charlie: I never had a relationship until I met Bill. I was quite happy being single.

What convinced you to enter a relationship?

Charlie: I guess maybe Bill was pushy. It just worked out that way. We wanted to spend all of our time together.

Bill: Actually, I invited him home for a cup of coffee one night and he never left.

Charlie: We got to talking and he told jokes all night, if you can imagine that being the first night. He still tells the same jokes, too. Thatís why we have cable TV, so we can get new material from ďEvening at the Improv.Ē

Did you make any agreements about monogamy?

Charlie: We did not have any agreements either way. Most of the time we were ďmonogamous.Ē If something happened along the way, that was nothing we spelled out in great detail.

Did you develop agreements?

Bill: No, we just sort of became an ďold married couple.Ē

What did you feel about each other when you first met?

Charlie: He was fun to be with. I could talk and laugh with him.

Bill: He was a very interesting person. What swept me was his relaxed, very laid-back Midwestern demeanor. He wasnít like most gay men I knew. He was also in construction at the time, so he was my ideal. Thatís the big family joke now, that I finally found my construction worker.

My mother loves Charlie to death. She thinks heís the greatest thing since Scott towels.

Why does your mother like him?

Bill: I was diagnosed with AIDS a couple of years ago and Charlie has taken very good care of me. Itís drawn my parents and Charlie much closer together.

Charlie: Also, his parents are from a very small town and we can talk about construction and things to do with the house. We can enjoy each other.

So there is a common class background?

Bill: Definitely. My mother never liked my first lover. He was an electronics magnate in Santa Barbara. She felt that he was using me.

Why did you decide to work together on the newspaper?

Charlie: At the time, I was working for a commercial renovation company in Virginia, staying there a few days a week, working 60-70 hours. I got tired of driving and Bill was trying to do the whole newspaper himself. It got to be too much for both of us.

Now, he handles the news department and I take care of the business and paste-up. It works out very well because Bill knows everybody in town. Thereís no way I could put a paper out without his contacts, his news. Now heís found that the paper looks better since I handle that end of it. Heís not trying to spread himself too thin.

Do you earn all your income from the newspaper?

Charlie: Yes, we somehow manage. Itís rather tough, but we keep the bills paid. Itís our only income aside from Billís social security disability.

Advertisers are coming to us now. If anybody wants to get a message to the gay community in Maryland, weíre the paper that people read.

Does working together put a strain on your relationship?

Charlie: Absolutely, when youíre together 24 hours a day. When we first met, it was wonderful being together with things to do all the time. Well, I think thereís a point where thereís too much being together. Weíd get on each otherís nerves at times.

Bill: We had to take a break from each other a while back when we had started arguing. One stress factor comes from the fact that we publish the newspaper out of our house.

Charlie: We donít get much time apart, or much vacation time. I normally try to spend a long weekend visiting family in Ohio every couple of months. But since Billís health support system is Hopkins Hospital, leaving Baltimore for an extended period could cause a problem.

Bill: Sometimes I like to go by myself to a downtown athletic club to soak in the Jacuzzi or sit in the steam.

Do you also maintain peace by keeping a strict division of labor on the newspaper?

Both: Yes.

Charlie: However, we donít have any set thing with the house. We try to keep the place clean, but it falls to whoever has the time or energy to do it. One of the biggest problems is energy.

Did Billís diagnosis put a strain on the relationship?

Charlie: It brought us closer together. But it has put a strain on our energy. Last Friday he got out of a four-week stay at Hopkins and is still recovering.

Bill: I try to remain productive. The last time I went to Hopkins, Charlie brought the Macintosh computer. I did a lot of work from my bed. The more productive I am, the more healthy I feel.

Do you own your home?

Charlie: Yes, but itís mortgaged in my name. In order for Bill to qualify for medical assistance he canít have anything in his name.

Bill: Because I didnít have medical insurance, I had to totally impoverish myself on paper. I own nothing. The only thing I get is $530 a month in Social Security. We had to do this or else sell the house to pay my hospital bills.

Charlie: Also, it was easier for me to get the house by myself. At the time, I was making a good salary and he was earning none.

What about wills and other legal papers?

Bill: We keep putting it off. Iíve tentatively given Charlie power of attorney for me so any decisions regarding my health care will be made by him and him alone.

Charlie: I havenít done any legal papers yet. I canít leave anything to Bill. So the paper, the house and anything else has to go to my family, who will take care of Bill. It canít be in his name or the state will take it.

Do you have assurance that your family would take care of Bill?

Charlie: Absolutely.

Bill: When Charlieís father had cataract operations in 1984, I took care of his family for about four months.

Charlie: My sister would take care of the legal matters. Things would go in her name and Bill would still live in the house. It is the only way we could work it out at this point.

Weíve talked to a lot of people who have the same problem with no health insurance. Itís a very bad situation.

Bill: Weíre very fortunate that our families all get along. Charlie and I used to vacation every year with his sister and brother-in-law and their two kids.

Charlie: They always expected Bill to come along, and we had a good time.

Do you have support from people beyond your blood families?

Bill: Oh yes, even before my diagnosis. Because I worked with so many different groups, I had support systems set up with lawyers and doctors.

Charlie: If thereís something wrong, he can call up his doctor and visit without an appointment. He gets very good treatment and knows the people to talk to because some of the doctors at Hopkins write for the paper.

Have there been any big difficulties in your relationship?

Charlie: The total time involved. Living and working in the same house is the biggest problem because the phone rings all day and night, and people stop by. Weíre always only one step out of the office.

I like having close proximity to my work environment, but I think itís hard for Bill to be in this environment all the time.

Bill: When weíre pasting up, itís 24 hours around the clock for about five days. Sometimes it gets real tense.

Charlie: Weíre looking to move the paper into a standard office.

Have there been any high points in your relationship?

Bill: Iíd say a high point was my staying with his family and taking care of them for a few months. Being asked to do that was quite an honor. They trusted me to take care of his mom and dad. That time brought us all much closer together.

Have your feelings toward each other changed since you first met?

Bill: Yes, theyíve grown more intense. I love him more today then ever.

Charlie: In the last few years, weíve grown a lot closer. Since Bill was diagnosed with AIDS, weíve found out how much we mean to each other. We donít want to loose that special feeling.

What do you see as the future of your relationship?

Charlie: More of the same. Growing old together. Something like that.

Bill: Iím a real fighter and I plan to survive this ó what I call a temporary setback ó and I see Charlie and me growing old together.

Advice on relationships?

Bill: It doesnít just happen. You have to want it and work at keeping it together.

What kind of work?

Charlie: Try to understand each other.

Bill: Be sensitive. Iím learning more about Charlieís sensitivities. When he was working in Virginia I didnít see certain sides of him. Now I know whatís touch and go with him ó (laughs) what I can get away with. So I donít push certain issues.

Charlie: Weíve worked on these things and weíre more tolerant of each other.

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