The first time I saw the Mummers was of all places on a tennis court. It was when I first moved to Philadelphia and my parents took me to see the Philadelphia Freedoms tennis team. During a change-over, several large men wearing bright clothing covered in sparkles and feathers playing banjos strode onto the tennis court doing some kind of strut. My jaw dropped to the floor as I stammered, “What on earth is that?” Someone looked at me in disbelief and shushed me by saying, “They’re Mummers!”
“What the hell is a Mummer?” I thought, but only in my head because I was too young to curse out loud (oh the days…).
I’ve long since learned what a Mummer is. And though they can be controversial at times, I still am slightly baffled and slightly awed to see my local plumber dressed in feathers. I’ve only been to one Mummers Parade. The main reason: My total intolerance for the cold.
Luckily for anyone who wants to attend, the parade passes right through the Gayborhood on New Year’s Day and there are plenty of places to stop in and get warm. Among those places in the heart of the festivities on the parade route are gay bars Toasted Walnut at 1316 Walnut St., and Boxers at 1330 Walnut St.
We had a chat this week with the sweet and funny Court Walton, one of the boxer-wearing bartenders at Philly’s LGBT sports bar, Boxers.
PGN: Hello Court, let’s start with your name. Is there a story behind it?
CW: Not really, my full name is Courtney but I’ve always gone by Court.
PGN: Do you come from big family, small family?
CW: It’s just my parents, my younger brother and I. Though my brother just got engaged, so we’ll be adding a sister-in-law.
PGN: How would your mom describe you as a kid?
CW: I think she’d say I was pretty outgoing — a good kid who made friends easily, I played soccer, I loved to draw and I loved music. I kind of had my hands in everything.
PGN: Where did you go to college?
CW: I went to the University of Delaware.
PGN: The Fighting Blue Hens! That’s where my brother went. How did you end up in Philly?
CW: Yes, the blue and gold! I studied marketing at U of D, but was itching to get out. Having lived in Newark, Delaware, since I was in eighth grade, I wanted to live in a big city. So Philadelphia was a natural choice. I love it here.
PGN: Were you out yet when you first moved to Philly?
CW: I was to all of my close friends, well, all of the people in my social circle really. The only people I hadn’t come out to yet were my immediate family members.
PGN: How did it go when you did tell them, assuming you have?
CW: I have. Their response was, “You haven’t brought a girl home in 25 years, so we pretty much knew…”
PGN: How did you do it?
CW: We had dinner for my 26th birthday and I gathered everyone into one room and said, “There’s something I want to get off my chest.”
PGN: Wow, so you made it a big event.
CW: Yeah, it went well and it was nice to finally open that part of my life to them.
PGN: What was the best and worst part about moving to Philly?
CW: I think the best part was being about to feel more comfortable in being my “authentic self.” Not having to worry about getting a look if I was wearing a cropped top outside. The worst part was the commute, because I was still working in Delaware. Even though it’s only 40 minutes away, with traffic it can be brutal.
PGN: When did you move here?
CW: 2012. I was still working at the bank and only started working in Philly full time this past year when I started working at the Mazzoni Center.
PGN: And what is your job at Mazzoni?
CW: Right now, I’m the executive assistant and working with the communications department.
PGN: Do you remember the first gay bar you ever went into?
CW: Woody’s. Delaware used to do these bus trips up to Philadelphia. I was 21 and it was Halloween weekend. I was still somewhat in the closet. I just went to have fun and dance.
PGN: How long have you worked at Boxers and how did you get the job? Did you apply or were you having drinks and they said, “Hey, you’d look good without clothes on?”
CW: A little bit of both — no I’m kidding. I’ve been there for three-and-a-half years. I always wanted to get more immersed into the Gayborhood, and what better way than to work at a gay bar. I started working a few nights a week as a server. Then a few years ago on a busy New Year’s Eve, they needed an extra bartender, so I got thrown in and I loved it. It was more fun and much better money than serving. I started a few nights a week and then when I lost my job at the non-profit, I started doing it full time. Now, I’m even managing a few nights a week.
PGN: So you went from bank and corporate attire to working in your underwear?
CW: [Laughing] They’re boxer shorts. They’re not necessarily underwear.
PGN: OK. Was it intimidating at first?
CW: No, I’m usually in fewer clothes in the summer! Let’s just say I like a full body tan.
PGN: Are you always thinking about keeping in shape?
CW: Not really, at this point it’s force of habit. I try to do about six days a week at the gym.
PGN: To me that’s thinking about it a lot.
CW: It’s more like if I don’t go, it feels weird. I never thought of myself as a gym rat, but here I am. I do enjoy feeling healthy and being in good shape.
PGN: Which accounts for you leading me up three flights of stairs to do this interview.
CW: I’m so sorry, that was force of habit. I didn’t even think about it until we started climbing.
PGN: [Laughing] It’s OK, I survived. What’s the best part of working at Boxers?
CW: Honestly, I love the environment there and the clientele we get. We have so many people from all different walks of life coming into the bar from my regulars to people coming in to a gay bar for the first time. You have the unsuspecting straight guys who wander in and then realize that it’s a gay sports bar. It’s awesome to see so many different people come together and all feel safe in our bar.
PGN: What’s something memorable that’s happened?
CW: We haven’t had anything too crazy happen there. I remember one time I was opening the bar at 4 p.m., so I was the only one there and this little kid came in. I’d say he was about 12 years old. I wasn’t really paying attention as I was setting up the bar, and he was so little I didn’t even notice him on the other side of the bar. I just heard a little voice say, “Hey! Hey!” I looked over and saw him and said, “Oh, hello. Can I help you?” and he said, “Yeah, can you put some water in my Gatorade bottle?” It was really hot outside, so I said, “Sure.” As I was filling it, he asked, “Why don’t you have any clothes on?” I said, “It’s a gay bar,” as I handed him the bottle. He slowly backed away as he watched me and then yelled, “Peace,” and bounced out. It was so funny!
PGN: That’s sweet! What’s the best tip you’ve received?
CW: Can I say friendship?
PGN: No, unless you want me to call you Corny Court!
CW: [Laughing] OK! We had a customer come in and asked for everyone’s birthdays. I told him mine was April 11, 4/11, and he gave me $411! He did the same for everyone. It was nice.
PGN: Do you have a partner?
CW: Yes, we met on a kayaking trip. My roommate had been talking to him, so he set up a camping trip and invited him to come. Then we got there and I stole him!
PGN: Oh my!
CW: It’s all good. We’re still friends. In fact, we were all together last night playing video games.
PGN: What’s happening at Boxers on New Year’s Day?
CW: There’s always something happening here, from our Tuesday Drag Variety show, our Drag Race viewing parties and Stonewall Sunday Funday. New Year’s Day is going to be especially fun. It’s one of our biggest days of the year. We’re going to have drink specials, all the games and the parade on TV and we’ll have our brick oven back up and running for pizza.