Family Portraits: Angela Bibey

There’s a cute little gay bar hidden off Rittenhouse Square. Formerly the Post, the current Stir, 1705 Chancellor St., is run by business partners Stacey Vey and Holly Johnson and is a friendly little spot worth checking out if you haven’t been there before. One of those responsible for the warm and friendly atmosphere is veteran bartender Angela Bibey, who keeps the drinks flowing and the conversation going during her “Ladies Happy Hour” from 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays.

PGN: All right, let’s start with your nickname … AB: [Laughs.] Yeah, they call me “Bibs” or sometimes “Tattooed Mom.” Actually, I think I have a few nicknames going!

PGN: So, ace reporter that I am, I’m guessing you must have at least one of each. AB: Yes, two kids and a lot of tattoos.

PGN: Which one is your favorite — tattoo, not kid … AB: I have six butterflies on my right arm. It’s still a work in progress, but the whole arm is pretty much sleeved. There’s a blue butterfly on my wrist that is my favorite: I love the color it’s a beautiful deep blue. I have the word “Lucky” written on my wrist as well which I really like.

PGN: What’s the connection with butterflies? AB: Actually, I think it has to do with the coming-out process for me. I was in my late 20s before I completely came to the realization that I was a lesbian. I think it was the idea of living in a cocoon for so long and then coming out and you’re free.

PGN: Where do you come from? AB: I’m originally from a very small town in West Virginia. Hence the coming out so late!

PGN: Tell me about the family. AB: My stepfather was a coal miner and my mom worked for a doctor’s office.

PGN: So when all the recent coalmine incidents went down, did that strike a chord with you? AB: Oh, yeah. I went to school with the daughter of a coal miner who was killed, not in the most recent explosion, but in the one that happened a few years prior. PGN: Any siblings? AB: My mom and my dad divorced when I was 7 and then she remarried the same year, so I have a half-sister from my stepfather; there’s nine years between us. And my dad was a bachelor for 25 years and eventually got married 15 years ago and had two kids, so I have a younger brother and sister who are about 30 years younger than me.

PGN: You must feel more like an aunt than a sister. AB: Yeah, but I don’t see them that much. They still live in West Virginia so I only see them once or twice a year.

PGN: What was life like in small-town West Virginia? AB: I just remember I always wanted to get out of there. I was your typical cheerleader, majorette in the band, etc., which kept me busy. And then I had my daughter when I was 17, so I had to grow up really fast. She’s 23 now. She’s coming to visit this weekend so I’m bringing her to work with me for happy hour on Saturday. That’ll be fun!

PGN: I had to laugh when you said, “I was the typical cheerleader.” That’s not really a typical path for most lesbians! AB: That is funny. I wouldn’t say I look the cheerleader-type now, but it was fun at the time.

PGN: So you had your daughter; did you get married? AB: Yes, and I have a son who’s 14.

PGN: When did you get your first inkling that you were gay? AB: Honestly, I think when I was very young but I just never thought it was an option. I was from one of those towns where everyone knows everything you do. In middle school, one of our teachers got caught fooling around with one of the student teachers. It was the P.E. teacher who was married with kids and she was seen kissing the art teacher. It was a huge scandal. Down there in Bible-banger country, that was a big sin. I was about 10 and people made such a big deal out of it, I think if I’d even thought about being gay, that was enough to scare me off. The funny thing is that they’re still together, it must be about 30 years now. PGN: I can see how that incident might scare a turtle back into its shell. AB: Yes, but I always wondered what it would be like to kiss a girl. When I finally did, everything changed. It put me on a completely different path. I was about 28.

PGN: Definitely a late bloomer. AB: Well, I was trying to live the life I thought I was supposed to.

PGN: So when you got married, was it difficult? AB: Not really, because I just thought that’s what was reality for me. It wasn’t a bad life; I just eventually figured out that there was a better choice out there for me.

PGN: Was your husband cool about it when you came out? AB: Well, we broke up before I came out. I dated one or two boys after, but by that time I knew what I wanted. I suppose that it did have a lot to do with why we broke up. Once I’d had the experience of kissing a girl, I slowly started changing directions in my life. I refer to the last “serious” relationship I had with a guy after my marriage as my transitional boyfriend. He was very effeminate, no body hair, everyone thought he was gay! I’d be out on a date with him and we’d see a lesbian couple and I’d think, “Awww, I wish I was with a girl instead of him.”

PGN: How did you leave West Virginia? AB: My husband got a job up here in New Jersey. I’ve been in the area for about 16 years.

PGN: What are some of the crazy jobs you’ve taken along the way? AB: I sold Mary Kay cosmetics, I’ve worked in different offices doing administrative work but I’ve always done restaurant work since I was 16 years old, serving, and then bartending for the last 10 years.

PGN: School? AB: I went to college in Virginia for two years, but I didn’t finish. I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to waste any more money.

PGN: Tell me about being a mother. AB: I don’t know, I was so young when I had my daughter, my parents half raised her, but there is an amazing bond that you just can’t explain. Now that she’s older, we’re having the best time ever.

PGN: How long have you been at Stir? AB: A little over a year. I do the Ladies Happy Hour on Tuesdays, which is more the ladies and gentlemen happy hour ’cause I usually have more guys than girls. We have happy-hour drink specials from 5-7 p.m. and it’s a lot of fun. Once a month, the Independence Business Alliance, which is the gay chamber of commerce, will have its women’s business networking during our happy hour.

PGN: Any crazy customers? AB: Not at Stir, but I was working at a bar in Jersey and this guy came in while we were super busy and was really rude. He kept leaning way over the bar and yelling for me while I was taking drink orders. I asked him to wait a moment and he got so belligerent that the bouncers ended up kicking him out. Well, it turned out it was a set-up. He was friends with someone in the kitchen and he was acting up on purpose so that everyone in the bar would be focused on him while his friend stole a whole bunch of food from the kitchen. The walk-in was in the back and, while he was being belligerent, the friend was throwing steaks and seafood over the back fence to another friend waiting with a car.

PGN: What do you enjoy about bartending? AB: Probably the money! I just enjoy what I do. I should; I’ve been doing it for about 20 years now. I don’t know if you’ve heard the expression, but it gets in your blood.

PGN: Is Stir the first gay bar you’ve worked at? AB: No, I worked a summer at Sisters back in 2006. Then I decided to change up and work in retail for a while. PGN: What’s your specialty drink? AB: I pride myself on making the perfect martini. My specialty is that, 99 percent of the time, I have a perfect pour. I don’t use a measuring device, I can just eyeball it and it comes out right. Even with mixed drinks.

PGN: Do you believe in reincarnation? AB: Yes, absolutely. I’d love to do a past-life regression and learn more about it.

PGN: I was once told that I was a famous Russian ballerina a few lives ago. It’s hard to believe, since I have no flexibility whatsoever. I was thrown out of ballet lessons at 6! AB: That’s funny!

PGN: Do you have a partner? AB: Yes, her name is Laurie and she’s amazing. She’s kind, generous, loving — everything you could want.

PGN: How did you meet? AB: We actually met at Sisters through some mutual friends. She’s a data specialist who works for a company that does training and job placement for low-income people who need help. PGN: What Olympic sport would you want to compete in? AB: Well, I never played sports, but probably gymnastics. It would be fun to go flying through the air.

PGN: Any pets? AB: I have a cat named Tina. He’s 7-and-a-half.

PGN: Favorite TV show? AB: I used to enjoy watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” when I got home at 3 in the morning.

PGN: Who’s a favorite musical artist? AB: Tracy Chapman. I saw her at the Electric Factory years ago and she was amazing.

PGN: Any hobbies? AB: I love to garden. I live in the city, so I can’t do it here, but I go to my girlfriend’s house in Jersey to practice my hobby.

PGN: Ever been in a car accident? AB: Just a fender bender when I was a kid. Fortunately, nothing since then. It’s one of my biggest fears. I don’t even like to think about it.

PGN: OK, I’ll move on … Ever play any instruments? AB: I played the flute for years and years. I gave it up in high school and sold my flute. About five years ago, I bought one off of eBay, but I haven’t really picked it up. It’s in my living room and I look at it every day but have only played it once or twice.

PGN: When did you come out to the kids and family? AB: Well, it was a process, it definitely didn’t happen overnight. But I just got to a point in my life, especially by the time I reached 30, that I realized that I was finally an adult and that I could live my own life and not have to live like other people thought I should. And it turned out that everyone already pretty much knew. I remember when I told my dad, he said that not only did they all suspect it, they pretty much assumed I was gay. I guess I had changed a lot and apparently went a little extreme for a while trying to butch myself up a little bit.

PGN: Is that where the tattoos came in? AB: No, I started that when I was 17 and probably averaged at least one a year since then. It’s been one constant in my life.

PGN: You’re obviously not afraid of needles. Any phobias? AB: I’m a little bit claustrophobic. The thought of crawling under a bed makes me crazy. I can’t even fathom it. Elevators are not favorite places to be, but I can take them. Anything smaller makes me uncomfortable.

PGN: Who would you contact in a séance? AB: My grandma, Shorty Belle. I don’t know why they called her that, ’cause she wasn’t short but she was the grandparent I was the closest to. She was my dad’s mom and she passed away a few years ago. She was cool, not a traditional grandmother. Very laidback. She was also around a lot when I was little and I was her first grandchild. Even though we never talked about it, I knew that she always accepted me.

PGN: Three sounds of summer you love. AB: I love the sound of the ocean. I love the sounds of birds and I love to hear a lawnmower in the distance on a nice summer day. Peaceful …

To suggest a community member for “Family Portraits,” write to: Family Portraits, 505 S. Fourth St., Philadelphia, PA 19147 or [email protected].