The Dinettes were an informal gay men’s social dining group founded in 1992 by long-time partners Ted LaPine and Bob Jarvey of DePere. Membership in the group was primarily couples in long-term relationships with the desire and ability to host dinner parties, though a number of single members were also involved in the group.
Initially the group held a series of simultaneous dinner parties every 6-10 weeks, with each sub-group of the Dinettes making the same menu of gourmet recipes found in magazines such as Bon Appétit and Gourmet. Group members would later gather to discuss the meal and recipes. The group also held two large meetings each year: a summer “annual” meeting, often at a member’s home with a pool, and a holiday party, typically in early December or January.
The holiday party included an elaborate gift exchange game. Each attendee drew a number to determine the order in which they would open a present. Those opening gifts later in the order could ‘steal’ an earlier gift, giving the ‘loser’ another chance to open a gift. Some gifts were expensive, some were humorous, and some were not for children. One or two “legacy items” returned year after year.
Membership was by invitation by an active member. Prospective members would be invited as guests to a dinner party where they could get to know how the group worked. A chairing couple was elected each year at the summer meeting to set up the dinners for the coming 12 months. Though there were attempts to set some additional rules over the years, the primary focus of the group was always: “good people, good food.”
Over the years the group evolved into a less culinary and more socially-oriented set of dinners. The first change involved hosts setting their own themes and recipe choices. A number of interesting theme dinners emerged, including one host who replicated the last meal served in First Class on the RMS Titanic.
The Millennium was a big year for the Dinettes as four of the member couples each celebrated their Silver Anniversaries. A series of special parties were held for the couples.
Meals became more informal, more resembling potlucks as the years progressed. Membership varied over the years, ranging from 30 to 46 people during peak years. Couples living as far south as Oshkosh to as far north as Michigan’s UP were involved in the group. However, most members lived in the Green Bay and Fox Cities areas.
The Dinettes served their least meals in 2003.
Credits: History and description by NE Wisconsin LGBT History Project,
Paul "Cricket" Jacob and Lloyd Schaefer;
Web site design and layout by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: July-2009.