The Subject was Hats – (Remembering John Michael Gray 2016)

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Written by Victory Programs President & CEO Jonathan Scott in remembrance of John Michael Gray and published in Bay Windows on 10/27

The subject was hats. Outrageously opulent hats. Haute couture original designed flamboyant themed assemblages on any given day might incorporate towers and flowers; Barbies and balloons; star-ships and streamers; swag and swans; flags and fluff; fireworks and waterfalls of glimmering-shimmering shiny stuff.

They were bigger-than-life gargantuan bursting bouquets of satins and sequins; taffetas and tulles; chiffons and chenilles; rhinestones and rubies. They were dazzling in diamonds; magnificent in mylar; pretty in paisley; sizzling in silk; phenomenal in feathers.

Their hats were huge festive fiestas; performance art bling draped in lame; wild gay fairytales on steroids. ‘Gilding the lily’ wasn’t where they ended, it was where their hat designs started.

For over 30 years in Boston and Provincetown the enchanting-elegant-extravagant-happy-hilarious- anti-femme fatale sensations known and cherished by all as “The Hat Sisters” (aka/Also known as:  real life husbands John Michael Gray and Timothy O’Connor) painstakingly stitched and sowed, glue-gunned and velcro-ed; molded and melded their endearing, unforgettable hats inspired to razzle, dazzle and mostly incite the adrenaline of sheer, ecstatic pure joy.

Their charmed entrances into countless charity events where the packed crowds would part a path like Moses to the sea were always a spectacle of awe and exuberance. The never ending paparazzi flashing of selfies, group Vogue glamour shots, the ripples and waves of ooos and ahhs and riotous laughter followed them everywhere.

They breezed through cheering throngs of gay men & lesbians; straight couples and families; and anyone else brave enough to venture near, gliding as if always on their way to the coolest coronation ball; or leading a beautiful wedding party; or on their own private Parisian Dior runway. They were our home town’s very own pret-a-porter rock stars; the perfect preening peacocks living life to the fullest; legendary proud sparkling ambassadors to the LGBT&Q community.

The Hat Sisters made their adoring appearances countless times – anytime asked – out of the kindness and caring of those big beautiful hearts. They came to seasonal benefits for people living with HIV/AIDS; to fundraisers and political rallies; They honored every facet of LGBT&Q life; to Provincetown tea-dances; Club Cafe bingo; annual White Parties, Verna Turbulence’s Drag Brunch; every Boston Pride Parade – (in fact, every local townie parade in Provincetown that required a limo or convertible with two royal waving Hat Sisters jubilantly careening down wayward Commercial street).

They came to Esther’s Water Ballet beach parties; to the Boston Living Center’s Celebration of Life Thanksgiving, and always – always regally escorting to any event and function a refined Mayor Tom Menino of Boston who often requested their presence by his side. Our open hearted former Mayor who was neither shy about being the Hat Sister’s #1 adoring fan, nor about proudly claiming “The Hats” his very dearest friends.

They were the magic, and we fell under their spell. They were the fabulous flame, we were the moths drawn in; They were the Pied Pipers, we were the lost children following their music; They were about style, never about vanity. They were high-wattage stars, yet thrived making countless constellations with friends new and old. They stood out separately, yet naturally brought us all together. Ravishing and radiant; Jeweled and joyous; Lush and lavish; Silly first, serious last. The exquisite Hat Sisters.

On September 24th when the heart-breaking, unbearable news raced its giant wave of electricity through the internet:  John Michael Gray had after a short illness peacefully died in the arms of his partner, husband and best friend Tim – it was as if all the rainbows faded away. The once big colorful sky they gave us washed out a somber pale grey.

They were ubiquitous. Everywhere- a part of our own coming out. They were deeply entwined in our time and life in Boston,  and our favorite “home at the end of the world” we call Provincetown.  They are indelibly traced in our own histories; etched in our stories and GREAT adventures that make us who we are today.


In a class by themselves – yet – they are surrounded by ineffable love.


They are our very dearest friends. They are forever – our very own beloved – “The Hats”.

Please click here to see a selection of photos of the Hat Sisters.

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