Orlando icon Billy Manes has passed away

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PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett
Billy Manes, writer, activist and longtime columnist for Orlando Weekly, has passed away.

Manes died just after 4 p.m. on Friday, July 21, at the age of 45, surrounded by his husband Anthony Mauss, friends and family at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Manes' impact on Orlando Weekly – and Orlando – is difficult to overstate. Though he started at OW in the classified ad sales department, Manes made a rare leap into editorial, producing hundreds of columns and stories.
His prescient B-List column took on minor celebrities in a way now universal throughout the web and on most E! and Bravo shows; it segued into the nightlife column Blister, which in turn gave way to his cutting front-of-the-book local political column Happytown.
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When Billy ran for mayor of Orlando during a special election in 2005, he became the first openly gay mayoral candidate in Orlando history. Though the special election was eventually canceled, "Billy Manes for Mayor" bumper stickers and T-shirts are still a prized commodity for many an Orlandoan.

Two of the searing cover stories (among so many) that he produced are, in his inimitable style, very personal ones: "Mantrimony," his 2007 take on assembling all the legal paperwork that would add up to a marriage for himself and his partner Alan in Florida pre-Obergefell, and "Til death do us part," in which he detailed Alan's suicide and the ways in which the lack of marriage equality complicate gay lives after a partner's death.
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In 2014, then-congressman Alan Grayson delivered an address to the House of Representatives recognizing the contributions of Billy Manes to the fight for equality in Central Florida.

Manes left Orlando Weekly to take on the role of editor-in-chief of the LGBT-focused Watermark on June 22, 2015. When 49 people were murdered and countless injured in the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse on June 12, 2016, Manes became the voice of a grieving community, appearing on MSNBC and NPR. On the one-year mark of the tragedy, Manes reflected in a Watermark column that Orlando achieved the remarkable feat of pulling different people in the city together after Pulse.

"After June 12, thousands lined up to donate blood for the 49 dead and the 53 injured in that nightclub nightmare, not because standing in the sun on a hot summer day is an act to be applauded, but because they knew that, in times like these, the masses are needed," Manes wrote. "This was no time to hide behind your couch cushions and cry at the television broadcasts. This was a time of people connecting – arm and arm, blood to blood – in the manner that societies do when tragedy strikes."

Orlando Weekly will be honoring his life in more depth in the coming days.

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