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The more risqué side of the personals

Tish Haymer had no idea what she was getting into when she began her job in the Tucson Weekly's classified-ad department.

"I started as a classified assistant in December 1995. Part of the (job) at that time was to handle the personal-dating ads," she remembers.

Dating ads were relatively new to the paper, and it soon became apparent that some people were not necessarily looking for love; they were interested in something more carnal.

Sex.

There was a brief debate regarding the morality of such behavior.

"Marcy (nee Gregory, now Bishop) and Deb (Malone), who was her assistant, figured, 'Hey, we can make some money off of this; maybe we should have a separate section,'" says Haymer, who remained with the Weekly until February 2008. "Plus, they had people who wanted to advertise for, like, swingers and BDSM (a blended acronym for bondage and discipline/dominance and submission/sado-masochism) and that sort of thing."

Thus the Uncensored section was born.

"They considered calling the section 'Alternatives,'" says Haymer, "but (we were) already an alternative newsweekly."

The "regular" personals had a live-action version called "Personals on the Road," held in various bars around town. There was even a local radio station tie-in for the personals. Thus, it was only logical to have an "Uncensored on the Road event."

After a few venue changes, "Uncensored on the Road" primarily settled in at the Meet Rack, a bar owned by a man with a well-known penchant for the outrageous, Jim Anderson (aka God; that's a different story). Anderson, as host, added to the anything-goes atmosphere.

But they needed an emcee, and Haymer was game.

She remembers thinking: "OK. I'll do it. I have no fear. I'm strange. I can handle a bunch of weirdos. This'll be fun!" She adopted the moniker of Tish-a-Licious.

The parties were held quarterly, the annual highlight being the Halloween bash.

"We encouraged people to dress up in whatever they wished to dress up in, and boy, did they!" says Haymer.

Average attendance was around 150, Haymer says, with participants coming from a wide demographic: There were a few young people, but most of the folks were between 30 and their mid-50s, from various backgrounds.

Haymer's duties included emceeing the sexual-trivia contest and presiding over a table filled with sex toys that they gave away to people who placed ads. This unique spot gave her a great view of all the action. She recalls one individual who spent the evening walking around sniffing everybody.

"But the most poignant stuff was any number of people who would come over and have, like, private conversations," she says. "They'd be really grappling with whatever their particular thing was: They wanted to be doing 'it,' whatever 'it' was, and they just needed permission to do so. And in most instances, it wasn't a big deal. A couple of them said, 'If it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't be my real self. I would still be hiding (in a closet).'"

The last "Uncensored on the Road" event was held on Halloween 2006, at a time when the personals were diminishing due to competition from dating services and, of course, online dating, matchmaking and hookup Web sites.

More by Rita Connelly

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