Sunday, September 30, 2007

Guest Blogger: Jim Schneider

Regarding the Memorial Service of Yolanda Retter
Attended by HIC President James V. Schneider

This was the best organized memorial I've ever attended (exept for the end).

I arrived at MCC early by myself in time to get a good parking place.  The first four rows of seats were roped off for speakers, so I sat in the 5th row from the front.  A heavy lady sat on  the right side of me, and lo and behold, Karen Quimby spotted me and moved in to sit on my left side with her partner.  We had a nice little visit. Karen (who resigned from ONE a few years ago) now has a job representing people in the U.S. Congress from Santa Barbara where she and her partner live. At least 200 people attended and took up nearly all the seats. Only 20 men attended.  The rest were women, including one couple who brought their two young kids along. People from ONE Archives boycotted the event, except for Walter Williams who spotted me and came over to shake hands. He brought his laptop computer full of a big dissertation he wanted to present. A filming crew recorded the event from the upper balcony in the rear.  You may get to see a copy of the filming later on. Stuart Timmons contributed to the cost, but did not attend that I know of.
Scheduled speakers were pretty well organized and had humor in their messages. Music was superb. One Hispanic lady played her guitar and sang in Spanish. This kept the audience very attentive, except when it came time for ending with audience participation, at which time those who wanted or prepared to speak were asked to stand up and move to the side of the room in a row.  20 of us stood up and moved as directed. Then came a drag which was unexpected. Speakers were taking too darn long to read boring papers or recall uninteresting things from memory.  The emcee did not limit speaker time to 3 minutes, instead of letting them ramble on and on —7-8 minutes each.  Walter and I were near the end of the line when this problem was recognized. Half of the audience became bored, got up and walked out at which time they stopped the speakers and ended the memorial. Neither Walter nor I got to speak. I followed others to the refreshment room, ate and then left for home.     Good nite from Jim

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Good Old Days...

I’m about to try to cover a little flavor of the letters I faxed to Jim Schneider and Joseph Hensen in 1997– ’99. And our published newsletters would cover the history too. But obviously I am intrigued by rereading a decade later what in a sense is current history, compared to what we were doing 50 years ago. It seems to me that there has been more change in things I am in or interested in the last 10 years than all the 40 years previously.

Jim (and Joe) would know the difference; from phone calls at high cost, to the fax, after Don Slater died, at a cheaper rate—12 cents a minute I think and then 5 cents—(I sent hundreds of newspapers a single page on the book A Few Doors West of Hope) as I do now by email at NO cost.  And cell phone, so I don't have to be at home (although this one does lose calls, etc.)

And think about it, Todd White alone came in this time period. And Ron Tate retired and became active. I finally met and visited with Bill Percy, as did Paul Harris and Melvin Cain. While I used to have phone visits with Jeanne Barney and Morris Kight, not as much as I do by email now (I'm not sure she considers this a plus of course.) And I didn't know Aristide before this decade, or Tobias (Toby) or Toby (Johnson).  The sodomy case came after Don, but I think the CO case had happened before he died, didn't it? And the surge of gay characters on TV shows, and I had not heard of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert before—I didn't get satellite here in Louisiana before 2003 I think.

Some of the old issues remain—people still trying to stop us from using the term homosexual, the media still covering only the celebrities—how many covered Yolanda Retter’s death?  And I see letters I wrote in the past decade saying the same things I'm saying today. And we discussed before Don’s death about getting HIC on the internet and now Todd is doing that. And if our material is safe at CSUN and is known and available then that will at least make it hard for future historians to say they didn’t know our views and information and what we did.

I have said before but will say again, there are two things that are of great interest to me, and things that I dont think I or anyone else would understand when they are young. First, I have now outlived most of my friends and enemies. And second, in a sense I have lived to find the answers, or know how things turned out when I/we thought about the future 50 years ago. I’m afriad one thing didn’t change: me.  Specifically, I can (if I could send copies to you, show you how terrible my typing was on an old typewriter, still sitting on the floor in the kitchen, with no ribbon available—it was an old Sears given to me and can’t  be used now anyway), but it cut off part of letters, etc., and had lots of typos, and even with spell check I still have typos, but at least the letters are not cut off, etc. And oh how much easier typing is this way! And the cell phone, if working, is free after 7 and on weekends, and costs less than the old house phone.

As opposed to the old stereotype of older people telling young kids how much better they have it today, I'm telling them that and it is TRUE. I have always, for instance, told students that if they want to see how much progress has been made in talk about homosexuality, go look at old issues of Readers Guide to Periodical Index and see how few items are listed in the 60s and then glance at today, where hundreds a month are listed, even though most are from the Advocate and still don't reflect a diversity of opinion as much as ONE did back when it was the only publication.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Guest Blogger: Aristide Laurent

The Advocate celebrated its 40th birthday in West Hollywood last night. Being the last of the Big Four who started The Advocate back in 1967, I was invited to attend ... not by the latest powers that be but by my friend Stuart Timmons, acclaimed author of the tell-all tome Gay L.A.

The Hollywood Cat Lady (a/k/a Jeanne Barney) was similarly snubbed but invited by Stuart to attend as one of the remaining Founding Fathers/Mothers of the gay press movement. She snubbed back and refused to attend. You don't go, girl.  For anyone old enough to remember, Jeanne B used to write the advice column, Smoke From Jeanne's Lamp, for the old Advocate

The hearalded event turned out to be a gathering of the truly fab-boo. For being 40 years old, there were very few people in attendance who who were 40 years old or older. But,.then, maybe I'm the last of the great gay dinosaurs. After all, I was a mere child of 4 when I helped produce the early copies of the Advocate in the basement print shop of ABC TV studios. Cough. Cough.

The Advocate has, indeed, come a long way. In fact, it's come so long a way that Dick Mitch & Bill Rau, the original creators, are probably rolling over in their graves somewhere in the outskirts of Visalia, California. [Note: After their sale of the Advocate to David Goodstein, they bought a ranch outside of Visalia and raised multiplying onions ... really ... no joke here.]

After Dick Mitch was arrested in a bar raid and charged with lewd conduct in the late 1960’s, he became a fired-up activist and, with his lover, Bill Rau and friend Sam Allen, they bought the Pride Newsletter and changed the name to The Advocate. Since it was dangerous to be a "pervert" prior to the liberation movement, you didn't use your real name for fear of reprisals, not only from harrassment by the LAPD but the ever present possibility of losing your day job, family & friends. Dick Mitch became Dick Michaels, the editor; Bill Rau became Bill Rand; and I became “P.Nutz,” jack of many trades. As many of you know I provided the so-called “humor” of the early Advocate in a monthly column titled “Mariposa de la Noche” (Butterfly of the Night). When I look at those columns in my mature years, I shudder. What a flamer I was! [No rebuttals, please].

The defining purpose of the early Advocate was to unite and inform the gay community of what was happening in their closed society. When Goodstein purchased it and took over, it evolved into a glossy fashion/celebrity magazine. Perhaps that is because the main stream media was now covering gay news and there was no particular need for a newspaper/magazine which specialized in such previously regularly occurring stories as bar raids, lewd conduct arrests, pro- and anti- legislation in various halls of government, etc.. So we became fabulous.

And, last night, the fabulous people turned out for The Advocate’s 40th birthday bash. Mayor Villaraigosa was there; a gay Marine wounded in Iraq was there; Katherine Heigl fresh from her Emmy win for Grey's Anatomy was there (she's really beautiful but should eat more!) with her fellow nominee T.R. Knight (who looked much better in person than on the series). The celebrants in attendance were the young and the beautiful: gay young male gym beauties, straight young female beautiies in flowing fashion, lesbians dressed to the nines in the latest lesbian gear. This was a long way from 1967. For all my efforts back then, I had become an anachronism. Hmmm.... do I sound pink with envy? (see photo)

The fact that The Advocate had gone from being an advocate for gay rights to a commerical success was evident in the dominating presence of corporate sponsors, from a s representative of Southwest Airlines who addressed the crowd, to a shiny Saturn convertible for on-the-move gay couples. Sky Vodka provided the [free] pink “advocate martinis” which helped me keep smiling and hob-nobbing with the I’m-more-faboo-than-you crowd.

There were video greetings from a number of celebrities such as Ellen Degeneres, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien and a host of others. I guess that is, indeed, progress as the stars of old, such as Liberace, Rod Hudson, Merv Griffin, et al., would never, ever have acknowledged the existence of those of us on the fringe of society back then.

While I stood there and downed one advocate martini after another, Stuart did what real cocktail partygoers do and worked the crowd. He shook hands with L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa and handed him a business card which read: STUART TIMMONS, HOMO HISTORIAN.  That cracked the mayor up, though I’m not sure he understood what it meant. The present editor of The Advocate assured Stuart & me that we “must get together and talk about the early days of The Advocate” ... hug, hug, kiss, kiss .... “Oh darling, there you are..... so good seeing you...” hug, hug, kiss, kiss. It wasn't actually phoney ... it's just what people do at cocktail parties. It's also why I try to NEVER go to cocktail parties.

As we left the gathering of the truly fabulous, I thought to myself: My job here is done. Let the young and the beautiful take it from here.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gay/Lesbian Publications on newsstands or online (as compared to old days)

The first question should be, are homosexuals reading the publications aimed at them. If not, can that be their personal failing or that of the editors and publishers? Here’s what I found at the local bookstore, good and bad.
Instinct Magazine has an excellent series of articles on the homosexual community in Durango CO. But most gay men’s magazines spend most of their space on silly clothing and non-gay celebrities. So it is good to find coverage of people who are working to change things.

In most gay publications the people covered are models, or people who may be gay but have done nothing for our community/movement.  That must mean that the editors are interested in celebrities, or think their readers are only interested in celebrities. I also find that many publications have not only ads, which is good, but articles on products, which means they may be like too many motion picture producers, who make money by putting products in their films. That is of course ironic since in the early days ONE Magazine and others could not get ads.

Outlook Magazine and others have book reviews, such as the new book by Victor J Banis, Longhorn. But none have reviews of books that cover homosexuality seriously. But we learn of a James Lyon who was in the movie Poison and died.
The Advocate has mention of the coming production of the Beebo Brinker Chronicles, by Ann Bannon, and a letter from Toby Johnson about how gay bombs might be a good weapon. 
Several publications have ads for the new retirement developments for wealthy homosexuals, such as the one at Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, the ones in Santa Fe, Blue Ridge NC, etc. This is a sociologically interesting development in our community. Most ads are aimed only at rich gay/lesbian readers, as are the articles, on expensive housing, cars, clothes, vacations, etc. And most could be found in any general publication as they are not aimed specifically at homosexuals. In fact travel writers seem to never cover a gay/lesbian center, library, historical site, book store, but only cover hotels and bars that in some case are not even mainly gay. It seems to me that a gay visiting a new town would want to find the local gay/lesbian newspaper or magazine, and see what information the local gay/lesbian center would have, and perhaps find the local gay church.
Curve had lots of articles on lesbians, most of whom have done something for the cause, which makes them a better supporter of those who are working in our community.
OUT Magazine is an example of how the men’s magazines often are the opposite-they cover no community/movement people. I would like to discuss with the writers of the article in the current issue that devote a lot fo space to two men, one of whom adopted the other and had to get the state of Illinois to change its laws to do so, was a millionaire and the two men then spent their lives to growing lovely gardens. Is that what gays do? Apparently all their money and time and energy went to gardening and none to helping our community/movement.  And they are they type people OUT covers. Where are the articles on men and women who are working in our community/movement, dead or alive? I would think young homosexual men and women would be interested in knowing who changed America for homosexual citizens in 50 years and how they came to do it.
If so, they will, sadly, have to go to non-gay publications. I direct them to Details, which covers the issue of a homosexual man who has been in and out of the military and is an example of why we need to change the rules, something our movement has been trying to do since the early ’60s.
But on one of the most important issues we face, we also have to go to a general publication, Mother Jones. Here we find a great article on the issue of what makes us homosexual—or as the pc people would insist, gay. And here we find the view Don Slater and ONE/HIC has been making since the ’50s: it is NOT a good idea to insist that we are born homosexual. It doesn't matter whether or not this is true. It is lousy politics. And it can and is backfiring. The ex-gay and NARTH people are using it against us and there is a danger that the issue will go backwards and become a “medical problem” in which the main issue, our civil rights, is lost.
And the issue is found in another place, not on the newsstands but in a religiously oriented publication, the Record of the Evangelicals Concerned. Among the interesting news items we find a discussion of the Exodus, ex-gay meeting in Los Angeles in mid-June. And the strange statements by what have been promoters of ex-gay issues, such as Alan Chambers, who admits that he still has homosexual desires. More ex-gays have recanted, Michael Bussee, Jeremy Marks and Darlene Bogle. And covered is the “issue” that the Southern Baptist Church is still promoting ex-gay work but in a “kinder, gentler” way. But a member of that church has said that he thinks there may be a biological component of being gay. Is that good for us? Some think so, but most of us think that merely means we can be forced to change if they can find a way of doing that.
But is this and other important issues being covered in our press? Are we seeing books on the subject (Besen does cover it)? Mostly we are seeing books promoted by closeted gays who were rich and famous but now are safely able to come out thanks to he 50 years of a few homosexuals and allies who devoted their lives to making changes but are ignored by the current editors and publishers.
I of course have a conflict of interest, but I have no doubt that ONE Magazine, and later Tangents, did a better job of balanced coverage of homosexuality than the publications of today. Today there are so many, as in organizations, that they can specialize. But they even in doing that do not serve our community well. How many even have editorials? They seem to not want to say anything that might upset readers or advertisers, much like our politicians. And they often don't even have letters to the editor sections, so they don't even let their readers have a voice. Most don't carry movement news. 
I think it may be a good thing that many people now turn to the internet and gay/lesbian sites. There we find news, and views. So I won't have to go to the newsstand in my local book store much any more. Once the advertisers learn this, they may go to the internet too, where most of us have gone.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Letter to the New York Times

History will judge President Bush on his "administration" and his appointments, and it will be that he and they were incompetent and unethical. The war in Iraq will not be more important than that issue.  And there is nothing now he can do to change it. His is a failed presidency, and he has failed not only the majority of American citizens but even those few radical rightwingers who supported him.  He has in the end given them nothing, as has been true of all previous presidents. I believe that is true even in regard to the U. S. Supreme Court appointments.
What we have is a president who has tried to protect our nation from a danger, the threat of rightwing religious nuts of the Muslim faith, trying to take over our nation and making it an Islamic theocracy, by going to war, rightly so, in Afghanistan, and questionably in Iraq, and it isn't going to matter to history if the reasons given for invading Iraq were valid, the danger to us is clear.
But he and his administration have been a part of the danger to our nation from rightwing religious nuts of the Christian faith, trying to take over our nation and making it a Christian theocracy. And the method has been as dangerous as the threat from the Islamic Taliban. He has put people in places of power who either used laws to push a religious agenda, or violated laws-as has been shown in the Justice Department, etc. His "Monica" is a greater threat to our nation than Clinton's "Monica" ever was. There is no possible justification for loading a department with hundreds of graduates of one religious oriented law school (Pat Robertson's Regent University) and then have that department fire competent and ethical people who did not follow their political agenda. And that is not even to consider the incompetence of Alberto Gonzalez.
If Bush is truly religious, then he must be judged as a failure since under his stewardship our nation has been made a less safe nation to live in, and he has threatened our civil liberties unnecessarily which it was clear he would do when he was willing to threaten the civil liberties of homosexual citizens to gain political favor with bigots in order to win elections.
It is ironical that his administration has violated the military's policy on homosexual personnel, don't ask, don't tell, and kicked out valuable people needed to fight the war in Iraq, and so we have, in theory, only heterosexual men and women fighting a war that is important to homosexual people since if we lose the "war" the Muslims will follow their 'book' and laws and kill us.
In addition to his own sins that history will judge him for, his party has so much sleaze and hypocrisy that that alone would lead "history" to say his time in office was a terrible time. As many people have said, no work of fiction would be believed if it covered the many acts of hypocrisy that has come from Republicans, who claimed they would lead our nation back to dignity and morality. How do you explain that the very people who tried to pass laws against sex acts have been convicted of seeking and performing those very acts? How do you explain former Republicans now in jail for stealing from the taxpayers?  How do you explain law enforcement agents who violated the laws they were hired to enforce, going into a hospital and trying to coerce an attorney general to allow them to violate the law?
When they were willing to violate the rights of one minority, homosexual, that should have been a warning to intelligent Americans that they would be willing to violate any and all citizens' rights if it benefited their agenda. And if a term said it was wrong, they would change the term, as Karl Rove was so good at doing.
At the end of his time, we are worse off in every way than when he came into power, and that includes the radical righwingers he let dictate to the rest of us. They did get special rights, as did corporations, and the rich rich, as they falsely accused homosexuals and others of seeking—as science has shown, when someone accuses you of something, you can be sure it is they who are guilty of it.
The next election will tell us whether or not Americans have learned to judge a party and person by their actions, not their sermons. We will know if they have learned what is really important for our government to be doing to and for us, whether it is keeping homosexuals from marrying and from fighting for the country in the Armed Forces or keeping religious bigots from dictating what we have to believe.  Do we want to fight a war based on what some people think their Bible, or Koran says about how the world will end or when a "savior" will return, using another nation's existence as a TOOL?
History will judge American citizens too, as will future generations, if they are still free.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Review of Gay L. A.

Gay L. A., by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, from Basic Books, NY, 2006, $27.50, 429 pages.

A review by someone who was there for about a 10th of the material covered.
The main thing this excellent book points out is that the continuing  movement for civil rights for homosexual Americans started in about 1950 in Southern California, by the founders of early Mattachine (Harry Hay, Dale Jennings, et al.) and ONE, Inc. (Tony Reyes, Don Slater, Dale Jennings, Dorr Legg (Bill Lambert), Martin Block, et al.), which came out of that start, and that each decade since then there has seen a large growth of people and organizations and publications that pushed he cause forward.
The first 100 or so pages cover early L. A. which was transgendered Indians (often called berdache) and then the closeted movie stars, none of whom did a thing to make the world a better place of homosexuals—and there were ways to do that and remain in the closet, then as now. Then we come to the moment when a few good men and women decided to fight back, at the discrimination, by cops, preachers, psychiatrists, and the media—which gaily published names, address and employers of those arrested. Women were arrested as well as men.
And the work of ONE, Inc. is covered after the early Mattachine essentially died in L. A. as it was "moved" to San Francisco by the Hal Call faction which took over to remove the communist legacy that they feared would eventually destroy the cause in the McCarthy era.
The internal disagreements in ONE that eventually led to a separation are covered in a sense, but not well, as I will discuss later. But almost every decade saw gay/lesbian groups have internal disagreements, up to today, so that is a generic problem.
When ONE was the only local organization it had to do everything: publish its main work, ONE Magazine, and then educate homosexuals and non-homosexuals-often while under attack for making the issue public which closeted gays feared would hurt them by making the public aware that not all homosexuals were acting like the opposite sex.
Each decade from 1960 on saw new organizations, such as PRIDE, publications like the Advocate, and later specialized groups, such as political ones (MECLA), religious ones (MCC), ethnic groups, women's groups, running and hiking clubs, as well as the a growing number of gay bars.  And finally homosexuals became politicians and won offices, such as state senator, and became judges. Gay attorneys became willing to handle cases which they had been afraid to in the first decades. (That is why the movement had to rely on allies such as attorneys like Eric Julber, who handled the ONE Magazine case all the way to the U S Supreme Court, and won (1958) and Herb Selwyn, who incorporated Mattachine and the Homosexual Information Center and other groups and handled arrest cases. They didn't get as much notoriety and make as much money as others, such as Gladys Towle Root or Harry Weiss, but the did the most important work for the nascent movement.
The authors say what they intend to do in their introduction and tell us what they did in the ending pages. Mostly they did a good job in the 351 pages, and they give us lots of notes and an index. Any student of the history of the homosexual movement will have to know what is in the pages of this book.
But regarding the one part of history that I was in, I believe that the authors, for what eve reason, seem to have a biased view of the problems at ONE, Inc., and I wonder if the fact that Stuart was at one time a director of ONE Institute might have given him a biased view of the facts. I'm not sure they would have come out different even if they had interviewed me, wich they could have but didn't. But I will leave it to my co-workers at ONE and the Homosexual Information Center (many of whom are no longer with us) and to other serious scholars of the civil rights movements to point out some significant distortions of the facts.
Often it is just the words they select that give a "flavor" that is wrong.  For instance, Faderman and Timmons seem to say that Don Slater agreed to sign a settelement agreement, as if Dorr Legg didn't have to sign the agreement too.  And they imply that Don owed Dorr materials, when a reading of the settlement (which is on our website at, as is much of the material covered, including a famous speech by Dale Jennings that the book mentions but fails to cite) would show that mainly all Dorr got was the right to the name "ONE." And they imply that Don held material and didn't give it back till his death in 1997. In the first place, the notes of this hisotyr are full of material from ONE Institute, which would seem to say Dorr had the material--otherwise how woudl Faderman and Timmons have access to it? But Don Slater's death was irrelevant since the material belongs to the Corporation and not to him as an individual.
A distinction that should be made is that ONE Institute is not ONE, Inc. ONE, Inc. is owned by the funding arm of ONE, the Institute for the Study of Human Resources, so that any material in dispute would be ONE's, not the Institute's. 
The authors seem to say that the internal problems in ONE were mainly between Don and Dorr (the only remaining, and equal, co-founders of ONE, Inc.) and only became problematic in 1965. The problem had actually been building for several years, as former board members kept pointing out to Don. Many were upset over Dorr's behavior and attitude. As several told Don later, they had warned him, but until Legg hit the magazine, Don just ignored the problem. But they pointed out that ethically only Don and Dorr had a right to decide what ONE would do as they were the reason it existed. And there were obviously two sides to the issues: Dorr was right that we needed to promote education with the education classes and that lousy Quarterly, etc. But they were local and money spent on the courses was not getting a return. Don was right that the magazine brought in the money and "educated" a national audience.
What I never understood is why this was an issue in 1965, since by the time Reed Erickson had come from Louisiana, as I had (and LSU as I had) and was funding our work by ISHR. Later Dorr would try to deceive the court and public by claiming that Don was mentally ill to have moved the material and was not even a ONE employee at the time. Technically (although time would prove Don's mental ability was better than Dorr's) that was true, since once ISHR was started, Don and I were "moved" to ISHR, and paid by ISHR, so as to help cut the overhead at ONE. 
When Dorr rigged the election in 1965 (to keep me from being elected to the board, which again was strange since up to that time I worked mainly with Dorr, not Don), Don knew he had to do something to save the work he had done since 1952. He consulted with an attorney and then acted. On Easter Sunday, 1965, a few of us (Don, Tony, Jano, Melvin and I) moved ONE to Cahuenga Blvd West. Dorr refused to try to compromise, and Jim Kepner got what may have been a "deciding" vote, Chet Sampson's, to go to Dorr by telling him Don would not last a month—another bit of evidence that even good people can be wrong—and thus Jim Schneider's attempt to get a settlement was killed and  as a  reward for his  work  Dorr kicked him off the board.
Dorr filed a lawsuit to recover ONE's materials. His attorney, Hillel Chodos, was misinformed from the start, but then blundered and got the judge mad at him, and our attorney, Ed Raiden (and Lequita McKay) was doing a good job, so the judge made it plain he was not going to waste much time on this frivolous case and the attorneys decided to work fast on a settlement, which they did and the judge approved.
Dorr immediately violated the settlement by issuing a claim that we were crooks and he had won. One day he and I were sitting on the floor in our office on Cahuenga dividing books we were going to give him, and the next we stopped all contact. We did NOT give up the name ONE.  Since The Tangent Group (a dba) had incorporated in the name of the Homosexual Information Center, and was the first honest homosexual organization gain tax-exemption, we continued to operate as ONE for tax purposes, until we closed the Bookservice years later. Government agencies knew and understood the two ONEs and we had no problem.  I think later there was also a third ONE, since the center in Long Beach at first was ONE in By ABCBeach.
There are other little questions I have as to why the authors chose to cover one incident and ignore another which was done by HIC.  For instance, they (in covering troy Perry and the MCC also cover him picketing with Gay Lib (and Morris Kight) at the Los Angeles Times, and getting a good mention the paper. The reason for the picket I gather was trying to get the paper to use the word "homosexual." Well, why do the authors ignore, then, the HIC-sponsored picketing of the paper, earlier, which was over their refusal to let us use the word homosexual in an ad for a play we were helping sponsor, Geese, by Gus Weill, also of Louisiana? We held discussions after the performances, and while we got no publicity, the paper did change its policy. Troy Perry got the publicity then, since John Dart, a religion writer, came down while we picketed and interviewed Troy and his article was carried not only in the Los Angeles Times but in many other papers.
Also, while the authors cover our work as the Committee to Fight Exclusion of Homosexuals From the Armed Forces, they say only that it was covered by ABC news. Why do they not say the person was Connie Chung, and that Tom Brokaw also interviewed us for NBC. They say correctly that the Los AngelesTimes ignored us but don't say that Peter Bart, now with Variety, did a good article in the New York Times. They gore Don’s further work with draftees, covered by Randy Shilts in his book Conduct Unbecoming. Don won court cases and was successful in his legal work, using attorneys, psychologists, etc.
They report that someone appeared on the Regis Philbin show. Why then not point out that I also appeared on his show, and was treated badly. And that I was on the Louis Lomax show, Don was on Joe Pyne, and Harry and John were on shows, etc. But probably most important, they don't mention that Maria Cole and Stan Bohrman had Don Slater on as co-host of their KHJ show for a week—Don had others as guests to talk about aspects of homosexuality. If we are going to honor celebrities who seem gay-friendly now, why not honor Maria Cole who did it before it was cool?
And a part of the cause they ignore, while covering almost too much the movie stars, are writers and authors. Why do they mention Joseph Hansen only once and in a strange way? "By 1948, the center of action had moved west along with the burgeoning migration, as L. A. writer Joseph Hansen reports." (Where?) That's it! There is o mention of him being a world-famous author, probably the first "out" one, and a co-founder of HIC, with his wife Jane.
And the only other author/writer and book mentioned that I remember was ONLY mentioned because it was an example of how "Hollywood" had been fearful of gay movies. That of course is Patricia Nell Warren and her famous book, The Front Runner.
We hosted political speakers and argued when Dorr tried to support Lamport despite his anti-gay ways. We supported the Gay-In. We had a play, thanks to Don Schneider, who organized with friends a benefit for HIC by a performance of an all-male version of The Women, at which time Don [Slater] was arrested, and we changed the rules making a permit necessary. We had a good time as well as working for the cause.
Some may think I'm worrying too much about these details, but it is interesting that the authors went to the trouble of seeking out Marvin Edwards, who came to L. A. with Dorr, and was arrested and left town, so why not take the trouble of seeking out "primary sources"to be sure their version of events were right, and give readers both sides of arguments?
But the information and groups covered in this book are important and I know of no other place they are on the record. And the history of this movement and the work to gain equal/civil rights for homosexual Americans needs to be told, just as those of the black movement, the women's movement, etc.
Because of what a few brave souls did in 1950 (Mattachine), ’52 (ONE), ’55 (DOB) and the people and groups and publications that follow each decade, starting in the dozens, then hundreds and now thousands, we now celebrate our lives, as the founders/pioneers dreamed of. We have the institutions they dreamed of, churches, center, housing for older homosexuals, in a few places for the poor, and in several places large housing developments where retired homosexuals live in luxury.
The authors have done a good job of telling this history in a book that is a pleasure to read and deserve the gratitude of those who helped make this history. This book removes any excuse for future historians not to know how we got to where we are today and who helped get us here.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Oct.-Dec. 1969 issue of Tangents Magazine. Cover story: “The New Homosexual”

It seems strange that we could call people in gay lib the new homosexuals—but they used the term too then, and we forget, or at least I did, that major magazines, thanks partly to Stonewall, covered homosexuals in that time. Esquire had a great article, Time had a messy article, etc.  But I think it may be worthwhile to look at what we did that issue, and suggest that today's editors might want to think about how the world will look back at their work 30 or 40 years later.
(The cover, by Joe Johnson is red and white with picket signs, including Kameny's Gay is Good.)
The editorial was fussing at Time for its silly handling of its October 31st coverage (“The Homosexual: Newly Visible, Newly Understood”).  Same of sick theory, etc.
The main cover story was interviews with two "new homosexuals," Leo Laurence and Gale Whittington, co-founders of the Committee for Homosexual Freedom in San Francisco (Gale spoke at HIC and Leo was interviewed by Joe Hansen). Gale pointed out their work with Gay Guerilla Theatre and work on UC Berkeley campus, and San francisco City College, etc. He said members might be unemployed since employers would fire activists, citing his firing at State Steamship Co. and their picketing of Tower records for firing someone. He said SIR (Society for Individual Rights, which had thought Mattachine was old foggy) was old foggy and its members were not really "out.” He admitted they tried to infiltrate SIR and take control—something people then and now have tried to do which made leaders of such organizations wary and uptight. He said that in the future it would be the integrationists that are successful, not the separatists. They were going to picket a Pat Rocco film in San Francisco. (Exploitation problem, as they felt about another movie, The Gay Deceivers). They also picketed a drag ball by the Tavern Guild, saying it merely was a money-making effort. The philosophical thoughts of CHR is scattered, marxist, anarchistic, and even moderate and Republicanist.
Leo (also with the Institute for Homosexual Liberation) said it was an organization of thinkers.  They had written in the Berkeley Barb and formed the Committee for Homosexual Freedom. They were trying to develop gras-root support for the community. “We simply want the homosexual the bisexual to be able to live the life he wants and as he chooses, without harassment from the state, or from employers, or from the church or rom the schools, or from his neighbors...."  They want to get young people involved. They had picketed the San Francisco Examiner with about 100 people, while HIC had only gotten about 20, including Leo. Leo said HIC's picket was too quiet, they had shouted slogans in San Francisco.
There was a discussion about different ways to change things. For instance Dick Leitsch and NY Mattachine had gone to Mayor Lindsay and quietly gotten the harassment by police stopped. Leo seemed to think it needed people to get organized and force change. (He pained out how he had been falsely arrested in a S. F. picket with cops saying he did things he didn't.) He assumed our judicial system is unjust.  But the change should be from  non-violent action. First we must liberate ourselves. "The homosexual community is a scared community because of thousands of years of oppression, of being taught that it's wrong, of guilt."  "The worst enemy of the liberation movement is the closet queen, particularly the young ones, because the liberation movement is beginning to make him ask himself questions about where he is and is almost forcing him....Now when you start forcing a man to do something, you create a counter-movement against it." But you must allow people to develop at their own rate.  "Hopefully it will come before all hell breaks loose."  I find that thought interesting, since over 20 years later nothing like that happened, yet change has come, great change from my viewpoint.
In the news section, we mention the article "The New Homosexuality," by tom Burke in the December issue of Esquire.  It was a good article.  As I think about all of these names, where is this man today—where is Gale today, and where are the authors of books that have homosexual elements that we and Barbara Grier did (writing under the pseudonym Gene Damon) reviewed in 1969? We cover a brief mention of our picketing the L. A. Times when it rejected an ad with the word homosexual, saying "the word homosexual would be offensive to our family readership."  Man have times changed.  Several examples of young men in prison being raped, partly at the urging of the cops, are given, one by a Tulane law student in New Orleans, and conscientious objectors are "punished" in Lewisburg PA's prison by the guards by being put deliberately into places other prisoners can rape them.
And in Minneapolis MN in 1969 we learn of the founding of FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression), at the university.  Founder was Stephen Ihrig, 21 and a unnamed lesbian. Again, where is Ihrig today??? And in Reno, the University fo Nevada has sex week featuring talks on lesbianism, etc. (Led by Rita Laporte of DOB). And there is a long exchange between Dr. Charles Socarides and his usual bull and John Gagnon (NY Sate University sociologist). Temple University named March (Margo) Frantz homecoming queen. Where is he today?
And we mention the play that was the cause of the ad we wanted in the L. A. Times, playing at the Coronet Theater, Geese, by Gus Weill. I think Weill is in L.A. and has worked with the PBS station, but I know of nothing in our field he has done. (We held discussions after several of the nights, with I think Evelyn Hooker, Joe Hansen, etc.)
In the letters section there is comment on how Playboy got uptight about letters they had (printed) from Kameny and me. And how NACHO had not really worked for the issue of homosexuals and the military, missing the point about our seeking equality of homosexuals in the military since they opposed the Vietnam war—but of course 3 or 4 groups in NACHO DID have events, such as our Motorcade, which got lots of publicity and a good article by Peter Bart in the New York Times. And there is the timeless issue (in a letter) of just what the income is of the average homosexual. AND, someone wants us to change our name to Homophile Information Center as it is more “acceptable."  Wonder wonder that dear soul would think today with lots of use of the words queer, gay, dyke, etc.
Well, what do we think about today's "New Homosexual"? Have we settled any issue we discussed in 1969? It seems strange that the government is still anti yet most major corporations are gay-friendly and large cities place ads seeking gay tourists. Yet, even with no sodomy laws now, we still have people being arrested for sex acts. And the religious nuts are still a major problem.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Leo Laurence’s Mention in a Tangents Magazine

I have been trying to reread back issues of the Tangents magazine and other material that ONE/HIC has done over the years that I have with me here in Louisiana. And while glancing at the Tangents magazine of Aug–Sept. 1969 (the the cover image to the right), I found such items as an editorial warning us to “beware the ghetto mentality.”
This editorial was backed up by Don Slater’s excellent article on the issue of the military’s policy of excluding homosexuals from the armed forces. This editorial covers the work of the Committee to Fight Exclusion of homosexuals From the Armed Force—because we opposed anyone having to tell the government about their private sex lives, pointing out that non-homosexuals were using the gay factor to avoid the draft, and that based on Kinsey and common sense, the could eliminate about a third of available men from the draft, since many non-homosexuals had had an act and what proof is there if someone has a “tendency” and that we were not a blackmail threat, etc. There was and is NO way to prove someone is homosexual. That is what we told the court in the few cases that actually got to court, and we won every time.
Of course this involved our very basic beliefs: In a sense (a message to Sen. Craig) the only authority as to whether someone is homosexual or not is that person’s word. Homosexuality is a sex act, which can be performed by many different kinds of people. (Remember, at this time the sodomy laws were still in effect so admitting you were homosexual, and having to prove it by or through an act, made you a criminal.) The question should be eliminated.  Of course, today we have no draft.
Then in the news section I read the following:

Berkeley, Calif.—“Homosexuality is a natural style of life, not an abnormality, sin or perversion. Only fascists call it ‘queer.’ Homosexuals are making major contributions to our society, and to the revolution, but history books and the press ignore it...The homosexual revolution is part of the whole street revolution fighting fascism in the U.S. By locking arms with our brothers and sisters in the movement, we will ALL win our freedom...”

So began the text of a leaflet by Leo Laurence, which he and his lover, Don Burton, distributed at a Black Panther rally in Bobby Hutton Park. In the new underground paper, The Berkeley Tribe, Laurence writes, “The Panther official who okayed distribution of our leaflets said, ‘Our board of Control hasn’t endorsed this, but we’re for anyone who wants freedom, so go ahead.’”

The next item in the issue may have been our first discussion of Stonewall. Laurence’s leaflet had reported, “The first gay riots in the history of man turned New York City streets into a bloody confrontation between pigs and thousands of gays and hypothesizers last month...” In our news item, we covered words of Jerry Lisker of the New York Daily News about police saying things were thrown and calling the Inn “a mecca for the homosexual element.”
And the Gene Damon (Barbara Grier) column on books was good—I wonder if people today have heard of the hundreds of books that had a gay element that she covered? And of course the letters to the editor were always a great part of Tangents that readers liked.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

NOT a good example....

In a message dated 9/1/2007 11:36:06 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Ron Tate wrote:

Before we close this ‘fairy’ tale story that everyone lived happily ever after, much of the great accomplishments you mention are in Southern California and big cities like New York, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans. However, if you insulate yourself in these gay havens, you are leaving out a large part of the U.S., i.e., the South, the Midwest and mid-America. Go to those smaller cities and towns and try dancing with another man in a western bar or holding hands at MacDonald's or your local Baptist church. There is still much to be accomplished. There is more to life than just Los Angeles and the liberal Hollywood crowd.

Later in that day, Aristie Laurent replied:

But billy does live in some small town in upper redneck louisiana (let's just say boogaloosa) .... should he, therefore, be having sex in a public men's room??? should he not expect to be busted if he does it long enough? should he blame society if he does get busted??? or should he work to change the law and allow anyone, hetero or homo, to f&%k on the floor of public restrooms while daddies and their kids step over them? if not, move to L.A. where you'll most likely still be busted if you have sex in a public toilet but, at least, you can dance with each other at Disneyland after the arraignment.

But I content that I am not a good example. I came here to Louisana after my sexually active days, so I doubt I challenge anyone-most people seem to see me coming and instead of thinking I have a gay walk, they obviously see I'm an old man struggling to walk, and hold doors open for me, etc. I am no threat. I'm not sure about the two local gay bars—but I assume people do hook up there, but I worry that one has drugs around it—the security guard is worthless. There were arrests in a park along Red River, but there had been real complaints from the public, including families with kids coming upon two men having sex. And after one series of arrests, publicized in the paper and on tv, men still went there so a few months later there were MORE arrests. Again, were these Senator Craig types who couldn't go home with the person—didn't trust them—or what?

And there is a PFLAG group here with little support and a political group-non-partisan, which has been written up in the paper and still gets little support. The local social club, Krewe of Apollo, which costs lots to join and members spend hundreds of dollars on costumes for the Mardi Gras ball, gets lots of support. Frustrating. But I can tell you that life here is easier today than in the 40s when I was here, racially more so than sexually. Blacks were terrorized by the cops, the newspapers, etc. I didn't know of any coverage of sex, and then I left in 1950 for LSU and did a few visits to Dixie's in New Orleans, and had sex at LSU, then in 55 went to the army, and had sex, then to L. A. The irony is that like me, the front page of the local paper tells us that a local football player had the same dream (of going to L. A.) and now is USC's leading football player, but he loves Southern California, just as I did and do. And he sees celebrities, some even seek him out, and yet there are more and more movies being made here-he had a conversation with Ashton Kushner over where to eat in Shreveport, since Ashton had made a movie here and knew the places.

So we can live one place and visit another and so we can just play life as it comes, where ever we are.