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.

AJinLA

4 comments:

Billy Glover said...

Very good reporting, probably better than the present people at Advocate can and will do. And clearly they had no interest in inviting people who actually had done work to advance our movement/community, as is evident in their issues. But perhaps that is what young homosexual men and women are interested in, or at least what the advertisiers are interested in. And while the Advocate celebrates, lots of good gay/lesbian publications are hurting, book stores are closing, our archives/libraries, ignored by the Advocate and other publications, struggle for support and even being known.

Hal Small said...

Is P-nuts A J Lawrence?--or do you know? I'll never forget one of his quotes about Bill Rand!

Aristide Laurent said...

AJ (Aristide Joseph) is/was, indeed P.Nutz when he began with the Advocate. Dick Michaels wanted me to add some humor to the paper so I did a column named “Mariposa de la Noche” ... as I said in my recent Advocate 40th Birthday review: When I read them now I cringe at what a flaming young queen I was!!! Alas, with age comes wisdom ... and leather ... or something like that.

Then, when I wrote something in the non-humorous vein (like “Terror in the Tubs,” a first hand account of the bath raid on Melrose Ave when the LAPD came looking for the owner who had shot his partner), I wrote under the pseudonym “Jay Laurence” — since it was only one letter off from my real name LAURENT, you might say that I was being liberated one letter at a time.

I can't recall exactly when I finally reached the point where I used my real name. It might be interesting to note that, as far as I know, neither Dick Mitch nor Bill Rau ever used their real names in the paper. Sam Allen (who wrote under the pseudonym Sam Winston) sold his interest in the publication to Bill & Dick and then moved to San Francisco. Sam (whose camp name was “Samantha Jane”) and I were very close friends and his influence was a major turning point in my life. Just yesterday I found an old address book which had his name & address in it. Apparently, I never throw anything away ... unless it turns out to be a winning lottery ticket.

I’m honored that you remembered “one of my quotes about Bill Rand” but, then, I’ve said so many nasty things about him (whose camp name was “Evelyn Brown” ... I have NO idea why. I do recall that his boss at ABC-TV gave him that nick name and it stuck like Crazy Glue — which, of course, not yet been invented at that time). I think it had something to do with a time that he went to a party in drag ... probably dressed as a matronly librarian! or a parochial school teacher!! Poor thing was so white one could see his veins. I can still close my eyes and see him prancing about, slumped over (he was always slumped over for some weird reason), shuffling impatiently like some Victorian school marm, fussing and fidgeting over something that upset him. Were he alive today I would expect him to be head of some condo association, fussing because some tenant painted her bed room an unapproved of color.

Evelyn Brown was most certainly not known for her sense of humor. Sorry ... mustn't dish the dead. Love him. Mean it. One quote I said to him that I still recall came during one of those monthly benny-infused weekends when we would work all night to put the paper together and send to the printer bright and early Monday morning. Bill had just moved into an apartment on Curson Aveue (pre he & Dick moving in together on Oxford) in what is now eastern West Hollywood. I told him he should open a school for drag there and write it off to taxes. I said he should name it “Curson U.” It was one of the few times I recall ever seeing him laugh himself into tears. Must've been the drugs.

It might also be interesting to note that another soon-to-become-semi-famous person who worked in the “Mimeo Dept” at ABC was Don Amador. He had just gotten out of the Navy and Henry Ortiz, our boss, hired him and threw him into that den of queens. Talk about a “coming out” party. He eventually left ABC and got involved in different gay ventures and, last I heard, ran for city council. Lost of course, bless his heart. Another was Dino Williams (whose real name was Jesse something-or-other) who was involved with former optometrist to the too faboo, Scott Forbes and Dino/Jesse [allegedly] was one of the owners of Studio One on LaPeer (I think that was the name of the place ... Lordie, it was sooooo long ago).

My god, I’ve become that old person in the tribe who passes along history to the children of the tribe.

—P.Nutz/Jay Laurence/Aristide de Bitterbitch

Billy Glover said...

Thanks for this good, humourous “news.” You DO need to put it on the record, unless you have done so some place I don't know about. Why not do a short book? Or get with Todd who may be doing a ”follow-up” book, if the first one ever gets out. Or talk with Paul Cain, or Karen Ocamb, etc.

But Ron would like to get you, and Jeanne, and do n interview, so keep that in mind and be brave and do it. For history’s sake.