Thursday, July 31, 2008

What really went on at the 1959 Denver Convention of Mattachine???

My memory is that I met Jim Kepner at ONE when I was at loose ends, and we talked over a coke (after meeting at ONE’s offices on Hill St. (I think that old elevator was on the Broadway side) in the Thrifty Drug across from Pershing Square. He said he was going to the convention. I decided to go—I must have had a car, but I went anyway. I wonder if there are any records of who signed up, any brochures if any? I know it got lots of publicity in the 2 papers-The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. I don't know if Jim wrote it up in his journals. I don't remember any of the meetings or even the speakers.

But they all are relatively unimportant-also what did Hal write up about it later? I'm not sure if Don Lucas was there. BECAUSE people there were so excited at how well things were going, publicity etc, that they paid little attention to a sneaky proposal to honor the mayor of San Francisco for being so helpful and in a sense gay-friendly. Now as I recall San Francisco was NOT all that good in those days. But no one thought much about it and it passed along with some other things and the convention ended and everyone went home—except the members who had done such a great job and lived in Denver. All hell broke loose—they lost jobs, etc.

AND suddenly Wolper or whatever the politician’s name was that was running against Christopher started publicizing the queer, I forget what term he used, organization honoring Christopher and how terrible that was for San Francisco’s image, etc. and of course the voters should NOT vote for Christopher.

Talk about unintended consequences—the papers, etc., which were NOT gay-friendly, took out after the man, calling HIM a troublemaker and supporting Christopher. Hal, et al., loved it of course—it got Mattachine great publicity. I'm not sure how many new members it got, but in those days neither Mattachine nor ONE got much help from all the publicity they got—which wasn't that much anyway.

I am not sure of the dates, but I must have gone to San Francisco then and that is when I first (of two times) stayed with Hal and worked a week or so in the PanGraphic office, and the only record is the book review I did of Advise and Consent, which appeared later.

I had actually lived a few months in San Francisco earlier and did not contact Mattachine at the time—I was working the last “regular” job, as “caller to check on credit” at Retailers Commercial Agency-Retail Credit, now called something else, in Atlanta GA. Ironically my first job after getting kicked out of the Army at Ft Riley, dropping off my car in Bossier city, taking the train to L. A., and following Don Slater’s idea, even before I knew him, I lied and neither firm ever checked on my military service (and thus Undesirable Discharge) but did send for my lousy transcript at LSU—was a southern company that should have checked as that was their business—the first company was southern also, Anderson, Clayton Cotton co, of Houston, and some parts still in business, on 6th St. at Lafayette Park. Retailers in L. A. had been on Wilshire near downtown, across from the hospital. I was not doing well, so they transferred me to try San Francisco, and finally we just mutually called it quits.

I took a bus trip around the country, Boston, N. Y., etc. Left car parked on hill in S. F. and it was in good shape when I returned. Then returned to L. A. and went to work for ONE, and rest is history.

But it seems important to think that what we or they thought was the main thing at the convention turned out to be nothing and yet the convention put Mattachine on the map andin a sense started San Francisco toward being what it is today and that was NOT what the agent provocateur had wanted.

A lesson rightwingers might want to consider.

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